It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time goes when you are not working and how damn slow it can go when you are.
I have been in Bristol for three weeks now and having predicted I would be employed by this point I am quite horrified to realise I have hardly started looking for work. After one disappointing rejection I need to get myself out there, but I have been SO busy doing nothing I just can’t find the time.
Ok, it is possible that I may have watched 24 hours of Dawson’s Creek during the past few weeks (possible I said, I will never fully confirm this horrifying admission) … and have maybe slept for between 10 and 12 hours a night… and I might even have been to a yoga class or two but even all these activities should not have combined to make me incapable of sorting out my future life?
I feel a little bit like I am on holiday, a little bit like I am skiving and a lot like I am avoiding reality, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as I am prepared to recognise it for what it is and stop trying to find lots of things not to do.
Here are some fun things I have discovered about Bristol while I have been so busy doing nothing, weirdly they all begin with L:
- The library – The first thing I try to do when I arrive in a new city is check out the library. Bristol library sadly doesn’t rank among the greats, but it certainly has a certain charm. A lovely quiet and old fashioned reading room and a temporary exhibition space showing the history of tin mining in the South West. Perfect.
- Lovely people – everyone is so nice! This is not just a reflection on moody London, I have been to many places where people are not this nice, but here people just seem to understand that it is nicer to be nice and engage in 90 seconds of idle chit-chat than to cut to the chase. Refreshing.
- Lakota – is still going! The club where I mis-spent my youth and did things which I am too embarrassed to admit to even now is still going from strength to strength. It is an institution! Because of this I hope that one day I can proudly say I a at Lakota
- Long walks – I have always walked, wherever I am, but everyone seems to enjoy walking in Bristol and ‘going for a walk’ is an actual regular pastime. The countryside is a mere spit away and very beautiful it is too. I’ve seen red deer and everything.
- Light – ok, this may be a bit of a cheat because the evenings ARE getting lighter throughout the country, but it just feels like there is more sky here, and therefore more light, and light is very important indeed.
Oh and last but not least – hot boys, lots of them. Okay, boys doesn’t begin with L, but Lots does, as does Lust, and Love so who knows what this crazy city has in store.
I’m excited to see what happens when I stop doing all the nothing I am currently doing and actually start doing something with the open and unpredictable future stretching in front of my fortunate arse.
So here I am. I have moved. I am in Bristol. I am not in London. Before I got here I was aware of the emotional difficulty involved in moving – in uprooting – your life and making such a significant change. What I wasn’t aware of though, was the physical difficulty involved in moving. I mean actual physical inability to move. Every final step I have taken in the last few weeks has been accompanied by a deep gutteral gravitational pull, which I have been completely unable to control.
I started okay, as the packing of the boxes for the removals men began I did it with a spring in my step, some tunes on the radio and a smile on my face. However, as I neared the end of this packing ritual I could hardly get off the sofa to carefully wrap the remaining plates in the kitchen which then remained unwrapped until the wonderful removal man (and old family friend) arrived and did it for me in the twinkling of an eye while I looked on from the sofa. Frozen.
It didn’t get much better on my final day at work either. I was up to date, had completed solid handover notes and was ready to leave when 6pm rolled around….but for some reason I just couldn’t leave the office. I kept finding more things to pack and more goodbye emails to send and in the end I was dragged to the pub by a colleague. But it didn’t end there. I am an occasional big drinker (ahem), but not generally with work colleagues. On this night though, I didn’t want it to end. Knowing I might never see them again I suggested that old classic ‘Be At One’ for ‘one more drink’ and we were pretty much dancing on the tables until 2am. I could have stayed out with them longer but they dispersed, exhausted and broken and a little bit in shock by their sensible colleague’s transformation..
Then there was the final dinner party with my close friends which started off full of sophistication and ended with me on my knees Sweet-Child-Of-Mine-air-guitaring at 3am before being dragged into a taxi.
The next day I had to pack up the car with my final bits. There were only a few bags but it took me over 2 hours. After every trip to the car I had to sit down. Not because I was especially hungover but because every trip was taking me one step closer to the departure time. The moment of reality. When I finally got in the car and departed (4 hours later than planned) and arrived outside the house which was to be my home for the next couple of months, I sat in the car, paralysed, unable to take the next step which would lead me to my new life. Eventually my new housemate came and knocked on the window having seen me arrive and given up waited patiently for me to come to the door.
A trip to London the following week didn’t help as these steps were repeated over and over again and it is actually a wondrous miracle that I find myself here, in Bristol, sitting in a café and not on my sofa in my studio flat digging my nails into the parquet flooring while being dragged out by the heels by my new tenant.
But here I am, and it feels pretty good. It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other, apparently – that’s all you can do after all and doing that simple thing has got me here and will get me to where I want to be. I am sure of it. One day at a time.
When I told a friend recently that I was leaving London his reaction was one of absolute shock. “But you leaving London is like the Ravens leaving The Tower of London! This is bad news, very bad.”
I mulled this over for a while. Might my departure from London really indicate that the Crown will fall and Britain with it? Or to put a (slightly) less dramatic slant on it – can I thrive in any other city but London? I have a habit of making decisions instinctively and not always recognising the impact of those decisions until they are right on top of me. And right now this move seems to be no different.
I have strong reasons for moving which include family, quality of life and a career gear-change but I am not leaving London because I have fallen out of love with it. I am not tired of London and therefore tired of life (thanks Samuel Johnson, that stupid observation probably kept me here much longer than I should have been). I truly love London. It inspires and challenges me. I am settled here. I have the best friends I could ever wish for here. I have a good job. I have my own place to live. I don’t mind the tube or the buses, the crowds or the bustle, the grumpy, gritty streets or the myriad other reasons most people generally give for leaving this crazy city. It wouldn’t be London without them. The doorstep living – with immediate access to the best theatre, cinemas, restaurants, bars, 24 hour shops which will give you a bottle of overpriced Rosé at 3 o’clock in the morning – is something you struggle to find elsewhere in such abundance.
So if I have the perfect London life on paper I have to wonder why I have spent the last four years trying to leave. For anyone who has followed this blog from day one (god help you) you will know that I spent the first year of it plotting and scheming ways in which I could move to New York. Being unable to get a visa, not having the stamina for student-hood again or the balls to ‘just go and see what happens’ I have had to abandon that dream for now. I then, somewhat reluctantly, took a job in Glasgow, predominantly to be closer to my mother, but found it to be a more brittle and unforgiving city than London. And at least 10 degrees colder. And yet I accepted a second and third contract there. During that time I was still officially living in London and commuting at weekends, but there was clearly something drawing me away. So now I am looking 100 miles west – to Bristol – a city I only previously knew from going aged 8 to the ice-rink and aged 18 clubbing to Lakota, but which I hope will give me what London seems unable to.
The Ravens at The Tower have their wings clipped to prevent them from flying too far away. Superstition surrounding that ancient stupid curse means those poor birds are destined to flit around as a tourist attraction, never able to fully spread their wings and fly. I can relate to that. It seems that despite my affection for London, I have not managed to fly in this city during the past fifteen years, and I just know that there are things I am capable of which I will never achieve here. I don’t know what those things are yet, but I am looking forward to finding out. As long as the Kingdom doesn’t crumble first.