a love (& hate) letter to London

Full disclosure, last year I was asked to write something about how I felt as a Northerner struggling to settle into London life. I wrote this, then never sent it to the person who asked for it cause I was worried it was shit. But in these weird ass times we find ourselves living in, my comedy has returned to being a hobby rather than a job and I miss being creative and writing. So I figured I'd start writing some little bits and post them up here, starting with this one. Obviously a lot has changed since I wrote this - I don't live in London, I don't have a boyfriend and it doesn't really feel like I have much of a comedy career anymore, but rather than tweak it and write it retrospectively I thought I'd just leave it as it was when I wrote it, I've got enough faith in you that you can read it with an awareness that it was written in the good old days (aka pre corona virus)

I lived in London 3 and a bit years, and found it hard as an unripened avocado. I was always met by two kinds of people; those who couldn't understand why I'd even gone in the first place and why I wouldn't just leave, and those who loved London and couldn't fathom how anyone would find it hard to live there. So this is my little letter to a city I tried to make home -

A while ago I tried yoga and you know what, it just wasn’t my thing. I can see why people might like it but for me, nah. Same with beetroot. I appreciate the benefits, but I'm unable to feel these myself. And I suppose, I feel the same too with London. It doesn’t make my piss red no, just I try so hard to like it because loads of people around me seem to. I can see the appeal, don’t get me wrong. There’s so much to do here. Markets and museums and pubs and parks and shows and sights and food and football. LOADS. You can do anything you want (apart from go to the M&M Shop I genuinely do not understand the M&M Shop.) I bloody love visiting. But I find living here hard.

Like a lot of people, I came here for work. Some come to London because there’s more money in their field here and they can become high flying ballers. Some come hoping for their big break. I wish I was in the high flyer baller category but I am sorry to announce I am very much in the came hoping to carve out a name for myself before fleeing back to the land of affordable housing and top class chippy chips. Before I get properly started, let me tell you that I have genuinely tried so hard to like it here. I absolutely didn’t want to be a living northern stereotype who walks round muttering ‘bloody London’ under their breath. Alas, that is who I have become. Give me a flat cap, a drink problem and remove all my brain cells and I’ll be a living version of a badly written northern character by someone from the south who’s never been past Watford, nor have they held a conversation with someone from the North. For me being here is like trying to squeeze myself into children’s clothes - I don’t fit, please stop trying it’s embarrassing, you’re causing a scene in Primark. Stop crying, the children are staring.   And you know what, I do feel guilty for not liking it here, I know plenty people who live here and love it. Which if anything means I put myself under more pressure because C’MON LAUREN WHY CAN’T YOU LIKE IT TOO. Sort of like being at uni and pretending neat vodka is tasty all over again. I'm doing my best to swallow it down and act like I'm having fun but the grimace on my face is a big ole giveaway. I think the crux of it for me, is money. If I had more money I genuinely think I’d love it here, but it’s hard to ever really relax when you’re constantly having a panic attack because MONEY. Of course there’s ways to have fun for free or cheap, but loads of the cool things cost money - and not even the cool things, the relatively uncool matter of simply LIVING here costs all of the money - and you feel like you’re working your arse off to be in a city without ever actually being able to afford to enjoy it. Before anyone huffs ‘well you obviously are bad with money’ how very dare you good sir/angry individual on the Internet/Mam & Dad - I work hard and budget harder. Fucking hell that sounds like the worlds worst inspirational quote you'd find in an influencers crushed velvet living room. I’d say something pithy in retort to myself like ‘you’re right I’m fun at parties’ but I barely party to save money.  I rent the cheapest flat we could find. We share it with a fly infestation which the landlord ignores our emails about so google told us to put lavender everywhere. The place smells good but the flies clearly like the smell too cause they won’t budge. We stuck these little sticky sellotape strips around to catch them and it means we have decorative strips of dead flies hanging around our house like full blown psychopaths.   There are also mice in the actual walls and it's impossible to sleep cause they scratch away in the middle of the night like they're a group of underage drinkers and my bedroom is the smokers area of a nightclub they know they can sneak into. If I wanted to go months without sleeping through the night, I'd have had a kid. Also our front door nearly fell off the other day. But I’m a gal who has been brought up to live within her means and my means in London when I'm not bank rolled by Mama & Papa / The Funds From The Death Of An Elderly Grandparent, are cheap as fuck. As a northerner in London, I think it’s impossible to not compare what your money gets you in London compared to up north. I know I shouldn’t do it cause it makes me wanna vomit from my eyeballs everytime but you can’t help it! I’d love to own a place one day and I don’t think that’s too unreasonable really. So many of my friends / people I stalk on Facebook bought homes up North in their early twenties, and working pretty normal jobs where they're earning a good living but nowhere near the eye watering salaries some people I met in London were bringing in. Fair play if I wanted to own a castle or a small island or Channing Tatum’s left nipple, but a little house with a garden? Yet in London that feels like it’ll never be within my reach. How can you put anything aside for the colossal deposit needed in London when you’re spending most your money on a flat full of flies?! THE FLIES DO NOT EVEN CONTRIBUTE TO RENT.  And I think that's when the stress starts to take over from any kind of enjoyment, when you can envisage a future that doesn't feel like it's asking for that much, but you just can't see a pathway to it at all.  It might sound daft but I hadn’t comprehended how big London was til I moved here either. It’s really easy to be overwhelmed by that. It can take me as long to get one from one bit of London to another on public transport as it takes to get from Newcastle to Edinburgh or York on the train. And that vastness probably feeds into the other tough part for me, which has been the loneliness. In a city so big, populated by so many people - how can you feel so alone? I feel you Akon. I too, am lonely, Mister Lonely. If you come here alone, it can be a bit tricky making pals. Some people find it easy through work, or they hit the jackpot with nice flatmates but not everyone has it lucky and without a good group of mates, it can feel a bit like you’re just existing rather than living. This is something I am slowly but surely working on, and I cannot tell you the difference it makes to get a text inviting you somewhere. Trying to play it cool by not reading the message immediately because you don't want to look too eager, but you're out of bed faster than Grandpa Joe when Charlie whips out that Golden Ticket. Also, really want to know what the chats where when Joe got home and everyone realised he'd deffo been able to pull his weight more than he let on tucked up in that bed. Well it can’t be that bad Lauren - you’d leave if it was. You know what, you’re right. Nobody’s forcing me to be here. Absolutely nobody I literally have a key to get out of the house and a 16-25 Railcard for a third off my train ticket home, it’s very easy to leave. However I did make the rookie mistake of falling in love with someone here. It would be far easier for me to eject myself out of the capital if a massive piece of my life wasn’t now here. And obviously he loves it, he’s from here. Just like my hometown is my pride and joy and greatest place in the world ... for him, that’s here. For now, I know this is the place I need to be for my career., and to be able to be with the person I love.  So while my life is here, I’m trying very hard lately not to be such a, what’s the word for it .... grumpy little arsehole.

Course there’s stuff I enjoy about being here. I feel I probably should have specified this sooner than now. As a Northerner in London, I like the public transport. Man waiting a minute for a tube is the height of convenience, but the day I become someone who runs for the tube when the next one is literally 60 seconds away is the day I know I’ve gone TOO FAR. I like sitting at the front of the DLR and pretending it’s a rollercoaster. I like that it's a proper melting pot here, that walking through town you don't have to pop on sunglasses because you're blinded by the fact it's whiter than Donald Trumps's dreams for the future. I like going for walks along the embankment. I like the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, timing it right so you can see them all twinkly and feel that buzz of Christmas magic like a kid again, but without hitting rush hour and being stampeded by shoppers.  I like the museums, cause they’re free. I like that it’s actually properly sunny sometimes here. I like Sunday dinners from Eat17, I like finding a postcode that becomes the puzzle piece that makes the picture click a bit better for you (Walthamstow, you'll always have a bit of my heart.)  I like when you get off the tube at the exact right place where your exit is, or arrive on the platform exactly where the doors open, I like when that stops happening by accident and you start to learn it for yourself and feel a little bit like you're settling. I like that I can go and see comedy any night of the week, that if I save up I can see a west end show that 12 year old Lauren would have killed for the chance to see. I like that because it's not easy, it's sparked a fire in my belly that makes me even more determined to succeed. I like the glimmer of excitement that bubbles in the background, that maybe, maybe things could go my way, and my luck could change - that by being here I'm just one opportunity away from my career taking off properly. I even like the foxes but apparently no, I’m not allowed to try and domesticate one because life is not a Disney film.  So London, I’m sorry. I’m sorry a bit mean about you but you’re a tough beast to tackle at times. We have a love/hate relationship but I hope you understand we don’t all have amazing paying jobs, or a huge social circle, or rich parents who pay our rent and buy us houses. Some of us feel a bit on our own here, we're trying really hard to get by, and the stress of forging a steady future can make you panic about how unstable your place in the present feels. And maybe I take this out on you a bit London, but I hope you give me that chance I've been working and waiting for x