Thursday, 1 November 2012
Season of Changes
An awful lot has happened this week.
On Monday Jian Wei and I made the big move from my late uncle's suburban home in Hanwell to our new city flat in Deptford, south-east London. We had been renting my Uncle's three-bedroom house for a year since he sadly passed away and, although we loved the space and garden we enjoyed there, we quickly became aware of just how far away we lived from central London; our work, places of study and friends. Travel in London, as I'm sure it is in many big cities, is expensive and totally exhausting. The house also began to feel much too big for us and the large garden a much greater undertaking than we were able to manage at this stage in our lives. We found swapping space for location an easy decision to make.
Our new flat is in Deptford, South-East London, on a pretty Victorian cul-de-sac running parallel to a train station from which you can arrive at London Bridge in eight minutes. We have half a storey in flat-fronted period property with original sash windows. Trains hurtle past every two minutes, there is a marble surrounded fireplace and we can see Canary Wharf lit up at night through the trees along the side our street. I cannot believe how fortunate we have been in finding this flat. I honestly never thought we would be able to live in a period flat full of character, with more than adequate space, on a pretty road in a deeply exciting area and with amazing transport links at a fair (for London) rental price! I am so over the moon to be living here and the flat feels like home already.
The move itself, however, was unequivocally the most stressful day of my life.
The packing process was excruciating and took the best part of a week. I felt I was drowning under a mountain of junk and paperwork and simply couldn't shake off the sense of being completely overwhelmed by what we were attempting to do. I left my job in order to go to Malaysia and so after a month of unemployment my finances were (and still are!) depleted to say the least. Job hunting and moving home at the same time is probably something I wouldn't attempt in the future but this time we simply had no choice but to knuckle down and get on with it. We booked a local man-with-a-van at a bargain flat rate of £80 for the day. He turned up over an hour late and the loading of the luton van took nearly two hours. Once everything was carefully placed inside and secured with cords we set off - Jian Wei and I in his cousin Harry's car and the van man by himself. (He was a complete oddball, didn't lift a finger to help with the loading of the van instead choosing to wander around the house on his mobile and helping himself to apples to eat from the garden.)
Half an hour into our journey and steam started pouring from under the bonnet of Harry's car - the engine had overheated and the AA was promptly summoned. As the soonest they could arrive was in half an hour's time, Jian Wei and had to hurtle across London on the tube from Marylebone to Deptford in the middle of rush hour. And neither of us had our Oyster cards on us so had to buy pricey day travel cards. I called the van man and to my horror discovered that he had already arrived at the new flat and was waiting outside. He had little empathy for our situation and immediately charged an extra £40 for the wait. By now it was dark and we were facing the prospect of having to unload an entire van of furniture and belongings by ourselves as our 'heavy', Harry, was still stranded in Marylebone. The worst was still yet to come - as we ran down our road to meet the van driver we discovered I no longer had the keys to the building. Somehow they had disappeared from my bag or I had left them in Harry's car. I was too delirious with stress by this point to even weep and when Jian Wei pulled them from his pocket I toppled over into a hedge with relief.
At this very moment we saw the heavenly sight of one of Jian Wei's friends and studio mates, Courtney, cycling through the rain to our rescue. I will never forget his kindness in coming out to help us in the almighty pickle that we were in. With his help, we began dragging our possessions up the flight of stairs to our flat - a laborious process to say the least and one that seemed endless. Jian Wei also received a text from Harry to say that his car had been fixed on the spot and that he was on his way to help us too. Unbelievably, everything had somehow turned out... okay.
We have started unpacking our many things and today we had the internet connected. We still have an awful lot to do and we are without a washing machine so will have to use an authentically vintage launderette for the time being. I have very much enjoyed catching the train to London Bridge most days and feeling right at the heart of the city. I especially love travelling after dark and peering into everyone else's flats and being nosy. For me, that is the appeal of living in a metropolis; knowing that millions of other lives are taking place within such close proximity to your own.
(More pictures to follow of the interior once it's a little more organised...)
Today I walked from our flat to Deptford town centre and I was rather taken aback by how pretty some parts of the route are. It only takes five minutes to walk there and much of it is very hilly and lined with these gorgeous Georgian and Victorian terraces.
Deptford feels very different to Ealing and Greenford where I lived previously. Deptford has a big Caribbean and Chinese population and the high street is a lively mix of greengrocers, fishmongers, gritty 'underground' art galleries, charity shops, pound shops and Afro-Caribbean hairdressers. It is evident that it is still a rather deprived area and there are pockets of obvious poverty and pockets of obvious gentrification such as the street in the above picture that features 'Deptford Deli'. There are also elements of 'old London' such as an Manzes' eel pie and mash shop at the far end of the high street which opened in 1891 and is still running.
Every Wednesday, Friday AND Saturday Deptford has a market selling plants, fruit and veg and hot food and the stalls take over the entire high street. The market has existed in Deptford for centuries. Most excitingly of all, however, is the giant junk market that accompanies it where one can rummage through tat and ragged clothing all morning and pay genuine flea market prices. I have been twice before and I cannot wait to share new finds and treasures regularly with you all!
Interesting fact: playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered nearby.