My dear readers, I have to be honest… I have been a little slack with the writing lately and for this I am sorry. But my slackness was all for a good cause because we have been truly living it up in London town!
After arriving in the UK on the 17th of August last year, we have been stranded and waiting for our passports and replacement working visas to be returned from the UK Border Agency. Originally we had 2 full years to work and travel in the UK before our working visas expired in June 2014. Sadly, without any identity or valid papers we have missed holidays, wasted job opportunities, been turned away by numerous employment agencies and not been able to register for the NHS, a National Insurance number or our local GP. Finally, after many stressful weeks, our passports arrived in early January and we are no longer hostage! We are legit and able to work and travel freely… for the next 70 weeks at least.
70 weeks! How did this happen? Where did the time go? What have we been doing?
Well… let me tell you…
We are still living in East London for the moment but will most likely be homeless during March and April while we look for a new place south of the River Thames. We are not sure where we are moving to, but we really like south west London for the parks and pubs.
I am still working for the same financial services company that I started with in late September, though I am no longer a PA. Since November have been working as the project manager on a new brand awareness campaign. If all continues to go well, next week I will be signing an employment contract that will secure work until the expiry of my working visa.
Dan had a couple of weeks off over Christmas and returned to work in a market research company near London Bridge. He is enjoying the work and plays football (soccer) with his co-workers each week, when the weather permits.
The days are starting to get longer and, with the exception of a week of snow in the middle of January, the weather has not been terrible. Our evenings and weekends are spent exploring London and experiencing its nightlife, food and incredible attractions.
New Years’ Eve saw us counting out the year on a moored boat on the River Thames, overlooking the fireworks display on the London Eye. The fireworks had nothing on Sydney or Brisbane’s fireworks, but they were an incredible start to the year. In the first couple of weeks in January my friend, Elle, and I shared a scrumptious morning tea in the 1920s themed Betty Blythe Tea Rooms, Dan and I got lost like children in the Harrods toy department, and then, less than 12 hours after our passports and visas were returned to us, we took off on a last minute flight to the French Alps, arriving in time to surprise mum for lunch. Sadly we missed seeing my little brother, but we did have a lovely few days in Samoens with my parents and extended family, the Lances. We spent the weekend in Lyon, France, before returning to London for work.
Since our quick escape to France we have revelled in some crazy snowball fights and built huge snowmen in the wild snow that dumped on London in mid-January. Then, before we knew it, it was the 26th of January! Australia Day! We joined the hordes of Aussies in London and headed to a local night club in Clapham Common that was especially open from 9am to 9pm. Sadly, we arrived just before midday to discover that they had already run out of Bundy Rum but the stocks of Jumbuck Pies, Tim Tams and Arnott’s Shapes biscuits were still ample. It was a long day of Aussie rock’n’roll and Waltzing Matilda sing-alongs that was by far one of the best Australia Days I have ever celebrated. Perhaps it is because we were all so far away from home…?
To get over my brief home-sickness, one Thursday I enjoyed a delicious infusion of Brazilian and Japanese food with some co-workers at Sushi Samba on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower, overlooking illuminated London. The following night Dan and I enjoyed a very lovely cultural evening with a bottle of wine and live band at the Natural History Museum. Most of the major museums in London are free and host “Lates” which are children free and absolutely cool!
On the 30th of January Dan and I attended a hair-raising 2 all draw Arsenal Vs Liverpool at Emirates Stadium. The 60,000 seater staduim is quite incredible with not a single bad seat in the house. We went with Ryan and JP, Chelsea and Liverpool supporters respectively. It made for a very exciting match and an experience that I hope to have again.
This past weekend I went out for my first traditional (and very English) Afternoon Tea at the SoHo Secret Tea Rooms in the company of a bunch of lovely ladies. It was a wonderful venue with delightful cakes, bottomless tea and vintage mismatched china. On Saturday night Dan and I ventured south to Clapham to celebrate a friends’ birthday. We started with cocktails at the Jam Tree and ended up at the Clapham North Pub before devouring a parcel of hot chips (why don’t they put salt on their chips in this country?!) and heading back to a house party for some decent music and a place to sit.
I don’t know if you read my latest piece about Dan’s hilarious recent haircuts from our local Asian barber? Well, much to my disbelief, Dan took it upon himself to fix the aforementioned haircut and crawled into bed in the early hours of the morning with a freshly shaven head. I think there was a little regret when he realised that his bald head would freeze in the cold London weather.
So you can see, after a tremendously busy start to our year there are no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Dan took off at 2am this morning to Austria for a boy’s long weekend of snowboarding with mate Ryan. It was my Christmas present to him and apparently they have just received the best snowfall that they have had in years, so I think I have done well.
In contrast, I will be catching up on my writing, house hunting and dancing in Trafalgar Square during the Chinese New Year celebrations this weekend.
Now that we have come to the harsh realisation that we might have less than 18 months here, I am furiously planning our time in London and holidays for the year ahead. We have booked 2 weeks in Egypt to celebrate our 1st Wedding Anniversary and we are attending the Glastonbury music festival in June but we hope to do much more.
Travel destinations at the top of my list include Spain, Turkey and Croatia, but it seems that there is an overwhelming amount to see in
Europe. Please feel free to pass on suggestions and leave comments below. I would love to hear you thoughts.