So far, so great
The flight was full. So full that when I asked for an extra blanket they said there weren't any spare ones. Anyway, it was all pretty uneventful. Managed to make myself sleep for a few hours (antihistamineS, eye mask, blow-up pillow, whisky, wine, music, tiredness.)
Before being able to deplane we were deloused or deinfected or depested or desomethinged by the air crew who walked up and down spraying us and the plane with something so we'd be allowed into the UK. Bizarre, but apparantly all flights from Malaysia and South Africa have to do that now. Because the UK is such a clean and healthy country. Obviously. [cough].
At 5.30am I had a Pimms sample. Heaven. I then bought two bottles. Next I got talked to like a three year old by the London Underground attendant when I asked for an Oyster Card, got asked what type, said I didn't know the differences and watched the guy roll his eyes before telling me. I love the Japanese politeness. *sigh*. Shop, transport, etc staff can be so fucking rude here. I'd forgotten about that.
My suitcase was massive but didn't weigh so much. All the same several people either offered to help me getting it up and down stairs, or just picked up the bottom to help. I liked that. It ungrumpied me after the twat in the station who'd left me mumbling 'I hate London' as I walked away from him.
Sarah, bless her, had given me instructions how to find her house. They weren't that good though and I spent ages walking around and asking people before I could find her place. I then had precisely enough time to dump my case, have a pee, and bolt back out the door to head into town for an 11am appointment with my lovely homeopathist. As I left there it started pissing it down. Great. So I went and had a jacket potato. I miss jacket potatoes SO MUCH. I don't have a proper oven in Tokyo so I can't make them. And besides, they don't sell the 'right' potatoes in Japan for good jackets.
Came back to the house, showered, crashed for about 90 minutes, went back out into town to eat with Sarah and Linda, before Sarah treated me to 'The Woman In Black' at the theatre. Good fun. By 10pm-ish I started getting a little tired though!
Tuesday morning I hit High Street Ken and spent a lot of money rather quickly on clothes before meeting up with Linda for lunch and mooching around Hammersmith. Then we hooked up with Mostyn and hit the £2.50 happy hour cocktails in a local pub. Yay! Later on we met up with David, Nikki and Vicki and continued throwing wine down our throats (different pub) and having a lot of fun. They're all ex-teachers from Japan and good friends - and I miss them all - so it was lovely having an evening hanging out and catching up. On the way home, I managed to fall asleep and wake up a few stations after I should have done. It was nearing last train, but it wasn't a problem.
Yesterday I hit Oxford Street. And felt SO tired that I went straight for a coffee before managing to spend a lot more money with a lot of ease. Didn't get much of Oxford Street done before meeting up with Susan, my first boss at the BBC, and the only person I've really kept in touch with throught there, although I do have a few ex-BBC colleagues on the ever-so-addictive FACEBOOK. (If you have my yahoo address / know my name, feel free to add me to your Facebook friends). Anyway, had a lovely long catch-up lunch with Susan (her treat: thank you!) and then hit some more shops and spent a load more money before going to Covent Garden to meet another friend, Bapi for a lovely evening eating, drinking and catching up (his treat: thank you!)
I've done so much since I got here! And spent so much. But above all what's been going through my mind is, could I ever live here again? And I think the bottom line IS, if I could have my own place in an area I wanted to live in and didn't have to share and had a decent enough standard of living then maybe I could. However, to do that I'd really need to be on a salary of absolute minimum 40K - and I can't see that happening. Certainly not if I wanted to teach here. I guess that answers the question of whether I'd live here again or not.
London has been grey, cold, dull and rainy since I got here. Japanese people may often wear odd clothes, but they have a sense of style that most of the people I've seen in London just don't have. London is devoid of colour compared to Tokyo. I miss the neon brightness everywhere. London is silent. There are no people shouting through tannoys. There are no vans driving around piping out music. London's subway is smelly, dirty, messy and has no mobile phone reception or aircon. There seem to be police everywhere - chatting to people. London is expensive, although it does have good clothes sales on now. People in London all look so BIG. Even those that aren't really big, look big. Compared to the slim Japanese anyway. Dogs are all naked. There aren't many bicycles. There aren't any funny English signs. There are free English newspapers - three of them every day!
It has been, in short, a LOT to take in after having been out of the country for so long - September 2004 was the last time I was here - and I suppose I got used to Tokyo pretty quickly and things that were strange there just became normal. It's London that's the strange place now!