Monthly Archives: April 2012

Alone in London

Random photo of London so this post doesn't seem depressing

The most difficult part of learning to be alone is the boredom. The boredom comes more swiftly and intensely than the loneliness. It is the stain on your favorite t-shirt that never goes away despite the numerous all-purpose stain cures bought from the home shopping network.

When you’re alone day after day with no real obligations or commitments to take up most of your time you begin to lose the motivation to complete even your routine habits– making dinner, exercising, cleaning the dishes before they become a pile on the counter that looks at you guiltily. (I can’t be the only one right?)

I have applied to jobs, bought books, gone to public events unexpectedly inhabited by only couples completely alone (awkward), taken long ambling walks, found moments to take pictures of my surroundings, other moments to sketch or paint, and of course countless hours for tv that no longer interests me because I have watched every possible free option that is also an intelligent way to turn off your brain. Yet, even with this large amount of time-taker-upers, boredom still strikes, multiple times a day.

My couch feels more like a concrete slab I’m strapped to. My flat more like a burden that only seems to get dirtier despite there being fewer people in it than usual. This may be a bit melodramatic and maybe I am just not one of those living alone and happy people but my space doesn’t feel like a sanctuary for privacy (reads better when you use an English accent, try it) and calm. It feels more like an adorned shell–one that has everything I should need, but not what I actually do need.

So I’m learning how to live life alone temporarily. How to pretend that you have countless things to do when you’re friends that have a much fuller social calendar ask what you’ve been up to. “Yea that new exhibit at the Museum of London was astonishing.”(Actually it is still being created and is not yet open to the public, but I got to get a sneak peek through a hole in their blue construction hoardings.) “There was a kite competition this weekend in Hyde Park, so I spent a while there. It was such a beautiful day.” (That 5 year old girl was really given that 30 year old professional a run for his money. And was it just me or were their new ducks in the pond? Who has heard of a black and white speckled goose?)

I’m not sure if I’m bothered because I am “supposed” to have a full, raging late-night scene as a twentysomething or if I’m bothered because I actually want that. I don’t think its as simple as either-or. Of course I don’t want to be judged as the boring one that stays in, even though I’m pretty sure that’s been apparent since undergrad, but I also don’t want to be in my flat alone watching bad reality tv every night (I honestly think reality tv may be worse in the UK). Not thinking ahead and arranging social plans in advance has left me there a bit though.

Learning to be alone is about learning to be with yourself. To be able to confront yourself when all of the technology that has glued most of my generation to their phones 24/7 has gone to sleep (or out to the club) and go back to what you really enjoy doing. It took me 8 days of being alone to sit down and reflect on where I’m at. To stop filling my hours with chocolate (who can resist dark chocolate with sea salt?) and heavy make up’d reality stars. So far, I’ve found out that when left alone for long enough I start acting like a kid again–complete with random dancing, singing, yo-yo practising (oh yea I’m English now… that spelling just happened), spilling food or drink on myself, and quiet art making. I got another week or so of being alone in the new city; here’s to making something of it (besides learning the differences between the Liverpool, London, and Essex accents from reality tv shows–though that could eventually prove useful).

When Mom and Dad Comes to Stay

J and I haven’t traveled for a while, but that is partly because my Mom and Dad came to visit us earlier this month. It was their first time to Europe and despite the average of 23,000 plus steps of walking a day I think they enjoyed it.

What I learned:

-Playing tour guide is more tiring than you would expect. I think it gave me a taste of what having kids will be like– Can they walk all the way there? Will the tube be too crowded? Are they hungry? Are there places that serve the food they like near here? Are they bored? I’m sort of happy I have a few years before that becomes a constant… good luck to my little sis who’s expecting!

-How good a place is can really be determined by the weather, lines and the claustrophobic factor of the crowd, but a good (professional) tour guide can make everything worthwhile. We were lucky enough to have them at both the Tower of London and Shakespeare’s Globe. I may even ask for them by name if I ever return there. (I only wish we had this respite while waiting in the rainy cold outside Windsor Castle’s state apartments.)

-You will always spend more money than you think you will, so either stick to the budget and eat the equivalent of ramen or just let it go.

-No one can just spend an entire day in a museum (especially when the crowds grow)— plan snack and coffee breaks or just give up. You won’t remember everything you learned anyway.

-Also plan for rain and cold…. especially if you’re visiting London, even if its been 60-70 degrees and sunny for three weeks. Yikes!

Places that were more amazing than I expected:

-Kew Gardens: You have to pay around 13 GBP to get in, but its is amazing. Growing up with the trauma of spending Saturday afternoons in the garden department while Mom took her time to find plants that look exactly like the ones we have, I was nervous, but the gardens are large, peaceful and with enough exotic pants, architectural feats and rotating exhibits to keep even the less enthusiastic entertained.

-Shakespeare’s Globe: Its more than just a recreated theatre made to take advantage of tourist money (my cynicism growing up in tourist beach town comes out). In fact, its not that. Its a full blown, beautiful historically accurate (as much as possible) theatre that uses tourists to pay for its renovations and its live shows to show its passion. We had to rush through the exhibit part of the Globe, so I can’t wait to go back to explore that and to see a play (or five).

-Natural History Museum: Yes it has awesome dinosaur bones (that you have to see before noon on a weekday because ohmygod I’ve never seen so many children in one place), but I was really excited by its innovative rotating exhibits and its weird, but kinda cool Victorian collection of stuffed, preserved, and dissected animals, including some that are now extinct.

This is a short little mini recap of my parents visit, at least from my perspective and eliminating most of the details that I was too busy acting like a mother duck with her brood to take photos of. Next up is a visit from J’s sister, which may see some repeats and some new “hosting” wisdom for me. The last people that visit me and J before we move back will get the perfected experience. Sign up here. (Yea, there’s no link.)

I’ll let you know how three people in our tiny one bedroom flat for 10 days works out.