"London Calling"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hey, remember me? Sorry for the long break, but if you haven’t realized it yet, things have pretty much wound down here at GSRED. However, that doesn’t mean things are winding down for my life. Au contraire! In fact, all kinds of interesting stuff is happening, so I thought I should share a little update on what’s been on my mind most since I got back those many weeks ago: What happens next?

I’ve investigated a few different work possibilities, but the one thing that kept cropping up in my mind was… London. I’ve talked before about wanting to work on the London Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies, but my keenness for that project is related only partly to the Olympics. It’s also partly just about the idea of living in London. Add to this the fact that nothing particularly exciting has popped up on the Canadian job front, and the obvious advantage that there will never be a time when I’m so uniquely well-positioned to pack up my (now meager) belongings and try out life in another country. So I’m going to give it a whirl.

Most of you will not be surprised to learn that I have A PLAN. I’ve already spent the last several weeks spamming almost everyone I know trying to drum up some contacts in theatre in London. Finally, some of those leads are paying off and I’ve made a several connections with people who sound like they’ll help point me in the right direction. However, all this would be accomplished much more simply if I were actually in London. So, I’m going to London. I’m flying out on July 29 with a ticket whose return date is set for Sept. 13, but can be changed for a reasonable fee to any other date within a 12 month period. If all goes swimmingly and I find a good job and just want to stay and get on with things, I can change my return date to the Christmas holidays. On the other hand if the whole notion turns out to be hopeless waste of time and money I can turn tail and run back to Winnipeg after a few weeks.

Then again, why would I want to leave?

I’ve manage to find a place to stay while I’m there, though that was a bit of a saga in itself. Suffice it to say that if someone on Craiglist is offering a one bedroom flat a five minute walk from Charing Cross Station with a full kitchen, wifi, washer/dryer, and satellite tv for £35/night, the phrase “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is” should spring inevitably to mind. I asked a friend in London to go check it out and he reported that the people at the building say they do not rent through agents and a one bedroom flat goes for £171/night. This discrepancy, coupled with the fact that the agent wanted me to advance 60% of the total cost of the rental as a bank transfer to an account in his name (not even the name of a rental agency!), set off alarm bells so loud that the neighbours were complaining.

And so I find myself with a three week reservation with Shortlet-London.com, who require a mere £60 deposit (payable by Paypal), and who are offering properties whose combination of price, size, location and facilities enjoy a much closer relationship with to reality. Here are a few shots they sent of my London pad:

Full kitchen, including one square foot of eating space.

Ahhh… the old fold-down futon couch/bed. And I thought those days were behind me.

Not shown is the bathroom, window, wardrobe, dresser, tv and wifi (for a reasonable £5/week) – all the mod cons. The flat is right on the border between tube zones two and three in an area that is, shall we say, not exactly Chelsea. But it’s probably the kind of neighbourhood I might actually be able to afford to live in so I might as well get used to it. I’m not saying I’m going to end up in a cold water bedsit in Zone 37 (somewhere on the outskirts of Glasgow), but there are real limits to where I can reasonably expect to end up. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not going to be in the fabulous flat minutes from Trafalgar Square; spending a month there would probably give me a decidedly skewed idea of what life in London would be like. It’s probably also a good thing that I just spent a year making myself comfortable almost anywhere, including tiny, crappy hotel rooms. All I really have to make sure of is that I end up with something better than the Baronie.

(Note to London-mad travelling friends and relative: Yes, if I end up staying I will try to get a flat with enough room for a spare bed. But honestly, it is gob-smackingly expensive over there. I’d love to see you all, but be prepared to get comfy in a hammock slung over the kitchen sink, or, more likely, be presented with a lovingly compiled list of cheap hotels and short-term rental flats in the area. I’m just sayin’.)

Besides trawling Craiglist and sending thousands of emails, I’ve also been spending some quality time over at my storage space since I got back to Winnipeg. My goal was to go through most of the boxes, do a bit of an inventory, and repack some items that I could have shipped overseas on short notice. I want to make sure it would be easy to ship just the things I’d really want or need – favourite kitchen knives and utensils, cool weather clothing, artwork - things that would make a place feel like home. This is in the hope that I could avoid either having to come back to sort things out later, or simply having to ship everything over at great expense. Mostly, I want to avoid opening a series of boxes in a too-small flat and uncovering the kind of things that get thrown in at random when you’re hurriedly packing your entire house up on a tight timeline. (“Really? I kept a worn ziploc baggie of twist ties and asparagus elastics? And I just had it shipped 4,000 miles? Fantastic. And thank God I’ve got that twelve pound bench vise. That’ll come in handy when I set up a little workshop in the space between the bathroom sink and the shower stall…”)

You may have detected a note of anxiety about money in this post so far, and I’d be lying it I said that wasn’t a concern. Yes, I just spent $64,000 travelling around the world, and yes, I left a good chunk of money to come home to. But I really didn’t envision having to spend a large percentage of that nest egg on a potential wild goose chase to London. So I’m stressed about money - about how much I have now, how much I might be able to earn if I actually do get a job, and how much it would cost me to live in London. But Karen pointed out something that really helped settle my mind on this issue: I’m not throwing this money away. I’m using it to try and chart the course of my career and life for the foreseeable future. I need to consider this an investment in my future (to use an annoying cliché). (Want some more annoying language? How about this: I need to embrace this change in my life paradigm.) If it doesn’t work out, then in retrospect it may seem like a foolish extravagance, but right now this feels like the kind of thing I’ll regret not doing.

So after a mere 59 days on home soil, I’ll soon be packing a (slightly bigger) bag and bracing myself for another new adventure. It all feels very déjà vu – it seems that not so long ago I was doing the rounds of lunch and coffee and dinner dates saying good bye to people and gathering all the best wishes I could. Now it’s a bit different – much less fanfare, and a whole lot more uncertainty. Last time there was a more-or-less definite schedule – I was pretty sure I’d be back within the year. This time it’s a trifle more open-ended: somewhere between three weeks and forever. All I can say is: stay tuned.

And finally (because there hasn’t been a picture of me for a while, and Rob H is probably getting twitchy) here’s a shot of me at Lake Winnipeg, where I spent a day lounging around my friend Judy’s cottage, pier and deck. Thanks Judy!

Ahhh… a perfect summer day at the lake. Not show: G&Ts that came later.


Natalie Duhamel, HHC said...

Sounds like a FUN wild goose chase anyway! Love that Karen, always putting things into perspective :-)

Larry Anderson said...

I had a feeling you'd end up in London. After all, you're starting a new life, why not do it in a new country? And since you now have British citizenship, London's a natural.

I must say I'm envious. If I were in your shoes, it's exactly what I'd be doing. Good on ya.

Gillian said...

What a fantastic new adventure! We, too, are considering a move abroad...care to share the mechanics of arranging working abroad? Or the references you used to figure it out? I'm an England born Canadian citizen...shouldn't be that hard, right? Shoot me an email if you could...Cheers!

Kelodie said...

How exciting! Good luck with the new adventure and keep us posted.

FLF said...

Hey... great!!!!! My sister, Julia, and her kids are currently visiting Winnipeg from England. They are a short train ride from London... so if things work out, they say they would be happy to host you and show you some home cooked meals and the south coast anytime...

Lisa said...

Of all the places I visited when I was in Europe London was the one place I could envision myself living. Good luck and I look forward to hearing about your new quest! ON ON!

Phoebe said...

Funny Pam that I depart London to go back to California on July 28. We are strangers passing in the night! I wish you the best luck, and as my husband lived in London for years, and we have several friends, there please do let me know if you seek advice or anything. I do hope that on my next trip to the UK, (after I have recovered from the recent tirade of my in-laws)that you will have found success and that we can meet over a cuppa! Cheers ~Phoebe

Anonymous said...

Hey Pam: The new plan sounds really interesting. Hope that you will enjoy your time in the UK and find something that truly captures your interest and energies. Looking forward to hearing about the next chapter in your unfolding saga!! Take care, Colleen

John Bardos - JetSetCitizen said...

Hi Pam,

We are going to miss you by a day in London. It is too bad it would have been cool to meet up!

London apartment rip-offs seem common, we just heard of a similar story yesterday.

Have a great time in London and good luck with your job search.

Unknown said...

Hey Pam, hope all goes well for you in the UK.
Simon Marsden's now at the RSC, FYI, FWIW, etc.
Happy trails to you...
I was guessing you'ld wind up with Cirque.

Jeff S.

Marilyn said...

Wow off again. Good luck with the next adventure. Keep in touch. Maybe time for a different blog. All the best, sorry I didn't get a chance to say adious in person, happy trails. All the best to one of the greatest....

Scott Miller said...

Hi Pam;

After a year of lurking on your blog I figure a comment and good wishes are long overdue. Enjoyed reading along with the first adventure. Here's to the sequel.

Break a leg.

Unknown said...


Best wishes on the London adventure. I am sure all will turn out fine. You will take any job sweeping the loading dock and be the TD by the end of the week.

If money gets tight, DO NOT LEAVE, just ask your contacts if they have any friends you might be able to stay with for a month or two until you get yourself on your feet. I know a few folks who might have a spare room in London.

Cheers, Rob H.

p.s. love the dock photo of you - it is kind of a pam's feet pic too, only seen from below this time, just sayin'...

Site said...

Isn't that capture of Traffalgar Square?? Gosh, London is such a full with history place that you cant ever get tired of! I am on my way to a prolonged stay with unknown returning date ( I bought an open ticket) and I am gathering info as well about everything:) It seems as a place not to leave, right?

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