Tag Archives: London

Retiring the Old Coffee Machine

Inherited from John and having long-since lost its handle, with a hole in the internal workings and a bust seal, it is now time for the old coffee maker to go...

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We Had Snow

The Tree in the Central Courtyard of the Mews

I’m quite impressed with the accuracy of the weather forecasts here. When they say it will snow between 20:00 and 07:00 and it will be around 15cm. That’s exactly what happens.

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View From the Hungerford Bridge

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The View East from the Hungerford Bridge

This photo wasn’t taken on this day, but in the effort to catch up after my computer failure I’m reprising a couple of older photos. There will likely be many more photos in the vicinity of the Waterloo Bridge, pictured here, as it forms part of my preferred primary route between the South of London where I live and work and the North.

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One Step Closer

The Letter to NARIC

Sitting on my desk (and now in the mail) is the evidence of my New Zealand school and tertiary qualifications that I have to have verified by NARIC so I can apply for the University of London, Institute of Education Qualified Teacher Status, Overseas Trained Teacher programme (That would be the UL IoE QTS OTT programme). This qualification will take me one step closer to being eligible for Permanent Leave to Remain here in the UK once my Ancestry Visa expires in November 2014. It also allows me to continue to work in UK schools after the initial 4 years. Typically I was required to show my grades for School Certificate English (The NZ equivalent of GCSE) in order to be able to do this course, even though my University Degree is in English. UK Bureaucracy at its best!

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The Black Lab

One of the few places selling palatable coffee in Clapham

Visitors to London from New Zealand are often struck by an interesting paradox. Thinking they are visiting one of the world’s great cultural centres, they assume there will be ready access to good coffee in interesting surroundings. The shock of discovering that most so-called ‘cafés’ sell coffee that even the Lagonda Tearooms in Ashburton would be ashamed of takes a little time to overcome. You quickly place on your internal map the landmark cafés who have an idea what they’re doing and you very quickly discover how important a good coffee can be in a day when you stand in some of their inevitable queues. Fortunately, close to where I live, there is the Black Lab, which serves my needs nicely. Like tonight, after the gym, there they were – noting that I’d just made it at 5pm as they were about to close. It is London, after all.

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Morning Brilliance

The view that welcomes me each morning

Not to be outdone, nature does its bit and provides me with a brilliant display to wake to each morning. London is actually a pretty sunny place, but (apart from my flat) the English seem to have an aversion to windows and direct sunshine inside. This is what they’re missing!

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A Brutalist Surprise

A Brutalist Surprise on the South Bank

Working right on London’s South Bank is an enormous thrill. Every day I walk out the school gate and into this incredibly vibrant and electric atmosphere – this image is of the Brutalist architecture of the National Theatre lit, as it always is on winter nights, by a constantly evolving vibrance of ethereal light. I encountered it this evening after watching a film put on for my film club boys at the British Film Institute. They are lucky to take such things for granted!

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Back To Work At The Nautical

The London Nautical English Crew

Opportunities where teachers can sit around a table and collaborate over a coffee and turkey sandwich are incredibly rare – and today was one of those. Tomorrow the real work begins with a return of the students for the Winter Term, 2012.

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2010. London. A Shift.

So, what is the state of the play? After one year in London, it has been fascinating (and sometimes, admittedly, excruciating) to look back at the entries in this journal. As my friend John just mentioned, these old entries, particularly those leading up to my departure from New Zealand, were full of anguish about my sense of loneliness. Even the ones that were celebrating my rather unique choice to live where I did, were still made brittle by the effort at optimism they entailed.

Since coming to London, I haven’t written a word to this journal, but I think it is time. There seemed to be a temporal acceleration for a moment there, and I have found myself to be so full of my life here that writing about it seemed beyond the point. That immersion in life and absence of laboured critical reflection has been one of the best parts of my shift.

Since this is essentially the New Year, and as it is a tradition of mine, here is a list of the significant events for 2010:

  • 6 weeks staying with New Zealand friend John and sharing the joy and intensity of getting to grips with London with someone who celebrated every step.
  • 5 days in Turin with Flavio, further cementing my long-running and ever-deepening love for all things Italian.
  • Easter in Berlin with my loved mate Markus. Running through Tiergarten after a very late night out, getting lost, and using an U-Bahn map to find my way home was very memorable – as was the Schnitzel in Kreuzberg. Well, as was it all, really.
  • Driving at 240km/h on the Autobahn.
  • 4 months living in a very stylish apartment in Shad Thames. Living with a couple was not my best decision, as it turns out, but it was close to London Bridge station which was necessary due to the…
  • 5 months working in one of the UK’s New Labour behemoths, the Leigh Academy in Dartford – 2.5 hours of commuting a day to a building to rival New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa, to teach classes of 60 with other overseas colleagues in an institution that felt devoid of soul. It was like teaching in a mid-class business hotel.
  • A brilliant 1 week visit by Andrea
  • About a kilogramme of Jet Planes sent by Lary.
  • Camping, driving and Sunday-lunching with Megan and Jen all over South London and the home counties.
  • Watching the New Zealand All-Whites draw with Italy in a Shoreditch pub almost entirely populated by Italians, including my friend Massimo
  • Sitting in the packed Emirates Stadium, watching Arsenal play AC Milan
  • The “End of the Road” Music festival, Midlake at The Wilton Music Hall and many other excellent gigs with Roger
  • “A Single Man” at the Barbican, “A Habit of Art” at the National, “Sunshine” at the BFI and “127 Hours” World Premiere in Leicester Square – amongst many many other plays and films with John. Not to mention “The Tempest” at the Donmar, “Sir Spamalot” in Wimbledon…
  • Standing on Regent Street with about a million people as part of London Pride (In leather trousers, of course)
  • Moving into Christian’s brilliant Stockwell home in the middle of summer
  • Running to Hackney (Stockwell, Oval, Kennington, Borough, London Bridge, The City, Shoreditch) to go for a swim at London Fields Lido with yet another excellent man called Chris
  • Swimming in the Hampstead Heath “Men’s Pond” and feeling for a moment as if I’m breathing through the pages of an Alan Hollinghurst novel.
  • Scoring a permanent job at The London Nautical School. A boys’ comprehensive school located right on Bankside. A school with all the heart that schools can have and a place where I feel valued and at home. It also helps that it’s an 11 minute tube ride or a 25 minute jog from home
  • Receiving in the post the most profound gift I have ever received
  • Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market. Latté at the Milk Bar. Tofu Steak at Taro. Yasai Chilli Men at Wagamama by The Clink. Anything at Princei
  • “Interviews” (as John calls them) with over 200 men, met variously, and thus being introduced to many parts of London that I would still never have come near – not to mention, in some of the best cases, to aspects of myself heretofore undiscovered.
  • Assisting the students to work with the BFI to make a film to enter into a French competition
  • Many nights out surrounded by many impossibly beautiful men in impossibly tight clothing
  • Carl, my personal trainer, and the incredible pleasure of seeing him once a week and being a gym member in general (not to mention the scenery)
  • Using words like “Waterloo Station”, “Old Compton Street“, “Leicester Square”, “The South Bank”, “London Bridge”, “The Strand”, “The Tube” and many others as part of my daily life – and living inside history

It is often said that when you travel you “take your problems with you” and certainly it is the case that there is no escaping oneself, but of the many things this year has taught me, one of the most important is that I have gained the understanding that a place, and the people in it really can matter. My need to be ‘amongst my own’ has been so deep and so great that I have often barely seen it for what it is. But here in London, in this one short year, I have begun to develop a powerful sense of who I am and where I fit in. I realise that my nation and place of birth does not define me, and nor can it necessarily nurture me – much as many gay men feel in our own families, where we experience our ‘difference’ as exclusive of our other family members, so do I experience my difference as exclusive of New Zealand’s culture.

I am proud of who I am, and from where I come, but I have found my home and my people, for now.

Oh, and here are some photos from my Christmas Day run through a deserted London:

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