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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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: