From Bloomsbury to Newham

It’s been three weeks since I moved out of my flat on the award winning Lambs Conduit Street. [Genuinely, my former street won a ‘Great Street’ award last year.] I’m now starting to feel at home in Forest Gate – I’ve worked out various transport options; located a large Sainsbury’s; begun identifying walking routes to places of interest and my landlords have finally returned from holiday and made me feel extremely welcome.

Conduit House

Leaving the wonders of Bloomsbury and Zone 1 life was always going to be a wrench. I’m not sure I have ever lived anywhere that I’ve loved more, that suited me and my interests so well and that was a genuinely lovely community to be part of. (My parents and friends repeatedly tell me that I’ll never live anywhere like it again. That doesn’t help!)

From my flat I could walk in any direction and end up somewhere useful/interesting – Gloucester Road for college in 90 minutes; Wapping for Matryoshka Haus fun in 75; Liverpool Street in 35; Covent Garden in 15; and the South Bank in just under half an hour. Do you know how good it is to be able to walk home from an evening out? To not be frustrated by the eccentricities of public transport and other travellers? [Apparently my ‘J-ness’, in the MBTI sense, is particularly evident in my belief that walking is always better because the time it takes never varies!] Everyone should live in Zone 1 at least once in their life!

LCS 4 seasons Lambs Conduit Street through the seasons – spied from my bedroom window.

Despite its awards, LCS had its disadvantages. There was the noise – from the wine bar and restaurants late at night, chatter bounced off the high buildings lining a narrow-ish street; from the wine bottle collection every morning (which a year ago moved to 8.45am on weekdays, which was nice and 6.55am on Sundays, which was not); and the accordion player who had recently taken to playing on a regular basis below my window. There was the 6 flights of wonky stairs up to my front door and the insane detail of our rubbish and recycling collections. But honestly, it was a small price to pay for an almost idyllic location. (Idyllic for an urbanite, obviously.)

But, I do genuinely enjoy the experience of getting to know a new (to me) bit of the capital. When I first moved to King’s Cross, I described it as fitting together the patches of a quilt, colouring in sections as I got to know them, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been busy colouring in a patch just beyond the Bow roundabout. Until a coach journey back from Stansted last month, I’d no idea that Stratford was just beyond that roundabout (I’d only ever visited by tube – yet again the benefits of travelling around London by bus are evident). Now I’m working out routes to the Olympic Park and beyond, establishing where I can get my long distance walking in and piecing together the far end of bus routes I’d used in the city.

Life in Zone 3 is different, but good different. There’s a garden, albeit currently a building site (but I like building sites), which produces amazing produce one would spend a fortune to acquire in one of the city’s many ‘Farmers’ markets. The other night I did battle with my 2 year old housemate over the small number of raspberries ripe for picking in the front garden. We’re currently, as a household, trying to think of a variety of uses for the glut of pears that’s imminent. (Ideas appreciated.)

Garden BountyThis particular bit of Zone 3 also does parks rather well. A long absence from running has been ended thanks to a large flat piece of grassland just 7 minutes walk away (the appropriately named Wanstead Flats) and that’s just the beginning of an epic stretch of park that goes on for miles. No pesky pedestrians will now hinder my runs! I could even try to find a route that takes me into the Olympic Park, which would be good because then I can claim to have run at the Olympics.

Wanstead Flats Finally, while life is generally calm and collected in the new abode, every so often I begin to feel like I’m living in a soap opera…

Albert Square

Waiting, waiting and yet more waiting

Over the last 10 days I’ve spent approximately 32 hours waiting for things. It hasn’t been an entirely joyous experience. Sure, TalkTalk arrived within 2 hours of their 5 hour window beginning to fit a phone line (but I now have to wait an indefinite length of time for the broadband to be connected). And yes, Ikea have a system where they call when they’re nearby, so at least on that occasion I wasn’t tied to being in an internet-free flat (but they were an hour late). But there are two stories that need to be told…

Firstly, John Lewis – a name normally synonomous with excellent customer service. I’ve waited for two separate deliveries during this moving process (one for the flat I was moving out of, one for the one I was coming into). The first was fine, bar the tiredness that follows a jet-lag interrupted night’s sleep and a slightly late arrival. But the pain of that day paled into insignificance after the debacle that was the second delivery, which finally arrived during delivery window number three.

Delivery window #1: 7am-2pm on Monday. I used the time wisely, organising a vacationing student to come in and help build the bed Ikea had delivered the week before. I even anticipated a tardy arrival by re-locating an afternoon meeting from the church to the cosiness of the flat. 2pm came and went, a phone call to customer services yielded no info – apparently the van had no phone signal, a common problem in central London (not). At 3pm, a call back informed me that there’d been an ‘incident’ and delivery was rescheduled for a 2 hour slot the following day, helpfully coinciding with a wait for TalkTalk.

Delivery window #2: 1pm-3pm on Tuesday. Not going to lie, I had a nap – that’s an excellent use of time in my book. I began work on my furniture restoration project. TalkTalk arrived 3 hours before their window ended (good work) and I got onto the phone to John Lewis.

[I should at this point mention a mysterious call I’d had that morning from a John Lewis van asking for Mr Reagan who had ordered a TV to Lambs Conduit Street. It was my contact details but not my name or order – I should have taken this as a bad omen and called John Lewis, but was in the middle of a staff meeting.]

Turned out my order had never made it onto a van. A much more helpful member of the customer service team apologised profusely and got on to sorting it out – he also offered to escalate my complaint. I suppose you have to like a shop who realises you’ll be making a complaint before you’ve even mentioned it.

Delivery window #3: 5-6pm, Tuesday. Call from van driver at 5.06 saying they’re half an hour away. Van arrives half an hour later, tumble dryer and mattress safely installed. Simples. Did it really have to be so hard, or involve nearly 12 hours of my time?! I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of compensation I get offered for the saga…

The reason the John Lewis saga was really the icing on a cake was thanks to the Heathrow debacle of last week. I’d cheerfully gone off to Terminal 5 to meet an American couple who are coming to work at the church for the summer. I like airports, I like Americans – what could go wrong?

A lot, it turns out, when you’ve never actually seen the flight itinerary. Sure, I knew the flight number and terminal and that they were leaving San Diego on July 3rd. What no one at the church knew was that their flight didn’t get in on the 3rd, it arrived on the 4th. We discovered that helpful little detail nearly four hours after I’d arrived at the airport. It’s an excellent job that:
1. I have an excellent sense of humour.
2. I previously worked for organisations where international visitors were commonplace, as was itinerary confusion. (Some time I should tell you the story of Bishop Zebedee from the Solomon Islands…)
3. The Americans have turned out to be utterly delightful.

Needless to say, I will not be doing any waiting unless it’s absolutely essential, for quite some time to come!


…it’s another world.

You may be aware that I’ve been in the process of moving house recently. The packing began pre-Texas and the actual removal began 48 hours after touching down at Heathrow. If ever there was something likely to shatter all a holiday’s residual benefits, it’s moving house! My beautifully tanned arms are now spattered with gruesome bruises from carrying boxes and furniture up interminable stairs. (My new flat has 60 steps up to it – my legs are going to be awesome by the end of these two years!) The number of unopened packing boxes is now in single figures, so I’m getting there, but it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Oh, and there’s no ‘proper’ internet until Tuesday. Not going to lie, I’m counting the hours.

I’ve only moved 10 minutes down the road, away from King’s Cross and towards Holborn, but it’s like a different world. I now inhabit a rather lovely semi-pedestrianised street in the heart of Bloomsbury and it’s almost as though I’ve arrived in a village somewhere rural. People talk to you! The first couple of days in my building, I bumped into some children who live below me. My first interaction with the eldest (who’s about nine) went as follows:
Him: “You must be the new neighbour.” [His Dad had spotted me carrying boxes the day before.]
Me: “Yes, I’m living upstairs.”
Him: “I hope you’ll be very happy here!”
Super sweet!

The next day, Monday – en route to college, I passed the family on the stairs. They were chattering away in a ‘have you got everything for school?’ way and I hadn’t realised that the father had spoken to me until the elder son looked at me and said “he asked if you knew the pocket on your bag was open?” (I did – it’s where my keys were going back into and my Oyster card coming out of). Such caring is rarely seen in the wilds of central London!

I now live somewhere where it’s unusual not to bump into a church member during the day. There’s a logical venue for a quick cup of tea (or slow cup of tea given its wifi access and my desperate need for it), from whose windows I can people watch and spot even more familiar faces. Is this normal for the rest of the world?

As if to celebrate my arrival in the community and to emphasise the village-like quality of these streets, today was Queen’s Square Fair day, a highlight in the Holborn calendar and something I was told I really shouldn’t miss. In fact, it was likened to something out of Midsummer Murders – just without the deaths. The church was responsible for the cake stall and would be hosting a ballet display, but all sorts of other things were likely to happen…

It got off to a great start with a man in a van knocking out some tunes with a banjo; progressed through some fabulous cakes (those in the photo are cake pops – seriously awesome); had some fantastically random sights – like the vintage mannequin; and included some varied entertainment, the highlight of which was a group of old ladies line dancing to 90s hit Cotton Eye Joe. Hilarious.

Thanks Bloomsbury. I think I’m going to be very happy here.


Apologies for the absence of blogging this week. Life is going through one of its manic phases and when that happens, blogging slides to the bottom of the pile. This week would have been fairly manic, what with a keynote address to prepare and give at a research conference (one of those fairly big-deal moments) and a sermon to prepare for Sunday, but there’s something else going on that compounds the chaos.

Well, two things actually. The first is a very good thing – I’m going on a trip to Texas on Monday for just over a week. It’s a Matryoshka Haus thing and I’m very much looking forward to new places, catching up with Texan (and London) friends and, most of all, a weather forecast that looks like a decided improvement upon London’s current definition of ‘summer’. The other thing is less good – I’m moving house. Again. For the second time in 10 months.

It is actually a good thing – I get an even nicer flat, slightly closer to the church and in glamorous Bloomsbury (and just around the corner from Rupert Everett). But it’s a house move, and they’re chaotic regardless of how far you’re travelling. When it’s less than ten months since you unpacked your belongings, it’s rather gruelling.

So this week I’ve bid a fond farewell to my two Norwegian flatmates and welcomed into the flat one of my students, who’s taking on the flat after we go. I’ve been to Wembley to sort out all the boxes and furniture that a lovely friend has been storing for me. (Bonus of the move: I get all my books back.) I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time fantasising about a piece of DIY renovation work I want to do on one of my bookcases (there’ll be paint and fancy paper I think) and I have spent an inordinate amount of time getting stuff into boxes – and trying to locate further boxes, as my supply dwindles.

Lise & Øystein as they depart. Plus, a tiny part of my large box pile.

The aim is to get virtually everything packed by the end of today. (And get my sermon into decent shape, and my children’s bit for the morning service – what a day to be doing the leading/preaching double.) Then I can have something of a rest in Texas, or rather, a change of scenery. Trips with Shannon and the Matryoshka Haus crew are rarely restful.

So blogging will almost certainly be fairly light for a little while – although I’m confident I’ll return with an absolute wealth of blog fodder and, quite possibly, be very close to launching All very exciting!

The wisdom of moving (Don’t do it unless it’s essential)

I hate moving house. Is there anyone who actually enjoys it?
From the morning after I finished work (three weeks ago nearly, doesn’t time fly…) my days were spent organising stuff, packing stuff, worrying about stuff, packing some more stuff and worrying some more. I thought I was a packing pro, but I’m starting to reconsider this idea. However, I do have some pearls of wisdom to share:

  • Accompanying your packing with some mindless entertainment is extremely helpful. I got through series 3 and 5 of Gilmore Girls (in case you’re perturbed by the absence of series 4, it’s only because I watched it at my BAP in April) and it was like having a crowd of friends round to help. I know, I’m a loser. 

  • Packing is really something you can only do yourself, friends aren’t actually a lot of help. Sounds cruel, but when it’s your possessions, you need to organise them and if you’re unpacking the boxes, you need to know what’s packed where. Oh, and you need to have a system – I’m all about the system and labelling. Labelling is massively important! I tend to go for very specific labels, like ‘Paperback Fiction A-D’ or ‘Desk Stuff – including files & notebooks’, which really, really helps when you come to unpack the boxes, especially if they’ve lain in storage for a few years.

  • A key landmark is when you realise that there is more stuff inside boxes than outside boxes. However, there will always be a ton of stuff at the end that doesn’t seem to fit into any of the boxes you have left. It’s at this point that assorted Bags for Life will become incredibly useful. 
  • Friends may not help with the packing element of moving, but they’re essential for the taking furniture apart bit. 

  • When you’re (still) not a driver, friends are also essential for the moving possessions from one place to another bit. I’m exceedingly grateful to the friends who helped with this bit. I’d love to say that I had lots of comedy anecdotes from my day in a van criss-crossing central London, but most of the language used by the driver was of a post-watershed quality, so it would be unwise to repeat it here. A highlight was the journey back to the hire place, when all the unloading and traipsing up stairs had been done, London was looking beautiful in the sun (after torrential rain while trying to pack the van in the morning) and driving through the city – the proper city – was quite entertaining. Travelling by van through London is to be recommended, but not when the driver is driving a van for the first time… 

  • Alcohol is essential at the end of a day moving boxes. 

  • You will always wonder why you bothered packing certain items and fill several rubbish bags with stuff you could have thrown away before moving. 

  • Unpacking books first not only gets rid of a lot of boxes, it also helps your room look lived in, even when every other surface is covered with assorted bags and boxes. [It also helps if you work out which books are going on which shelves before you start placing them so that you can ensure the shelves are at the correct height. I did not do this and I’m annoyed with myself – though not so annoyed that I’ve done something about it.]
  • Find lots of people who’ll feed you/take you out for dinner during the first week of living somewhere new. The most I’ve cooked in my new oven so far is a pizza – you don’t want to risk food disasters at such a stressful time.

So I’m moved in and (almost) everything is unpacked. There are some quirks to be sorted and a new neighbourhood to gets to grips with, plus a couple of Norwegian flatmates to make friends with. Tomorrow I start work at my new church. Life is taking a new turn…