Running on sleep-fumes, I saw a place literally around the corner from work, where I could theoretically never leave the block on weekdays. The current tenant greets me with the news that he's moving out because his wife is taking him back, and I congratulate him.
The place is a shithole; it is also already rented. Disappointment and relief are strange feelings to bring together.
By 10 pm, Nina and Hannes are ushering me into their living room, making me tea, and I lie awake on the couch most of the night. It's weird not sleeping in a warm tangle of arms and snores.
The London rental market differs in such odd ways from San Francisco. Most people reply to my cheery inquiries about housing, and I'm at four or five flats a night. It feels like speed-dating, and I'm on a charm onslaught. I apply to everything in a four-mile radius of work, which is how far I'm willing to walk. A woman in Vauxhall cancels on me by text as I'm walking up to the door, but I stop by Ade's and see his new puppy Darwin.
I don't know what I would have done if Nina and Hannes hadn't let me impose on them for five days, talking me through the housing offers that I started to get. There's a house of older Polish hippies, and then a room in Bethnal Green behind the mega Tesco.
Nina tells me to hold out for one more interview, at a place across the canal from them that looks way too nice to be in my price range. With backup housing in my pocket, it feels so good to cancel on everyone else.
Next morning, I'm having tea with the girl who owns the place, and I leave with my hopes sky-high. There's a sunny living room with rocking chairs, the fridge beeps if you leave it open, and I would finally have a big boy bed. I would find out the next day on Sunday, so I just start walking west across London.
The city is ridiculous. I regularly spend my weekends here just walking, but it never gets old to see the sun set on the Thames. I walk through a furry convention, share spicy noodle soup with rowdy Australians, and then I'm in a cushion as long as I am, watching the walls flicker and spin.
The couple next to me gives me a shoulder massage, and I just sink into the music.
Wide red skies are still throbbing in my vision when I get the housing offer via text.
I don't expect to have nice things, so when it does happen, I'm awestruck. And I can move in the next day!
Nina & Hannes hug me when they get home, and it's like I've won some minor prize. It's a testament to what good hosts they are that I have a pang of missing the living room couch as I pack up. But then my stuff is out of the back of their van where it's been living since early December, and the least I can do is take them to lunch at the vegan cafe down the street from me now.
|Moments where I forget I'm not in Berkeley|
|A board game housewarming takes place that night, and I'm a baby Cthulu rampaging across Tokyo Bay.|
|The prayer flags go up at first light, and I'm settled in pretty much immediately. And I have a desk!|
Once I feel like a normal person with housing again, I wade back into London life.
Louisa has us over for a big pot of vegan squash stew and brownies, and it's the coldest night in the city so far, but my winter clothes are holding up to the chill.
Epping forest is a pretty magical place in winter. My first time wearing wellies!
I kept remarking how invincible I felt plunging up to my knees in cold mud, and we're giggling at every mud squish and plop.
I still don't quite understand the concept of lakes freezing over.
This one had a millimeter of ice floating on top, and we threw in everything we could tear off the ground.
|Ikea meatballs finally. The beef/pork union is so perfect in texture that you're left disturbed.|
The night ended in Dalston for Nate's birthday, where Passing Clouds had become too hip to be entered, POWERLUNCHES was a post-apocalyptic hipster diner, and Brilliant Corners had music that had us all gyrating. The place also doesn't serve Cuba Libres, but will make anyone rum and cokes.
And I just bought a flight to Morocco since it was fifty quid, so...I have twelve days to wander the country by myself.
Chefchaouen, here I come!