I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while (by the by, how many posts do I start that sentence with?). And, what always happens when I’ve been meaning to write a post for ages is that the sense of it gets changed.
So, if I had sat down a week or two ago, this post would have been all about how, after a good two months in London, I was starting to lose momentum. That, surprisingly enough, even though I was where I had always wanted to be, I was feeling just as lost as I did when I first moved to Ireland. How every conversation I have been having recently seems to involve the question, ‘So, what are you doing in London?’ which inevitably produces a reaction from myself that looks a bit like this:
After which I would either laugh awkwardly and make some smart-arse comment about sitting around on the couch and watching old Friends episodes, or alternatively, I would launch into a detailed description of all of my life goals, dreams, achievements and disappointments over the past 5 – 6 years, including university courses, failed relationships, my time in Ireland and eventually, after a good thirty minutes of anxious babbling and hand gestures, I’d finally conclude that I really wasn’t at all sure what I was doing in London except for the fact that when I was 15 I developed an obsession with BBC bonnet dramas and I really like Harry Potter.
Obviously it goes a little deeper than that. I’d always wanted to come over here because I was obsessed with British actresses and British theatre. I wanted to come here and try my hand at becoming the next British/Australian star. I at least wanted to come here and audition for places like the Globe, instead of Fantastic Furniture ads and ‘Home and Away’, thinking that being rejected from people I actually admire the work of would somehow make me happier.
But, now that I’m actually here it seems more than a little ridiculous. This place is massive. I’m one little person who nobody knows and who knows nobody. The biographies of the actresses I read at 16 were from a completely different industry, when not everyone wanted to be famous, when reality TV was not the all-consuming monstrosity it is now. The actresses I admired were straight out of acting school and had British accents and seemed to just walk into company jobs at the RSC. I am an Australian actress with very few credits to my name, well out of acting school no agent and no clear idea of how to go about getting acting jobs or what jobs are even likely for myself in the London industry.
Writing’s not much easier. It seems everyone writing in London has studied, or is studying playwrighting at some sort of college, or is a young writers’ programme at the RSC. I don’t know which theatres to approach, I don’t know where to start self-producing work that might get seen, I have very few people that know anybody that might be able to help me self-produce work.
I know no-one, I know nothing, I have no plan. For most of September, since coming back from Stockholm, I’ve felt increasingly lost and anxious and its not just about the stream of money exiting my bank account without being replaced.
So, yes. This is the post I was going to write. And, I guess I kind of have. But the thing is that despite much mooching about the house and much anxious babbling and many days of sending out innumerable CV’s to unable-to-be-remembered job agencies making you feel like a metaphorical ant in the giant ant-colony that is London (or something), the minute that I manage to get out of the house, strange and wonderful things seem to happen. Things that make you think perhaps you do belong here and you do know people and everything is going to be a-ok.
And without further ado, here is a list of things that make me feel that, despite having no job, no plan, no communicable goals and a rather sad little list of contact numbers in my phone, I may actually be creating some sort of life for myself here and even if I’m not, I’m really having an awesome time anyways.
1) I have a favourite cafe, which serve delicious tea. Ok, so the cafe is in Shoreditch and I live in Clapham Common and it takes me a long tube ride and walk to get there, but it still exists and I go there regularly and I force other people that I know to go there also. And, the last time I was there, another friend of mine, who lives over the other side of the city in Ealing (west, west London), also happened to be there, because its also her favourite cafe and we didn’t plan it at all and it was all like, ‘woah, are we in Shoreditch or freakin’ Newtown?’ But, you know, in a good way. In a way that was like, ‘yeah, I have so many friends in London, I’m just always running into them wherever I go.’ Plus, the name of my favourite tea (‘Masala’) apparently means ‘fairytale’ or something similar in Turkish. That’s right, its fairy tea. Things don’t get much better than fairy tea.
2) I went out to the theatre with one Australian friend who is currently based in Berlin, but she was late, so I was sitting at the Royal Court waiting for her when another Australian friend, who I had hung out with just the night before, happened to wander into the theatre, seeing the show upstairs. We chatted until her show started and then just as she left the other friend turned up. It was like a revolving door of friends. Ok, so they’re both Australians and travelling through London instead of staying here, but it was another, ‘I’ve got so many friends, I’m the Queen of London’ kind of moment (see above).
3) I went along to a play reading night on Wednesday and had a small section of a play read and a director came up to me afterwards and asked to read the rest of the script. Huzzah! I also got free red wine. Free red wine is excellent.
4) I’m beginning to learn the tube map. I’m now confident enough to plan journeys to stations without staring at the gigantic posters in the station for minutes on end with my mouth open and looking like a tourist. I have complex strategies to ensure I get a seat on the tube, favourite stations and, if necessary, am now pretty much able to stand on the tube, whilst reading a book, and not need anything to steady myself. I’m all like, ‘I’m so used to being on the tube, its like I’ve got tube legs.’
5) I know which snacks are available at which chain coffee stores and know which are good and which are only ok. I also now know that its not pronounced ‘Pret a Man – gah’ (rhymes with ‘sanga’) but ‘Pret – a -Man-jer’ (like the first syllable of ‘Jerry’).
6) I was in a 48-hour film with a group of lovely people and even though I had to be the ugly sister in the film, the lovely people fed me brie sandwiches and doritos and even though they don’t really know me, they let me take one of their books on the 2011 Arab revoltions and Occupy movement home with me, because I had started reading it and wasn’t finished by the time shooting was over.
7) Apparently, my wardrobe and fashion-sense is becoming more London. I bought new pants and new boots, which make me look ‘very London’. Two separate people have told me this, so it must be true.
8) Sometimes people ask me for directions and I know the answer. This is satisfying for two reasons. One, I know enough to be able to give directions. But, more importantly, two, people think I look like I live in London. I can only presume this is down to the subtly changing wardrobe which has been previously mentioned in point no. 7.
9) I’m able to plan days out for people who come and visit me in London. Ok, sure, most of them revolve around Shoreditch High Street, free galleries and Hyde Park, but I haven’t had any complaints so far.
10) I have a nemesis: the horrible old man who hit me with his cane. I see him all the time in Clapham and its only a matter of time until I’m able to wreak my terrible revenge (ok, I’m probably not going to wreak a terrible revenge, but I do like to give him a death stare every time he walks past me, which makes him like satisfyingly confused. When I write it out like that I sound like a horrible human being. But, he hit me first!!!)