Life has thrown me a bit of a curve-ball and I am back in the UK. Yes, this is the same UK that I said I’d never return to ever again.
The reason I came back to London was to access medical services for my injured knee; the idea is that this would give me a chance to assess the situation, find out how long I would have to wait to get my operation in the UK or see if I can find somewhere else that I would be happy (and can afford) to get the surgery I need.
So far that hasn’t worked out too well. In five weeks I haven’t managed to see anyone who has actually looked at my MRI, although various other people such as a physio and a receptionist have still felt qualified to weigh-in with their opinion (both think I don’t need an operation and should just do some exercise, which is pretty hard when you can’t walk any distance and can’t sleep with the pain).
I found myself somewhere to stay for the summer. It’s not too spectacular, just student halls of residence really, but it is affordable (as much as any rent can be affordable in London) and I don’t have to make any kind of commitment and can just decide and pay week to week.
Unpacking my case completely for the first time in a while gave me the most intense satisfaction ever.
I have a tiny room with a bathroom and the share of the kitchen. My accommodation says that sharing a kitchen is a great opportunity to meet people. Yes seriously. However I really don’t see myself hanging out in the kitchen every night, waving my wok at passers-by trying desperately to make friends.
I’m an only child and we don’t like sharing. Shared kitchens, based on my previous experiences, attract two kinds of people: the ones who leave their dishes in the sink until there is nothing left to use, in the hope that somebody else will break first and wash them, and the ones who expect you to wash your dishes before you even eat your food and examine the counter you just used for any sign of un-wiped debris. Both those types are equally irritating, so I tend not to use shared kitchens.
Talking of sharing, I have tried out a few co-working spaces, but haven’t found anywhere that I fit in. It’s great to network a little but I have found other people I’ve met there super-confident (you could also say over-confident), despite doing ‘jobs’ that don’t exist.
We’ve rebranded unemployment as self employed, ‘brand ambassador’ and countless other things and people think it counts as a real job.
The advantage of co working is that I don’t switch on Netflix or one of the other selected time wasting options I have. However I still get more done at home (even when home is a small square cell with a shared kitchen).
Another thing I tried in London is an event called speed friending. For anyone who has ever tried speed dating (I haven’t but I understand the concept) it is just like that, except you are looking to make friends to meet for coffee or whatever, rather than someone to ‘date’.
You spend five minutes chatting to each person, then a bell sounds and you move on. The organiser was keen to state that this was not a dating event and that no effort was made to equalise the quota of men and women, however pretty much all the men there seemed to have skipped over than part of the event description.
The women were there for various reasons; some wanted to meet other women to go man-hunting with and a few mentioned looking for somebody to take holidays with (this scored me a few interest points, as someone who has solo-travelled so much).
As for me, well it was mostly just an interesting experience to have; something else to say I’ve tried. Since I’ve no intention to stay in London any longer than I have to, I did feel as if I were there under false pretenses to an extent.
I deplore small talk and relish any opportunity to have a conversation that goes a bit deeper. I’ve always said that I admire the American ability to self-reveal (some would say overshare) and put conversations on a more meaningful level, but whenever I try it here people just seem to edge away.
Aside from that, I haven’t really done much. London is extremely busy at the moment (a combination of summer holidays and a weak pound) and the pivoting around people all the time is hard on my poorly knee. Give me an empty road and I can walk some distance, but endlessly dodging around people makes my knee ache within an hour of getting anywhere.
Lets see what August brings. Meanwhile here are some gratuitous pictures.
I had to hire 50 people this summer for a special exhibit at the museum I work at. I used the speed dating concept and had the candidates move from interviewer to interviewer after a few questions. We rated everyone and then I made hiring decisions based on the ratings. In fact, it worked quite well and we put together a great team fast. I kind of like the concept of speed friending, though, unlike you I actually like small talk. I think of it as a way to acknowledge a common humanity. Hope you are seeing lots of those wonderful (free!) London museums.
That would work well for hiring staff, particularly for temp jobs so you’re not stuck with a bad decision forever.
I think I just get tired of endless conversations about the weather and the traffic and so I’ve been trying out random experiments with people in queues and with shop assistants. It hasn’t been so successful but I do believe British people could be more open if they just tried.
These galleries and museums are supposed to be free but sometimes in summer they install a scary woman next to the voluntary donations box to try and intimidate you out of money. They don’t scare me though.