Inspiration and cheap beer
Still in London. Oh yes, I am. London proper hasn’t experienced a drop of rain since our arrival. I’m sure the locals are grateful for our visit. I’ve been following the goings-on in the County and I must say I am not surprised by the weather you’ve been experiencing. April is a tricky month. We want warmth, sunshine and green plants. And sometimes we get that—and a dump of snow to keep us on our toes and in our warm boots. This warm, clear weather, here, is exceptional for the UK. But I have to say Londoners know how to make the most of it. Lots of sunbathing in unlikely spaces. Oh, dear. While it is warmish for me, apparently, it’s HOT for Londoners. My flip-flops don’t seem too out-ofplace next to a swath of shorts, short skirts, skimpy tops and men without shirts.
On that bright note, whenever LOML and I travel, we have a look-see around the local real estate listings. Looking at property is usually an indication that we’re having a good time. We were surprised to find we couldn’t possibly afford to live here, not even in our dreams. Even the small flats in Islington Angel are selling for outrageous prices starting in the 300K pound mark. That works out to about half a million Canadian dollars for one bedroom and a kitchen a person could only describe as being junior, petite or rustic. Not only are those flats microscopic, but they aren’t really close to the downtown area. Additionally, the cost of utilities is astronomical. While we complain bitterly about the price of water and electric at home in Ontario, the truth of the matter is doing a load of laundry in the UK is a luxury and rarely includes the use of a dryer. Living in London, in general, is astronomically expensive. Everyone hangs things out to dry. Although there is an abundance of council flats (geared to income housing), there is a long wait-list and what is available isn’t remotely close to the city centre where there’s the kind of work that would pay the bills. A lot of people here are on some kind of assistance due to the cost of housing and the lack of full time jobs. Seems a bit like the County. Lots of service industry jobs are available, but they rarely pay more than minimum wage. Here, like home, young folks struggle to be independent. Educated people abound, but being educated isn’t always the key to a good position.
Speaking of making a living, many of the young people we chatted with have two or three jobs to juggle in order to make their rent, eat and pay for public transit. The local bakery employs a bright young woman from Cabbagetown in Toronto. She told us she spends a lot of time on the bus rushing from one job to the next, often seven days a week. She seemed happy enough behind the counter, slicing bread and bagging buns. She did say cheap beer helps. Having a pint at the local with her friends, at the end of a workday, makes it all bearable. She added she was happy because her kitchen is just a hotplate and a sink. No fridge, no oven and she relies on beer and take-away for the one meal she allows each day. Fresh food is, “As cheap as old chips,” says the fellow selling fish in the Angel Market. Worldwide, there’s a housing and job crisis by the look of it. People are under-housed and underemployed. It’s hard to believe a person could cobble together 40 hours of work in a week and not be able to live in anything other than subsidized housing— if they can find a subsidized space.
Oh, London! I didn’t expect exotic, but I have to admit you are a bit exciting. You are Coronation Street and all of those BBC sitcoms. I am enjoying you, but I come from a place that has plenty of its own little problems, many like yours. London, you’ve given me lots of ideas, along with the cheap beer and the chips.