Monday, January 7, 2013

Three years in London!

Double Decker buses are the best way to see London

Three years ago today I arrived in London with two full suitcases and my rucksack. At the time I was over on a two year ‘Mobility Scheme’ visa - one which was costly but quite easy to get because of my ‘under thirty’ status. 
The two years seemed like acres of time which I planned to fill with travel to places more easily accessible from the UK, time in museums (I had a list to work off of), and a chance to launch myself as an artist in one of the best cities in the world to do so. 

I did spend much of my first six months exploring the easily accessible museums of London, ticking each one off my list as I did so, going back to visit some more than once. This is a city full of ideas, history, and an incredible amount of art. 

My curiosity has always been relatively insatiable. I credit my parents and many incredibly good teachers with this. I’ve been raised to believe that, if you want to find something out, you should go ahead and do it. 

St. Paul's Cathedral in the spring
In London I have been able to explore and learn like never before. The city is my classroom and the architecture, advertising, design and artwork is mine to soak up and study. 

There has been some formal study as well, (because it’s so accessible and the schools here are world renowned and worth a visit) in the form of of short courses. I’m continuing to attend such opportunities as they arrive and my budget can account for it. 

Ah, the budget. When I made up my mind to come to London many people warned me of the cost. It’s true that this is an expensive place to live and when I first arrived my meagre Canadian funds were worth far less than I could manage on. I had to take a job as quickly as possible and in my desperation I took the first one offered to me. It lasted four brief days before I handed in my notice. Retail employment could be anywhere in the world for all you’d get to see of it between unreasonably long shifts with few breaks.

My next job was a post through a temp agency and one which would work out fortuitously for me. In the end two and a half weeks of temporary placement turned into nearly two and a half years of permanent employment on a salary like nothing I’d ever made before. I was given the opportunity to develop my skills as a designer, did a lot of project management, and was even involved in hiring and training staff. 

It was still expensive living in London but when you start earning the currency other benefits quickly make themselves known. When pressed for why I’d chosen London I had often told people ‘just because’ or asked ‘why not?’, but travel was a big part of it. 

Coming to London in the first place was making up for two and a half years of not doing what I wanted when it came to seeing the world. With my new found steady income I was suddenly able to visit places I’d only dreamed of. Not to mention the sacred status holiday time holds to UK citizens. 

My job earned me twenty-five day holiday a year, not including bank holidays. I quickly learned that this was standard and even someone working part-time can expect up to fifteen days holiday per year. This was in stark contrast to any job I’d had before where two weeks was considered lucky and the idea of twenty five days was only available to those employed for as many years in one place. 

My 2011 Gallery show
The result has been (in addition to visits home to Canada) seeing Paris, Amsterdam, the south of France, Jersey, Scotland, Wales, the lake district, Kent, Dorset, Cambridge, York, Thailand and most recently, Cuba. Japan is in the works for later this year, and weekend trips to Greece or Italy are always in the cards - possibilities should a cheap package present itself, which they often do. 

Other accomplishments in the past three years have included obtaining my UK Driver’s License (An intense commitment of time, money and patience given the fact that I’ve been licensed in Canada for eight years and a very confident driver when not across the pond), holding a successful gallery showing of my artwork including the sale of four originals, and obtaining my temporary leave to remain with the help of my partner. 

Getting married was not something I intended to do. In fact, when I first decided to move to London I had also made up my mind that I was going to be single for the rest of my life as I no longer had any interest in a deep and meaningful relationship with anyone but myself. Of course the Universe loves it when you make up your mind about something because it can then throw in a challenge or curve ball. As it was, a few weeks after making my mind up to move, I met and quickly fell in love with the woman who is now my lawfully wedded sprout - as we like to call ourselves. 
My favourite wedding photo

Our wedded status allows me to remain in the UK but also caused a significant change to the conditions on which I live here. I am no longer bound by the necessity to work for someone else. I am allowed to act on my entrepreneurial spirit by embarking into the world of self employment, and embark I have. 

2012 was spent working towards setting myself up as a life coach - a career choice I am still enamoured with but no longer focused on as I had been. I am the sort of person to jump in the deep end with both feet. Such enthusiasm is why I’m in London at all, but has proven not to be the most effective choice when it comes to self employment as someone who helps others to see their full potential. 

Instead I’m now taking things slowly and from a different direction. I’m starting where I am with what skills I can use right away because my reputation is already there. My art, my creativity, my design work, my writing. 

Representing Canada at the Paralympic opening ceremonies
As I begin my fourth year in London I am not entirely certain as to how long I will stay here. This year is my chance to apply for my permanent leave to remain, which will allow me to stay indefinitely should that be my choice. I do love London and will always want to have a home here, but Canada is where my heart lies and I must admit, while it’s not as acute as it once was, homesickness is still a regular occurrence for me. 

In the mean time I am happy to be continuing my self-directed studies, building on my creative portfolio, and achieving dreams which I had once abandoned or thought too far reaching to be realistic. It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do. I may miss Calgary, but I wouldn’t change where I am right now for anything. London has provided me with so much and continues to do so. 

I don’t know what will happen in the next year but I have to say, if it’s anything like the last three it’s bound to be worth writing about. 


  1. Happy Anniversary!
    Long may London act as your creative muse.

  2. Congratulations on your three year anniversary!
    I'm glad to read that you are loving life there.


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