Don’t know what you got till it’s gone—so says the Cinderella classic. When you live in London it’s easy to complain about every little thing, partially because that’s the English way, and partially because the capital can indeed be full of shit. There’s the eleven months of “winter” and two weeks of “summer”, the planned engineering works, the dickhead bus drivers, the queues for everything, the pretentious street food pop-ups, the yearly Tube fare increases, the slumlords, the banker cunts, the Costa Coffee on every corner, the £4 sandwiches and £5 pints, and the suburbanite hen parties driving those horrible beer bike things through Borough Market, just to give a few examples.
But it’s not all whinging and moaning. After eight months out of The Big Smoke we have to admit that there is some stuff we miss a lot. When times get tough, here are the top six (a whole six!!) things that tempt us towards the airport and back to England.
6. Seeing The Shard from bed
When we first moved to our place nearby London Bridge Station, it was a bit disturbing to have Europe’s tallest, debatably ugliest, Qatari-sponsored skyscraper constantly looming over us, when we slept in bed like little angels or whenever we got nekkid. But after a while the panopticon became a comforting sight, greeting us morning, noon and night through the rickety old floor-to-ceiling Georgian windows of our room. Our room was awesome, with its big old fireplace, heavy fire door that blocked sound from the rest of the noisy house, Persian carpet, holographic wallpaper, and enough random costume supplies to fuel a Carnival party in Cologne. It was a great place to chill above the ebb and flow of busy London, or watch the madness unfold in the courtyard of the sixteenth-century pub across the street. And best of all, it was ours!!
5. Wanky contemporary art
A couple years ago we caught an exhibition in the basement of The Haggerston pub that featured a taxidermied squirrel climbing a can of Pringles, for sale for the bargain price of £200. It was so quintessentially East London that, at the time, it made us want to vomit into our gin and tonics.
Thinking back on it though, it just makes us miss the incredible variety of modern art and culture that was available virtually on our doorstep, and often for free. While we struggled to find more than a handful of galleries and events in places like Chengdu or Bangkok, in London there’s no shortage of art, be it world-famous art, performance art, student art, street art, street fashion, immersive theatre, or whatever. First Thursdays; London Design Festival; World Press Photo Exhibition; Whitechapel Gallery; Barbican Centre; final degree shows; special exhibitions at the Tate; Punchdrunk; You Me Bum Bum Train—the list could go on and on and on. There is so much creative juice flowing through The Big Smoke that we took for granted.
4. Dicing with death on two wheels
London is a pretty good place for cycling. It’s relatively flat, the centre is compact, and the public transport is both expensive and extremely shit, so you’re almost guaranteed to reach your destination faster by bike than by Tube or bus. The big problem is that it’s fucking dangerous. The streets are narrow and full of HGVs (“heavy goods vehicles” or “massive fucking trucks” in American) that tend to drive fast and not watch where they’re turning, and other drivers tend to be hostile towards cyclists because they think they own the road. This can make cycling stressful, but it doesn’t take away the awesomeness of zooming down ancient streets via your own pedal power, free of the chains of TfL, together with thousands of other smart, progressive people (and a few douchebags) who know that two wheels are way better than four. And then there’s Critical Mass, and the World Naked Bike Ride…
3. Arguing about forks with 11 people
After a long day at work, I’d come home, pop my Sainsbury’s dinner into the microwave, and count down the seconds. Time to eat, bon appétit! But wait a minute… Where the fuck are all the forks? And the spoons? And the glasses? Why is the sink full of pasta? Whose friend has been sleeping on the sofa for the past week? And why is the front door always open?
Living in a house with so many people wasn’t easy, but it was awesome. With more than a dozen people from all over the globe able to not only make it work, but make it fun, there’s an overwhelming sense of community and belonging no matter what kind of crisis arises. And even outside of our house, there was an even bigger community to be a part of, as circles of friends spidered out around the city and you were never too far away from someone you could say hello to. It’s cool to be on the road together, just the two of us, but we definitely miss bonding with the same faces day after day and being part of a real-life community. Introductions get tiring after a while. We miss our friends!
2. Sneaking booze onto the night bus
Ah, the glorious rides on the N buses, the exciting limbo between pre-drinking and party where bus drivers and strangers were forced to either endure or join in with our endless, slurred chorus of Yellow Submarine. Slipping on to the bus with half-opened cans of Red Stripe hiding on our pockets and full bottles of white wine in our bags, to be consumed somewhere between when our asses hit the plastic seats on the upper deck and when we caught sight of security at the club. And the parties, oh, the parties. We miss the parties more than anything. Except for…
1. Motherfucking pubs!!
If we could teleport anywhere else on earth at any given time, it would be to a motherfucking pub. Pubs are ideal in every situation. If you’re thirsty or hungry, go to the pub for a pint and some chips. If you’re tired after sightseeing, have a rest at the pub. If you’re lost and need directions, go to a pub and ask. If you need to use the toilet, just sneak into a pub. If you’re bored, go to the pub and watch the football or have a chat. If you’re sad, have a drink at the pub and bask in the gezellig atmosphere. If you’re waiting for someone, why not have a pint the pub? Because pubs serve beer in PINTS, not in small bottles or glasses, and chances are the person behind the bar can pour a proper Guinness. Pubs will serve you a beer with your breakfast, they don’t take siestas, and they’ll ring a bell to let you know when it’s your last chance to order. If we had £1 for every time on this trip we lamented about not having a pub around, we could both buy one-way tickets back to London (almost).
We are currently on “holiday” in Malaysia, fixing our broken camera equipment, tweaking our plans, and getting our shit together so we can have even more awesome adventures and get some better content here on the site. Rest assured, we are still drinking every day. Stay tuned!!