This past Saturday my mate, Claire, and I very spontaneously decided to make a trip to Cambridge: the gorgeous University city in Cambridgeshire County. And by spontaneous I mean I texted her at 11 saying I wanted to either go to the theatre or on a day trip and within an hour I was out the door with train tickets from Kings Cross, London to Cambridge station bought. It usually takes me longer to plan a trip to a coffee shop, so I was very impressed with myself. [Read more…]
Ah children, what wonderfully brutal and honest creatures. With the power of an undeveloped social filter, they will spurt insults at you like it’s their day job. Sometimes they are joking, but more often than not they are being 100% honest and if a kid calls you ugly, you better hope you’re funny.
Here is an ongoing list of some of the insults and backhanded compliments the kids I look after have given me:
- “I’m sure someone would find you attractive”
- “You look much better with your glasses on”
- “Your voice isn’t that annoying”
- “You look so much different without makeup on”
- “Not exactly skinny… like you!”
- “Your booboos look pointy in that top” (no they weren’t referring to an injury)
- “You know nothing!” (after I had referred to their trousers as pants)
- “What’s wrong with your eyes?! Your makeup makes you look like a witch!” said the 7 year old girl after exclaiming in a way that most people reserve for times when you step in dog poo. And I had people compliment my makeup later that day thank you very much.
London is possibly the greatest city in the world for day trips*. Whether it’s a museum or a monument, you will never go wanting for something to see or do. I know I haven’t. And while I am happy to say I have met friends here, more often than not I am taking these day trips alone. There is something to be said for the benefits of solo travel –like being able to do what you want when you want– but there are some downsides. One that I have experienced is the Pret a Manger-rut. duh duh duh.
Okay, it’s not really severe enough to warrant a melodramatic musical sequence, but it’s an affliction many solo travellers struggle with here in London.
To those of you that don’t know, Pret a Manger is an organic grab-and-go or grab-and-sit food chain in London and you literally can’t go a block without passing one in the central parts.
Why this reasonably priced and organically sourced establishment can be dangerous for us solos is it’s convenience. Maybe you have a hankering for fish and chips or you’re dying to try that old school pub you’ve read about, but you’re held back by your solo diner status. Many of these places aren’t single person friendly and I have heard of some places actually turning away solo diners as they will take up table space while not spending enough money. So alas, us single and ready to mingle with a plate of food folks are banished to a brightly lit corner of a Pret a Manger.
The Pret a Manger rut is not incurable though I am happy to say, as I have been Pret free for two months.
Here are my three tips for how to overcome it:
- Bring a book and hit the cafe
For me, the book is the most important part, as the hip coffee shops are often loaded with creative types on their laptops (as I’m currently pretending to be, sipping on a soy cappuccino in a cafe nearby my house) or pairs chatting it up. Bringing a book with you when you go on day trips gives you something to occupy yourself with when you want to kick back at a cool cafe.
- Pack a lunch and relax in a park (for the warmer days)
London has no shortage of parks, and sitting on a bench eating a nice sandwich saves you the money you would spend at a Pret on the same thing and it lets you soak up some sun. haha. See that’s funny because London is rarely sunny.
- Don’t be afraid of dining alone.
People eat out alone in London all the time. It’s not strange and really eating at somewhere more exciting than Pret a Manger is a much better way to spend your money. As Shia Leboeuf would say: just do it.
*my frame of reference for this is very small.
I decided to start doing some daily recaps to keep my family and friends updated on my day to day life here in London! So here is my first one.
The morning was a pretty average one: put dishes away, got the boys dressed, took the eldest to school. Only that evening did I realize that I had actually made my first mistake! M (what I will call the eldest in my blog) had a nice time walking and chatting, and only when we got to the school did I notice that the classes were already going or had gone in. But no big deal I thought, it wasn’t even 9am. Yeah, later that night I was told her class starts at 8:50. Big whoops on my behalf. However, in my defence we never talked about the official start times of the kids schools (which should be obvious by my thinking class started at 9) and as we were heading out the mom held us up by questioning M about a missing hat for five minutes. and if we had gotten to school five minutes earlier we wouldn’t have been late… But I digress. In all actuality I take full blame and have definitely learned my lesson!
So without realizing my error I returned home and started getting ready to go out to meet an au pair from Sweden for coffee. I also attempted vlogging when I was in the house. So far I don’t think I’m interesting enough to vlog; even my attempt at taking selfies today was a flop. I don’t think I’m cut out for this generation.
Anyway, the au pair was really sweet and we had a lovely time chatting and laughing over gingerbread lattes. Side note: shout out to Sweden for having an impeccable english program in school because her english was better than some Canadian’s I know. Hopefully I will be seeing her again because we really hit it off and she is quite close to where I am living!
That’s it for this post a think. First mistake, failed vlogging and friends, what more could I add? I’m off to drink some peppermint tea and watch a documentary on the Queen’s Secret Service… or maybe Gossip Girl. Yeah I think Gossip Girl.
So it’s been three weeks. Three weeks of London life and I have attained a bank account, a phone plan, a library card and a newfound appreciation for silence. I now know what tube line to take to get into central London, how to queue properly and that in London, if someone smiles at you they probably you to donate to some charity. Yep, I think it’s safe to say I have settled in here.
Being an au pair is in many ways, exactly what I expected. I wake up each morning and help the mom get the kids ready for school, put away any dishes that washed over night and maybe fold some clothing. In the afternoon I will pick up one of the kids from school and basically just help out the mom with making dinner and getting the kids ready for bed. Sounds easy enough right? Well truthfully, it is. But I think I am very lucky; many au pairs would have to fight the urge to hit you if said their job was easy. It can be trying when one of the kids (ahem, or just the same kid every time) refuses to get dressed or eat in a timely manner, or decides that day to criticize everything you are doing, but you can’t take it personally. A thick-skin should be a requirement for becoming an au pair!
While I expected what my daily duties would be like, the way I feel when I’m working surprises me each day. Each day I feel a new sensation of fatigue or frustration. I’m confused by things that I wouldn’t think twice about at home. Thinking about using the microwave? I hope you like puzzles! More than anything though, I am surprised by how happy I am with the kids. The unfaltering love these kids can have for a stranger that just three weeks ago showed up in their country astounds me. And I have to say, I couldn’t be happier that I get to be that stranger.