Settling into London

Week 2 Finding a flat and preparing for school.

Once the pressure of finding a place to live (a stressful experience where you compete with other foreigners for days, while you wander all over London viewing properties, I had to open a bank account (hint: you need to have a place of residence before you can achieve this), organise a sim card etc only then did I feel less stressed. This anxiety was made all the more easier thanks to the professionalism of Smart Teachers the recruitment agency I consulted to find employment in the UK.

After cleaning (I mean sterilising) my studio flat, I finally had a place to call home, at least for the next six months anyway. I could at last call my principal and organise a meet and greet. So far, all correspondence had been through emails and a 90 minute phone interview several months prior. Now I can meet my principal and check out my new school instead viewing via Google.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little anxious as to what I can expect from my new class of 30 year five students. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who have worked in the UK all echo the same horror stories of the behaviour they encountered in the classroom. Now I’ve had my fair share of challenging (some naughty) children in the classroom, but some of the stories are quite horrifying.

Much to my relief, my headmaster set my mind at ease, as I was given the guided tour around my school in Dollis Hill overlooking London in the distance. To get to my school, Transport I have to catch the tube from Queensway on the Central line, swap to the Jubilee line (24 minutes) and then jump on a bus from Willesden Green (stop B) to my school (14 minutes), followed by a 150 metre walk. I enjoy catching the red double decker bus as I pass through the suburbs of north west London. My £25 Oyster Card covers all travel expenses.

The following Wednesday, I thought It would be wise to practice heading to work, to allow for any problems. Smart move, I ended up on the wrong bus at a shopping centre in Crickelwood. I arrived at work an hour later to set up my classroom. Note to self don’t catch the 302. After several attempts I had mastered the trip.

One more week before school starts, and that excited feeling of anxiety returns.

Cooper.

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Tips n Tricks living in London

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Along our path of discovery as ‘Londoners’ we’re slowly picking up some tips and tricks to life as an ex-pat. The aim of this blog is to help others crazy enough to follow in our footsteps, so we are learning the lessons and letting readers know what to avoid or what to pursue. Firstly, we’re really warming to the area we live in – Notting Hill/Bayswater is safe and brimming with convenient amenities like shopping, laundries, pubs, internet cafes, transport and Kensington Gardens just down the road. We had a brilliant sunny day here yesterday so I went for a wander around our neighbourhood. Some images HERE. London is so vast, unless you have a suburb aim due to work it’s hard to know where to start looking for a reasonable address, but this area is a good place to start, at least in our experience.

Be wary of so-called Real Estate Agent fees – am still trying to determine whether a random GBP99.00 fee is legitimate, and have been advised to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for information. Same goes for anyone who needs some advice here.

Emergency number is 999!

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There is a popular online directory here called Gumtree. It’s useful for sourcing for all kinds of things from flats to computers and TVs. However, there are quite a few dodgy operators advertising on here, or utilising its services. We were definitely linked up in a too-good-to-be-true accommodation scam which others could have quite easily fallen for if desperate or not overly internet savvy. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid… just be careful and don’t be too naive. A friend warned us the other day of another mate who was selling a computer on this site. Someone registered interest and dropped around to this guy’s place to check it out – turned out the ‘buyer’ was just a psycho who turned up, beat the man senseless then went to the police to let them know he thought he’d killed someone. This person (not made up – known by friends of ours) is still paralyzed. Another friend bought a TV and DVD set and made the mistake of having the goods delivered to her flat – she was jipped out of part of the deal, then threatened because she wouldn’t pay the whole fee. Use these sites but ensure transactions take place in public, and your whereabouts remain unknown.

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On a bright a note, we want to recommend a few fab places we’ve discovered: Bar Soho for half price drinks and food 6 to 8pm! Westbourne House for fabulous tapas – 3 dishes for GBP10.00 Sunday to Wednesday. Kahn’s Indian Restaurant in Bayswater – dine in and take-away yummy, and the delicious Banana Tree Canteen (our nearest outlet is 21 Westbourne Grove, Bayswater W2) which offers a quality array of Asian inspired cuisine and an Express lunchtime menu which runs all afternoon, not just during strict hours of say 12-2pm. Finally, we love love love Loco Mexicano, 107 Westbourne Grove, Bayswater.

For film buffs, a trip to the cinema in London can be quite expensive, if not totally out of the budget. However, if you’re signed up with Orange for a phone deal, look out for their weekly 2 for 1 cinema tickets, issued by text message. Simply present at most box offices around town and enjoy!

 

SB

 

 

My journey begins

After many cocktails, laughter, tears, Facebook pictures with family and friends reality hits, final farewells, in 24 hours I’ll be gone, a little dramatic, jetting off. I awake feeling anxious and teary eyed as I kiss my dog Harry for the final time. My eyes swell with tears once again, damn allergies. My fiancée Sarah and I board our 10.30am flight with 52kg of luggage ($50 excess mainly Sarah’s clothes and shoes) from Cairns with stopovers via Sydney, Hong Kong and eventually Heathrow. Don’t you just love long haul flights, cramped seats, turbulence and no sleep? Although the food aboard my $3000 one-way Cathay flight was quite good; go the beef.

Feeling jet-lagged, tired and a little irritable I arrive into Heathrow at 4.30pm, pass through customs and skip duty free. I’m incapable of carrying one more item (I groan as I pass the alcohol) and board the underground destination, central London.  If you’ve been fortunate to visit London you’ll appreciate the chaos involving the underground during peak hour. Quite stressful when you have four suitcases, two pillows, two backpacks and a large carry bag.

To reach my hotel in Bloomsbury I needed to switch three trains. From Heathrow I caught the express to Paddington for £25 (clean and leaves every 15 minutes). At Paddington, I purchased a 7 day Qyster Card (zones 1-2) for £25. Great value and you’re able to travel unlimited times around these zones and buses are free (zones 1-6).

Here I go: Jubilee line, Central line and finally the Piccadilly line to Russell Square. For the faint hearted, the tube (an excellent mode of transport around London) is a jungle during peak hours and no one offers you assistance as you climb the stairs like a Sherpa carrying your whole life (which converts to 52kg). I arrive in Russell Square lathered in sweat, hungry and tired, two hours later. I check in; shower, brush my teeth and head out.

Time to explore Bloomsbury, one of London’s best areas for green space, beautiful statues and lovely gardens. Also known for famous writers Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster, the free British Museum (www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk) and actor Ricky Gervias is known to frequent the local pubs and Indian restaurants.

Designer stores, swanky and not so swanky restaurants and your never ending supply of fast food outlets are in abundance at Brunswick Park. Pubs are popular in England (average meal from £8 and around £2.80 for a pint) and you’ll find large groups of people outside the pub drinking, talking and smoking. I like that part of the culture, except the smoking.

I grab a quick £2 meal deal from Tesco express (located all over England) which includes a salad sandwich, drink and a packet of chips or Kit Kat, done. Time for bed even though it doesn’t get dark in summer until 9pm. Tomorrow I’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on London. Bugger, I wake up at 11.30pm and stare at the ceiling, darn time difference. Sarah are you awake? lol

Cooper