Friday, 18 April 2014

Pity The Poor Semigrant - A Few Things Wot I Have Learned From Living In London. Gor Blimey, Jelly My Eel.

                                                 Would You Adam & Eve It?

London Has Not Changed Me - I Have Changed London

* A few weeks back, I was on the Matt Cooper show on TodayFM talking about the new wave of Irish in London, having myself moved over recently. The show was going out live in Ireland and as soon as I had walked out of the studio in Central London, I had loads of Twitter Messages & texts from my friends and admirers back in the old country, anxious no doubt, to send greetings to a poor emigrant across the Irish sea. I suddenly felt warm & fuzzy. Of course, being Irish, to a man (and woman) everybody who got in touch after hearing the bit said something along the lines of'; "O'Shea you big fecking SPOOFER - you've only been there a wet week and suddenly you're a FECKING EXPERT!?!" Ah Ireland, don't go changing! 

But it got me thinking about what I have learned from a relatively short time living amongst the Saxons. And I have decided the world must know my thoughts... 

Saw This In The Dentists & Decided To Move - Didn't Realise It Was From 1966

So.... we decided on a bit of a spur of the moment thing to relocate to London for a while. Lots of reasons. But I'm still working for newspapers and radio (and whatever) back home in Ireland and will be back & forth a bit depending on what work comes up in Dublin. A friend in London says I have become a "Semi-grant" - one foot in Ireland, one in London. There's a lot of it about.

Sent This Pic of Myself Home to The Mother - She Thinks I'm Flying, The Roller is Borrowed.

And what have I learned from living in London? (South East to be exact, basically surrounded by old Squeeze songs).

Well, the big lessons so far would include finding out that;

* There are LOTS of Irish here right now. For obvious reasons. The economy, the way our funny little Republic never changes, potato blight, the continued success of the Dublin footballers etc.

Loads of us. Was in a random pub near Clapham the other night and there was the unmistakable sound of South County Dublin from a few tables over; "So I said to him, roish, you can fire me if you want, but it's going to cost you 100k! Changed his tune pretty quickly, I can tell you!".

There are also lots of cool Irish people here.

* Londoners & English People Are Incredibly Polite.

And I don't mean this in a sneering, snarky way. Sure, Irish people are friendly and rambunctious. But there's a lot of rude, unmannerly behaviour as well. In London, people are polite, they wait their turn, they step out of the way or point the barman in your direction if you're next. They say hello and talk to you (not on the Tube, obviously) but in bars and cafes or down the launderette. I like it. It may be that in a city of 8 million or so people, society has realised that we're either polite to each other or it all goes a bit Lord of The Flies toute suite. But I think it's an innate thing in the English make-up. But obviously, don't stand on Oxford Street at rush-hour and expect people to make you tea & biscuits. And watch out on the escalators on the Tube.

* The World Is Here.

The other day, I worked out that I had dealt/interacted with about 15 different nationalities. There are four barber shops catering for different ethnicities on our street alone. Including the weirdly specific Ugandan Good Faith Barbershop (also Money Transfer & Mobile Phones). "Howya, any chance of a short back and sides?" "Are you from fecking RWANDA!? Feck off out of it, we only do Ugandans".

* Everybody Dresses Really Casually

THIS I found surprising. Sure, they dress for work, but at the weekend, Londoners love shorts & flip-flops (even in Spring) or the ubiquitous H&M hoodie (guys) or Vintage Coat (girls). Sure, there is a fair amount of bling. But the standard dress code appears to be "Summer B-B-Q". Or Festival Chic. And the more money you have, the more thrown-together and careless your wardrobe. You'll see media moguls and advertising execs in outfits that would shame a bachelor farmer from Ballinamore. It's a weird status symbol thing.

The Neighbours - He Likes Suits - She's A Tracksuit Girl

 * It's Expensive.

Do you know when you can actually watch the battery power drain from the little symbol thingy at the top of your iPhone screen? That's what London does to your bank account. It's the wonky-batteried iPhone of cities. Oyster Cards (which are implanted into Londoners in the same way those little diamonds where to the citizens in Logan's Run) have to be constantly offered up for recharging. Or you don't get to use the transport. Which is amazing and horrible and brilliant and useless and the main topic of conversation for all Londoners all the time.

* The Pubs & Restaurants are Great

Even in our small corner of SE London we have great pubs & restaurants - to the point where you have to up your running regimen to ward off what the Irish over here call the "Heathrow Half-Stone" (you land in London and suddenly you're heavier).

Brixton Market was a revelation - packed with great pop-up style restaurants, vintage furniture and fashion shops and super-shishi deli counters and fish, cheese and veg stalls. Imagine the English Market in Cork if it hung out with Kate Moss & Heston Blumenthal for a couple of weeks.

I love the old social clubs that have been turned into excellent gastropubs and music venues - particular fave of the moment is the lovely Effra Social Club in Brixton (clicky for look). Yes. It's looks like a Hipster's Nirvana but feck it, I'm not over here worrying if people think I'm a fashion victim. Life's too fecking short for that bollix.

It's Like This All The Time. Really.

* The History and The Sights

There's a house in London, 23 Brook Street, where GF Handel and Jimi Hendrix both lived (not at the same time obviously, although that would be a brilliant sit-com). You walk down a street or past a venue, pub or road and realise it was in one of your favourite pop songs (this happened to me on Electric Avenue in Brixton last Sunday - memories of Eddie Grant and again when I went past The Clash immortalised WestWay ). The British Museum & the Imperial War Museum alone make it a city worth living in.

These people ruled half of the world for 300 years. And they got LOTS of souvenirs.

My fave place to sit is outside the Festival Hall on the South Bank, the Thames, Houses of Parliament, St Pauls all in front of you (I think, my geography has never been great). You think; "The Romans were here....and I think they actually made this ciabatta sandwich. Which just cost me 200 dinarii".

* We Probably Won't Be Staying.

Ultimately the plan is to move back to Cork (or West Cork, depending on how fast this climate change lark kicks in). But we'll enjoy London for a while. Of course, if anybody has any work going back in Dublin, week-on, week-off, whatever, City Airport is only down the road.

But for now, here's a word from my agent, Mr Eddie Grant. Take it away, there, Edward...



  1. Great post, really enjoyed it.

  2. Cheers - glad you enjoyed it! Keep reading... ;-)

  3. Have you been to Borough Market? Or the John Soane Museum.

    And Clapham ... ah, the Picture House, the Rapscallion ... nostalgia. (Lived in Sarf London 20 years, mate!)

    1. Go to borough market regularly, love the place!


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