London, Lateness & Small Kindnesses


Posted by in May's Magazine

It’s days past my deadline and I’m only just getting a chance to write this. Anyone who knows me will confirm that I’m late for everything so it’s not entirely surprising to learn of my tardiness, but recently I’ve been making a concerted effort to submit my column on time. I worry about poor Billy’s blood pressure.

My excuse is different from my usual, ‘I forgot what day it is/I was struggling for inspiration/the dog ate my homework’. This time last week I received a phone call from someone with a job offer. They wanted me to start six days later. Fantastic. It’s an amazing opportunity: Project Editor on a series of websites for a forthcoming food programme. Exciting stuff.

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Only the job is in London. So I’m writing my column from N1.

I’ve been here less than a week and in this time I’ve experienced more mixed emotions than I have in the last year. It’s a funny thing moving away from your city. Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s not the other end of the earth. It’s only four hours on the train for goodness sake. But my heart remains in Caledonia.

The first couple of days were a bit shaky. I know a handful of people down here. I know Carrie, of course, and my cousin lives (remarkably) just around the corner from where I’m living in Hackney so that’s a real bonus. My office is an hour’s walk away which for London is great and frankly quicker than taking public transport. Plus the two hours of walking a day are doing me the world of good and have forced me to advance my organisational skills (did I mention I’m late for everything?).

I don’t find London especially terrifyingly huge or aggressive and I’m looking forward to seeing and discovering new things. So what do I miss? I miss walking down streets that are so familiar I could do so with my eyes closed. I miss seeing people to whom I’ve never spoken but whose faces are as recognisable to me as my friends’ because I’ve seen them around Edinburgh for years.

Security blanket
The day before I started work I felt like a fish out of water. Logically, I knew my reason for being here was this amazing job opportunity, but I was at the tail end of manically packing, driving for 9 hours, manically unpacking and trying to adjust to my new surroundings. In short, I was tired and emotional. It was a gloriously sunny day so I took myself down to a tiny wee café on Regent’s Canal, at the back of the flat where I’m living. This place is sent from heaven. It’s as basic as they come with no airs and graces, but it’s nestled in a warm suntrap and the food… Oh, the food.

I ordered spiced Sri Lankan tea and olive oil cake when it occurred to me that they probably wouldn’t take cards. When the man behind the counter confirmed this fact he looked at me for a moment (hair pulled back, not a scrap of make up, scruffy jeans and t-shirt and huge black sunglasses to disguise my puffy cried-out eyes) and did something I wouldn’t expect in Edinburgh much less London. He gave me them for free. And as if that wasn’t enough, he also gave me a little glass filled with the most delicious homemade chocolate ice cream I’ve ever tasted. This single small gesture of kindness was so perfectly timed it almost broke my heart. So I sat there and devoured every last crumb of cake, and every last drop of tea and every last scraping of ice cream and I let the warmth of the sunshine and the gesture flood over me like a big security blanket. I felt calm and at peace for the first time in days.

Since that day, things have started to feel less alien. I take comfort in the sights which are becoming more familiar by the day: the ducks and long boats on the canal, the dancers stretching outside Saddlers Wells whom I pass on my way to work, the Director who asks me every morning in his lovely London accent “how the devil?” and when I tell him I’m fine and ask how he is he says simply, “tickety boo”.

I’ve no idea what’s going to happen or where this is going to lead but for now the most important thing is that I know it’s going to be okay.

This month I’ve been mainly…

panicking over the shortest-notice move ever; repacking and unpacking; wondering where I’m going to find the money to fund my move; saying goodbye to people I don’t want to say goodbye to; crying; being excited; being on the verge of jumping on the first train back to Edinburgh; missing my friends; being interviewed on Radio Scotland’s new programme Kitchen Café about FridgePorn.com; listening to my interview and cringing; staring wide-eyed at the size 4 dresses in the shops; worshipping in the scarf room at Liberty; repeating the mantra: everything’s going to be ok.

Photo: Myrto Lazoppoulou

7 responses to “London, Lateness & Small Kindnesses”

  1. s.wilson says:

    there's too Leithers in london now???? why don't we just outsoource te entire thing then we can hear what everyone is doing except in leith?? just crackers.

  2. Andrew Lee says:

    As a born Leither who has lived in neighbouring Edinburgh for 30 of my 34 years, might I suggest to S Wilson that there is a big world outside the municipal boundary?

    I wasn't particularly offended by an article about a fellow Leither's move to London, and It's relevance to the overall publication wasn't lost on me either.

    Still, you can't please them all….

  3. Sylvia Meikle says:

    I pick The Leither up in the Cameo at Tollcross and usually enjoy it. But S.Wilson's comment worries me. I wasn't born in Leith and don't live in Leith, so should I stop reading S? As I wouldn't want to break the law.

  4. Alan B says:

    Thou art thyself, though not a Leither.
    What's Leither? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet

  5. jonathan says:

    there's TWO* is that what you mean?

    look, Leith is not (thank god) made up of a purely local folks. the whole deal is its a creative heartland for the fact that we're a community of people who come and go and have passions from all over.

    you are ridiculous s.Wilson.

  6. darrenn says:

    Why so many exclamation marks Wilson? The problem with the Leither is the lack of a comments page where we can publicly flay idiots like this man. I would contribute to a column that pokes a finger at the community and people like No.1-Leither-Wilson here. What do you do for this great town? You arse.

  7. JRenee says:

    Though I agree with the above… starting to feel a bit sorry for S.Wilson now at the outraged responses!

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