29 October 2011
It’s been about two years since I wrote about my adventures. Many of you would have heard my whines and gripes in person and have some idea of the reason for this two year hiatus and cessation of correspondence. The first year was a roller coaster of exciting exploration and stresses caused by the forging of a new life in a new country. The second was a train smash. The climax of this woe was being told that I had been made redundant. In all honesty, the loss of this job was not really a surprise. More a low kick to my ego. All the part time staff had been warned that the department had had a 60% budget cut and it was suggested that we should all find alternative employment before being given the boot. I kept holding on, not wanting to burn any bridges while searching and interviewing for other jobs.
Well, I did my time and was shown the door along with many Londoners in this austere economic climate. I am part of those statistics now – my badge of being an honorary Londoner I guess.
I now only had 2.5 days of work a week. Having found nothing to replace my other job, I packed my bags and went back to Cape Town to help my mother with her knee replacement recovery. On returning to London a few weeks later, I had to give my landlord notice and find a cheaper place to live. I would have to seek out more employment and maybe work in a Burger King. But I had to put off such worries until I decided if I was going to return to London. There was a strong chance that I might have just stayed in Cape Town, but my mother thankfully insisted that I go back and try get things sorted out before finally deciding. I’m glad I listened to her.
The area in which I lived was a rather dodgy part of North London called Turnpike Lane. It is very close to Tottenham where the 2011 riots broke out. Men would suck their teeth as I walked passed them going home from the tube station and a woman was raped outside my front door one night. Another night, I went to sleep thinking someone’s television was on awfully loud and woke to find my high street had been looted and a car set alight. My apartment was also smelly from the downstairs butchery and, although it was a one-bedroom flat for one, I had to share it with the cockroaches. I once opened my bag at work and found one squirming in a pocket. So, moving wasn’t just a financial necessity.
I went to bed early that evening after returning to London and woke up fresh and hungry with nothing in the house. So, I got dressed and made my way out the door. On leaving, I saw that the police were once again taping up a section of my road and looking for evidence. I asked a police woman what had happened and she said that a man had been attacked that night with broken bottle. I went to Tescos, bought some food, returned to my flat and immediately went onto Gumtree to seek out new flats. I knew I wanted a place in Crouch End and I knew my budget. I also knew that my two criteria did not generally match. But I thought it didn’t hurt to look. And there it was. A bedsit in Crouch End within my price range. I rang up and set up a time to look at it. By the time I arrived, the room had been taken but she had another bedsit in the same converted house. It was an attic. I took one look at the room and loved it! It was perfect. It has character and lots of space. I share the ablutions with five other bedsits and I had my own kitchenette (a sink and bachelor oven). I bought a folding table to have a workspace for food preparation. The landlady bought me a new bed and, with the help of a man-with-a-van and my friend Carmen, I moved within two weeks. My previous landlord was such a dear. He really looked after me and that is probably why I stayed there for so long. I gave him my notice very apologetically. I had to give a month’s notice and that would mean chipping two weeks into my deposit. But he found someone to move in a day after I left and I got my whole deposit back. They also bought my washing machine. So all was falling into place.
That just left employment. Out of the blue, I landed up with more pupils. I now had four days of employment which meant that I had more income that I was expecting. I live in a great flat in an amazing, safe and beautiful area and I finally had the jobs I wanted and loved. I felt so lucky and looked after and I’m amazed at how well things came together.
So, we’ll move on from this lovely period with just a few mentions. One was the snow. Such snow. So thick and coating, it covered the airport and trapped the planes. With no parking spaces left due to the high occupancy of squatting aircrafts, other planes could not land and therefore never even took off in whichever country they were meant to come from. Julian had come to visit me in London and I had taken him to the airport that night. Heathrow looked like a refugee camp with people heaped all over the place with thermal blankets and bags propped up about them. There were large mounds of debris where people had sipped cup after cup of Costa coffee and munched sandwiches. It was shocking. How where my parents ever to arrive in time for Christmas? Their flight had already been delayed by two days. Julian had to leave me at a the terminal’s doors as the airport was too full to allow in anyone other than passengers. The man standing at the door had a small list of planes that where taking off and only let people with passenger proof go in. I wishes Julian well and went home to set up a vigil for any change regarding my parents flight plans. It seemed so hopeless. My mum was in tears. I was in tears. Alone for Christmas. My worst nightmare coming true. We had this whole holiday booked and planned. Christmas lunch in Highgate. Train tickets to Edinburgh. Hogmanay at a restaurant overlooking the castle and the fireworks. How could this all be all unravelling after months of planning and negotiation? So my desperate vigil began.
Hours passed and no change. I had the SAA website up and running and I kept updating it while tears of frustration flowed. And then it happened. A miracle! A flight had just be schedule just in time for the office to close in South Africa and no one able to phone and confirm. Quickly, I phoned my parents. They had gone to bed exhausted. Groaning, my dad answered and I told him the news. But nothing was listed on the Heathrow website. So we all went to bed and decided to wake up really early the next day. This I did and continued to stay glued to the SAA and Heathrow websites. Dad and Mum arrived early at the check-in at Cape Town airport and surprised the staff by actually knowing more of what was happening then they did. They checked the details for themselves and let my parents onto the plane which was practically empty as no one had had time to know about this extra flight unless they had been as obsessive as me.
Well it all ended happily. My parents arrived safely at Heathrow. Christmas was amazing and Edinburgh was magical. All was right in my world.
Sunday 10 March 2019
Today marks the ten year anniversary of my landing in the UK. I have twice been made redundant due to budget cuts and have lived in four flats. But I now own a house in Hertfordshire and have completed a Masters in Music Education at the University College London (Institute of Education). In addition I now run my own music studio and work as a singing teacher at two private London schools.
Life is funny and scary. A lot can happen in a short time or nothing can happen in a long time. When the proverbial hits the fan, it often happens with little or no warning. But the resilience of my friends, the precedents set my intrepid diasporadic ancestors and the constant support of my family have been invaluable to my own dogged resilience in the face of adversity and tribulations. Additionally, when I’ve needed to celebrate, I’ve never needed to do it alone. Tears of woe and of joy have been shared over the phone or in the hugs of my friends.
When I look back at the words that I wrote ten years ago, I see a person learning about the world and finding out who she is. I found in myself such reserves of strengths and great pits of weakness that might never have been so apparent if I had not left Cape Town. I feel that I have gown into myself over the past ten years and I like the person I have become. Additionally, I am proud of where I come from and feel so extremely blessed to have grown up in a place like South Africa. The heart’s craving for that land and my family remains a constant ache, but I am more fortunate than my ancestors. I can return or give them a call whenever I wish.
Thank you to everyone for all your support and love over the past ten years and here’s to the next ten!