This day three years ago my parents dropped me off at Dublin airport with my giant suitcase full of my favourite clothes and a few books, I was going to try to move to London. I was to be staying in student digs for a month in Camden and if I got a job I got to stay. I remember sobbing that first night because everyone was so damn noisy. I was oddly homesick at first for someone who’d wanted to live in London since she was 15.
I spent 5 weeks in Camden and then moved onto my friend’s couch for a month. I managed to find and lose an office job in that time. Also during that time Jason Orange announced he was leaving Take That. The lowest point I ever had in London was around that period. I had to stay in a hotel for a night and I was wandering around in the dark, completely lost, broke and unemployed and so desperately sad. I sat down in a bus stop and absolutely wept, the whole body shaking and it feels like it will never stop type weeping. I eventually got up and found my hotel and slept away some of the sorrow.
Not long after I had to leave my friend’s couch and I ended up in a house share with 8 other people and with a job just down the road. The house was awful and so was the job. The house had constantly changing housemates so I’d often open the door to my room and find myself faced with some new people who said they lived there.
The worst was a guy who had no job, was constantly smoking and drinking in his room and would stare a lot. One time I opened my door and he was just standing at the bottom of the stairs staring up at me. We all complained to the landlord and he eventually came round and said the guy was late on the rent and if he didn’t pay it he was kicking him out. The crazy guy ended up ringing the police who came around, got very annoyed at everyone and left. Eventually crazy guy went for a walk and we all helped the landlord pile his stuff outside the house. Later on he kept knocking and we found a knife on the doorstep and a few of us saw him wandering around the Tube station.
Safe to say, I started to look for another place to live. The next place was a house with seven housemates and they all seemed nice enough. Until the couple next door moved in with their dog. I’m terrified of dogs and this dog was huge and constantly in the house and I’d have to shout down from my room every time I wanted to pee. It was degrading and I felt ousted by that dog.
These housemates liked to party too, until 7am with a full on sound system. Oh and coke. One morning one housemate asked another, whilst pointing at white powder on the kitchen counter ‘Is that baking powder or coke?’ The housemate licked it and declared it baking powder.
I ended up staying in a hotel for 2 days and just sleeping and yet again found myself looking for somewhere else to live. Just before a Take That tour was due to start. I went to opening night in Glasgow, came home, packed up all my stuff and moved down the road.
House number 3 seemed ok at first. I wasn’t there a lot during the first few weeks because of the tour. I was living with 2 guys, a 50 year old Aussie who was the landlord and a 30 year gay teacher from up north (one of the very few decent housemates I’ve had in London). Everything was going ok until another guy moved in.
Back when I gave up my 6 day working week (which I was doing to fund the tour) and realised I had every Friday and Saturday along with Sunday night off, I started to invite people over to visit. Caroline and Olly were presenting X Factor at the time and every weekend I was watching them or hosting my friends.
My landlord said my friends could stay in the spare room when they came to visit until this guy moved into the spare room and my friends suddenly had to stay in the living room. Which wasn’t an issue until my friends turned up late from their flight one day and wanted a nap. The guy was in the living room and I asked he’d mind going somewhere else as my friends needed to sleep. He flat out refused, an argument issued and the guy threatened to hit my friend.
My friends went to stay in a hotel, I never spoke to the guy again and my landlord had a go at me for not approaching the situation well. On the day it came out that Olly had been snogging randoms at the XF wrap party, just a few days before I went home for Christmas, my landlord texted and asked me to leave. He phrased it like he was doing me a favour, that I needed to live with younger people and could I move asap. That was another day spent weeping in bed.
After I came back home after Christmas, I went to view a few places, quite fed up at this point after 18 months in London that I was moving for the 6th time. I got a message on Spareroom.com, two architects needing someone to fill their third bedroom, it was twenty minutes away. There was no drugs (well besides weed), no dogs, no mice(which house number 3 was infested with, another nightmare along with shouty threatening man), no parties, no crazy men. Just two nice people in their twenties in a nice flat.
I’m still here now, a year and a half later and my god unless I win the Lotto I don’t want to move anytime soon.
The second job I had, which came with house 1 was in a snooker hall. I did it for a year and a half and looking back I don’t know how. I know the reasons, they let me go on tour and I had every weekend off for X Factor. And during X Factor 2015, Carolly were my whole life. I started because it was convenient until I could take it no more. I was doing 11 hour shifts, with no official break, cooking, cleaning and bar tending for £5.75 an hour. The people were homophobic, racist and sexist. One refused to accept bisexual was real and declared me was ‘lezza-straight’.
I could write a few thousand words on the awful things I heard in my time there. There were a couple lovely people, including a woman who was like my surrogate mum, but for the most part, awful. The customers were rude, I was cooking meat, I was up until 4am every day. I was just angry the whole time and I am not an angry person for the most part.
In March 2016, I reached the end of my tether. I asked if I could go home for my mum’s birthday and was told no and the same night I had the rudest customers alive. I basically shouted ‘I’ve had enough!’ and started hunting for a job properly the next day.
5 weeks later and I was out of there, waving goodbye and being so glad to be gone. I went off to Topshop, ‘the big one’ and I’ve remained ever since. It’s not my dream job, I doubt being paid minimum wage to deal with customers on a tourist heavy street is anyone’s, but it’s good. The people, for the most part, are great, they’re diverse and accepting and kind. And it can be really fun. Today I saw Gabby and Marcel from Love Island, screamed when they played Take That and watched customers dance around to the DJ.
Writing all this up it reads like a lot of bad stuff has happened since I moved here. But nothing, oh nothing, no matter how bad will erase all the good. And I have had the best times since I moved to London. Being in this city gives you the ability to do so many things. To run down to the BBC during your lunch to meet Gary Barlow, to go to last minute gigs and book signings, to serve Caroline Flack on the till at work and for her to go ‘Oh it’s you! I haven’t seen you in ages!’, to wander down Southbank and marvel at the prettiness, to walk around at Christmas and beam at the pretty lights.
When I was younger and said I wanted to move to London no one but my mum would listen. They said I’d realise I loved the country I lived in and see the grass wasn’t greener, they said London wasn’t as good as I thought. But oh no, it’s better. Since I have moved here I have:
Been to 32 Take That concerts, along with seeing them live at The Royal Albert Hall and at Jonathan Ross. I also got to see An Evening with Take That live and a 3 minute song outside the BBC. I’ve met them all, I’ve met Gary twice and I love them more than ever.
Met Caroline Flack so many times that she now knows who I am. I don’t think she ever remembers my name but she greets me warmly, with a big hug and an ‘Oh hey!’ She is the loveliest person ever every single time and always chats to you like you’re her mate. I haven’t seen her in ages actually, could do with a new selfie.
Met Olly Murs so many times I’ve long since lost count, not that I care much about Olly alone, he was just always kinda there.
Met: Chris O’Dowd, Dermot O’Leary, Preston (at an Ordinary Boys gig where I went alone and eventually had one the band escort me in to the venue because he didn’t want me to feel lonely, 16 year old me died) and a whole bunch of people at work including Matt Edmonson, Sara Cox, Melody from PCD, Sophia Smith (Liam Payne’s ex), Stephanie Pratt and Amelia Lily.
Been to a lot of tv show recordings-I saw Take That at Jonathan Ross and Let It Shine, One Direction(and Ian Mckellen!) at Graham Norton, Daniel Radcliffe at The Last Leg, Caroline at Loose Women and a recording of Strictly where she did the quickstep(I also told Claudia Winkleman she was hilarious and she turned around and went ‘Oh thank you!’). I went to A Night With Olly Murs and cried so hard at having seen Caroline and Olly in real life together for the first time, that people asked Olly’s musicians if he could hug me, because I looked so upset, nope just emotional.
I practically lived at X Factor in 2015, I saw a lot of audition shows, some of Six Chair challenge, two live shows and both nights of the final. I saw Little Mix, One Direction, Coldplay, Leona Lewis and Adele all sing for free. I also saw Caroline and Olly kiss and cried so much at that that yet again people around us were very concerned.
Seen a lot of musicals and plays and such like, (the joys of being able to leave work at 7 and see a show that evening), the most exciting being Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Also watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with a full orchestra at The Royal Albert Hall which was magical, and saw the midnight screening of Fantastic Beasts which made my heart swell with fandom love. Yes I moved to London to July 31st for a reason.
Take That aside, I’ve been to the concerts of Olly (4 times, I think?), Birdy, Busted, George Shelley and someone I’ve probably forgotten.
I’ve spent countless evenings in the Natural History Museum, many many more in my favourite place in the whole of London, Waterstones Piccadilly. I have my favourite walks and places and things to do. And most of all, best of all, I have my friends.
I met one of my closest friends, L.J, on Platform 9 ¾ on September 1st, no word of a lie, last year we told the guys at Pottermore about it and ended up on their Instagram and Twitter. Another bunch of people came to me that day via the London Nerdfighters. One of the girls added me to the group who did meet ups all the time and when I finally had my Friday’s back to myself, I went and befriended a wonderful bunch of nerds. They made London life better, especially the wonderful Jess, Julia and Zahra.
Going on two proper Take That tours (12 and 18 times respectively) has increased my Thatter friend rankings a hell of a lot and my god does it make tours more fun. Thatters are what make my tour now and I’m so grateful for that. I got Mark’s water bottle! Gary Barlow read my blog! Hyde Park was the best night ever! Nothing will ever beat being at barrier with your mates!
I got to go meet my friend Cate in Paris which involved a nine hour bus journey and just twelve hours there but boy was that an experience, a surreal and glorious experience.
My work friends, my wonderful work friends. My workplace has a very fast turnover but I have met people at work who I cherish dearly and am so the better for meeting.
Before I moved here, I had a handful of Irish friends and a whole bunch of internet friends, whom I still adore of course even if I don’t see them as much (and when I do it’s awesome). But for the first while in London I was quite lonely, as much as I didn’t want to be I was.
It’s funny really, I never thought I’d be able to live without Sky+ or a telly or a microwave or the sea. And most of all I miss my tumble dryer and now I can’t live without Uber or Netflix or Amazon Prime, or my travelcard or the Tube. Really mostly what I can’t live without is people and this city and my concerts and my books.
The last year, living in the same house, having the same job, having my magnificent friends, I have felt finally settled. My friends have been there for many a day strolling around markets and parks and shops. For card games in pubs and far too many farewell parties. For concerts and telly shows and the many London pop-ups. When I was 14 and being bullied, all alone and confused, I had no friends. I think a part of me still can’t believe people like me for me, a part of me is still always baffled that I’m surrounded by people who love me and want to spend time with me. I can barely fathom it sometimes.
Living in London has enabled me to be fully me. To come out as bisexual and be comfortable with it, to run around to concerts on a whim, to be a huge nerd, to read copious books (and to write two), to be unapologetically in love with this city and this country. I know I’ve grown in confidence since I’ve moved here, without a doubt. I’ve come a long way from struggling to leave my Camden room because of my anxiety three years ago.
So thank you to my friends, to Take That, to Caroline Flack, to my house and my work and to London for letting me be me and giving me so much to love and to do and to wonder about. I can’t wait for more adventures in this bloody brilliant place I call home.