Eventually you will find the need to leave London - it took me less than two weeks to recognize this. I can respect that many individuals will find London to be the hotbed of culture, entertainment, culinary desires, fashion, etc, etc, etc. And it is. I, on the other hand, view London as the epicenter of congestion, noise and stress. After 10 nights of moderate sleep, weeks of stress, and an underlying desire to go home, I bought a ticket to Sheffield.
Located in Yorkshire, it was basically the furthest point that I could escape to...and after my first day in the classroom I definitely needed the escape (btw - everything you hear about teaching in UK classrooms is apparently accurate!!). I arrived late fairly into the evening, but was cheerfully greeted by an overly happy taxi driver.
"You are from Ireland, yes??" (said in a delightful Yorkshire accent).
"Oh, I'm bad at accents!"
"Very bad indeed."
My cab driver then rambled on for the next 15 minutes, almost nonstop. At the end of the trip, he shaved a bit of the fare, so I didn't have to break a 5 pound note.
Hang on? A friendly, talkative person? Willingness to loose money?? Am I still in England? Must be an anomoly!
Tenatively I checked into my hotel. I know what I am paying in London for a rat trap - paying around the same price here, I am fairly skeptical.
Wait...the Sheffield Park Hotel has a beautiful foyer. No. Can't be right....just for show...
I go up to my room, via an elevator...surely they have put me in the room under the stairs...or maybe in a back shed...
I step into my room, and instant glee sets in - A huge bed...a real bed, not just a mattress on the floor. Four pillows (not stained) all for me! Lights...tv...bathroom (with a real shower/bathtub!)...coffee. I have arrived :)
Forty minutes later I venture to the Indian restaurant down the road. Here I am initially greeted by waiters a little bit more in line with London. Or are they? Within half an hour they are asking me to show them how to rub my belly and tap my head. Questions...tons and tons of questions - about America (apparently I was the expert; one or two about Canada). They want to know if the America from film and cinema is the real America?? Do they really do magic on the streets? What about McCain and Obama?? What about the cost of living? For forty minutes they bombarded me with questions (oh ya, and I did get dinner too). We part like old friends. I am so confused.
Hang on...two encounters with Sheffielders (did I mention the delightful Yorkshire accent?) and both times I had people who wanted to talk?? I'm more than confused. During my first night in Sheffield I actually talked more than I've talked in the last 2 weeks (minus shouting my way through the day in the classroom).
Morning comes. No. Early afternoon comes. I take a bus to downtown Sheffield. Its sort of like Thunder Bay, but on a larger scale (I'm kind of comfortable here). I wander the busy pedestrian market, and am not banged into once. Where is my human contact? I have become accustomed to jostling. No, on second thought, I might actually like this. Wow..I could move here today.
I take a closer look at the people, and lo and behold - there are fat people here! Where is London Anorexic???
The dresscode? Somewhat along the lines of Thunder Bay - worn jeans, sweaters (comfort over style????). I think I'll just leave my bags in London and let the hotel dispose of my things. Material possessions are irrelevant. I'm not going back.
I stop for lunch in Pizza Hut (glamorous and foreign, I realize) and the couple at the next table strike up random convesations with me - what is going on here??? I had heard rumours that Yorkshire was nicer, but you know how rumours are....
Yes, I know what you are thinking - its a bad decision to judge a city on first impressions. Regardless, my first impression of London was sheer hatred, and that has never changed. My first impression on New Orleans was a bit of disgust, and that is something that continually confronted me during my years there. Truthfully it is a tough call, but I recognize potential here - and maybe the rebirth of my sanity.
Yesterday was the first time that I have had someone actually initiate a random conversation with me in London. While waiting for the bus in Croydon, I met a man who engaged me in conversation straight up until we parted ways at Victoria Station (he even revamped his route to continue along my journey). It was educational and informative (e.g. the Croydon Facelift is a hair style that results in skin being pulled straight back), and he was quick to point out that Londoners don't talk. I had not noticed!
The only hard part about being in Sheffield is returning to London. I am dreading my return to the city :(