I can’t believe I have been in the UK two months already, time truly does fly (though not sure about the having fun part!).
As I mentioned in a previous blog, the first month was a difficult one for me and definitely far more difficult that I had anticipated. Of course I have lived in the UK before, as well as living in countries that you would think would be far more difficult, but that really did not prepare me!
Firstly the struggles of finding somewhere live … trying to be organised as always, I had
already arranged a place sharing with 2 others, but when I turned up to meet them in person, I was told the house (that they were renting) had been sold!
So it was back to the drawing board. Most shared houses were either huge (5-6 rooms/people), lodging situations (where you were not allowed to use the living room) or more like hostels, with padlocks on bedroom doors and numbers on shelves!! None of which I really wanted.
Thankfully after about 3 weeks of spending most non-working hours searching, I managed to find a small two bed house, sharing with another kiwi (though she has been here so long you would never guess by her accent) and her two cats and so far so good.
Next on the list of troubles was buying a car! I have only ever owned 2 cars and both were purchased from friends of friends so I had never had to look too hard. When I wasn’t viewing house options, I was driving miles to see cars. It didn’t help that I really don’t know much about cars! One weekend I had arranged to see a car and drove 1.5 hours to get there – to be told they had sent the car away for a service, despite the fact they knew I was coming to see it! Very deflating!
When I finally did get a car (with the help of my brother who was also trawling the internet for me) I had a tyre slashed the first night I had it parked outside the Air BnB I was staying. (If I thought looking for a car was deflating – this was far more so … pun intended!)
Of course this meant I could not get to work, but thankfully I had a breakdown serve already set up so was picked up by a breakdown truck and taken to a tyre centre … who then informed me that 3 of the 4 tyres needed replacing – not a great start to my relationship with my new car!
I also completely underestimated the cost of car insurance in the UK – I have ended up paying almost 3 times the amount I pay in New Zealand for a car that is worth half as much! The cost is also hugely dependant on the address you live at – varying GBP250 from one place to the next, less than 1 km apart!! The whole process is even more complicated when you don’t have address!!!
I had not even contemplated that I could not be able to get a credit card, apparently becuase I have not lived here for 6 months – not even the bank I have had an account with for 25 years will give me one.
To compound it all, I could not get travel insurance! I had just assumed I would sign up for the annual multitrip policy that I had always had when I was in the UK before, but again, I am not considered a resident so I could not get it – the other catch is that most of the policies I looked at would only insurance ‘gadgets’ like computers, ipads etc if they were purchased in the UK which rules out everything I own! So I ended up having to get insurance from New Zealand (just a matter of hours before my trip to Riga) at massive unplanned expensive because it is considered 1 long trip rather than lots of little ones!
Of course I was also trying to do all these annoying life tasks whilst working full time – to be honest I think the job was probably the only thing that kept me sane during that first month!
Still being deep in winter it was also cold and dark – in those first weeks we had snow, rain and fog and some lovely mornings whilst I waited for the car to defrost!
When I did get an hour to spare, I already started to enjoy walking around the city of Cambridge, exploring different colleges and the narrow little side streets. I also discovered the colourful daily market in Market Hill – apparently there has been a market here since Saxon times.
The stalls included fruit & vegetables, flowers, cheeses, breads, international foods, clothes and jewelry and my personal favourite, the most amazing looking cakes and fudges!
A highlight of the first few weeks was a trip to London to attend the New Zealand Society Waitangi Day Ball. It was a lovely opportunity to forget about the dramas of finding my feet, get dressed up and enjoy some lovely kiwi hospitality (read wine and lamb!) at the Waldorf Hilton hotel.
Having spent the night in London, I took the opportunity to re-explore some of my old haunts, and the following morning I spent walking through part of the city of London to Liverpool St, – areas I used to work in and where I spent many enjoyable years.
I must admit, at this point in time I definitely wished I was back living in London (to be honest, I actually wished I was back in NZ but London is a little closer) where I think life would have been easier (though in reality, the only thing that would have been easier would have been that I would not need a car, everything else would be just as painful)!
But onwards and upwards!