Tag Archives: london

Touring London!

Hi Folks!

My mother is visiting from the States this week so I’ll be off playing tourist in my home city…which is actually one of my favorite things to do. We’ve got a host of things lined up, including museums, theatre, concerts and a few free craft workshops around town. I’ll give a full report next week.

Enjoy the last week of October!

 

Image: London by Moyan Brenn via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

Every Friday I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. Here’s a really interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about why the “aging” of scientific research grants may impede creativity.

2. And while we’re on the topic of aging – according to the Los Angeles Times – the Tea Partiers are just a bunch of baby boomers longing for the 60s. Who knew?

3. I absolutely adored this homage to The New Yorker over on A Boat Against The Current. Who amongst us didn’t dream of the day the New Yorker would call? (Who am I kidding? Who amongst us *still* doesn’t dream…)

4. I’m now a regular over at Roger Ebert’s Journal on the SunTimes. Here’s a recent post he did on a visit to London (with many ref’s to my very own ‘hood.) It’s about writing…and walking…and, well, writing and walking. Fabulous.

5. If you’re into libraries, have a look at this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Joyce Carol Oates’ abiding love of libraries. While you’re at it, here’s an interview in Salon with Marilyn Johnson, the author of a new book on librarians entitled This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.

6. Finally, a dispatch from Fast Company on why it’s actually more productive to nap. Hallelujah!

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Changes: Sometimes You Just Need to Make the Bold Move

No. I don’t have a jammed keyboard. That title is a reference to the famous David Bowie tune.

I’ve been thinking about change all weekend – and how we come to make the big changes in our lives.

It started when I had coffee with a friend whom I rarely see anymore. She showed up with her husband and before we even ordered, she glanced over at  him and asked: “Do you want to tell her or should I?”

I glanced furtively at her belly, wondering if she might have some”news” to impart. (My own personal rule: never ask someone if they’re pregnant unless you literally see the child’s head crowning with your own eyes.) But she didn’t look pregnant. She did, however, look extremely happy so I ruled out life-threatening illness or death of loved one.

“Go ahead,” her husband said.

“We’re moving to the coast,” she announced. She was positively beaming.

“The coast” in this case is Cornwall – a beautiful section of rural England that runs along the Southwest coastline. This couple has owned a second home there for years, in a small village right by the sea. The town is about as different from London as you can get:  there’s one main street with a few restaurants, a one-room library and a school.

In other words, this wasn’t just a “let’s pick up and go to the burbs” kind of move. We’re talking Green Acres. You know – chickens, foxes – that sort of thing. They’d already sold the house in London (the very one they just spent nine months re-furbing) and were set to complete (close) by July 31.

What was amazing to me was how quickly they’d arrived at this life-altering decision. They were driving around Cornwall one afternoon in April, saw a “for sale” sign and thought it would be fun to take a look. A few hours later, they made a bid.

“But didn’t you agonize?” I asked. Much as I myself am a big believer in change, I’d have to do a lot of thinking before making that dramatic a shift in lifestyle.

“Not really,” she answered. “We drove to a café and sat down and thought about what we wanted out of life. And we realized – why wait until we’re 60 to have the kind of life we want when we could have it right now?”

Why indeed?

What they came to realize was that, as lovely as their life in London was “on paper” – big house in a nice neighborhood, three children happily ensconced in excellent local school, weekend getaway – the financial pressure to maintain that lifestyle meant that they didn’t spend nearly as much time together as a family as they wanted. In particular, their hectic schedules meant that rather than spending time outdoors  – something that was particularly important to my friend’s husband – they spent almost no time at all enjoying nature.

So they decided to cash it all in. Literally. The sale of the London house will more than pay for the entirety of the new home in Cornwall. And because both primary and secondary state (public) schools are excellent there, they won’t have to pay private school fees until university. Best of all, both of them will now telecommute 3-4 days a week, freeing up an awful lot of time to just…hang out.

I was truly impressed. As we get older, I think many of us live with a sort of “deferred gratification” model of adulthood: someday we’ll lead the life that we want. But in the meantime, it’s so much easier to just stay right where we are (same house, same job, same neighborhood) that we don’t pause to think about what a change might look like.

Of course, sometimes change isn’t called for because we like where we are. And sometimes it’s just not feasible for all sorts of reasons. But sometimes, you just need to be willing to make a bold move when an opportunity presents itself, like – literally – seeing a “for sale” sign on the road. And you just dive in and see what happens…

Image: For Sale Broker by Neubie via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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Growing Up: Safety in Movement

Well, I’m back from Scotland, a place where they really do say “wee” for “little” and “aye” for “yes” and eat (gulp) haggis (end gulp).

One of the things I like most about living in London is how easy (and cheap) it is to leave. All of Europe – plus Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia – is just a few hours away by plane. When we first moved here, I wasn’t sure how much of these we’d actually manage to squeeze in. (Answer: more than I expected, largely due to my new found stint as a travel writer.) But even if we hadn’t ended up traveling all that much, what really appealed to me was the idea that I could leave if I wanted to. In other words, it wasn’t the actual movement that attracted me; it was the possibility of movement.

“You strike me as someone for whom freedom of movement is a defining part of who you are,” a therapist once told me. This happened, by the way, during the interview phase of finding a new therapist here in London. I didn’t end up choosing this particular person (a Jungian, as it turned out), but boy was that an hour well spent. (The kicker: because it was just an interview, she didn’t even charge me for this mind-altering insight. Can you imagine that happening in the U.S.?)

I realized, as I thought about it, that she was absolutely right. It explains why I jumped at the possibility of moving overseas. It explains why I like to change careers. And it also explains why I used to have a lot of trouble committing to long-term relationships.

This isn’t, actually, how most people approach their lives. I know lots of people whose sense of security is derived from living in the same neighborhood over time…hanging out with the same group of people into adulthood…staying with the same job or company over their career. There is something about familiarity and routine that they find reassuring and predictable and it makes them happy.

But in my case, paradoxically – and for all sorts of complicated psychological reasons that I won’t bore you with but which have, rest assured, have been amply explored elsewhere –  I actually feel safer when I know that change is on the horizon (or at least potentially so). And so I’ve come, belatedly, to embrace this part of my character rather than just assuming, as I did for so long, that I’d eventually “grow up and settle down.” Because for better or for worse, this is who I am.

Which is a long way of saying that growing up is a really complicated thing to figure out. And you just hope that every so often, you bump into someone – it might be that random Jungian you interviewed and never saw again – who helps you make sense of it. In the meantime, thank goodness I can begin planning that next trip to Munich….

*****

Speaking of expat living, I was delighted to discover, courtesy of Freakonomics, that living abroad gives expats greater creativity in problem solving.

Image: First Air 727-100 by caribb via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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