Still in the UK

The lucky terrapin is coming too

I can travel light, I backpacked for 3 months through several climates with 9kg on my back, so I’m generally quite confident in knowing what’s sensible to take and what I have to leave behind. My cookbooks fall into the latter group, and I feel a small pang of longing for the large pile I have accumulated over the years. I don’t want them gathering dust on the bookshelf, so friends are adopting them and good things will happen.

I am taking one book with me: Leith’s cookery bible as it’s the most useful and least gimmicky. It’s also ridiculously heavy and is going through in my hand baggage.

Confirmation bias of ‘what an awesome place I’m moving to’ aside, I have won a cookbook with Kiwi-compiled recipes, so I consider this a good omen! I’m so excited as the last thing I won was a hi-fi cleaner when I was 7. Share, Indulge, Enjoy: the recipes look vibrant and delicious, right up my street. It will be waiting for me before I’ve even touched down, so I’m happy that I’m already making my mark from a distance.


A good piece on the subject of confirmation bias

Treehousekitchen oh great provider of recipe books!


Strawberries after a chemically induced growth spurt

Someone asked me what I will miss about London. It’s a difficult question to answer; it’s a city and my memories and attachments are involved in the people I have connected with along the way. Any answers are also dependent on the home-to-be and its environment; I’d miss the empty roads of central London if I moved back to Bangkok just as I would miss the honourable, noble politicians of the UK if I went to live in Italy.

Arbutus meets London Pride

The best way I can articulate my answer is that if you buy or grow seasonal produce, you’re so wrapped up in the sweet little strawberries, you stop missing bananas. So there will be times I will yearn for creature comforts but there will be something different to learn and get used to, and until I experience long-term separation, I won’t know what they are. I also think that one city cannot fully meet a persons needs, so I don’t feel a pang of conscience while weighing up what I can gain from relocating; geographical cheating!

If I have to give an answer and predict  I will miss, it’s the diversity and juxtaposition: a 5 minute bus ride can separate the wealthiest and most deprived areas. Talking to one patient about their career as a judge, and the next as a graffiti artist and full-time sadist. And sitting in my favourite restaurant, watching the semi-naked world go by.

xkcd: Sheeple

Something very disturbing happened to me on the Tube a few weeks ago: a stranger struck up conversation with me. After I got over my initial shock and repulsion, we had a pleasant exchange on the subject of the Bakerloo line. He thought that Londoners are friendlier than they’re made out to be, and I guess our exchange proved this, although he probably sought me out on an unconscious level to confirm his expectations.

Robert Fisk said that war represents the total failure of the human spirit. I’d suggest trying to get on the northbound blue line at Victoria during rush hour for a contemporary, slightly less traumatic insight into the human condition. When forced to assume the position of nose-to-someone-else’s-armpit, that violation of personal boundaries is more than enough to quell the idea of verbal dialogue.

An individual could of course strike up a conversation about the weather, it’s such a useful ice-breaker embedded in English culture, but the underground for most part removes the opportunity. Despite the negative outlook, there’s an unspoken cohesiveness: the cost, the sour milk stench at Waterloo, the long interchanges, Northern line time, black phelgm and those bloody A4 sized wheelie suitcases: we’re all being taken for a ride. I look forward to not missing it.

Out of all the people I have told so far, only one person has asked me why I’m moving to New Zealand. Perhaps that’s an indicator that people are ready to see the back of me, but it’s worth answering.

I first knew I wanted to leave the UK while I was still living in Brixton, 4 years ago. I was sitting on the 59 bus, opposite a guy who was cutting his fingernails and brushing the clippings to the floor. The UK was leading up to the recession and the press was heavily focused on the spate of stabbings going on throughout the city. We crossed Waterloo bridge, the sun was setting and I took in the view of St Paul’s on one side, and Westminster on the other. If I wanted to fulfil the cliché of a successful yet unfulfilled woman living in the city, this would have been the point where I would have sat down at my laptop and mused on my predicament. Fortunately, I’m doing that now.

After putting away my Anthropology degree I started clinical medicine and any thoughts of living abroad went to one side as I got to grips with dealing with patients, and more importantly, other doctors. It was a struggle at times and there were plenty of moments where I had to put on a brave face on the wards and then cry in the toilets shortly after. I considered taking a year out; I wanted to explore South America and do some charity work, but then my landlord decided to sell the house I was living in, and by then I wanted to just get my degree over and done with.

At the beginning of my final year in medicine, I went to Thailand to do my medical elective. I also visited parts of the US including Hawaii, NZ, Australia (for 2 days, does that even count?) and Singapore. In New Zealand I literally got in a car and drove around, experiencing a sense of freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time. As I took the following picture, I told myself I would be back.

Not bad considering I was on the verge of vomiting over myself

During my travels, life took on a manic pace; I ended my long-term relationship and I found myself on Koh Phi-Phi wondering whether I should fill out my UKPFO application (for medical work in the UK) or just leave it.

I submitted my form online while a cluster of mosquitos feasted on my ankles. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the situation but figured it was best to keep my options open. Fast-forward to Feb 2010 and I was offered my dream jobs: 4 months of obstetrics and gynaecology, 4 months of cardiology and 4 months of general surgery. I told myself that this was great, except I had knots in my stomach and felt emotionally wrecked. I then looked at a list of goals I had jotted down, ‘live and work abroad’ decided to just do it, and instantly felt better.

So I booked my first ever one-way ticket, withdrew from the UK Foundation Programme and qualified as a doctor. Not the most conventional way to do things, but as my mum often laments, I’m not a very conventional person. There are of course gaps in this complex tapestry, but that’s a good reduction of it for now. This time next month I will be in one of the most beautiful places in the world with access to loads of yarn and decent coffee.