I’m boomerang-ing

So last month I did something that I never thought possible in my 30s, I moved house and relocated to my parents’ home. 

I phrase it to people as “living with my parents” as this feels mildly more acceptable than saying I’ve moved back home. Which it isn’t, as my parents no longer live in our family home. And it’s a temporary move for a few months; I’m affectively lodging.

I’m hugely grateful to them for a) having a large enough house to accommodate me and my stuff (and after 12 years away, there is stuff!) and b) being willing to let me live there rent-free. However it still feels like a massive regression and step back in my life. One which has been born out of a desperate, final attempt to actually save some money in order to finally be able to buy my own tin shack, as opposed to living in other people’s, and paying off their mortgages through my extortionate monthly rent.

Apparently I’m in good company as 35% of millennials are now living with their parents. Not surprisingly this is most prevalent in London, where the average deposit for a first time buyer is now a whopping £90,000 (gulp!) There’s even a special name for us: the boomerang generation. The kids the parents just can’t get rid of!

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Me boomerang-ing

I wish I could be one of these people who didn’t care about owning their own home, but I’ve reached the point in my life, where I want to be able to knock picture hooks in the walls without having to ask someone else’s permission. Or having to repaint an entire room in order to make sure I get my deposit back. I’d also like to be able to live somewhere without the constant threat of eviction or rent increases hanging over me. Yes, I know mortgage payments can increase, but at the moment they show no sign of surging anytime soon.

The sad truth is that the only way to get on the property ladder in London these days is through bereavement (family inheritance) or marrying/partnering up. Among my friends, the only people who have made it to the promised land of home ownership are the smug marrieds, who look on with pity at those of us forced to either live at home or as students in multi room rental accommodation; our self-inflicted punishment for not finding “the one”. I often have to bite my tongue when visiting the smugs pretty Cath Kidtson-ed, aga-burning homes in well-heeled SW postcodes, which scream “winner takes all”. Look how you could live if you had a partner and could share all the costs. (Yes, I realise it’s not quite as simple as that really!)

And herein lies the truth; London has become almost financially impossible if you are single and not earning a good crust. It is cripplingly expensive and shows no mercy to those who don’t have a mate to spread the load with. If you want to be able to experience the best of it, you’d better make sure you couple up fast.   

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My favourite London things: No 2. Riverside Terrace Bar

This is a very short post, but I couldn’t let the advent of summer this weekend, pass by without writing about another one of my favourite London things: the Riverside Terrace bar at the Southbank Centre.

Nothing quite signals the arrival of summer in London then the sight of the tables and chairs appearing outside the Royal Festival Hall on the Riverside Terrace. This weekend it was absolutely packed and buzzing late into Saturday night with dates, mates and tourists enjoying their first Pimms of the season. And if you get peckish there are a myriad of places to try on the surrounding terraces, from Strada to Wagamama, to Wahaca to Ping Pong and the street food market. Perfect until the rain arrives next week!


Summer on the Southbank

Photo: Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia Commons

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I’ve hit puberty, again!

So here’s something no one ever tells you when you’re a teenager; there is such a thing as a second puberty. It’s called your 30s. 

This time round though it doesn’t consist of gruesome spotty outbreaks or hideous growth spurts; it doesn’t (generally speaking) involve girlie crushes on school teachers or Brad Pitt; it doesn’t feature coming of age festival attendance or your first illegal high. No this time puberty involves life defining choices, including, but not restricted to: who you want to spend the rest of your days with, where you want to spend those days, whether you wish to procreate and have small people gate crashing those days and how the hell you are going to afford all of this (especially if you live in London).

I’ve reached a point where my friends now neatly fit into two groups: those who have gone through puberty (i.e. Are married, have a (crippling) mortgage and at least one small child) and those who are going to be late bloomers and are currently happily living a responsibility free life. I fall into the latter category. It definitely feels as though there is a fault line running between the two groups, with interaction between the two increasingly difficult.

In our twenties most of my friends and I were at roughly the same stage throughout; confused, overwhelmed, often broke and unsure of what we wanted from our careers and in a life partner. We were still working out who we are and what our values and motivations are. Our lives consisted of tracking down the nearest daily happy hours, endless brunching on Northcote Road or Upper Street, and boxset Sundays slumped in front of the TV in our pjs all day.

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It’s fun being an adolescent, again

Then we turned 30 and things began to change. Second puberty hit, people’s lives began to change, some alarmingly quickly. Whereas before we’d all been on roughly the same page, now chasms have opened up between our lifestyles and I feel that I am beginning to lose sight of some of my friends, as they disappear out the other side of puberty.

My girlfriends in this category have all but given up their careers and their lives consist of National Trust membership, soft play visits and daily trips to Caffe Nero for Yummy Mummy meet ups. They no longer go out at night, which makes it incredibly difficult to see them when you have a full-time job in London. Their conversations revolve almost exclusively around children, school catchment areas and the cost of new kitchens. In order to stay in touch and actually see them, I often spend my free afternoons traipsing round overpriced historic houses or visiting garden centre cafes, with their restless small child in tow, trying to find some common ground, while feeling like I have prematurely aged and turned into my parents.

Eventually we’ll catch up with each other, as with puberty the first time round, and our lives will be more in sync. Until we get there though, this will remain that classic of teenage phases, awkward.

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Weddings, single styley

So last month I got my first save the date (with no plus one) invite for 2016. It got me thinking about surviving the wedding season when you’re a singleton, which is a particular skill, as weddings are to singletons, what babies are to childless women (who actually want to have a baby). So in the spirit of sharing and facing certain realities, here are my lessons learned from previous singleton wedding attendance:

1. Going it alone – when you are single, you are generally expected to turn up to the nuptials in that state, alone. Even if you know NO ONE. Every now and then you might get lucky and a friend might toss you a life buoy by allowing you to bring a plus one or your Mum. However if you’re coupled up, then you can expect an invite for your other half, even if they have never met the happy couple or their respective families. It’s amazing how people are happy to cater for complete strangers just because they’re part of a couple and it’s not socially acceptable to not invite them.

2. Small talk survival – if it’s a small, short gathering (*laughs*), you can get away with minimal small talk and might even avoid admitting to being single (akin to wedding suicide). However if the nuptials are the standard day to night, eleven hour affair, then there’s an awful lot of small talk to get through, especially if you know no one. ‘Are you married/divorced/widowed?’ because obviously no one would choose to actually be single. I won’t forget being subtly asked if I had a ‘friend’ by one wedding guest, when I told her I didn’t have a boyfriend. Clearly I have to be a lesbian if I don’t have a boy.

wedding image by Andrew Collings photography

attending a wedding as a singleton is like drowning in a punch bowl

3. The singles table – or rather the odds and sods, pick’n’mix table. This is the table reserved for all those social misfits who don’t fit into the married/coupled up/partnered/conventional living category. It can often be the funniest table to be on as there’s usually at least one single drunken aunt, a raucous gay couple and a smattering of weird older cousins with a fetish for guns and hunting or some other socially unacceptable hobby. On the other hand the singles table can also be the most painfully awkward place to be. Last year I ended up on a singles table with a couple who were actually married, who were clearly trying to work out what they had done to upset the bride, to end up being placed with all these desperadoes.

4. The dance floor – you either have to be completely blind drunk to enjoy casually throwing your shapes around on the floor, alone. Or accept that you will be sat alone at the table or standing awkwardly on the sidelines with Granny and the lesbian aunt, watching.

6. Being sober – you will be the designated driver, unless you are happy to bankrupt yourself getting a cab on a Saturday night or are happy to pay the single hotel supplement to stay over. Being sober and alone at a wedding is a particular kind of hell to be endured.

7. Bankrupt – weddings are expensive and that’s not just for the couple getting hitched. The average cost of attending a wedding (and hen do, engagement party etc) for a couple is £377 in the UK (£188 each). When you’re single there ain’t no one to share the costs, so attend five of these gigs in a year (which is extremely likely in your early 30s) and you’re looking at bankrupting yourself to the tune of just under £2,000.

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Image: Andrew Collings Photography


My favourite London things: No 1. The O2

So I felt bad about my previous blog, which included a fair amount of London bashing. So in order to redress the balance (and to actively remind myself of why I do like living in this great city), I thought I’d write an occasional series about some of my favourite places/things in the capital.

This week I got to see Adele at the O2. No, I can’t quite believe it myself, but my sister managed to sell her body or something in order to obtain the golden tickets. Anyway, the show was absolutely mind-blowingly, amazing; I think we all left realising we had just witnessed one of the true music greats of our time. Adele comes across as one of the most genuine, down to earth artists and ridiculously funny too, which you need when her music is so bloody miserable! But enough waxing lyrical about her…

Adele March 2016

Adele doing her thing at the O2

It’s amazing to think that the O2, which is now the most popular music and entertainment venue in the world, was once the much maligned Millennium Dome. That centre piece of our celebrations to welcome in the new millennium (*shakes head in shame*). I never visited the Dome, and am quite grateful that it was one of the few London landmarks that our parents never dragged us along to. It sounded like it housed a load of tut.

I remember the days before the O2, when you had to schlep out to Wembley Arena to see the world’s biggest stars (showing my age, I know), which is up there as one of the most difficult and most torturous places to get to in London, unless you happen to have the actual misfortune of living on the North Circular. The Arena is surrounded by a vast expanse of nothing-ness which has all the charm of an industrial estate, and a humongous car park, which it literally takes hours to get out of at the end of a gig, as there is only one exit. Not only that, but the venue itself has all the atmosphere of a multi storey car park once you’re inside.

London Cable Car

Arriving in style at the O2

But since its reincarnation as a music and entertainment venue, the O2 has definitely become one of my favourite places to hang out in East London. I’ve seen everything from U2 to Adele, from the treasures of Tutankhamun to ATP tour tennis and Olympic gymnastics at the O2. It’s got tonnes of places to eat and drink in before and after, two music venues, a cinema complex and if it takes your fancy, you can climb across the roof for fab views of Greenwich, plus it’s super easy to get to after work (very important consideration for any Londoner). You can even get a cable car there. My favourite way is river busing it down the Thames as you get to go past all the touristy London landmarks such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and Canary Wharf, and fall in love with London all over again for the price of a tube trip.


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Adele image: Single London Girl 

Is the party over London?

London has been getting on my nerves lately. Something I never thought I would ever write or feel. I love London as you can probably guess from the tagline for my blog. I grew up in the city’s South West fringes, I went to university here and have made various (dodgy) parts of London my home since I graduated. I love the buzz, the culture, the history, the diversity, the tradition, the changing skyline, the frenetic pace, the shopping, the feeling of being at the centre of something big, special, important; somewhere that really matters in the grand scheme of things, globally and nationally. I truly believe it is currently the greatest world city to live in. Hell, even Tripadvisor users have just ranked it the No.1 destination in the world and they must be right!

I’ve never understood why the rest of the UK has such an ambivalent attitude towards London. Why people living in the regions aren’t suffering from extreme FOMO*. Why they would want to trundle along in some tragic rural backwater somewhere in the Midlands or worse still, up North, where the sun never, ever shines. (Particularly if you live in Manchester.)

Piccadilly Circus

Rushing round London


But lately I’ve been feeling a bit jaded where London is concerned; dare I say it, even tired of the place, because for all its many, many fantastic features, London can often suck the life out of you. It’s demanding, it’s relentless, it’s expensive (often prohibitively so), it’s draining and it’s a constant daily battle. And that’s before I even get on to the topic of negotiating the dating scene (separate blog post needed for this). You’re continuely having to battle with other people to get a cab, a seat on the tube, a table in a bar, a place to rent; you can never let your guard down for one minute because if you snooze, you will most definitely lose when it comes to London town. And when you’re single and facing the barrage on your own (not to mention the expense), it can feel like double the battle.

London is a place best suited to energetic, bright young things with sharp elbows or the super filthy rich, and I’m beginning to realise I don’t fall into either of these categories any more (not that I ever fell into one of them in the first place).


There’s loads of these guys outside London

I have only tested life away from Planet London once (apart from a spell travelling the globe in my late twenties). It was a strategic work move, which involved moving to a large city in the South for a year. (I came straight back once the year was up.) Well, I say large, everything outside of London is pretty relative in terms of size. It has space, lots of it and green space at that. It has decent shopping, no traffic, (everyone who lives there moans the traffic is “appalling”. It’s not, it moves. Always), space (did I mention that?), a Premier League football team and three, yes three, cinemas; practically the West End.

Anyway, I moved out and I got it. Well strictly speaking that’s not true, I am just beginning to “get it” now. I have begun to understand why people living outside of London have no desire to live here and why they would often look at me incredulously, as I regaled them with tales of my frenzied, eye wateringly expensive, full on London way of life. Why they don’t want to sample the late night vomit filled delights of the last tube home on a Friday night, or the insalubrious nightlife of Soho at 2am on a Sunday morning, or want to bankrupt themselves in order to live in a large cupboard in deepest, darkest, gang-riddled Hackney. Because outside of the capital (wild, over-generalisation coming up) there is space literally and metaphorically; people have time for each other. On the roads, in bus queues, at the checkout, in Starbucks, no one is in a rush. And you know what? I’m beginning to miss that because everyone in London is in a rush.**

*fear of missing out, don’t you know.

** I would like to clarify that this does not mean that I am about to leave the city just yet.

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Images: Michal Bednarek | Dreamstime.com



Mind the Generation Gap

I’m a millennial or Generation Y-er, yes one of those lucky people born in the 1980s who according to The Guardianwill be the first generation since the advent of the 20th-century, to be worse off financially than our parents. Hurrah! 

People my age can expect to have: 1) more debt, 2) less income, 3) rent for eternity with no prospect of owning a property and 4) hit every supposed adult life target (that’s getting married and having a baby) much later than our parents, if at all*. *Scratch number three off the list if you have very rich parents or come into an inheritance. 

Despite this slightly depressing situation, I can’t help but feel women my age have never had it better. We can go to university if we choose. We’re allowed to build and focus on our careers in the same way that men do. We build supportive networks of friends made up of people from all walks and parts of our lives because we’re not solely focused on reproducing in our early twenties. We can live on our own (if we can afford to) until we partner up, as opposed to living with our parents until we get married. Hell, we can even choose not to have children if we so desire and society will be ok with this (well sort of). Contrast this with my parents generation…

Woman jumping

Millennial women have never had it better

My Mum is a baby boomer (yes, one of those lucky sods with their free education, generous pensions and mortgage free, under-used, property equity). She grew up in the 1950s and was a teen in the 1960s , when the world was turned upside down for women with the invention of the Pill, the explosion of rock and roll and pop culture and the beginning of the feminist movement. Yet, despite all this and getting good A level grades, my Mum was sent off to secretarial college in order to learn to type so she could become a PA in the City; something to “fill her time” before she met her husband and gave up work to have kids. It was 1969 and women were expected to become wives and mothers, no matter what. Only the really intelligent went to university and then the only route after that was teaching for women.

My Mum quite freely admits that she never had any real desire to have a career and doesn’t feel short changed in this department. She got married at 23 (practically a child bride by today’s standards) and became a Mum at 27 (which in the 1980s was considered positively geriatric for a first time Mum). My parents ran our family along pretty gender specific lines: man is breadwinner, makes the money and does not (under any circumstances) engage with childcare arrangements, woman looks after household, makes a nice home and leaves the budgeting arrangements to the husband. My Mum has led a very comfortable middle class, home counties, SAHM (stay at home Mum, for those not Familiar with this acronym), lady who lunches lifestyle.

Yet despite all this, I’ve always detected a slight wistfulness about my Mum. There have been many times throughout my life when she has muttered the phrase “Well if I hadn’t married your father when I was so young, I could have…” She missed out on independent travel, building lots of strong female friendships pre family, independent living, knowing what it is not to be part of a couple. I know she doesn’t regret any of her life choices, but I do know that she is often envious of all the choices open to my sister and I; the freedoms we have, the fact that we can choose to live as independent women if we wish and survive financially, which just weren’t options (or were frowned upon) when she was starting out on adult life. Its only in the last 10 years (post children fleeing the nest), that my Mum has actually begun to discover who she is as a person in her own right, as opposed to someone’s wife or mother.

While I maybe worse off financially than my parents for the rest of my life, I’m hugely grateful as a woman to have more choices and possibilities than ever before.

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Image: © Yarruta | Dreamstime.com



Weddings minus a plus

So it’s arrived. My first 2016 “Save the Date” for me plus no-one.

I had actually thought I might escape wedding attendance this year. Hitting your mid 30s usually provides a slight hiatus/lull in the endless weddings conveyor belt. Generally speaking those of my friends who are deadly serious about marriage, got wed in a long, steady procession from when we hit the big 3-0, which tailed off by the time we reached 33. Those who didn’t run for the altar at the dawn of our 30s generally speaking were choosing to run away from it, with many friends deciding this was as good a time as any to end long term relationships, which were clearly not headed for marriage-ville. I’m therefore expecting a rush of weddings in 3-4 years time when this batch decide to get hitched to their current partners (alongside the divorce parties for those who tied the knot at the start of the decade).

wedding invitation by Special Invite

It’s arrived – my minus plus one!

My previous wedding guest experience stretches to: one half of a couple, as my parents’ child (when my boyfriends have been struck off, excluded, not deemed worthy of an invite by my relatives), single but as part of a group of friends, and single where I have known absolutely no one (other than the bride).

I’ve been to church weddings, hotel weddings, posh hotel weddings (we’re talking the Savoy), stately home weddings, registry office weddings, country weddings, more country weddings because no one who lives in London actually (helpfully) gets married there. I’d love to say they have all been utterly unique and memorable occasions, but generally speaking (give or take a couple of stand outs) they have all merged into one huge white wedding memory.

Being asked to attend a wedding when you are a 30 something singleton and know absolutely no one is like being invited to drown yourself very slowly in a punch bowl. Repeatedly. Don’t get me wrong I am hugely flattered that my friends want me to attend their special day (well days as they’ll be the obligatory hen weekend, engagement party, post-wedding brunch, anniversary dinner etc), and that they are prepared to spend extortionate amounts of money on catering for me. But let’s be honest attending weddings when you are single is awkward, uncomfortable and slightly embarrassing. It’s a big fat juicy reminder that you’re different from your peers and that you’re not conforming to society’s norms, whether you’re actually trying to or not.

I could write a whole blog post on the actual practical implications of single person wedding attendance; in fact maybe I will. Watch this space!

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Single thirty something in the City

So here I am, nearly 35, single and living/working/dreaming in London, and quite frankly in the words of Charlotte from Sex in the City*(SATC):

I’m just not where I thought I’d be at 35“.

Well, she actually said this about being 36, but I’ve decided to use some poetic licence in order to illustrate the point.

The actual truth is that it’s less about where I thought I would actually be by my mid 30s as opposed to where society thinks I ought to be at this stage in my life. Coming from good middle class, home counties stock, I should by now have hit at least one of those over-arching life targets: great career (which actually pays the bills, provides a pension, life insurance, gym membership), marriage, children, home to call my own (with accompanying crippling mortgage), but here I am still renting (not from my parents at least), with no dependents, no man, an enjoyable and interesting job, albeit one that just about pays the bills. I do own my own car, do I at least get a point for that!

The conformist, rule abiding sixteen year old me would qute frankly be horrifed at my current lack of success in the life goals area. And some of my fellow school friends and family are deeply horrifed at my lack of urgency to be wed and sprogged up. However I gave up on playing by the rules and pleasing other people when I left school; it felt like a fast track to getting nowhere, well nowhere I might actually want to go or be, and a cocktail for resentment, regret and deep personal unfulfilment in later life.

Instead I’ve spent the last 10 years living a life full of adventures, experiences, jobs, friends, boyfriends, flings, tears, laughter, travel, fun and joy in the greatest city in the world. Somewhere along the way I thought I’d meet the ONE, but he hasn’t popped up, arrived, showed his face YET, but that’s ok. I’m not putting myself on the shelf just yet. Although I may buy a cat.

Here are my musings about being a 30 something Londoner, surviving all the daily trials, tribulations, hilariousness (and sometimes tears) of the single life.

*WARNING: first of many SATC references 


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