Having grown up in Edinburgh (a City whose notoriously stuffy and introverted social circle makes it seem laughable that the population sits at almost 500,000), been to school in St Andrews (golfers, old man pubs, Prince William hunters), and university in Durham (proud owner of what has been officially voted Europe’s worst nightclub), when I finally moved to London three years ago I was determined to establish myself in the vibrant, urban heart of the city that seemed to be the complete antithesis of everything I had experienced in my life so far.
I beelined straight for Dalston (well, Stoke Newington if we’re being fussy – for a slightly gentler induction to the Big Smoke) where I spent my first year squeezing my sizeable thighs into the skinniest jeans I could survive a long night of depleted circulation in, and flitting from warehouse party to neon rave, dancing until 6am and diverting to one of the Kingsland Road’s many greasy spoons for breakfast on my way home. I also just managed to drag myself to Richmond (of all places?!?) where I was interning in a PR firm and pretending to be an adult for 40 hours a week.
After Dalston came the logical next step to Hoxton where I found myself on the doorstep of all my favourite haunts and a new job just around the corner from my cosy ex-council flat home. Good. So what if my local supermarket was a very over priced, and understocked Co-operative. So what if the only outdoor space for miles around was Shoreditch Park, the only part of Hoxton that the artists seem to have forgotten, with it’s dry, sparse spatterings of grass and urban wasteland vistas. So what that I had to walk several miles in order to find a functioning ATM to finance my ever increasing list of bad habits. I had Swaparama, The March of The Dead, The Secret Ingredient, Cordy House, BGWMC, Victoria Park, Underground Rebel Bingo, Turnmills, Fabric, The Cross and Key, Boombox, TDK….need I go on?? Oh ok then. I had Columbia Road, Brick Lane, Regents Canal, Spitalfields, Little Vietnam, Exmouth Market, galleries, exhibitions, music, art, fashion, people watching galore…..ALL MINE and all on my doorstep.
Now, the eve of my 26th birthday, and my sudden dissension in to a mid-twenties-life-crisis has very unhappily coincided with my forced removal from my adopted and beloved homeland of North East London. Dam my conscience, and that after two years my boyfriend and flatmate finally noticed that my 5 minute commute to work was slightly unfair whilst they both slogged it out for 45 minutes twice a day on London’s sweat and stress inducing transport system. In denial I very maturely buried my head in the sand during all discussions about new location, I blindly trailed round flats with an extremely palpable lack of interest, packed up all my belongings in a trance like state, and somehow have found myself in Oval. Oval?!?
I will be the first to admit that our flat is beautiful. En-suite bedrooms, enormous eat in kitchen and open living room, private garden and communal roof terrace complete with bbq’s, deck chairs and a view straight into Oval cricket ground. 4 minutes walk to the Northern Line, and 7 minutes to the Victoria Line, and an enormous, fully stocked Tesco monolith 300 metres away. But what good is that when the only club I have come across is South Pacific – notoriously rancid, the faux Caribbean thatching dripping with human juices, blasting out Ricky Martin’s Greatest Hits – surely a competitor for the tragic nightlife award Durham’s been holding onto for so long? No sweet boutiques adorn the streets, and not a vintage shop for love nor money.
I have vowed not to write off Oval before I have given it a go. My complaints above are based on a hasty first look around, and I have told myself that I must remain open-minded whilst I embark on an extensive journey of search (and hopefully discovery) for quirky club nights, local pub quizzes, pop up restaurants, independent retailers, art, culture, and the general creative flair that for me, so defines our wonderful capital city. My current state of mind is pretty dubious, but the silver lining is that at least Brixton is a mere 8 minute bus ride away. Watch this space.