England

Going to the Prom


Every summer for the last 100-something years, BBC has held a classical music festival called the Proms. The generally idea is to make classical music accessible to the public by having several shows per week with tickets starting as low as £5.

I decided to go to one of those shows today. I headed to the Cadogan Hall in Chelsea (in South West London) for the Saturday matinée show with a friend. The show featured three pieces by contemporary composers and I must say that they weren’t the type of songs I’m used to.

The first song was in italian and referenced Dante’s Paradise, the second was quite choppy and random and sounded more like noise than music to me in some parts, and the third was a dramatic retelling of a bible passage (Jacob wrestling with an Angel) and featured a counter-tenor, which I found out today is a man who sings in a high falsetto voice that sounds like a woman.

Anyway, even though the music wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I would still highly recommend it. Getting tickets was really easy. I just went about 30 minutes before the show to the box office and asked about the standing room tickets. The idea at most shows is that the area in front of the stage becomes a mosh-pit with people paying £5 to watch the show. Today, we actually managed to get seats (though they were near the top of the house and off to the side).

Definitely a decent way to spend a Saturday afternoon in London.

England, Europe, Expat

Becoming an Eastender


So yet again, I’ve neglected my blog. So many things have happened, and I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and write about it all. I spent a weekend in Stockholm, took a day trip to Oxford, and my big news, moved into a proper flat in London.

I am now officially an East Londoner, er-an Eastender. I suppose that means I should start watching the show, and maybe start speaking in cockney rhyming slang. Anyway, I thought I’d use this post to talk about my experience finding a flat in London.

When I first got here to London, I moved back into the same student residence that I was living in last autumn. But since I’m not a student anymore, they told me I had to leave by Sept. 1. About half way through July, I realized that I was going away for the last bit of August and beginning of September. (I’m going to France, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.) So I figured, I should find a place for Aug. 1 if I didn’t want end up homeless when I got back from vacation.

Since I didn’t have anyone to live with, I decided to sign up with some online flat-sharing websites to find a place. The basic idea of these sites is that you fill in all your information and they give you a list of places that match your criteria. Of course, they also try to make money by making many of the listings available only to premium members, i.e. not free.

Since I wasn’t going to play for the services, I didn’t really have that many places to choose from. Anyway, overall, I would say that it was an effective way to find a house. Especially since I wanted to move into some place with roommates who socialized and were all young, rather than just a random sharehouse. The websites I used were Easyroommate.com, Spareroom.co.uk and Flatshare.co.uk. I also tried Gum Tree, but found that you their weeding our program was not as good.

I would actually recommend one of these sites if you are looking for a flat (or all of them). Be warned however that most of the houses will be picked up very quickly. I made an offer on two other flats before I finally managed to get a place. Also note that most of the listings are looking for people to move in right away.

One of the fun events I went to with Spareroom was called Speedflatmating. It was held at a pub and the idea was to bring people who had a room together with people who were looking for a room. While there were far more people looking for a room then ones available, I did go see a really nice place at the end of it. It was unfortunately one of the two places that turned me down. Oh well!

I think I’ll finish this post with a Dos and Don’ts List.

  • DO make an offer right away if you like the place. I waited four hours for one place and it was already gone.
  • DON’T make an offer without meeting your all of your potential roommates. Bad people can really ruin a good place. (Not that I have that in my current place, but I lived with a terrible roommate in second-year).
  • DO show up early and take a walk around the neighbourhood if you are not familiar with it. Figure out how far your place is from the nearest supermarket and pub… Is it within stumbling distance?
  • DON’T forget to check out the rooms they didn’t show you. Go in the bathroom and make sure it locks, turn on the sink to make sure the water runs properly, actually lie down on the bed to see if it’s comfortable.