the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (arriving in London) - fast forward to the following trip (first 2 months in UK)
Making ourselves at home in the big smoke of Harpenden
Arriving in the UK started at great pace, landing on the ground on Friday the 1st of September with dual objectives. First was to see London, second was to stop spending low value NZ dollars and instead earn some pounds to spend. It all started with a vengeance but check out all the info on our first weekend on the "arrival in London" page.
London is a cool town, but with NZ dollars everything is very expensive. So on the first Monday in London the job hunt started in ernest. Both of us went to the recruitment company on Monday to meet with some consultants and start the ball rolling. Before arriving we had mixed expectations, some people we knew had secured a job quickly while others had taken longer or were still on the hunt. The Hoof'ess was off the mark first with an real interview only 4 days later on Thursday while the Hoof lagged behind with the first interview on the following Tuesday. The race was on! But the race was also over very quickly, after an arduous 8 day job search the Hoof'ess was offered a job at Premier Foods looking after jelly. Damn, couldn't believe she beat me so 1-0 to the Hoof'ess. My first comment as a marketer was that she should do more to promote jelly wrestling to drive volume - could even promote jelly wrestling kits with a paddling pool, jumbo bag of jelly and 2 bikini's. She has yet to take up my idea. The good news was the Hoof was a close 2nd, securing a role in InBev early the following week. Ahhh beer, couldn't move far away from my favourite food group.
So its jelly vs. beer - no contest, without a jelly wrestling sponsorship beer is so much cooler. Guess its now 1 each in the job competition.
So with jobs sorted it was panic stations on accommodation. We were crashing in some temporary accommodation in Cricklewood, so now was the time to sort an actual place to call our own. Fortuitously both of our jobs are based north of London outside the M25. Hoof'ess is in a lovely town called St Alban's and the Hoof in a not so lovely town called Luton (also known locally as Beirut). After a mad panicked search over one weekend we managed found a truck load of dead ends and only one real possibility, a nice looking studio in Harpenden which seemed pretty good from the outside, but being a Sunday in this country meant no chance of finding out any more information. So while the Hoof'ess was at work on Monday it was up to me to find a place, either the one in Harpenden or somewhere else so that come Saturday we wouldn't be living under a bridge.
Luckily the studio was still available and I went in a checked the place out. Not too shabby, except for a few issues. Firstly it had no shower... a bath before work every morning didn't really appeal, and the train lines into London which are literally at the end of our back yard. The good points were that it had a back yard, trees, ground, space... it almost felt like a little piece of NZ - perfect for a BBQ (Captain BBQ in the UK!). After talking with the agent he went off to find out whether a shower could be installed. No pressure buddy, we've got 5 days left to find a house and this was the only decent place at a decent price. After a little worry on the part of Hoof'ess he came through, they were going to install one and we could move in Saturday. Rock on.
The new Castlehoof, our piece of the UK. And our driveway.
Harpenden is a cool little country village with a high number of pubs, and a low number of fashion shops. It has a large town common and a farmers market on the first Sunday of the month. It's got plenty of fresh air while only being 35 minutes from central London by train.
Our road, not quite Coronation Street! Or Eastenders.
And the common which is at the top of our street, a big 2 minute walk away.
Okay, so now we had sorted jobs and an unfurnished house. On move in day our landlord turned up to finish off paper work and hand over keys. After watching us unload our rental car with 2 packs and a plastic bag of left over food and drinks he took pity on us. So that we wouldn't be sleeping on the floor he lent us a fold out couch, sorted an old 14 inch TV and a coffee table. We had a few basics but now it was time to get all the other house stuff, exciting purchases like plates, cutlery, ironing board, bed. Exciting for the Hoof'ess rather than me! But when cost is a major decision factor where do you go? Well we decided to head straight into the centre of Beirut knowing that all the cheap stores would be on offer in Luton. We were right! Great cheap shops like 'Pound Stretcher' and 'Primark', some great deals in Woolies and had our first experience with Argos, a rather strange english "mail order" shop where people order in store and then wait in queues to pick up their goodies - nothing on any shelves. Over the following weeks Argos has actually become our friend, our second home thanks to an outlet in Harpenden.
So after a few more trips to Argos we are now pretty well sorted. We've now got somewhere to sit, sleep, stuff to cook and eat with... and most importantly we've got broadband sorted! It only took 2 weeks to get internet hooked up, ahh British bureaucracy...
The north or "lounge" end of the main room.
And the south or "sleeping" end of the main room.
With winter, rain and snow fast approaching it was time to get a car. The Hoof'ess was particularly keen... why was the Hoof'ess so keen I hear you ask. Well there is one story that I need to share. One evening we were heading back from central Harpenden, it had rained a fair amount and there was significant surface water on the roads. Wary of cars driving through the water and drenching us we hugged the side and walked past the large puddles at great pace. We were nearly there at the bottom of our street where there are some shops and takeaways. We crossed the road on a marked crossing but while I kept walking away from the road the Hoof'ess stopped and surveyed the takeaway options. Just then a car came racing down the road, around the roundabout and straight through the large puddle which was less than a metre from her. She looked like a drowned cat with water dripping from all over her. This wasn't the last time she's taken a roadside shower... therefore these resulted in some keeness for a car.
The next challenge was to find and check out cars, without a car, relying solely on public transport to get to all the different potentials. Day 1, a Saturday and we had 4 cars to look at. The first one took a 15 minutes walk to the train, 7 minute train ride, 30 minute wait and then a 20 minute bus ride... wicked. In a car the trip would have taken 15 minutes! Oh well, as long as this was a good car we'd be happy. After a quick once over of the VW Polo we climbed in to take it on a drive. Well this was one small car, the Hoof who is not the smallest or shortest lad was a big bug in a very small jar. Moving on quickly we jumped back onto the bus towards London. Phoning the next seller we found out the car was out in West Ham, still available but somebody else was coming late arvo to check out the Astra. We decided to get a wriggle on and be there first which shouldn't be a problem - we had 3 hours. Jumping on the tube in Watford we made ourselves comfortable for a long ride. After about 2 hours we finally got to the tube station in West Ham which was a short walk away from the car. A short but very interesting walk, the Hoof'ess being a good kiwi white girl was very surprised she was the only whitey in this London street except for the Hoof (and the only women without the whole head scarf, burkha thing). The best part was that after the "quick" trip in we arrived to find out someone else had come by and bought it... what a bloody waste of time. After that we decided we needed a new plan and gave up for day 1. After a few more unsuccessful trips we finally found Maude the Ford - a little blue Ford Fiesta which the big bug could fit in.
Hoofy has a soft spot for Maude.
We've also sorted a local, where we have started to build a tradition of drinks with a fellow Kiwi and her Scottish partner... So far its been 2 for 2 Fridays at the local with very weak excuses and I suspect another will occur this Friday.
So now you know how the Hoof's are living - but what else have we been up to? hoofy's first 2 months in the UK