I’ve had this nagging feeling in my mind for a couple of weeks now. Maybe a couple is an understatement, its been a couple of months and I’ve consciously been thinking that I need to take the time to write, update, remember… but now I see how adult life just rushes by and here I am, two years on and only now beginning to touch the letter keys which will inevitably open your minds to what has really been going on behind the facade that is my FaceBook wall.
I have no set place where I can start and following an exact timeline will require too much sought after detail which I am unable to find during these few hours I have off in this blue moon, but I will try.
Some of you may know that the end of 2013 saw me make a complete change in my life as I packed up my bags and moved to London. I pretended to convince you all (myself mostly) that it was in order to progress my knowledge, grow and gain skills in a business field while studying a Masters program in International Business and Management at The University of Westminster – but alas, it was obvious to all that the move had to do mostly with a boy. Three years later, I am happy to say the boy still holds and looks after my heart and the Masters is in the bag – a big change from the Bachelor of Arts Costume Design Degree I left South Africa with.
So jumping back a bit, the last time I updated this blog, I had only been living in London for two months, I had holes in the bottom of my shoes which I refused to replace because it would eat into my monthly budget (which was very small) and I was saving for my bedroom. At this stage, I was a baby sitter (not even working half a week) for a family in the area I was living in and most of my income would go towards bills. Jump two years on and I now wear timberland boots (courtesy of my generous boyfriend) and I’m still saving for my bedroom ;).
I went from working as a nanny in Putney for six months to working in a beauty salon in Chiswick (very nice area of London) where I enjoyed the company of my colleagues and getting my manicures and pedicures done weekly, it was great and the pay increase helped me save towards Nick and my first holiday away together to Turkey in the summer.
I have had the privilege of watching my niece Chloe grow in the UK, she lights up my life every time I see her. I love how her vocabulary has changed from a simple “Hi!” to “Neck (Nick), what is Ratatouille doing ??”
September of 2013 I started my Masters degree at The University of Westminster where I became close friends with a few of the girls on my course (pictured below), it was great to have some of my own friends again and to socialise with people who were in the same boat as me (new in the country and not having many friends). We spent days at the college together, formed work groups for projects and even went to Winter Wonderland at Christmas time together. It was great fun. We all graduated in September 2015 and since, they have all had to return to their home countries due to VISA requirements in the UK (thank goodness for my Greek heritage). During the course, we were taken to Brussels for a week to work on a chocolate making project, it was a good week away eating lots of chocolate and getting to know our fellow class mates better. I wrote a blogpost which was later published by the University if you fancy reading what we got up to in Brussels: Masters Course Trip Away Blog Post
In December of 2014 I escaped the cold and headed home to sunny South Africa where I burst into tears emotional as always at the arrivals in Durban Airport when I saw my Mommy, Baba and brother Kimon! The main reason for my trip despite the obvious of catching up with friends and family was to say goodbye to our family home of over 27 years. My parents had decided it was time to pack up, retire and live a life in the summer – 6 months in Greece and 6 in SA (0ne day I hope to do something similar). It was very tough to say goodbye to Emily and Theresa, my two other mothers who looked after me since 04/06/1992, they taught me how to cook, sing, shout and love and they knew everything about everything that was going on in our lives. These special women were an integral part not only in my growing up but also as a part of the family.
I also had managed to convince my London friends to make a trip out to South Africa for the summer sunshine, lions and daylight robbery. Nick, Dino and Hayley spent a couple of nights with us in Nambiti Game Reserve where we witnessed a buck being struck by lightening 10 meters from our game drive vehicle – close enough to smell the burn. We had one encounter with male lions so close to our game drive vehicle that everyone was holding their breath, too scared to make a sound in fear of attack.
We left the rolling hills of KZN and headed to Cape Town where the pommies got scorched on top of the double decker busses while I wrote my three midyear exams in the British Embassy (long story). The two weeks flew by and before we knew it, Nick and I were returning to London for the snow (minus our cellphones).
Back in London, I was soon to be homeless as my Putney accommodation had been put on the market by the landlords and I was really not looking forward to living with strangers again. Because of the wonderful people they are, Dino and Hayley offered me to stay with them for awhile in Kingston until I found somewhere I was happy to live. Adam graciously gave me his room in the flat during this time, and I never left! I had the best ten months living with Hayley and Dino, it always felt like I was “coming home” and we all became closer as the months rolled on.
In May 2015, a remarkable woman, mother, wife and friend lost her battle to Motor Neurone Disease. Koula fought hard, her family fought hard and everyone loved so much. Hakuna Matata to you Koula, and Happy Birthday for tomorrow!
Classes ended in May and I soon realised I needed to start making some money so that I would be able to have a suitable cash flow to tie me over until I officially graduated. I found myself a job in London and as excited as I was, it soon became a lot of work for very little income. I also found myself and my fellow co-workers were being exploited for our skills and age and decided this was not the place I wanted to start my working life. The search began for another position closer to home with reasonable working hours and a proper contract in place. I was unsure of what role I wanted to work in but knew I needed business experience.
In between the drama for work and finding a new job, my romantic boyfriend whisked me away for a surprise trip to Paris for my birthday. I had never been before and I was very excited when we arrived at the Eurostar early one morning and I found out where we were going. I was spoilt beyond belief; eating chocolate crepes in place of birthday cake, cycling towards the Eiffel Tower on my actual birthday and watching the Can Can Can at the Moulin Rouge. It was a trip of a lifetime and on our return I was treated to even more birthday celebrations by the wonderful Dino and Hayley.
On my return from Paris, I landed the perfect job position – 6 minutes cycle from my home in Kingston and for an accountancy firm where I was supposed to do the marketing and some admin. I very quickly learnt the ropes of the accountants assistant when my direct manager left for a bigger firm. Before I knew it I was able to prepare personal tax returns as well as manage clients accounts, and I found I was enjoying it more than the marketing side of things. I like the structure and I like sticking to deadlines so I always feel like I can check things off my to-do list and get my sense of achievement. The new position also allowed me time to pick up a couple of private piano students in the evenings after work as I didn’t have far to travel home and finished work early. Two students soon became three, then four and now I currently have nine individual piano students who I teach every evening after work Monday – Thursday. It is a great feeling teaching, it completely refocuses my mind after a long day behind the computer and the children make me very proud during their different stages of their learning.
I cycle to all of my lessons each evening which gives me some physical time outdoors and fresh (bitterly cold) air in my lungs. I had a terrible misfortune with a car door on my way home from one lesson in October which landed me in A&E (hospital emergency room) for a couple of hours while Nick sang The Phantom of the Opera to me – one because he said I looked like the Phantom and two because he was trying to cheer me up. Both worked well.
In December of 2015, I put together a music concert for all the families of my students at a local private school in Kingston. My students played their piano pieces and we had a Christmas special guest appearance from Nick, Dino and Anthony. It was magical!
An exciting change for my London house mates, they decided that before Christmas of 2015, they wanted to buy a proper home together and move out of our lovely apartment in Kingston. A sad day indeed for our awesome foursome but an extremely exciting start to their life together. This meant that I needed to make a home move again, and this time I was CERTAIN that I did not want to live with strangers. As luck would have it, when I started working for the accountancy firm, I also started working for the best bosses out there! As fellow South Africans, they had made the move to London may years before and as it turned out, could accommodate me in their home in London where no one was currently living but where they needed a presence. Its a fabulous home, large with a real kitchen and dinning room table (for entertaining) and even has a garden – unlike many London homes my friends live in. I was both excited and nervous about moving in but I have loved it so far and am very happy that everything has fallen into place. I was also able to host my family, Nick and Kirsti to a New Years Eve dinner around the table which felt wonderful.
Having Kirsti visit in January of 2016 was lovely, it was as if a single day had not passed since we last saw each other and it was a welcome relief to sit down at a table for dinner with someone who knew me through and through and just have a good chat. I have really missed these moments with my close friends and it has taken a very very long time to try and establish similar relationships in the UK. I do feel like I am slowly getting there though, Nick often says to me that he thinks I put too much pressure on myself to make friends quickly when I first arrived, but as being surrounded by friends and family all the time around my dinner table as my norm, it was very difficult to feel so lonely.
After my accident (which gave me a sinking feeling of how quickly things can change), I experienced a deep need to feel like I was working towards something achievable again, a goal that I could reach, that would help me feel like I had accomplished something. I am aware of this feeling, I have had it most of my life – maybe it comes from my competitive family, or a deep room inside my soul which never feels like I have done enough. I am unsure, but I like to fill it and work towards something. Further discussions around this matter with my boss and mentor have helped me make the decision to work towards the CFA qualification (which I will write the first exam for on my birthday this year). It is a long way from the musical theatre stage where I once saw my life, but I am so excited to stretch my mind and learn.
Nick and I have just returned from a whirlwind trip in Venice over the weekend. It was magical and some quality time away for us after a busy start to the year. We ate the most amazing pasta I have ever had (not surprisingly) and I may have just opened a tiny window in my heart to Italy.
In a few weeks time I will be flying out to SA courtesy of my job and am thoroughly looking forward to seeing my SA family and friends. My parents have recently bought a home in Hout Bay, Cape Town where I believe I have a room (kind of, it has my stuff in it so am hoping that makes it mine) and I can’t wait to see my little SA niece Hannah who is so much older than when I last got to spend time with her.
I read a post on FaceBook last night which in summary mentioned how we can so quickly become blinded to the real feelings people are going through when all we see on their FaceBook news feed is happiness and adventure. I know it is not the first time it has been said and it is not the last time I will read a similar post and consider how much it rings true – how so often I see posts of friends hanging out together and then become upset thinking I have no friends in the UK (which is far from true), how I will see friends buying cars and I despise the fact that I always have to run for the train (and still end up missing it) and how I see people celebrating the important dates with their families and I miss out on Mother’s day, Father’s day and birthdays. It is not easy and often I hide behind my happy posts (because who wants to see anything different?) but then I remind myself of the adventure I have been on, on the things I have achieved outside of my comfort zone, of the love and support I have from my family and friends and of the new days we organise to celebrate the important dates and times spent together. I look forward to having Christmas, New Years, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Easter and birthdays in March when I visit home.
So having changed, moved, fallen and grown over the last two years – I am still here, still standing.