Sunday, December 11, 2011


One of my favourite things about living in London is the live music scene. There are bands and musicians playing every week, from the totally unknown to the internationally renowned. Being a huge music fan I've taken advantage of this as much as possible (though not as many times as I would like - an issue I intend on rectifying fully over the coming months, especially now that I live so close to one of London's most preeminent musical suburbs), but I've not really talked about it here because I figured hearing me gush about how great any gig was would be considerably less exciting than actually being there.

That said, I also love it when people put me onto amazing new music. So, in the name of musical education, I wanted to tell you about the brilliant band I saw on Saturday night.

I have to admit, my track record for getting places on time has been shocking this year. I tend to think London is much smaller than it actually is (Australian spacial arrogance), and so allow myself rather less time than I really need. But I went to see the Kooks with a friend of mine who is incredibly punctual, so I made it to the venue in time to see not one but both of the supporting acts. Which, in hindsight, was a very happy coincidence because the first support act was Scoundrels, a four piece indie/blues outfit who turned out to play the best live show I've seen all year.

We were so impressed by their performance at the Kooks that my friend and I went home and immediately bought tickets to their next London show. But come Saturday I was beginning to regret the decision. Having worked seven days a week for the past fortnight I got to the club wrecked, starving, and starting to worry the band weren't going to be as good as I seemed to remember. I could not have been more wrong; they were so much better than I'd thought. They play this fun, exciting blend of Brit-pop and southern zydeco that in words sounds ridiculous but in reality sounds phenomenal. Hearing a bunch of English boys playing the kind of deep south blues usually associated with older black men with harmonicas is something of an unexpected surprise, but by no means an unwelcome one.
Admittedly I was brought up on a steady diet of zydeco care of my mother (who once even took me to a blues fest to see her favourite zydeco band. I was the 12-year-old who danced like a crazy person in front of the stage and got to chat with the lead singer. I'm beginning to think my mum brought me up to be either really cool or a groupie), so I'm possibly predisposed to love this kind of music. After all it does remind me of my heady glory days, before I became an awkward teenager who bopped carefully at the back in a way painstakingly calculated to keep me out of the spotlight.

But putting to one side for a moment my own weakness for the siren call of the blues, this band are still mind blowing. They play with enjoyment and talent that conjured images of jamming for hours in garages soundproofed with egg cartons on lazy, rainy English afternoons. And they were charismatic. I swear, show me some guy with a guitar and I'll show you my "whatever, my brother's in a band" face; show me some guy with a guitar and charisma and I'm done for. The music is energetic and cheeky, the lyrics occasionally wistful but mostly tongue-in-cheek. There are honestly no words to describe how much I enjoyed this band. Which is why I usually don't try. I just end up sounding like an over-excited fangirl. Or my 12-year-old self.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Moving out

The past few weeks I've been in such a state. I finish my Au Pair job on the 17th of December, and with it goes not only my primary source of income, but also my home. And with the local and global economy rushing headlong into chaos, the job market isn't exactly thriving. So up until a few days ago my prospects were looking fairly dire.

Naturally I managed to get a job without too much hassle (it was always going to be one or the other). The company that hired me provides staffing for high profile, high end events. It's not exactly guaranteed full-time work - in fact they're advising already that January is a lean month - but it's a job nonetheless.

But if the job market is tough then the housing market is out and out war.

I must have looked at a dozen houses in the last fortnight. Of those, two were nice, and the rest had me genuinely worried that I might be sold into the white slave trade. I had always thought that shows like East Enders and The Bill portrayed only the scummiest aspects of London life. As it turns out, it doesn't matter how nice the surrounding areas are; if you live on an estate in London, the chances of you getting stabbed over £20 rise exponentially. I saw flats with no living area; a room with three doors and a curtain; and in the worst case was offered a place in a one bedroom flat sharing with an overweight middle aged man with a ponytail. I don't mean to be judgemental, but there are some things you should be obliged to mention on a room advertisement. And the going rate for a room is £150 a week.

I was beginning to think my top two options were death by exposure or being shanked on an under lit stairwell when I went to look at a room in Highgate, and found myself in flat search utopia. The woman I spoke to (also named Shannon) lives there with her adult daughter and one other lodger, a Spanish girl who's moving back home after Christmas. I was determined not to lodge with a family, but she made it clear I would be treated as a flatmate. Honestly though, even if she hadn't I probably would have offered her my firstborn for the lease. The flat is beautiful. It's in North London, flanked on two sides by Camden and Hampstead Heath (famously the home of Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton amongst others). It has high ceilings and a private garden, and night buses to every corner of town. The next door neighbours are rich young bankers (single, too, according to my new landlord), and the area is practically overrun by people in the arts and media industries.

Afterwards I went home and decided that if I didn't get the lease on that flat I would give up and become a drifter, hitchhiking my way to the Med so I could sleep on the streets in relative winter warmth.

I picked up my set of keys today.

But wait, there's more. As if I needed any further incentive, I also found out the mother and daughter who own the flat are, from February next year, going to be spending much of there time in America. For weeks and months at a time they'll be gone, leaving me all on my own. Which means, to all intents and purposes, that for £400 a month (all inclusive) I just rented myself an entire house.