EMBRACING ENGLISHNESS – Snowy setbacks and health scares

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As I move into my sixth month of university life, days are long and unstructured. I read and I read and I drink more matcha green tea lattes than my bank account feels at ease with. I disembark tube carriages and take in all sorts of minute details at every stop. I trace pavement cracks and I peer at Evening Standard headlines. I re-adjust my scarf and I curse my choice of footwear. I rinse and I repeat. Occasionally though, I experience an entirely new facet of London life. Growing up in the South East, the sight of snow was a rare treat that usually just meant scuttling outside with my sister to revel in the half a centimetre of crunchy, brown pavement ice. By some miracle of global warming, I recently found myself in the midst of a flurry of rain meets snow, beating down hard on the blackened footpath of night. First, let me retrace my steps and give you a bit of backstory.

St Thomas Hospital, London

As a supremely genetically cursed individual, I have struggled much of my life with severe short sightedness and other such eyesight related deficiencies that only seem to get worse as I grow in age. On a very conventional trip to the opticians last month, I passingly told my optometrist about a recent flickering light I’d started to notice appearing on my peripheral vision. Unexpectedly, I was met with the alarming response that I should head to the eye doctor immediately, do not pass Go and do not collect £200. Apparently, I was experiencing the symptoms of the very scary sounding ‘retinal detachment’, an unfortunate ailment that quite literally involves your retina detaching from your eye. If untreated, it is known to result in blindness. With that, I Ubered myself to St. Thomas, Westminster’s mammoth medical institution with its charming view of the Thames and Westminster Palace. I didn’t know such colossal buildings existed. Within the first five minutes of aimlessly wandering in desperate search of the emergency eye clinic, I established exactly the fault of the NHS funds crisis; the place was not dissimilar to a luxury shopping mall. From top of the range hand dryers in the toilets, to the expansive Marks & Spencer and WH Smith branches in the lobby, and a room dedicated to Queen Victoria memorabilia. This was a far cry from the faulty vending machine that had kept me endlessly entertained during the few trips I’d made to A&E department of our friendly, local St. Bernard’s Hospital.

Thundersnow

In all seriousness, my first NHS experience was faultless. After the expected long waiting time, I was assured, by an expert eye doctor, that my retina was very much intact, and I was free to leave and find my way home, in spite of the eye drops that had left me boz-eyed and blinky, and feeling deflated after my first solitary hospital visit. Growing up, I’ve discovered, really just means dealing with your horrible health scares on your own. Determined to get home promptly via the Jubilee line, I stepped out into what the media had dubbed ‘thundersnow’, where soft snow met hail and rain and pelted me softly as I determinedly crossed Westminster Bridge, with doubly blurry vision. I won’t lie, it was exciting. Even more so once I’d gotten home and could watch it eagerly from the comfort of my bedroom window. Under the street lamps, you could clearly make out the patterned snowflakes as they began to settle atop the big red buses that passed, like a picturesque Instagram filter. This was certainly a different London to what I’d become accustomed to. Although it continued to move at the same almost amphetamine induced pace, its magical coating of snow made it feel slower and more personable.

Nick Clegg PC MP

Nick Clegg is a stud

The desperate job hunt continues with a daily scour of journalism.co.uk and recurrent phone calls to any of the people I’ve met in my lifetime that could potentially help me find a tiny entryway into the industry. This morning, I found myself strolling through Southwark following the peak of the Shard to London Bridge station. As I weaved through hurrying people catching coffee breaks between their busy work schedules, pondering over my night out the previous evening with a friend and her work colleagues, I realised how much I missed being a real person that functions properly in society and wears nice clothes and make up.

The feeling was even further exacerbated during an ‘In Conversation with Nick Clegg’ event at Queen Mary University. Back in the pre Cons/Lib coalition days, I was a major Clegg fan. The man is a stud, and his very central, rational ideals always really appealed to me. To sit and listen to him address his Deputy Prime Minister pitfalls, and try and describe how truly abhorrent a man Michael Gove is, was a genuine delight. This is exactly what I’d envisioned my time in London would involve, big-headed politicos who so easily swayed me into their side of the court after an hour of listening to them justify their actions (yep, I have since signed up to volunteer for the Lib Dems).

Managing to get some pressing Brexit related Gibraltar questions in during questions with the audience, I was relatively chuffed with myself. Since I have signed myself up to a cringey amount of free Eventbrite gatherings, from other political talks, to breakfasts with women in digital media, and book signings for obscure novels I’m not sure I even want to read. My justification is that if I exhaust myself with such things, the creeping neuroses can’t keep convincing me that I’m not doing enough with my time and effort. One must continually remind oneself that they are here for a reason.

London’s own mosquito breed

On a significantly more positive note, I’ve come to realise that in London, there are no insects. Literally none. I stumbled across this revelation of late when I felt a fluttering sensation under my t-shirt and my innate reaction was to think that it was being caused by an unwelcome friend of the creepy and crawling variety. Then it dawned on me, the bug infested days of stalker blue bottles, and all night mosquito battles were a thing of the past. Oh joyous realisations! Thinking further into the matter though, I started to wonder why there are no insects in the big city. Is it all the pollution? The cold? So, as any internet obsessed millennial would do, I Googled my question, only to discover that no one else shared my sentiment, instead, I discovered a unique species of mosquito that thrives in the Underground and is a fan of feasting on rats and humans alike. So, I retract my former declaration of Londoner status. Until I get bitten by a tube mosquito and spat at by a severely disturbed homeless man, I won’t consider myself a tried and true Londoner.

words | Nicole Macedo