Jeff and I first moved to London just over a year ago. In fact, one year and 12 days. But who’s counting. When we arrived, we had the luxury of staying in a company two bedroom flat with two bathrooms and plenty of space for roaming around including an open floor plan kitchen. We only had this space for a month before we had to vacate and find our own abode. Since I was unemployed, this became my job.
Well, my first year “on the job” was a failure. The place I found for us was about 350 square feet in size, sub-ground (so humidity was everywhere), and our shower was underneath a staircase keeping us from having a standing and satisfying shower every morning. We lived in our box made for ants for an entire year all the while listening to bus brakes, grackles, and drunk patrons of the neighboring pub. More than the size of the place, I couldn’t take the noise anymore. Day or night, police would blare their sirens as they screamed down the high street. It became very disruptive for someone who works from home. Or sleeps at home.
One positive we did have for our humble abode was how close it was to the tube station. Within ten minutes walk (or run if the alarm clock was late), you were at Ealing Broadway with two direct lines into central London and the train that got you to Heathrow lickity-split, not to mention Jeff’s office. We had in close proximity a grocery store, the gym, Ealing Studios, and a myriad of other shops that helped in day-to-day living.
But when our lease was coming to an end, we branched our look out a little and started looking in quieter neighborhoods. Our realtor wanted to show me two places. The first was in Acton and, to use his terms, was a “cracker of a place.” The other, wasn’t much larger than our place in Ealing, and again, was right on the high street next to a police station. Different borough, same problems.
When I walked in the flat in Acton, I was blown away the silence. You could hear a pin drop in the neighbor’s flat! I never realized how much I prized silence. I may have just turned 28 years old a few short weeks ago, but I must be going on eighty. In Austin, I could see deer out our back window and the only sound of a train came from miles and miles away. I was beginning to wonder if there was any silence in this town where drunks don’t stumble on the street or cars don’t pump the bass so loud it vibrates the walls.
We found it. Oh, and we finally have a standing shower as well. Ironically, it is also underneath the staircase, but the headroom is much more livable than being hunched over breaking our backs rinsing our hair. As I look out the window, I can see joggers instead of hobos, finches instead of grackles, and trees instead of skyscrapers.
I just tell Jeff that we had to wait a year for this place to become available to us.
And now that we are in Acton, here is a bit about what this borough is all about. “Acton” means “Oak Farm” or “Farm by Oak Trees.” It originated as an ancient village in the 13th century that was eventually swallowed by London as it grew, and in the central Acton area, there are pubs that date back to the Tudor era. That will be something to definitely explore! But historically, it was mostly farm land and used as a “getaway” of sorts for well-to-do lawyers in the 1800s just five short miles outside the City of London.
Just yesterday, I went back to Ealing to do some shopping, and I was floored as soon as I emerged from the underground the sheer noise and lungful of second-hand smoke. It’s amazing what just a couple of weeks and 1.6 miles will do to change your mentality about your home. Now, I have not explored the ins and outs of Acton since there are several sub-neighborhoods in the area, but I know I have something to explore in the coming year.