Eleven Years In The Big Smoke

I’ve been in London eleven years now. Things have moved on a bit in that time.

Eleven years ago today I started my working life. It was my first post-university full-time job. I was a support engineer on a satellite audio network: the shifts seemed awful and the pay (at least in the first few years) not much better but I loved the job and the people. Many of those colleagues continue to be friends to this day although we haven’t worked together for seven and a half years. It also means that I have been living in London for eleven years, yesterday. I’ve been trying to locate things that have changed in that time. I live in a different place (but only the second place I’ve inhabited in London) and I’m on my 5th job. I don’t work the shifts anymore but, in many ways, miss them and the routine they gave you. I’m wi-fied, pda’d, multi-channeled and mobile (in the phone sense) where I wasn’t – which I guess means my money is being spent on more frivolous things.

London has changed that’s for sure. We have a Mayor and Congestion Charging. Docklands has grown beyond all recognition in the last eleven years; there are some new building on the skyline and the Southbank has been opened up considerably. Like Edinburgh, there are now branches of Starbucks (and every other coffee shop you can imagine) where once there were other retail outlets. The Gap no longer seems to be the height of fashion but then again I can no longer wander into a branch of C&A looking at all the clothes I don’t want. There’s still a good sandwich shop on every street but they’re now mixed in with branches of Tesco and Sainsburys who seem to have rediscovered town centres.

I know an eleven-year working life has allowed me to travel to places I, perhaps, would not have gone without work (and many I couldn’t have gone to with the cash from working). It certainly has allowed me to try more restaurants and cuisines of other countries than I ever though possible. I imagine I own more than I did back then but I can’t really quantify it (I may be a frying pan down and a dinner plate up but I’ve never really counted them).

I’m older, but fitter, than I was eleven years ago. I have a wider circle of friends in London than I could have thought possible eleven years ago. I’m always short of time now whereas I used to have to find things to fill the hours when I wasn’t working.

Of course the biggest change in those years has been social use of the internet: email, usenet and the web were not commonplace when I started working. It was that first job that introduced me to more than academic networks. When I first got an email address I only knew one person outside of my company who I could give it to. Now, it’s given me a career, a whole new way to express and organise myself and – probably – hours of entertainment.

All in all, I think I am a wiser, happier and more contented individual (perhaps I little more stressed). So, happy anniversary to me.