Yesterday, while lying on the couch, with The World’s Strictest Parents whining in the background, I trawled through my Facebook feed on my iPhone because I was too lazy to boot up my laptop, despite my detestation for viewing mobile versions of websites.
There is so much wrong with that sentence.
My ever-increasing preference for social media over actual social contact. The fossil fuels being burned so that I can have a show, too terrible to even hate-watch, murmur in the background because I am accustomed to a world with constant noise. That there was a television show about spoilt, ugly Australian teenagers and frightening, ugly evangelical American parents that was devised, approved, shot, played, re-run and syndicated to countries around the world. That I would ever engage in hate-watching anything. After spending twelve hours in front of a computer screen at work, that I chose to spend my leisure time fixated with multiple digital screens. That I live in London, a city where something amazing is happening every minute of the day and night, and instead of taking advantage of the ever-diminishing time I have left in this city, I buried my arse into a second-hand Ikea couch and did nothing of any kind of pleasure or substance. And I’ll do it again.
Let me correct myself. There is so much in that sentence that reflects what is wrong with me.
But let’s not dwell on that.
While trawling Facebook, I came across a group started by a friend of mine called FED UP PERTH. The point of the group is for lay consumers of Perth’s bar and restaurant scene to draw attention to exorbitant prices charged throughout the city and to start a discussion about why it is so expensive to go out in Perth, compared to other major Australian cities. It’s a great concept and I think it has the potential to really make a difference if enough Perthites make a serious contribution to the group.
I showed my support by liking the group and then I started reading through some of the messages to see what kind of atrocities continued to be committed by the restaurateur-elite. Most of the entries were typically outrageous: $19.50 for a Greek Salad, $10.00 for a small bowl of chips $25.00 for a burger. There were depressingly all too familiar. However, there was one entry I came across that puzzled me:
The Urban Star Cafe does $3.00 dine-in coffees. $3.00!
The comments were equally enigmatic:
I can’t believe it!
You are kidding me!
I couldn’t figure it out; were they excited or outraged? Their comments were excitedly ambiguous. I thought to myself, is $3.00 for a coffee expensive? I didn’t have an answer. And it was at that point that I realised that I had completely lost my sense of the value of the Australian Dollar. An incredible sense of loneliness washed over me as I suddenly felt disconnected from my home. I have now been in the UK for nearly a year and a half, without any visits back to Australia.
The Strange has become The Normal.
As I write, snowflakes are flooding my window, upstream and downstream, in fast, erratic waves. Just another Spring afternoon in London. I’ve forgotten how it feels to be kissed by the sun, bathing in its glow. I’ve forgotten how thirty degrees Celsius feels. I’ve forgotten what it is like to need air conditioning.
Bartering fares with mini-cab drivers. Riding trains underground. Riding two-storey buses. Riding public bicycles. Never actually driving. Buying alcohol at the supermarket. Eating at restaurant chains. Eating Sunday roasts. Eating pre-packaged food. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are never actually fresh. Wearing heavy coats. Checking in coats at nightclubs. Having central heating. Always feeling cold.
This is my life now.
And that is fine. In fact a lot of it is great. However, this life was always meant to be temporary and it is unsettling to think that I fell out of touch with my home so quickly. It shouldn’t have surprised me that coffee would be the spotlight on my gradual disconnectedness. I have probably written more posts on coffee than I have about my travels; such is my love of this smooth, bitter, brown liquid. I have tried many new and strange substances while living in London, however coffee is one constant that I have refused to abandon.
I question whether this is a good thing.
In this Land of The Great Big Tea Bag, coffee is often treated like the annoying like the annoying little sister that tries to get all the attention. It doesn’t get the love and respect it deserves. I’ve tried tea. English Breakfast, Camomile, Darjeeling, Earl Grey. It’s all flowery grass water to me. Good coffee can be found in London, however it is a rare treat, and there is absolutely no good coffee in the city. Unfortunately, with my job and London’s weather, I need my morning coffee otherwise I will descend into a Stefan-grade madness.
There are not a lot of options near my work. Chain after chain after chain of bad coffees. I’ll be damned if I ever drink that mud shake they serve at Starbucks. I’d rather choke. Unfortunately, the lack of variety has forced me to resort to my second-worst option: Pret A Manger. To my horror, I am starting to get used to its unrefined taste. A standard regular coffee in London costs about £2.40. In this modern-day economy, that is the equivalent of about $3.60 in Australian dollars. When you look at it this way, three dollars starts to sound incredibly cheap. Particularly when the coffee is likely to be infinitesimally better than the crap I have become used to.
It’s scary to feel out of touch with home, however I know it won’t take long for me to re-adjust once I have returned. However, what about my life in London? Will that all but be forgotten?
Will Stella Artois return to its mantle of being my favourite imported beer? Or will it forever be tarnished as the wife-beater tonic, as it is better known in Britain?
Will I bask in the heat, or yearn for the cold?
Will I be happy to pay $35.00 for a pub lunch, or dream about lazy Sunday afternoon roasts, drinking warm cider and playing board games?
Whatever happens, I will always be ready to pay for a really good coffee, unless my taste buds have truly turned. Oh the horror.