Apr 23, 2008

Compacting the Transnational Move

After months of vacillating about grad school in London, I've made a firm decision to go, whether I'm funded or not. I'm still really freaked out about how I'm going to pay for getting to London, as well as living there. I can't believe I've chosen a city more expensive than San Francisco.

But there are resources in London for Compact friendly living, right? I'm a little confused about a few things, like what to bring along and what to leave behind. Without any real understanding of the used market scene in London, I feel a creeping paranoia about needing some life necessity that I'll have to break down and get from some crappy corporate store because of my limited funds.
Guess I'll have to do some research on a few things.
1. What are the crappy corporate stores that I need to avoid in London?
2. Where/What are the equivalents to Community Thrift, SCRAP, Rainbow Grocery, Wilderness Exchange, Heavy Metal Bike Shop,?
3. Is there a Really Really Free Market? (SF RRFM this Saturday in Dolores Park. 1-5pm)

While I look forward to answering these questions, I bet I'll be pressed to solve other problems first.
Where the hell am I going to live?!
Do I have time to work? If not, how am I going to get time with animals?
Is there a good bank/credit union that I can use?

And I hope that in dealing with these issues, that I don't end up buying an overpriced fill-in-the-blank from some crappy corporate store. We'll see. It's going to be a challenge to stay true to the Compact on this journey. I began the Compact in San Francisco, where I had lived for 5 years already. I know the resources here and have personal networks that make the Compact possible. I'm also really comfortable being myself in SF. I don't feel out of place in over-sized cargo pants and an under-sized raincoat. I don't know if I'll have as much confidence in London, where I fully expect my mathematical and directional ineptitudes to shine. Will I really be comfortable physically appearing as a disheveled American as I fuck up the currency, ride my bike on the wrong side of the street, and under-dress because I don't understand Celsius? Probably not, but my financial reality will likely keep me fairly true to the Compact regardless.

As with the lottery winning fantasy, I'm looking into metrics and London's mean temperatures with a hopeful vision in the back of my mind. Maybe I'll find a room in a nice collective house. Or a long term dog sitting job (I have the best references ever). If nothing else I'll find my activist community and contribute and learn. I'm letting myself be excited, and part of that means assuming that some things will fall into place.


alita said...

1. Look for Oxfam secondhand shops.

2. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not do anything without purchasing a copy of the London A-Z ("A to Zed") book. I'd get it used before leaving the States so you don't have to get a new copy at Heathrow or whatnot. It is the only thing you need (plus your transit card) for getting around London.

3. Many lovely open air market options await you.

4. Have fun and good luck!

simoncross said...

Hey, good for you making the decision! The big corporate stores are fairly obvious by their big corporate appearance! But the thrift shops are around in abundance too - look out for Oxfam, Scope, The Salvation Army, British Heart Foundation and others - there's also a thriving alternative/second hand market which usually exists in Camden town - however I think it burned down a little while back, so I don't know if it's there now.
I am unaware of any rrfm type things going on, but London is so big something is bound to be happening.
The person who would know (I suspect) is a guy called Nick Rosen, who runs a site called offgrid.net - if you can get hold of him he might have some interesting things to say.
Be sure to post what you learn!!
Cheers, Simon

rekindled said...

Hi Rachel, good luck with your move to London. You will find all types of people and I'm sure you'll fit right in.

As other commenters have said, there are tons of second hand shops in London. There are also lots of Freecycle groups: http://www.freecycle.org/group/UK/London

I don't live in London myself but I do live in the UK, and if you have any more questions I'd be happy to help!

Jules Evans said...

I've been reading your blog from London for a while, I think you'll love it over here :-)

There's a lot of sustainable living stuff going on, but you may just have to look for it a bit harder.

Public transport is good (though the tube stops at midnight) But cycling is a really normal and increasingly safe way to get around and there's Critical Mass cycle rides every month, as well as a campaign to make cycling cool for women at www.londoncyclechic.co.uk
If you need to buy a bike on arrival - there are some links on this website to good second hand bike shops.

Freecycle is taking off too so you may be able to put an ad out for furniture etc if you need some when you arrive.

London is expensive, and there's no getting away from that. But, there's always free events, especially music/arts. Check out www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Best free night out in London!

Get an Oyster card for cheap(er) travel.

I checked a while back to see if there was a RRFM and I couldn't see one, but you could start it!!

You'll love it. Best city in the world :-)

rachel said...

ooooooh yeeeaaahhhh!!!!! London Critical Mass, yes! I'll be right at home after that. For some reason, I have utmost confidence (arrogance) on a bike. Luckily, most airlines let you bring a bike on overseas flights. I think I'll be bringing one along. (Where I'm going to put it when I get there... dunno) The Tube's great, but a bit expensive for constant use, though perhaps the oyster card can help. I'm really surprised to hear it stops at midnight. SF trains do too (which can leave you stranded on either side of the Bay, ugh).

Regarding the big corporate stores, when I was there in 2006, I wasted a lot of time walking into big shops looking for food. Not recognizing any of the names, I was fooled. In the U.S. you can nearly always recognize a giant corporation by it's wretchedly impermeable, surface parking lots.

Nat said...

Hi Rachel,

Good luck in London - it can be very expensive and very corporate seeming (especially in the West End), but go East, North or South and you'll find lots of great neighbourhoods and activities. I've always found Stoke Newington/Hackney as a cheap place to live that has a lot of great stuff going on - farmers market, great Turkish food stores, nice sense of community...

No RRFM but look out for "jumble sales" and "car boot sales" (basically like swap meets/yard sales) which happen a lot on weekends all over. Oxfam shops are great too.

Re banks - why don't you take a look at the Cooperative Bank?
They invest ethically so you can be sure your checking/saving account won't be helping aid deforestation or suspect investments in Sudan etc.

Good luck!

Lisa G said...

Hi Rachel,
I've been reading your blog from the UK for a while so good luck with the move to London, it's such a diverse city you will definitely find a place to be yourself. This site might help with finding accomodation if communal living interests you,
As well as freecycle you could also try gumtree for almost anything,
And for finding free things to do in London there's,
Have fun!

Anonymous said...

HI Rachel.

I'm UK, not London, based, but my brother in law lives in Hackney in East London and works for a social enterprise organisation. He rents out 2 rooms in his house to cover his mortgage (yeah, he bought!), although they are both taken right now. Happy to ask him when the current tenants are looking to move.

There's also Guerilla Gardening in London which is increasingly active. You should find it interesting given your most recent backyard blog. http://www.guerrillagardening.org/

I'd echo the previous comments surrounding Co-operative Bank and Freecycle, but would personally avoid Oxfam if you are on a budget - its a great cause, but some of their prices rival the high street! I'd try the other, smaller, charity shops instead.

Have fun over here. and bring an umbrella :-)

Blue Yonder said...

Maybe the folks in the Europe/UK Compact will be able to help you:

Anonymous said...

I find it really living to live sustainably in London, particularly as it's so expensive you're forced to consume less. I echo praise for the Cooperative Bank and also suggest you get your energy supplier from Good Energy, who are the only supplier that can give you energy made 100% from renewables. Equigas is also an ethical gas provider. Avoid Tesco like the plague.
Good luck!

compact france said...

I wish you the very best!
And read this, in english, to give you hope (americans and voluntary simplicity): http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/17/us/17texas.html?bl&ex=1211169600&en=a764d9dbcd4dcc63&ei=5087%0A


Jeremy said...

Yeah, London may be a little challenging for Compact living, but it's still possible.

One important thing about London is that it kind of functions like a hub of smaller villages, and some of them are easier to live cheaply in. Those tend to be the poorer, more multicultural areas, but they have more character too. The south side of the Thames is usually cheaper, but check out Hackney. A lot depends on where your classes will be, but it's pretty easy to pick an area of the city and make it your own.

Gumtree is a great way to find a house, and London is full of people sharing houses. It's all hugely multicultural, so you'll fit in fine, and you'll probably end up living with Australians and New Zealanders -lots of them around.

I recommend the Co-operative bank for ethical banking, and London's buses are great.

I just moved out of London earlier this year, but feel free to email if you have any questions.