As neither my new roommate nor I lived in London before, we had no idea about Camden. Imagine two clueless teenagers emerging from a tube station and diving right into that psychedelic parallel dimension. Multicoloured shops selling multicoloured things; I’m saying ‘things’, because I had no idea what some of those were. I was probably too busy staring at a giant boot sticking out from a building’s facade, so I did not notice when the crowd parted and gave way to a guy all in black leather and metallic spikes. After bumping right into that gothic novel character, part of me was in shock and another part wanted to ask where he bought those amazing bracelets.
Following the street lined with shops fighting for attention with their signs and displays, we reached Camden Lock market. By that point, I was already not concentrating on all the bits and pieces on offer on multiple market stalls as I noticed Camden Lock. I love the fact that there’re so many canals in this part of London. Always tried to imagine what it must be like to live on one of those long canal boats. Some people actually use them as their homes and not just means of transportation or recreation. Must be fun to feel like a proper gypsy, being able to move around a wide system of canals spreading out of London, all the while having your bed and proper bathroom with you at all times. My kind of camping.
Walking all the way through Camden markets, we finally reached the required address, which happened to be a council estate. Beauty of not knowing what to expect is that things don’t have to live up to your expectations. Council flat or no council flat – we did not really care at that point, riding on a high of living out our first independent adventure.
The host family consisted of a married couple and their son, who was just a couple of years older than ourselves. They actually had 4 sons and, I guess, their flat felt almost empty to them at that point, as 3 of them moved out. That left a free room, which they would let to international students. The room was tiny, with bunk beds, a small desk and a wardrobe. On a positive note – it had no spiders to show and we had to share a bathroom only with 3 other people instead of the whole bunch of other students in the halls.
We all quickly agreed that we like each other enough to live in the same flat and it was time for tea. To be honest, I never drank tea with milk before I came to UK. Coffee with milk? Sure. Tea with milk? Really? But tea is a serious thing in England and our hosts made sure we understood that it just had to be PG and showed us exactly the right colour it should be (none of those weak milky beverages in this household!).
We chatted for a while, learning new things about each other. We discussed the son’s love of computer games and his IT studies. Found out that Coronation Street, East Enders and Emmerdale would be a part of our daily conversations on a grand scale. Learnt the fact that the husband worked for a company that supplied meat to Her Majesty. And, as a cherry on top, discovered that our hostess was Irish and in fact a great great great…. granddaughter of an Irish monarch, making her an Irish Princess (or at least, that’s what her father told her).
Full of tea and royal stories we were off to find our way back to Baker Street, ready to pack our suitcases and move to our new London home.