Tonight, not for the first time, I find myself in a serviced apartment in anticipation of starting a new position the next morning. It’s always a rather unsettling experience, mainly because everything’s new, you don’t know anybody, and you’re alone. Everything that was familiar in the last place is now gone.
At least this place is nice. The place I stayed in when I moved to Paris had a puddle in the middle of the floor which didn’t go away. Fortunately my six week stay was dissected by the two weeks I spent in Pau on French training. I don’t know what part of Cambridge I’m in because this is the first time I’ve been to this city, or anywhere near it. I was welcomed by the agent who runs the place who showed me how everything worked, and they’d even provided a welcome pack with just enough food to last until I can get to a supermarket. These places are always a touch smaller than is ideal. When you mobilise to a new country you bring as many clothes as you can carry, which doesn’t all fit in the solitary wardrobe they put in one-bed serviced apartments. And then you’ve got to figure out what to do with the suitcases once they’re unpacked. Usually they serve as modern art in the corners of the bedroom until you move out.
Eating is always a rather sad experience when you’re in a serviced apartment. It feels too much like a hotel to get the saucepans out and start cooking properly, so you eat lots of quick and easy stuff, alone and in front of the computer. In Paris I ate a lot of cheese and ham sandwiches; in Seoul it was pot noodles. I’ve just eaten a microwave meal for one and I’ve not felt like such sad, lonely bastard in a long time. I even felt that way buying the damned thing. The initial phase in a serviced apartment is something which must be got through as quickly as possible. Once it’s over, it’s hard to recall it without an effort.
So I start my job in a totally new company tomorrow, almost exactly 9 years since I arrived in Nigeria to do the same thing with my last outfit. I’m optimistic, and it should be fun. As you know, my original plan was to rent an apartment near Kings Cross but I can’t see it being feasible within my budget. So I have two other options: rent in Cambridge, which is only an hour to London on the fast train and they run late into the night. Or I rent at the extreme end of the Northern Line and drive up the M1 to work against the flow each day for about 45 minutes, which is fine in theory. The only trouble is I don’t know what those northern suburbs are like to live in. From what I’m hearing they’re a bit dull, and it takes about an hour to get into London on the tube from there anyway. What does everyone reckon?