As a welcome distraction to writing about my life (which has become a little, erm, complicated over the past few days) - I’m going to reply to this email instead.
Imagine there was a gay man who was born in London but moved to Sydney at a young age. Now Sydney, as you may be aware, is the gay capital of the southern hemisphere. That may not sound like such an honour but to most of us widdle Australians it is. I diverge... the aforementioned gay man wants to move back to the UK to work so he can actually afford to buy property in Sydney. The exchange rate is wonderful that way. If the gay man was to live in London, where would a gay man such as yourself recommended he should live? This gay man would like to live in a trendy yet affordable area, with a nice café culture and slightly gay undertone. Does such a place exist in London?
It seems to me Ben, you have two challenges ahead of you, but luckily neither of them is insurmountable. You want to live the London lifestyle but without busting your bank account so when you do finally return to Oz you can afford more than a tin shed held together with bits of wire and chewing gum on the outskirts of *shudder* Canberra.
The first thing you need to know is that London is divided North and South of the Thames. When you move here people expect you to instantly pick a side so that they can moan about the other London clan. Being territorial is all part of living in a large city. In the same way that the British enjoy complaining about the weather, Londoners love bitching about the opposite river bank. Having lived on either side of the Thames I’ve found no huge difference between them - so I say throw caution to the wind, jump into the river and live on which ever bank you get washed up on.
Now the first place that struck me when I heard you say “trendy yet affordable” was Clapham Common. It’s South of the River in Zone 2
, has two gay pubs, is half an hour journey by tube to Soho and has the benefit of a huge rambling common that can trick you into believing in Summer during the warmer months. Another seal of approval is that I live in Balham - just two stops on the tube below Clapham. When Balham gets ϋber trendy and everyone starts flocking there in their droves I plan to tell people I “discovered” it.
Also south of the River you’ll find Clapham Junction, Greenwich and East Dulwich – all places I’ve lived in or have friends living there. Brixton has become a very trendy place to find a room, but it may be a bit rough for the uninitiated.
Moving north of the river; make sure you stay away from Shepherd’s Bush like the plague unless you want to live ten to a room with fellow Antipodean’s whose only aim is to puke in every pub in London...
Islington and Camden are North London versions of Clapham – lots of young folk wearing distressed jeans and mountains of that exciting inner city vibe. Notting Hill (in the West) and Shoreditch (in the East) are both expensive areas, but if you’re stealthy you could land a cheap double bedroom in either place. Apartment hunting in London is 50% luck and 50% perseverance.
Don’t worry too much about living in a place with a slightly gay undertone either. The reality is that all the London homos end up gravitating towards Old Compton Street in Soho (between Leicester Square and Oxford Circus); to the many bars and cafes - so as long as you can find your way home after one too many ciders at G.A.Y. bar, you should be okey dokey artichokey.
And remember Ben, if you can’t find a place straight away, you can always come live with me and become my houseboy. I pay 50 pence a day and I’ll even give you Sunday afternoons off…