Thursday, January 19, 2006

Paved with Gold?

1578: Martin Frobisher c1539-1594 brought pyrite rocks (aka "fool's gold") back to London, thinking they were gold. You may well have seen pyrite for sale in those touristy gift shops that sell bits of glittering rock. Of course, being worthless, they had to find some use for them: they were then put to use to pave London streets; henceforth the saying that the streets of London are paved with gold. Allegedly (thanks google, and some canadian site).

A lot of those stones probably don't exist anymore, and London isn't anywhere near as out of reach and glamourous to you or I as it once was - ever since the advent of cheap train travel and the motor vehicle. But an awful lot of people still work and live there and I've become one of them. The 'working' part, so far anyway. The living part I've yet to do. In fact I've yet to live anywhere inside a town/city. Closest I came was my 2nd year at university, when we were on the outskirts of Canterbury. It's always been villages or suburbs outside the towns themselves.

But to get the commute-time down I have basically two options.

  1. live somewhat closer and overground-rail in every day - not all that far from what I'm doing now, but the trip is longer than I want to suffer long-term (dunno how my dad does it year in year out with a similar journey length); or
  2. Move right in, tube/night-bus distance.

Obviously the closer in, the more expensive (for the same quality of housing/locality) so you have to pick a point on that scale, and cross-reference it to a line of the area's aspirations/trendiness that you're happy with.

When I first started I didn't have a clue what I wanted - I had an idea of the general geographic location and pretty rough budget constraints, but I don't know London. I don't know it at all outside of the center in fact. Just from trips across it via the tube - when you don't see it anyway, and museum/tourist-attraction visits as a kid/school-trips. I didn't know where to start. So google came in for some heavy usage, and I pulled in all the resources I could - colleagues at work who'd lived in areas, some luckily having moved around a lot, even an ex-estate-agent (so he rescued himself - you know the stereotype/reputation... sorry.. :-) friends, odd trips I've taken to random parts of London after work some evenings, ...

Some useful links I found or already knew of (maybe you can better these but they gave me a start):

  • miles faster - a postcode overview map (without names on damnit), about shopping areas, and some other less-useful things for the task at hand
  • Up My Street - gives you locality info such as what the bars are like, transport, crime, population distribution, general reviews and comments on the area by the people who live there. Also some discussion boards (forums).

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