I still remember the day back in 2001 when Tom, Gareth, Paul and I first stepped through the front door of 37 Barnsbury Grove in Islington and pretty much exclaimed “wow!” in unison.
Sunlight was falling through the little conservatory at the back of the house and the wooden floor of the enormous lounge just glowed with it. We all looked at each other, mentally calculating whether we could afford the rent. “One way or another, we will” was the conclusion.
And when we moved in a few weeks later the place was even nicer than I remembered from that first viewing. From the very first day, it was more than just a place to live. It was home.
I’ll always have very fond memories of that house and the good friends that I shared it with. Moving out was one of the hardest things about coming to California.
My apartment in Sunnyvale didn’t have that feeling of “home”, quite. It was “nice”. It was functional. It was the place where I set myself on my feet and set out to live life on the West Coast. But it’s not somewhere I can feel a deep love for.
So I immediately had a good feeling when I went to view my new San Francisco apartment a few weeks ago. When I first walked in, taking in the quirky sloping ceilings and curved walls, the adorable rustic-style cabinets in the dining room and the deck with the view all the way out to the Bay, I felt that same “wow!” gut reaction that we all had back in London more than 4 years ago.
And when I picked up the keys on Saturday and saw the place again – really mine now – I fell completely in love with it. I knew that I’d found somewhere new to really call home.
I actually arrived a little early to meet the landlady. With time to spare, I wandered down the hills in search of lunch. There’s a wonderful quirky little deli/store called Courtney Produce at the corner of 14th and Castro which I’ve seen before but never been into. They make their own sandwiches and squeeze their own juice in various surprising combinations. They also appear to have some Good Cheese. Yay!
I picked up a tofu-and-mustard sandwich and an orange juice, and wandered down to the little park on the western end of Duboce. Sitting there in the February sun eating the lunch I just bought from a neighbourhood store embodied many of the reasons that I wanted to move up to the city. It was perfectly timed in every way – when I took the keys afterwards I just stood there with a silly, happy grin on my face.
The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind – Saturday afternoon saw me walking round most of Northbeach and Chinatown on the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, before heading back to Sunnyvale and packing the rest of my stuff.
The movers came Sunday night, and by 10pm I was installed amidst a mass of disassembled furniture and cardboard boxes, disorganised but still the most “home” I’ve ever been in California.
(And yes, before anyone bugs me, photos of the new place will appear somewhere soon – probably next week – once it’s a little more settled and a little less piled high with cartons of books…)