When I first moved to London, I was completely out of my depth. I’d spent the last four years in a pretty provincial university town, and I’d been brought up my whole life in a tiny town in North Wales. Sure, I’d been to the capital for the occasional holiday or day out. But when it came down to it, I could have felt more comfortable having an evening swim in Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool than I did when I got to the big smoke.
Moving to New York is obviously easier. I’m twelve or thirteen years older for a start, and these days one big city is pretty much like any other. But there’s still one thing that confuses the bejeesus out of me – the subway system.
One of the most memorable arguments of my life was a two hour strop-fest about whether or not the map of the Paris Metro system is topographical or not. In New York, the map of the subway is clearly laid on top of a map of the city, but regardless, it’s still just a mass of coloured lines to me.
Four weeks into living here, and I’m still walking three long city blocks between stations rather than working out what the ideal change is, and I don’t know where I need to stand on a train if I want to give myself the quickest possible exit from the station. Hell, I can’t even work out which trains are local and which ones are express.
And don’t even think about suggesting that I get on a bus. I get nervous enough working out how to pay, let alone attempting to guess whether the sodding thing goes anywhere near where I’m heading.
Admittedly, I’ve never been the most geographically astute bloke in the world. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told taxis to turn right when I wanted them to turn left. These days I just get out rather than admit that I’ve made a mistake. As for my map reading, well that’s caused more than a couple of heated debates in hire cars over the last eighteen months, although that could well be something to do with my refusal to give more than three seconds notice of the need to exit the
All things come with experience though, and soon enough I guess I’ll be drunkenly falling asleep on the last subway train home and waking up somewhere in Far Rockaway. Only then will I truly feel I’ve arrived in the Big Apple.