It's been just over a month since I started work at my new company and so far it's been really good. Other than learning a whole new set of skills and systems, it's been an adjustment getting used to working in the City of London.
To clarify for those of you who have never been to London when the 'City of London' is referred to it doesn't mean the whole of London - it is specifically the area where most of the banks and financial services are located. Geographically it's where the Romans settled in the 1st Century AD, the area's boundaries haven't changed since the Middle Ages!
You'll also hear it described as the Square Mile - although in reality it is slightly bigger than that! Included in it are places like the Bank of England, Mansion House (official residences of the lord Mayor), The Exchange and The Guildhall - all very grand, old buildings! These are met with the newer additions of the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe), the Walkie Talkie(20 Fenchurch Street) and The CheeseGrater (Leadenhall building).
The underground station Bank arrives right in the middle of it and depending on the exit you choose you can walk out from under the Bank of England! I prefer to start my walk to work at a station just down the road - Mansion House, it takes less than 10 mins to get to my office and to be honest I like the walk. It makes me feel a part of what's going on in the hustle and bustle of the city. Even if it involves avoiding stressed out taxi drivers, crazy cyclists and vicious umbrella or briefcase wielding bankers!
It's the same at lunch, my office can either be filled to the brim with 15 people or almost empty with just two of us in, it can change at any given hour and is never the same two days running. It keeps it interesting - but it also means that the need for fresh air is paramount. When I worked in Victoria, lunch times were busy but nothing on the scale of the City. Victoria was a Sunday stroll compared to the very busy, very determined City workers.
Take today. My office is kind enough to supply fruit but I found myself in great need of sugar and the temptation of a doughnut became too great. I had found a Greggs (bakery) about a 15 minute walk away in my first week and decided that would be my destination. A half an hour walk served the purpose of getting out the office, getting some (slightly smoggy) fresh air and satisfy my doughnut need - perfect. As I got ready to leave I debated if I needed a coat, it's a weirdly mild 10 degrees right now, and decided to take it. The thing is as soon as I leave the front door I have to walk at pace. No-one strolls around here! Everyone has a set direction, a purpose, and those who dilly-dally or look confused get pushed aside or stepped on.
In the morning, getting to grips with the flow of people is easy, like escalators you walk on the left - us Londoners love order! - there are also main turn off points for people so you know to be on the outside of the footpath or risk getting forced in a direction. At lunch however it's a different story. There are a lot of flows - some going towards the more coffee shop based area, some towards the cafes, some towards the shopping centre, some towards the banks and then there are the TOURISTS. These tourist flows are dangerous, whether it is a large group of green coated Aussie's stopping to take photos or the determined Germans trying to read a map mid-footpath they are hard to predict and therefore hard to avoid. Will they go left, right or stop completely - who knows!
The City can be intimidating. In all honesty I never thought I would be someone who could work here. I'm a country girl at heart and this City madness is tiring but now I am a part of it I get the appeal. It's like moving to a new country except every night I drive home with Laura to the countryside. The language is that of finance and acronyms, the pace is almost Italian and the culture is not particularly British. There is the order and innate politeness but people here don't waste time, they are brisk and pushy. In coffee shops you queue but as soon as it's your turn you must have your order at the end of your tongue. Pause and you're back in the queue. This doesn't help in places where prices are kept a mystery - I was queuing for a sandwich in this stunning bakery in my second week and asked how much the turkey sandwich was - £7! I was taken back and asked how much the soup was £4.50 - I feared asking about anything as I could hear the 'tut's coming from the line, and begrudgingly paid £4.50, I had spent almost my entire lunch break queuing for it and didn't want to leave empty handed! It was nice but no better than my tinned soup. Lesson learnt - if you can't see a price it's because it's expensive!
Now 5 weeks in, I am getting the hang of it. I know which roads are less busy, which cafes are reasonably priced and what time I can gain access to the microwaves in my building. My reactions are quicker and sharper, I can dodge tourists and spot footpath congestion quick enough to avoid it. I bring my lunch in most days so I can spend my time outside admiring the buildings and not the back of someone's head in the queue but most of all it's helping me enjoy the City and all it has to offer! I can officially say I enjoy working in the City of London.