Oh, for a bit of peace and quiet
Uptown Girl Abroad
One of the things I miss most about New Zealand, is one of the things most of us whinge about when we're 16: it is so quiet.
I live in a part of town that sometimes seems light years away from where I work in the middle of the City: there are visible green bits, the high street has about eight shops - sadly, none of which is Top - and the kids who attend the school opposite my flat seem to be missing the stabbiness of their counterparts elsewhere in town.
But even Southfields has its moments: Hordes of people cluttering the footpaths, especially on weekends, eager to get their hands on a baguette.
The English style of housing - piled on top of, next to, and below one another - means you're always listening to either the kids in the loft conversion upstairs shrieking and slamming doors, somebody's terrible taste in what can only be described as German reggae, or mosque-goers headed home from evening prayers having a right old tongue-wag - for hours - on the street.
Yes, I have turned into Mr Wilson from Dennis the Menace, minus the child-appropriate language.
London's version of the boy racer doesn't seem to have worked out their route takes in the two speed bumps directly outside my window: lots of squealing of tyres and down- shifting. And don't forget the doof doof music.
A neighbour who cannot drift off without her TV blaring and her window wide open all night long - not to mention the worst mattress and the thinnest walls known to mankind - and the dark circles under my eyes have grown exponentially.
We are at the nexus of what appears to be the flight path for every airport in London.
There are six.
Going from a city of 50,000, to a city of 50,000 in your personal space, has been challenging.
Even for somebody who looks back, with great fondness, of dancing to Put Your Hands Up For Detroit at the epicentre of the scungy old Frog's dance-floor: a place where personal space was but an idealistic dream.
(Two words, Kim: Ladies Night.)
Believe it or not, this rant has a point.
By comparison, Ireland was heavenly. Don't get me wrong, there is truth behind the cliche that the Irish make good party-goers.
(There is also truth behind the cliche of "Ireland is green". The emerald part of the Emerald Isle is blindingly so.)
But outside of the vortex of Filthy McNasty's - holder of arguably the best bar name in the world - in Belfast and the "it's-5 o'clock- somewhere" mentality of Dublin's Temple Bar area, quiet reigns supreme.
(Errm, outside of Shankill and Falls, that is . . .)
Even the local pubs were quiet - including when the former president of the Northern Ireland football fan club, now the owner- slash-bartender of Finn McCool's in Bushmills, was watching his team play on the telly overhead. No matter where we went, they were all of the let's-drink-some-Guinness-in- a-corner-booth variety, as opposed to the bad-karaoke variety.
The most fast-paced action we saw on the roads was an escaped cow, being herded back into its paddock by a farmer bearing a strong resemblance to Smithy from Gavin and Stacey and a bemused police officer.
A walk along the O'Connell Street in Dublin was no more stressful than wandering around hilariously named villages like Sneem and Cong: it was crowded, yes, but without people heavy-breathing onto the back of your neck.
The teenage waitress in Athlone, who started an enthusiastic chat when she heard my funny accent, was bewildered when I told her I was actually enjoying a break from the full-tilt, nonstop crowded chaos of London and its Tube platforms.
Yes, crowd noise at Notting Hill Carnival, Circus, or - gulp - even Infernos in Clapham are good and well.
But sometimes, I said, all you want is a bit of quiet.
"But it's so boring in Ireland," she moaned. "I can't wait to leave."
Words to remember, next time I'm awake at 2am listening to the sounds of Deal or No Deal wafting through the wall ...
Top: When in Rome! A specials board at one of the pubs in Temple Bar, Dublin.
Middle: A sculpture depicting the Great Famine in one of Dublin's parks.
Bottom: Hanging out. The whiskey distillery in Bushmills
- © Fairfax NZ News