And in the end it is not the years in your life that counts, it is the life in your years
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That First Year

I will never forget that first year in London. I moved here on March 17th 1983, St Patricks Day. I arrived at Euston Station, £7 in my pocket, and with bugger all. But I knew this was where I wanted to be, and knew it would all work out. For about a week i crashed at my brothers, in Tooting Bec, and have never lived south of the river since.

Then one day I headed off to the Euston Tower, at the time home of Capital radio and a job centre and flat-share facility. I will always remember the moment I picked up the job card for a job in a shop in the east end, Pettycoat Lane market. I was excited, this was the start of the rest of my life. I got the interview, got the job, met a gay man for the first real time, and sorted out a room in this other guys flat in Muswell Hill. Although I was to be paid peanuts for six days a week, I had enough, I knew I could survive.

The gap between pain and pleasure is a very fine line, the same is true for happiness and being cry yourself to sleep lonely. I was happy working in the shop, the people had a warmth about them. I learned all about gayness and Barbara Streisand, Jewish values, the east end, and jellied eels.  I was quite good at the job, and the older lady who ran the shop was very special to me. It was also the first time I had a crush on someone in England, a real eastender, with her bleach blonde hair, big heels, and short skirts.

But on the other side, the darker side,  was life in my flat share room. I hated the other guy, with his grubby beard, tatty clothes, real ale and a smell that I can still taste. He did not like me either and so we lived in a weird silence. In all the time I lived there I never once brought someone home, or had friends round. No one from my family ever came round, and I was so glad. It was for me a seriously humbling experience, and from those days to this, it will act as my reminder of just how lucky I have been. Although it was a nightmare to live through, it has always been a real motivation in my life.

One story from my first year I will always remember was the day I left work around 5 and headed home. I was tired, and even fell asleep on the tube. It was a Monday.  I must have got home around 6:30 and just thought I would go straight to bed, I was knackered. I crashed out, still in my clothes. Suddenly I woke, I was in a total daze. I looked at the clock and it said 8:00. Bugger I was late for work having slept the whole night. I jumped up, wash, briefly, and ran out the door. Walked to the tube, and travelled to Liverpool St. I was due in work by 9:00 and was sure I would late.

As I arrived at Liverpool St. I looked at my watch, it was just after 9:00, so I knew I would be 10 minutes late. It felt strange however, it felt quite, the buzz of the station was not the same. I was in quite a daze as I crossed the road and walked towards work. The more I walked the less like a normal day it appeared, in my mind I started to think, “why is it so quite?”, and then after walking for 5 minutes it all became clear. It was not 9:00 in the morning, I was not late. It was 21:00, I had only slept for about an hour, and it was still Monday, but now Monday night.

What always struck me about that story, and why I always remember it was the fact that I had become so tired, and it was not down to workload, or anything like that, it was due to depression, to the isolation of this city, and it has always stayed with me just how bad that first year was. Just one reason why I always remain grateful for what my life became in the end.

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