Expat Chronicles: ‘Round Town

We recently passed the five-year anniversary of our move to London from the United States, and what once promised to be an exciting (and unnerving) adventure is now as familiar and comfortable as an old shoe.

This is what usually happens when you move, even if it’s to another country and continent across the ocean. Pretty soon you develop a routine and settle in. I now feel as at home here as I have pretty much anywhere, despite being a foreigner who can’t name the current Prime Minister or best Premier League team without googling it.

Our first couple of years were spent exploring the city with a tourist mindset, a sense of wonder, and an urgency that we needed to see all there was to see in Guinness-record time. Then COVID-19 hit in early 2020, and that slowed things down considerably.

We went through weeks and months of COVID lockdown, largely confined to our home and back yard (although I snuck in bike rides nearly every day — properly masked). It gave us a chance to connect as a family, through home schooling, remote work, and home-based entertainment and recreation.

At the time it seemed confining. But honestly, I’ll always look back at it as a kind of blessing during an otherwise grim global pandemic. All those hours we spent together as a family were a gift that you can only appreciate later in life, when the hours together become fewer and fewer.

Since then, we’ve dialed back the city exploration considerably, though we still get out and about on weekends. These days I personally feel much more of a gravitational pull to our immediate area. With rare exceptions, if I can’t get somewhere in London by foot or bike, I can live fine without it.

We still travel, both here in England and in Europe. As a family, we’ve visited 20-plus cities and towns in 15 countries on this side of the world, from North Africa to Scandinavia. That’s not a bad record with kids in tow.

Our family recently attained “Indefinite Leave to Remain” status in the UK, meaning we have the right to live, work and study here for as long as we like. We’re no longer restricted in how long we can be here. If we move elsewhere, we can travel and return here at our pleasure, with no special visa needed.

Susan and I even passed the citizenship test, so we’re right proper bloody British geezers now, innit?

This blog will be mostly visual, chronicling our years in London. What follows are 20-odd photos from around town, taken through the years. About half were taken by my wife Susan, a skilled photographer whose work is featured elsewhere on this blog that you can see on this link. A very cool photo she took on a family trip to Edinburgh inspired the cover of my novel Voodoo Hideaway (buy it here!). I dropped in some of my own pics as well, though I’ll never be mistaken for a skilled photographer.

Hopefully it will give you a nice snapshot of life in London Town, as seen through the eyes of we expats, with some brief commentary sprinkled in.

I get out to see live music frequently here in London, usually a couple times a month. I mostly go see jazz shows, because there’s a thriving jazz scene here. Some of the places I frequent are Ronnie Scott’s, the Pizza Express Jazz Club, and the new TAM’s Vineyard and Jazz Club in Canary Wharf, which is a godsend because it’s only a couple tube stops away. There is no ailment that can’t be cured with live music.

One other thing I’ve enjoyed here is getting out to see some of the tennis tournaments, being a tennis fanatic as both a player and fan. I’ve been to Wimbledon a few times, with mixed results. I also saw the ATP Finals a couple of times at the O2 Arena when it was still in London, and the Queens Club tournament a few years ago. Both of those were great. Players I’ve seen are a who’s who of recent men’s tennis studs: Federer, Murray, Del Potro, Zverev, Thiem, Tsisipas, Isner, Cilic, Shapavalov.

The pandemic shut things down here in a big way. The photos below of the London Eye and Buckingham Palace were taken when I cycled around the city on my bike, looking at all the empty streets. It was an eerie and cool experience, as if humans in London and the rest of the world had been vacated by an alien invasion. The other photos were taken by Susan during one of the periods when lockdowns had eased but the city was still in a COVID mindset.

This final photo was taken several years ago on one of my occasional excursions to the Hippodrome Casino right beside the Leicester Square tube stop and Chinatown, usually before a show at Ronnie Scott’s. No further explanation necessary….


  1. Vance, this post is very interesting to me because off-and-on during the course of my life I’ve wondered what it would be like to live in England. I was “raised” on tv shows like The Prisoner and The Avengers which were the genesis of my interest. Watching Wimbledon and the British Open also found me fantasizing about living in the UK. I don’t know if I’ll ever act upon those thoughts, but reading about your time there helps fan those flames. I love all the pictures here, especially that last one…shorter than you think!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bruce, much appreciated (and yeah, that last photo is a beaut. I took it probably 4 years ago or so and the sign is still there in the bathroom :))

      I would say if you are thinking of living here for a few years, go for it. Highly recommended. One of the main advantages of course is that they speak English, which solves a lot of problems, although you can get by with English in just about every country we’ve visited here. But it’s a great experience, mainly because you have such easy access to the rest of Europe.

      The main challenge is that it’s not always easy to get a long-term residency visa in the UK that lets you stay longer than six months, I think it is. We were lucky because my wife’s employer, a big U.S.-based bank, transferred her over here so they greased the wheels for us considerably. I think you need some kind of employer sponsorship or proof that your work serves a vital function. There’s just a lot of people from all over who want to move here, which makes it difficult. But I’m no expert because my wife handled all of that.

      It might be easier for Americans because of the cozy relationship between the two countries. Something to consider at any rate!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Yacoob. And yes — we have passed through/by Cecil Court/Booksellers Row many times. It is located in a part of London we’ve visited frequently, the Leicester Square/Soho/Covent Garden area. I’m not sure we’ve investigated the bookstores as much as we should (I was told by my wife that she suggested it and I guess I was otherwise distracted at the moment). But we will go back now that you have mentioned it. There are a ton of bookstores in London, more than any place I’ve ever been. Another advantage of living here, for us book lovers.

      Liked by 1 person

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