Clapham Common, or as I like to call it Clap Com, is a neighborhood in South London. I spent a year living there and that year ended a year ago. I cannot believe the time has gone so fast.
My first day in London was mixed with stress, panic and amazement.
I’d hired a car from Heathrow as I had two massive suitcases filled with what was left of my life; having sold pretty much everything in Canada. My flatmate, who I knew from theatre school in Calgary, was out of town for a few days and had left the keys under a flowerpot beside the front door.
When I arrived at the flat I was incredibly jet lagged. The fear/panic of starting a new life in a new country had just hit me and I looked at these massive skeleton keys with blurry eyes. All I wanted to do was haul my luggage upstairs and take a nap.
There is a trick to those long skeleton keys that they use in the UK and it took me more than five minutes to figure it out. Well, it would have taken me longer if it wasn’t for a kind neighbor who came over to help me after watching me struggle.
The strange thing about my flat in London was that it was very close to my previous Vancouver apartment. It was a split level with neighbors living on the main floor. My room was on the second floor. My roomie’s was in the converted attic. The shower was next to my flatmates room. I remember standing in the hallway stunned for a few moments as the bizarreness of that washed over me.
After an hour of unpacking and not napping, I managed to draw up the courage to leave the flat. I prayed that I’d be able to properly lock up and get back in again later. Then I walked out in to the Common which was only four row-house doors away from my flat.
Taking a straight line into the park I found myself at a Bandstand. Surrounding the bandstand in a circle were about 20 park benches. I sat on one and watched the action of my new neighborhood. The Bandstand was empty except for thirty or so toddlers whizzing around on tiny scooters. In my jet-lag I imagined them to be wasps buzzing around a nest.
It was amusing to watch them swarm and bump into each other while their lackadaisical mothers and nannies sipped on coffee chatting with each other. However I didn’t want to stay too long for fear of being ‘that creepy woman watching the children.’
Later that day I remember commenting to a sales clerk, or the barista who made my much needed Americano, that the neighborhood was filled with babies. “I’ve never seen so many children in one place.”
“That’s why they call it the nappy-valley.” Oh, right, I thought; nappies mean diapers here.
It’s now been just over a year since I left London, and about a year and four months since I had the brain-wave to call it Clap Com. Distinguishing it from Clap-No (Clapham North), Clap-So (Clapham South) and, my favorite, Clap-Junk (Clapham Junction, the overland train station nearby).
It’s shocking to think it was two years ago that I arrived in the UK. But I have a feeling I’ll be going back there again, someday.