Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Leaving London for a new adventure Down Under

Andrew McGuinness recalls seven great years in the UK as he prepares to begin a new chapter in Sydney with his Australian girlfriend.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012, 12:58


Andrew McGuinness recalls seven great years in the UK as he prepares to begin a new chapter in Sydney with his Australian girlfriend. 

Andrew McGuinness: 'If you’re Irish and have a lot to offer, London has opportunities aplenty for you in return'

I began my life in London as a young graduate in 2005. On the day I arrived, England were on the verge of beating Australia in the Ashes and there was excitement in the London air as I went along to Regent’s Park to see test match cricket unfold on the big screen. “Warnie’s bowling, England could collapse at any time,” chirped a perky Aussie beside me swigging from his can of Stella. His friends didn’t look so convinced.

The next day I agonized as Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne sent jitters down the spine of every English cricket fan until Kevin Pieterson played the innings of his life and steered England over the line. That very day was also my first as a journalist in London and I had two Aussie colleagues to banter with all day, until my editor decreed at three o’clock that we should down tools and continue our “meeting” in the nearby Blackfriars pub with the large TV screen. England won the Ashes and the celebrations are now history.

England has always been part of me. I came into the world when Britain was as war with Argentina over the Falklands. My party trick as a three-year-old was to point out where Ian Botham, Mike Brearley and Gladstone Small were in my father’s 1981 Ashes annual. BBC television ran for hours in our household and the local village school where my father was headmaster was positioned snugly beside the Hills Cricket Club on the outskirts of Skerries. There is British Army involvement on either side of my parents’ Dublin Catholic families.

In my late teens, while studying in UCD amidst a backdrop of Tony Blair’s dominance, my appetite for British media and politics was sated by Dr Richard Aldous, a charismatic, English lecturer. A career in journalism on Fleet Street eluded me so I opted instead for a job where public relations and political affairs overlapped.

During my time in England, Irish people have generally excelled. Peter Sutherland and Niall Fitzgerland continue to be two of the more respected businessmen in the city. Comedian Dara O’Briain refers to himself as an “infamous Britlicker” but he has the kind of breaks at the BBC the small pond at RTE would never have afforded him. For the first time the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects has in Angela Brady an Irish lady at the helm. You regularly see Ruth Dudley Edwards providing political punditry on Sky News.

An English friend recently waxed lyrical of the calibre of Irish graduates he was interviewing. “They are well educated, hardworking, outgoing and unlike some of their British counterparts don’t have a sense of entitlement when they enter the workplace”.

Life in London has not been without its challenges. I’ll never forget the loneliness and homesickness I felt in my first year here and the ensuing depression I experienced when a very close family member passed away. For all that’s on offer, London and especially working in the city can be an unforgiving place for one’s stress levels. Newly arrived migrants can struggle without the right support network and work life balance.

In general though, my seven years in London has seen much more highs than lows. It was a real thrill to witness Leinster win back to back Heineken Cups with friends here and to bring my Dad to Lords Cricket ground to see Eoin Morgan, a fellow north county Dub, make his test match debut for England.

I’ve had the pleasure of house-sharing with charming Poles and coaching a fantastic rugby club, Belsize Park, consisting of men from Limerick, Adelaide, Liverpool and Dunedin. It was with great pride that I led a delegation of my English colleagues to the boardroom in our building to watch Katie Taylor’s Olympic boxing final. Unsurprisingly, they all cheered for Katie.

In the last year I’ve met a lovely Australian girl who is whisking me off to Sydney in a few weeks to begin an exciting new chapter. But my love for London will endure. I’ll miss living in a city with a kaleidoscope of ethnicities, brilliant parks and of course all the dear friends I’ve made here and the characters I’ve met along the way. If you’re Irish and have a lot to offer, London has opportunities aplenty for you in return. What Samuel Johnson said still rings true. If you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.

Andrew McGuinness is on Twitter @Guinty82.

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