Web log beg: London accommodation

I'm planning a trip to the UK1 in the July/August/September period. I'll be based in London for a couple of months or so, and aside from taking in a conference or two, will be spending much of my time at British Library Newspapers at Colindale (yes, I know ... cue the violins!); other places of interest include BL at St Pancras and the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at KCL.

So, since a number of my readers are familiar with London, here's my "web log beg" (somebody needs to invent a word for that): does anyone have any recommendations as to where to stay? Somewhere appropriate to a PhD student doing research, cheapish but not nasty, ideally available over the whole period, has at least some form of net access, and so on. When I've traveled within Australia for similar purposes I've stayed at university residential colleges, which (obviously) cater for students and are conveniently empty in the summer, but I don't know if that's the same over there. Are there any good websites to try? (I know of Gumtree.) Also, I've never been to London and have only a relatively vague idea of its geography, especially in terms of getting around on public transport, so advice as to which parts of London I should be looking at would be appreciated as well.

Please note that I'm not trying to scunge (as we like to say in Australia) a sofa or a spare room from somebody! I actually need somewhere that can give me an indicative quote, and somewhere that can do that in the next week at that, as I have to include it in my application for travel funding. Speaking of which, if somebody could explain to me why I have to have my application to study abroad approved BEFORE I apply for travel funding, and not AFTER or at least concurrently, and why they don't tell you that it takes 5 working days to process said application before you hand it in, I'd be most grateful.

But I'll be more grateful for any advice on London accommodation, or anything else a visiting scholar ought to know :) Thanks in advance!

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  1. I've noticed that whenever I'm talking or writing about "that place" in a historical context, I call it "Britain", but as a place in the contemporary world which can be traveled to, it's "the UK". I wonder why that is. []

21 thoughts on “Web log beg: London accommodation

  1. Brett

    I think you will find that many universities over her in the UK do rent out their accomodation in the summer so it may be worth your while contacting either Kings or UCL for info.

    Hope this helps a bit.

  2. 'Scunge' - great word.

    Britain/UK.... I think it's the legacy of 'Great' Britain that causes the problem - although, thank God, that finally seems to have been dropped (if not officially). We don't know what to call ourselves. We define ourselves - it seems to me - by what we're _not_, not what we _are_. Hideous negativism. And, of course, both the Americans and most of the Spanish speaking world think we're all 'English' (but that's another matter).

    Actually, you make a very good point. The whole concept of 'British' identity has suddenly become a very hot topic, but if we just called ourselves 'the United Kingdom' (as they call us in the Eurovision Song Contest!) 95% of those problems would be solved. That would be a very pluralist, Prince Charles solution - the man who, allegedly, doesn't want to be The Defender of the Faith (a title given by the Pope to the then-Catholic Henry VIII, let's recall) but rather 'Defender of FaithS'. The only obstacle to full embrace of 'The United Kingdom' is that it hints at federalism, and, of course, we're 'British': we don't like that. We leave that to the Americans and those pesky 'Europeans'...

    To the point: private accommodation in London is criminally expensive and often of shockingly poor quality, IMHO. Sorry to sound negative, but that's my experience. In your situation, I would _definitely_ go for the Uni accommodation route, or something very similar. You really have no idea what you're going to get with a private landlord in London. Unless you have a contact in the Aussie 'ghetto' of Earl's Court, of course. (Btw, that's a do-able and pleasant area, but maybe just a bit far away from the kinds of places you want to be on a daily basis.)

    So yes, certainly check Kings and UCL. Also try here: http://www.london.ac.uk/226.html I lived here for a year and it has lots of business-types in the summer. Slap in the middle of town, there to serve the whole Univ of London, and 'International' is what it's all about. But I'd phone rather than email them as they are not very efficient.

    But, top of the list, I must recommend the only campus college in the University of London. And the one with more accomodation than any other - the majority of it brand new. Don't be put off by distance: Queen Mary is only about 6 stops on the tube to the BL, Senate House and the middle of town. About 20 mins, zone 2 travelcard (not too expensive, and then you have already paid for your travel to 80% of the places you'll probably want to get to.) Loads of buses too. (Oh yes, be warned - no air-con on the London tube. _Extremely_ hot in the summer - so the Yanks say. And so do I.) And buy yourself an Oyster card for cheaper travel.

    Here are various links to Queen Mary residences:
    http://www.ccrs.qmul.ac.uk/holidays/ - this one even says you can now book online.

    But I'd email and make clear you are a poor student, as the rates may be different. The general website is: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/ I've also found these two e addresses. I'd contact them both:

    Point out that you are not a kid and don't want to be lumped in with them. There are lots of adults around in summer doing OU summer schools, which is nice. And it's all next to the canal, which is almost like being at the seaside during the summer. I've lived there. I really do recommend. Should be no problem with broadband too.

    For checking travel maps and to get an idea of distances, here's Transport for London: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

    One area I'd avoid: some say Hackney is 'great fun'. It is reasonably central and undoubtedly cheap for London. But I think it is 'minging', frankly.

    Here endeth long comment. But if I can help further, feel free to email me.

  3. Adam Grissom

    As another option to explore, I recently spent a year living at Goodenough College (http://www.goodenough.ac.uk/) while studying at KCL. It's essentially an independent residence for foreign postgraduates studying in London. I believe it was established as a royal trust in the interwar years to accommodate students from the dominions, but it was opened to yanks after 1945 and continental Europeans at some point thereafter.

    Goodenough is close to the University of London's International Hall, described above by Jack. Both are convenient to Russell Square tube and within easy walking distance of the BL and KCL. I found Goodenough to be very pleasant -- decent accommodation, two passable pubs, and a good bunch of people (mostly antipodean and north american over the summer, in my experience). I don't know the going rate these days because I sleep on a friend's couch when I visit. That would make me a 'scunger' I suppose. I must find a way to get that one on the cv.

    Good luck and feel free to email with any questions.

  4. I'd never heard of Goodenough College, even though I lived near it in International Hall for a year. It sounds great. Given that they were both established originally for you Colonial types, I'd try them first. Everyone should live in the Russell Square/Bloomsbury area once if they get the chance - it is 'Academia Central', it's a lovely area, and the BL, British Library, Senate House, etc are all within walking distance. As are the shopping hot-spots of Oxford St, Tottenham Court Road, etc, and Leicester Square and the West End.

    You would also be marginally closer to Colindale, which I hadn't factored in. Unfortunately, however, Colindale is miles away from _anywhere_ you would reaslistically want to live. So do check the travel time to Colindale from any possible accommodation rather than going on how far away it looks on the map. The only bad thing about the famous Tube map is that it doesn't give you a concept of distance, or how quick/slow or awkward/easy interchanges are. Hence QM, although further away in distance, is better connected transport-wise than many places.

    But I'd plead with the Bloomsbury options first, playing up your 'I am a clueless non-English person who needs help' status as much as possible. It worked very well for me. (I think they thought 'I am coming from Edinburgh' meant I was travelling from somewhere near Norway.)

  5. Post author

    Thanks everyone, this is all EXTREMELY helpful, as I must admit I was feeling a bit lost even thinking about it. I've also had some pointers via email:


    International and Goodenough do look ideal, and if I've used the TfL route planner correctly then they are only about 30 mins from Colindale by train, QMUL seems to be 45 mins but that includes an interchange. So I will try those first!

    BTW, we do federalism in Australia too, and it's quite mystifying why you lot don't just go for a fully federal structure: have parliaments for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each with the same powers and responsibilities; a federal parliament for the whole country which deals only with national issues, including a fully-elected upper chamber in which the constituent countries are equally represented. Would cut right through all the debates about devolution, Lords reform and the West Lothian question. But I guess an illogical system of government is the price you pay for all that interesting history :)

  6. Post author

    Oh, that's easy, you can just scunge our constitution off of us and do a find-and-replace on Australia/United Kingdom and the states' names! And (optionally) remove the reference to New Zealand -- apparently we're still hopeful that they're going to sign up at some point ...

    I looked up "scunge" in the OED (v., 'To prowl around looking for food, etc.; to scrounge, to sponge'; n., 'a. A sly or vicious person. b. A scrounger or sponger. c. As a vague term of abuse') and it seems to be a Scottish word originally! As in 'Jock, ye scunge! Come oot the dresser' and 'Hame wi you, ye scunging tyke, hame!' Maybe it's not as Australian as I thought ...

  7. We Scots have some lovely expressions for p*** off (although I can't think why we should specialise in that turn of phrase....). These include 'away an' raffle yerself' and a great favourite of mine, 'ach, away an' bile yer heid'. I lived with a girl from the People's Republic of China for a year, and we were both amazed and amused to discover that 'please go away and boil your head' is also an idiom in Mandarin. There simply has to be a C17th Scottish maritime/colonial connection there, I think. But we've yet to adopt a lovely one she taught me: the Chinese equivalent of 'I will come down on you like a ton of bricks' is, apparently, 'I will give you small shoes'.

  8. If you go for Bloomsbury, you will at least be on the right tube lines for Colindale, there or thereabouts.

    You'll also be near my office, and some damn good pubs.

  9. Chris Williams

    The tube to Colondale (a typo that I thought I'd leave in) is annoying and purgatorial wherever you start from. Forget walking from Hendon, as well: tried it, doesn't work.

    Bloomsbury may well be the place to be, given that it's immensely handy for the BL, also for trains to anywhere you'd want to go - including all the airports.

    Jack forgot to mention the exceptionally nice food available near QMU.

  10. Jakob

    Dear Brett,

    Have you considered the Royal Aeronautical Society's Library (http://www.aerosociety.com/cmspage.asp?cmsitemid=0010)? They're based in central London, and have an excellent collection of aeronautical and airminded periodicals. I know of at least one person who is doing research in your area there (in fact one of David Edgerton's PhD students at Imperial).

    They do charge a daily access fee for non-members, but given your research topic they might waive that*. It's certainly worth a look. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the RAeS and sit on its historical committee, but am not myself a historian.)



    PS I came across this blog the other day via the yorkshire ranter, and am finding it endlessly fascinating; If you have the time, allow me to buy you a pint when you're in town...

    *If not, consider becoming a student member; it's something like £30 for three years, which will probably be cheaper. You get to borrow 2 books at a time too.

  11. Post author

    Jakob, thanks for both the compliment and the tip! I hadn't thought of the RAeS, but of course it would be likely to have some of the things I'd like to look at, such as the Air League's various journals. The British Library should have them too, but maybe there will be gaps or it just might be more convenient at the RAeS library.

  12. Post author

    By the way, thanks to everyone who gave me accommodation suggestions, and in particularly Adam: I'm now booked in to Goodenough College from 8 July. I've also booked my flight: Qantas to Sydney then BA to London -- seems very appropriate! I did ask but apparently I'm about 60 years too late for the flying boat service :(

  13. dan

    Simple. UK = GB and Northern Ireland.
    GB= Scotland Wales England

    Don't worry, even the English assume they're the only country in the UK.

  14. Great to hear you're sorted, Brett.

    Mmm Dr Dan, re UK/GB....that's the constitutional theory, but not always the practice. In these days of Blairite statements such as 'we are the finest nation in the world' I predict that the confusion can only become worse and the identity dispute greater. But then, I come from what the outgoing Edinburgh Labour administration foolishly and repulsively tried to 're-brand' as 'The Best Small Country In The World', so perhaps I would say that, wouldn't I?

    I feel a burst of the Internationale coming on. Rather than a chorus of this year's _British_ Eurovision Song Contest entry, entitled - with a breathtaking lack of irony - 'We're Flying The Flag, All Over The World......' Maybe not the best time to draw attention to that, eh? Perhaps that's why the 'televoters' of Europe placed 'us' in the bottom four.

    As Burns would say:
    'Oh would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us'!

  15. Post author

    I must point out that the previous "dan" is not "dr dan" but a random passer-by!

    Also, if a mere colonial may make so bold, while it's true that Great Britain is different from the United Kingdom, Britain (which is the word I used) is not. Wikipedia says that Britain is the short form of "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", and backs that up with links to 10 Downing Street and the Guardian's style guide.

    So "Britain" is greater than "Great Britain"! You're a weird mob, eh.

  16. Chris Williams

    Perhaps we are, but you tell us why Jervis Bay is in the ACT, and only then will we actually admit it.

    I wonder if TUKOGBANI-based fans of airminded could get it together to all buy Brett a pint of proper beer in London, and a portion of a curry (national meal of London) one night when he's over?

  17. I am _extremely_ glad you pointed out my 'dan' confusion! (I did wonder). Yes, it is that hideous word 'Great' - now misinterpreted, misused and abused - which is at the root of many of the problems, IMHO. One thing I can say with confidence: while some - perhaps many - Scots may be happy (even proud) to say they are 'British', I have never heard one refer to 'Great' Britain. Chronic genetic modesty, y'see. :)

  18. Post author

    Well, you've got me there Chris, I assume it was something about not wanting to be dependent on NSW for imports, maybe either worries about punitive harbour duties or else that there wouldn't be adequate communications with Sydney and the growth of Canberra might be hampered. Though technically I see it's not now a part of ACT but its own territory.

    I know what you mean Jack, I'd be too embarrassed to call it Great Britain too! Seems anachronistic not to mention boastful. I suppose it could be passed off as post-modern/post-imperial irony these days, though ...

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