Monday, October 30, 2006

"...and suddenly it's the weekend, break of day and stalls line Portobello Road right up to Notting Hill Gate." -William, Notting Hill

Thank goodness for weekends and their re-charging capabilities. But first was Friday, which was end of month work party day, which meant I ran around like a chicken with it's head cut off all day. It wasn't a bad day, just a busy day. But at least at the party I was able to wind down with free "vodka jellies" as they call them here, fully formed and not in ice cube trays! (You know who you are that this applies to, and I implicate myself as well.) The party was Halloween-themed, and here I thought one of the best parts of being away from America was no Halloween pressure! Wrong! But I did not dress up, not technically anyway, though I wore a new dress I just bought so I said I went as a girl who wanted to wear her new dress. I've discovered over the past few years that I don't really care for Halloween. Both times I did the whole Franklin Street thing I spent way too much money on a costume, was entirely too cold, and had my butt grabbed by way too many sketchy drunk dudes. If you aren't getting loads of free candy in a plastic pumpkin, I just don't see the point.

Saturday I got up earlyish to head for Portobello Road. But first, I turned on the television to see if I could find a weather report, but instead was greeted with the glorious sight of "Friends"! My first episode in nearly two months! It was the Pottery Barn one, an instant classic! Luckily for the sake of my Saturday plans, there was only one episode, so I set off for Notting Hill on a perfect fall day. I have been incredibly blessed with the weather thus far, and have not had any of my Saturday plans affected because of it. (Knock on wood.) I made it to Portobello Road and spent more than an hour walking from one end to the next, taking in everything. I've decided that if you can't find it at Portobello Road, than it simply doesn't exist. Telescopes, magnifying glasses, brooches, "period" costume jewelery for £5, what period I'm not sure, though it was probably bought the day before at Top Shop, "authentic" British officer jackets, Persian carpets...and that was just in the antiques section. Followed by fruit, cheese, bread, and crepes. Vintage jackets, punk t-shirts and boots, feather boas, and tacky souvenirs. I put my iPod away, and just listened to everything going on around me. Stall keepers yelling down the row at each other, one singing in a thick Cockney accent, another hawking her peaches so enthusiastically I wanted to buy some, despite the fact I don't like peaches. It was relaxing to just take my time, bought a few things but that wasn't my main goal, and just really glad I got to enjoy another piece of London. I also had my first crepe in months, for lunch. Chocolate and strawberries. I figured the strawberries helped make up for the fact that I was having a crepe for lunch.

After Portobello Road I set off for Hammersmith, where I had heard there was some good shopping. I bought a wallet at T.K. Maxx, not as cool as my other one but still nice, and then discovered the best store thus far: Primark. The cheapest clothing and accessories I've yet to see here. I bought my winter coat, exactly what I wanted, for £20! That was £30 under my budget! (Don't go thinking though the Earth will implode because I was under budget. I more than made up for it with other purchases. Whew.) I bought a few sweaters, a purse, a necklace, and a few other things, all for good prices.

Saturday night I chilled inside, fell asleep pathetically early, and then woke up at 6:30 Sunday ready to go thanks to the time change and early bedtime. I managed to sleep for a bit longer, however. Then church, lunch at a great cheap pizza place on Goodge Street afterward. On the walk back I made the mistake of "browsing" in H and M. There is no such thing as "browsing" when it comes to me and H and M, however. I then set off to find an Internet cafe near me with laptop access, which I did find one near Paddington Station, so I spent an hour downloading stuff on iTunes, and lamenting the fact that I'm not sure how much longer poor Javier can last. He can't play a whole song on iTunes without skipping, and DVD watching is made very difficult with the constant stop and go. If he can just hold on until March I will be really grateful.

Now I'm just ready for this weekend, when Mom and Aunt LuAnn finally get here. I am really looking forward to showing them around London, having time off of work, and of course our trip to Scotland. Only a few more days. :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pictures from the Bloomsbury Festival now added!

This has been a long, frustrating week and I’m glad it’s nearly over. Hoping I can just make it to Friday where I will crash and not wake up for a long time. Or until Saturday morning when I hope to finally make it to Portobello Road and the market, which I haven’t been to this trip.

On the upside Mom and Aunt LuAnn will be here in a week, and the tickets for Scotland and to see “Sound of Music” are all booked!

I really don’t have anything else exciting to add. Been trying to get into the shows they have on BBC, but not much luck. They have a cheap knock-off version of ANTM with Rachel Hunter called “Make me a Supermodel” but it’s not half as good. There’s a trashy new soap called “Goldplated” that’s sort of like OC, but not. “Strictly Come Dancing” was alright, Baby Spice is on so that’s interesting to see her. And sadly the only American shows they seem to be playing right now are “CSI”, “The Simpsons”, and “Battlestar Gallatica.” But luckily for me this means I spend less time watching tv. And more time doing things and reading.

Speaking of reading, I have no one here to discuss books with so I’m including my mini-reviews of what I’ve read recently just because I can. Feel free to skip over. Not sure what my weekend plans are as of yet. Need to definitely buy a winter coat. I’ve tried on a ton but haven’t found just the right one. And I am definitely going to at least one museum, though I’ve been saying that the whole time. Happy almost-Friday everyone!

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
A beautiful book. The way she writes makes me wants to drop everything and write, and the way she talks about writing is exactly how I feel. It was of course a book tinged with sadness as it deals with her husband’s death and her daughter’s near-death illness, but it was touching without being overly emotional, and there was beauty in how she wrote about herself and her husband. I admire her way of writing because it was very stream of consciousness, a way I can not write, and reminded me a lot of Gloria Vanderbilt’s “A Mother’s Story,” another book about grief I found haunting and beautiful.

Saving Fish from Drowning – Amy Tan
She is a great story-teller, and there were a lot of pieces to her plot but they all came together very well without being confusing or annoying. And best of all it took place in Burma/Myanmar, a place I knew very little of, but know feel like I learned a lot about the culture and want to learn more. A book is good in my mind if I learn about a different culture and want to learn more.

The Third Brother – Nick McDonnell
I judged him too soon, and he is actually deserving of the fact that he’s written two books by 21. Though I haven’t read his first. And while it wouldn’t kill him to learn how to properly transition instead of cheating and making each new scene a new chapter, he writes well and is very creative and different. And while the book is not centered on 9/11, a pivotal scene takes place on the day, and he writes about being in the center of the chaos in New York, in a way I haven’t read before. I don’t know how he knows the details he does, or if they’re even true, but I think they are and it was fascinating to read that portion.

Everyone Worth Knowing – Lauren Weisberger
First, I love chick lit. If it is about rich, elitist New Yorkers, I buy it. If it’s about a small town girl who tries to make it in a big city, I read it. If it takes place in New York, Paris, or London, has anything to do with fashionistas or shopaholics, or has a pink, green, or purple cover, I grab it. But sadly, I think I have reached my chick lit peak. Ten pages into this book I knew who she was going to end up with, when she was going to have her breakdown, and who was going to be the secret villain. And I’m not saying this in a cocky “ooh I’m so smart” way. I’m saying this as someone who has, at least for now, reached the end of the chick lit genre, kind of like that commercial where the guy is surfing the Internet and he reaches the end, he’s seen it all. It is a sad sad day for me indeed.


The Lady and the Unicorn – Tracy Chevalier
This book was only ok. I loved “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and read it in one night, but this one just wasn’t as good. It may be because I had never heard of the art she wrote about, whereas I had always admired the pearl earring painting, I don’t know. It just wasn’t as entrancing. But at least I can say I now know how tapestries are made now.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The only way is jumping

Pictures will be added Tuesday 24/10/06.

While weekends are definitely made sweeter the more tiresome the week is, I really would appreciate them just as much without the loooong work weeks. Nothing bad or out of the ordinary happened, just long and tiring. I think I fell asleep at 9:30 two, possibly three nights this week. I have no idea how I used to stay up all night during college doing work, and still put in a full day of work and classes and hanging out the next day. And as I write this I realize that next month I will have been out of college for six months. Wow that just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Anyway, once again the TimeOut London web site gave me something to do this weekend. Without fail, everytime I check out the site I find something to do. This Saturday it was the Bloomsbury Festival, in, you guessed it, Bloomsbury. More specifically Brunswick Square, less than 100 yards from the Russell Square tube stop, and the neighborhood I stayed when I studied here. I love any excuse that brings me back to this area. As it was the first area of London I ever saw and explored on my own, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

I started off listening to a quartet perform on the main stage, Portico Quartet they were called. They played mellow music with no words. I am terrible at music instruments, but one guy had a cello, one a drum and cymbals, one a long gold brass instrument, and one some metal thing I named a goompa, after the villains in Super Mario Brothers. Yep. I then walked around some of the stalls they had set up, as well as what was billed as Bloomsbury’s first farmer’s market. I bought a cheap beaded bracelet and necklace set at the stalls, an infamous 1.50 Borough Market brownie, and then potatoes and tomatoes at the farmer’s market. I felt very grown up for some reason buying vegetables at a farmer’s market. And then kid-like as I marveled at the purple cauliflower. I would have bought some just because of the way it looked, but it would have been too pretty to eat.

I then made my way across the street to The Brunswick, for an “aerial performance.” The Brunswick is this concrete monstrosity that reminds me more than a little of Davie Hall. It has flats on the top and shops on the bottom. (“With condos on the top, whose rent keeps open our shop…” Sorry, “Rent” break.) Last summer when I was here it had nothing but the tiniest Boots ever, sketchy-looking flats, and temporarily housed my favorite sandwich shop. Now, however, it’s been transformed. It’s still a concrete mess, but is in the process of becoming “Bloomsbury’s high street.” There’s a giant Waitrose supermarket, a cinema, cd store, Superdrug, French Connection and some other higher-end shops, and of course a Starbucks. There are lots of benches in the open-air center and on this day performers and musicians.

Anyway, on one side were performers suspended from wires, doing some type of interpreative artistic dance. It began with a woman wearing angel wings on the very top. The site of this made a little boy behind me start screaming, and kind of scared me a bit too. It’s just surreal to look up and see an angel standing eight stories up on a roof. I’m used to seeing odd things in the city, but not angels on top of shopping centers. Other performers came out then, climbing on the sides and two went down the middle and “danced.” (By the end I swear they were just flailing.) It was interesting, if for no other reason than seeing people come out of the back doors of their flats and seeing people suspended in the air in front of them. I don’t know if they weren’t warned or what, but one lady looked especially intrigued/terrified.

The performance ended and I set off for lunch at my favorite pizza place from last time. For 3 you get a personal pizza and a soft drink, as long as you take it away. So I did just that, and ate it in the shade in Russell Square. Russell Square happens to have one of my favorite fountains ever, which is saying a lot as most of you know fountains are in my top five of favorite things ever. Well they would if I actually had a codified list, which I don’t. I’m anal but not that anal. Yet. Anyway, I like the fountain because there are no barriers, it’s just there, you can walk right up to it and through it. It just feels like a natural part of the landscape, like it springs from the ground, and it wants people to be near it, to enjoy it. It was the first fountain, and I still think the only fountain, I’ve seen in person like this.

After lunch I went back to the festival to join a free walking tour on the history of Bloomsbury. It had started raining by this point, and would continue off and on the rest of the day, but the tour was still enjoyable. It was led by a short, thin British woman, whose name I don’t know, but I named her Jane, because she just seemed like a Jane. She said things like “such a grand old boy” and “blight on our history” and I just found her very British.

But before the tour was officially underway, a short pause while I run into a low-lying tree branch that I swear appeared out of nowhere. I hit it so hard, and it was such a surprise, that after I ran into it, I looked up, saw the branch, and thought, “Hey, a branch, I should move.” Then I realized my teeth had rattled and my head was throbbing. Too late to duck. I think only two people saw me, actually that can’t be true, there were a lot of people behind me, but they did ask if I was ok while trying not to laugh. I wanted to be like, “It’s ok, laugh. Happens all the time.”

Although I must take the time to say this. Just like last time I traveled, I am not as clumsy in this time zone, on this continent, as I am at home. I know no one will believe this, but it’s true. While I occasionally trip on the uneven sidewalks, I barely run into things, never just fall out of nowhere, and I have not once fallen while running up and down the many stairs at work 10 or 15 times a day. And yes, I am knocking on every piece of wood right now and muttering “no jinx no jinx” under my breath.

Anyway, the tour was based on walking the boundaries of where the Foundling Hospital was in the 1600s, and looking at a map from 1769. It had its boring bits, I really didn’t need to know the history of stucco, but as “Jane” was constantly pointing out what original in the neighborhood, I really enjoyed. I literally get chills when seeing a plaque on the sidewalk that’s been there since 1730, or a doorway there since the 1800s, or the window to the room where Charles Dickens wrote “The Pickwick Papers,” even though I’m not even a huge Dickens fan. Jane clearly knew her history and had a love from her neighborhood that made the tour very nice.

I had planned on going to the Foundling Museum after the tour, but it had started to rain and I was tired and my back sore, so I sat at a Pret on Bernard street to read. I then went to Aldwych in search of a cheap store I had seen awhile ago, only to discover it was a “New Look” store on High Holborn. In other words, a store of which there are at least two of on Oxford Street, where I had just been on Friday. It of course was raining hard at this point and I was irritable, tired, and wet, so I cheated and took the tube home instead of walking, and made myself a good meal of a salad with my fresh tomatoes, chicken, and farmer’s market potatoes. The most well-balanced meal I’ve had in awhile.

Sunday was rainy and cold. Church, long lunch with people from church, to the library to stock up on books, and then back to the flat to read, drink tea, and watch BBC. We finally got our tv to get English-speaking channels, with an antenna that means everyone has an ever-present aura, but at least it’s in English. And I have been reading up a storm here, I think three books last week alone. It helps having nothing to do on reception at work. And it’s the best way to unwind after work too.

In general, I’d just like to say I’m happy here. I miss home, but I’m not homesick, I love it here, but still want to try other places. For once, I’m not restless. And it feels great. And Mom and Aunt LuAnn will be here in less than two weeks and I’m so excited I can barely stand it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Brighton pictures added to my webshots account - enjoy!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bonnie's Brighton Beach Memoirs

Brighton was a pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of London. I hadn’t realized how tiresome I was getting of the constant crowds, noise, and busyness until I got away from it for a bit. But it is good to be back.

The busride was uneventful. I got a window seat on the top deck, with an empty seat beside me to stretch out. I had the same luck on the ride back, only that time with no one in front of me so I was free to sit in my preferred way of scrunched down with my knees propped against the seat in front of me.

I liked Brighton, even in, according to my guide book, “it’s sea-side tackiness.” The pier was typical of beach-front piers, I suppose, but it seemed more old-fashioned to me for some reason. Detailed edging and embellishments, long lines of benches, and the free deck chairs along the railings. Right away we did as Jill suggested and bought “American style” doughnuts. 3 for £1.30 and worth every pence. Warm and sugary treats that melted in your mouth. The warm was especially important as it was overcast all day, and windy. After exploring the pier, and being disappointed that a go on the carousel would cost £2, we headed for the beach.

I had never been to a beach that wasn’t white sand, and I was enamored of the sheer quantity of the pebbles, and their smoothness. I liked that I sat on them for awhile before they became uncomfortable. And just as it used to intrigue me when I was younger, digging to no avail at Atlantic Beach to reach the bottom, the same was true of the pebble beach. Though pebbles are much harder to dig through than sand.

I decided to be brave and take off my socks and shoes and literally dip my feet into the other side of the pond. I honestly can’t remember if the water was really old or not, because as I was trying to take a picture of my feet in it, the water came whooshing up and soaked the bottom of my jeans. After that, however, the water was cold!

We then found a stand selling cheap fish and chips. As much as I want to be British and eat the fish, I just can’t. Even the smell makes me nauseous, so I opted for a hot dog and chips for the same price. But it was more like a sausage dog, only with an odd odor and taste, though I did eat the whole thing. There is something about paying double for all my food that makes me eat it all no matter how much I don’t want to.

It was then back to the pier for a bit, where I tried my hand at some dumb 2p game in the loud, but warm, gaming hall. Kids were trying desperately to win at the claw game, as fruitlessly here as it is back home, or at the game I tried, where you drop a coin and it falls onto a rack with other coins, hopefully to fall off the rack and onto the big pile, thus pushing the “riches” through the slot to you. It would take a lot of the 2p coins, however, to constitute riches.

On the way check out the shopping district, we stopped to gawk at the Royal Pavilion, a palace that looks like it was taken out of India and dropped in the south of England. I was really impressed with the structure, even though a good portion of it was under construction, and took lots of pictures. I didn’t go inside though. For some reason I’m not big on the inside of palaces, they always seem too cold and un-homey. Lots of gold and high backed chairs and tapestry just doesn’t scream “Come in, sit down, eat and relax.” More like, “Wipe your feet and don’t touch anything.” I much prefer a simple two-story grey house on a quiet street in the South if the latter was to ever be an option.

We then made it to the Lanes, a truly confusing series of streets of shops that transported me back to Venice, being crammed against other people, never seeing the same place twice, and of course, claustrophobia raging. I did however come across an “Ollie and Nic.” Last year I bought a pink Ollie and Nic wallet at a TJ Maxx in Salisbury for £10. I knew I was getting a good deal because it was real leather and oh so cute, but I didn’t realize just how good of a deal until I went in there store. Far too expensive for my taste. Ok, not my taste, but certainly my wallet.

After deciding most of the stores were too much for our wallet, and not really in the mood for browsing, we headed back to the seaside, bought some of Brighton’s famous rock candy, not at all the kind of rock candy I was expecting, which is good since I don’t like that kind, and then into some cute, and some tacky, shops. By the time my bus was leaving at 5 I was entirely too exhausted for the day, and glad to be headed back for London. The way back seemed to afford better English countryside scenery as well, including English sheep! I don’t know why, but I find something quintessentially British about green hills and sheep. But especially the sheep. I remember seeing them last year on the way to the Midlands and just exclaiming in my head, “English sheep! English sheep!” It may have something to do with the fact that two of the first, and everlasting impressions of the British countryside that I still refer back to are from “Three Men and a Little Lady” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, and I’m almost certain at least one of them had sheep in it.

I feel like I don’t even have to bother mentioning Sundays as it’s a pretty set routine. Church, lunch, relax. Although this Sunday Marissa and I did finally join the local library. The one in Marylebone is the closest, but also rather small. I still did check out two books, but I am refusing to read them until I have finished the last two of the six I bought here. Yes, believe it or not, I am actually going to read all the books I bought before moving on to others. I think that is unheard of for me! But after the library I read in Regent’s Park for a little, but despite the sun being out and blue skies, the wind was enough to drive me back to my flat where I settled on the couch for far too long with Amy Tan’s “Saving Fish from Drowning,” a really interesting, though different, read thus far.

I'm now at work, waiting for it to be my turn for my lunch, mad that I left my leftover spaghetti at home and will have to buy something. Monday, Monday...

Friday, October 13, 2006

TGIF and Carolina basketball

from a DTH article on tonite's "Late Night with Roy":

Senior guard Dewey Burke said fans will not be disappointed. "We're bringing sexy
back," he said.

I'd prefer they bring the national championship back. But oh well.

And how have I never heard of Dewey before?! I guess he's this year's Will Robinson, Karey.

I'm just now realizing that I'm going to miss basketball season this year. Both in the sense of actually not seeing/being there, and just really really missing it.

Happy Friday everyone and have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"There only words, they don't control us."

That subject line is brought to you, incorrect grammar and all, by my favorite Joey and yours, one Mr. Joe Wayne Churchwell III. I expected some repercussions for using "xenophobia" and "chastised" in my e-mail to him, and I guess that is what I get. I think it's a pretty profound statement though.

I am at work on reception and just booked my first out of London trip, to Brighton. I am going to spend the day there Saturday, so pray for good weather. It's supposed to be 66 with no rain until the evening, knock on wood. I'll be taking Megabus, which comes recommended by both Karey and BUNAC. And it only cost me £10. I love taking trains but since I haven't received my Young Person's Railcard yet, I'm holding off. So if you have been to Brighton and have some suggestions please throw them my way.

My week has been uneventful so far. I was supposed to go to church and have dinner with some of the young adults on Wednesday night, but got so caught up in the book I was reading I lost track of time. And given that I was sitting on a hard wooden chair in the noisy Starbucks in Borders on Oxford Street, it was a very good book! Thus I highly recommend "The Constant Gardener." It is upsetting to the extent that it explores the ugliest side of capitalism and corporate greed, and makes you really think. But it isn't gruesome.

But today was great because I finally got Mom's package! Signing for my own package at work is way better than signing for everyone elses. Nutter Butters, Halloween Peeps, "The Lake House" DVD, a pretty and soft glove/scarf/hat set, and best of all, GRITS! I am going to have them tonite for dinner alongside my fritod. I am on the anti-Atkins diet over here, but I am trying to supplement all the carbs with lots of tomatoes, spinach, and apples. If the roommate stops teasing me about them, I might let her have a taste. She also sent me my CDs with some saved "Daily Show" sketches, as I have been in serious Jon withdrawal.

Now I'll close with another gem from Joey. I hope you don't mind Joey, but as it made me laugh out loud, embarrassingly so, at work this morning, I thought I'd give others the chance. Oh and in case you don't know, he was in the police car because some dumb, Yankee, drunk repeat-offender bitch hit him. Not for stealing a stop sign or anything. :-)
"Well then the police showed up and I was asked to sit in the front seat of a cop car. I know what your thinking and yes I wanted to flip every damn switch in that car to see what they did. But being the responsible young adult I am I simply filled out my report and got out."
Responsible indeed.

Monday, October 9, 2006

I felt the earth, beneath my feet. Sat by the river and it made me complete.

PICTURES ADDED: Tuesday 10:52 AM GMT.

Saturday was a perfect autumn day. Sun shining, blue sky, minimal wind. Perfect light jacket, pashmina, and walking-tour weather. Thanks to the Time Out London web site I found a site that has self-guided walking tours, so I printed a few off and set out on the “Bright Lights and City Squares” one. My goal for the tours is to see different parts of London, which this one didn’t really do, but I liked it all the same. And I stopped at every place and wrote in my new Paperchase journal, so I have more details here than you probably need.

It started at Grosvenor Square, where the American Embassy is located, as well as the British memorial to victims of September 11. I took Brook Street to get there, a cute street with lots of brick townhomes and cute little gardens. There were also some high-end shops, like Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana. I also passed Claridge’s and Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. I don’t really remember hearing much about him in the states, but he’s in the paper here all the time. The actual embassy was not that impressive, I must say. It looks like a typical American office building, like it was taken out of D.C. and plopped in the center of London. But the gold eagle and American flag on top made me smile.

The 9/11 memorial garden was very nice. Strong, oak pillars, benches, flowers indigenous to U.S. and UK, as well as a steel girder from the towers. Enscribed at the top was: “Grief is the price we pay for love.” I find it very interesting the way different people choose to memorialize the dead, especially those lost to such tragic circumstances. It can be with a garden, a sign, a tower or an empty chair. I thought the garden was simple, but beautiful, and served its purposes well. And as a juxtaposition, not 100 yards away was a simple wooden bench, dedicated to someone’s lost love. And just beyond that, and the one that brought tears to my eyes the quickest, a bench for someone’s dog: “Puff De La Rue, missed by his many friends in this square. A faithful dog with the heart of a lion.” I think when all is said and done, I’d be happy with a bench.

After the Square, and taking pictures of the monuments to FDR and Eisenhower, I went to Hanover Square and St. George’s Church. The square itself was un-impressive, but the church was nice and located on a busy street, just blending in. It’s where, among other dignitaries, Benjamin Disraeli and Theodore Roosevelt were married. This is one of the reasons I love London so much. For someone as fascinated and enamored with history as me, I love that every building, every street, has some basis in the past, some connection. And it’s not a reliance on or glorificiation of history, it’s just history. Roots are everywhere and I love that.

I then took a detour on my way to St. Martin-in-the-Field to the Waterstone’s in Piccadilly, the self-proclaimed largest bookstore in the world. Five floors, one of which has a bar, which I don’t really agree with since I think books are quite sacred. I made the mistake of looking around, and after stumbling upon a book I really really wanted, got sucked in to the 3 for 2 yet again. I am discovering that while I don’t allow myself to go in clothing stores when I’m on a budget, because I know I won’t be able to resist, I am also going to have to do the same for bookstores. I ended up purchasing these three: "A Human Being Died that Night: Forgiving Apartheid’s Chief Killer" by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela; "The Constant Gardner" by John le Carre I think; and "The Third Brother" by Nick McDonnell. I am very dubious of this last one, written by the 21-year-old Harvard wonder-child. It is less than 200 pages but has more than 100 chapters. But it’s about a journalist and I couldn’t resist. I finished the book on the Apartheid killer, which was really good. It had a lot more psychological analysis than I expected, but was incredibly interesting.

I had to walk down New Bond Street to get to Piccadilly. Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Donna Karan, Bvlgari, and of course, Burberry and Tiffany’s. I saw three people carrying the iconic blue/green Tiffany’s bags. Two were large and one was small. I was much more intrigued by the smaller bag. I’ve decided to officially add to my life’s to do list to go in to Tiffany’s and ask for a silver telephone dial. I am sure I will not be the first.

I then walked past Trafalgar Square. Or, as I like to call it HELL. The birds were in full force today. There must have been 200, all congregating on one point because stupid moronic people were feeding them. The freaking birds can’t even walk they are so fat, they just waddle from one person to the next with their beady eyes and fat chests. Though I did appreciate one tourist singing “Feed the Birds” under her breath. The only highlight of the approximate 3 seconds it took me to get to the other side.

I went past the church, and then on to the National Portrait Gallery. This was one of my favorite galleries the last time I was here, and not just because it’s where I saw Natalie Portman. But I don’t know if it’s because the exhibits had changed, or really there were just too many people, I didn’t stay long. I got lunch at Pret though and people-watched, and also bus-watched as a very-nearly Carolina blue double decker bus drove by, which made me smile, of course

I then headed to Leicester Square, which believe it or not, I had never been too. It’s in the heart of “Theatreland” so I’ve been all around it, but never to the actual square. It was madness, of course. I took a few pictures, wondered around, gave the evil eye to some bratty child who kept chasing after and kicking the pigeons, causing them to fly at me. All of course while the enabling parents just laughed. Ugh.

Next was Covent Garden, my first visit this trip. I never find anything I want to buy here, other than crepes, but it’s one of my favorite places. I feel like so many aspects of London converge here. There’s always a lot of people, but I don’t usually get angry and pushy here, don’t usually want to run in the opposite direction like I do on Oxford Street and such. I sat and watched some of the performers, even though some of them freak me out. But it got windy so I moved on. At this point I kind of abandoned the tour. I did walk past the Royal Opera House, which was pretty, and wondered through Holborn a bit. I ended up at a CafĂ© Nero on Oxford Street and read for a little, before making the long walk back home, interrupted as I bought my first two pashminas of the trip. I walked a lot, saw a lot, and in general had a just a really great day. I realize more and more how much I love this city, how it’s not just one thing, it’s just a feeling I get when I’m here that I can’t describe. And today just re-inforced that.

Sunday was much more relaxed, that seems to be the trend and I like it. Church, lunch with some of the young adults from the church, and then chilling the rest of the day with some internet time, reading, and such. For 5 pounds I bought a zippered sweater thing that says “London England” on the front. It’s horribly tacky and touristy but it’s really soft and makes me happy. I left my two favorite hoodies at home due to space constraints and I really needed something warm and soft to curl up in at the end of the day. So tacky or not, it was just 5 pounds and it makes me feel good.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Q&A

Stepping onto my soapbox for just a moment. I made the decision when I started this blog to try and leave my thoughts on anything that came up in politics and the news out of it. I’m not sure why, since it is my blog and that is a huge part of who I am, but I did. But I just have to say that if you get the chance, everyone needs to watch CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 at least once over the course of the next week. He and a team at CNN are in Africa covering two of the biggest humanitarian crises happening right now, in Darfur and the Congo. No other news channel is doing what they are doing and everyone needs to tune in, even though it’s upsetting, and hear the stories they have to tell. From Anderson’s blog:

“So many people in the Congo and Sudan have already lost their lives; so many more lives hang in the balance. There are few things worse than dying in silence, too many already have.”
So if you get the chance, it’s on from 10 – 12 p.m., re-runs at 1 a.m., I think it will be worth your while. Ok, off my soapbox. For now.

Now, responding to the questions I got a few weeks ago.

Q: How are your flatmates? -Brandie
My flatmates are really nice. They are all Italian, two girls and then one guy. The two girls went to school together in Italy, and at least one is from Sardinia. The guy is from Milan. They didn’t know each other until moving here, but eat dinner together every night, which I think is cute. And they are amazing cooks! Especially one of the girls, the smells are wonderful. When we first met the guy and he asked us where we were from, as soon as I said North Carolina he smiled really big and said, “Oh, Michael Jordan!” I thought it was cute. And something that I find really funny, and reminds me of home, is the fact that he’s always on me to put socks on. I’ve had a bad cough the past two weeks, and he always points at my bare feet and shakes his head. It’s hilarious because my entire life Daddy would never let me and Melissa and Joey walk around without socks on inside, and shoes on outside. I’m convinced now that it’s an Italian thing.

Q: Have we had any royal sightings? -Amee
No, as of yet, which is unfortunate. But supposedly a guy at work saw both princes at the Burger King near our work on a Saturday. Apparently all the girls were going crazy, which I mean, how often do you see two princes in a Burger King? Almost never! I would probably just die on the spot.

Q: How’s the weather been? Have you been watching much TV? -Jill
The weather here has been really nice, up until this week. I was expecting it to be already cold when I got here, so to have it in the 70s every day was surprising and nice. Unfortunately, I brought pretty much no summery clothes and one skirt, so I’ve been re-wearing a lot of the same stuff, but it’s worth it to have pleasant weather. It has also rained very little, which has been nice simply because I walk so much, especially to and from work. But it’s beginning to get cooler, getting darker earlier, so I feel like fall/winter is right around the corner. This week it hasn't made it to the 70s, and there's been more rain. I'm hoping we get just a few more warmer days before the cold sets in for good. I’m currently hunting for a good winter jacket, and praying I can make it through the winter.

I haven't been able to watch TV because the one in our flat isn’t hooked up to get BBC, and the satellite channels are all in Italian. Except for the MTV, which is MTV-Austria, so everything is either in German, or in English with German sub-titles. So I’ve seen one episode of “My Super Sweet 16” with the German sub-titles, way too many dating-show episodes, and one documentary on Tupac that was dubbed in German so I pretty much only understood the occasional rapper’s name. “German german german Ice-T.” Our landlord is in the process of fixing it, so he says, I will be reminding him yet again because it would be nice to unwind after work with some good or trashy British TV.

Q: Have you met any blokes? Are the people there as rude to receptionists as they are here? – Angela
I haven’t really met any guys here, which is to be expected because I never do. But I’m really just interested in meeting different people and making friends, finding someone to share my glasses with will have to wait for now. ;-)

It’s hard to say really if people are nicer to receptionists simply because when they call me all I have to do is transfer them to someone else, I don’t have to tell them that I really don’t care if they don’t have hot water, that I don’t know when their door is going to get fixed, or that of course they’re going to have spiders, they live in the woods. Though the day our phone system was down and I couldn’t transfer anyone, one guy did get rather impatient and rude. When he called back for the third time, and I told him that our phones were still down, he snapped, “That’s what you keep saying!,” which made me flashback to angry tenants who didn’t believe that maintenance was on their way. But at least it’s all done with a British accent, so that softens the blow a bit.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Everybody's working for the weekend

My weekend was fairly relaxing, but not boring. I got up Saturday to do a few errands and, after Mom demanded it, spend a little money frivolousy. So I went to Dorothy Perkins, where the already cheaply priced store was having a sale, and bought two headbands and a shirt. Later I would spend a little more frivoulousy and buy three books at Border’s for the price of two. I am a crazy woman!

So after the brief shopping excursion, I headed to Canary Wharf to walk around a bit. I wasn’t that impressed, it was quite Americanized I thought, complete with a mall, but I took a few pictures and then took the DLR to Greenwich. The plan was to meet up with some of the young adults from church, but it turned out to just be me and the associate pastor. I really appreciated him coming along and not cancelling because it was just me, and it was good to just talk to someone one-on-one. I really liked Greenwich, it’s a quaint little area that doesn’t really feel like you’re even in London. We walked past massive maritime museum, and through what used to be one of the Queen’s houses, and headed up the steep hill to the observatory where I stood on the Prime Meridian. I was surprised to enter the observatory gates and have it right there, just out in the open. I don’t know if I expected it to be under glass or armored guards or what. But it was nice to see and stand on something I used to study about in school.

We then made our way through the exhibits, lots and lots of clocks, all set to Greenwich time of course, which my watch was almost in sync with. It was a good outing though and the view of London from the observatory was beautiful. I could see the rainclouds rolling in, and the city looked so small and un-intimidating, it was nice. I remember thinking the same thing last year when I saw London from the Eye. It wasn’t like standing at the top of the Empire State Building and feeling dwarfed and overwhelmed by the city below, it just felt good.

After Greenwich I headed to Oxford Street and Borders, where I spent close to an hour deciding on what three books I wanted. I finally decided on “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire, “Saving Fish from Drowning” by Amy Tan, and “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion. I’m working on “Wicked” right now, which is different from the musical, a bit heavier, but I like it. My goal was to read 50 books this year, but as this is only my 23rd I’m not sure I’ll make it. But it’s still nice to try.

Sunday I got up for church, it was rainy and cold but nice to get out. After church, while walking back home down Tottenham Court Road, I came across what may be one of the most wonderfully perfect stores ever made: Paperchase. A whole store full of journals, notebooks, pens, pencils, calendars, planners, and other little stationary supplies. Yes, in case you didn’t realize it before, I’m a dork, but those kinds of things make me happy and it is about the simple things in life after all. I consider it a testament to my strong will, or my incredibly picky nature, especially when it comes to journals, that I left the store with only one journal, one pen, and one pencil. And I really needed all three things, honestly. I seriously can’t wait to have an excuse to go back. So if anyone wants a journal, I will gladly pick one out for you. I mean you’ll have to pay me of course, but it will be worth it, promise.

So after settling on a new journal to use for the remainder of the year, and picking up some hummus and pita bread, I got caught in the cold, hard rain heading back to my flat. It was windy and just miserable, plus I was wearing a skirt and no-traction flats, so once I finally made it back to my flat, after wrestling with my inside-out umbrella several times, I settled in for the day with my book, blanket, and newly heated room. (Newly heated because we just turned the radiators on. Cozy is the word of the day.)

Even though Marissa and I weren’t able to continue our Sunday tradition of relaxing in Hyde Park, I had a good, productive, and relaxing weekend. As it is getting colder, this weekend I probably will head out to a museum. There is a Da Vinci exhibit at Victoria and Albert, and a Rodin exhibit at the Royal Academy I may check out. There is also an exhibit at one museum full of Tiffany jewels I really want to check out, so we’ll see what happens.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Pictures!

I have finally uploaded the scant pictures I have so far. I don't feel like figuring out how to upload them on here so I've just created another webshots account for them. I'll just upload anything I take there and post a note here when I do. More pictures of the rest of the flat coming later, as I realize I don't have very many.

Link:
http://community.webshots.com/user/learningtofly84