Monday, December 18, 2006
Our work Christmas party was quite good. And interesting. I had a great time, talked to a lot of people, and just had a fun, relaxing time. I learned that me and a white sweater attracts red whine like a moth to a flame, as well as exactly how much wine it takes to make me dance. But other than a few harmless phone calls to good friends the evening was stupidity-free. And a lot of fun.
Saturday I took a three-hour walk through Hyde Park – with a short pit-stop on the Queensway side for some Starbucks. I saw an absurd number of attractive men pushing baby carriages, and an equally absurd number of over-dressed-for-the-park women with their yappy not-a-dogs with names like “Carly” and “Baby.” And at one point a group of soldiers of some kind, in full uniform and in perfect formation, marched through singing in Latin. Combined with the cool air and falling leaves, it was like a scene from a movie. Unfortunatley there was almost a repeat of another scene from a movie when I went around the Big Pond, against my better judgment, and had to fend off pigeons, swans, ducks, and seagulls. Ya’ll don’t know how close you were to losing me – I honestly thought my heart was just going to stop beating from fear. But I kept my eyes on the prize – Starbucks – and made it through.
Sunday I made a trip to Harrods as a favor for Mom, and was happy to have information point me exactly where I needed to be and to not have to wait in a long queue once I was there. I then made the mistake of wandering into the toy area. Screaming, running, bratty kids running all over the place. Shouldn’t they be left at home so the parents can shop for them and surprise them? Ugh. I wasn’t very impressed with the toy section anyway. Only about five Barbies and their other doll section was equally pitiful. The board game selection was nice, but we already have them all, and it seemed like too much of the department was devoted to magic tricks, which I’m just not into.
After a great lunch of a hot bagel sandwich, I went to the Victoria and Albert museum. It is a massive museum full of every kind of artifact from every period you can think of. They say they are grouped by region and era, but sometimes I really don’t believe them. I think there are five floors, but honestly, I’ve never made it past the second. And Sunday I didn’t make it past the fashion exhibit on the first floor. I spent an hour looking at all the dresses and suits from different eras. They had a new exhibit on 60s London fashion which was wonderful, and even a display on women’s lingerie. But the highlight was seeing this, in person, up close, for real.
Yes, my favorite Diana dress, was there. And it’s just as stunning in person as one would think.
I then glanced around the shop, of course, and on my way out ran into my associate pastor. This is the second time in London I’ve run into someone I know just while out and about and it makes me smile for a long time afterward. It’s such a big city, and since I don’t know that many people, it makes it feel smaller when something like this happens. I remember when I first started at Carolina, thinking that the place was too big and that I could never imagine seeing anyone I’d know just while walking around. Ha. I was lucky if I could go one day without seeing someone I knew. But in London it's still such a rare occurrence I don't mind it too much...yet.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
“Maybe ‘extremely lucky’ are the most appropriate words of the evening. But he can’t have them. They don’t apply to him. They apply to us.” - AL
Let’s see, nothing too exciting to report. I haven’t done much the past few weeks or weekends, unfortunately. I am in the process of getting sick and tried to sleep it away this weekend – to no avail. And I am so tired after work that I can’t even manage to drag myself to the theatre – now you know exactly how exhausted I’ve been!
But enough complaining. It’s December and I’m in London! The lights have all been switched on and the store windows are decked out. The windows at Selfridge’s are my favorites, and I catch something different each time I walk by. To be honest, I am not overly impressed with Oxford Street’s lights, but they do have big chandelier type lights every few rows and if you weren’t already aware, chandeliers rank right up there with fountains in my book. The night they turned the lights on on New Bond Street, they had a snow machine, so as I walked down Oxford bits of “snow” hit my face. I think I smiled all the way home. I went to Covent Garden this weekend – one of my favorite places in London – and got to hear the cast of “Sweet Charity” sing a Christmas carol, and also got to gaze at the truly hideous Covent Garden Christmas tree. It’s like gnomes decorated it – the lights are only at the bottom, and there are probably less than 10 star ornaments on it, all placed haphazardly. By gnomes.
I am still having trouble realizing that Christmas is so close. I get like this every year I suppose. It never felt like Christmas until after finals were over, until after I was home, so I’m assuming it will be the same thing this year. But I am nearly finished with my Christmas shopping, just a few things to pick up once I’m back home. But at least I stuck to a budget this year – gasp! But don’t be alarmed, I keep buying myself random things to make up for it.
Our work Christmas party is this week. It’s my first Christmas party as an adultish person and I’m excited. It should be interesting to say the least. Starts at 2 p.m. and moves to a pub at 4 p.m. that doesn’t close until midnite. And it’s free alcohol. Did I mention it will be interesting?
In the meantime, I'm counting down the days until I'm back in the land of biscuits that aren't cookies, with TVs showing Carolina basketball and NFL games, with all my friends in the same time zone, where I can walk around my house with my eyes closed and never get lost.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
"We were selfless representing that name on the front of the jersey. We lost ourselves in the game." (Wayne Ellington)
First, big news: I’ll be home for Christmas! I booked a flight this week and will be back in my precious state of North Carolina from Dec. 22 to 29. This wasn’t the plan, but it was the right thing to do. For some insane reason, I had been foolishly thinking that it would prove that I could be on my own, be an adult, if I could do Christmas on my own. No no no no. I need my Mom and Dad and sister and brother! I need homemade rolls and wedding soup. I need Christmas ornaments and our village. I need to be there when we go see lights on Christmas Eve, when we light candles in the living room and open pajamas. I need to be there when we look for our stockings and whine because Daddy hid them too well. Need to fight over present order, going youngest to oldest, oldest to youngest, or maybe even starting in the middle. We do the same things, year after year after year, and I thought that would make it easier, knowing that what I missed this year I’d be back for next year. No. It’s too special of a time in my family and I realize that wherever I go and whatever I do, I may be an adultish person, but I will always be home for Christmas.
Was wonderful. I constantly had to stop and think to myself, “Wow, you are in Scotland. Scotland!” Edinburgh is a beautiful city. It’s old, old in a different way than how London is old. London is a potpourri of different historical eras and architectural phases, while Edinburgh just blends together so well. We took a bus tour on our first day in order to see as much of the city as possible, and see it as a whole. It’s a city, but yet so different from London. Quieter, less hustle and bustle. But it’s city street set-up may be even more confusing than London’s! Quite literally a city on top of a city, I’m glad we didn’t have to navigate too much of it ourselves!
While in Edinburgh we were able to meet up with a friend of mine from UNC studying there, Amy. We had dinner at “The Elephant House,” a really cute café where J.K. Rowling supposedly wrote some of the first Harry Potter. Amy told us about life in Edinburgh, how going to school there differs from UNC, and then showed us some of the city at night. It was great to see a friend and to talk about Tar Heel basketball and missing UNC with someone else.
The next two days were spent on day tours in the Highlands through the amazing tour company Haggis. Already all the details of everything we did is getting a little hazy, and until I force myself to sit down and go over all my pictures and the tour brochures, this very short account will have to do. (And it really doesn’t do Scotland justice!) But I will say that the Highlands, even in winter, afford some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. I was completely over-whelmed by nature in the best possible sense, feeling completely insignificant, again, in a good way. We went to Stirling and saw the William Wallace monument – the largest monument in Europe not built for Jesus. We learned, both days, about the inaccuracies in “Braveheart.” We drove through Rob Roy territority, along lochs, and twisty mountain roads. We saw the castle where they filmed scenes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” We saw the oldest tree on Earth, Scottish sheep, and learned that, according to our second tour guide Ped, the Scots invented just about everything you can think of. My favorite Scottish invention tidbit? The gun that fired the first shot of the American Revolution, the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord, well, the gun was made in Scotland. So it was, quite literally, the shot heard round the world. We took a boat cruise on Loch Ness in search of Nessie – and have video to prove we saw her! Loch Ness! Something I’ve read stories about, seen emblazoned on those tacky supermarket tabloids, and I was on it! We learned about the depths and passion of Scottish pride, and that English reserve doesn’t really apply to the Scots.
It was a wonderful trip and I am very glad I was able to share it with Mom and Aunt LuAnn.
I have settled into my job-change, and rather like it. I only miss working reception because I miss the internet access. But I don’t mind doing the “bitch” job every day, and I’ve been able to make my own routine and do things more how I like them. Tuesday I felt like a real adult as I put on my first work birthday partyish. (It wasn’t really a party.) But really, it's all good.
Two days after Mom and Aunt LuAnn left Ashley came! To say I was happy to see her was an under-statement. I truly miss talking to my friends, having people I have so much in common with around me, having people who know me so well. Just sitting and talking with her at Café Nero on the first day, early in the morning after her flight got in, could easily have been enough for me. But luckily we had a whole week for even more fun and talking! We walked around London, rode the terrifying slides at the Tate Modern, and just had a great week.
We took a day trip to the, to steal Ashley’s word, “lovely,” quintessentially British town of Bath. It was rainy and a bit dreary and cold at times, but was still a great day. Houses were built up on a hill that reminded Ashley of Salzburg and me of the French Riviera – just with less sun. We walked through a gorgeous park where the leaves were changing, and around gorgeous buildings, some shaped in a circular way, and others built like houses in San Fransisco – close together and appearing to be on a slant. We took a tour of the Roman Baths. A fascinating place full, absolutely full, of history. We got close to the baths – you aren’t allowed in them – and could feel the steam from them. I was entranced by display cases of items found in the baths – coins, hair pins, wishes etched on metal, and so much more. They had stone blocks where one could see the symbol of the masons engraved on the side. And they even had the orginial drainage pipe! A thousand-plus years old! I could go on and on about how authentic and old everything was. Many of you know how much I HATE going to historical places and have them tell me how something might have looked, or how they may have slept in this room, or even worse, have replica furnishings and buildings. Ugh! I want my 1754 wood from Richmond and 12th century Westminster Hall! We then warmed up with a cup of tea at the charmingly named café, “The Boston Tea Party.” Even though it was clearly a dig at silly Revolutionary Americans, it was good tea. (Gasp! Traitor! Or, considering my previous rant, just a really big history dork.) All in all it was a wonderful day with one of my favorite travel buddies.
I have to be honest, Thanksgiving day was quite miserable for me. I don’t even really care for Thanksgiving that much, but it’s still a holiday I’m used to spending with my family, and to not be with them and to be at work – gasp – on a holiday obviously not celebrated over here, was much harder than I expected. But I came home after work to a package from Melissa, full of Thanksgiving-type goodies – stuffing and pumpking gnoche, plus hot chocolate, grits, and a slinky! The package brightened me up for sure. And of course having Ashley here helped brighten me up as well. We went to a pub and had nachos and drinks, and then came back to my flat to drink a bit and sing a long to the Beastie Boys and take silly pictures. It wasn’t a conventional Thanksgiving, but it was nice.
Saturday it was off to Cambridge, after we spent the morning at Portobello Road. We left a cold and rainy London, and traded it for a wet and cool Cambridge. It was a bit overcast, but it ended up still being a beautiful day. Ashley and I have both been to Oxford and were eager to see which we liked better. I think Ashley liked Cambridge better, but it’s hard for me to say. I feel like I saw more of Cambridge than I did Oxford, but at Oxford I went on a student-led tour and feel like I learned more about their university experience. And, I’ll be honest, as beautiful as both were, and they both were, it just can’t compare to that other university that has completely captured my heart. Still, we were able to go inside the courtyards of several of the colleges, my favorite being King’s College, with it’s lush green lawn, wood bridges over the river, and big, important looking buildings. I don’t see how anyone could possibly not feel smarter studying there, how anyone could possibly procrastinate or not want to do well. (Ha, I’m now thinking though that even the beautiful scenery would be no match for my mad procrastination skills. Still sure they have access to YouTube and Facebook. And AIM.) I am still perplexed, however, at both Oxford and Cambridge, at how they don’t like people to walk on the grass. I know I should quit comparing them to my college experience, but where are you supposed to go on the first day of Spring when you skip class? Watch boys who really should put their shirts back on play Frisbee? Or my favorite, wince everytime you see a dog lift it’s leg over a tree that has been there longer than any of us can imagine? Anyway, we walked around the city, a city by the way dominated by cyclists, stopped at a market in the city centre and wondered in shops. We had tea and cake at “Aunties Tea Shop,” and enjoyed a day out of London.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Scotland was absolutely stunning. It was cold, rainy, and windy, but hardly mattered as the scenery was so beautiful. More details and hopefully pictures coming later this week.
My job has changed at work, however, so I will no longer be on reception, which means no internet time. This is going to affect my blogging and picture-posting for a time until I figure something out. But don't worry, I will figure something out.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Saturday, of all days, I slept past 9 a.m. for the first time since being in London, and was woken by a phone call from Mom to tell me they were about to board the Gatwick Express. I get to Victoria shortly after they did, though they like to tell it like they were waiting for hours. But, needless to say, I was very happy and excited to finally have them here! After dropping the luggage off at my flat, we set right off before the jet-lag could really hit them. We had lunch at a Pizza Express on Marylebone, then went to Oxford Street and Hyde Park. We walked a lot and saw a lot and it was a good first sight-seeing day.
Sunday we went to church, then had "lunch" at Starbucks. While it's not exactly the same as my caramel apple cider, their caramel hot chocolate is good as well. We stopped at a few shops on Regent Street, including the famous Hamleys toystore. Even though I am "adultish", Mom bought me a Paddington Bear, which has made me dorkily happy. Afterward we headed for Westminster, or as I like to call it, "real London." Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Thames, the Eye and so on. We went up in the Eye and the view was even more spectactular this time than the first time I went up. Aunt LuAnn didn't care for it too much once we got to the top, but I think we all still enjoyed the experience. Afterward we took a short river cruise on the Thames. Just a 20 minute ride to get us from the Eye to Tower Bridge. But the sun was setting and it was a beautiful backdrop for the city and all the amazing buildings along the river. Tower Bridge is just stunning at night and it was a great way to see it. A long day was capped off a truly British restaurant in Piccadilly Circus - Planet Hollywood. Yes, we all crossed an ocean to eat at Planet Hollywood. But I had never eaten at one before and I got chicken fingers for the first time in more than two months so I was happy!
Monday was busy as well, of course. First thing was Abbey Road. It was awesome to be able to see it with Mom and we all crossed and took pictures. Sadly they've taken down the sign on the sidwalk that says "Abbey Road" and has lots of signatures on it, but it was nice all the same. We then set off for Buckingham Palace, but first a stop at Green Park for another Starbucks brunch. I've had more Starbucks this week than I have all year! Unfortunately "Liz" wasn't at home to invite us in for tea, so Mom thinks we should try and catch her this weekend up at Balmoral. Next was Trafalgar Square and the National Portrait Gallery. All the fountains were on so that somewhat lessened my desire to kick all the pigeons, but only somewhat. Next was Kensington Palace. We went inside and I'm glad we did because it was really lovely and interesting. They had the apartment where Princess Margaret lived open to the public, and that was really neat to walk where she had walked and see her bedroom and such. There was also a display of photographs of Princess Diana and several of her dresses. We got to see the dress she wore to the White House and danced with John Travolta in, and that just took my breath away. I'm not usually a huge fan of palaces but this one was real, not overly opulent or cold. I could live at this one, easily. After the Palace we took the long walk to Knightsbridge to Harrods, by far the most extravagant and nearly over-the-top department store I've ever been in. As has become our custom, we went to the Christmas shop for tree ornaments, and later spent ten minutes trying to exit the massive store. We ended yet another long day at an Italian place called "La Dolce Vita." Love the name and the food.
Now you can see why I, and they, are exhausted! But we are all having a great time and it's been nice showing them London and hopefully they can understand more why I love it so much. Last night we saw "The Sound of Music" and it was amazing. The sets were beautiful, the leads and chldren had great voices and were great actors, and it all came together very nicely, very much like the film. Longer review later, along with Spamalot, promise. But this is entirely too long and I'm tired all over again just writing! Tomorrow we leave for Scotland so I probably won't be writing again until Monday. And will post pictures then as well. Thanks if you made it this far!
Friday, November 03, 2006
Less than 24 hours until I get to see Mom and Aunt LuAnn!! There are honestly no words as to how excited I am. A brief rundown of our itinerary:
Saturday: they arrive
Sunday - Monday: we explore London together
Tuesday - Wednesday: they explore while I work
Thursday - Sunday: Scotland!!! One day in Edinburgh and two day-trips throughout Scotland
Monday - Thursday: Mom and LuAnn in Paris
Friday: We won't talk about that Friday. But at least Ashley comes two days after that!
Ok, will review "Spamalot" next week. But in short: amazing! funny! totally worth the hype! Have great weekends!
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Today's post title comes from an e-mail from Karey. Better watch out what you e-mail me because you never know where it might show up. :-) Oh, and yes Karey, I am very very proud.
Now for a series of completely un-related thoughts.
- It's cold today. First day I had to wear a hat and gloves in addition to my pashmina and coat. But at least it wasn't windy...yet. But apparently we are going to be getting "Arctic winds" for the next few days. Oh joy.
- Basketball starts tonite!!!!!!!!
- Speaking of UNC, the number of people I've seen over here wearing UNC hoodies: 3. The number of guys who I'm pretty sure thought I was hitting on them because I grinned when I saw what they were wearing: 1. I quickly walked away while shaking my head. Oops. Can't help that I liked his shirt and not him.
- I have noticed my accent getting stronger over here. As in my Southern accent, not a British one. Maybe it's because I'm perpetually exhausted and that always leads to more of a drawl as I don't have the energy to make words the proper two syllables instead of six. Or maybe it's because on my reception days I say things like "ring him on his mobile" or have started saying "France" like "Frahnce" and "Grant" like "Grahnt" and I am trying to compensate. Either way, there appears to be no danger of me losing what little bit of an accent I have while over here.
- Tonite I am going to see the play "Spamalot." I've never seen anything Monty Python, but because it was such a hit on Broadway, is getting rave reviews over here, and is advertised as one of the funniest shows in years, I decided to give it a shot. Tim Curry is one of the stars and I think it will be cool to see him. Right now I'm reading all about Monty Python on Wikipedia so I don't go blindly into the show. I'm a little worried I won't get the jokes because I don't know anything about anything, but we'll see. Will review here later of course.
I think that's it for now. I ran around like a crazy person at work on Tuesday, barely sat down for five minutes all day, which meant I crashed at about 9:30, only to wake up at 11:30 unable to go back to sleep. Today is reception day, so I get a chance to rest and maybe even respond to all the e-mails I can't seem to get to. I have hit another e-mail rut unfortunately so if you are waiting to hear back from me you aren't the only one and it's nothing personal!
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
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
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
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
Monday, October 16, 2006
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
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
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 09, 2006
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 Café 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.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
“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 03, 2006
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 02, 2006
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Another week gone by. Next week I’ll have been here a month, which just seems unbelievable as it has flown by.
Work was good this week. I really feel like I know what I’m doing and so far I’ve been keeping busy, lots of stuff to do, multi-tasking. It can be stressful but it’s what I like for the most part. I still have moments of “what am I doing here” and “what was I thinking," but it's only temporary, and it was my decision, after all.
Of course, this was before a client asked for chamomile tea, which I said we didn't have, he then haughtily informed me that any herbal tea is chamomile. First, is it really? Because I was under the impression that chamomile was a specific kind of tea. But I mean, could he think for a second that I’m an American, tea is much less of an integral part of our culture than it is here, so maybe consider that I’m trying to learn your customs, and cut me some slack. I mean, I very well could have said something like, “This is the reason we threw your tea in the harbor, bitch.” But I didn’t.
Luckily this was an isolated incident, and everyone else has been incredibly nice and I’ve talked to a lot of people this week and felt very welcomed.
But the highlight of this week was seeing “Wicked” on Thursday. A large part of why I love
I knew only a few things about the play before I saw it. I knew it was about the witches in Oz “before Dorothy dropped in,” that it was based on a book, that Karey loved it, and that Idina Menzel starred in it. I like knowing enough about a play that I’m not shocked when it starts, but also not knowing enough so that there are still nice surprises. I also knew none of the songs, so that was interesting as well.
First, the sets were spectacular, some of the best I’ve ever seen. They were elaborate and beautiful, while not overpowering the stage or the actors. I thought they portrayed the
Second, the actors. The woman playing Glinda was good, though a bit annoying but I know that’s the part. She had a good voice, a little too operatic at times, but she was good at what she did. But the voice did get on my nerves because whenever she and Idina sang together, you always heard hers above all else, and I thought the harmony could have been better. Adam Garcia, aka guy from Coyote Ugly, was also in it, and while his voice wasn’t that strong, he moved incredibly well, just a great dancer and I really liked him in the part. And of course, Idina. As soon as she came on stage, the whole audience went nuts. And throughout the show she got the most cheers and applause nearly everytime she did anything. Her voice is so powerful, so beautiful, and I can’t believe when I first listened to her voice on the Broadway recording of Rent, that I didn’t like it. I plead temporary insanity I suppose. But she is just a great actress and was great playing funny, angry, love-sick, and sad.
Third, the music. It actually took me maybe three or four songs before I got into them, but once I did they were wonderful. My favorite was “Defying Gravity” at the end of the first act, I think, and also the one about how no one mourns the wicked. I also liked any of the ones where Idina belted it out and the audience went crazy. That was also an amazing part of the show, how into it the audience was. There was a great energy, which I don’t always feel at shows but that I felt at this one, that everyone was into it, everyone was excited, and that everyone was being touched by what they were watching.
Finally, the actual story. I thought it was cute how there were subtle allusions to “The Wizard of Oz” thrown in throughout, it helped make the connection between the story everyone knows, but id it without beating you over the head. I liked the plot, about standing up for what you believe in, no matter how different it is, and challenging authority. The program featured a piece by the author of the book on why he wrote it when and how he did, about seeing things in society you don’t agree with, about challenging social norms and the status quo, especially if those in power are helping to perpetuate it. I love plays that have a message, that can be written or take place years ago, but still resonate today, and do so in a non-preachy, sneaky in a good way.
Next entry I’ll answer the questions from the last entry, so if you have something you want to know but haven’t asked do it now!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Since I'm bored, I'd figure I'd open it up and let people ask me questions. Anything I haven't covered that you are just dying to know. So ask me anything, within the boundaries of good taste, and I will respond. Anyone can comment, even anonymously, so let me have it!
Monday, September 25, 2006
Took pictures of the flat just have to get them uploaded. Will do soon.
Sunday I finally made it out to a church, the American Church in London. It’s American style of worship, with a lot of Americans in attendance, but also has quite a few British people and other internationals. I really really liked it there and will definitely be going back. And file this under it really is a small world. The associate pastor, who came and introduced himself before the service, went to Duke Divinity and knows someone I know from BSU. He also worked at a church in Chapel Hill that I went to once, and I am almost certain I met him there. The reason I think this is today, before he came up,I thought, “Hey, that guy looks like Eric Montross.” and I remember thinking that the time before. I stayed after the service as they happened to be having a newcomers lunch, got some free chicken and potatoes and bread, and met some nice people. There were also two British teenaged girls who were completely enamored of me and this other girl because we are American. They asked us all these questions, about if the stuff they see in the movies is true, like about prom, big houses, and high heels. And they loved our accents, which is so weird. It was so cute and I told them to see me next weekend if they had anymore questions.
This week I have been struck more than anything, yet again, by British food. Sometimes I feel like it all might as well be in another language when I’m shopping and I have the hardest time finding exactly what I want. Some random observations (that may apply just to my local supermarket, Somerfields):
-They have a whole section of shelves for varieties of mayonnaise, but only ONE kind of mustard. ONE. And it’s not French’s.
-Fish is everywhere. Maybe it’s like that in the states and I just never really noticed, but here I definitely noticed when in my fruitless (and in vain, I know,) search for pizza rolls left me empty-handed.
-They have chicken nuggets marketed as “Southern-fried.” Unless the southern UK is known for their chicken frying talents, which they very well may be, I can’t help but smile. Though I have not been brave enough to try it yet.
-I can buy a thing of spaghetti for 17p. That’s just awesome. And it’s good.
-I just realized I have yet to buy any Nutella and that is just a travesty.
So yes, right now I really am missing American food. But the plentiful and free biscuits (biscuits=cookies) at work help ease the pain. But really, I eat way too many, but who can resist free McVitties or Kit Kats?
Saturday, September 23, 2006
"I've got to do something about the way I look. I mean a girl just can't go to Sing Sing with a green face."
But today I saw, with my own two eyes, a foot away from me, AUDREY'S LITTLE BLACK DRESS FROM BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS!!!! The very dress that Jan and I argued over who could bid on. (No worries, it's expected to go for something like 30,000 pounds? Or more.) And also no worries, Jan, because neither of us could fit our thigh in that dress it's so tiny.
The story: I saw on TimeOut London that Christies is auctioning off a huge lot of Barbie dolls, and that the public could view them this weekend. So I, being a perpetual child-at-heart when it comes to Barbie dolls, set out to South Kensington to find them. And I did. And oh my gosh there were so many! I even saw an original 1954 first Barbie in the black and white striped bathing suit. They had a room full of post-80s Barbies still in the boxes, many of which I own. They even had "The Rockers" Barbies, which were my favorite, but that I no longer have thanks to a certain younger brother with an affinity for pulling their heads and arms off. In short: it made me really happy today seeing all of this stuff, though it would have been even better if Mom was here because she's the reason I love them so much and I know she probably owned half of them. So I missed you more today Mom than any other day. :-( Ok, so now everyone knows I am a Barbie fiend. On to one of my other obsessions: Audrey.
After being in awe of all the Barbies, I turn a corner and see a black dress out of the corner of my eye, surrounded by vintage Audrey movie posters. As I got closer I saw that it was THE dress, from the opening scene of Breakfast where she's outside of Tiffany's eating her scone and coffee, still in her tiara and pearls. Sigh, I will be watching this movie tonite. I'm pretty sure my eyes bugged out of my head and I actually thought I was going ot cry. I wanted to touch it so bad, but I think even the stuffy Christies people probably would have tackled me for that. And there it was, just as perfect and pristine as it must have been 40 years ago. It would have fit me in height, I think, but certainly not in any other way, she truly was a tiny tiny woman.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
And because I apparently forgot I don’t get paid for another week, I went and saw another show anyway – “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen this movie, and I was really excited to see it on stage. It was only ok, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. Parts of it were just like I wanted it to be, and others fell short. Especially the accents! Who knew that settlers in 1850s Oregon had combination bad Southern/British/Irish/Cockney/and maybe Scottish accents. The actors kept slipping into their real voices, or using a terrible Southern-type accent I highly doubt was in the west at this time, and it made it really hard to identify with the characters. They also didn’t have my favorite part of the movie in it – where they all dance at the barn building. They had them dance at a social, but it wasn’t the same. They also cut out the part where the girls dance in their room about being spring/summer/June brides. They did however add a song - that was terrible. I zoned out during it and just stared at all the pretty gold in the theatre. My favorite character in the movie aside from the two leads is Gideon, and this Gideon was pretty good. He was a trained ballet dancer though, and it showed when he’d start doing these pirouette things that just didn’t fit with the rest of the dancers. This is my long-winded way of saying I liked the show, it wasn’t a terrible waste of money, but I’ll take the movie any day.
Now today I’m thinking of just going to Regent’s or Hyde Park for some people-watching and reading. It’s nice out and I really do want to take advantage of it before it gets bed. Pictures of the flat and such will probably come next week. We are still trying to get it all in order and I want to wait to take pictures.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Day two of work on Friday. I hope I get used to the hours quickly because as of now I am ready for bed the second I walk through the door. The job really is just basic, boring stuff, Mom said I don’t write enough but that’s all I have for now. It will be a lot of running around on the days I’m not at reception, and a lot of just doing whatever you’re told. It’s a lot of random, little things that have to be done, which can get daunting, but they seem like they’ll be pretty patient until we get the hang of things.
We organized a bunch of books and brochures today at work, once again letting me put my three years of library work and a lifetime of organizing skills to use. The brochures were for these amazing hotels, resorts and spas around the world. Bali, Bora Bora, Seychelles, Bangkok, Phuket, Mauritius, and more, places I never would even think of. The hotels are unbelievably gorgeous and make me just want to go, go, go. I even looked at a magazine called “Carolina Architecture,” which I immediately grabbed and was glad to see it refered to “my” Carolina. (And some of South too, bleh.) It had some amazing homes in Asheville and Hickory though.
We are still in the process of making our flat more like a home. The Woolworth’s near us has become our friend. I find it funny that I had never set foot in a Woolworth’s until moving here, but I’ve been three times already in the last three days. I would kill for a Target right now though – oh gosh I really miss Target. I’m starting to miss the strangest thing – grits, Anderson, the smell of my room. But oh the grits. I had to try and explain them to Marissa today, because she’s never had them! Gasp! I didn’t even know where to begin. I was just like “They’re grits. They’re good. They’re…grits.” Since I like to fancy myself some sort of writer, I am going to challenge myself come up with a better description. And of course if someone would like to send me some to assist in my efforts, well, they would not go un-appreciated.
I bought towels today at Marks and Spencer, I know, I live a fascinating big city life. But they make me happy because they are hot pink, and I’ve never had hot pink towels before. I was going to be practical and get green ones in case I take them home so they’ll match, but I figured I’m in London and every girl should have hot pink towels at least once in her life. And they certainly beat my Europe towel I bought in Germany last year, that really is only slightly larger than a hand towel and doesn’t even wrap completely around my body.
Finally, I have decided one aspect of my personal hell would be having to walk down a street full of wonderful clothing stores, day after day, and not being able to buy anything in them. This is what it is like to work on Oxford Street in London. Hell. Full of houndstooth coats and smart blouses and cute skirts and pretty shoes.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Just kidding, I am alright doing what I will be doing for the next six months, knowing if nothing else, it will push me further to realizing what I really want to do with my life. And at least I'll be in London while I'm doing it!
Today was basically day one of like 35 of training. It's a lot of information but not hard work, and I think once we actually start doing the tasks, and not talking about doing them, it will be fine. It seems like a really nice, open office, with a good mixture of people. I also think it will be very interesting, just the project names of the things they are designing are interesting. And even though I swore after this summer I would never work another reception job again, at least I won't be dealing with crazy cat lady tenants bitching about their refrigerators and $70 cat food. Or owners with closets of hemorrhoid cream. (That was all just for you Angela. :-)) And it will be good to alternate the somebody's bitch part with the reception part.
It's also not a bad walk to work. I realize I say that now, after the first day, and when I'm not in danger of dying of exposure, but we'll see. If only I could lend Marissa some of my legs it would be an even quicker walk. Any of my friends who have had to physically pull me back to keep me from walking too fast now what I am talking about.
So I'm sitting in this super-cheap, super-nice internet cafe not far from my flat, and I keep smiling to myself and I think the people around me are a little freaked out. But I mean, they are playing old school En Vogue on the PA system and how can you not smile at that?
Oh, the flat. We moved in yesterday, finally. I think it will be nice. Very safe so far, well-lit, quiet, but near a main road, and a good amount of other flats around us. Nice size room with large ceilings. Our flatmates seem very nice. The Italian guy is very nice and showing us how everything works. (Gas stove you have to light with a match - scary.) And the other two girls are Italian as well but don't speak much English, but are still very nice. And they are all so clean and I think it will work out well. Knock on wood. We're still trying to get situated and everything but it feels good to have a place to come home to at the end of the day.
We went to a pub night for BUNAC last night and I talked to some people and got one girl's number. We both really want to see "Wicked" and may try to go on Saturday, if I can get cheap tickets. But the pub was nice even though we got there too late to eat and I didn't drink anything. But after a long day like today, I don't know people have the energy to do anything after work.
I feel like my entries are too long so if you get through them all I thank you. But I tend to ramble and rant when I'm talking so why should when I'm writing be any different?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The last few days have been just exploring the city, walking more than I ever have in my life, which is good. I'm getting a much better feel for things and learning my way around better.
Sunday was spent relaxing in Hyde Park, reading and listening to music. We then headed for Westminster, to see Big Ben and such. I got my first glimpse at 10 Downing, or the armored guards rather leading to it, which I somehow missed seeing last time. Then we chilled in front of the Eye and had a "dinner" of a waffle and ice cream. It was good and terribly unhealthy.
Monday we did some errands, walked a lot, relaxed in Regent's Park, and some more stuff I can't remember. Today we went to the British Museum, wandered around Bloomsbury, and "shopped" on Oxford Street. We did very well, I think, and I only bought a cheap pair of flats that I really really need. :-)
We still haven't moved into our flat yet, hopefully it will be tomorrow. I'm just sick of living out of a suitcase and want to get settled. I guess I'm just antsy to get my life started for real, since right now it just feels like I'm in a holding pattern.
Hopefully more exciting things to report on next time.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
First, the job. I will be working at an architecture/interior design firm. Mom looked it up and said it's one of the premier resort design firms in the world, with offices everywhere. I will be a receptionist and junior administration assistant, alternating days between the two. Answering phones one day, and then running around doing whatever they want the next. I don't know how this will ever help me in my future as a journalist, and less Anderson Cooper calls and wants me to run around for him, and then, well...
The roommate. I met her at BUNAC one day and we just decided to live together. She's a journalism major as well, and is from New Hampshire. She says wicked a lot and has a slight accent, but is nice. (And she lives about 40 minutes from Boston so her accent could be a lot worse.) This is for you Karey: the first thing I thought when she said she was from New Hampshire was "Ooh, that's where President Bartlett is from." I didn't say it though. Oh, and I also want to ask if their maple syrup really is better than Vermonts, as the Pres says. (Was it maple syrup or their cheese being better than Wisconsin? I don't know, I should just e-mail you this.)
We went through an agency to find a flat, because on top of job hunting and dealing with hostel-living it was just too much trying to sort it all out. So we are in Paddington Green, across from the Edgware Road tube station. It's 15 minutes to Hyde Park, about the same to Regent's Park, 15-20 to Oxford St, and also close to Marylebone (sp). It's an interesting area because one street can be so different from the next. We asked around the area to check for safety, and even interviewed a police officer, and everyone thought we would be fine, just to hold on to our bags, as everyone says anywhere. And the good thing is he only required two weeks deposit and two weeks rent, plus if we are unhappy at all we just give two weeks notice and he can even possibly help us find a different place. We're sharing a room in a flat with three other people. There's no living room, which we hope won't be a problem, but there is a nice and modern kitchen and a nice big bathroom.
The room has two beds, a couch, a table, two wardrobes, a chest of drawers, a fireplace, and a tv with satellite. All bills are included and he said he could get us internet if we pay a little more a month, but we'll see since I found a really cheap internet place and I should have it at work. I'm just praying that it will work out and we'll be happy there. I got a good feeling from the place when we saw it, so let's just hope the feeling stays.
Tomorrow I hope to finally be able to do something fun. Actually see the city that I'm living in without constantly worrying about everything. And finish a meal without getting nauseous from worry.
Hopefully this will satisfy everyone that has been telling me I need to be more detailed (coughJoeyMomcough). I swear I'm reading everyone's e-mails and will respond ASAP, so just keep sending them!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Second, I got a job! It was the first interview I went on, which many may think wasn't smart, especially since it only pays £7 an hour, but I feel really good about it. The people were incredibly nice and funny and I just got a really good feeling. And by a weird turn of events, the girl I'll be living with will be working there too. Start on Thursday, which is a little later than I wanted but better than nothing. And I feel better knowing that I have a job.
Now the only hard part left is finding a place to live, which just may prove to be the hardest part yet. We would like to live close to work so we can walk, but since it's off of Oxford Street, which is just a prime location and near where I wanted to work anyway, it is going to be harder I think since it's so centrally located. So keep your fingers crossed and say just a few more prayers for me.
I am so thoroughly exhausted and am actually looking forward to going back and crashing at the hostel. Thanks for all the e-mails you've been sending, it makes me feel a lot better and I know once some of the craziness dies down and the homesickness sets in, I'll need them even more.