Monday, February 26, 2007

All good things must come to an end

Today I started my last week of work. It feels...weird. Like it won't actually hit me until it comes to 6:00 on Friday and I have to log off my computer and turn in my security pass. I wasn't expecting to be sad about leaving. London and work. London because before I came here, to be honest, I only liked it, I didn't love it. I spent a great four weeks here, yes, but I also spent great times in Italy and Spain and Salzburg, among other places too of course. Now, however, I LOVE it. I want to see everything, want to read everything, want to go everywhere. I fit here, I was happy here. I'm really going to miss it.

As for work, I'll miss the people. I've said over and over that the job isn't glamorous, it's tedious and frustrating, but the people make it worth it. They're nice and respect me. And it has been inspiring to be in such a creative environment with such talented and passionate people.

When all is said and done I shouldn't be surprised that it will be hard to leave work, hard to leave my shitty flat, hard to leave London. Six months of a life is a long time, so of course it's going to be hard to walk away. But I will walk away knowing that I have more strength and courage in me than I ever thought possible. I still have a long way to go but I am much better prepared now than I was in September.

I believe with all my heart that everything happens for a reason, and every step I took here has a purpose, is pushing me toward something else, is playing a vital part in who I'm supposed to be. I know that I'm supposed to be a writer, I know that I'm supposed to travel and see and do amazing things. I know that I can do things on my own, that I can make it. But then I know that no matter where I go my family and friends are always right there beside me. This I think I am more sure of than anything. Before I left I was afraid my friends wouldn't need me anymore, that my family would realize things could be easier. But I don't think this is the case. And I couldn't be more estatic, couldn't be more grateful.

I'll finish up my week here, which if Monday is to be the preview, will be absolutely mad. But that's ok. Sunday I am off to Lanzarote, Canary Islands. I had the strangest urge to go lie on a beach, so that's what I'm going to do. It is all very last minute, very spontaneous, very not-me, but I'm excited. I'll be there until Thursday and then I am back home to sweet Carolina on March 9.

I'll try to update a few more times, but no guarantees depending on how work goes and what my Internet access is like next week. But thanks for reading and commenting and supporting me, it means a lot.

"London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London."
-Peter Ackroyd

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lights, camera, action!

On Sunday I went and stood outside for 2 hours in Covent Garden, at the end of the red carpet, to watch the celebrities arrive for the BAFTAs, the British version of the Oscars.

I saw:
-Sienna Miller
-Judi Dench
-Helen Mirren
-Ricky Gervais
-Jake Gyllenhaal
-Daniel Craig
-Forrest Whitaker
-Thandie Newton (only realized later when I looked up pictures of dresses online)
-Ruby Wax (The UK's Joan Rivers)
-Penelope Cruz
-Pedro Aldomovar

My favorite was Jake, because he saw all of us standing outside and waved and made a funny face. I think I saw Helen Mirren and Judi Dench the clearest because I could see them walking down the carpet toward us before they went in. Helen Mirren is absolutely regal in person. Sienna is tiny, and Daniel is very stiff. (I don't care for either of them so I may be biased.)

Even though I couldn't see them very well, and there was a big group of people, plus a blocked-off street separating us, it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I went. It was thrilling to hear the paparazzi call names - no idea what they said though - and see the flashbulbs go off, and then wait too see who was next. Because of the way we were positioned we were right near one of the entrance doors, and once inside they had to stop and pose, right in front of a big picture window facing us. Thus I got to see their backs a lot clearer than their fronts! I think I saw some other people too, but have been unable to find decent pictures online as of yet to figure out who.

I know there were a lot more famous people there, obviously, and someone saw Daniel Radcliffe get out of a limo, but between all the staff and the distance, this was all I managed to see. No pictures of them, as it was all too quick, but I do have some pictures of the red carpet and such I can post later. Something interesting that I did not know, was that the lights on the beams above the carpet, were ones that flashed, like flashbulbs, so it made it look like there were pictures being taken constantly. I don't know if it is always like this at award shows, but it added to the excitement. (And hurt my eyes after awhile.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

...And somewhere men are laughing, and little children grin, but there is no joy in K-ville - for DUKE HAS LOST AGAIN - DTH Cartoon

This post brought to you by 79 - 73. By Wes and Tyler and Reyshawn and Marcus and Bobby and on and on and on. By Paulus fouling out and Cameron Crazies not so crazy anymore. By being woken up by a phone call at 4 a.m. and lying in bed for an hour, grinning, and maybe even crying a little because I've never felt so close, and so far, from the things I love before.

A sample of the phone call I got from Mom, per my request, when she called to tell me the score:
Mom: Are you lying down?
Me: (Thinking: seriously, it's 4 a.m., of course I'm lying down!)
Mom: Because you aren't going to like this...
Me: Oh no...

Cruel Mom, cruel. But my own fault because I forgot to tell you I just wanted a "yes" or "no," playing with my emotions in the middle of the night is just wrong! But it's ok, because I'm not sure how many other mothers would make a trans-Atlantic phone call just to relay the score of a basketball game to their daughter. Love you! :-)

The worst part about being in London yesterday? Everyone was just walking around like it was a normal day. Talking about the weather and their jobs like it was just any other Wednesday. Whereas I, specifically decked out in a Carolina blue shirt, Carolina ring and bracelet, and my lucky Carolina blue socks, could barely sit still. Kept checking every sports site I could think of to see what they were saying. Kept going back and forth with friends over how much we hate Duke - a topic that can never be exhausted, and always brings forth previously un-explored reasons. To everyone else it may have just been a normal day, but we know better. :-)

In honor of last night's win, some pictures from the last Franklin Street celebration I took part in. From a night where four girls got the best senior gift ever - in the form of a Cameron Indoor win and a crying J.J. Redick. From the best senior night ever - for us.

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Tar Heel "crazies"

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View of a bonfire from Top of the Hill.

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Close-up of fire - because of course, beat Duke, build fire.

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NSATC on top of the world - or at least Chapel Hill.

God bless those Tar Heel boys...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You scream, I scream, we all scream "BISCUITS!"

Before I reveal the results of my great biscuit search, I have to relay a conversation I had with two New Zealanders and a Briton at our work party last week about what an American biscuit is. It basically went like this:
Me: It’s a biscuit! A biscuit! Doughey and soft and buttery and like Heaven!
Not me: So it’s like a scone?
Me: No, it’s a biscuit!
Not me: Like a biscuit biscuit?
Me: No, a biscuit is a cookie. It’s an American biscuit. It’s Bojangles!
Not me: What’s Bojangles?
Me: (Blank stare as I really don’t even know where to begin to describe Bojangles.)
Not me #2: They’re made with yeast and you put butter and jam on them.
Not me: Like a scone?
Me: No! Like Heaven!
It went around like this for awhile, throwing out the words “biscuit,” “scone,” and “cookie” way too often. I should add that at this point we had all partaken of the special punch at the work party, so none of us were at our sharpest. Hence my inability to describe it other than repeatedly saying “It’s a biscuit!,” and them not being able to move past “Like a scone?” And to anyone wondering, no, they aren’t like scones, in my opinion the two are like apples and oranges.

After deciding on Friday that I HAD to have a biscuit, I searched on the Internet off and on at work for the rest of the day for a place where I could find it. I looked up multiple American restaurants in London I had heard of, and some I hadn’t, scoured menus, and found nothing. I finally did a search for “American biscuits in London,” which I think sounds like a great play or movie that I would definitely see, and came across another girl’s blog who had engaged in a similar search when she first came here. After reading through many comments, most having to deal with buttermilk, which doesn’t concern me as I have the mix, it’s the working oven I don’t have – sidenote: bastard landlord! – I found one comment that recommended Irish soda farls, which he said were similar to biscuits. Saturday while in Bloomsbury I picked up some of this bread at Waitrose, and for breakfast Sunday tried it. I warmed it on the frying pan a bit, added butter, and dove in. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a biscuit while here, but still not good enough. It had a funny aftertaste, but wasn’t unbearable and I won’t have any trouble eating the rest of it. I had very little butter that morning and I think adding more will help as it was lacking a bit in flavor. But I think the biggest factor was that as I ate it, I just kept imagining it was a Bojangles buttery biscuit, and that helped. And made it, and me, infinitely sadder as well.

And on a completely unrelated note, GO TO HELL DUKE, GO HEELS!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I'm going to Disney World!

Not even sure they do the Disney World commercials anymore, they didn't show it here, but it has always been my favorite part, so they should!

Watching the Super Bowl in another country was interesting, to say the least.

Anyway, I kept myself busy until 10:45 when a British announcer, broadcasting live from Miami, came on the air with one American football co-announcer, and one football co-announcer. (No idea who either of them were.) The highlight of the pre-show was hearing the man refer to the locker room as a “dressing room,” and talking about the need to replace the divets on the field after the Cirque de Soleil performance. I pretty much muted the TV any other time they came on, just not in the mood for announcers apparently. Though I should add that the play-by-play was done by two American announcer, Sterling Sharpe and someone else. (Not Shannon Sharpe like I thought, though I swear he sounded just like him.) Perhaps the main reason I decided to mute it was because even the Brit introduced Dan Marino as “perhaps the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl.” Grr! Two continents feel the need to declare this every chance they get! Ahh!

For the majority of the game I sort of kept forgetting I was watching the Super Bowl, kept forgetting this was IT. I think it’s because I haven’t seen any games this season, and stopped following the season pretty much as soon as basketball started up. I knew even less of the players than I normally do, which is a combination of the fact that no one ever seems to play on the same team for more than two seasons, and because I’ve been out of commission this year. The hardest part was being quiet for the benefit of my flatmates, which is excruciatingly hard, as I realized just how vocal I like to be when the opening kickoff was returned for a touchdown. I yelled “No no no!” quite loudly before I stopped myself and just cursed under my breath for a bit.

I found myself dragging about halfway through the second quarter, but started reading a book and by the time halftime was over – which I’ll be honest, I muted – I was far more interested in the game and excited at the prospect of all of Peyton’s naysayers finally shutting up, for now at least. When you see the pictures below you may think me pathetic or sad, having a Super Bowl party for one, but you know what, I looked forward to it all day Sunday, actually, I’ve been looking forward to it since the two teams were decided, and shopping for munchies, laying it all out, and settling in for the night was fun and made me happy. So pathetic or not, I don’t think it matters.

I didn’t really mind missing the commercials, I think it made the game go faster and I can always catch them on YouTube. I did mute Prince’s performance because I just wasn’t in the mood. But I think it’s funny how all the articles I have been reading are exclaiming over the fact that he sang “Purple Rain” – in the rain. Wow, sensational! Now I’d have been impressed had he been able to make it rain purple rain. Then maybe I would have turned the volume back up.

Monday wasn’t pleasant to say the least. Five cups of tea and at 3:00 I still had to fight to keep my head off the desk. (I did succumb, while in the sequestered filing room, to closing my eyes and leaning against the filing cabinet for a minute, but luckily a co-worker came in to talk to me and keep me awake.) But it’s ok because I am a sucker for good stories, and not many are better than Peyton and Dungy finally getting their rings, Carolina boys Saturday and Reid getting ones too, and all the other players who were crying and kissing the trophy that make me not hate athletes quite so much. I am now thinking that this last sentence, and after staying up half the night before I need to work the next day, means I am officially no longer allowed to repeatedly proclaim my hatred for sports. (I was already beginning to see this on the horizon after four years of getting up at 6 a.m. to wait in freezing weather for basketball tickets.) But I will continue to proclaim my hatred for cocky, too-rich and entitled athletes, and the way our society glorifies athletics. And I still hate baseball.

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My Super spread

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Things to keep me occupied while waiting for it to start/slow spots in the game.

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My super-cool argyle knee socks I just bought from H and M. I just like them a lot and wanted to share. (And I got a bit bored.)

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Just me. (Don't look directly at it though on account of the fact I don't have on make-up!) I replaced my usual pajama shirt of "Carolina School of Journalism" with just a "UNC" one, the closest I have to a sports-team related shirt for the occasion.

Monday, February 05, 2007

C'est la vie

This weekend can probably best be described as the weekend that should have been. Nothing terrible happened, no grand plans were set awry, just little hiccups all along the way that made me kind of just want it to be Monday and have it all over and done with.

I let myself sleep quite late on Saturday as a reward for not sleeping well all week. I’m not sure why this has been the case. Someone asked if it was because I have a lot on my mind, and for one of the first times in my life, if not the absolute first time, I don’t. I’m on the cusp of leaving this great place and going home, and I’m ok. Everyone at work is asking me what my plans are, and other than a destination and an ideal career goal, I don’t have any. But I’m ok. And though occasionally when I’m asked this I flashback to senior year, and my heart races and I feel the panic threaten to consume me, it goes away a second later, and I’m ok. (And unlike last year I don’t have to restrain myself from clawing the interrogator’s eyes out.) So in conclusion, not sure why I haven’t been sleeping well. But I’m ok.

But on Saturday I got up, got ready, and set out for Hammersmith to return two ill-advised Primark purchases, sans receipt. This meant waiting in a queue to have them tell me to do so I’d have to exchange them for something else, then searching for other items (the easy part), and then queueing again for the fitting room, and again to pay. Once I paid, I was told in a childish “I’m taking my toys and going home” tone that because I didn’t give them a receipt, I wasn’t getting one. This is unfortunate as I bought a turtleneck whose hanger was marked as a 12 (and I know by now not to go by the hangar but I did anyway) but was actually an 18. So next weekend I will have to repeat this all over again.

I should mention Saturday’s weather. It was clear and sunny, warmer than it has been, but still in the 40s and somewhat windy. I let the shining sun fool me while I was dressing, and thus wore a short-sleeved turtleneck and a blazer, with a pashmina and gloves, but no hat. By the time I got to Russell Square with the intention of loitering around Bloomsbury for the remainder of the afternoon, I was freezing. I decided to just get a pizza at my favorite pizza place - a place frequented while staying at the Mentone for summer school - and then hopefully find a sunny spot where I could eat it, and then get on with my day. Ha.

While walking to the pizza place along the Brunswick Centre, previously mentioned in here, some miscreants threw ice from about four flights up down at me and a few others. The height at which it was thrown, and the force at which it crashed on to the pavement in front me, would have almost assuredly meant a trip to the hospital had it hit me. I looked up to see the little bastards laughing, and immediately wished awful, terrible things to befall them. I wanted nothing more than to scream up multiple expletives, ending with some sort of “I bet your mothers secretly hate you!” insult. But despite having the mouth of a sailor too much of the time, something in me simply will not let me shout up multiple storys, in public, words like that. I just rest easy knowing they probably have bad teeth or mullets. (Stereotypes, I know, but I nearly died!)

At this point, I gave up. I went back to my flat, ate my now semi-cold pizza, took a nap, watched a few movies, including “Notting Hill” on BBC4.

Sunday I had higher hopes for. I woke up at 9 refreshed and alert. I read a Bill Bryson book for awhile, made myself an interesting breakfast, entry on that coming tomorrow, and then set out with the intention of going to Covent Garden. I got sidetracked by Waterstone’s and a book I’ve been eyeing since September, newly in paperback and half-priced. This resulted in browsing for an hour because it would be silly to just put £4 on my card! After this I decided I really didn’t want to walk all the way to Covent Garden, that I really just wanted to sit and read and write at Café Nero. I debated this for entirely too long, thinking I shouldn’t waste the time I have left here sitting in a coffee shop. But you know what, a very wise person (coughAshleycough) told me that even if it’s as simple as something like sitting in a Café Nero or eating at EAT, I should do it because in a few months I won’t be able to. So that’s just what I did.

Got in line at Nero craving a warm Panini and a cup of tea, only to discover they didn’t have my favorite kind of Panini. Strike one. Decided to go for a grande cup of tea and a muffin instead, only to realize I had spent my £5 on pizza yesterday and had less than £3 in change. Strike two. One muffin and one impossibly small and over-priced cup of tea later, I settled into one my favorite spots and pulled out my notebook and pen to write. Strike three. No pen! Not only do I always carry pens, I’m a writer, I should have one surgically attached! I’m pretty sure the first thing they teach you in “Being a Writer 101” is to always, always have a pen! I’m in a stationary store, tons of pens lie one floor beneath me, but I sat for an hour – while eating, drinking, and writing, not just thinking – debating if I should just take all my stuff, thus losing my seat, and go buy a pen, or if I should just take my bag and leave my coat and Waterstone’s purchases, make a mad dash to buy a pen and return. In the end I decided, given Britain’s zealous commitment to safety, and tendency to dispatch police cover to any suspicious, abandoned object, which they presumably blow up at some point, to gather my belongings, buy a pen (or in my case multiple pens) and then come back and find another seat.

But before this I made a quick stop to the bathroom, where I proceeded to drop a battery in the toilet. Now this may sound random, but it’s really not. I always carry extra batteries with me for my digital camera. (But apparently not a pen. Maybe writing’s the wrong calling.) Despite the toilet being…clean…I still had to put my hand in a public toilet to fish out a battery that never holds it charge long, and definitely won’t now. And of course the sink in the bathroom was one of those brilliantly designed marvels that only lets water out if you push in on the faucet with one hand, thus not allowing you to form a lather with the soap with both hands, or even really get your hands wet enough as you are also juggling a coat and bags and a purse. Don’t even get me started…

I wrote for awhile, and then decided to make my way to the grocery store to pick up some Super Bowl munchies. What kind of munchies for American football does one buy in London? Well, I bought chips and dip, classic American fare I feel, but then some hummus and pita bread and brie and crackers. And some veggies to offset some of the carbs. What can I say? I’ll be up until 3 or 4 in the morning watching the game, obviously not how it’s done in the States, so it’s ok if my food is a little off as well.

Tune in tomorrow for my Super Bowl recap, and then later for the results of my great biscuit search. And I plan on updating my blog EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. No really, I do. I already have entries for Tuesday through Thursday, the plus-side of having to wait until 11:00 to watch the Super Bowl was that I had lots of time to write. So come back soon!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Friday, Happy Groundhog Day, Happy Happy

Clearly I'm in a good mood today. Though to be honest, I've been in a fairly good mood all week. As my time dwindles here I really see no choice but to smile and make the most of everything.

I went and saw a play last night, "Man of Mode" at the National Theatre. It was quite good, and I would recommend it. Had it not been for the £5 student ticket offer I probably wouldn't have even looked twice at it, but I'm glad I did. Though written in the 1660s, the director, Nicholas Hytner, set it in the present, though still using 17th century language. It's about a cocky, rich, deceptive womanizer "obsessed with having it all," and follows he and his friend's attempts to do so. It was incredibly well-acted, and the sets were modern and eye-catching. Some parts were weird, like how every scene change was met with random people dancing, but it worked.

I have three more plays coming up, which means I'm one away from my goal of 10, though I may end up surpassing it. "The History Boys" next week - have been wanting to see this for awhile. And then the week after "The Glass Menagerie" with Jessica Lange, and "Underneath the Lintel" with Richard Schiff, aka Toby from West Wing!! It may not be Josh or Sam, my faves, but I love Toby too and the play sounds really really interesting. (I swear I'm not one of those people who only sees plays if there is someone famous in them.)

Not sure what I'm doing this weekend, though I haven't slept well at all this week so I hope to catch up on a little sleep, but not as much as last weekend. But my main goal is to find BISCUITS somewhere in London. I need them desperately. The craving was already quite fierce, then Mom sent Bisquick mix, which I can't use as our oven doesn't work, and then I was forced to read how everyone in CH got free biscuits, AGAIN. Mark my words, if there is a biscuit to be had in London, I will find it.

Happy weekend to everyone and check back Monday for an update.


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