Saturday, February 08, 2003

Things I miss about America (in no particular order):
8x11 paper (really! I mean it! This A4 paper, with its four holes instead of three, is very disorienting!!)
Skippy supercrunch peanut butter
grape jelly
big refrigerators
My family
My apartment
My roommates
American accents
central heating (they have radiators)
dryers (not that Britain in general doesn’t have them, but my landlady doesn’t, so I still miss ‘em)

Things I love about Britain (also in no particular order)
the public transportation system
those little weird clusters of shops on random suburban corners, completely surrounded by houses
Kingston town centre, which is basically the above, blown up huge
super-specializing little stores (The Little Tiny Shop of Clothespins, for example)
their sensible approach to mobile/cellular phone plans
the gun ban

I went into London proper for the first time today. Believe me when I say, I did not know where to look first. Wow!! So . . . much . . . brain . . . overload . . . aieee!!

We arrived in Waterloo station by train, and left the station to find--wham!--the Thames. Okay, not really wham! but it was pretty close. Here is a picture of my friend Katy, with Big Ben and Parliament in the background. Katy was very kind about guiding me through London, since she’d been there before and I hadn’t. And here is a picture of some unknown building across the Thames which I just thought was purty.

We crossed the bridge over the Thames, a white suspension bridge, and found the church St. Martin in the Fields, which is supposed to be architecturally significant or something. All I know is, it was quite cool, and there was a little markety sort of thing in the yard. We met a Cockney gentleman who was selling antique tools and was quite chatty, telling us all about his experiences in WW2. He was at D-Day, just 20 years old at the time, and saw his best friend get shot next to him. His wife’s mother died in the bombings of London. It’s so sobering to realize that Londoners, and Brits in general, are used to being sort of the front line of European wars in the last century. We’ve been preserved from that until quite recently. We feel safe. Anyway, Johnny was a great, friendly old guy.

After our chat with him, we bought tickets for a concert in the church for that evening--Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” performed by the Primavera Chamber Orchestra. They were quite cheap seats, plus I got a pound discount because I flashed my student card. Yay! More on that concert later. At that point, Katy and I split up--she went into the National Portrait Gallery, while I went into the National Gallery. Both were free--woohoo! Who says London is expensive?

The National Gallery was pretty neat, especially an exhibit about underdrawings in Rennaissance art. Infra-red cameras have been able to take pictures of the sketches underneath the paint, showing us the creative process of the Rennaissance artists. Quite cool.

Katy and I met in Trafalger Square, where I took several rather whimsical pictures. Here is a picture of King George IV, with friend. Here are some pigeon feeders. Them pigeons will eat anything. Here we have a water-nymph statue in the fountain that I rather liked. And here is one of the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column. Looks very fearsome, doesn’t it?

We passed through Leicester Square, pronounced "Lester", just as Worcester is pronounced "Wooster." By this logic, Manchester should be "Manster," shouldn't it? No, it's Manchester. Hmmm.

Anyway, thence to Covent Garden to see the market. It was madly crowded, but there was plenty to see anyway. I gave into my addiction and bought a pair of earrings, quite reasonably priced. After that, it was dinner with some more friends (the Yumi Food House, by the Palace--Chinese food, tiny little place, cheap and good!) and then we walked back to St. Martin’s etc for the concert, which was beautiful. We couldn’t see the orchestra, but it’s music, so that doesn’t matter at all. I sat in the narrow, high-backed stalls at the top of the church and read the book I’d picked up that morning, and let all that music soak in like bath water. Aaaah. The church was pretty, too, with a stained-glass window behind the altar that must be absolutely stunning when the sun shines right through it. For an encore, they played “Danny Boy” . . . siiiiiiiiiigh.

Tube, train, then bus to get home. What a fun day!

Book for the day: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. I just think everyone should read Terry Pratchett, but this is a really fun book. You remember the story of the Pied Piper? Well, in this book, the Pied Piper and the rats are in cahoots . . . and then there's that cat . . . Terry Pratchett does satirical fantasy that asks the difficult questions and doesn't give you easy answers, if he gives 'em at all. If you don't like to think, read him for the laughs.

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