Monday, November 29, 2010


Found my London equivalent of Barnes & Noble.  Foyle's.  A  minute's walk from Tottenham Court Road station, lovely cafe crowded with clunky wooden chairs and tables and people and white cups of peppermint tea, hot chocolate topped with melting whipped cream, macchiatos and americanos.  Shared a table with a boy wearing a red sweater and a scarf; an economics student judging from the stack of books beside his laptop.  Read Mrs. Dalloway and became lost in all those streams of consciousness. 

Friday, November 26, 2010


 Playing Tourist

A couple weekends ago, my friend Caroline and her flatmate Audrey crashed at my flat for a night--just returning the favor from when I stayed with them in Glasgow.  I met them at the South Bank, the southern part of central London, for a ride on the London Eye.

Inside the Eye

I spy from the London Eye...

Audrey, Caroline and Eye

It cost a whopping 17 pounds for a half-hour ride.  In retrospect, I'd say it wasn't worth it except to satisfy my curiousity--now I know!

You know you're becoming a Londoner when you find yourself getting annoyed with tourists.  Central London on a Saturday is packed with them.  I decided to embrace the situation and play the part myself, phone booth pictures and all!

  • Victoria & Albert Museum in the a.m. with my art histories class: possibly my favorite museum visit thus far.  I think I'll write my final essay on something in the V&A.
  • Visited the monstrosity that is Harrod's; posh, expensive, endless, and wonderfully decorated for Christmas!
  • Lunch with friends at a chain eatery called, appropriately enough, "EAT."  (We wanted to eat at one of the many cafes in Harrod's, but they were all too expensive!
  • Took the tube to the British library.  Wandered around and checked out an exhibition about the development of the English language.  Saw an early manuscript of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.  Saw an early manuscript of Beowulf,  (BEOWULF!!  Yeah, we're talkin year 1000, here!) and of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Mind-blowing.  Beautiful.  Also saw the original manuscript of Jane Austen's Persuasion.  The exhibit went from works of art like that, to "text message poetry."  Oh, what have we become?  Lol.
  • Came back, heated up some soup, ate some leftover cake, and washed the mountain of pots and pans leftover from last night, which brings me to...

 Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and although it wasn't my first Thanksgiving away from home, it was my first Thanksgiving spent in a different country--surrounded by people who don't know about the pilgrims.  The three Americans of flat 40 (Michael, Janette, and myself) were bound and determined to show our British friends what turkey day is all about.  We went on an epic trip to Sainsbury's on Wednesday evening, armed with an extensive shopping list.  I discovered that yams and pumpkin, canned or otherwise, are hard to come by in London.  I had my heart set on making an apple pie, but couldn't find a pie tin, or sour cream (my mom has a killer sour cream apple pie recipe).  I ended up getting a carrot cake from the farmer's market and topping it with cream cheese icing and pecans.  Michael used to work for a catering company, and he was so funny about getting all the preparation details perfect--he wrote out a "game plan" for us as to when everything should go in the oven, etc.  Wednesday night, Janette and I chopped up all the stuffing ingredients and iced our pretty cake.

Michael's game plan worked out perfectly on Thursday!  We had turkey, stuffing, mountains of mashed potatoes, peas/corn/carrots, rolls, gravy, and cake, plus a key lime pie and an apple tart that somebody picked up from the grocery store.  Our whole flat plus some significant others and some Thanksgiving dinner-less American friends all jammed into our kitchen to enjoy the feast.  I tripled my Grandaddy's stuffing recipe, and it was a huge hit--no leftovers in that area! 

What a great Thanksgiving, sharing a beloved tradition with new friends in London.  Nothing beats a crowded kitchen full of loud happy people and the smells of Thanksgiving dinner.  Afterward, I talked to my family in South Jordan for the first time, I think, since my first day in London.  Made me realize how blessed I am to be experiencing life in London with a loving family rooting for me on the other side of the pond.  I have much to be thankful for!

Me n Janette manning the stove

Peeling potatoes with Anthony

That's right: I stuffed the turkey!

Michael: the brains behind the operation

Trying to figure out how to carve the bird...

"What do I do with this?"

Our crowded kitchen table
Lucy & Catty at their first Thanksgiving              

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

while sipping tea

"But what counts are the physical details that the novel underlines--Bronko's gnawed nails, the down on Brigd's cheeks--and also the gestures, the utensils that this person or that is handling--the meat pounder, the colander for the cress, the butter curler--so that each character already receives a first definition through this action or attribute; but then we wish to learn even more, as if the butter curler already determined the character and the fate of the person who is presented in the first chapter handling the butter curler, and as if you, Reader, were already prepared, each time that character is introduced again in the course of the novel, to cry, "Ah, that's the butter-curler one!" thus obligating the author to attribute to him acts and events in keeping with that initial butter curler."

-Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveller

1.  If the inhabitants of Flat 40 were characters in a novel, I'd be the cup-of-tea one.
2.  What's a butter curler, and why on earth would you need one?

Monday, November 15, 2010

reading & richmond: catching up with friends

On Saturday, I took a train to Reading, England, a town about half an hour west of London.  My friend Angelina had invited me over for the weekend.  I hadn't seen her since freshman year of university, when I attended Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Randolph partners with the University of Reading, and sends a group of study abroaders to England every year.  They even have a couple of houses twenty minutes away from campus for their students to live in.  Had I stayed at Randolph College, rather than transferring to Westminster for my sophomore year, I'd probably be living in one of those houses right now!

So, Saturday morning I took the tube to Paddington station (which took some manuevering of routes: several lines were closed or partially closed for maintenance)  and rode from there to Reading, where Angelina met me at the station.  We hung out at her house, and I said hello to some other Randolph students who I knew from freshman year.  I helped Angelina decorate for a house party taking place that night--Star Wars themed!  We went all out, nerds that we are, and made each room into a different planet from Star Wars.  That night, everyone from the two Randolph houses plus some guests came over for the party.  There was lots of tasty food: chicken kebabs, hamburgers ("Hans" burgers...:) chocolate mousse, and more, compliments of Jill, the Randolph crew's house-mother, who lives in a small flat attached to the house.  I ate way too much food--gotta take advantage of homemade goodness when I can!  Some people went all out with costumes.  Costume parties here are called "fancy dress" parties: the first time I heard that, I thought I was supposed to turn up in a formal gown! It was nice to see everyone again, to hear what they've been up to and how Randolph College is doing.  When people began to be partied out, we watched some of the old-school Star Wars movies, which I hadn't seen in way too long.  The next morning was very laid-back: we slept in, had some breakfast and just chatted and caught up some more.

That visit brought back so many memories from Virginia.  Sunday morning, in that small house in England with only six Randolph students, I could still sense that culture of courtesy, care, and just general classiness that surrounds the women (and now men) of Randolph College.

However, I can't help but compare my study abroad experience with the setup of Randolph's study abroad program.  I'm grateful that I am living on campus, with British students, rather than off campus in a house with students from my home university.  I feel I'm getting a more "authentic" experience this way--there's not that sense of detachment. 

After lunch, I caught a train to Richmond, to meet Robin, one of the Eurolearn coordinators, and some other Eurolearn students at a little restaurant called the Giraffe.  The trainride was about an hour long, which was nice and relaxing.  I've decided train is my favorite way to travel.  It's so much nicer than the tube, where everyone seems so grey and depressed.  Plus, you get to look out the windows!  It was good to hear what everyone had been up to since we all parted ways after the Bridging Cultures program ended in September.  Most of the other students are here only for a semester, and so have been trying to squeeze in all their travel plans.  I'm glad I'm here for a year and have more time to go places and plan things--plus, I feel like I'm just now really getting settled. 

It was a good weekend!  It's nice to take time away from busy London every now and then.  I will definitely be seeing more of Reading--especially since more of my Randolph friends are flying over for spring semester!

Angelina & I: Reunited in England!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

library musings

Hello from a rainy Thursday in London!

I'm currently sitting in the library waiting for a particularly violent downpour to stop before I head outside to get some lunch.   The library is surprisingly full today.  I guess I didn't realize how many people actually use reading week to read.  Now I don't feel like such a loser.

Reading week is nearly over, and I realize now I set my goals for the week way too high.  I didn't take into account the preparation needed to write four final essays: reading a 900-page novel, finding tons of secondary resources, visiting a museum and taking pictures of one artifact and contemplating its position in relation to other artifacts and the museum as a whole...etc.  However, I feel good about what I've accomplished this week: reading the 900-page novel (Dickens's Dombey and Son) and writing the accompanying essay, which I just finished, for my Dickens City module.  One thing at a time, right?

Sunday night I went to Victoria Park with some friends to see a fireworks show.  Although fireworks had been going off all weekend for Guy Fawkes Day ("Remember, remember, the fifth of November...")  this show was in remembrance of the Blitz, and started off with the sounds of air raid sirens and searchlights.  The park was packed; I think all of East London and then some were there.  There were people at all the entrance gates with buckets, collecting money for the Stairway to Heaven memorial trust.  I had no idea what that was--all it brought to mind was a Led Zeppelin song--but luckily Jersey was with me and, for some reason, knew all about it.  During WWII, the Bethnal Green tube station (which is a 10 minute walk from my campus) was used as an air raid shelter.  When anti-aircraft rockets were fired off in Victoria Park, the crowd panicked.  Someone tripped on the stairs of the station, starting a domino effect.  173 people died, and 90 were injured.  According to the memorial trust's website, it was the worst civilian disaster of the war.  It's strange to me that the site of the worst civilian disaster of WWII doesn't already have a memorial--that money is still needing to be raised.  Maybe it has something to do with it having occured in the east end--I get the feeling that it's a pretty overlooked area in general.  Anyway, the fireworks were possibly the best I've ever seen.  They were huge.  It was a little strange, watching fireworks in a coat and scarf, rather than shorts and tanktops. 

Alright, the sun is out--gotta love London's sporadic weather.  Time to seek out some lunch!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

grey skies turn blue

After moving from South Jordan, to Lynchburg, to Sugarhouse, to London, I'm realizing that running in a place allows me to connect with the neighborhood in ways that, say, taking the bus/tube/car would not.  Maybe this is because I run for running's sake--I'm not trying to get somewhere, to make it someplace by a certain time; I just lace up my shoes and run.  I don't have a mileage goal or anything.  There's a rhythm and a peace that comes with running.  I feel a sense of companionship with people I pass (or maybe I should say everyone who passes me...:).  Especially on sunny days like today, when Victoria Park is filled with footballers and bicyclists, families and beloved family dogs.  Nothing beats sunny Sundays in Victoria Park.  I almost didn't go, since I looked out the window and it looked so grey outside--but by the time I made it to the park the sun was out in full force.  As I crunched my way through fall leaves, then darted across Grove Road into the second half of the park, I felt at home.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reading Week

No classes this week at Queen Mary's: it's Reading Week, a time for responsible students to catch up on and get ahead in their coursework.  Most study abroad students use this time to travel...unfortunately, I'll be hanging around flat 40 being a responsible student.  I'm trying to clear my Christmas break of essay-writing, because I have four final essays due when the break ends in January...and I'll be doing most of my travelling over Christmas.


National Gallery with my Art Histories class at 10 a.m., after which I decided to check out the National Portrait Gallery, which is right next door.  Really cool: I'd rather look at pictures of people than pictures of anything else.  There was even this exhibit of a cast of a man's face, a self portrait, which he'd made from his own blood!  It was kept in a refrigerated case.  Apparently he updates the cast every ten years or so to reflect how he's aged, and fills it with new blood.  Really fascinating, in a disturbing sort of way.  The gallery had portraits of everyone from Ian McKellen to Charlotte Bronte to Darwin (who, by the way, is on England's ten pound note) to Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue.

Afterward, I walked around Leicester Square with my friend Angeline, who is from Singapore.  There was a mini carnival going on, with rides and games and food.  Angeline had never been to Soho, so we checked out that area as well.  Soho is pretty sketchy, actually, with lots of sex shops!  There are some fun clubs there, but I definitely wouldn't want to walk around there by myself at night.  Angeline left to go to a dance class and I got back on the tube to Mile End, to my empty flat.  I had to walk back from the station in the rain, and I whipped out my new umbrella for its first use...and the wind turned it inside out.  I think I need to invest in a quality umbrella, not a five-pound one from H&M.  Janette and I ended up going back to Leicester Square with some friends last night and catching a night bus back to campus.  All in all--umbrella excluded--it was a fun day.  Now that I've been jarred out of sleep by a Pooley House fire drill, however, it's time to crank out the essays!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Last night the orchestra had a "gig" at St. Mary-le-Bow church, which is by St. Paul's Cathedral.  It was some kind of special service, and we combined with the choir.  The orchestra here is open to any and everyone, so the people who stick with it are really in it just for the joy of playing music and meeting other people who share that enthusiasm.  Four flautists, including myself, were there--one of them had decided that the flute players should all wear pink for the concert, and we all pulled through.  Wish I'd gotten a picture!  The acoustics in the church were amazing; we sounded like pros!  There was something awe-inspiring about the sound of singing voices in that space.  Afterward, most of us had dinner at a cafe downstairs--in the crypt!  Curry and dessert for 10 pounds: a good deal for a dinner in London.  It was a fun night.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Can you tell who I was dressed up as??