Sunday, November 9, 2014

The London Chronicles Week 1: Haddocks Are Huge

Darwin may have also died here
Darwin Lived Here
I've been in London for almost a week now, and happy to say that I've managed to survive so far, although I have not yet succeeded in waking up before 9 AM or falling asleep before 1 AM.  I've been warned by colleagues that the apartment/hotel I'm staying at will be on the "Ground Floor" which is an elaborate way of saying basement. It reminds me of Laverne & Shirley's joint, but with less interesting foot traffic.

Most of the week was spent mainly getting used to the new environments (glass and paper are recycled but al-eww-minium is not), realizing I have to pretty much walk everywhere, and coping with all sorts of joint pain (I'm Forever29 but my joints are 59) you enjoy after a 10hr flight in the middle seat with a lovely chav chap laughing at the entertainment out loud every 15 minutes, and an adorable 9 yr old and her Dad from Shropshire who kept flailing her limbs at me while she slept (this was more forgivable, although she nearly stuck her hand in my mouth at one point).   I was really tired after the adrenaline from the first few days of survival mode wore off, and it didn't help that the Cumberengagement was announced 2 days after my arrival, making it very clear that I did not arrive in Fairytale London (TM).

I usually am pretty good at being places on time, especially for work, but London Transport was determined to make a monkey out of me.  It doesn't help that the wifi at the apartment is shot.  Day 1 saw me clocking in at 90 minutes from apartment to work, but by Day 3-4, I managed to at least figure out the minimum way to get from apartment to work and reliably back using something other than my animal homing instincts and bat signals.  I am enjoying the view from the upper deck on the London bus, although getting off at stops means I do a full-hurtle body slam down the narrow stairs and pray I roll out of the door on time. The buses here are way cleaner than good old MUNI.  I even tried the Tube and survived, despite claustrophobia (it seems to get worse every year), but I think I'll stick to the bus for regular transport.            
Laverne & Shirley's apartment

The weekend started off well - I went to the British Library to see the "Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination" exhibit, which had a lot of precious books on display, and a good number of goths and non-goths in attendance. The gift shop was a little bland, but I enjoyed looking at Beardsley's illustrations, learning about The Castle of Otranto, and hearing Neil Gaiman (in video) talking about bravery. If memory serves, he said he used to get scared a lot when he was a child and hated it, because he thought he wasn't being brave, that being brave amounted to being not scared. Then, in his mid-30s he realized that being brave wasn't not being scared, but being scared but still doing the right thing anyway, and that is what he wants to teach his children.  Amen.  I then went on to drool at their floor to ceiling bookshelves and books. 

Afterwards I decided to go on a busing adventure, and hopped on the next bus that took me to Notting Hill Gate.  I avoided the busy streets as much as I can (weekends!), and found a little restaurant that looked nice and quiet, facing a row of extremely color coordiated pastel houses (I imagine  there'd be murder if new neighbours insisted on painting theirs neon or black).  I timidly asked if they seated people at this odd hour (3pm) and a nice guy who looked like a cross between a sweeter version of Gordon Ramsay and David Beckham (complete with that topknot hairstyle) in an apron came to the door and ushered me in, saying "It's Saturday! We seat all day! Anything goes on a Saturday!".  I got a nice cozy corner seat with a view out the window, and since it was a seafood restaurant, I ordered fish & chips.  They had choices of fish, so I casually ordered the haddock. I hadn't had haddock (say that 5 times, fast) as fish and chips yet. Mr. Ramsay-Beckham asked "The haddock?", and I said yes.  A group of women came in shortly after, and 2 of them ordered haddock. I felt smug, thinking that this was the right choice, how can 50% of a group of ladies be wrong? The waiter came by and offered a vegetable side to go with it, and I took him up on it because when you're traveling, you don't refuse vegetables. I always feel like I don't eat enough of those, anyway.  So I got a side of spinach, and was ready. Or so I thought.

The haddock, it turns out, is HUGE.  It didn't fit on the plate.  I tried, and failed, to make a dent in that thing. Apparently in the kitchen, they were having a jolly good laugh, because every waitstaff that came out after that was trying hard not to giggle at my face.  "Enjoy your food then", said a young chef bringing out a small cocotte of spinach. "I heard you couldn't handle the haddock? At least the cappuchino's on the house", smiled the barman.  On top of that, it was pouring rain outside.  Mr. Ramsay-Beckham came by, and I was worried he might yell at me for wasting a perfectly good fish (and it was delicious, I just couldn't summon up enough appetite between the jet lag and travel fatigue and general alertness from being some place foreign). He instead told me that the next time I come here, the fish will be on the house, and that I might go with the cod, it's smaller (wink-wink).   The food was delicious, and the people were really nice, so I may yet return, and yes, lesson learned: Haddock = HUGE.

Now, back to my apartment to see if I can figure out euro-washers.  xo, M. 

My Lifeline,  the bivalve card

The View from the Office

I'm in love with St.Pancras Station

British Library

books as far as the neck will crane

Posh Water

So nice of you to join me! 

The Haddock Before

The Haddock After (I ate another sliver after this, I swear!)

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