Camden Town is…the same as it ever was. Sex Pistols Tshirts, bong gas masks, crap takeaway from the endless identical fried-food stalls lining the canal, unhygienic-looking discount piercing parlors, and vintage-cyber-goth fashions in the Stables Market. I had a temporary mission to find a postcard saying “Camden” for Grace’s son but kept getting the Princess Diana cutout faces and pictures of Big Ben. Coming home of an evening I was startled at nearly being barreled over by a ruffian on the housing estate, but it turned out he was playing tag with his little cousins and so he apologized profusely.
I took the bus to Highgate and had an absolutely delightful conversation with a Canary Wharf financial services consultant named Peter at the Weatherspoon’s. Upstairs from the pub was a small theatre performing Avenue Q, a musical about racist puppets that I have waited years to see. Afterwards I hung around for the Sunday Club of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and good beer, sharing Abbott Ale with a grizzled man whose brother runs a country club in North Carolina and an Irish woman who kept informing me that she had a sister in Maine and that we had *just* the same accent.
The recommended initial deposit on an oyster card for a five day trip is £25. I did what I thought was a thoroughly respectable amount of traveling on every possible mode of transit and still had £2 refunded. Do people really go that many places, or is it a ploy by the transportation department to have people forget they have leftover money and so just leave it (and the £5 deposit) unclaimed when they depart?
A sunny day with clear blue skies over central London, what-what? Dave & Tracy and I went from Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens, past St James Place and Buckingham Palace and around for a really beautiful long walk through the linked green spaces and the Serpentine. We saw anti-GMO protests outside of Parliament and I had to be physically restrained from correcting a woman walking behind us who speculated “GMO…is that Gay Marriage?” Several hundred thousand Bayern and Dortmund fans invaded Wembley and The City to watch some soccer game–I didn’t think we allowed that many Germans in at once any more. At the Pret a Manger I learned two English words for “salad greens”: red salanova and apollo.
I crashed at Lee’s in Camden Town, succumbing to jet-lag and watching “The Voice”, an inadvisable example of two-way transatlantic television copying, and “Rise of the Planet of The Apes”, my second eye-rollingly bad James Franco movie in two days, thanks United Airlines for screening the new Wizard of Oz. I had disappointing Indian food in Shepherd’s Market for lunch so it made a nice parallel to have disappointing pizza at an Italian place on Chalk Farm road for my tea, although I did get nice African and Caribbean snacks at the supermarket over the road.
Hello from London, England, and no hilarious dialect jokes please. I landed at Heathrow to a pile of national disasters, from a beheading to a bomb threat to a downed airplane (not mine), so that was exciting but didn’t throw off my Twirl -> Independent -> Picadilly Line flow. Disarmingly, I did learn that Ribena is now owned by GlaxoSmithKline (!) and then I wasn’t permitted in the British Museum for Ice Age Art because they ran out of locker space for my carryon. As an alternative I went to a cool exhibit at the British Library about 20th and 21st century propaganda, including an infinite loop of one of my dad’s favorite YouTube videos, the Lambeth Walk. By lunchtime I was on a northbound train to Cricklewood from King’s Cross, where I met Seth’s friend Max and we found The Windmill together. Max and I also asked the Czech barmaid for recommendations on lunch places nearby and were met with a skeptical “well….if you LIKE Asian food….”
Productive things: I recombobulated my newly unlocked German phone with a new charger and SIM card and whatever, and was a public transportation success taking the plane to tube to feet to train to bus. I did forget my umbrella at home (but who needs one of those in England?) and I suffered my second hat casualty in recent memory by leaving it on a hook in the airport toilet stall. I did not visit Bunhill Fields to see Bayes’ tomb as recommended by Vikash, even though he claims that the disgruntled groundskeeper makes a wonderful put-upon face and asks you if you are a statistician when you request the key. Oh and I attended a very moving wedding of a Jewish vegetarian physicist to a High Catholic textile curator.