Friday, September 9, 2016

Things I've Learned in London: Week 1

This is the delicious fish and chips I ate.

  • That is some big fish. No, seriously. That's a MEDIUM. Really well done, too. Cod, but that's like the least adventurous fish they have there -- I just like cod. If you get the chance, go to The Fish House on Portobello Road. The upstairs waiter is this very nice Italian guy from Milan. Two thumbs way up. 
  • My hair loves it here. It's the humidity, I'm sure. Seriously, best hair in ages. 
  • Sweating. So. Much. Again, it's the humidity (and that I'm fat, I'm sure). Because the temp isn't that high and the exercise is not that strenuous, and it seems to depend on the room I'm in (if I'm in a room) as much as anything. Not terribly fun. Better on lower humidity days.
  • Laundry services. Expensive, but a super nice splurge. I can't afford to do it again, but I'm glad I did it once. They even got the spot out of my skirt! 
  • I got a coat. Actually, let's be clear -- I think I could be in love with Marks and Spencer. I've had to restrain myself from trying on lots of things in there. As it is, I have a nice waterproof light coat that's lined and will be super useful when it's cold and a bit damp, but not worth digging out the wool coat. 
  • This is the street I'm staying on. 
     London is hands down the most open city I've ever been in. I haven't visited New York, mind you, but I've been to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Washington DC, Baltimore... To some extent, they all hold themselves like closed doors. You can fit in eventually, maybe, but that doesn't mean you're not a stranger. In some places this can be overcome (Chicago can accept you fairly well if you survive a winter there -- it's a bonding experience -- and learn about the customs of parking spots), while in some it's never changing. London... London doesn't care. You need some English to live here, but you can get by regardless. The half-understood conversations over a couple of different languages, the smiles over children's heads, the kind offer of a band-aid when I was limping... It's a little professional, a little distant, but largely friendly and willing to be the same towards everyone -- we're all here, after all. I appreciate that tremendously.
    This is me, on my street, with my coat.
  • Print is a living thing here. I think it has something to do with public transit, honestly. The fact is that everyone's a commuter, because cars for downtown London are a sign of insanity or driving for a living, in my opinion. As such, there's time to read. You can read on your phone, but signal is iffy if you need an internet connection. Also... I dunno. I suppose it's a lot less likely someone's going to steal a book, if it comes down to that. Also, the Evening Standard. The Metro. All the publications handed out for free on the evening commute or on the way home. People read here in ways I've heard about but never seen. It's fascinating and makes me a little wistful that I can't see this back home. 
  • People don't care or mind that I'm from the U.S. Thanks, Obama. :) 
There is more, much more, but I can't fit it all in here. I'll do a post on the British museum itself, even though I only saw like a quarter of it, tops. And I'll have to do a theater post at some point, since I went to see the Mousetrap and I will be seeing Cymbeline (or rather, Imogen) before I go home. I could go to a LOT of theater if I lived here -- it's astounding, really. So more to come. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

London research ramblings

So, I thought I should probably post a bit about exactly what I'm trying to research, if only to give myself a chance to work through it.

My initial plan was to look at reprints of famous novels, particularly in periodical format. Specifically, I'm looking at Novelist's Magazine, and trying to figure out what changed both in subsequent printings and in this particular format of the novel. I'm looking primarily for added illustrations, but I'll also take general decoration, typeface, layout, etc.

I wanted to look at two novels: Pamela and Joseph Andrews. The image to the right is the title page from an early edition of Pamela by Samuel Richardson. This is, of course, kind of appropriate, since Pamela was such a huge hit, and Joseph Andrews is Henry Fielding's response to Pamela by writing about her brother and his adventures.

Now, I know from research that both Pamela and Joseph Andrews were published in Novelist's Magazine. And obviously, the British Library has early versions of Pamela to work with. Unless I'm missing something, though, it doesn't seem to have print copies of early versions of Joseph Andrews. There's digitized versions, but I really wanted to work with the print so I can judge paper quality, how it was made, and thus try to discern who the audience for the work may have been. I could go to Irish printings if I wanted to -- they have Dublin printings -- but I'd greatly prefer to stick to London printings if I could, if only for consistency. My understanding of the Dublin press is that it was generally a cheaper printing, which is... well, not what I wanted to study, and less likely to include illustrations.

So then the question becomes, do I stick with Joseph Andrews or look for one of the other novels? Tomorrow I'm back to the library and I'll be making that decision. It's disappointing, though. Still, this sort of thing happens when you're doing research -- you never know what you'll find.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Things I Learned in London: Days 2 and 3



  • The coffee shop/bakery across the street from me sells the best latte I've ever had. No, seriously. It is that good. Here is it. Apparently it's part of a small chain, but if it serves coffee this good, I don't care. Also, their regular coffee is quite nice as well. The only thing I don't care for is their insistence that everything should be served on a small plank. A plank is not a plate. Even trenchers had a carved indention. It's not that hard, people.

  • If they tell you that they have crispy bacon, they're lying. Or else "crispy bacon" is code for "not-crispy-at-all bacon, but it has grill marks. See?" On the other hand, ham hereabouts is amazing, and I don't even really like ham all that much.

  • Public restrooms are hard to come by. Some places don't have them at all, some places hide them unless you ask.
- Traveling and being an introvert is hard. I'd been pushing myself because, after all, I don't have that long here, and I'd intended to do another day of that, but I just... couldn't. So I didn't. And I feel better for it. I wish I were young and able to keep going endlessly on four hours of sleep (or even seven) but there's no denying that this just isn't me anymore, if it ever was. I found the TV lounge in my dorm today. I've never been so excited to sit in a quiet room with exquisite windows and watch Wreck-It Ralph. Oh, and part of something on either the BBC or ITV about Victoria. Whatever. My ankles are thanking me. 
  • Transit here is amazing. Now, I have a thing about buses and trains. I didn't even remotely get to use them until I was an adult, and there was always a bit of a stigma about them, and trying to figure out how to use them makes me all kinds of nervous. I got over it in Chicago enough to use the L with decent competence., but I still haven't mastered the RTA in Cleveland. The Tube and the buses though? No problem! I'm sold. Whatever it takes to keep the trains running, we should pay for it.
  • This gentleman in marble behind me is George III. Yes, the one we fought the Revolutionary war against. This bust has him in a (in my opinion) ill-advised Roman get-up. Behind us both is the King's Library. He decided it was a shame that the British king didn't have a good library to speak of, and so he set about correcting that. 
As you can see from the picture to the left, boy did he ever. There is a square room many stories high (6,7?) in books all all the way around it, all in glass, in the center of the British Library. That is the royal library he created, that was bequeathed to the British Library by George V. Needless to say, that was one of the more awesome things I've been able to see thus far. 

- I shopped at a green grocer today. The differences between food stores hasn't stopped tripping me up yet. I have some semi-healthy plant material for my room, however, along with some cheese and juice. It's enough for snacking at any rate, without falling back into junk food. 

- "Veg" as such foods as "vegetables" are commonly called here, are strangely handled. It's as though despite years in the EU, they don't entirely know what to do with them hereabouts. I ordered a bacon quiche at the BL only to discover they'd hidden enough corn in it to call it a corn and bacon quiche, but they didn't. I ordered pasta last night with chicken, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes, and got three halves of cherry tomatoes for the whole plate. I ordered a salad the other day and got a few greens, but way more Caesar dressing, rendering a lot of it only vaguely edible (again, see faux "crispy bacon"). Also, while I know courgettes and aubergine, what the heck is rocket? Greens of some sort, it seems? *shrug*

Tonight I think I'll finally try fish and chips, unless I decide to order in, as I've learned I can get apparently good fried chicken delivered -- the decadence! Stay tuned and see! 





Thursday, September 1, 2016

Things I've Learned in London: Day 1


  • London has a serious thing going on with avocados. I mean, I like avocados a lot, and even I am now wary of finding them where they don't belong after a single day. Caprese salad should not have avocado. Just. No.
  • Yay, I'm staying in a Georgian townhouse, on streets with a lot of other Georgian townhouses! I can pretend I've come to London for a season and can leave cards for people!
  • Boo, I'm staying on the third floor in a Georgian townhouse, with three flights of stairs and no lifts, as they say! And the plumbing is wonky. And there's no climate control, though the gorgeous weather currently makes that less of a concern.
  • I can eavesdrop on everyone, and only half of them are in a language I understand! Fun! :)
  • Doggies are everywhere! Everyone's walking a dog. It's awesome.
  • People are generally nice! It probably helps that I'm generally nice too.
  • I still feel like I'm walking around a movie set. I'm not sure how many days it'll take me to be convinced this is a real place I am actually. Perhaps all of them. The strangely surreal plumbing issues at my dorm do not help this feeling, to be frank.

    Stay tuned for more!