Tuesday, 14 October 2008

considering herself, at home.

Ah, London. I worked out that in the end I've spent almost a month in London this year: enough for it to feel familiar, enough to feel almost-at-home, like a visitor not a tourist. Still, becuase I've got a pattern going here, more dot-points (sorry Kate) and then finally some words about this city. K? K.

  • Thursday: to London. Yo! Sushi @ Paddington station. Went to Oxford St, fought with the Apple people again, Primark, the Gap. Collected the rest of my luggage.
  • Friday: Boden shop morning, Jermyn st (tie). Helped Nhan to the airport with her luggage (novel to be on the other side), Mozart's Requiem at St Martin in the Fields.
  • Saturday: Flamingos 6 floors up, Kensington High St, Hyde Park (Albert Memorial, Diana Memorial, kids soccer), Harrods (madness and the Laduree for one final macaron), the British Museum (saw the Rosetta Stone, gave up on the crazy crowds in exchange for truffle cake), the Mousetrap, Avenue Q (most excellent, a real highlight!).
  • Sunday: Windsor Castle (better than Buckingham or Versailles, collections like a storybook), coffee w Sarah.

London is an interesting place and I'm not sure I can express my feelings about it properly to anyone but myself. One of my friend's uncle's lived there for 20 years, and he says that the only people who lived in London are the exceptionally rich, those who grew up there and have never known anything different, and foreigners who're still starry eyed and haven't figured that you can have a nicer quality of life by commuting. That seems a fair enough summary to me: there're bogans (chavs?) here when in Paris they'd be relegated to the suburbs, yet a good standard of living is incredibly expensive , and there are more Australians than in Hobart. Which all makes for a rather odd experience really: it's a huge city so there are always things to amaze; you never really feel like a foreigner, but never really fit in either. Constantly in London I felt torn between different parts of the world, and different parts of myself.

The thing I liked most about London is how much of everything felt so familiar even whilst it was brand new to me. So much of our culture is based on the British, and so much of the British is based on the capital... Tube stops ring bells for Australian suburbs, familiar words like 'ta' and 'bloody' are used here easily though they cannot be in America or Europe, street names recall nursery rhymes, the architecture screams of a certain ABC cop show...

What I gleaned most from London, however, was an understanding of why English people are as they are. Or maybe it's the other way around. English people are a bit dowdy, glum, and deadpan. A M&S sandwich represents a gourmet lunch (actually, they are quite good). There's a murder in London almost every day. The landscape reflects all this: it's grey, a bit grubby and it rains, rains, rains. But despite all this, there are wonders everywhere. Perhaps not around every corner - it's too big for that, but this city has nourished the English language's best writer, it has built (and, ahem, pillaged for) the world's greatest museum, its tube carries a billion passengers a year. London is quite literally, the centre of the world, yet somehow, like the people, this giant city just keeps calm and carries on, but always with a twinkle in its eye.


Here I am again: I find myself in an odd position - I miss the regular writing, but haven't been feeling like finishing off the last few trip entries as something about being at here has blanked out my memory for anything other than being home and content at last. So I'm in the position of wanting to write, but not being able to write because I don't want to write. Stooopid.

Anyway, I'm getting fed up with all the procrastinating, so here we go:

We visited Bath for a couple of days, before the final mad london-home dash. The day we arrived it was raining and horrible. We went for a quick walk before the weather finally got the best of us in the form of a very spectacular umbrella inside-outage. It was one of those giant non-collapsible golf umbrellas and it went WOOMPF and the fabric even ripped from the metal. I must say, for all that it sort of ruins the function of the umbrella, I kind of like it when that happens. You'll be trudging along feeling wet and cold and grumpy, and then all of a sudden there's nothing to do but see yourself as motorists must and have a little giggle. On this occassion we therefore abandoned the tourism and had a long warm dinner at a resto called The Circus.

Wednesday was yet another exercise in fitting as much in as possible to one day. We went to Bath Abbey which was quite pretty, but the thing I liked most about it were all the dedications to people all over the walls and floor. Entire flagstones were taken up by small font accounts of departed people's lives and personalities. It's a shame we've lost that and it has all been boiled down to the impersonal 'First Name, Last Name, RIP, Sadly Missed'. I'd like someone to write something long and poetic and insightful for me and the wind...

We went to the Roman Baths which were kind of underwhelming. The old baths themselves were nice, but the whole thing has been turned into a big museum about it all which I found massively DULL, unfortunately. The funnest thing was tasting the water in the Pump House afterwards, which fyi, is really impressively gross. No more whinging about Adelaide water. The funnIest thing were the signs impressing that the untreated water is dangerous to ingest and even to touch. I wonder if it was always so...I therefore wonder where the health benefits come in...

In the afternoon we hired a car (oooh how powsh dahlink, except it was actually only about two coffees more than joining a bus tour, with more flexibility and fewer socks and birkenstocks). We went to Stonehenge, which was really cool for about 5 minutes, before the cutting wind got to us. I think it would be more worth the visit if it was less of a trek, as it's pretty much how you imagine it. Although it's in a big field filled with sheep which is kind of amusing.

On the way back, we headed for the little village where my mum's family hails from. It turned out to be a REALLY little village (2001 pop: 45) - ie. if you weren't looking for it, you'd probably assume it was a large farm on the side of an 80km/h road hidden by a hedge. It had a letterbox and that's about it. Unfortunately we couldn't really see much, as there was only one access road, and it had a big sign saying 'private driveway'. Still, it was nice to go there, to take my molecules where they haven't been for a few hundred years, and the surrounding countryside and larger villages are ridiculously pretty. We headed back to Bath and had a very standard I-talian dinner.

Enfin, Bath is a really sweet part of the world, but is also sort of exactly how you'd picture it. Thus is is pleasant, but there are no real novelties or surprises. The best bit about this trip though, was that I found some boots. Ok, they aren't quite the magical boots of my dreams, but after 10 years of searching they were close enough to actually make a purchase which is really something. Brown soft leather, round-ish toes, some heel, well-shaped/non-cankle making, appropriate for office or eveningwear, no ugly seams in ugly places, not too cowboy/horseriding/femme fatale/biker/spaceman. Re-sult.