Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Two Weeks in London, Part I

I did originally write this last Friday, but one of the downsides of my move to London has been that I’ve had to deal with a rather sporadically working internet connection in my room, because of a faulty port or something. Hopefully it will be fixed soon and while London’s been great in many ways, this has been a royal pain in the ass.

So, as many of you (the four of you, that is) know, I moved to London, England two weeks ago for my one-year Master’s degree. Seeing as I’m sure everyone naturally will ask me dozens of questions about England and so forth, I’ve decided I will intermittently update this blog with my stories. I prefer to write about other things that aren’t me, but if I don’t do this I’ll spend half my evenings retyping the same stories for several different people. This way I can save myself time and readers then can pepper me with more individual and specific questions later.

With this entry, I’ll detail what I did during my first week in England. I flew out of Canada on Friday, September 21st and landed early in the morning on Saturday. I met my Dad at the airport. One of the reasons I chose to leave on Friday and not some time in the following week was that it allowed me to meet my Dad in London. He was in Frankfurt on business all week and instead of flying home he just flew into London on Friday night and met me there. After that we departed on the tube for my residence, which was a hassle as we were carrying three suitcases and two reasonably large bags between us and I am somewhat injured. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to check into my room until 2 pm, so we had to store our bags and then find something to amuse ourselves for 5 hours.

We wandered over to campus and spend about half an hour and saw the whole campus (more on that in another post) and then we wandered the streets a bit and had a long lunch at the pub, which was nice after airplane food and a morning stroll. Not surprisingly, between 12:00 and 12:15 the pub went from being deserted to having about 35 people in it, all drinking beer early on a Saturday afternoon. We got back to the residence hall and got my stuff up to the room, but by this point jetlag was beginning to hit, as I hadn’t slept on the plane. I was exhausted and in no mood to unpack. I was fine when on my feet, but once I was in the same room as a bed, I had to sit down and then I was toast. After we (read: my Dad, because I was too damn tired) unpacked some of my clothes that needed to be hung up, like my suit jacket and good pants, we decided that we should leave the rest of the unpacking for another day.

So, we threw overnight stuff into a bag and took off for the train station and took a train to Norwich, where my dad is from. We arrived there around 6 and my Aunt and Uncle greeted us at the train station. My Dad’s sister is one of the nicest women I know; she’s absolutely wonderful and her husband of about four years is great, as well. She must have put our family up for four day to a week about fifteen times in the last twenty-odd years, always without complaint and with a giant smile on her face. She always remembered all of our favourite English foods and was absolutely fantastic towards us kids. You never got the sense she was even remotely bothered by our presence, which is saying something, as I’m sure there were a few times me and my siblings acted like twerps. Anyhow, I really like them. We had a nice stew with them on Saturday evening and my Aunt, Uncle and Dad spent the whole evening talking.

Sunday was a lot of fun, too. In the early afternoon my Uncle arrived with his three sons (they’re something like 17, 14 and 13 or 18, 15 and 14 or something). In the middle of the afternoon my Dad’s other brother arrived, along with his wife, although their 19-year-old son stayed home. My Aunt’s 33-year-old daughter also came by in the middle of the afternoon, as did my Aunt’s neighbours and their three children. It was nice to do a big family meal like that, even if I spent half of the time with the kids, especially because it’s something we never get to do in Canada. I think my Dad enjoyed it a lot too, as it’s probably been 18 months or so since he’s seen any of the family. Later in the evening, after both of my Uncles had left my Aunt’s 30-year-old son arrived, which completed the evening. The entire family was really supportive and gave me cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses and my Aunt extended an open invitation for me to come over any time I wanted, for as long as I wanted. It’s quite comforting to know you have that safety net there and I do intend to spend another weekend in Norwich at some point.

We arrived back in London midday on the Monday and spent the next day and a half unpacking, buying some essentials for my room and doing a bit of exploring around London. My Dad never spent any real time in London when he lived in England and we’ve only stayed there once, for about three days, during our repeated visits to England, so even though he’s roughly familiar with the geography of the city, a lot of it is relatively new to him, as well. We went to see St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday and I assume my Dad has seen it before, but if he has it was likely 30 or 35 years ago or something, as we didn’t stop there during our one trip to London in 2004 or so. We weren’t able to go inside because of some special service and then during the walk back to my residence it started to rain, hard, and we got caught in it. Typical England for you.

We tried to go see the Arsenal vs. Newcastle football match on Tuesday night, but it was sold out and instead we went to see Spamalot, which is the means this year I’ve seen musicals on Broadway and in London’s West End, despite not seeing a musical in the previous five years or so. Spamalot’s lead was an actor from All Creatures Great and Small who my Dad was familiar with and who he had no idea did theatre, but the rest of the cast was no-names who had done other theatre shows in London. Spamalot was well done; you have to like Monty Python humour to enjoy it, but if you do it’ll give you a lot of laughs. There are a couple groan moments and a few jokes that fall flat, but most of it is consistently funny and it certainly keeps you entertained for two hours. It’s based roughly on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but blends in a number of parodies of Broadway theatre. The story is very loosely held together, but you’re laughing hard enough that by the time it registers, you’ve already disregarded it. It’s nothing incredible you’ll remember in a decade, but it’s a good night at the theatre.

After my Dad left Wednesday morning, things started to get weird. Really weird. I knew one person coming to LSE, a friend of mine from Queen’s named Katharine. So on Wednesday she arrived and had to room temporarily in my residence until the weekend, so she came and found me (so much for the front desk protecting my privacy) and I helped me her move into her temporary room and then I took her for a tour of the campus. After I was made to feel useful by showing her around the campus we met up with her friend, Katee, who is also doing her Master’s at LSE and who also a Queen’s graduate from Hamilton. I knew Katee to have seen her around a couple of times, but we never really talked. So then Katharine and I showed Katee around campus and then we went to go buy cell phones. Although the people on my floor are great, it’s a nice feeling to have someone around who you know from before and have some common basis with.

After peppering the salesman with fifty questions, including the same question about accepting international calls fifteen times, we all bought the exact same phone, because we’re cool that way. Katee knew someone else coming to LSE from Queen’s, so we met up with her in the evening, and she is also from Hamilton. Then we joined a few guys from my floor, another temporary resident in our building and a guy he knew for dinner, The temporary resident and the other random guy were – wait for it – both Queen’s graduates and one was from Hamilton. So yes, you read that right. My first evening in London was spent with nine other students, of whom five were Queen’s graduates, of whom four were from Hamilton. I never thought I’d feel like a minority because I wasn’t from Hamilton.

What’s also strange is that of these Queen’s people, one was a Politics student and one was a Politics/History student and I knew the girl to have seen her around, but had never spoke to her, and I had no recollection the guy existed at all, despite the fact both were in my program for four years at Queen’s.

In addition to all of those people, I’ve met two other Queen’s people here in the last week, meaning there are at least eight of us from K-Town here, including me. One of the guys I met ths last week is this cool guy from the Boston area. I met him in the caf first year when one of us said something about baseball to the other and we had like a five-minute conversation. Since then we’ll randomly cross each other about twice a year at Queen’s and we’d stop, exchange greetings, talk about baseball for a minute or two and keep going. So, one night last week I’m walking home with a guy from my floor in Covent Garden and I hear “Hey you” and I turn and it’s that guy and we reminisce. I’m not sure we even know each other’s name, but it’s still pretty cool. It’s also cool because I was the you in a “Hey you,” which almost never happens.

Thursday and Friday were pretty slow days. I spent most of one day sleeping, because that week I moved over it was really cold and I came down with a chill. The other day I just did some shopping for a few more necessities for my room. Both evenings I went out drinking with some guys from my floor and some of the Queen’s kids. The guys from my floor are a good group, one guy is from Chicago and doing IR, another’s from Holland and doing Human Rights, a third is from Southern Illinois and doing Philosophy and Public Policy and a fourth is from LA and doing Urban Planning. The latter two share my “flat”, along with a guy from Greece who hadn’t moved it at this point. Basically, the “flats” are just three individual rooms off the main hallway, which looks like any shitty residence hallway built in the 70’s, and then every fourth door is a key-operated one that leads to a mini-hallway, off of which are a tiny shower, a tiny bathroom, a tiny kitchen and the fourth bedroom. It’s not terrible, but it’s far worse than the arrangement I had in first year at Queen’s – where I also got pretty lucky, so maybe this is payback – but the location is good and the price seems reasonable, so I can’t complain too much. I just hate sharing a bathroom and having a tiny shower. At least the water pressure is good.

So that’s the play-by-play of my first week in London. I’ll try to come up with some more interesting stories for you later, but really the amount of Queen’s people here is something strange. I’ve come to the conclusion I have seven stalkers.


At October 11, 2007 at 10:51 p.m., Blogger Saba said...

yay blog!

when are you starting ACTUAL SCHOOL, you bloody slacker.


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