Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Change from Tourist to Resident

Space InvaderWe've been here four months now, and London is starting to feel more like home than like a place we're visiting. I think this becomes true of any place you move: things begin to get more familiar, and once you see the traditional touristy things to see, you start looking for the cool places you can call your own. Last night we met up with some people from work and ate at an Argentinian steakhouse in the middle of South London; it was a great time, and it was one of the first places I've been that hasn't either been immediately around my flat, or something either Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide recommended. It's that time when we're discovering places we'll be that are off the path a little and are the ones we'd recommend to newbies.

It's a fun time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Weather Interlude

Every culture is good at something. The Irish are good at drinking and partying. The Australians are good at drinking and drinking. And the Americans are good at drinking and religious extremism.

The Brits are good at complaining about the weather. You may think people from your part of the world are good about complaining about the weather, but these people are like goddamned pros at it. It's like thinking 'yeah, I know how to drink and party' because you did some beer bongs in college and saw some sorority girls take their clothes off in the shower. And then you meet an Irish person and go out drinking and partying and realize 'holy God, I knew nothing.'

After this weekend, I think I understand why my new fellow countrymen excel at this particular venture.

For the last four days - the entirety of my long weekend - it has hovered just around the freezing mark with Arctic winds occasionally gusting in to make you feel particularly cold should you be outside. The weather pattern appears to be controlled by some 3 year old with ADD and some anger issues; on Friday, I walked to the pet store, a five minute journey. When I left, it was sunny. When I stepped out of the pet store, it was raining and hailing on me. When I walked back into my flat complex, it was snowing. Five minutes later, the sun was out again.

Today, things were looking up so we went out and walked around a bit. We decided to stop when the frozen rain - I can't even call it snow - was pelting our faces so hard it hurt. And looking outside about 45 minutes after getting back, it looks sunny.

But here come those clouds again.

Yes, I'm joining them. The weather here can really suck.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And All is Right With The World

Miranda on the Lookout

Yesterday we went out to Heathrow to pick up the cats. They've mostly skipped the scardy-cat phase of hiding under things and are just happy to spend time with us.

We are a family once more.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big City's a Little Different

Walking to work the other day, I cut down Bolsover Street rather than hiking down the (larger) Great Portland Street and noticed some cops standing outside a row of flats and some flowers on the ground. Turns out a 23-year-old socialite was found dead there under a pile of rubble with neck injuries. That's two blocks from my office building. I pass the place every day, or at least every other day when I don't take the main road.

London's funny because you can't take anything for granted: the great neighborhood where you work experiences a brutal murder. A building you pass every day conceals secrets behind its anonymity. True these things are possible anywhere, but here it seems like the volume gets turned up a little bit. Most of the time you lose yourself in the crush, but when something happens to break that illusion it's far more jarring.

For laughs, read some of the comments on the Daily Mail's piece about a suspect in her murder, who fled to Yemen.

Also, since everyone is doing it, here's my theory: erotic asphyxiation. You heard it here first, folks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Cabbies

"I got to warn you mate, I'm depressed." That's what my cabbie said when I jumped in the black taxi today on the way back from a meeting. And then he proceeded to strike up one of the oddest conversations I've had with a local since touching down.

Cabbies are basically the same the world over: some of them are nice and will talk to you, others think you're a captive audience for whatever belief they espouse, and some (my personal favorites) just don't say anything at all. I prefer the last one because I'm kind of antisocial about conversing with someone who will be played in the movie of my life by an actor who isn't even SAG.

This guy started by telling me how immigrants are ruining the UK and how lucky we had it in America. I wasn't feeling particularly feisty (and I noted uncomfortably that I was one of said immigrants, but didn't share this with him) so I kind of went along with it, said immigration was a big topic in the US as well, yadda yadda. He went on and talking about how horrible London was now that Red Ken was mayor, how it was better after Maggie Thatcher got rid of the GLC and no one was in charge of anything, how the congestion tax was causing more problems than it solved, whatever.

I make it a general rule to just smile and nod and ask a few unassuming questions when I'm in an unfamiliar place and people are discussing politics - not only can you not offend anyone that way, but you can also learn a lot regardless of your own political leanings - but I had to say by the time he got on the subject of the dyke cops who were keeping his son off the force, I was ready to protest a bit.

Then we were at my office and I missed my chance. Not that it would have accomplished anything but it would have been an interesting cap to a pretty surreal experience.

Cabbies. Gotta love 'em.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Poem: Sonnet to a Stilton Cheese

Sonnet to a Stilton Cheese by G. K. Chesterton

Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I--
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.
Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading "Household Words",
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.

Copied from Wikipedia and assumed to be public domain; if not, please contact me.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Lesson Learned

Good lesson: do not run the washing machine, oven and three out of four burners at the same time.

Also, "minted peas" are exactly what they sound like.