Some more fragmentary observations from my trip.
London is an excellent city to wander through with no destination in mind. I set out from Charing Cross last night intending to get a pint at whatever pub seemed the most inviting. For a while, I walked through the West End, which is utterly mad on warm Saturday evenings in May. Crowds thronged in the streets, people pushing past one another and going around the fences at the edge of the sidewalk, which are meant to discourage jaywalking. I spent several minutes trailing a parade of Hari Krishnas, some of them dancing, others playing cymbals or saxophones. The crowd lit up as they walked by. Quite a few people joined in the dancing, generally ignoring the flyers that one of the Hari Krishnas kept trying to hand out.
After several detours, I wound up in Soho at the Toucan. Some bars in London, including the Toucan, are licensed for sidewalk drinking, so I stood outside with my Guinness for a while, watching couples walk by and utterly failing to work up enough nerve to talk to any of the locals. I wandered around for a while longer after that, then returned to the hotel. The only time I got lost was once I reached Trafalgar Square and started actually thinking about which direction I needed to go. (I suppose that’s little more than a truism; one can’t be lost if one isn’t trying to go anywhere in particular.)
Today we visited the Tate Modern, which I wandered around for several hours. Long lines and my own impatience forced me to skip the Edward Hopper exhibit. Perhaps I’ll have time to return before we leave. In lieu of that, I discovered Cornelia Parker’s remarkable Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (which, sadly, the website does not do justice), enjoyed John Curran’s Honeymoon Nude for, I think, the third time in person, and sunk very deep into several Mark Rothkos. Then I wandered around the city for a while longer, got caught in a rain shower (joyous!), stopped at my hotel, and now here I am, back in the easyInternetCafe, waiting to meet my family for dinner.
And now a quick British vocabulary lesson:
- Instead of “for here or to go,” you say “eat in or take away”
- The word “scheme” does not connote nefariousness; there are signs everywhere about “road improvement schemes” and the like
- To my continual frustration, the word “centre” should not be pronounced as it would be in France
- French fries are called “chips”
- Chips are called “crisps”
- Crisps are called “tarts”
- Tarts are called “saucy wenches”
- Saucy wenches are called “French fries”
Somehow I’ve managed not to eat any Cadbury’s Creme Eggs yet. I must set about rectifying that.