On Banks and Birthdays

So. Now begins life in London. I’ve been there, done that, seen most of the tourist things. Since my last post, I’ve not been up to much. Just wandering as usual. I did manage to open a bank account, so that’s something at least. My housemate and I walked into HSBC thinking we could open a simple account and I could have if I wanted to pay £8 per month (which I don’t). So I walked next door to see what Barclay’s had to offer. They were more than accommodating. I set up an appointment to meet with a banker the next day. So the morning of my birthday was spent in the bank with a lovely woman named Veronica, chatting away whilst she opened my account. One hour and forty minutes later and I leave the bank as their newest customer.

My birthday treat to myself was to go to the Tate Britain. I went later in the afternoon, thinking that I would see some of my favourite paintings. When I arrived, it was plainly evident that the gallery was undergoing construction/restoration. But I entered anyway. I was quick to realize that the majority of my favourite works had now been collected into an exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelites and entrance to the exhibition began at £14 for concessions (students and seniors). But being the impoverished student that I currently am, I chose to wander the remainder of the museum rather than pay the price of admission. The galleries that were not undergoing restoration were dedicated to a collection of paintings by JMW Turner and an exhibition on 20th century art. I like Turner, but modernism isn’t really my cup of tea, so I soon left.

I had to get to the university for registration, but I had some time to kill so I walked. I like walking along the Thames. It gives me a chance to think things through. For some reason, everything is clearer when I’m by the water. It’s as though the current washes over my brain and leaves behind only that which is important. The stones left behind in the river of thought now focus my attention. With my feet on autopilot, I wandered my way back toward central London, consumed by my thoughts. Sooner than I had expected, I have arrived at King’s. I quickly registered and received my ID. Like pulling off a Band-Aid, but less painful. I am now officially a full-time postgraduate student at King’s College London. But that was all I had planned for the day.

I texted Jonathon to tell him the joyous news of my registration and we went for drinks. Too many drinks… I’m still not entirely sure how I made it home last night. I remember getting on the train, but I was beyond the ability to reason. Luckily, the Underground is labelled extremely well. I drunkenly managed to change trains and ended up in Stratford. A short bus ride later and I’m home. This morning, I see that I’ve thrown my clothes all over the room, cleared the bed of everything that lay on it, and crashed. Hard. Some things never change, regardless of locale.

Today, I’ll be working on my CV and recovering. Yay responsibility!

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Costumes and Culture

So. After our incredibly English day, Stephanie and I ventured once more into the urban jungle of London. We met in Trafalgar Square in the shadow of Nelson’s Column and the giant lions guarding its base. We made our way up the stairs and into the artistic halls of the National Gallery. Touring an art museum is so much more enjoyable when you have a partner in crime. We laughed our way through the hideously drawn faces of the Renaissance art, the multitudes of Jesus and Mary depictions, to the incredible landscapes of J.M.W. Turner and the pointillism of Monet. Seriously, though. One would think some of the artists had never seen a woman’s face before. The twisted visages ranged from foreheads the size of billboards to just plain grotesque creatures. Oh, and the babies? Demonic or disfigured. But I digress.

After we regained our composure, we grabbed some sandwiches from Pret A Manger and sat on the edge of the fountains in Trafalgar munching away. Pret can be a bit overpriced for what it is, but the sandwiches are good, natural, and made fresh every day. At the end of each day, the sandwiches that aren’t sold are donated to shelters. What’s not to like about an all-around feel good sandwich? After lunch, we wandered down to Westminster, seeing the major sights along the way: Downing St, Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower, Parliament/Palace of Westminster, and Westminster Abbey. Stephanie snapped a few tourist shots and we pressed on.

Three trips to the UK and I still can’t resist taking a pic of Big Ben.

The Victoria and Albert Museum was our next destination. The V&A is an eclectic collection including artwork, sculpture, and culture from around the world, spanning the centuries. We walked through Roman archways, passed through galleries on Japanese culture, and finally grabbed a map to give a sense of order to our exploration. My favourite part of the museum is that it chronicles life and how people lived throughout the centuries. From dishes and flatware to a replica bed from a Scottish estate, life has been preserved within the walls of the museum.

Did I mention the museum is interactive? No? Well, let me tell you… We went around to all the interactive spots we could find. Stephanie and I had a blast trying on hoop skirts and cravats respectively (I thought about putting the skirt on… but thought better of it), and Stephanie designed her own monogram (my station was malfunctioning). Best of all, we tried on costumes that theatre companies had donated to the museum. Magician, china man, Mr Toad, fire bird… Stephanie was ecstatic over the fire bird, flapping her wings in front of the mirror. We had an awesome time!

Two hours in the V&A and we had barely scratched the surface, but London has so much more to offer. We walked to Hyde Park and rested our weary feet while reading the Evening Standard. It’s a free newspaper that is printed and distributed across London every evening. It’s so easy to stay abreast of current events here, even if the Duchess of Cambridge has dominated the front page for the past few days. I wanted Stephanie to see the park, so we strolled around the Serpentine – a lake in the centre of the park – parting the sea of ducks, geese, and pigeons. However, I was unaware of the damage done to the grounds by the Olympics. The northern portion of the park looks like a wasteland… But we walked onward, heading for Oxford Street so Stephanie could procure some leggings to accompany her outfit for the next day.

We embraced the madness and the horde of people shopping their way up and down the street, trying to locate a decent pair of leggings on a budget. Thus, we arrive at Primark. Far from a high end department store, Primark is good for the essentials. We dove into the crowd, hunting for the illusive leggings as Luna Lovegood hunted for the Crumple Horned Snorkack. Leggings in hand, our rumbly tumblies sent us in search of food. Continuing my duties as culinary London tour guide, we headed to a pub for a platter of fish and chips, another British staple. Our stomachs full and our palates quenched with a pint, Stephanie and I walked down Carnaby Street to Shaftesbury Avenue. This is where Hermione apparated in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 1. In the books, it’s Tottenham Court Rd, but that’s a minor detail. We wandered around M&M’s World for a bit and then walked down to Piccadilly Circus to see it all lit up. Piccadilly is London’s answer to Times Square. Bright, busy, and lots of people. Taking the photos required of all tourists and having successfully navigated our way through another culture packed day in London, Stephanie and I returned to our respective domiciles.

Pub

Pub food and pints.

Carnaby Street

Union Jack

God save the Queen.