Stonehaven

One last Scotland post (for now…I did manage one more trip to Edinburgh but that’s a ways off), and it’s all about my favorite place.

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When I found out I’d be moving up to Aberdeen for a bit, Erin sent along some information she’d picked up in her Scotland blog reading–there happen to be quite a few wives of oil workers who end up in Aberdeen blogging. She had read about a town called Stonehaven that was really close to Aberdeen that sounded nice and had an apparently amazing ice cream shop. I heard the same from people at work, a flatmate, and a Tinder date. So I figured this Stonehaven place was worth a shot. I have never been so happy that I took in suggestions. I have been really lucky and been able to go to a bunch of pretty cool places. Stonehaven is still my favorite.

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Other Scottish Cities

With whatever spare time I had while up in Aberdeen, I tried to get out and see other parts of Scotland. I had already been to Edinburgh, so I focused on other main cities. One of the conservators I was working with gave me a contact list for conservators around Scotland, so I was able to get in touch with a few of them and arrange visits, giving my travels a bit of a purpose to them.

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Aberdeen

After my stop in Edinburgh, I took a short train ride farther north to Aberdeen. Short note on the train ride: it is beautiful. The day I went, it was grey and rainy but the views you get of cliffsides over the North Sea are still amazing. Also there was a little girl sitting at a table across the aisle from me teaching her grandfather a card game and I swear to you my Scottish accent was better than hers, so all around it was a pretty great train ride.

Aberdeen is…grey. Fittingly, one of Aberdeen’s nicknames is The Grey City. More often, it’s The Granite City, because many of the buildings are made from local granite (which is why it’s so grey…). That’s all well and good, but when you arScreen Shot 2016-05-01 at 9.09.00 PMrive in Aberdeen on a typical Scottish summer day (grey, breezy, always threatening rain), it is not exactly the most attractive place. My first couple of days there, I wandered around a bit, getting my bearings. I got soggy, I was cold, and I developed a fear/hatred of seagulls. People warned me that it got dark much later in Aberdeen, since it was further north (true fact, in high summer it is still not fully dark at 10:15pm), but no one warned me about the seagulls. Blog readers, I am here to warn you: Aberdeen is full of seagulls, and they are all loud whiny assholes. I don’t know what this seagull did to get red paint all over it, but I’m SURE IT WAS DESERVED.
The cab driver that brought me from the train station to my temporary home assured me Aberdeen was very safe (“you won’t be kidnapped and sold into white slavery!” he said apropos of nothing, allaying my most pressing fears, surely) and gave me a flying tour of the city on the way to Old Aberdeen. He pointed to the North Sea, telling me that Aberdeen has a beach, but I probably wouldn’t want to go in the water. But not to worry–there’s no sharks. “It’s not the sharks that’ll kill ye! Ken what will?” he asked, with a look in the rearview mirror like he definitely had me stumped. “The cold?” I guessed. “AYE, THE COLD!” he agreed, cackling. So uh, welcome to Aberdeen?

 

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Blog Debt Forgiveness

Recently, my friend Erin has been updating her blog. Which reminded me that, oh right, I’ve neglected mine for nearly 2 years now. I really did want to keep a record of my time abroad and actually write things down so I remember. I feel bad that I have been so terrible at this.

There’s a podcast I’ve been listening to a lot, called Reply All. It’s a podcast about the internet–things you find on it, things that happen because of it, etc. Last year, they started a holiday, Email Debt Forgiveness Day. It is a day to send emails you’ve been meaning to send, reply to emails that have been sitting in your inbox for an embarrassingly long time. I don’t have any emails I need to respond to (I…think? If I owe you one, let me know), but I want to expand Email Debt Forgiveness Day. I already think it should apply to texts, Facebook messages, and the like. So I’m furthering it to apply to this blog. I have been meaning to update, but it’s always been too long and I feel stupid about it. I have to dig up things from nearly 2 years ago to write about. But it’ll just keep getting farther and farther away, right? So here we are.

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Barcelona

Approximately a billion years ago, I went to Barcelona. A billion plus one years ago, I was talking to my darling friend Jenny about how I hadn’t traveled anywhere. I’d been to Cardiff, and Edinburgh was in the cards, but I hadn’t been out of the UK. Let’s go to Barcelona! Jenny declared. And soon enough, she was looking up flights and plotting plots. I like when things actually happen! So yes, we went to Barcelona.

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Year One All Done

Oh hi there, blog! Yes, I remember you. I knew I’d be terrible at this. Much has happened since I last wrote here, whenever the hell that was. Well, maybe not that much, but a few things! Most importantly, probably, is the fact that the first year of my MA is done. That feels a bit weird. We went to the symposium for the second year students, where they all presented their final projects, and I got a little sad about how quick everything’s going and about having to leave. But I still have a lot of time! So I need to stop freaking out and just enjoy it.

Here is a picture I shamelessly stole from my friend Kim, of our MA group. They’re pretty great.

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I had a pretty terrible end of year tutorial wherein my course leader basically thought I was grumpy, sad, and lonely. Yet somehow still enjoying London? I am occasionally grumpy, for sure, but I am not sad or lonely, and I have many of these people to thank for that. I had a lot of warm mushy feelings for everyone recently! I recall being sort of miserable back in October, not really sure what I’d gotten myself into. Sort of struggling to find my footing in London while still trying to make the most of my time here. But things have gotten much better! And I’ve met a lot of really great people–the ones above and others!–and had a lot of fun. This has included many hours spent drinking, pub quizzes, parties, museuming, etc. I feel pretty good about things. So I was a bit sad to leave London. Leave London? Why yes, I am now up in Scotland, in Aberdeen, for the month of July. I’m here for my work placement, but there’ll be more on that later, promise.

One thing that probably needs mentioning is my latest hobby, velodrome cycling. I say it is a hobby, but really it is a thing I for some reason agreed to do and am still sort of petrified of, but is fun? I have a friend here who is really into cycling. Well, I know a few people here who are really into cycling, but this one guy is REALLYYYY into it. So he races and things. And goes to the velodrome. You know, that bicycle track you saw on the Olympics where they’re riding up steep banking? And the bikes have no brakes and your feet are strapped into the pedals? Yeah, that. There’s a velodrome in Herne Hill, which is not too far from where I live, from the 1948 Olympics. It is now open to the public, and they have induction sessions on the weekend. Sunday evenings, there is a women’s-only session, which is much less crowded and stressful than their Saturday open to all session. I went one week with Kim, and while I did manage to topple over and scrape myself up pretty good, I still had fun with it, so agreed to go again a couple weeks later with two more of our friends in tow. I don’t think this is something I’ll ever be good at, and I definitely won’t be competitive in it, but…there’s something fun about it for sure. I think I like cycling, but am too scared to really ride on the streets, so having an open track to just ride along on is nice. And hey, it’s got a fun twist. As long as you don’t panic and topple over. I don’t recommend that.

Another thing I’ll mention for funsies is that I went on a boat in Hyde Park! I’ve seen people paddling around in the Serpentine, and for years had seen people in Central Park doing the same, but I never did it myself. Just before I left London, I spent part of a Saturday at the V&A with my friend Maddy. After we looked at what we wanted to see, we went for a bit of a wander, and ended up at the map shop where our friend Charlie works. She showed us around the place a bit, and then it was time for her to leave, so we ended up wandering with her and her boyfriend (also Charlie) over to Hyde Park. Someone decided we should go on a boat, and it was GREAT. I did no rowing, because I am lazy/wimpy, but it was still nice just being out on the water, especially when we got far enough away from the other amateur boaters. I feel like I can make fun of other people’s boating abilities because Charlie used to row and was very good at instructing.

So anyway, now I’m up in Scotland and it’s a bit chilly. Which is fine, I hate summer heat, but I just wish I knew quite how chilly it was going to be. Never trust a Scottish person about the weather, folks. I’m trying to avoid spending money I don’t have to buy warmer things, but we’ll see how that goes. I’ve made it one week and not been tooooo too cold. I just wish I brought a warmer jacket. All I’ve got is my rain jacket–which was a good packing choice, for sure. I feel like my suitcase was so heavy but there was nothing in it. Packing for 4 weeks is rough…

Until next time, blog! Which I swear won’t be as long as last time.

Eating London

After a few lovely days in Edinburgh, Heather and I hopped a train back down to London, so we could then eat the entire thing. If you do not know Heather, let me quickly explain: she is a sous chef. When I was her roommate, there were cookies everywhere all the time. Heather likes food. So her primary goal in London was to eat at a bunch of places. I went along for (most of) the ride.

Having a visitor was a good way to get back into being in London. My time home was so short, and Edinburgh was so lovely, that I was feeling a bit out of sorts and generally unenthusiastic to come back here. But showing someone around places, and being able to try out new spots that you’ve been meaning to try, or places you’ve never heard of, is really helpful.

The first night back, we went to Chop Shop, which is owned by the same people that own Heather’s restaurant in New York. The staff knew she was coming, so they were of course very friendly and chatty. I went to see the kitchen! I’ve never been in a restaurant kitchen before, so that was fun. Had some tasty food and interesting cocktails. Dinner was long, and as we were a bit tired from travel and had to get up early the next day, we headed home after.

In the wee hours of the next morning, we dragged ourselves to Smithfield Market. Smithfield, over near my old Farringdon/Clerkenwell stomping grounds, is a big wholesale meat market. Restaurants get their meat daily from this place, and they go early to do it. We got there probably around 7am, and all the big business was already over. But don’t worry, we still saw plenty of dead animals.

After that, we went in search of breakfast. One of Heather’s food writer friends recommended E Pellicci and I am SO GLAD we went. It’s just a hole in the wall greasy spoon in Bethnal Green, but is one of the best places I’ve been. We walked in and saw cops eating their breakfast, which usually seems like a good sign, since they should know the local spots. We sat and ordered up some gross wonderful English breakfast, and took in the scene. The owner was walking around the few tables in the place, talking to everybody. It was clear almost everyone else that came and went were regulars. He came over to talk to us, get our story. Heather explained she was visiting me, and when I said I was a student, the guy called me a “brain box”, then said Heather had a real job!! since she’s a chef. A regular overheard me talk about book conservation and pulled out a beautiful 1960s hardcover crime novel and asked how it looked. I wanted to stay and eat breakfast all day.

Instead, we wandered east London, through Shoreditch and Spitalfields. We walked through the City and I took Heather to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of my favorite spots just because it’s a weird old maze of a building. After more walking and a trip to the Museum of London, we stopped for another drink at Jerusalem Tavern. I’d read about this place in a silly guidebook I had in 2007. It’s almost around the corner from my old tube stop, but I never made it there. Since it was near where we were headed for dinner, we stopped in, and it was lovely. It’s a tiny place, and it was crowded with after-work drinkers. We found a little corner to perch in and watched all the people drinking outside. Drinking outside is a thing I’ve noticed, but not paid much attention to. It fascinated Heather. I don’t mean just sitting at a table outside or something. I mean just standing on the sidewalk outside the pub with a drink in hand. This happens everywhere. Huge masses of people standing outside pubs. Sometimes there’s plenty of room inside, but why drink inside when you can stand outside! We joined in later in the week, but for now, we stayed inside.

Once we were done drinking, we went to drink some more. We were having dinner at Polpo, an Italian small plates restaurant. There was a little wait for a table, so we went downstairs to the negroni bar. Heather really loves negronis and was very excited to drink here. I had my first negroni, and really enjoyed it. Dinner was great too, just tried a whole bunch of different things, and had a nutella pizza for dessert.

The next day, Heather wandered solo, while I went to one of my work placements. We met up for coffee, dinner, and a show. Had coffee at the adorable and tasty Free State Coffee, which I had been meaning to try. Dinner was at Fryer’s Delight, which was sort of underwhelming. It’s on Theobald’s Road, so I used to walk right past it twice a day on my way to and from class. I always liked their little fish mascot guy. It was fine fish and chips, but not anything super amazing. But I guess it’s sort of a fish institution, so whatever. For a show, we went to see Jeeves and Wooster, which was lots and lots of fun and very British. It currently stars Robert Webb and Mark Heap, which makes it even more exciting. I love Robert Webb for Peep Show and all the Mitchell and Webb stuff, while Mark Heap just seems to pop up in lots of things. Usually playing someone sooooorta creepy. They were both wonderful. Though I do wonder what it would have been like if Stephen Mangan stayed a bit longer and was in it with Mark Heap. Green Wing reunion dreams come true! Alas.

For Heather’s last food filled day, we looked at a lot of food. I took her to a big Sainsbury’s, because she was interested in seeing what British grocery stores were like. Then we headed to Borough Market, which she loved, predictably. We spent a  while in Neal’s Dairy Yard tasting different cheeses, presented to us by a guy that was in London from Chicago on a CHEESE INTERNSHIP. It was amazing. We then spent a good while at The George Inn. In 2007, my friend Mike made a group of us walk for like a million years to find this place because he learned about it in an architecture class and it was Very Important Historically. When we finally found it (we were dumb and couldn’t find anything back then), no one wanted a drink, so we all went home. I hadn’t been back. So I figured this was a good opportunity. The George is the only surviving galleried inn, whatever that means, and it is charming. Lots of little rooms to sit in, and a big yard to drink in as well. We could have sat here all day, but in the end decided to troop up to Camden for a bit, so Heather could squeeze a bit more into the trip.

Heather had a very fancy dinner reservation that night, which I did not join her for. The next day, she was off! I spent the next week doing a book survey with my fellow book students at Lambeth Palace. On the first night of Passover, I had a small seder. A Jewish friend from Stratford came down for a meal, and a few of my friends in London came by. It was a bit makeshift, but I think we did well! There was chicken soup (well, fake chicken since there were vegetarians), matzah balls, horseradish, kugel, latkes. I was just really happy people were interested and came. We made some modifications to the seder plate, most noticeably in the inclusion of my dear sheep Vinny instead of a bone to signify the paschal lamb. It’s ok, Vinny, you won’t really be sacrificed!

seder plate

seder plate

Have been back in class for a few weeks. Doing a lot of book sewing and case bindings so far. Getting better at the sewing. At least  I think I’ve stopped stabbing myself and bleeding everywhere, so that’s good. I went to see Bill Bailey (a wonderful British comedian you should check out) a couple weeks ago, and a production of The Pajama Game on the West End last weekend. A very silly show that I have a twinge of nostalgia for since it was my senior class musical. Hit up the British Library’s comic book exhibit which was great fun, and went to the Jewish Museum, which was a strange experience. On the hunt for an object to write about for an essay.

I also went for a walk along Regent’s Canal. I’m not completely sure of the bounds of the canal, but I went from King’s Cross over to Little Venice. It cuts through Camden Town and the market, past the zoo, and various docking/mooring areas. I had high hopes for Little Venice, but it wasn’t very exciting. Just lots of boats and LOTS of people. Still, it was a nice walk, and made me really want a boat home OR a friend with a boat home that would invite me over for boat BBQs.

That brings us almost up to date. I’m tired! Until next time…