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.

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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!

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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…

Catching up (…again)

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Oh hi there loyal blog readers (mom, Bethany, various people with names that start with E). Sorry I am so terrible! It’s just, well, I’ve been busy and London’s been so stupid beautiful that I haven’t really had the time. Look at how pretty it’s been! While everyone back home has been freezing and wandering snow drifts, it’s been downright pleasant over here. I didn’t want to rub it in, you know? Of course, if I lived in the southwest of this here country, I’d be a bit more waterlogged and grumpy. But here in London it’s been a very mild winter (honestly, I don’t think it ever even dipped below freezing? Maybe overnight?). I whine about being cold sometimes, but always have to check myself on that. It’s not cold here. I’d go on and tell you about how my nose is slightly sunburnt from spending too much time outside this weekend, but…oh, sorry.

That said, I admire how committed the British are to doing things outside, even when it’s not really appropriate. I remember a slightly warmer than usual day in November, and how people were sitting at tables outside cafes because it was ever so slightly warmer, but not actually warm enough to eat outside. I’ve twice had drinks outside recently, and while it was mostly fine, after about an hour or so, everyone started shivering, sort of waiting around for one person to boldly suggest we move indoors. Today was properly warm enough to not even need a jacket, though, so.

But yes, things have been busy. Had a dreaded science test, on which, I would like to excitedly proclaim, I got a 74%. That may not seem very good, but considering how I feel about science, I think it’s pretty great. We also had a preservation management test, which I could not actually bring myself to study for, and was only difficult because it consisted of 15 long-answer, hand-written questions. Took a while to get feeling back. And we had a big deadline for our technical logs of all our work and class notes from the first unit. This would not have been such a terrible thing, had we all kept on top of everything from the start, like we were told to. But…yeah, we didn’t. So that was FUN. I said I’d be more on top of things for next time, but we’ve had like 2 weeks of classes since the submission and I’m already behind again. Oops.

Have started a fancy work placement at a fancy museum here, which is exciting. And, if you didn’t catch it, fancy. It’s only been a few weeks but we’ve already learned a bunch, and it’s just nice to actually be in a lab somewhere, seeing what kind of work is being done, how a lab functions, etc. Plus there’s a nifty (and cheap) staff canteen and it’s possible our badges will get us into exhibits at other museums for free. We went to a wildlife photography exhibition at the museum across the street and just had to flash our badges to get waved through the line like super important fancy people. These are the kinds of perks I get most excited about, so I am probably in the right field. Still doing my other placement at UCL too, which means I now have no free weekdays. I am very happy about that. I am busy! I like being busy. Too much free time weirds me out. I feel like a real person when I have things to do.

I’ve also been watching a lot of rugby. It’s Six Nations time. Six Nations is a big rugby championship tournament between England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Italy. After my trip to Cardiff, and my purchase of a Welsh rugby scarf, I guess I’m supporting Wales. Scotland is my pity team, since they seem to be pretty terrible. I mostly understand the rules, I think? It’s fun to watch but I missed everything this weekend because IT WAS SO PRETTY OUT.

Anyway, just checking in. Things are good. Heading home for a brief spell in about two weeks. Worried about how cold it’ll be. Had some grumpy weeks a short while back (which resulted in going to Stratford-upon-Avon and hanging out with fun people to cheer me, which I was going to write about eons ago, but I never did soooorrrryyyy. Basically: went to Strats, had a grand time, you kids are the best), and I was all pumped up to go home and was listening to Simon and Garfunkel sing about America. I’m still excited to go visit and see lots of people, but I’d also really love to stay here. I’m having a lot of fun lately–exploring places, hanging out with people, being incredibly geeky about books with other people who are happy to be incredibly geeky about books (and art on paper!). I’m going into the studio early tomorrow to play with paste. That’s the level we’re talking about here. And it’s fantastic. I got to see some beautiful old Hebrew books from the 14th-16th century last week and tried to stay cool about how exciting it was–but then I realized I didn’t have to stay cool about it because everyone I was around would understand–maybe not for the Hebrew books, but we all have our things.

Here’s another picture of pretty London to make up for my absence. I took a wander through Russell Square on Friday on my way to meet some friends (at a delicious Polish bar with lots and lots of vodkas and pierogi) and people were everywhere and everyone was happy. I forget how much the weather can affect my mood. Hope you’re all staying warm! I must go attend to my sunburn.

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Happy New Year!

Welp, it’s 2014. Has been for a few days now. As class starts again Monday, I’m frantically trying to remember everything I learned in science last term. The break ended up being quite busy, with a few people visiting London and much to do. I did spend some time at the library, though! I like going to the British Library, it feels like I am doing Important Things. So at least that’s some kind of motivation.

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Theatregoing

A note on theatre things, because it is fresh in my mind.

I like seeing plays! Often, theatre cheers me up. It’s been a thing I’ve loved since I was a little kid, heading into the city every year with my family around Christmas, to see the lights and a show. Sometimes I get a little silly with it and use it as a reward. Sometimes it is themed. As in, I went to see The History Boys on Broadway the day I finished a British Lit exam. It’s a thing I don’t mind doing alone, since it’s not a social occasion.

I haven’t really seen that much theatre in London so far. I saw a Propeller show in Guildford, The Drowned Man, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. In like 3 months! That’s ALL. 😦 😦 😦

When I was here in 2007, I remember theatre being incredibly accessible, especially for students. There used to be student standby tickets, where you could turn up at a theatre maybe an hour or two before curtain, and if there were unsold tickets, you’d flash your student ID and the box office would sell them to you cheap. I’m not sure if this is still common practice, but I get the sense that it isn’t. Though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go around asking at theatres. Day tickets seem to be the more popular thing–what we’d call rush. Getting to the theatre when the box office opens for a cheap seat. I like that theatres do this, but for more popular shows, it can mean having to line up at 6am or something ridiculous, for a box office that opens at 10am. It’s upsetting to see practices here getting more and more like Broadway, because let’s face it, unless you’ve got money, Broadway is becoming almost impossible. I don’t think top ticket prices are quite as bad here–at least at the Barbican the most expensive seat for Richard II was £55. Some theatres do have cheap seats–the National has £12 tickets available for all their shows, though you have to book pretty early to snag one. Other places have concessions available, which, as a full-time student, I qualify for. I got tickets for American Psycho at the Almeida and was able to pick some good seats for the £16 concessions rate. So there is still hope!

I’ve been trying to get to more theatre, though. Last week I randomly decided to day ticket at the National. I wound up seeing From Morning to Midnight. I will pretty much see anything the National puts on (and, excitingly, there are a bunch of things coming up there that I really want to see), and this had the added bonus of featuring a few actors I knew and liked (Adam Godley, Gina Bellman, Jack Tarlton). The staging was beautiful, really inventive. The first act was fast paced and funny. Second act got weeeeeeeird. But was still fun to look at. And for the Lyttleton at the National, day tickets are in the front row. Fun!

Last night, I went to see Richard II at the Barbican. A few things to know:
-The Barbican is a massive arts complex that has theatres, a concert hall, cinemas, an art gallery, a library, restaurants, etc. etc. etc. In 2007, I saw 2 shows there, and we made jokes about how everything was in the Barbican–a roller coaster, a petting zoo, barber shop. We thought it was funny. Anyway, I LOVE the Barbican.
-David Tennant is starring in Richard II. In case you didn’t know. I, uh, sort of like David Tennant? I mean, he’s ok, whatever. Totally not one of my fake TV boyfriends or anything.
-Tickets for this went on sale back in March, I think. As I had a job at that point, I bought myself a fancy third row seat for a random night in January. I then freaked the hell out, since I didn’t know what my class/life schedule was going to be like and OH NO WHAT IF I HAVE CLASS/SOMETHING IMPORTANT I CAN’T SKIP so I bought another, cheaper, ticket.

I have no familiarity with Richard II, so I can’t give you a review on whether this was a good adaptation or if they were true to the text or if they completely screwed things up or what. I can’t really give you any kind of review, I’ve come to learn I’m pretty bad at that. I can tell you, however, that I enjoyed it. I can further tell you that David Tennant’s hair, from where I was sitting, was not as horrifying as I thought it was going to be (he has some pretty silly extensions). I have heard criticism of him in general, that he can sometimes overact and plays roles the same. I think that criticism is shit. I might be a tad biased, but I thought he was GOOD and unlike other roles. Also, Oliver Ford Davies and Oliver Rix, man. Sign me up for the York family.

I’m glad I get to see it again, and much closer. The Barbican’s theatre is freaking HUGE. I wasn’t even in the highest section and damn, it was far. Also the woman to my left was a loud breather (sounded like she was snoring the whole time), and the group of girls to my right were a bunch of giggling NYU in London students (ugh, we were that awful at one point…). At the interval, I heard them talking about NYU London and I was like “I went to NYU!!! I studied in London, yay!!” and got a whoooole bunch of blank stares. Oh, NYU. The worst.

I thought about joining the horde at the stage door, even though I hate hate hate stage dooring. I don’t have anything to say to actor people, and I don’t care at all about getting a program signed. I’d go for a picture, maybe. My seat was quite close to the exit, and that exit was right next to the Silk St. exit, where the theatre stage door is. I was probably one of the first people out of the Barbican, but when I looked over to the stage door, there was already a crowd waiting. Which means a bunch of people just showed up for the stage door, not having seen the show. I sort of expected that, but it was still annoying. So I went home. And was actually really sad? Did not expect that. I know other people going other days, so I might go be a jerk and meet them after the show/get a spot at the stage door. I normally wouldn’t, but…it’s David Tennant, y’all.

I’ve gone on far too long here, but one other thing!

Over my theatregoing years, I’ve been able to see a number of fancy actor people on stage. I’m almost always disappointed when it comes time for curtain call. I don’t know who these SUPER IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS actors think they are, really, but they never seem that happy to be there. Jude Law comes to mind, mostly. Saw him in Hamlet and he looked pissed that people were applauding him. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Daniel Radcliffe. Never have seen a person more excited to be on stage. Seemed genuinely shocked that people were there to see him and enjoyed his performance (for real, I saw the first preview of Equus here in 2007, he was so happy). So I was glad to see that Tennant was towards the Radcliffe end. You don’t ever want to find out your fake TV boyfriend is a jerk! He can stay on the list.

A Month!

It’s been a month! Well, a weeeee bit longer than a month, but still. This feels both like a long and short length of time. This week marks the fifth week of class, which is the halfway point in the term. Also, it is the end of October, and I’d like to show you what’s already happening in London:

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CHRISTMAS. Christmas is happening. It is October 27th. It’s not even Halloween! Outrage aside, I am sort of excited about Christmas? Just to see how another country does it, I guess. It’s just throwing me off, not having Thanksgiving to judge time by. Is it just Christmas crazy all the time here? With no Thanksgiving to distract? I MISS YOU, THANKSGIVING.

So that’s in Covent Garden. There’s a big tree there too, but no lights on yet. All the central touristy areas are equally bedecked. I keep seeing commercials for Disneyland Paris’ Christmas, which starts November 10 or something. It’s all so weird! For a Jew, at least. Christmas Christmas Christmas.

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