Thursday, October 28, 2004 

SE1 and The Blitz

Last night I went back to the Rose to meet someone that never showed up. I decided to sit and have a pint anyway (had a hard day as my container of French onion soup and the plastic bag I had placed it in exploded in my book bag that morning, saturating all the contents: planner, wallet, digital camera, umbrella, map.) It was dead, except for these three old men sitting behind me. They were pissed beyond all reason and slurring their way through songs at the top of their voices. It was so delightfully British, I had to stay and absorb it. The bartender, Elena (one of those kinds of women who are so gorgeous it makes you nervous) started chatting me up. She was Brazilian and had moved to London a while ago. She said that these old men come in here quite frequently and do this each night! Whiskey and pints nonstop. She told me, "if you ever get a day off, come in here. During the day the youngest person in here is 80 years old!" So it's not a student bar, despite the proximity to the university, it's a geriatric bar!!

Then she told me about Joe, one of the old men. He told her he first moved to this neighborhood in 1942 and the only things there were this pub and a shop around the corner. Everything else had been destroyed in the Blitz. How surreal....

After that she talked about Brazil. She told me about going home for Christmas and New Years, where everyone dresses in white, then runs out to the beach and dances in the waves, after which they light hundreds of candles on the beach to make wishes for the new year. I had wanted to go home for Christmas, but after that story, I want to go to Brazil!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004 

I actually miss salad

Homer - "All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbecue and there was no meat, I would say 'Yo Goober! Where's the meat!?'. I'm trying to impress people here Lisa. You don't win friends with salad." (Bart and Homer conga,singing "You don't win friends with SalllllllllAD! You don't win friends with SallllllllllllAD"!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 

I haven't played with stickers since elementary school!

Strange Thing #15: These stamps:

I hope the picture can convey the added bonus of these functional and sanctioned stamps. There are two parts: the actual stamp, which is a big fruit or vegetable, and then the little accessories for said stamps. In case you're confused (as I surely was) there is a little diagram in the bottom right to show you the way. Why! it's Mr. Potato for postage!

Given to me by the South African who didn't think they were appropriate for the CVs he's sending out. He's probably right about that. He did promise me that he had used one before and that the letter had arrived safely, so they are legit.

I needed one to send my absentee voting ballot back to the states. I chose a potato(e) and put it in a very stylish cowboy hat and boots with angry eyes. Appropriate? I thought so....

Sunday, October 24, 2004 

This is why I haven't been drinking

Headed over to The Rose pub, my new favorite place on Earth. Me and my little (22 years old) American flatmate, Michelle, popped in last night. They do something at this pub, I'm not sure if it's legal or not, called a "lock in." The doors shut at 11pm like they are supposed to, but they keep serving to everyone who stays in the pub. I thought we'd be there an hour or two... Four 2 quid pints and five hours later, they kicked us out and we stumbled out into the fresh air. Apparently, I kicked over a traffic cone and made a movie of Michelle in our kitchen with my digital camera. I do not remember any of this. But I'm relatively hangover-free today, so I'd definitely chalk it up to a successful night. (I also allegedly took off Michelle's shoes for her and made her drink two glasses of water. Aren't I just lovely when I'm pissed??)

Strange Thing #14: British get far more fired up about American politics and September 11th than Americans do.

Had quite the debate last night. Wow, do they have a lot of opinions about that whole event. Just like the people in my office. It's astounding. It really makes you think when an Irishman tells you that Gore lost the election because of the way Clinton handled the Elian Gonzales affair and how that lost Gore the Cuban electorate. I mean, wow. I feel like such an asshole because I know nothing about their political system. Everyone in my office also went nuts over my absentee voter form, passing it around and examining it carefully. So it's true. The rest of the world really does think we are idiots.

P.S. Some interesting news: My friend Heather works as a TV reporter in North Carolina. Usually I feel really bad for her because she has to work way harder than anyone should, but this weekend she's interviewing Kirk Herbstreit, possibly one of the planet's hottest men. Let's just say I don't feel bad for her anymore!! I can't wait to hear how it went....

Friday, October 22, 2004 

Bad American TV Follows Me

Strange Thing #13: The Jerry Springer Opera.

Maybe it's universal, I don't know. But the fact that I saw posters of it all over London is hilarious. Google it for yourself, I promise it's worth it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004 

London at Dusk

A pink St. Pauls

Sunset over Blackfriar Bridge


My flat mates

are the absolute best. I worked until nearly 8pm last night, finally leaving the office feeling very sad and very frustrated with some of the relationships in my life (and frustrated by the lack of some other kinds of relationships in my life) and drug my poor, tired soul home. Upon arrival, my flat mates demanded to know why I had such a bad day, started pouring Fosters and merlot down my throat, tossed me in Ross's bed with six other people, forced me to cuddle up, and then we all watched Dirty Dancing (!) and Grease. Oh, and there was compulsory singing of every single song lyric. Hurrah! It was so much fun.

Strange Thing #12: Men here are not afraid to admit they like sappy movies. It would be a cold, cold day in Hell before a straight man in America would confess that he likes Dirty Dancing, let alone polish off a bottle of Fosters, toss it across the room and yell "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" at the exact right moment.


Holy Shit

I can not believe that the Red Sox came back to win game 7 last night; that's got to be one of the biggest upsets in baseball ever and I missed it!!! I'm so happy right now, Go SOX!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004 

No no no no

Okay, stalker is too strong a word for what's going on here. Stalkers are people who follow you around and send death treats when you don't comply with their bizarro wished a la Dawnette Knight. This is something that is much more mild and yet wholly retains its unpleasantness.

It starts with that whole, "hey a bunch of us are going out this weekend so why don't you give me your number so we can get in touch," which really seems so benign, especially when you have just moved to a foreign country and don't have any friends and would like to go out.

After that happens, you start getting phone calls and texts (oh, Strange Thing #11: Test messages in this country are the primary mode of communication) that are in no way related to going out with the group. Okay. Still nice to have a friend, right?

P.S. You know that he knows he's out of bounds when he starts calling you from different numbers because you have been screening and stopped answering calls from his primary number. He knows he's gone over the line.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 

Oh I want to be in that rumba

Just when I think I'm starting to get a handle on British accents and slang I spend some time last night with a Welsh girl! My God! Could not understand a word that came out of her mouth! She was adorable though, lots of laughs. She taught us the most hilarious song, that goes to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In"

Oh Fluffy Sheep (Oh Fluffy Sheep)
Are wonderful (Are wonderful)
Oh Fluffy Sheep are wonderful
They're White, Welsh and Fluffy
Oh Fluffy Sheep are wonderful

I like how everyone here likes to sing, people are always singing in my kitchen and it's just so funny.

Monday, October 18, 2004 


My favorite smells during my walk in the morning are
the artisan bread shop on Borough High St
that puts all their fresh bread in the window
and leaves the door open
the bouquets of lilies people leave
for the person killed in a bike accident
under the bridge for the train
These are the smells I will actually stop for
and take a moment to enjoy and reflect

Sunday, October 17, 2004 


As I realized a few days ago that I hadn't been to a single museum or art show in the entire month that I've been here, I over-indulged this weekend. I spent all of yesterday at the National Gallery and then just got back today from Tate Modern. (Now I'm back at the bagel cafe.) Thought I'd mix up old and new. I loved the Gallery, they had some really great stuff in there. I'm a huge Michelangelo fan and they had a couple of those so I was happy. Tate Modern, on the other hand, didn't agree with me at all. I forgot how much I hate modern art. I really tried to enjoy it, and spent over two hours there, going through every single room. Of course, I couldn't have cheated it I wanted to, since what I actually wanted to see (the Dalis and the Lichtensteins) are jumbled up in a big mess with everything else. It's not divided by artist but by theme, and the themes are pretty arbitrary. And after all that they only had one or two of each of those artists! That I could find anyway. They had a ton of Picassos, which was neat, but I stare and stare at his work and just end up more confused than went I first walked up. The Warhols were cool too, but I think honestly I saw a much bigger and better collection at the Corcoran Gallery in DC a few years ago. Oh well, it was a good weekend either way.

I also found something to do in this town on Sundays! The London Chamber Music Society hosts concerts every Sunday night in Conway Hall and let's students in free. I'm not going tonight but I went last weekend to see piano and violin soloists. It was pretty good. I recommend it. Also this week I found pretty cheap concerts at St. Martins-in-the-field. This Thursday is Mozart's Requiem (I think.) So I'll be heading over to that Thursday night I think.

I think you can live cheaply in London if you really really try. It really hasn't been that bad so far.....

Friday, October 15, 2004 

Lord of...

Here's the London IMAX, which is partially underground, beneath a roundabout. I walked through the other day, and with the sun streaming in, it was just too gorgeous not to take a pic. I think I will spend the night here one night in November, where they are showing all three installments of Lord of the Rings back to back to back. Twenty-five quid to sit in the theatre from 8pm to 6am but I think it might be worth it. To be a fan of these movies is to be hard core, so....

Thursday, October 14, 2004 


Was an extremely weird day. I got on the elevator this morning as always (a luxury I think I'm entitled to after a mile walk) and a guy was already on the elevator. He got off on the 4th floor, I get off on the 5th. This is what happened before then:

Guy: Are you Monica?
Me: Oh yes!
Guy: Right, are you doing a PhD with MedPharm?
Me: (thinking, "oh, he must have seen me in his lab during safety training last week) Yea... kinda. You work there?
Guy: Yes.
Me: Cool. What's your name?
Guy: Mohammed.
*elevator doors open to fourth floor*
Guy: (exiting but turning round to face me) By the way, I'm from Iraq.

And he walks away. Didn't even give me a chance to say something. Don't know what he meant by it, it was quite odd. Either he hates me/my country or thinks I might hate him/his country or thinks it might be an issue he'd like to diffuse or would like to make it an issue. Maybe it meant nothing at all.... Either way, it was my first weird American moment. I've had some strange from-a-different-country moments but not specifically American moments. Wow.

So that was an unsettling morning, after which I walked with another post grad girl to Induction Day over on St. Thomas Campus. Took some nice pics:

It was pouring in the morning though, and I spent the day in wet socks, so I am going home to have a bath (in a lovely bath tub we have in the hall. Sweet!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 

London at Dawn

My first weekend here I couldn't sleep one morning and decided to get up and eat something. These are shots from the kitchen of my dorm, the sun rising over Canary Wharf through the dirty windows.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 

My Office Mates

Are getting to be an incredibly interesting bunch, which I guess is what usually happens when you start to get to know a group that's been together for a while.

Statistics- There are a total of 10 people in the office, 5 girls and 5 guys. Of the 5 guys, 3 are gay, so that 60% of the guys in my office are gay (or maybe even 60% of British men are gay, who knows? It is a small sample population, but it's all I've got at the moment.)

The South African who sits next to me informed me yesterday that he and his girlfriend have a list of five celebrities each that they are allowed to sleep with. That's pretty standard these days I think, but two of the celebrities on his list are imaginary: Jessica Rabbit and Aladdin's Jasmine.

The Irishman who sits next to him just spent his first weekend with a new guy/boyfriend who he met through the guy's twin. Which is funny because he's also a twin!

The Brit next to him got laser eye surgery the day before I showed up so he's had a black and red eye the entire time I've known him.

The Belgian girl post-doc next to him never says a word.

Another Londoner sits behind her, she's new like me, and talks a lot...

Just like the Welsh guy she sits next to, who announced yesterday he's decided to cheat on his boyfriend he's living with but I don't think he's serious.

Next to them is another Brit who's only been here six months and has a girlfriend from Canada.

Behind him is a Dutch girl and she just went to Holland and brought us back the best ginger snaps I've ever had and just cut all her hair off.

And next to her is the crazy Brazilian woman who's absolutely wacky and looking all over London for a new apartment.

And I sit next to her. I wonder how they would describe me....

I am supposed to do a few months of research before I am allowed in the lab, so I just sit here and take it all in. Right now I'm listening to salsa music through headphones on iTunes radio and eating an amazing blueberry muffin from Marks & Spencer (I know I shouldn't go there on a student's budget but it's right across the street from my dorm), drinking tea and reading about foam drainage rates. Lovely life I have. Couldn't be happier.

Wish me luck as I attempt to purchase a mobile during lunch!

Saturday, October 09, 2004 

Hello London

After a tearful departure at the airport, a six hour flight, a long customs line, a never ending walk to the tube, both a tube ride and line switch, I finally arrived in London and set food on solid British soil. I came out of the London Bridge tube station (guessing the correct exit for once!!) and this was the first thing I saw. My mouth dropped open that I had found King's College straight away and that McDonald's had the chance to corrupt this 175 year old institution before I could. Ha!

I'm in a delightful bagel cafe on Tooley St right now. Free internet access! You just plug an Ethernet cable into the table and get to use your own laptop. As Yachoff Smirnoff would say, "what a country!"

Friday, October 08, 2004 

First Trip to the Grocery Store

Because what could possibly be tastier than pork AND mustard wrapped up together with a flaky crust?

Not only do they sell beer, they sell mini-kegs of beer.

Not only do they sell kegs of beer, they sell liquor. This is vodka in pre-packages shot glasses (how lazy can you be?) Note the flavor: "Rhubarb & Custard" Sweet Jesus, is that appealing in any way to any one???

Thursday, October 07, 2004 

Picking Up Where I Left Off

From when my computer imploded.... Here's the goodbye party, with my present from Miss and Scott. It was, as all their gifts are, really hilarious!

Thanks, Missy and Scott, thanks so much!!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004 

That Could've Hurt

Strange Thing #10: There are two types of light bulbs here. And if you are unaware of this fact, and try to fit the wrong bulb in, you will short circuit your brand new lamp and cause the fuse to blow.

Strange Thing #10a: All electrical appliances have fuses, because there is enough voltage running through these old wires to kill a horse.

Why? Why would you have two very different kinds of light bulb sockets? This is just confusion for the sake of confusion, I swear. The area of my dorm room where I have set up my bed (and trust me, my options there are quite limited) is dark, so when I read at night all snuggled up and warm, I have to get back out and walk across the room to turn the overhead light off. Since I have yet to see a store actually selling lamps, I bought an adorable lamp with an elephant on it from eBay UK and it finally arrived, sans bulb. So I went to a store and bought a bulb (no easy task mind you, light bulbs are as rare as do-dos in this country) and when I opened the bulb package, I was quite surprised to see two metal rods sticking out of the bottom of the bulb. I thought, well ok perhaps these trail along the screwing section of the socket. Problem was the lamp socket is deep within the lamp and not accessible so I couldn't see where I was going wrong. It didn't feel right from the beginning, but I turned the lamp on just to see if I was successful and *POP* something happened. Later that night flatmate Joe and I went to Tesco where he patiently explained The Two Light Bulb System that operates in this country and helped me buy the correct bulb. I went home and screwed it in but of course it didn't work and I realized that the pop noise must have been the fuse blowing. All I need now is a tiny screwdriver and a fuse, which I reckon I'll be able to locate in about three to four months.

Good news is that after two weeks of living in one of the largest and most metropolitan cities in the world, I finally managed to buy coat hangers! There were in a dish and kitchen store of all places, hidden in the back. So maybe lightbulbs and lamps are easy to find here, I just need to go to the least logical place to purchase, so I don't know.... A gourmet cheese shop? A shoe store?

And better news is that my computer is finally up and running and I'm only waiting for the university to grant it access via ethernet to the rest of you, so pictures will finally be coming soon!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004 

Such Profanity!

Strange Thing #9: You can curse on the radio.

I'd heard the f-bomb twice already, and then last night on Capitol Confessions, Jazzer (??) was chewing out this guy who'd been a real ass to this one girl and kept calling him a 'shithead' over and over again. It was quite unnerving at first. If you say stuff like that in America you get hit with a big fine, especially after the Janet Wardrobe Malfunction.

Monday, October 04, 2004 

I Need A Job

I've been here two weeks and done some basic exploring (today was the City, from Millennium Bridge to Tower Bridge and the outside of Tower of London) and got my bearings and all that, and now I'm ready to join the British work force. Couple of obstacles to this: 1) Do not yet have my NHS#, the same thing I need to get paid for demonstrating. I read somewhere tonight that I need this for any work at all. Boo. Registered though, so just waiting for the card to come (2-3 weeks??) and 2) Do not know how to get a job.

I've just been walking around looking for signs in the windows... Not quite sure what it is I want to do, but it would have to be at night which discourages me because it seems like most places of business in this country are closed at night.... Any ideas???

P.S. The demonstrating/teaching that I'm doing doesn't pay enough and I only get paid in one lump sum at the end of each semester!! I can't believe that, but you see why I need another job....

Sunday, October 03, 2004 

Famous King's People

From the KCL website:

"The staff and alumni of King's and its constituent institutions made major contributions to 19th-century science, medicine and public life in general. In the 20th century eight people from these institutions were awarded the Nobel Prize.

John Keats, poet and Guy's medical student

Sir Charles Lyell, founder of modern geology

John Frederic Daniell, inventor of the constant-cell battery

Sir Charles Wheatstone, pioneer of wireless telegraphy

Dr Thomas Hodgkin, identifier of Hodgkin's disease

F D Maurice, founder of Christian Socialism and of the Working Men's College, pioneer of higher education for women

James Clerk Maxwell, Einstein's predecessor in physics

Florence Nightingale, founder of professional nursing

Lord Lister, father of antiseptic surgery

Maurice Wilkins (Nobel Laureate) and Rosalind Franklin, discoverers of the structure of DNA

Sir James Black OM (Nobel Laureate), inventor of beta blockers and anti-ulcer drugs

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, King's alumnus and Nobel Laureate"

Of these, I think Lister and Franklin are my favorite. Although never underestimate the usefulness of the line, "Saturn is fallen, am I too to fall?" when drunk. I don't know why, I find it applicable in many situations....

Friday, October 01, 2004 

You Got Me There

Strange Thing #8: Every single slightly disparaging comment I have about London/England/British Empire, no matter what it is, is greeted each time with the following comment: Yea, but in America you're allowed to shoot each other.

For example:

Setting is Kitchen on Dorm Floor, several student preparing dinner
Joe (explaining his physiology practical where they spent the day feeling each other up in class): Yea, so I got to put my hands right on the girls bums! Right here! *demonstrates on his own bum*
Me (shocked): So you just feel each other up, as part of class? You'd never get away with that in America, you can't force girls to get felt by guys like that!
Joe: It's not forced, they volunteer. But everyone ends up volunteering and everyone gets used to it.
Me: Still seems odd. Wouldn't happen in America, that's for sure. Imagine the lawsuits...
Joe: Yea, but in America you're allowed to shoot each other, so....

And now for some variations on a theme:

Same setting as above, different day
Ross: Oh right, what you got there?
Me: Quorn! I'm so excited!
Ross: Oh yea, why's that?
Me: I don't think you're allowed Quorn in America, I think it's illegal.
Ross: Why would it be illegal in America?
Me: I can't remember, but I think it was making some people sick or something.
Ross: So let me get this straight then, you can't eat Quorn but you can shoot each other?

And my latest favorite...
Setting is Pharmacy third year students lab practical
Me (wearing my Smith & Wesson cool ass lab goggles I ordered when I was still at S Inc and brought with me): So the calculation you need to consider next is--
Student: Those goggles are sharp.
Me: Thanks.
Student: Smith & Wesson eh? (they are labeled as such)
Me: Uh, yea I guess so.
Student: You use those when you go shooting then??

Ahh, touche England, touche.


Another Walk 'cross Waterloo Bridge

My third trip to the bank today was unsuccessful in reaching my holy grail of becoming a Londoner: obtaining The Almighty Checking Account.

Bow down you ungrateful lugs! Do not stare directly at The Beloved Checking Account, for you are not worthy, you lice infected plague ridden scum!

(This I imagine has been going on in London since the invention of money, perhaps the Romans had it all and the Britannic peasants were kept down in this fashion. Am picturing Romans kicking the peasants with their fancy laced up sandals, keeping them out of the monetary system, forcing them to trade twigs for apples, etc.)

Apparently my letter from the Accommodation Office that begins, "To who it may concern," is not appropriate, and the bank will not grant me The Exalted and Highly Unobtainable Checking Account until I return with a letter that begins, "Dear Natwest."

So back to the Accommodation Office I go. This is past the point of making me angry, and has become amusing (all that practicing Buddhist patience is really paying off!!) and I look forward to crossing Waterloo Bridge again, as it is my favorite walk with the most spectacular views I've ever seen in my life. And I always get asked to take picture of tourists with their cameras, which makes me feel like a Londoner anyway, and isn't that the whole point?

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