Actually I started doing other things EVEN BEFORE I FOUND the flat, that's how daring I am. So let me tell you some tales of what I have done in London.
Last Thursday I started my exciting new hobby called Being A Tourist. And I kicked off, somewhat unconventionally, with a trip to the London Transport Museum. It was very good (if you like trains, which I do). I found out lots of interesting facts, such as that Mrs Beeton was probably the first female commuter on the Tube, and that the first tube trains were steam-powered with big condensing tanks on either side which did some of the cooling but they also needed big grates in the footpath (the first Tube lines were constructed using the cut and cover method, so are very close to the surface) to allow the leftover steam to go whooshing up someone's trouser legs. And they're planning to introduce some air-conditioned trains on the Jubilee line in 2009, which would definitely encourage me to take the slightly longer Colliers Wood - London Bridge - Westminster route (incorporating the Jubilee Line) instead of Colliers Wood - Stockwell - Victoria (using the Victoria line). Anyway, I might get shot for being foreign in Stockwell. Always a risk, always a risk.
On Friday I continued my adventures with a trip to meet my cousin Miranda. We had a rather delicious lunch at Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant in Covent Garden, followed by a spot of shopping, then we parted company (she had some big boxes to carry home) and I decided to pay a trip to Westminster to see where I'll be working. I must say, it is rather snazzy:
And it is also just around the corner from Westminster Abbey, so since I had some time to kill I decided to go to Choral Evensong. I want to tell you a little secret about Choral Evensong but you're not to think I'm cheap, okay? Well it normally costs about £10 to go into Westminster Abbey, but if you go to any of the services, they're free. That's only as an aside, it's not the only reason I went: I actually really like Choral Evensong, and I was rather hoping I'd get to hear the Westminster Choir, but I'd forgotten they were on holiday. So a crowd from Nottingham were singing instead. They were very good, but I'm going to have to go back now term has started so I can hear the real choir. It was an incredibly moving experience going to a choral service there, the acoustics are absolutely phenomenal and it was quite horrible having to leave the building and go out into the noisy traffic when it was all over.
So that was Friday. On Saturday, Andy and I met Mark-from-Bangor and went to Greenwich for the afternoon. We went to the National Maritime Museum but we weren't really paying enough attention so I'm going to go back in a few weeks I think -- I'm hoping that Nick will be there next time I visit. Oh and we had dinner in Covent Garden right opposite Westminster Quaker Meeting, which (it turns out) is in the City of Westminster, not Westminster itself.
Sunday was a rainy day, so we hid indoors until about 3pm, then we headed to Bayswater to meet Diarmuid and his girlfriend Connie. Quite a coinkydink, really: Diarmuid moved to London about five days before me to take up a job with BCG (whom Andy has also applied to work for) and his girlfriend is joining the Fast Stream with DIUS, so we shared stories of the tedious application process.
On Monday I was back to being on my own as Andy went back to work. Except I wasn't really alone because I met Tom and John for breakfast near Old Street -- I was very chuffed to receive a visit, especially since they had to get up at 5am to allow time for our breakfast meeting. I had done lots of research on the London Review of Breakfasts and found a place that looked very nice. Except it wasn't open, and wasn't intending to open until 12 (seems a little late to start serving breakfast), so we went to a cafe we'd passed on the way. It was fine except for the distinct lack of black or white pudding. White pudding I can understand but there's no excuse for leaving out black pudding. Speaking of which, the 'OpEgg' on LRB at the moment is completely wrong when it claims that people don't normally eat black pudding at home. I always have black pudding when I'm having a fry-up, it's the best part!
Tuesday spelled a return to sight-seeing. I headed into town (can one refer to London as 'town'?) and spent a few hours at the Tate Modern. I think I enjoyed it more last time I was there: this time quite a lot was either not open that day or only opening to paying visitors. And there was rather too much rubbish, like the big red painting with a white stripe down the side, or the piece of canvas with a slit in it, otherwise known as Lucio Fontana's Spacial Concept 'Waiting', of which I learnt that:
In 1959, Fontana began to cut the canvas, with dramatic perfection. These cuts (or tagli) were carefully pre-meditated but executed in an instant. Like the holes, they have the effect of drawing the viewer into space. In some, however, the punctures erupt from the surface carrying the force of the gesture towards the viewer in a way that is at once energetic and threatening. Although these actions have often been seen as violent, Fontana claimed ‘I have constructed, not destroyed.’
Er, yes. Or, almost worse, Barnett Newman's Eve, which is basically a red canvas with a stripe of darker red down the side. Apparently,
the vast expanse of unmodulated red paint in this work is both absorbing and disorienting. It is interrupted by a single, narrow band of purple running the length of the right-hand edge. This 'zip' generates a tension throughout the canvas between presence and blankness, solidity and fragility. Its verticality also echoes the position of the viewer, helping to fulfil Newman's concern that 'the onlooker in front of my painting knows that he's there'.
Well it's certainly a good thing he painted that stripe, otherwise I definitely wouldn't have known whether or not I was there.
By the way, I didn't memorise this, I've found the precise paintings and text on the Tate Modern's most excellent website, which allows you to explore the gallery online.
We didn't go to 8 out of 10 Cats in the end: we got there early but not early enough -- it was already full by the time we arrived, with a massive queue still outside. We weren't particularly upset though; we didn't want to see it enough to queue for several hours in advance. Damn groupies.
Wow this is getting to be a very long post, but I'm sure you're finding it gripping so you don't mind. On Wednesday I didn't see many sights -- I spent the afternoon with my cousin Phelie who was visiting on his way home from Australia. He was pretty tired from the flight, so we mostly went to the pub followed by a walk through Hyde Park followed by another pub. He's off to Brussels next to do exciting things with the EU.
Finally, yesterday I walked the Beverly Brook walk through Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and Barnes Common to the Thames. Very pleasant it was, and we had a surprising amount of sunshine. I must explore the Thames Path in the coming weeks. Oh, and I went for dinner with some friends in Canteen Spitalfields. I had an extremely delicious chicken pie with big, tasty pieces of chicken, lovely gravy, perfect mash and fine hearty cabbage. I was very impressed to see their cheese board for the day featured St Tola -- I don't think I've ever seen St Tola outside Ireland before. I'd definitely recommend it -- plain-ish dishes (including macaroni cheese) served very well.
So there, now you know everything I've been doing. Today I'm going for lunch with Katy, then who knows where the day will take us. My only prediction is that it will be very wet.
Who she?I'm Carolan, 23, working in London. I like cheese, exercising, music, dogs, detective stories and people. I don't like packing, unpacking, repacking or really anything to do with moving all my possessions from a to b. London smells but has many things to do in it.
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