30 October 2008

pics from James Bond premiere

In case anyone's interested, from the James Bond premiere last night:

Prince Harry being silly's:

His dashing brother:

A Bond girl:

Don't know who she is, but I like her dress:

keys, school card, check the weather...oh bloody 'ell

It's hailing. In London. Just before I am about to go out and walk to Bloomsbury. Oh, well.

Edit: So I eventually went out once it cleared up. Bought a ticket for a show that the RADA is putting on, an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's VILLETTE. Rather excited, as it is not a story people like to put on. There have been over 20 movie adaptations of JANE EYRE; not one of VILLETTE. VILLETTE is my favourite Bronte book but rather sour, intense, and disappointing in the end...figures it's my favourite book then, huh? In short, not as exciting as JANE EYRE.

Stopped off at the library to return books. Thought about going across the street to the British Museum but it was cloudy and increasingly colder so took the tube home. I don't know what I would do without a subway system. I dread trying to get around Pittsburgh when I go home (next month nearly, can you believe it!?!).

I'm excited to go home. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends, family, and eating some greasy food. Oh, lord, greasy food, here I come!

It's 4.20 in the afternoon. hehe.

Off to get some diet pop, a LONDON LITE, and cadbury chocolate bar.


(I will try to rustle up more pics for next post).

29 October 2008

In which Helen is sad b/c she'll be in class during James Bond premiere

It is so hard to be able to do so many wonderful things in a great city when you are so afraid that you're going to muck it all up somehow. That it is going to be taken away from you, or that you won't make the most of it. I worry about my classes because I don't think I have the skill to get through them, but more so because I'm afraid it'll end up so bad that it will mar everything else I've got. But I'm not going to whine anymore about my classes; I'm going to do the work and hope for the best, and if I fail, then I fail. In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy London.

I love watching tv shows and mini-series here when at home I would have to wait for someone to upload them on youtube (and then often they would never show up or be taken down by the BBC) or wait for PBS to broadcast a mini-series a year after it broadcast in England.

I love reading newspapers here, seeing shows in the theatre, reading about british celebrities, seeing interviews on the tele, reading magazines, watching British television shows....I just feel like I'm taking a lot in, although it may not be the most "intellectual" things.

Tonight is the British premiere of the new James Bond film in Leicester Square. I will not be able to attend as I will be in class. Very sad. May run down there when I got out at 6:00 to take a photo or two, though I won't be able to get close enough to see anyone famous as they walk on the red carpet before entering the theatre -- Prince William and Harry will be there, Dame Judi Dench who plays "M" in the film, and of course Daniel Craig who has been doing loads of publicity in London all week. People will start getting spots near the carpet at around 3:00 in the afternoon. A lot of security all around; the James Bond movies always brings in a greater amount of people than the "average" movie. James Bond is like a national theme song for the British. It will be cool to be here while it goes on even if I don't go. I was here when Casino Royale came out and went with a few friends of mine at the time. Last time they had lights in the sky above the area (as they do for all movie premieres) and the soundtrack for the movie playing on speakers as the actors came in and the VIP people went into the theatres.

27 October 2008

In which Helen walks across a bridge

To get to class I walk from my flat over the Waterloo Bridge. While I walk across it I can see on the left side of the bridge Parliament, Big Ben, The Eye, and on the right side the city (St. paul's cathedral and the Gerkin). Here are pics I took this morning:

26 October 2008

Pictures of ze room

Me desk:

Outside my window:

someone left this on the mirror:

25 October 2008

preliminary photos -- I'm such a tease

Just a few photos I've got. The first two are the IMAX theatre, the view of it from when I exit my building. The IMAX features movies and every few weeks changes it's colossal advertisement for a particularly hot movie on it's glass exterior. Of course -- what should be advertised now but -- the new James Bond film.

The last pic is one of my room, the only good one I could manage with it being dark outside (just finished cleaning my room, exhuming bunches of tissue papers from the floor and other gunk I won't mention but which is inevitable after being drop-near-dead sick all week).

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Is it just me -- or is there a ghostly-like presence near the left side of the window (shaped just like a person, yeah?) Reflection from the window?...

More pics of room and possibly other things tomorrow!

Hope all's doing well.


24 October 2008

In which Helen gets a bit randy

How many of you think I should buy a playgirl? Does it even exist anymore -- is there a better equivalent? Although I get off just reading GQ, I must admit.

I'm off to W.H. Smith to buy a Playboy actually because I just realized I haven't yet even looked at one, and I think that is pretty sad. I hope they have it; they may not.

Ostensibly this post is to say that (once again) I'm sorry, no pictures yet. Still a bit poorly. This ear infection just loves me too much; it doesn't want to leave. I understand.

22 October 2008

short update

Sorry for the delay in photos. I've been very sick with an ear infection these last couple of days. Still recovering. Think I should be better by tomorrow -- so, if all's well, expect some by tomorrow.


In the meantime:

Craig Ferguson auditions for James Bond:

19 October 2008

self-loathing -- and LOST IN AUSTEN

I am officially an idiot.

Got my cord for camera today.

When went to download items, deleted all the photos on my camera AND on the disk on my computer. No way to get them back. I have a system restore thing but it wasn't turned on at the time so I can't go back to what my computer was then. (Which I'm now unsuccessfully trying to set up but can't b/c I forgot my computer password).

Am pretending this isn't a big deal; will have to take new photos, so some should be up by tomorrow. All I have say is: uggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

However, I watched this last night, which was most entertaining:

Dude, the "Colin Firth" moment -- "Um, can I just ask you to do something for me?'' -- I was frickin on the floor laughing.

18 October 2008

Je ne sais pas

I miss my old professors. Abby went to a lecture at point park and ran into one of our favourite professors who was very excited to hear that I am in London and wants me to write him. Among many things, he teaches Hardy, and loves England himself. I miss how warm my prof's were but also not stifling, not mollycoddlers (well, not the male ones), and intense, challenging, difficult. I've met several prof's at King's that haven't come close to that. Is this the challenge for me then -- not the work, not writing the essays, not attending the classes, but doing what I need to do despite the dullness of it all?

I went all the way to the British Library today -- an hour and a half walk -- and didn't bring -- didn't even think about bringing -- my proof of address. I worked in a library for four years where the only two things I ever said were -- "May I help you" and "I need to see I.D. and a proof of address."

upon waking

I wake most mornings so deep from sleep, believing that I am still in America, thinking, "I have so much to do to get ready for London." Some mornings I am jolted awake by a sound from the next room. My thoughts instantly turn to my mother who I think must have fallen again or had another stroke, to only realize seconds later that I am in London and that the discordant sounds from the room next door is Pan speaking in chinese to a friend or relative at home.

17 October 2008


I like that it is the boys and myself who throw all their dirty clothes in shopping bags and the girls that have larger than them laundry baskets with pretty flowers and designs on them that they have to haul down four flights of stairs to the laundry room.

14 October 2008

13 October 2008

Helen can't sleep; so she's going to write about Emma Peel

I love THE AVENGERS because it is a fun show that has culturally relevant undertones (and in many cases, overtones). Here's a great example in this short discussion about the character Mrs Peel, Steed's second companion during the shows run, played brilliantly by Diana Rigg.

Here's also a web page about Diana Rigg. Now Dame Diana Rigg, she was a Shakespearean stage actress before taking on THE AVENGERS, showing perfectly her versatility as an actress.

An interesting actress playing an interesting, complex character in a time (the 60's) where women were rarely used in television shows as anything more than a second rate character.

Taken from: The Avengers by Toby Miller, 1997. pgs. 75 - 78

As the series was about to commence in the USA, Newsweek had Rigg say of her character that 'the widow part shows that she knows what it's all about.' Publicity made much of 'A Touch of Brimstone,' the Hellfire Club episode that was not shown in the States because of her 'sin queen' attire: a black whalebone corset, laced boots, whip and spiky dog collar. A 38-second sequence... 'even offended the normally permissive British TV officials.' The programme clearly referenced subcultural codes from British porn of the 50s. Perhaps that was why it drew more viewers than any other episode screened there. 'The Danger Makers' has a telling scene in which Mrs Peel approaches Steed from behind. Their physical positioning conditions the dialogue that follows. She draws very close, neck to neck, asking him how to 'play it' with a person she must quiz. Steed turns to look at her, his face close to her breasts: 'Show him your bumps.' The alibi for this remark is that the character in question is interested in phrenology. What reads as sexist is transformed by the banter in their delivery, her approach from his rear, and the set-up of the two-shots.

The sense of changing eras is beautifully captured during 'Escape in Time.' Apparently despatched via time travel back to the eighteenth century, Emma tells the villains, 'I'm thoroughly emancipated.' When the controls are reset to 1570, she is put in the stocks. A brutal man accuses her of being 'a heretic, a bawd, a witch -- designed to drive a man to lust.' Her reply, from this somewhat undignified and powerless place, is to look up, toss back her hair, and offer the following: 'You should see me in four hundred years.' Back in the Twentieth century, and the battle won, she looks at a woman she has just fought with, now in chains: 'Didn't we get the vote?' The stereotype of a woman tied down while evil men taunt her is also overdetermined in 'The Positive Negative Man' by a gaze back at her tormentors. Told she is dealing with 'a superman', Mrs Peel replies: 'His pectoral are far from perfect.' Frustrated, they counter that 100 such men, generated from the force of electricity, will destroy the government and take over society. 'What if there's a power cut?' is her riposte. 'The Cybernauts' episode sees Emma researching the holdings of murdered industrialists in the import-export, automation and electrical businesses. When Steed describes the victims as 'all in the top bracket,' she adds 'where the vultures gather.' This skepticism about the patriarchal domain of capital is shown to be apposite as the story develops. Mrs Peel directly encounters sexism at a karate school where the chief instructor says, 'It is difficult for a woman to compete in such company.' Her counter is good-humoured but with an edge: 'It's the idea of competition that appeals to me.' She defeats an opponent and makes her point. The ironic deployment of strong female sexuality in concert with physical force is exemplified in 'The Gravediggers.' Mrs Peel is on the ground. Steed, standing, holds a villain between her legs. She closes them around the man's head, scissoring him into a nearby pond.

Article on Emma Peel
"FILM; Sorry, Uma, There's Only One Emma"

THE great tragedy in the lives of men of a certain age and outlook is that there is one, and only one, Emma Peel. As embodied, quite literally and quite luminously, by Diana Rigg in the arch 1960's spy-fi show ''The Avengers,'' she was the first and arguably the last woman on television to combine sensuality with ironic intellect. Tall and cool and defiantly self-reliant, Mrs. Peel -- ''the widow of a famous test pilot'' -- was fluent in nine languages (including kung fu), could tie knots in mastermind-bending schemes and shoot the cork off a champagne bottle at 50 paces.


A series of amusing -- or not so amusing -- vignettes

Every time I walk past the guards at Buckingham Palace, the ones with the machine guns that stand near the entrance to the Palace, I feel the need to run up to them while yelling, "I HAVE COME TO OVERTAKE THE THRONE," and for some reason in a Scottish accent, a la Sean Connery.

As I got off the Westminster Bridge today, I thought: I can smell marajuana, who is smoking marijuana? And then thought, as I twirled around looking for the person, I'm not going to be able to tell, unless they are smoking it in public. Then I saw a man with a beard, dressed in grungy clothes, standing near a tube station, with a full head of dreadlocks.

I almost fell three times today and did actually once. Almost fell twice inside The Victoria and Albert Museum -- not a good thing when you are near priceless objects three hundred years old. The second time the security guard/curator/I don't know what the hell these people do but walk around the galleries all day, saw me and I felt for certain that he was going to follow me around the nineteenth century gallery for fear that I would run into one of the items. Then I actually did fall walking up the Cabinet War Room stairs near Parliament. And then almost fell when I tripped after passing the smoking marijuana dreadlocks guy.

Although the last part did actually happened, I just realized the double entendre present within that sentence.

I was at the Victoria and Albert Museum for my class. My assignment this week is to find an item in the nineteenth century room, write down what it is and its significance to me. Then I get to present this information to my class. The joke for this one is already provided.

Bike riders in London do not stop for anyone. Generally a side of the street is sectioned off for bike riders. People, however, don't realize this and end up walking on this part. I saw four people almost get run over today. In one instance the male bike rider made his way toward a male pedestrian standing in the bike lane while waiting for the light to turn for him to walk across. The biker sounded his dinky little bike bell three times to let the man know he should, essentially, get the hell out of the way, but the pedestrian didn't hear the bell or wasn't paying attention because he stayed where he was. The rider stopped short only an inch from where the man was standing -- said man at this point realized what was happening and put his hands on the front of the bike to stop him -- and the exasperated biker yelled in a deep throated English accent, "OH, FUCK ME," before riding off. Do I need to tell you what was my next thought?

Yeah, this last one's puerile, but nevertheless true.


Here's an article featured in this evening's London Lite newspaper which is, at least in my mind, very funny, unintentionally of course:

Suicide net for Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, the world's most popular place to commit suicide, has had a safety net fitted. Since it opened in 1937, more than 1,300 people have leapt to their deaths in San Francisco Bay, including 19 this year. The bridge authority has now decided to hang a circus-like net under the bridge to catch jumpers. It follows decades of debate between mental health experts and architectural preservationists.

[pic: Sophia Myles: English actress currently living in L.A.]

10 October 2008

just a few pics

This is for Abby who wants to know where I'm living looks like. I should be getting my camera thing soon so that I can upload pictures. Here are the only one's I could find on the internet.

This is the apartment building I live in, at night. Essentially there is a courtyard and all the apartments are connected.

During the day.

This is the IMAX. My apartment is right behind it.

In which Helen's gets high on train stations

Okay, here's the story, morning glory.

I'm in London. Yeah? I only have classes once a week. Yeah? I don't have to work; I have enough money to see shows and eat. I can go to museum's for free. I can walk throughout the city for free. I can go to all the libraries here.

This is a dream -- a literal fucking dream -- come true. And I can't for the life of me really comprehend it all. Like, this isn't suppose to be happening. People are never this fortunate -- are never as happy as I am right now.

That, I think, is the cause of my restlessness. I keep thinking -- something horrible is going to happen; it has to. And so instead of just enjoying my life right now, I'm constantly distracted by thoughts of impending doom.

But no more! I have to learn to enjoy the now, come what may (or may not) happen later.

Waterloo Station is where I catch the underground tube. It is also a major railway service. Has anyone experienced the exhiliration of being in a train station? I really do, however, think it is much more exciting in the U.K. The British voice on the speaker explaining what trains have arrived and when others are due to depart, the many train platforms all in a line against one side of the station, people running to catch trains, people everywhere, the chaos of it all. The station guard stands on the platform in his uniform -- orange coat and black conductor hat -- and sounds his whistle to alert people that the train will shortly depart, some people rush to catch it, many have the doors shut on them seconds before they get there. I wish, I so very much wish, I could explain this in a way that you would really grasp the greatness of it. But it is exciting and I encourage anyone to take a train in the U.K. or at least go to a train station and watch all this unfold. What is it, though, that makes it so interesting to watch? Makes it so transcendent? It is the energy of it all. Contrast an experience at a railway station with sitting all day in a cubicle at work, or home alone at night watching telly with a pint of Ben and Jerry's in one hand and a remote in the other. A mini-second in a train station is more exciting than one's daily life. The train station is even more exciting at night, for the trains waiting on the platforms outside in the pitch black night contrast harmoniously with the lights on the platforms and inside the station, giving you a feeling of what artists try to capture when they paint a picture, or compose a piece of music, or write a play.

Ate a humungous belgian waffle with chocolate smeared all over it while sitting on a bench in Regent's Park today. The messiest thing you could ever try to eat. If you ever want to know how courageous you are, eat a belgian waffle with chocolate in broad daylight where everyone can see you. There's no proper way to eat it. You can't cut it up with the flimsy plastic fork they give you and it's too big to pick up with your hand, so you have to tear off pieces of it and shove it in your mouth before it gets all over ya. Seriously -- it's not for the light-hearted.

My bitter sweet nemesis

09 October 2008

In which Helen rambles

I found several sandwiches with mayo today. I guess I don't really pay attention to stuff; worse now. Was on the tube just now and got in the car that was going in the opposite direction. Just hopped on it; wasn't even paying attention. And then I find my mind wandering a lot when I'm walking on the streets and especially in my classes. I feel a little lost. Don't really know what I'm doing with myself. I know I want to be in London, I'm grounded in that sense, but am not really into my classes -- though very excited about my dissertation which I have already started. But I feel like there's more I can have. That's so selfish considering what I've been given, so much so that I don't think about that thing inside me that makes me feel restless, but it comes out, it's a manifestation of my occasionally -- more like regular -- inability to pay attention.

I was at Trafalgar Square yesterday, sitting on the steps that lead to the National Portrait Gallery, and instead of reading A Tale of Two Cities (which made me cry a bit after I finished it last night -- anyone read it? I've never had a book make me cry) instead of reading it, I was looking at all the people around me, particularly an English mother with her two daughters, the latter of whom were colouring in colouring books, little girls of probably 4 and 6; the four year old soon found her way to her mother's lap and her mother rocked her back and forth.

I'm so tired. Went to the University of London library today -- not King's College's library -- but another library connected with King's that is in Bloomsbury. Talk about a labrynth. (too lazy to look up spelling). Before you can get to the library on the fourth floor, you have to go through all these doors and climb stairs -- lifts, as always, non-functional. Then walking through the books and such is crazy, go through this doors, up another flight, go through four more doors, go down a corridor...some doors you can't go through, others you can. By the time you find your book, you spend another five minutes trying to get back out.

Actually, if I weren't in such a sour puss mood today (my right ear is bothering me and couldn't get an appointment with doctors on such short notice) I would have enjoyed it much more.

Didn't find any of the books I needed, none on the shelves although said they were available, I've been told students like to hide the books for the classes so that they can find it when they need them -- my college doesn't sell any of the books I need for the classes. But I did happen across a book about THE AVENGERS, the cult 60's detective show with Diana Rigg.

The only good episodes were the ones with her in them. And next to it was a book about DOCTOR WHO, a show I've recently become obsessed with...as some of you may know. It was published the same year as the new series came out so it's about the older versions of the show. It's a "critical reading of the show," which sounds like fun...to me.

Ekkk. So tired and cranky. I have to go out and buy some groceries; not looking forward to this. But have no food. Shall whine some more later...


(Here is a great -- and very funny -- article from Jeremy Clarkson. It's worth the read -- or I wouldn't put it on here:
Live Fast. )

08 October 2008

In which Helen expounds on British foods

I'm eating a mozerella (sp) basil and tomato melt. So good! But I was beginning to think about American food. The British don't make sub sandwiches, hoagies, like we do. I don't even think (Emma, am I correct?) that the English use mayonnaise on anything nor do they sell it -- yeah? At least, I've never seen it anywhere.

I suppose you can get a burger somewhere but I've never had one in England. Pizza's are sold here -- they have Pizza Hut -- but the popular European pizza is the Margherita, which is a thin-crust pizza with basil, tomatoes, and generally loads of cheese.

I've already mentioned how I can't find diet, caffeine free pepsi here, and pepsi itself is undermined by coke, whereas in America the two can be found on any store shelves. (Though in America generally either one or the other is served in restaurants).

The only place I have found hotdogs are the ones sold on the street, that cost nearly 4 pounds, sold in vendors that you would find on most streets in New York City.

We have McDonalds, Burger King, Subway here but nothing within the English cuisine that is especially large in portion size like the Americans culinary penchant with sandwiches three feet tall. Their largest dishes are things like stews, chile con carne, and bangers and mash (sausage on potatoes). High in starches. Their gravy is loaded with onions and is more soupy than thick.

There are sandwiches sold in rectangular packages in most cafe's (like Caffe Nero, any store --Tesco's and Boots -- and Pret A Manger). They are the essential, and by that I mean usual, lunch time food. Pre-packaged sandwiches. Some with egg and ham, that's a popular one. Or cheese, lettuce and tomato. Like what your mother made you for lunch every morning, except here you don't have to wait for someone to make it for you; they're just there, on the shelf, like a diet coke. Aha! Here, a picture:

The melt that I got was also sitting on a refrigerated shelf. It is heated at the desk in a toaster oven. No sauces applied.

Here's what the traditional English breakfast looks like. It is what most people eat in the morning (as we would scrambled eggs or cereal, though certainly they eat that too). It is what I had most mornings when I went to breakfast in my previous dorm.

You got your beans -- the British LOVE their beans, they eat it with everything, another favourite dish is beans on toast (it is as it sounds) -- then black pudding (which is not always a staple, I believe, or at least I've never had it with it before) -- sausage -- eggs -- mushrooms and ham -- usually there is toast as well, and sometimes chips (fries).

Different ingredients are added depending on what part of Britain you are from -- whether England, or Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.

I'm going to try to find a little known place that serves English breakfast in Smithfield that I saw on the Anthony Bourdain show. It is near the Smithfield Meat Markets where men still -- and have for hundreds of years -- cut up meat and store them for the various shops that buy them. Afterward they go to this cafe and have a "fry-up" as the English breakfast is known in Ireland.

Smithfield Market

It's cheap, since it caters mostly to the butchers in the area, but the best place to have a real English breakfast as, obviously, the meat is extremely fresh.

07 October 2008

In which Helen is anxious and sentimental

I just blew out my hairdryer, no pun intended. Apparently it is not compatible with my travel adaptor.

Did laundry today. There was a girl in our laundry room that had about five million things to wash, including her huge comforter. Didn't know what she was doing. The usual valley girl syndrome. Spent the whole time getting a friend of hers to tell her what to do -- where to put the coins, what cycle to put it on -- and then took up nearly all of the dryers before rushing off to class.

As I left the building in the evening to go to Sainsbury's, my closest grocery store, there was an indian man with a prominent English accent who said to his son (I presume) as I passed: "You will love it here. London is the greatest city in the world," as the boy jumped up and down to keep up with his dad's (presumably) hurrying footsteps.

I'm a bit anxious right now. Have to speak to "money" people about how much money they are giving me from my loans for this semester toward paying my tuition and housing as well as private money I can use for other things. Am afraid it won't be enough. I figure my happiness has to be spoiled in some manner. Everyone else around me is so miserable, I figure I have to be a bit too. I've been putting it off since I got here. Will report.

I wanted to write that when I arrived here I did not feel overwhelming happiness -- as though I was about to experience something profoundly new. I felt content like one does when they come back home. I still feel this way, as I visit familiar places -- the Globe theatre, Tralfagar Square, the Strand, Regent's Park, Oxford Street, the theatre's I saw shows in, the shops I went into (but rarely bought anything from), the take-away food places I sometimes indulged in. As I watch the people running to whatever destination-- no one walks at a leisurely pace here -- and hear accents from the various cultures, and am inundated by the advertisements on posters -- as I hear the sounds of London, the taxi's engines, the wind through the trees, the leaves falling from the trees, the cacophony of people's voices, I do not feel like a visiter but as (somewhat like) a returning soldier coming home after being away for so long.

06 October 2008

before I go to bed...

My pillows are from Ralph Lauren.

Just noticed the tags on 'em.

They are really comfy.

In which Helen is drunk

I'm a bit drunk right now, after having attended the first in a series of lectures given by King's College professors. Not required that I go. This one was "Transgender and the Middle Ages." The professor read a paper he wrote. Wasn't too interesting. The gist of it was: dressing up as a woman when you are a man during the middle ages wasn't looked on as a good thing and women shouldn't do other women.

The department had wine in the English department sitting room afterwards. Went with Mary, who is in my two classes, and another English litter, Ellie. We drank, talked about our courses, with about fifteen other people around in their little groups. It was nice; just the kind of experience I want to have.

But the consequence is that, given I haven't really eaten anything all day -- woke at 1:00 when I had toast and then rushed off to the Globe theatre to only get home at 5:00 with only an hour before the lecture, and still needed to rush to the library some ways away to pick up a book, so that I just had a bit of cheese and crackers before leaving -- so the wine, in short, went right through me, and I walked home along the Waterloo bridge at night quite intoxicated which, if not perhaps the most intelligent thing to do, was at least fairly interesting. Now I'm eating ravoli's with beans and bread and butter and diet coke (I broke down and bought a big bottle from Tesco's today -- it was, however, on sale), and will soon after take a shower -- the water is always hot, thank the...well whoever; my other addiction other than diet coke is hot showers -- and then will read until 3:00 in the morning.

The GREATEST thing about only having classes on Wednesday, and having really no other obligations other than that, is that I do not have to be woken by an alarm clock. It is the worst thing in the world to be woken by an alarm clock and I can say that it is an experience I shall do without almost completely. Can you tell I'm drunk; I really am drunk. I'm not just like, "Ooooh, I'm drunk," for effect. I really just bloody am. This is why I am rambling.

Wow, I just had deja vu. I went to eat some ravoli and I was like, "I've had this experience before. I've done this before."

Want to talk about weird. Along my walk today to the Globe theatre and then afterwards through the City, there was this long, winding, occasionally underground path I walked through and every half a mile or so there would be a homeless man with a dog. There were about five homeless men I passed through the cobbled streets that had dogs, about the same looking kinds too, with golden fleeces and about medium size, and at one point I passed two men with dogs -- about a half of mile between them -- that were reading a book. Really. This isn't a drunken daydream. Even the men I passed looked the same, as though I was just passing the same man every time. Is this like the "in" thing this season for homeless men -- dingy, dirty rags are out this winter, and in is the golden-fleeced doggy complete with doggy blanket, and a book to wile away those unproductive hours.

My ravoli's aren't that good.

Helen thinks the sun is against her

I would love to know why it is that just before I get up out of bed in the morning the sun is shining -- beckoning me to come out -- and then just after I have my toast and fiddle with the Internet for a little while (less dirty than it sounds) I look over at the window and the sky is overwhelmed by clouds; not a beam of light can escape through.

05 October 2008

Helen begins her readings for class

"The fiery furnace becomes a figure for the industrial unconscious."

Oh, blow me.

How about, people worked in factory's in the 19th century, it was the only job for the working class, it really sucked, a lot of people died, the end.

Don't give me all this overly-dramatic, "deep thinking", everything stands for some significant underlying motive crap -- "Factory tourism was an art of describing, one of the earliest journalistic attempts at an ethnography of work. It was passional [passional!] and fact-loaded [fact-loaded?!?]. Its strange mixture of positivist information and affect, empirical data coexisting with a poesis of glass, is an attempt both to document and mythologize. Statistics combine with iconographical language that derives from the Arabian Nights, Dante, and the biblical fiery furnace."

I don't know, maybe my reading skills are too under-developed, but this just sounds like claptrap. I'm all for the meaning beneath things but why must one be so "wordy' about it, so overly-dramatic. Passional. Why couldn't you just write passionate? Fact-loaded. Um, how about, there's a fucking lot of facts attributed to this discussion. "...empirical data coexisting with the poesis of glass." The "poesis of glass." How the fuck is glass poetic?!?

04 October 2008

In which Helen goes oot and aboot

I'm about to pass out, I'm so tired. Like seriously. I felt so weak that I stopped at Caffe Nero (a chain) and bought a panini to get me across the bridge back home. Been walking since 12:00. It's now 5:00. I just don't know when to stop. I go one place and then next I'm somewhere else. I seem to be guided by forces not my own. And then four hours go by and I'm about to fall over.

Was woken by a fire alarm today at 11:00. I was going to sleep all day -- I'm so knackered -- but once I saw it was sunny (was suppose to rain all day) I decided to go out. Specifically to Harrods, to buy tea.

Went across the Westminster bridge, got so far as Whitehall where there was a parade. A group of people about a mile long holding signs, most of which read, "STOP CHILDHOOD POVERTY." There were men with drums, very loud, and a group of them chanting, "Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown has let the children down," as they passed 10 Downing Street. Rather dramatic. Though I kinda like Gordon Brown, and certainly don't fancy the man who is pegged to succeed him, I liked the pizzaz of it all. People fighting for what they believe in. Making a show of it all. Great fun to watch.

Proceeded toward St. James Park which ends at Buckingham Palace. Saw the flag indicating the Queen is in the Palace. Wasn't much amused. Walked on toward Hyde Park. A harried woman, dirty and pitiful looking, was begging for change, a little baby clinging to her chest. I gave the woman the equivalent of 6.00 dollars. I hope she uses it well. Crossed through to Knightsbridge where I found Harrods and a set of people in front of the store protesting against Harrods because the store sells fur coats. "Don't buy anything from Harrods," a man projected into a microphone as I walked in.

The store was packed, with mostly tourists. Saturday; should have known. Made straight for the "Food Halls", running into people as I went. I thought, "Abby would die if she were here." There are several halls, each of which specializes in a certain genre of food -- Boucherie (meats), Fromage (Cheese) -- all headlined in french, all top class food, all very expensive. I bought a canister of teas and then asked where I could stop for afternoon tea. This is the first time since I've been back that I've had scones. It is true that you cannot find real English scones anywhere but in England.

I had English Breakfast tea and clotted cream with strawberry preserves on raisin scones. I literally could not believe how good it all tasted. I'm not a big food person. I don't really care what I eat usually, but this was unbelievable. It cost 10.00 pounds; roughly 20.00 dollars, which is to be expected when you eat in anywhere in London but especially when you do so at Harrods.

Walked around the designer clothing stores for a bit. I looked at myself in one of the mirrors and thought, "Well I'm quite pretty." Seriously. I said this to myself. And I have noticed how I have "freshened up" since I've got here. For one, today I was wearing a brown top with my short black jacket, long length jeans and brown flats, pink brown argyle socks to match, and had a silk scarf I had bought in Camden when I was last here tied around my neck, situated so that it sort of puffed out of the top of my buttoned jacket. Secondly, I'm just happy. (Though right now not so much, as I fumble with the radiator that I'm certain must be broke). Being happy makes you look pretty -- or gives you the illusion that you are.

Went back to Hyde Park. Meandered around the Serpentine, watching some kids -- 8 - 16 -- ride their horses on the dirt trail designed for such use. A light rain descending. Went past a man sitting on a bench feeding a squirrel. The squirrel was situated on his knee and took what was offered him from the man's fingers.

Right then I was happy. I started to think about the things I would do. Maybe I will learn how to ride a horse, I thought to myself, walking from the Serpentine toward the trees and grass, the leaves crumbling under my feet while I watched miniature dogs running around their owners. At any rate, I thought, I'll do a lot of things that I wouldn't do otherwise. My classes are easy. I will finish my dissertation by mid-June (my classes are over in May -- or is it March? -- I'm only left in London until September to write my 15,000 words dis.). I will travel throughout England. I will work at Parliament as a volunteer. I'll do whatever catches my fancy.

Before I reached Soho I stopped at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant MAZE. Read the menu. All cafe's and restaurants and even pubs in London have menus placed in front of their buildings. Well priced. A meal costs about as much as what I paid at Harrods for tea/scones; the wines, ect. are what cost the most, some triple that of, say, a steak.

Nothing of much interest happened on my way home. Went through Soho, through Leicester Square where you buy cheap theatre tickets (I'm thinking about going to see Phantom next week), down to Tralfagar Square, through the Strand, and across the Waterloo Bridge, and home where I am now going to take a shower and pass out on my bed.

03 October 2008

In which Helen goes to the theatre...dahling!

Dame Eileen Atkins in "The Female of the Species"

I'm trying to break my diet coke habit. The cheapest price for a can is 60p -- roughly 1.20. I just bought one from the vendor outside my building, so it may not happen.

My new favourite food item is the Cadbury chocolate pudding with chocolate chunks that you mix in. Cadbury is real chocolate; not waxy like ours is. (I want to write like yours ). It is so good.

I was walking on the Waterloo bridge tonight. There is nothing to seeing a city like London at night. The lights and stuff, yeah? You don't need a description. It's like seeing Pittsburgh at night after coming out of the tunnels. Except it is more real to walk across a river like the Thames with the wind and feel the bitterness of the cold and see others taking photos or rushing along without even noticing because they've lived in the city so long. And the double decker busses, the black taxies of old fashioned build -- the click, click sound their engines makes -- the sound of traffic, the ringing of Big Ben that you see in the not-so-distant distance. Just nothing compares for me.

Went to a play tonight. The Female of the Species. A comedy. A comedy about feminism. Is that possible? Apparently it is. It was great fun. Was three rows behind the stage. The actors you may know. Dame Eileen Atkins played the lead. She just won an Emmy in America for her role in the BBC mini-series Cranford. She was Judi Dench's sister who dies after the first episode. Anna Maxwell Martin was the second lead. I've seen her previously in Cabaret when I was last here. She is married to the director of this play -- begs one to wonder how she got the role. She's been in North & South -- anyone? -- the factory girl who befriends Margaret and then dies of Consumption. (A lot of dying going on). She also played Esther Summerson, the lead, in the tv miniseries Bleak House. Lastly, but particularly heartfelt for me, is Sophie Thompson, whose name I had to look up. I don't know anything about her but I did recognize her from Emma, the Gwyneth Paltrow version, where she played Miss Bates. (She doesn't die). The annoying spinster who's always yelling things to her deaf mother. I loved her in that role! I can't be all "writerly" about her acting -- write something interesting -- fuck interesting -- I hate trying to think up ways to make my writing interesting, although I probably should, given that people read things in order to be entertained, all I can write is fuck was she good. She played a woman who has three little kids, doesn't love her husband, and has literally been driven insane by it all. Just walks out one day, ends up at her mothers (Eileen) -- after taking a train and a cab -- forgetting that she's left her kids at home by themselves, the eldest six...So we just had a fire alarm. Spent the last ten minutes out in the cold. I seemed to be the only one who thought it might be a good idea to bring a coat. False alarm. Probably someone's cooking in one of the kitchens; happens all the time I'm told...So Sophie's character is essentially a sort of overly dramatic one which makes her very funny. Here's a clip of her in "Emma", by far my favourite scene in anything. I love how she say's "I'm just going to say, 'hello.'" Watch from 3:40 - 4:40.

I can hear the girl in the room next to me who is Chinese talk in her native tongue with a friend of hers who is staying the night. The walls are very thin; can hear everything. Should probably keep that in mind.

after buying my new bowl

On the top of my strawberries package:

Grown in: Kent, UK

Grown by: Paul Mansfield

Variety: Albion

Weight: 400g

cheese is good

I'm in my room eating English Cheddar cheese. It is so good.

I was just in the kitchen. Two of my flat mates said that every Sunday each one of us on the floor cooks a meal for the group. It's a cool idea since each person living here is from a different country -- one from India, another from China, Taiwan, Canada, England, and me. This week Natalie, the English girl, is making a pot roast. I told them that my cooking might end up a disaster, so that I'd probably end up buying burgers and hotdogs for mine.

Mmm. Real cheddar cheese -- there's a picture of a cow on the package -- with Ritz crackers -- the only kind in the store that didn't have cheese already in the cracker.

And diet coke.

They don't have diet, caffeine free coke/pepsi here. (They don't have pepsi either, actually). I forgot about that. Now I'm going to have a heart attack from too much caffeine.

I was walking along the Embankment the other day, a sort of border walk on the Thames river that connects the City to Westminster. This is just before my first class was to begin. I calculated that I had an hour and a half. I forgot, however, how long the walk was. About 30 minutes in, I guessed, I was about 10 blocks away from my school. I figure I'd better find out what time it is -- I still had to buy a pen, my luggage hadn't arrived yet, and find out where my class was, I was told by my tutor that the class rooms are numbered in a strange organized (or really, non=organized) manner and I should get there early to find my classes. She was right, by the way, it took me twenty minutes of walking in a daze, trying to follow signs that took me to the wrong places, before I asked the front desk. It was that the "2" indicating what floor did not mean up two floors from the ground floor but down two floors.

So I was worried that I wouldn't get back in time. There was really near no tube station so I would have to walk. I begin digging in my Strand bag to find my cell phone that, although dead because my adaptor was still at Heathrow with the rest of my luggage, I could still use to look at the time. I'm looking, looking. Not there. I could have sworn I put it in there. I stop at a bench to get out of people's way. No where can it be found. I figure I better just turn around and walk as fast as I can when I walk away from the bench and the trees, look up, and notice that I have reached the end of the embankment. I am now in Westminster. And there above me is -- Big Ben.

I had an hour yet before my class began.

01 October 2008

I knew I'd forget something

Okay bad news. I forgot my usb cord for my camera so I can't upload photos until it is sent to me.

I can, however, charge my camera.

That's useful.


Well here's a little something that I wrote one of my friend's about the last two days.

And here's a picture of (I don't know yet -- let me rummage among my pictures) -- one minute -- hold on --

Okay. Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice, which I watched for the thousandsth time on my flight over.

Well, I am in London. Not much else to say really. These last two days have felt like a week.

I've had a few mishaps -- first flight to Chicago was 50 minutes late and I would have missed my second flight if that one had not also been delayed. Then when I landed BA didn't have my luggage, which was actually a good thing because it meant I didn't have to carry them through the tube. But then when they were delivered to my apartment building the security guard told them to take them back because my name and room number had not yet been printed on his sheet of residents. So I had to spent two hours last night trying to get in touch with BA so they would resend it. Received them today, along with someone else's baggage that they had delivered to me, so now I have to call BA again and have them pick it up.

The security guard who is from Africa is very difficult to understand and quite difficult in general. He is here all the time, from 7:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night. He probably hates his job and dealing with people who ask the same questions. The guy who runs the accomodation office is very happy go lucky (probably gay, but you can never tell with these English blokes) and has stopped me about four times in the last few days to ask if I have any questions and how I like my room and gave me, for free, the last computer cable he has to connect my computer to the Internet. I like people who are nice.

When I arrived I was informed that my room had been canceled because I hadn't shown up. Luckily, they had one more room left.

I have two classes, both two hours long, that meet on Wednesday. Rather boring both of them. They're seminars so that essentially we read the colossal amount of information assigned each week and then discuss it in class. Very little lecturing from the prof. I'm not a fan of discussion geared classes. That was one of the problems I had with that class I eventually took the "C" in. It is too jarring for me, to have the students rattling off their attempts to think up anything that sounds deep. I'm much more energetic about my classes when I have a prof who, if discussion is involved, as it usually is in English classes, it is combined with a more rigorous, detailed lecture from the prof. The material is a bit interesting. Some of it I've already read; most of it I'm at least familiar with. I have the same prof for both at the moment, - an eccentric kind of lady who, when any student is talking, say's "yeah, yeah" after every sentence as though she really understands what they're saying. You can tell by her furrowed brow that she doesn't. My second class rotates prof's every three weeks I'm going to try to make the most of it; after all, I have to write 4000 word papers for each class. I don't want to jinx myself but, as it looks like now, I think this semester at least should be tolerably easy.

My residence is great. I do have my own bathroom and shower. Mini-fridge. One of the rooms is a kitchen that my other flat-mates and I share. They're very nice. One is from India -- law student -- another from China and Taiwan. One Canadian. The American girl just left. (The residence is also for PhD students). And one British.

I live in Waterloo which is on the river. I never spent any time on this side of the river; the Southbank is a somewhat residential area, or about as residential as a London area can be. It's also quite artsy, The Globe Theatre and the Old Vic (currently run by Kevin Spacey) are a few blocks away from me on either side. The IMAX theatre is less than a block from me. Painters and artists of other sorts live here but mostly business men and women live in this area. It is near enough for them to walk to work: the City and Parliament, Whitehall and Westminster, can be reached simply by walking over the Thames on the Westminster or Waterloo Bridge.

Otherwise, I've just been running around, getting my classes set up, trying to find a supermarket, which is impossible to find in London. Stores here specialize in the goods they sale. It is difficult to find a store that has everything you want. So that if you want stationary you have to go to W.H. Smith, and for medicine over the counter and prescribed and makeup you go to the chemist shop called Boots -- something like an American Rite Aid, except you don't have to call in prescriptions and since they specialize in the medicines you can fill your prescrips within minutes -- there is a chain called Tesco's, run by Indians, that are on nearly every street, where you can buy fruit, some banked goods, and canned food items. So it gets a bit difficult to get all you need. I've been mainly going to Pret a Manger which, along with it having a French title, is nearly exactly like Au Bon Pain except it is one of the cheapest places to go for pre-made sandwiches, soups, and the like.

More later -- and hopefully photos. I haven't completely unpacked yet so it could be hiding somewhere but I don't remember packing it.

Um, I'm in London

Folks, I'm in London.

And just figured out how to connect to the Internet in my room.

I will post pictures and description later. Been up since 5:00 and have classes until 6:00 tonight. But Wednesday is the only day I have classes.

I will say that I saw Nick Clegg, the liberal democrat leader for the House of Commons, yesterday at the Royal Courts near Chancery Lane, taking some photos with Asian people -- no doubt trying to bolster his lack-luster reputation -- with press people all around like a swarm of bees. The Lib Dems are the Green Party of British politics, roughly speaking.

More later.