Category Archives: London

Road races

There’s something so invigorating about running a road race. I ran my first road race, a 5K, when I was twelve and a newly minted member of the Derby Middle School track team. After that, I was hooked. In the intervening two decades, I’ve run more road races than I can count or remember, although a few stick out in my mind as particularly memorable. There were the races I’d do every year with my cross-country team: the Howell Melon Run in the summer and the Birmingham Jingle Bell Run in the winter. There were the random one-off races in strange places; I seem to recall a 5K that largely took place in a series of iced-over shopping mall parking lots. There were the inevitable disasters: for example, the time I stopped to pee during a race and realized I was crouched in my friend’s backyard, which happened to be along the race course; or the time I missed a turn and cut off a good half mile of a course and thought I had set an astonishing new PR. Then there are the wack-tastic races I’ve run, like the Bay to Breakers, which is not for the faint-hearted, in any respect. Road races are the best.

Three years ago, I herniated a disc in my back, and my running habit — and thus, my road racing — had to be curtailed. Running made my back hurt, you see, and I was lucky if I’d run one road race a year, if that. Two years ago, on a whim, I signed up for a 15K race and felt great while running it, but my back screamed at me for the entire week afterwards. And so for the last two years, I stopped running races completely. So sad. But a few months ago, fed up with my wonky back, I went to a physical therapist here in London (the amazing Richard Game at Physio on the River — the man’s a miracle worker!) and he set my back straight (literally). Now, I can’t run every day, but I can run a few days a week, and it’s incredible.

Carried away by the spirit of my newly regained running ability, I signed up for a 10K race a couple of weeks ago. The race was yesterday morning, and it went really well. I hadn’t run more than five miles in years — literally, years — because I was afraid of hurting my back, but yesterday my back felt fine running the race and, more importantly, afterwards.

Regent's Park 10K

Regent’s Park 10K

What was so great about running this first race in years was that it reminded me of all the road races I used to run — it felt like stepping right back into what I used to love about doing road races. After all, no matter where you are, there are certain common elements to any road race that make you feel at home. One of those elements is an old man with a megaphone who’s in charge of herding participants and shooting the (proverbial) start-gun. I love these old men because they remind me of the guys who used to run my middle and high-school track meets: former coaches and teachers who care about kids and care about running and want to spend their Saturday morning standing in a dewy field yelling into a megaphone. Those old men are the best. Road races wouldn’t be the same without them.

Now that I’m back on the running train a few days a week, I’m eager to sign up for more races in the new year. Anyone interested? Perks include a goodie bag with an energy bar and/or a banana, an old man with a megaphone, and a sense of accomplishment. Email me.

London winter blues

My life in London is great. Really great, actually. I have a wonderful group of friends here, Al and I take awesome weekend trips, we’re surrounded by cozy pubs that serve roast beef and mulled wine, and we have the option of watching Downton Abbey in real time. What more could one want, right? Well, it turns out there is one thing one could want: sunshine. Dear me, I miss the sun. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how important it is until you don’t have it. Sunlight: kind of key, as it turns out.

Now that we’re into the darkest part of the year in London (I hope?), I’m really starting to feel the effects of living in a gray, dark city where the sun sets at four o’clock in the afternoon (SERIOUSLY). The effects are not good. I’ve been low on energy, kind of mopey, unmotivated, and a bit stir-crazy. SAD is a real thing, you guys. I think I didn’t totally believe in it before I moved to London, but, hoo boy, it’s real. (Also, according to Wikipedia, “Around 20% of Irish people are affected by SAD, according to a survey conducted in 2007. The survey also shows women are more likely to be affected by SAD than men.” CHECK AND CHECK).

Before we came to London, people had warned me about the weather, and I had brushed them off. “London’s great,” they’d say, “except for the weather.” Pshaw, I’d think. At the time, when people said this to me, I was living in South Africa, which has fabulous weather all year ’round, and which I totally did not appreciate. What I wouldn’t give today for those clear, sunny Joburg skies! You can be depressed in South Africa for a lot of reasons, but weather ain’t one of them.

Before we got here, I thought that London would be kind of rainy and blustery, but I was pretty confident I wouldn’t mind the nasty weather because it would be “cozy.” Coziness is something I value very highly, to the point where I romanticize crappy weather because it enhances the experience of being inside and warm — kind of a “you’ll never know joy until you’ve known pain” type thing. I guess I was imagining a sort of “weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful” scenario in which I’d spend my afternoons in London hunkered before a roaring fire while it snowed charmingly outside my beveled glass window. This (false) idea of what London winter would be like was informed by movies (Bridget Jones, Love Actually) and little else. Guess what? The movies lied. It doesn’t even snow here! It just gets dark insanely early and the wind blows a lot. Also, we don’t even have a fireplace, so the injustices just keep on coming.

The good news is, my SAD will be cured (at least temporarily) in a little over a week when I blow this popsicle stand for San Francisco. And San Francisco in the winter is delightful. It’s chilly but not cold, and, if you’re in the right part of the city, it’s downright sunny! Even in my parents’ neighborhood, which is notorious for being foggy, it’s pretty sunny in the winter, and you get some beautiful sunsets.

San Francisco, last winter

San Francisco, last winter

Never again will I complain about San Francisco fog, by the way, because no matter how foggy it gets, at least the sun still sets at a normal time in the winter. London is just punking all of us with this four PM sunset nonsense. As I write this, it’s quarter to six, and it started getting dark two hours ago. All this is to say that I’m totally fine, and having a case of SAD is a small price to pay for living in a really cool city, but I’m learning that I need to live in a climate with sunshine, long-term. At least now I know. See you soon, San Francisco, and the sun. It’s been far too long.

One year later

It’s been a whole year since I wrote my first post on this blog, in which I fretted about moving to South Africa while recovering from a bout of typhoid fever and an über-traumatic last week at the law firm. In the intervening year, as with most years, a lot has happened. We’ve moved from the US to South Africa to the UK. We’ve traveled to a bunch of new countries. I’ve launched a fledgling writing career. We’ve made new friends. I’ve discovered sewing and rediscovered knitting. Overall, my life is a lot better than it used to be, and I wake up most days looking forward to the day to come.

But when I stop and think about it, it actually doesn’t feel like a whole year has passed. Perhaps this is because all of the big life changes over the past year — quitting my job, moving abroad, starting a new career — happened in rapid succession, and I’ve just spent the rest of the year adjusting to a new routine. The year marker also feels a bit arbitrary, because we’re still in the midst of our big International Adventure, and it doesn’t seem appropriate to do any real retrospective thinking until I’m back in the US and can look at my time abroad with some remove.

A year in, though, here are a few things I can say that I have learned so far:

  1. I like routine. And I like feeling like I have a home. I wrote about this here and my feelings on the matter have only become more acute, because Al and I have had to pick up and move within London several times since then. We’ve been in our current apartment for less than a week and we’re moving again tomorrow. It’s a giant pain. When you move so frequently, and with such short notice, it’s not even worth unpacking your suitcases. I hate that. As much as I love seeing different parts of London, I long for a settled place in the city, somewhere I can use the drawers and closets and get into a comfortable routine. I guess there’s nothing like living like a (reasonably well-to-do) vagabond for an extended period of time that makes one appreciate the comforts of home. Also, it teaches you flexibility. And flexibility is good, right?
  2. South Africa was a mix of good and bad, and that’s okay. Just the other night, I was telling Al that there are certain things I miss about South Africa. The weather, for one. The intense, clear blue of the sky. The vivid sunsets. That wintry wood-smoke smell. Our big, roomy apartment with the little balcony and barbecue. Our car, as unreliable and beat-up as it was. The cost of living. The steak. The wine. But, I realized, it’s possible for me to miss all of that and still never want to live in Joburg again. It’s also possible to say that I disliked Joburg as a city but liked our life there. Life is tricky like that.
  3. Rejections are tough. Enough said.
  4. Having a support network is important. Duh.
  5. I miss the US, but I’m not desperate to go back. I think maybe in the spring, or even after New Year’s, I’ll feel really ready to go back to the States. But right now, I’m content to stay in London a bit longer; I really like it here. (It would just help if we could nail down the housing situation.)
  6. I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone but Al. The thing that no one tells you about having an international adventure is that it’s full of annoyances. Living abroad, it turns out, requires juggling an immense amount of logistics. And logistics are a pain in the ass. It helps to have a partner who you like when you’re trying to figure out how to not go bat-poop insane when you have to move for the fourth time in a month, or when your power goes out, or when you get not one but two flat tires in a foreign country, or what have you. Living abroad, even in a cushy, convenient place like London, is always a challenge. If you and your partner come out  of it still liking each other and wanting to travel together, so much the better. Being here with Al has reinforced what I already knew about him: he’s patient, adventurous, and flexible. He also listens to me when I whine about having to pack up my knitting stuff. He gets it. Getting it is important.  IMG_4334
  7. Being abroad makes me more aware of my Americanness. There are two sides to this coin, of course. Occasionally, I’ll see something that will make me feel smug and superior because I know my country has its s**t figured out on that issue. Walking on one side of the sidewalk, for instance. America has that DOWN. England? Not so much. Another example: Chinese food. England, please take notes on this. And don’t even get me started on Mexican food. But then, there are other things that make me realize how a**-backwards certain things are in my beloved country. There are the obvious examples (healthcare! education! Miley Cyrus!) but there are also subtle things. Like, in London, MOST movie theaters that I’ve been to serve booze. In DC, I can only think of one movie theater off the top of my head (The E Street Cinema) that does that. What gives, America? Also, London’s public transportation system is great, the post office is quick and efficient (which, as an American, is mind-blowing), and they have double-decker buses. Makes me think America needs to get on the ball, and fast. But then I’ll watch an episode of Hens Behaving Badly or see a drunk girl peeing in the street at ten o’clock at night and I’ll go right back to feeling smug and superior. So, it’s a mixed bag.
  8. I am officially too old to stay in hostels with shared bathrooms. There, I said it.

I’ve probably learned other things along the way but those are the big ones. So, I’m just going to continue enjoying my time abroad and figuring things out. Maybe I’ll check back in a year from now and tell you what else I’ve learned.

The London Knitting and Stitching Show

Any knitter will tell you that there’s just something about yarn that’s — how do I put this without sounding weird? — alluring. A ball of yarn, after all, is more than just a ball of yarn: it represents infinite possibilities. “What could I make with this?” a knitter thinks, as she strokes a ball of downy, grey angora, or a skein of chunky tweed wool. Half the fun of knitting, in my opinion, is standing in the knitting store and imagining the possibilities. This is how one ends up with a knitting bag overflowing with yarn and needles and three different projects going at any given time. (Hypothetically, of course). So, imagine, if you will, how it felt for me to stumble upon this:

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In case it’s not immediately clear, those are GIANT PILES OF YARN. Giant piles of discounted yarn! I had to stop myself from diving in. Where is this knitting Elysium, you may be asking? Why, at the London Knitting and Stitching Show, of course, which took place over this past weekend. It was so incredible, I had to go twice.

On Friday, I went to the show with one of my newfound friends from sewing class and we had a blast. There’s something really fun about walking around a convention center filled with yarn, fabric, needles, thread, beads, and other crafting supplies with another person who also finds those things exciting and beautiful. Together, we wandered around the cavernous Alexandra Palace and admired the many stands full of lovely textiles, yarns, and supplies. We also took two workshops: a cross-stitch sampler class, and a paper cutting class. Turns out, cross-stitch is pretty easy (but not that interesting, in my oh-so-humble opinion), and paper cutting is HARD, especially for someone like me with dangerously poor knife skills. But there’s something so invigorating about learning a new skill, especially one that involves using your hands to create something pretty.

My first day at the show, I tried to be restrained and not buy very much. Hence, I only purchased one new Rowan pattern book (the fabulous Nordic Tweed one) and the yarn for the awesome Nordic mittens in the book, plus a package of discounted yarn from one of the giant piles. I had to pass up a lot of other cool knitting stuff I wanted to buy, including a kit to make Latvian mittens, which, in case you’re not familiar, are awesome:

Image courtesy of folkcostume.blogspot.com

Latvian mittens (image courtesy of folkcostume.blogspot.com)

But I figured the Latvian mitten pattern was a bit above my pay grade (I still need to learn how to do intarsia), so I passed them up. Sigh.

As the weekend went on, I found myself thinking a lot about the show and a few of the items I had passed up, so on Sunday, I took a shuttle bus full of old ladies back to Alexandra Palace and did some more shopping. This time, I stocked up on beautiful tweed from Magee of Donegal (I’m planning on making a quilt), discounted books and Liberty print items, and a pack of deeply discounted Rowan Cashsoft yarn. I left feeling satisfied and super energized about my various knitting projects. Right now, for instance, I’m working on an afghan with a cool “lovers’ knot” pattern. I really look forward to working on it at the end of each day. What can I say? I’m a knitting nerd.

All those cables are a pain to make, but they look so cool!

All those cables are a pain to make, but they look so cool!

Sewing has taken a back burner for the time being, since our living situation continues to be up in the air and I haven’t felt like making the trip to buy fabric and then to the sewing shop to use their machines. So I’ve returned to my first love, knitting, which I can do right from the comfort of my own couch — or hotel room, or plane seat (assuming they let me take the needles through security). Al and I might be picking up and going on an impromptu vacation tomorrow, and you can bet I’ll be bringing my knitting bag along. I also happen to be in one of those dreaded down periods in my writing, so it helps to have fun projects to distract myself with. You know what they say: When all else fails, knit an afghan.*

* No one says that. But let’s make it a thing.

Cambridge

Note: No Book Review Monday today, folks. Just finishing up a good novel, which I’ll write about soon. In the meantime, let’s talk about Cambridge, the cutest little English town there ever was.

Punters, Cambridge

Punters, Cambridge

This past weekend, Al and I took the train from London to Cambridge. Way back in 2005-2006, while I was galavanting around Brazil and overdoing it on mangos, Al was in Cambridge doing a graduate program in economic development. Different strokes for different folks, right? Anyway, I had wanted to see Cambridge, my husband’s old stomping grounds, for a long time, and so I was delighted to spend a beautiful summer weekend there with him.

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We stayed at the slightly saggy Lensfield Hotel, in a room that was so tiny the door hit the bed when we opened it. The extreme tininess of the room wasn’t a problem, though, because we didn’t really spend much time there; we were too busy walking the utterly charming streets of Cambridge. First stop was Al’s old college, Pembroke, which is known for its beautiful gardens.

Pembroke

Pembroke

We also checked out King’s College, St. John’s, Caius, Queen’s, and Clare. One of my favorites was St. John’s, because we got to sit outside the chapel and listen to the St. John’s choir practice. Turns out the St. John’s choir dates back to the 17th century and is now “one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world.” Here’s a little video about the choir, if you want to hear a bit of the music. I can personally attest to the utter beauty of the choral music; I was so transfixed by it, I actually bought one of the choir’s CDs for five GBP. What can I say, I’m a sucker for boys’ choirs.

We spent most of the day walking around and gawping at how cute and old everything is in Cambridge. Then, that evening, we went on a mini pub crawl, stopping first at the Granta Pub, where we looked out over the river and watched a couple of dudes in their underwear punt boats in the rain. Then we moved on to the unfortunately named The Bathhouse, where Al used to bartend. And then… we went home. I guess now that we’re thirty, a two-pub pub-crawl is sufficient for our appetites.

The Granta Pub

The Granta Pub

The next day, we went for a run to go visit the cottage where Al used to live. Then, as is mandatory in Cambridge, we went punting on the river. Well, technically, Al did the punting, while I allowed myself to be punted. It was a pretty chaotic scene out on the river, but we managed to stay afloat, thanks to Al’s excellent punting skills.

View from the river

View from the river

Punter

Punter

Puntee

Puntee

After that, we walked along some beautiful, peaceful back garden paths until it was time to catch our train back to London. Overall, it was a perfect, pretty, relaxing weekend in Cambridge. I’m so glad I got to see it in all its idyllic glory.

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Bye, Cambridge. I liked you.

 

Royal Baby gawking

On Tuesday, after escaping from the sweltering heat of the Kensington Central Library, I decided, since I had a couple hours to kill before meeting up with Al and nothing better to do, to go check out the scene outside of St. Mary’s Hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge was giving birth to the Royal Baby. Let’s be clear: I found the media coverage of this particular event bordering on the absurd. All of the media’s breathless speculation about the birth, while providing zero new information, was ridiculous, and, as I heard someone put it today, the media acted “as if Kate were the first woman to give birth, ever, in the world.” Nonetheless, I found all of the hubbub kind of intriguing, and, again, I don’t have a job, so why not join the crowds of weirdos standing outside of the hospital?

The Lindo Wing

The Lindo Wing

I took the Tube to Paddington and walked to St. Mary’s from there. Since it’s a working hospital, they didn’t shut down access to it, but police officers – or, should I say, bobbies – were working to keep the entrances to the hospital clear, since, you know, it’s a hospital.

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The press had gotten there in the wee hours of the morning to stake out the “good” spots (i.e., those directly facing the Lindo Wing, where Kate was giving birth), but the rest of the place was pretty much fair game for average Janes like me to wander around and take in the scene. And the scene was pretty weird. I got there at around 5:30 PM, so a full twelve hours or so after Kate herself had gotten there, but there were people who had been camped out near the Lindo Wing all day and all night, waiting for – what, exactly? It was actually unclear what we were all waiting for. I think the hive mind had decided that we were all standing outside the hospital in case an announcement of the birth was made, but some of the more misguided/simpleminded people in the crowd seemed to think that Kate and Wills themselves would make an appearance, mere hours after the birth of their child. Needless to say, that did not happen. Nor did a whole lot else. There were a few false alarms, including when another thin, brown-haired lady exited the Lindo Wing. Everyone gasped and then sighed in disappointment, and I felt pretty bad for that lady, since she had probably just had a baby herself and didn’t deserve all the glares of disappointment she got upon emerging from the hospital and not being Duchess Kate.

Assorted nuts

Assorted nuts

Anyway, I saw a lot of Royal fanatics milling around, many of whom were draped in Union Jacks and other crazy getups. Some people had gone to great lengths to get on TV, or so it seemed. For example: there was a girl who had baked and decorated a cake, presumably for Kate and Will, although no one had eaten it, and by the time I got there, it was sad and melted and she was walking around holding it rather forlornly. There were a lot of foreigners in the crowd, too, probably because tourists, like me, don’t have anything better to do than stand still in the heat and watch the front of a building. I stayed in the scrum for a little over an hour, and then decided to throw in the towel. As I left, I caught sight of Natalie Morales, of Today Show fame, and she is so pretty, you guys. Then, with my Natalie Morales sighting accomplished, I left the premises, feeling satisfied.

Natalie Morales

Natalie Morales

And that, my friends, was my experience with The Royal Birth. Hear ye, hear ye.

In case you missed it, here are the Royal Parents unveiling the Royal Baby. Pretty adorable! And here’s an article about why it’s cool that Kate didn’t try to hide her postpartum body in a sack (a la Princess Diana in 1982). Go Kate!

Hot hot heat

Guys, it is hot in London. I told my parents this the other day and they scoffed at me when I reported the temperature (high 80s Fahrenheit), and then I reminded them that, unlike in cushy America, air conditioning DOES NOT EXIST here. Which means there’s no escaping the heat. Plus, Al and I finally put our (sweating, North American) finger on another thing that makes London feel so hot: there’s NO WIND. Honestly, this is the opposite of the windy city. It’s eerily windless. A rare breeze feels like a tiny breath of heaven on my sweating brow. And today is the hottest day of the summer so far: 90 degrees Fahrenheit. (Which, according to my iPhone, is 32 degrees Celcius, for those of you who aren’t familiar with our antiquated American system for keeping track of the temperature).

This also happens to be the day that the much anticipated Royal Baby is being born, although no one in my immediate vicinity seems too fussed about the current state of Duchess Kate’s labor. Hard to tell, though, since everyone is being all quiet and British. I am currently sitting in the sweltering Kensington Central Library, by the way. I came here with the idea that, since the place has free wifi, perhaps I’d be able to work here tomorrow when writing my weekly post for Previously.TV, but, turns out, I can’t access TV shows on the public network here, so I guess I walked here with my laptop in the blistering heat for nothing. But, since I’m here, I guess I’ll make a comment about the biggest noticeable difference between a public library in London and a public library in DC: this one doesn’t smell like pee. Unlike in the US, this library does not appear to be a place for vagrants, drunks, and weirdos to hang out, and the air, while hot, is remarkably urine-scent-free. This is a lot like the difference I’ve noticed between London buses and big city American buses: people behave pretty appropriately on the buses here. I haven’t seen one person clip their nails on the bus, or spit on the floor of the bus, or loudly talk to themselves on the bus. It’s incredible. I know London must have its fair share of weirdos and scary drunks and people who think it’s appropriate to bring smelly bags of seafood onto public transportation, but I haven’t seen them yet (fingers crossed).

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Back to this whole Royal Baby thing: I’m sort of hoping that when the RB is born, everyone in the library will spontaneously break into song (perhaps “Rule Brittania?”). It’ll be a little uncomfortable, sure, but I expect a minimum level of pomp, if not circumstance, from ordinary British citizens at a time like this. Spontaneous song (and/or dance) seems appropriate. Or maybe the government will shoot off canons? Fireworks? RAF flyover? They have to do something besides post a notice on the gates of Buckingham Palace — I mean, talk about anticlimactic. The thing I’m not sure about, though, is whether anyone, except for the media, old ladies, and Americans, actually cares about this birth. I mean, sure, it’s interesting, in that Britain is choosing to continue this weird, quaint system of titles and tiaras and bloodlines and castles and stuff, and we’re getting to see that happen in real time, but really, it’s just a baby. This baby has no idea how famous it is, or what its title means, or that its parents’ every moves are followed obsessively by media, or that people are pinning all sorts of weird, creepy hopes and dreams onto its tiny, bald head. I get the sense most Britons are aware of this, and yet the media is freaking the eff out and swarming the hospital where the RB is being born and speculating wildly about names and Kate’s labor and so on. I suppose it’s too much to ask for the media to just play it cool around this whole royal birth thing, huh?

Well, I’ve written a bunch of words about not a whole lot, partly to kill time to see if the RB would be born as I was typing, but no dice. Back to sweating quietly among other quietly sweating people.

My first week in London

It’s been almost a full week since I’ve arrived in London and I’ve been trying to pack each of my days to bursting. So far, so good, except that it’s really hot here (who knew that could happen?) and there’s no AC, thus no respite from the heat. Walking around sweating and getting a mild sunburn is all fine and dandy if you can dip into deliciously cool restaurants, bars, or even public transportation once in a while, but AC is not a given here, anywhere. To wit: for the first time in my life last night, I was hot in a movie theater. It was like topsy-turvy world! Movie theaters are supposed to be frozen tundras so cold that your extremities lose feeling, Britain. Get with the program. Sheesh.

Before I tell you about my adventures this week, here is a short list of things I’ve learned and/or noticed over the last few days walking around London: 1) always carry your own water, unless you want to fork over the equivalent of your hypothetical child’s first year of college for a bottle of it; 2) don’t shop at Whole Foods — just don’t even go in — the prices are too traumatic; 3) don’t shop at the cute Italian coffee place around the corner, unless you are prepared to pay the equivalent of US $20 for one sandwich’s worth of Parma ham; 4) walk if possible; bus if you can’t walk; Tube if you can’t bus; 5) wear sunscreen (this advice applies outside of London, as well, FYI); 6) Italians are annoying in every context outside of Italy (sorry, Italians — real talk); 7) Brazilians and Americans are everywhere you look (or listen), and they/we are loud. But not as loud as Italians. Again, sorry, Italians. I love your food, your wine, and your country. But going forward, you guys have got to master spatial awareness and volume control.

British Museum

British Museum

So, where have I gone this week? Oh, lots of places. On Wednesday I walked around Covent Gardens and also spent a few hours at the British Museum, where I saw mummies, Assyrian stuff, Iranian stuff, Greek stuff, European stuff, a cool walrus tusk chess set, and the Rosetta Stone (overrated). On Thursday, I made my way to the Tate Modern art museum. Camille, one of Al’s lovely cousins who we’re staying with, was kind enough to give me her Tate member card, so I got to see all of the private exhibitions, featuring art by Ellen Gallagher, Ibrahim El Salahi, Saloua Raouda Choucair, and Meschac Gaba. Kind of interesting that two out of the four exhibitions were African artists. My favorite exhibition was Ellen Gallagher AxME. Gallagher is an American artist who does a lot of really cool, whimsical collages with photos from old African-American lifestyle magazines, over which she superimposes bright yellow wigs and googly eyes and other things. Sounds kinda crazy, and it kinda is. The permanent collections at the Tate were very good, as well, but less fun to walk around in, since they were all flooded by shrieking schoolchildren. When one is trying to enjoy art by looking contemplatively (or at least quietly) at it, one does not really appreciate the sounds of other human beings shouting next to one’s ear. Or maybe that’s just me?

Cy Twombly (at the Tate Modern)

Cy Twombly (at the Tate Modern)

Actually, I noticed some interesting behaviors while I was strolling through the Ellen Gallagher exhibit, from which I am prepared to draw broad cultural conclusions, because anthropologists always make sweeping statements based on tiny bits of anecdotal evidence, right? So, after observing both British and American patrons at the museum, I noticed that British people are more likely to give each other pedantic notes on pieces of art in a stage whisper (e.g., “You see how the googly eyes are an ironic statement about the underlying dehumanization of the dominant corporatist culture of the era?”), while Americans are more likely to ask their whining three year old toddler what her opinion is of the art (“Do you see that, Madison? It’s a jellyfish. Can you say jellyfish? What do you like about this painting, Madison? Madison, please sit in your stroller correctly.”). Both behaviors are highly annoying, although to be honest, I found the show-offy whispering easier to stomach. To give more detail, there was a pregnant woman (American) pushing her squirming three year-old in a stroller through the private exhibit. This woman insisted on asking, in a loud voice, for said three year-old’s informed opinion about each and every piece of art. As a fellow American, I wondered if I could perform some sort of international citizen’s arrest on behalf of my countrymen, but instead, I just made a silent note to self never to be That Person who assumes that everyone else in the modern art gallery is as charmed as I am by my toddler’s awareness of shapes and colors. Also, that poor kid, right? What three year-old wants to be dragged to a non-interactive art museum? There are probably a million other places that lady could have brought that child that day, none of which involved rooms full of surrealist art. Just saying.

Exhibition brochures

Exhibition brochures

Anyway, I got through most of the Tate Modern but I still need to go back to the Tate Britain, which I will do perhaps next week. I haven’t decided what adventures I am going to get up to today, but the world is my oyster. There is so much to see and do in this city, I could do five different things every day and not exhaust the possibilities. Glorious!

Happy Friday to one and all.