It’s me again!
I finished the majority of my first full week in London and a lot has happened. This has been the week of museums. And class. And internships. And lots of other things. Let’s start at the beginning.
Monday: I started the day by going to my interview at TNT magazine. It was great! My editor met me in the kitchen, where multiple people were brewing cups of tea. She explained that I’m going to be writing 3-5 articles for the online edition every day, as well as feature stories for the print issue. The only hard part about Monday was the tube, which I’ve learned Brits LOVE to complain about.
The tube is SO crowded in the mornings. I was pressed in between two people for almost my entire ride. There was a guy on my first line who was very, very drunk and singing a song about pickpockets (no, not the Oliver song. Just his own little ditty). And yes, it was only 9 a.m. He was getting a lot of weird looks and people were recoiling from the whisky smell on his breath.
Then, on my last line, there was a person crouching in the corner by the tube door and wearing a rat mask. He was dressed in all black, so I guess he was trying to look like an enormous rodent. I guess some people have a lot of free time.
That afternoon Claire and I went to the National Gallery, which has more than 2,300 paintings from the mid-13th century to the 1900s. You can’t take your own photos and it was completely and utterly silent, except for the sounds of a few French teenagers running and yelling through the museum.
There was one common theme in a lot of the pictures: centaurs. Or satyrs as they were labeled. Remember the little guy from Hercules? They were EVERYWHERE in the paintings. I really don’t know why. See a picture of a pretty woman? She’s bound to be surrounded by centaurs.
Overall, the gallery was very beautiful. It’s impressive that the Brits have such a wide collection of paintings, even if they did take them from their native countries. I was most excited for the Monet room, and of course, Murphy’s Law happened. It was the only room in the entire gallery that was closed. I guess I’ll be going back!
Then Claire and I went to Harrod’s, which is an enormous department store similar to Macy’s in NYC (except more expensive). They have everything you could ever hope to buy in there. In fact, someone bought Ronald Reagan an elephant named Gertie there.
We were automatically singled out as 1.) foreigners and 2.) poor students. The concierge came up to us and told us to come back on Saturday for some good bargains. He also told us to go to Floor 4 for “casual clothes.”
But that didn’t stop us. We walked into the Tiffany’s store and saw a woman looking at diamond rings. She waved over the employee, who was looking at us very disdainfully as we walked in, and bought a $2,300 diamond ring for her friend for her 50th birthday. Yes, that’s right, $2,300 for a birthday present. Unfortunately, she didn’t offer to buy me one, too.
Tuesday: More of a serious day. I had class from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. It’s one thing to have a class near your dorm or sorority house and leave 10 minutes early, another to have an early class across campus and a completely different thing to have an early class across a huge city.
In between classes, Jessica, Claire and I went to the Victoria and Albert museum, which is an art and design museum. It’s six floors, so we only got to see a small part of it. We looked at the “fashion through the decades” section, the British gallery and the Raphael “cartoons.” These cartoons are actually huge tapestries that Raphael and his apprentices painted for the Sistine Chapel, but they belong to the Queen now. The sign in the room says “On loan from Her Majesty the Queen.” (How kind of her!) The British galleries were also cool because they recreated rooms from different artistic periods in British history, so there was a music room, sitting room, etc. and they were all decorated with authentic furniture.
In my second class we had a Mizzou alum that writes for the Dow Jones newswire service talk to us. He was nice and just gave us information on what to see in London and what to expect in a British newsroom.
Over here they’re much more laid back and casual in the newsroom. I’m also writing without the protection of the First Amendment! That means that if something is wrong, I’m automatically presumed guilty. Weird to think about. There are errors EVERYWHERE in the British papers. It’s ridiculous. Even though you’re supposed to be factual and don’t have protection, papers still make up articles. It’s almost like every paper over here looks like the National Enquirer. Some papers have “Page 3” girls, which are topless pictures of girls.
It’s very odd, and I was shocked the first time I opened the paper to see a girl in a bathing suit without a top on, but besides that, the Brits must be doing something right though. They have more subscribers than papers in the U.S. and our population is so much bigger.
Wednesday: My first full day of work! I wrote two articles for the print publication and an article for the web. The British newsroom is definitely more relaxed. My colleagues are great and often get up to drink multiple (and by multiple I mean at least five) cups of tea each day. We listen to Indie rock stations on the radio and swearing is much more common (read: constant).
That night I went to dinner with Bill, who is one of my dad’s best friends from college. He’s a pilot and was spending the day in London in between his flights. I was incredibly happy to see him. Between the unreliable wifi and the time difference, it’s been harder to communicate with my family than I’d realized before I left. We had a great time talking about his favorite sites in London and his adventures backpacking in Europe after college while we ate Thai food. He was even nice enough to bring me peanut butter and a jar of jellybeans that’s shaped like a cupcake! Thank you so much, Bill. I can’t tell you how great it was to see you.
Thursday: Class and work! My editors sent me me to “zone 3” of London, which is a little outside the city, to do a “Vox Pop.” This is a section where TNT reporters ask random people on the street a question. I went to a cute little suburb called Muswell Hill to ask people why they liked living there. Easy enough, right?
Almost. The hardest part was finding it without my iPhone and map applications, which I can’t use anymore because there isn’t wifi. And I RELY on the iPhone maps, even if they have gotten my lost in East Cleveland after the Lady Gaga concert and told me to turn the wrong way into cornfields when I was driving to Cedar Point.
At first I was nervous about traveling outside of London, but the area was very quaint. It was then I realized that this was what I wanted to do: talk to locals and learn more about life in England. I seized the opportunity and spoke to many Brits in the local Starbucks. They were all very polite. And articulate. (Maybe the accent helped with that).
That night I went with Jessica and Claire to a couple pubs in Camden. One was the “hipster” pub where they had a live band and played Indie music, and the other was a Blues kitchen where they played ‘60s music. Both were pretty fun.
It’s really different here because people start to go home before midnight. At Mizzou, people don’t start to “go out” until after 10. Maybe Londoners are just more in touch with the real world (which makes sense compared to my reference group of college kids).
Also, people in Britain aren’t as great at dancing as they are in the U.S. I know, I know, my moves are unparalleled, but the Brits often stand and head bop or tap their feet. It’s charming in a way!
Friday: It’s snowing here and Londoners are freaking out. Majorly. The tube is delayed (even though it’s underground). Even though England is Northern, it doesn’t snow much in the city. Of course, I unknowingly brought the Northeast Ohio snow with me. Sorry, London!
This afternoon we trudged through the snow to the British museum for a guided tour. We ended up splitting off from the group so we could spend more time looking at the exhibits. Some highlights included: The Rosetta Stone, Cleopatra’s tomb, sacred bull “moo”mies (I’d like to copyright this term, thank you). Apparently the Egyptians mummified everything, including their bulls and pet cats.
Now, I’m going to get a little symbolic here. The British museum houses a huge number of artifacts from ancient civilizations and focuses on the progress of man throughout time. It was humbling to see the beginnings of man and the mummies that weren’t embalmed. We all start out the same and end that way, too. (Sorry to be a downer).
The good news is, it further encouraged me to embrace my time here and see everything I can while I’m here. I’m so blessed and lucky to have this once in a lifetime opportunity and to have the modern technology and support of my parents that allowed me to travel this far to see another part of the world.
Alright, enough seriousness. Now you’re all caught up! This weekend is going to be very busy. Tomorrow I’m going to the Harry Potter exhibit, which, is falsely advertised as being in London. We have to take a train there, but it should only take about 20 minutes. Then Sunday we’re going to Stonehenge and Bath.
One more Murphy’s Law: The website for the Jane Austen Centre (which is in Bath) says it’s going to be closed until January 29th. Of course my group is going this weekend. Although it’s mainly a gift shop with a lot of overpriced things, it has one exhibit that talks more about her that I was looking forward to. Jane! How could you do this to me?
Luckily I’ll still be able to go to her house and that’s what’s most important.
Until next time,
Allison the Austenite