Saturday, July 26, 2008

Elephant House Cafe


There's a little cafe in Edinburgh called The Elephant House Cafe. It's a quiet place if you go in the evening. The interior is modest and unassuming, and there are a few tastely placed elephant figurines and a coupla pieces of elephant artwork. All in all, the place is a tad boring. It costs $5 to buy a postcard, and $2.80 for a can of Coke.

Why is it so popular then? It's not the view (although the window in the back boasts a rather stunning look at Edinburgh Castle). It's not the food (the chocolate cake was good, I hear, but it didn't look like anything magical).

Maybe it's so famous because a single English mother spent many days, and likely, a few nights writing out a book about a boy wizard named Harry Potter. So, here's to Ms. Rowling and Harry, who turns 27 on July 31 (trust me, the only reason why I know this is because we have a few girls who are rather large Harry Potter fans. I mean uh...tbey aren't large, as in, their body structure, they are just really big fans. Ooops...not big as in pregnant big, uh...they just really like Harry Potter. Ya know.)

Happy Birthday, Harry. Why dontcha stop on by to The Elephant House and get yourself a malted shake too thick for a straw. And, while you're at it, buy me one of those $5 postcards. I'm good for it...

Gochisosamadeshita




Wagamama (say that five times fast without sounding like a Comanche choo choo train) is my new favorite Japanese food restaurant. I think it only exists only in here in England, but, I hope not. I hope there is one in every state of the union. It's that good.
The ramen was delicious--scallops, shrimp, egg, chicken, mushrooms and tofu in my Wagamama Ramen. One of the girls we were with got Yakisoba. Not enough sauce, and too much of a burnt taste but I'll forgive 'em because my ramen was so good. Despite the yakisobat dissappointment, I still have to give wagamama two chopsticks up.

Comin' Round the Mountain

One of the destinations of our excursion to the North of Britain this past week was the Lake District. Here, Wordsworth, Coleridge and the like perfected the art of Romantic period poetry. It's no wonder their writing leaned to the Romantic--the Lake District is beautiful.
We stayed at a youth hostel on the shores of Lake Windemere in the town of Ambleside. The hostel was hot, their mushroom and lentil rice was atrocious, and the service was terrible. But the location! Ahh--the location! Well worth the minor bothers.
I spent the day relaxing, attempting to write a poem or two (and failing miserably. There once was a man from Australia/Who...uh...never thought he'd impale ya??? what?) and conoeing with katie and jackie on the lake. The next morning, a bright and sunny morning in Ambleside, a few of us went hiking. The stone and green mountainside was friend to a few weary hikers, some bleating sheep, and my keep keep bleeding love.

video

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Take Me Down to the Paradise City



35 to 3. No, those aren’t the odds that I’ll stay Uncle Dave for the rest of my life (though, we often think that, don’t we?).

35-3 is the girl-to-guy ratio in the London program. “Wow—advantageous,” people say. “You must be in heaven,” others insist. Admittedly, it is nice to come to dinner every night to a sea of beautiful faces. And, an additional plus, at other times, my masculinity finds a blessed home when I am invited to attend late-night excursions because I provide two arms of manly safety.

But for the most part, I feel like I am in an enemy minefield with size 48 shoes (on a related note, I know a LOT more about shoes now than when I began this program)—no matter where I step, something is going to go off.

No matter what I say, I feel like I’m just a footstep away from offending someone. Girls are much more sensitive than boys, and if I make such innocent comments as, “Wow, you girls are so tall compared to other girls I know” or “Were you up late skyping last night—you look tired”, I’m sure to offend. I find myself double and even triple checking what comes out of my mouth. This dashes ones confidence and turns what could be witty banter and well-bred conversations into a stuttering staccato of “oh, uh, neverminds” and “uh, wells.”

Another conversation killer is the fact that I know nothing or have no interest in a large proportion of the conversations that go on around this joint. Clothes—no interest. Male movie stars—zip. Female movie stars—a bit more than zip, but not much. Shoes—I’m soleless. Dating—interesting, fun to analyze, but sometimes a bit too dramatic (whattaya do when a girl starts crying? Give hugs? Shake hands? Pat backs? I dunno…I just don’t know).

So, back to my situation. Little confidence to try and be myself, not too much to add to any conversation, and, to top it all off, I ALWAYS feel like a polygamist wherever I go. Especially when we meet people from the states who already assume that Mormons are polygamist.

Man from America: So, where are ya’ll from?
Me (and eight girls standing together on a subway): Utah.
Man from America: Ahh…yep. That makes sense.

I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. All these girls are amazing—very cool. And, I get my own personal course of study in Female Behavior. I’m learning a lot of secrets of the fairer sex. Maybe I’ll post a few of my discoveries. But I have no time right now. I’m going to the market to try on some shoes, and, if I can’t find anything I like, to buy some chocolate.

Monday, July 14, 2008

And I would walk 500 more...





These two pictures are from a country walk through the Kent area. The pastoral English countryside was beautiful. Green and magical. You might be able to tell that we were just in time for the lavender crop. We visited an annual lavender festival, and I tried my hand at some farm-raised English lavender honey. Wow.

If my PAF charts are correct, I have some ancestors from Bethersden Kent, which is a small town about 35 miles from the place where we did our walk. If Bethersden is anything like Shoreham, it's beautiful. The town probably has what every English village has--a church, a pub, and a cricket pitch.





This is the street where I live. Go to www.bmw.com, www.audi.com or www.idriveastinkinexpensiveforeignsportscar.com to see pictures of the cars parked out on the street in front of our flat. It's a nice neighborhood, our Notting Hill. We're neighbors with Reese (that actress girl from the South) and we're kitty corner from a few embassies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oh, what a night

I went to Jersey Boys last night.


If you haven't heard about Jersey Boys, lemme fill you in. Have you seen Ray or Walk the Line? Then you know Jersey Boys. It's the typical story of a band or musical artist that struggles in the beginning to get discovered. They eventually find success, but then succumb to the "pressures" of the road. The girls/booze/drugs finally get to them, they crash, and the group breaks up. *Yawn* It's a tired plot structure, but the music and performers were amazing. The sets were incredible--I definitely enjoyed it despite the fact that I knew exactly what was coming.

Jersey boys is about the Four Seasons (the band with Frankie Valli). They recorded hit songs such as Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like a Man, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, December, 1963, and others.

The show also included several salty phrases frowned upon by the postal authorities, including a generous use of the so called "R-rated" word.


Ice Cream Treat During intermission, a popular thing for Londoner theatre goers to do is either 1) go up to the theatre-bar above the balcony or 2) to buy an ice cream to consume during the break.This ice cream is usually Haagen Daz, and it costs three pounds ($6). What does this six dollars get you? A serving size of about 2 1/2 tablespoons. "Hey, look what I put for the serving size! It was just a joke, but they're goin' out there like that..."

The crazy thing is, people are going crazy for this ice cream! It is the thing to do during intermission. I don't understand what the deal is. Perhaps it's the challenge of downing that whole 1/4 cup in the alloted twenty minute time. Maybe it makes the break go by faster. Maybe it's their way of rebelling against the quality of the show--"your performance is so disappointing I'm going to amuse myself with ice cream"
Absolutely crackers!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Cambridge Bath




First, the pictures.

A group of us "punted the Cam" at Cambridge and I took time to relax at Bath with some "Roman" women. Athena was particularly nice and let me take the picture.


Walking Through The City


Pink and blue. Pastel colors seem to be the menswear rage in the financial district. And most of the young guys appear to be working sans neckties as well. If that’s one method to rebel against the stodgy establishment of our fathers, burn the silk and polyester, I say. Rage against the machine. Hang the ties and the Hung, Drawn, and Quartered and leave e’m to the pinters.

I noticed the fashion of the area because of my fashion choice for the day. If you could see a picture of me at the Royal Exchange, you’d observe that I look like a loud, annoying American tourist with my plaid shirts and Nike athletic t-shirt. Did I feel out of place walking near such places as the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange, and the Lloyds of London building? Absolutely.

But it wasn’t because of the fashion. I could have worn a tux and still have felt like a loud, annoying American tourist. Walking down Lombard street, focusing all my energy into navigating my way through a construction area while attempting to follow the trailblazing path of Arty, I was hit by a realization (and nearly hit by a double decker bus)—I AM a loud, annoying American tourist. I carry around a dorky spiral bound walk book. I have an accent that sounds like sledgehammers banging on tree stumps to the gentle gentry ears of the English. I usually travel in parks of other Centre students, blocking the way and laughing about silly things we see. I’m always hungry.

I need to embrace my American touristness. I can play the part of the fool, because hey, I’m not from around here. I must remember that London’s economy functions because of tourists like me. I have the power here. Without us, these city folk would all be stuck in a button factory. And I would be in Prague, living like a king near some castle in a country that doesn’t have a ridiculously expensive exchange rate.


Regents Park

What do you get when you cross Antonio Banderas and the Islamic Centre?
The Mosque of Zorro.

Alright, alright, a bit lame, but that joke was the highlight of my Regents Park walk. Well, that and my thirty second conversation with a stodgy security guard. He was patrolling a ritzy looking area (I just checked on a real estate site. A home in that area, just over 6,000 square feet, is selling for $25,000,000) and I asked what was going on (clearly, there was some sort of social function or party). He had the gall to pretend that nothing was going on, that there was only a private residence, and that I must be some crazy and stupid American for assuming anything would be going on when there was merely a few dozen sports cars, an armored guard (with enough arms to fight the Revolutionary War—wait, who won that war again? Oh yeah. We did.) amidst houses selling for $25,000,000. Yeah, you’re right Bobby. Nothing’s happening tonight.

I spoke with some girls from Spain about the area. All they could say were very good things. Those very good things happened to be “We don’t know English” and “We are from Spain.” Despite the communication barrier, I think we bonded at Regents. From what little Spanish I know, I could tell that they were here for the Mosque of Zorro.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wimbledon



Wimbledon:


Tennis begins with love, so they say. And what’s not to love about Wimbledon? It is the right mix of stodginess and public democracy. Wimbledon is the only US major that allows the public to “queue” for tickets, with an ultimate chance at seeing a match played on the show courts (at Wimbledon, they show courts are Centre Court and Court No 1).

My Wimbledon experience was unlucky at first. We had a few hours on Tuesday this week, so four of us took the Tube to Wimbledon, about a half hour ride from the BYU London Centre. The station just outside Wimbledon was filled with people going to the tournament or coming home. We knew that there was a queue that formed for the general public to get into the tournament, but we didn’t know exactly where it was.
The queue turned out to be easier to spot than we thought. After a five minute walk from the station, we realized the queue was the line as long as the Mississippi, winding at least a mile through Parking Lot #10, dirt roads, and the British countryside. It turns out, Andy Murray, the British entry into Wimbledon, was playing at the time we arrived. Two or three of the Wimbledon ushers, in their calm and matter-of-fact British-butler way of speaking, told us that we really didn’t have a hope to get in today, as the queue was over four thousand people, and the general admissions only allow around 2,000 per hour (and it was already about 6:30 or 7:00). We decided that we didn’t want to waste our time in London in a line, and so we gave up and went back to the Centre (consoling ourselves with a mint chocolate chip ice cream on the way home). Also on our way home, we ran into three girls from the Centre who were just behind us on the way to Wimbledon. We told them what the usher said, but they were determined to try the queue anyways. Their determination proved successful, and we found out later that night that they were able to get in. My first trip to Wimbledon was a disappointment.

I told myself that I was not going to be slave to the queue. Today, a few of us took off after class and lunch and braved our chances. Whether it was because of the impending, or because there was no more English players in the tournament, I can’t say, but the queue today was nothing. A 2 minute wait, if that. Once inside the gates, I rubbed my eyes a bit, took a few pictures, and we watched a juniors match. Our task was then to get into Centre Court. In order to do that, you must wait in a resell line. As the real ticket holders leave, they put their tickets in a red box that then goes over to another queue. For $10, middle-class fans like me can wait in a line and purchase the wealthy people’s tickets. Serena williams was playing the underdog Zheng in centre court, and all of the ushers in the resell queue advised us that nobody was leaving the court so we should go watch other matches and come back when Serena was over. We wanted to see Serena, however, so we waited. And waited. And waited. As luck would have it, it began to rain. And rain. And rain.

We got a little wet, but so did some of the people in the Centre Court stadium. They had been watching tennis all day, so a few of them decided to leave. They put their tickets in the resell box and—ACE—we were in the gates for Serena. We had amazing seats, the match was incredible, and the atmosphere was unparalleled. Tennis etiquette really is amazing. You could hold a church meeting in the stadium when the play starts it’s so quiet. During breaks and after points the noise is loud but during play—silence. And nearly everyone in the stadium is dressed nice. I felt like a scmuck with my red t-shirt and shorts. Another cool thing about Wimbledon is the ball boys and girls. They are incredibly disciplined. Here’s what wikopaedia has to say about ‘em.


boys and ball girls
In the championship games, ball boys and girls, known as BBGs, play a crucial role in the smooth running of the tournament, with a brief that a good BBG "should not be seen. They should blend into the background and get on with their jobs quietly."[13]. Since 1969, BBGs have been provided by local schools.
Prospective BBGs are first nominated by their school headmaster, to be considered for selection. To be selected, a candidate must pass written tests on the rules of tennis, and pass fitness, mobility and other suitability tests, against initial preliminary instruction material. Sucessfull candidates then commence a training phase, starting in February, in which the final BBGs are chosen through continual asessment. As of 2008, this training intake was 600. The training includes weekly sessions of physical, procedural and theoretical instruction, to ensure that the BBGs are fast, alert, self confident and adaptable to situations. As of 2007, early training occurs at Sutton Junior Tennis Centre, and then moves to the main courts after Easter
.


As disciplined as they are, mistakes do happen. One of them ran into Serena during the match—Serena’s not a slight gal—I think the poor chap got pummeled by a girl in a tennis skirt. Funny stuff.