February 2009


This was written a few days ago

*****

All of London collapsed with the onset of a few inches of snow. Supposedly the transport guys should have salted the roads last night, but considering all of the lines near Hampstead were suspended, I am assuming they either forgot or did a miserable job of it. I’ve never experienced such a traumatic response to averse weather conditions, and assumed that if there is a way to get to uni, it would be shameful for me to skip. Either I am a Swattie or a fool, or both.

Firstly, I left an hour earlier because I need to print out a copy of my interview for my presentation for my American studies seminar. Having received no email at 7 in the morning about uni being closed, I assumed that it could only be open. Only first-years live in dorms, so anyone else not living in Hampstead could have probably made it to class, I assumed, so I really couldnt slack off if no one else was.

I walked knee-deep in snow, for a mile, to the Hampstead station because both the J and the M lines were closed from Finchley Road. I was with R&R, but one R received an email via his blackberry that his class was canceled, and they turned back once we had reached the station. We reached there half past 8, and I assumed that I could just take the Northern line to Embankment easily.

Nope – because the branch of the line that would take me to embankment went out of service just as I reached the platform, so I needed to take the Bank branch to Camden and switch onto the Charing Cross branch. See, all this would be fine if there werent major delays, and if they had salted the roads earlier!!

All in all, it took me two hours to get to Strand, and I barely made it in time for class. Our 60 person class had diminished to roughly 10 and we cozied around the lecturer. Yes, what you should be thinking is, why would there be lectures if the whole tube system was down?

They sent an email much later, get this, at 11 am, saying that the college was closed. Bloody hell, what happens to the poor souls who have 9 am or 10 am classes and come to uni anyways? The email specifically said don’t come to uni if its too much trouble. Literally, the whole of Strand campus was quiet, as it continued to snow, and the cafeteria was closed, the shops were about to close. London completely died today.

Not only did London fail, but KCL failed, to tell me not to come to uni, in a timely fashion!

I tried to take a taxi back from the Hampy station to Kidderpore, but the taxi got stuck in the snow! I had to both walk half a mile in the record-breaking level of snow, and pay the driver 3 quid. As soon as I got back to my room, I took a hot shower, drank tea, and didn’t leave my room for the rest of the day.

But the next day, I read on the KCL website that classes would be on. Damnit, London isnt as useless after all. Well..the sidewalks were still as treacherous, it’s like they hadn’t done anything about the ice! I left for the tube at 9:15 for my 10 am class but I walked into an empty classroom on the Waterloo campus. Apparently, I got an email at 9:20 saying that class was cancelled! I was so upset that this happened to me twice in a row. Londoners really need to jump on the we’re-wired-24/7 bandwagon and notify us earlier about important things like this!!

At least I got to cafe hop on an icy, but bright London morning.

The best adventures are the ones not planned, as this weekend showed. I wouldn’t say that we had our first successful night out, but I was in good company.

I finally go to meet Colin and Geoffery, in addition to May and Melinda (with Tina), on Friday. I, the most amazing planner, found a malaysian restaurant on Edware Road, which primarily displays middle eastern flavors. In a quiet, elegant restaurants, we were the only ones and filled the room with our loud American talking. It felt like home, again, to be with Swatties. It was also fun to order a cocktail with my entree, even though the two didnt go together at all.

Sadly, Colin left before we continued adventures, since he flew out to Scotland Saturday morning. Neither wanting to party nor go home, we decided to head to Leicester square because May was craving Hagen-Daas. My god, was it full! The square was completely packed with tourists, party-goers, club informants trying to persuade us to visit their establishment. Bright lights emanated from neon movie advertisements and musical ticketboxes. The pathway was lined up with various attractions and I was just overwhelemd by it all. As Tina noted, my culture shock is more related to being in an urban, commercial environment, coming from suburban college. I am sure New York is like this in some areas, but I haven’t really been there very long.

Hagen-Daas has take-out side and a sit-in side. There was a long-line to get into the actual restaurant. But we didnt figure out why people were crowding around the door, as usual, and the looks on their faces as we tried to go in, thinking we were “cutting”, was priceless. Brits respect the queuing as much as they respect the Queen.

We bought “take-out” ice cream and continued walking north, I guess. Past Piccadilly and to Oxford circus, the streets slightly brightly lit by commercialism. I missed out on the Oxford circus shopping trips that various people had organzied, so this was my first real experience. After hours, how wonderful. Aside from the various shops, the best part of this street are the street vendors who sell hot falafels, samosas, and lamb, for those who like it. They had run out of falafel sandwiches, but geoffery bought a delicious looking lamb sandwich.

While all the movies, plays, shops, clubs, were really exciting at first (pardon me, I’m a country bumpkin) it started to just freak me out. Disturbed me, in some way. Especially on Oxford street, there were no people in the stores, just these mannequins in the store fronts. And without people shopping in them, these storefronts start to look creepy.

Just like coming home to Parrish from Philly, it was nice to go back to my room in the village of Hampstead.

This particular night especially contrasted with Saturday morning, when Tina and I jogged to Hampstead. We had errands to do in the town, and we passed by this small alleyway that was a bookstore when I last remembered it. This time, it was a food market with loads of vendors selling everything from french pastries, to cheeses, jams, breads, meats, malayasian food and much more. It was a quaint sweet, heaven and neither Tina nor I could resist. What began as an attempt to exercise by running to Hampstead turned into a lets-eat-cherry-and-cheese-tart-fest.

I wonder what the alleyway will turn into next time around..