It rained in St. Alban's today, a steady downpour to soak sandaled feet and drip off of an inadequately small umbrella's edge. The town was cold and wet - and there were its biggest drawbacks. In all other respects, it's a pleasant, comfortable place, complete with weekend market, all the basic High Street shops, old pubs, elegant Victorian terraced houses, and a wonderfully motley cathedral. The cathedral was home to one of England's most powerful monasteries in the Middle Ages, whose abbots included Richard of Wallingford (erstwhile mechanical clock inventor) and John Whettamstead, a phenomenal encyclopedist whose work (I hope) will be keeping me busy in the near future. We wandered the longest Medieval nave in England while a visiting Derby choir sang. The rain eased up long enough for a wander around the city's Roman precursor, before come back to wash us back the whole 20 minute trip to central London.
Conversation in transit
On Wednesday evening, we stood at a bus stop in Hackney with haggisthesecond, birthday girl, and naxos. Thanks to meeting pola_bear at Worldcon, we'd become intrigued by what it might be like to live in Lewisham only the previous day. A stranger waiting at the bus stop helpfully joined in our conversation - he was born and bred in Lewisham, and was happy to gauge the value of its various neighborhoods. I'm told that strangers hardly ever talk to each other on London transit, but this seemed quite in keeping with my experience of Toronto transit. We'll see.
I've been revelling in the taste of good food this week, after nearly a week of dependence on mediocre sandwiches at Worldcon. I've been avoiding sandwiches this week - salads or savory pies are so much better. Dinner too has had its highlights. haggisthesecond's birthday dinner was at the Green Papaya in Hackney (191 Mare St.) The food was respectable - it reminded me vaguely of Ginger (Yonge and Bloor, Toronto), but at London prices. The highlight of the meal was a delectable smoked chicken appetizer, small pieces of richly-flavored chicken, deep fried. At a favorite restaurant, Belgo Centraal, I was delighted with the Magret de Canard a la Mirabelle, slices of duck served with a plum beer-based gravy and smooth, plump-tasting spring onion mashed potatoes. In honor of my mother's birthday, I finished with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate sauce served over a Belgian waffle.
At the Borough Market, I bought a wild boar and cranberry pie, and ate it with a spinach-and-grilled-figs salad. I bought cherries and nectarines and gooseberries, and more of an extraordinary butter which I temporarily like even more than most cheeses. The woman at the Spanish food store asked for the homemade membrillo (quince paste) I bought at the Medieval Congress. I buy fresh bread daily - not from a bakery - I have no idea where the nearest one even is - but from my strange corner store. I can hardly buy enough fruit juice (far away and heavy from the grocery store) to keep up with the rate at which I'm drinking it - as bad habits go, an addiction to fruit juice isn't such a bad one.
I now have an Oyster card, the RFID-equipped card which allows for easiest use of the London transit network. This is a sign that I must really live here now.