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Anecdotes from Greater London

Rain in St. Alban's
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.

Eating, post-Worldcon
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.

Food shopping
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.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2005 06:52 pm (UTC)
What kind of graduate student are you???? My Lord, but I'm envious. Wild Boar and Cranberry pie? in London? Does it get better?

Aug. 14th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
The pie was really, really good. I'm definitely going back for another sometime. And yes, in London.

I'm at the tail end of my PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. My first two degrees, BA and MA, were in Medieval Studies, and I'm still primarily a medievalist, although my work does stray into Early Modern things quite a bit these days. I work on the history of medieval technology. (Is that the question you were asking, or are you wondering why I'm in London?)
Aug. 15th, 2005 03:46 am (UTC)
I knew all that (mostly) It was more on the seemingly extravagant lifestyle [g]. I'm done and have an FT (visiting) lecturer position, but my budget doesn't stretch to wild boar ;-)

But then, there's a horrible, horrible tradition here that grad students in the humanities are supposed to be poor and just suck it up and get on with things till they get jobs (as if there are many of them -- another traditional myth). And I live in the city just named the most overpriced in the country (the ratio of cost of living to average income and tax burden ...) But we *do* have an sf museum ...
Aug. 15th, 2005 09:26 am (UTC)
Happily, wild boar pie costs about twice as much as does a sandwich, so it's still much cheaper than eating out - especially for two of us in London!

A longer partial answer is that I have a partner with a decent job in IT, which helps a great deal as well. And I really like eating good food. I've long felt somewhat self-conscious that I haven't chosen the same ways of economizing as many of my peers (and didn't always need to either).

Have you been to the sf museum? What's it like?
Aug. 15th, 2005 04:02 pm (UTC)
Ah! the partner in IT! I used to have one of those ;-)

I've not ben to the sf museum yet. Oddly enough, I hadn't really clicked that it was there (despite friends who had spoken of it in my presence) till an out-of-town friend mentioned he'd like to see it on a visit. So I won't be going till then. I have heard that it's small, but probably very good for true aficianados.
Aug. 14th, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC)
This post just recieved the same response from Mark as I got when I bought venison and apple sausages the other day (they were pretty yummy - Mark tends to be suspicious of anything more exotic than sausage rolls). What are (were?) your favourite cheeses?
Aug. 15th, 2005 09:17 am (UTC)
Generally, with cheese, I am particularly fond of soft cheeses and blues. I love fresh mozzarella, Wendesleydale with Apricots, good soft goat cheeses, and an amazing Quebecois blue cheese called Benedictin.

Despite my confidence in telling you this, I feel rather ignorant when it comes to cheese. Despite having had good cheeses off and on in my life, I feel like I only really discovered that cheese was something I could explore on my own over this last winter.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 14th, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
You're buying entire stalls there? You really must be hungry.

I've bought so much good food there. I recently read grumblings on eGullet about how the market has so much prepared food now, overpriced food, and is aimed at tourists. It's still far cheaper than eating out, and I really quite like much of the prepared food I've bought there. And the cheese is extraordinary.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )