ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

London Archive

Sunday

25

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

The Little Book of the London Underground by David Long

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: People who enjoy trivia, transportation, and / or London

In a nutshell: Author Professor David Long provides a sweeping overview of the London Underground, including fun facts, trivia, and more in-depth stories about the people behind it.

Worth quoting:
“Holden was a Quaker … he too declined a knighthood, maintaining that because successful architecture was the result of good teamwork it would be inappropriate for him to profit from the work of others.”

Why I chose it:
I went to the Museum of London last week, as part of my attempt to get to all the free museums before I get a job. I made the mistake (given the size of my to-be-read pile) of going into the gift shop, and ended up leaving with FOUR London-specific books, including two about the Tube. This is the first of those.

Review:
This is not a chronological narrative of the London Underground, so if that’s what you’re looking for, keep looking. Instead, it’s a fun collection of facts, figures, and stories that might make me somewhat obnoxious when I’m traveling on the Tube and find cause to share a fact with my traveling companion.

Prof. Long does offer some things you’d expect, like a time line of the the Tube, a description of each Underground line, and some interesting stories about the people who helped get the different lines from imagination to reality. But he also includes topics like the different maps that have been used (and ways the maps have been revised in clever ways, including one where each line is a genre of music, and each station is a person or band in that genre, with intersections of lines including people who cross genres), how the Tube was used during war, different trains and Tube technologies, as well as how the Tube has featured in pop culture.

There was one area that I found a bit ignorant: in the discussion of the use of escalators vs. lifts (elevators), Prof. Long uses the phrase “…relatively few stations have resisted the temptation to switch from [escalators] to [elevators].” But there’s no mention of how inaccessible this makes the Tube. He’s interested in the technology aspect, but it strikes me as a missed opportunity to treat it solely as a tech issue and ignore the very real impact it has when there is no step-free access.

Otherwise, it’s an entertaining book that has given me some ideas of things to look out for, such as the art at my nearest Tube station, or disused stations I can spot in the tunnels. And hopefully it’ll help bump up my pub quiz scores.

Monday

29

January 2018

0

COMMENTS

Hatchards

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

There are bookshops everywhere here. Or at least, it feels like it. And I am definitely okay with it. For example, I stumble across one today on my way to a museum. (That’s right, I’m taking full advantage of not having a job right now while living in a city full of free museums.)

If Hatchards were a person, I think it would be a very traditional, older, white man. Perhaps it’s the age (it’s over 200 years old), or the decor (plush carpet in need of a good cleaning, bookcases that appear to have layers of paint on them), or the staff (all middle-aged white men), but I can’t imagine people having conversations above a whisper in here. It feels more library than bookstore.

That said, there are FIVE FLOORS OF BOOKS. Five. Floors. I mean, come on.

I go all the way up and all the way down, doing a very quick scan. I don’t notice specific cultural studies, women’s studies, or LGBTQ studies section, which is a drawback in such a large space (it’s also possible I just don’t notice them). At the same time I love how large the shop is, and love that it has an entire bookcase devoted to Agatha Christie books. Yet something about it seems just a little too serious for me.

Which I guess makes sense, since it’s surrounded by fancy stores and is just a few doors down from Fortnam and Mason.

I still bought a book, and it’s one written by a white male, because that seems on brand:

Thursday

25

January 2018

0

COMMENTS

bookmongers

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

Secondhand bookshops haven’t always been my thing. I mean, I like them in theory. I love the idea of books getting a new home when their owner doesn’t want them anymore. And I love the idea of not spending $25 on a new book.

But I don’t so much love the reality of the stacks and stacks of books with not a lot of organization. It gets my anxiety up. And often I’m going to a bookstore with at least a general idea of what I want to read, but in a secondhand bookshop they’re probably not going to have it (unless “it” is a book someone was required to read in high school).

With all that in mind, I put aside what are ultimately fairly silly concerns to explore my local bookshop, bookmongers. It’s located in Brixton, just a block or so from the Market. It’s not big, and it’s certainly full of stacks of books that aren’t totally organized.

But.

I mean, come on. If you’re interested in moving beyond the same old books by the same old dead white guys, it’s pretty great to be able to go to a section that’s full of female authors. Now, if we could add in a nonbinary section I’d be even more excited.

I don’t make it out of there without buying a book (because that’s what I do), but in this case the purchases are so much cheaper, and the books are still in good shape. I pick up On Anarchism by Noam Chomsky, and Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. I figure Mudbound is a good choice given that the film adaptation is up for a couple Academy Awards in March.

I’m not sure if this is going to be my go-to bookshop for all the things, but it’s definitely going to be where I head when I am looking for something to read but am not sure what I want. Because after this visit, I do see something else of value that was missing in my mind before: the fact that with a secondhand bookshop, it’s more likely that I’ll be open to the book choosing me and not the other way around.

Tuesday

23

January 2018

0

COMMENTS

The Riverside Bookshop

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

Today is clear and not too cold. Once again I spent part of the day waiting for a delivery. We’re in our new place, and it’s really coming together, save the unassembled Ikea bed that also doesn’t have a mattress yet. We’re sleeping in the guest room / office, which I’ve rearranged to feel less like a large open room and more like a cozy space.

Once the delivery arrived and I spent an embarrassingly long amount of time putting together what looked like a simple toilet paper holder, I went for a run. At like noon. I also found a great park that I know we’ll return to when the weather is better.

As has been happening lately, by around 3PM I start to get a bit antsy. I could read (and sometimes do). I could also write, but for the most part my brain just isn’t settled enough to do much writing beyond these little updates and my Cannonball Read reviews. So, as I sit in a cafe reading my Book Lovers’ London, I decide it is time to explore a bit. I only have about two hours before I have to figure out dinner, but I still want Ijeoma Oluo’s new book.

Off I go to The Riverside Bookshop. It’s right by the London Bridge rail station, tucked into a corner of a larger shopping area. I’m expecting something a bit bigger, but it is definitely a nice little place to browse.

I don’t see Ms. Oluo’s book out on display, but I see a similar one so figure I’ll ask the staff. Turns out, Ms. Oluo’s book won’t be available in the UK until February.

I don’t quite understand delayed releases of books (or films, for that matter – apparently neither Lady Bird nor I, Tonya are out in London cinemas yet) when the internet exists. I could order Ms. Oluo’s book from the US Amazon site and have it sent here; why not release it in London at the same time so I can give my business to the local shops?

Alas, I have to wait. But in the meantime I enjoy looking through the shelves. I nearly make the mistake of buying what looks to be a great book (A History of Britain in 21 Women), but I have the wherewithal to look up the author first. Turns out she holds some pretty unfortunate ideas about trans women. So back onto the shelf it goes.

Instead, I find The Good Immigrant, which is a collection of essays written by people of color who live in the UK. I figure I need to learn more about my new home, and this is another good place to look.

I probably won’t be coming back here often, but if I find myself in the area I’ll probably stop in.

Wednesday

17

January 2018

0

COMMENTS

Clapham Books

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

It is freezing in London. Or at least, I’m freezing. Alright, it’s in the high 30s but still. It’s cold. I tossed my knee-high boots when I moved here because they were falling apart (despite multiple resoles), and I figured that I’d purchase new ones when I got here.

Alas, it was not to be. The season for boots (in shops at least) is winding down, and someone as tall as I am has some particular needs when it comes to clothing in general, including shoes. Instead, I’ve chosen what appears to be a common fashion choice in London at the moment: tights and booties.

Both were procured from Marks & Spencer (they have clothes and household goods, but also the best gummy candy) yesterday, and in an attempt to break them in, I decide to walk to a new part of town today. We’ve gotten word that our application for an apartment nearby was accepted, so I can relax a bit while waiting for the lease and instructions on sending over an ungodly amount of money.

Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle-area writer. She writes about many topics, but her focus is primarily centering Black women. Her interview with Rachel Dolezal received national attention, and was a masterful essay.

Ms Oluo has just released a book: So You Want to Talk About Race. I’ve decided to find it. I check my new bookshop book, and decide to walk the mile or so over to Clapham Books.

It may be cold and windy, but it’s also sunny out, which makes London feel crisp and clean. There are no leaves left on any trees, and it hasn’t rained in a day or so, which means the ground is free of puddles and most debris. I decide on a route that will take me through a couple of neighborhoods, passing what I consider to be quintessential London: row houses made of brick with round smokestacks coming out the top. The roads aren’t really straight; everything seems to have a curve. And each time I want to cross, I have to double-check that I’m looking the right way.

Literally, the right way. Not left-right-left again, as those of us in the US were taught, but right-left-right again. Thirty-eight years of conditioning won’t be gone in a week, so thankfully the government has thought it a good idea to paint on the crosswalks “look left” or “look right” so that we don’t inadvertently turn into Regina George and get flattened by the 77 bus to Tooting.

When I arrive at Clapham Books I’m disappointed that they don’t have Ms. Oluo’s book in stock. It was a long shot, however, as this bookshop is also tiny (though probably a smidge larger than Brick Lane Books). They do have a few good choices, and a cute children’s section. I decide that for this visit, I should see if they have anything specific to learning more about London, or England.

And they do. They have a small shelf devoted to that topic, although I find my pick in the politics section. Watching the English claims to be an anthropological study of English behavior. I’m not entirely sure what that means, and who she means by “the English” given how many folks from all over the world call this nation home, but I’d imagine there are some tips to be gotten from this book. Yes, I’ve lived here before, and know not to refer to jeans as pants, for example, but beyond that there are some things I’m not entirely clear on.

So, while the visit to the bookshop was not successful in the way I’d planned, it certainly was a success. I’m not sure if I’ll find myself back at this bookshop very often given its size, but it will be close to my new apartment, so maybe it’ll become a favorite.

Sunday

14

January 2018

0

COMMENTS

Brick Lane Book Shop

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

Today I turned 38. We’ve only just arrived in London — our flight landed at 7:15 on the morning of the 10th — and we’re staying in temporary housing. One of our cats has caught a cold (we think, hoping the vet tomorrow will confirm it’s nothing worse) and is sneezing a bunch; the other is much chattier than normal. But today is my day, and Austin has booked us a tea. And not just any tea; a tea with cats.

People who know me know that if it involves cats, sweets, or books, then I’m all in. Afternoon tea with cats checks two of those boxes, so I know it is going to be good.

And it is. The food is tasty, but the decor is even better. The theme is Alice in Wonderland, although the names of the cats don’t seem to fully follow that convention. However, in the downstairs of the cafe, the space has been transformed into a little forest. There are trees with cats in them, red roses, playing cards, and twinkly lights. We aren’t to disturb the cats when they’re sleeping or eating, but otherwise we can play with them, snuggle them, let them crawl into our laps. We’re there during lunchtime, so all of the cats eventually make their way over to dishes of food.

After tea, Austin leaves it up to me as to where we go next. This is my old neighborhood; when I went to graduate school I lived just a few blocks from Brick Lane, and would traverse it in search of movies at Rich Mix  late night bagels, curries, or the occasional pub trivia (we came in second once!). It’s changed a bit over the past eight years, but it’s still familiar.

Then, we stumble upon Brick Lane Bookshop  It is tiny, but I can tell from the displays that it is my kind of shop. Up front, Austin and I stop to flip through some London-themed books. He chooses one on drinking in the UK (I know our friends who will visit over the next few years will be thankful of that purchase); I choose one on London bookshops. We also find a couple of cards to send to family back home.

Because it’s a Sunday (the big market day), the small shop is packed. I don’t want to take up loads of space when we’ve already found books to purchase, so we pay and hurry outside. I already know I’ll return sometime soon; this shop has a history of over 40 years, starting as the Tower Hamlets Art Project. I’m sad I didn’t know about it when I lived here in 2010, but I know about it now.

And, thanks to Brick Lane Bookshop, I’m also prepared to explore more of what London has to offer for those who love to read. I don’t have loads of disposable income, but I do have a lot of free time at the moment, so I’m going to make the most of it and see what other gems I can find.

When I had been living in New York for just a couple of months, my sister and her boyfriend came to visit. After I played tour guide for a weekend, this boyfriend commented that I seemed to really know my way around the desserts and sweets of NYC.

Perhaps the next time my sister visits, bringing her partner with her, he will comment that I really know my way around the bookshops of London.

Tuesday

24

August 2010

2

COMMENTS

A tale of two (or three) cities

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Being back in Seattle is great. Riding the bus home from doing some work for my friends’ law firm causes my breath to catch a bit – the views stunning. Yesterday I got to see a lot of folks at a lovely BBQ my new roommates threw to welcome me home. I’m finding a few jobs to apply for, and finally, FINALLY secured private health insurance, which means no more COBRA at crazy high prices.

Today, however, for the first time I really started to feel the reality of not living in London anymore. I went through this when I left NYC – suddenly not being able to call up Jon Mark when something ridiculous happened, or not being able to meet up with Kathleen for brunch the day before a race. It’s a shock to the system and even though London was where I wanted to go after NYC, that didn’t mean I didn’t really miss my NYC family. I still do, all the time (and especially at Thanksgiving).

And now I’m feeling the same things. Seattle is where I want to make my home, and I’m so happy to be back, but that doesn’t mean I don’t really miss my friends in London. I met such wonderful people there – people who I learned so much from, and with whom I had such great times. Obviously I’ll work hard to be sure I see as many of them again as possible (graduation in December!), but again, I can’t just call Kate and Richard up to go see a movie for Orange Wednesday, or text Alissa to meet me at reception to go get coffee. And the eight-hour time difference is really, really tough. If I’m not up and moving early on the weekends, it gets too late to call or Skype.

I’ve moved a few times in the last dozen years, and have been lucky enough to make such good friends in those places. I’m lucky to have this problem, I realize. And as time goes on I know I’ll get used to communicating primarily via Skype and Facebook instead of texts and Mondays at the George, but right now, it’s still a bit sad.

Sunday

8

August 2010

1

COMMENTS

Are you sure we have enough money for [the gun] AND the wedding dress?

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Since I’m about to leave London, I thought I’d take a minute to list out some of my best times here. I did it when I left NYC, so why not now?

For my own enjoyment (which, frankly, describes most everything I post here), here is the list of my favorites of London:
Cultural
Theater-going experience: Seeing Priscilla Queen of the Desert with Jon Mark
Museum exhibition: Photography exhibition at National Portrait Gallery
Concert (large scale): Carmina Burana at Royal Albert Hall
Concert (small scale): Bonfire Band in Stoke Newington
Standing date: Orange Wednesdays + crap movies with Richard
Tea: Tie between National Gallery for my birthday and Gosvenor House with Kate
Pub Quiz Team Name: Taking care of quizness
Travel and Days Out
Adventure: Alexandra Park with Shawn
Premiere league football viewing: Blues v Spurs in Birmingham in January with Kate and Richard
World cup viewing: Final moments of the last US and England group match games in Berlin with Stephanie
Awe-inspiring architecture: La Sagrada Famiglia with Allegra
Celebration: Travel to Paris for my 30th birthday with Vanessa
Beer Garden: Royal Park Inn near Victoria Park
When in Rome moment: Brownies with Lesley-Anne in Amsterdam
Unplanned vacation: Getting stuck in the states when the volcano erupted, guaranteeing an extra eight days with my east coast friends
Holidays
Unexpected holiday: Bastille Day in Paris with Michelle
Tradition that kept going: Cookie Party (London AND NYC editions)
Trauma: Walking all around Barbican in search of the Waitrose to procure a whole turkey at 8pm the night before Thanksgiving
Meal: Dinner at Ffiona’s with my family to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary
Odd
Bizarro moment: Burlesque birthday party for advisor
Unexpected comment (not directed at me, but to a friend): “So, you know when you’re shaving your balls?”
Scene out of horror movie: Me and Alissa walking back from the department Christmas party, down Artillery Passage, noticing a trail of blood culminating in a pool of blood in front of an apartment door
I’ll miss you, London, but I should be back in December for graduation.
Seattle, here I come!

 

Tuesday

13

July 2010

0

COMMENTS

Saturday

10

July 2010

0

COMMENTS

I Miss Air Conditioning (a wimpy girl’s confession)

Written by , Posted in Adventures

When I moved here I was told a couple of things: it doesn’t snow in London, and the summers are full of cloudy and rainy days.

Neither of these have proved true this year. We had a few snow ‘storms’ this winter. Nothing major, but since Londoners claim it never snows here, the government does not stockpile the supplies needed to prevent the city from shutting down completely over an inch of snow.

And since exams ended summer has arrived, and it feels a bit like summer anywhere else I’ve lived. Only two days have I felt cool enough to wear jeans instead of a skirt or dress. We’ve had some muggy days, most of which were here when my parents were visiting, which was a blessing and a curse. A curse because we were tourists and thus riding the tube and walking loads, but a blessing because their hotel room had air conditioning.

That’s the other thing – because it apparently doesn’t get hot here, very little is air conditioned. The tube is a sauna, and buses are swamps. On the bus ride home from the theater Thursday night the HEAT was on. No joke. Movie theaters are sometimes air conditioned (although weakly), and restaurants are hit and miss. Some places have ice for drinks; others serve them warm. Lucky for me my apartment is in the basement, and the curtains keep out most of the light. Plus, someone left a fan here so I’ve plugged that in and am basking in it. 

Michelle visited this week and we did a lot of fun tourist things – London Eye, a West End Show, walking around town – but she’s off to Munich and I’m glad. Not because I wanted her to leave – we were having so much fun – but because it means I do not have to get on a tube, or a bus, or really leave my apartment other than to get some groceries and do my laundry. I shall be sitting in front of the fan working on my thesis and watching movies until the sun sets, at which point I might venture out for a walk just to make sure my legs still work.

I know those of you in NYC – and even in Seattle, where it’s been in the 90s – have had it worse. I hope you are able to cool down soon as well!