Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Our Local (Pub, that is...)

I am absolutely loving London at the moment! I love our neighborhood, I love our house, I love my daily routine. Lately, I've been getting out of bed and jumping right into the writing. I've been clocking about five or six hours a day. To keep me going, my mother has been keeping a supply of diet coke in the fridge. I shudder to think about what it is doing to my health, but unfortunately it is the only form of caffeine that I enjoy. In the evenings, I've been working out at the gym down the street, which I know sounds unbelievable to those who knew me in my previous life... But what can I say? I was well trained in the arts of getting ripped by two boys from the Jersey shore.
My Bay Area epicurean instincts have not faded away, however. I have still been in search of delicious new places to eat and I am happy to report that I have found a place that rivals Chez Panisse! And it is just around the corner from our house! It is called the Andover Arms, and EVERY time we have gone there, the food has been unbelievable. It is what is called a gastro-pub, which means that there is a chef on staff. The menu changes daily, and like many Slow Food influenced restaurants, the chef designs meals with local, seasonal produce in mind.

I highly recommend this place, so if you are passing through town, definitely come around to Hammersmith to check this place out.
Tonight, I had a mind-blowing lamb shank dish. The lamb was nicely placed on a bed of butternut squash and swiss chard. It was heavenly. For dessert, we shared the most amazing chocolate sponge cake with chocolate ice-cream and raspberries drizzled in chocolate sauce. And as you probably know by now, I don't really have a chocolate limit: I would eat myself to death if chocolate was involved. So, needless to say, the dessert also made me very happy.

What about my neighborhood do I love so much? Well, here's an example. Today, I was walking down the street, and this was graffitied onto the pavement:

I think I could live in a place like this. The only problem is that I really do miss all of you back in Berkeley - and I can't wait to see you very soon!

Monday, 19 October 2009

London Life

I've been away from Berkeley for about five months now - and I've had my feet in London for a solid month. With my current itinerant lifestyle, a month seems like a really long time. (In fact, I am kind of itching to go away again - to perhaps Morocco or Spain or Italy - is anybody interested in joining me?)

I sometimes forget how culturally different this side of the pond is from the states. Tea time is very important here. When our gardener comes by to tidy up our flower beds, he insists on being provided a cup of tea and biscuits (anything by Rich Tea biscuits, because those are just so boring...) I've been structuring my life around tea time a lot lately - and honestly, there is nothing more comforting than an warm cup of tea and a biscuit waiting for you at about three in the afternoon. We've been going to pubs a lot - we have a gastro-pub near where we live that has the most amazing food in London. I'll write more about that soon. So much social interaction happens over an early evening visit to the pub - it's an aspect of life that is completely absent in America. I have also been exacerbating my current state of Anglophilia by watching period dramas. It seems much more acceptable to be watching them here - it seems like more of an exercise in exploring historical fiction than an indulgent foray into sappy romance and funny posh accents. Also, it helps that I no longer live with Alan and Alex - it was impossible to watch anything British without an endless interruption of fake British accents and swooning in the living room.

I've been taking the tube a lot recently to get to more central parts of town. The city is a bit more spread out than, say, New York. It takes twenty minutes to get anywhere. It serves as a good opportunity to catch up on some fiction. (Incidentally, British people tend to read a LOT! I LOVE that about them.) Life is just as busy in London, but from where I stand, it doesn't seem as intense. The city is spread out and is peppered with spots of greenery. The Thames is always nearby, which seems to have a calming effect on the whole city.

My mother and I have a list of plays and musicals that we have been meaning to catch up on. We're having to compromise on our list, though, because we have such different tastes. She's not so interested in avant-garde nihilistic theatre, and I'm not so interested in lots of fluffly love songs and dancing. I decided to give in, on our first musical, so we went to see Hairspray. Mom really enjoyed it! I enjoyed dinner beforehand and the coffee break. Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music is supposed to be in London. I'm hoping to see that soon.

This weekend, I was out in the country again! It was lovely, with plenty of the beautiful scenery. We stayed in the Otford Manor in Kent, which is surrounded by rolling hills. Londoners are so fortunate to be able to spend their weekends relaxing in the peaceful British countryside.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Important Speech on Healthcare

Even though I am not in the States at the moment, I have been keeping up with the political news there, particularly the latest struggles with healthcare.

I try not to use my blog as a platform for my liberal politics, however, this discussion by Keith Olbermann was much too important not to share. I think it cuts to the heart of the healthcare debate.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Weekend in the Country

My family spent the weekend in a mansion called Sunbury Court, not far from London. It was the Gunnersbury Church retreat. It was so relaxing and pleasant. The building itself was rather spectacular. I also loved spending time with a group of people that have become like family, or perhaps more accurately, like grandparents (seeing that most people at the church are in their sixties). It was essentially a weekend full of hugs, kisses and lots of people validating my life choices and telling me everything is going to work out great. I don't understand why more people in their twenties don't hang out with older folks. They are so much more together than we are and have much more love in their heart to give.

On Saturday, we had an afternoon off to do something fun. I think the schedule had a list of activities such as swimming and nature walks. The Segrans, of course, decided this would be a good time to go to the pub. So we did. We brought a couple of other people with us to The Phoenix and talked about life as we watched the Thames and drank our beer.

Despite our lazy tendencies, my father couldn't resist playing cricket, even though his opponents were about 6 years old. You just can't take a cricketer away from the field.

Now, I'm back in London trying my best to get back to work on the dissertation. It is hard though, when it is so much more fun going out for a tea with my mom. Which is exactly what we did today. Procrastination is more pleasant when you have someone to procrastinate with. I have had to join a gym for the sole purpose of burning off the teatime calories. It is just so hard to resist crumpets and scones and Victoria sponge cakes and chocolate truffle cupcakes.