Monday, December 8, 2014

London A-Z (after 12 weeks)

Medium Plate Chicken from Silk Road

I’ve been in London for twelve weeks and I am reflecting on this because I preparing to go away for a little bit (but returning for another eight months afterwards). London thus far has been pretty good; its gone fast then slow then fast again. Being geographically somewhere else (other then your norm) is the best antidote to oneself. It let’s you be someone else, defines who you think you are, who you were and who you want to be. It has been subtler being in London then other places I have traveled and lived because I know this is for a finite time even if it is a longish stay. I don’t know how to describe this experience thus far besides transformative. Can such words be batted around this day in age? I believe that yes, it can be. I can’t wait to be home in NYC for a spell but I have to say, I am getting extremely fond of this place and all I have experienced within it.

Below is a quick A to Z (or as they say Zed) of things I have grown to love about London.

A – Arcadia Missa - People in certain spheres are in the know about this gallery space and with good reason. It is in Peckham, close to the overground stop and it has an ethos and programming that seems rare in this city. It does what it wants to do but is dedicated and thoughtful of what this is. It is a meeting ground for artists and curators but also is a connector whose connections are not mere tools or means to an end but the source and purpose of that end. I have gone to more openings and events there then anywhere else and look forward to attending so many more.

B – Buses – I know I have remarked on transport before but wow, buses, you use buses all the time especially if you live South like moi. I have come to appreicate and am getting used to them. They are truly the only way to get door to door from this far-flung place to another. Also, when you know exactly the route you are going, sitting on top when there are not many people on board is actually pretty relaxing.

C – Coats – It is not as cold here as in is in NYC but there is a constant rainy, dreary, mist thing that happens. It’s very bearable in contrast to bone snapping east coast cold but it’s the type of cold that seems to seep into you. I am almost always cold here. Wearing/having the right coat is essential as you wait outside much more. Waterproof, long, wool, and something with a hood is optimal.

D – Drugs – Seems chill here. I’m sure there are problems with it in many different forms but socially people seem just relaxed and community about it. It seems more like background then some sort of event which feels much easier.

E – Eggs – Can’t get over the quality of the eggs here. Amazing. They also keep them on the shelf. No fridge ever. Omelette aux fine herbs (aka herb omelette) is probably my breakfast of choice at the moment.

F- Friends – Maybe it’s just me beinging more relaxed/out of my element but I find finding and making friends here buckets loads easier and smoother then in NYC. Not that I don’t love my friends in NYC (I do and I miss you all dearly) but there is an ease in which you meet people here. The question of ‘what do you do’ is not asked as quickly or as purposefully. There is this screen for some English people, almost everyone is polite but that doesn’t mean they like you. So when you meet someone and you both like-like each other then it’s pretty for real and meaningful.

G – Gardens – Even though it is getting colder, there is still lovely little gardens hanging on since it doesn’t frost as soon or as quickly. Parsley out back is still thriving. Lovely.

H – Homes – London is sort of like LA in this way (prob the only way), in that you go to peoples’ homes for dinner and hanging out. Sure you go to this or that place but first you meet up, have a drink, and hang around. You also eat at homes as well. It is just the best way to get to know people and to feel that warm fuzzy feeling of being a part of a city/humanity/universe/ all that jazz.

I – Insurance – Health insurance is free. Free. As in, walk in, get seen by a doctor and get a prescription and its all free. Amazing.

J – Jupiter Woods – Another outpost for art that I have found myself at entirely too much but in the best way. Run by six curatorial students at Goldsmiths this is a project space that is actually being executed as it is envisioned which is hopeful and fun to witness. Its an experiment, its rotational, it seems slightly slap dash but that’s what makes it so good and honest and worth visiting (often). 

K – Kale – They are just not that into the kale/organic thing here. But this is probably because they have a more engrained culture of local and farm to table type of eating/living in general.

L – Long, Late, Large – Everything takes a long time to get to. You will probably be late to everything and the city is very large. All these things can be annoying but once you acclimate you just deal with it, plan ahead accordingly and in a good way (sometimes) end up staying somewhere for much longer then you anticipated. It’s like a forced slow movement on your daily activities. Frustrating beyond belief but also makes you chill out more.

M – Museums – Also mentioned this previously but it is pretty astounding the amount of museums London has and that almost all of them are free.  I have a few more of the big ones to tick of my list and then bundles more of smaller ones and I hope by year’s end they become familiar and some of them become refuges.

N – Niceties – Everyone is really polite. Sometimes they are so polite that it is sarcastic but most times people are just really really actually polite. It’s truly bizarre sometimes. Like the train conductor expounds on how they wish you a good day and hopes you had a good journey and apologies for the short delay a few stops back. It’s all so charming. Ugg.

O – Opera, Organ Music – There are a lot of radio stations and they are very eclectic and much better then back home. There are some great classical stations and putting that on or some opera is very relaxing. I’m not a huge opera/classical music head but it has somehow become my default whilst cooking and I really enjoy it. Also, I have been popping into churches and cathedrals for a choral or organ mass and it is really fabulous to listen to in those old and vaulted spaces. Acoustics that vibrate the floors.

P – Peckham – I live in Peckham off of the Peckham Rye stop and I love my little neighborhood. There’s this slight East vs. South chitter (East being Hackney/Dalston etc.) but meh, I like my little hamlet and I have Southern pride for sure.

Q – Queens Road – Apparently the Queen(s) have had many roads because there are many scattered around. This is good to know because having an address like 55 Queens Road can literally land you in multiple places in various areas. London is very large, as mentioned above, and it is broken up by postal code. You live and die by postal codes.

R – Roasts – People apparently get together on Sundays and eat with their family and/or friends and put a carcass of one animal or another (or veg equivalent) in the oven and then they eat, drink and talk and then they slowly call it a night. God, this place is so civilized!

S – South London Gallery – Still repping South here, this is a well established non-profit that exhibits heavy hitters and also has a room for events and lectures. There are a few of these large/small institutions throughout London and they are resources and seem generous with their space and time. (From what I have witnessed thus far).

T – Trainers – As mentioned in a previous post re: London dress code, people dress way more casually here then in NYC. Like everyone wears sweats, and big baggy ones at that. I too wear sweats more but I try to keep it to the domestic or school setting. But yes, trainers, sweats, sweatshirts, and hoodies (all over sized) are the look and I don’t blame anyone because it is so comfy even if you look so over it.

U – Ukip – People love to talk politics here and that means everyone from high schoolers crammed on a bus, the commuter being stuffed into the underground or the immigrant who has a thick accent. It makes politics seem pressing and possibly even mutable.

V – Vinegar – Chips with salt and vinegar aka fries with salt and vinegar, are just heaven and additionally fun then you get them in a bouquet like bundle to go.

W – Water – There is of course the Thames (which is a lot smaller then I thought it would be) but then you come across a canal or a pond and you are reminded how London is in the middle of an island with large bodies of water nearby but not right at hand. I’m not sure why but I think about water a lot here.

X - Xinjiang– Silk Road is a Chinese restaurant in Camberwell and they cook food from the Xinjiang region of China, which is inhabited by the Turkic Uighur Chinese population. It is the best Chinese Restaurant I have been to. Seriously, I just think about eating their food a lot of the time. 

Y – Youth – There is youth culture everywhere but it seems like it’s not that big of a difference or deal here. Or maybe I’m just used be being surrounded by 23-27 year olds so much at this point. But honestly, age seems less of a point here and that is good because I’m always the oldest person in the room these days. Hehe.

Z – Zone – Like post codes, areas are demarcated by Zones. I live in Zone 2. I stay in Zone 2 80% of the time and then to Zone 1, which is more Central London, the rest of the time. These zones determine the cost of transport. I have a Zone 1/Zone 2 travel pass. Crossing outside of these zones is mega expensive and god only knows what’s out there (but I look forward to finding out).