Thursday, June 17, 2010

One week in

I have now officially been a resident of the British Isles for one week. This is usually the point at which I start packing up to head to the folk festival: the fact that I have an additional 9 weeks until that point has made me a bit less than antsy about visiting the UK. As does the fact that train travel, while magnificent is no less expensive than in the U.S. A round trip ticket from here all the way Southeast in Kent runs about $55--and that's for 2 hours of travel time. Compare that to $108 from D.C. to N.Y. (yes that's only if you go the least popular time on the least popular day) for the equivalent of a 7 hour journey. Oh well. Can I just say that I despise budgeting.
The nice thing about the program I've signed up for is that all travel expenses--excluding food and drink of course--are covered for the trips we are taking. That is today's rant.

At present I am sitting in the British Library's Humanities reading room convincing myself to complete the book reviews we have been assigned. While I enjoyed one of the books immensely, Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map about the 1853-1854 London cholera epidemic, the other book, Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, has left me less than enthused. I have, therefore, decided to recommend with reservations for the second work. Mostly because I think it has some redeeming value and my frustration with it likely lies with the fact that I am not the average library reader. Having been trained as a historian the lack of footnotes, the assertions and the confusing nature of the chronology have been, not to be too pun driven, making me crazy. To me, the story reads more like fiction, which will likely appeal to many readers who are not me.

I must say I love this library. The only problem is that I'd like to strike up conversations with my neighbors--but it is a library so we all must be quiet. How is it that some of my favorite places prevent me from talking?

In terms of random London observations: This week of travel on the public transportation system has reinforced two facts for me: the women all dress like they've stepped out of the pages of Lucky or Elle magazine and the men can be terribly natty, or just too terribly thin. The standard female uniform under the age of 30 (give or take) seems to be floaty blouse gathered with belt, black tights or leggings and a micro mini black skirt. Seriously, without the leggings there would be much southern exposure. (hint hint) Plus the women seem to be exceedingly tall. I am feeling need to break out the heels, but then I remember, I'm not into self-torture. Most amusing today I saw a woman in an unbuttoned denim shirt--all the buttons undone--closed with a five inch wide elastic belt over a swing-y peasant skirt, and the obligatory huge bug eye sunglasses. Ugh. Constant reminders that fashion risks are for the taste-deprived.

Though I am tempted to take one day, buy extremes of all the trends, wear them together and see what reaction I got. You all know I won't do it, but it would be amusing.