Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Cool and the Uncool

Cheerio, mates! Day 8 for me 'ere in jolly ole London. (That sounds pretty convincing, right?)

The other day, I was talking to my mother (for free!) over Skype, and she asked me a simple question, "so do you like it there?" Of course, as with all simple questions, there's not really a simple answer. I'm very happy to be in the UK and enjoying just observing and living life. But there's things I like and things that I like less (or at least, things I haven't grown to like) about my experience so far. So I'll let this post be my own little meandering view on what's cool about my life right now, and what's, you know, uncool.

COOL: My neighborhood. It's got funky shops, every kind of restaurant you can imagine, diversity, streets lined with pubs of varying levels of formality, beautiful green spaces every couple miles. It sneaks up on you, this place. Things just pop up out of nowhere. Like the massive park I discovered on my run the other day. Or the little pub that I hopped into for a pint, only to find that they had a rousing game of pub trivia planned for the evening. I love pub trivia. Nerd alert--- in a former life (law school), I was a loyal member of a pub trivia team that can only be defined as a dynasty, the "New York Yankees of pub trivia" if you will (the Quiz Master made up that one). For three years, we didn't miss a trivia night and we almost always won. Never mind that I was BY FAR the dumbest member of the team; I had crucial knowledge of pop culture, the best penmanship, and friends who knew I would never, ever forgive them if they replaced me with a smarter player, so I managed to hold on to my starting position for three years.

The beer culture in London- also COOL
Anyway, the pub trivia in the bar outside of London was cool, too, and brought back all sorts of memories. I didn't play....didn't have enough confidence in my British trivia knowledge, but I will. I definitely will.

UNCOOL: The hills. That lovely, leafy neighborhood that I somewhat randomly selected is also incredibly hilly. My apartment is on the top of a giant hill and I can't avoid the hike. My running routes have taken on a whole new level of difficulty and, just from walking, I'm sore in places I didn't realize I could be sore. This Chicago flatland girl is strugglin'.

COOL: My cycling training centre, Cadence Performance. Oh my God, I have found my happy place. I go there to ride, then often stay for a while in their cafe, reading their British triathlon and cycling magazines and drinking coffee. The guys there are friendly, helpful, and perhaps a little mischevious, as they persuade me to do rides on the Tacx trainer that are perhaps a BIT agressive for this point in my season. Like the other day, I was pretty much Triple Dog Dared to do the famous Alpe D'Huez climb. On the Tacx trainer, with its video simulation that speeds up and slows down according to your pace, it seemed real, and I hauled ass to get up that hill, enjoying the "views," and hanging out just below my threshold pace for more than an hour on a day that was supposed to be easy. Oops.

"Riding" the Alpe D'Huez.
COOL: The British passive-agression/ guilt trips. Maybe passive aggressive is the wrong term, but the Brits have this highly amusing way of getting you to behave in a certain manner by reference to other people and the effect your behavior will have on them. It seems the Great National Fear is inconveniencing others, and rules are not stated, they are suggested, with reference to the effect following or not following them will have on everyone else's convenience or happiness. This sign is a perfect example:

You do NOT want to cause an inconvenience for everyone else.
I talked to someone who was at the Olympics this summer, and the announcer said something like, "the athletes would be very appreciative of your willingness to not use flash photography." I enjoy this very much.

COOL: Fun British phrases. I've been Minding the Gap like no one's business. I alight at the train station near my home like a boss. Brekkie is still my favorite meal of the day, although in an effort to save a few pounds, I've been eating porridge in my flat a lot. It's the same language but it's so very different, and I love it.

Brekkie To Go
UNCOOL: British phrases that I just don't understand. Or can't pronounce. The one that's thrown me off the most is "are you OK?" This is just a casual greeting in the UK, akin to "how's it going?" or "how are you?" In the U.S., "are you OK?" seems like an actual, substantive question that one would ask only if there's a suspicion that the other person is not OK. So it confuses me when people ask me if I'm OK....my instinct is to get all defensive ("what, do I look like something's wrong?") Such an American...

Similiarly, I bypassed the brekkie in the photo above because I just couldn't figure out how to pronounce 'buttie'. I bet it would have been yummy. My fear of looking too much like an idiot American is holding me back.

COOL: Transportation. I'm a public transit snob (read: I hate public transit). In the last year I lived in Chicago, I took the train, oh, three times, and that was when my car was in the shop. But London's rail, subway, and bus system is pretty excellent. Good coverage, clean cars, etc., etc. I get lost, a lot, but that happens in any big city. In a way, that's part of the experience, right?

But that said.....
UNCOOL: Lame hours. The public tranport would be so much better if the trains ran past midnight. Or, for that matter, if the pubs stayed open past 11:30 PM. Or the coffee shops opened before 10 AM (it seems, doesn't it, that being open early would behoove a caffeine selling establishment?). There are obviously exceptions, but there's some funny hours being kept in this, one of the world's largest cities.

UNCOOL: Weather. I am freezing all the time. When I started planning my trip, I had no intention to be any place that wasn't warm. I said I was chasing an eternal summer. That's changed, and I'm here in the UK with temperatures in the 50s, mostly. Somehow, it feels much, much colder, all the time. Maybe it has to do with the frequent rain. Of course, all my warm clothes were in storage, and I completely underpacked. I don't want to buy a new coat, I'm only here for three more weeks, so basically I just pile all my clothes on top of each other until I look like I gigantic marshmellow. Hot!

Which leads me to:

COOL: Heated towel racks. These are amazing. I have access to a washer but not a drier, and since I wear pretty much all my clothes every day, I'm doing a lot of hanging things to dry. Except I have absolutely no space for actual clothes lines or racks. The towel racks do the job and make my clothes toasty before I put them on. It's like a big ole hug, every time I go to get dressed.

No comments:

Post a Comment