whim: an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy

Sunday, May 20, 2012

goal: best reading spots in london

When I read for long periods of time, I tend to get tired of reading in the same spot, so I bounce around every hour or so (or if I'm really fidgety, every 30 minutes or so) and find new spots to settle down in. Now when I'm in Provo, this usually means I go from the couch to the floor to my bed and maybe to campus (where I'll go from the carrels to right outside the carrels to the JFSB etc etc). In London, I've decided to create a master list of the best places to read, so I can bounce around the city and see all there is to see with a book in my hand.

With the blustery, cold, rainy, and altogether uncooperative weather in London thus far, I've had to find indoor locations and save the parks and gardens for later on in the summer (when it will hopefully warm up a bit). [aside: the side of me that loves sunshine and weather above 90 degrees is wilting away.] Anyway, here's a start to my list:

1. Notes Music Coffee is a small coffee shop just off Trafalgar Square. I'd read online that it was a good spot to go, and because of the cold weather I'm determined to find the best cup of hot chocolate in London. So coffee shops it is. Notes Music Coffee makes a mean cup of hot chocolate: it's frothy, not too sweet, and comes out with a lovely design drizzled into the foam. I don't know how they do it; all I know is that it looked as good as it tasted. They also have a fantastic fruit scone. But the food, though important, was not the primary reason I was there. I was there for about 45 minutes, leisurely sipping hot chocolate eating my fruit scone with blueberry jam, and reading Charles Lamb. NMC isn't the quietest place to read, but sometimes I like to read in a semi-noisy place to read because it forces me to concentrate on what I'm reading. There were a couple of people who were, like me, reading, but many of the people there were chatting with friends. They were playing Ella Fitzgerald in the background, and had a fantastic light fixture hanging above the long wooden slab tables. I can only handle reading in a noisy crowd for so long, so I skipped off to find another spot.

Assessment: great place to read if you don't mind the crowd. I was there during lunch hour, though, so I might try again at a not-so-busy time of day. Good hot chocolate, good scones, good music.

2. I didn't have to go very far to find a quiet spot. St Martin's in the Fields church is almost next door to Notes Music Coffee, and as I passed by, I realized that a church would probably be a perfect place to settle down for a bit. I was right. Architecturally speaking, St Martin's is an impressive structure, especially from the outside. The inside is more understated, though, and except for the carved, vaulted ceilings, it's quite simple and plain. Also, the windows are very interesting: there's no stained glass, only paneled glass. The east window, behind the altar, is the same simple paneled glass, but it's designed to look like the image of a cross reflected on the water, so the steel framework is warped and bent around in the shape of a cross, but more of an understated cross. It's very unusual, and I really loved it. I didn't want to be disrespectfully snapping pictures, but you should look it up online.

That's all aside from the point. I was there to read, so I sat down and pulled out my book. There was a string quartet in the church rehearsing for an upcoming Vivaldi concert (it was actually that evening), so I read whilst basking in the glorious silence of the crowd and the glorious music of the instruments. It was perfect, and I took a moment to thank heaven for beautiful music, beautiful churches, and beautiful reverence. I read there for almost two hours, and when I left I was reluctant to get up.

So far, those have been my two favorite spots. Maybe another day I'll tell you about my worst spot. But today, only the best.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

odd occurrence on the london underground

I have to say, the public transportation system is one of my favorite things about London. Is that strange? I love that each tube stop is different, from the colorful mosaic tiles in the Tottenham Court Road station to the thousands of tiny Sherlocks in the Baker Street station to the sleek grey simplicity of the Westminster station. I love that you can find the stylish business types sitting next to the goths, or the hipsters, or the ever-present tourists. I don't always love them individually, but collectively they really are fascinating; they remind me that no matter who you are–rich, poor, whatever–you still need to get around somehow. And the overwhelming number of people who choose the tube to get from point A to point B makes the ride interesting.

Of course, when you have that many people coming together, there are bound to be tiffs. Take today, for example, when Ari and I were coming home from Southampton, and at the very last leg of our hourandahalf journey back to London, a disturbance threw a wrench in the typically eventless tube ride. We were technically in the London overground, not the underground, but it's pretty much the same thing.  Anyway, allow me to relate the experience:

Our train was at a routine stop, and a large crowd was still trying to get in when the doors started closing. Enter The Jerk. The Jerk was a tall man in a business suit, with a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. He was probably around 6'3", with pale skin, almost-black hair, high cheekbones, and a sardonic smile. He entered the train, narrowly missing the closing doors, and yelled at the Tired Train Operator to not close the doors so quickly, as there was still a number of people coming on board. Tired Train Operator was a black man, medium build, probably 5'10", his hair braided into cornrows. He looked worn out. After The Jerk yelled at him, the two men had some sort of heated verbal exchange that I only heard bits of. It ended with The Jerk accusing TTO of abusive behavior and TTO demanding that TJ leave the train so they could sort the problem out so the train could proceed on its journey. They were at a standstill: TJ refusing to get off the train, and TTO refusing to start the train until he did. Enter Level-Headed Man. I didn't get a good look at LHM, but I remember that he was also in a business suit and had a neatly-trimmed beard. He started talking to TJ, calmly saying that everyone was tired and anxious after a long day's work, and that everyone should let the matter drop so the train could move on its way. The standstill continued for a while, as TJ continued to argue with TTO, and TTO stubbornly but calmly waiting for the man to get off the train. LHM finally got out of the train and spoke to TTO, and I heard nothing of their exchange. By this time, the other passengers onboard started to murmur and a few called out to TJ to get off the train already. Enter Autistic Child, who was in the train and starting to get angry with his mother, nervously and anxiously proclaiming that they should NOT have taken the tube. AC's mother called out to the men, saying that she had an autistic child who didn't handle waiting very well. He was getting really upset, and everyone around TJ started to urge him off the train, and he finally stepped off, spoke with TTO for a brief moment, got back on the train, and in less than a minute, the doors closed and the train squealed as it picked up speed, and we moved away from the platform. No one in our car said a word, and silence hung awkwardly, heavily, and oppressively in the air, until the next stop, when Ari and I exited the train, wide-eyed and relieved.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

lovely day in brighton

"Well, mamma," said she, when they were all returned to the breakfast-room, "and what do you think of my husband? Is he not a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands."

"I thank you for my share of the favour," said Elizabeth; "but I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands."
 (Pride and Prejudice)

I don't particularly like Lydia's way of getting husbands either, but I DID want to go to Brighton. So when Kirsteen and Lars offered to drive Ari and I to Brighton on Sunday afternoon, we eagerly accepted. Brighton is a short drive from Haywards Heath, so we piled into their car and headed off. 

There is at least one thing I must say about the beach: it tends to bring out the child in all of us. At least this was the case for Ari and I {even for Lars and Kirsteen, if you ask me}. Let me 'splain. The moment we landed on the beach, Ari was off like a rocket, heading straight to the waves to play in the frigid water.  Ari had warned us that the beach turned her into a little girl, and I saw this to be true. (Keep reading if you want to learn about my own childhood flashback.) She laughed merrily as she played in the waves, simultaneously laughing and gasping at the cold water. 

At this point, you should know that the beach at Brighton is not a sandy beach, but a pebble beach, which makes it more-than-slightly uncomfortable to skip around on the beach without shoes on. Burying your feet in pebbles is just not the same as burying your feet in the sand. We, however, still took off our shoes and played in the water as best we could. I lasted about one minute in the water before I froze (it was, thankfully, a sunny day, but still chilly and windy); I didn't have the same fortitude as Ari in confronting the cold water. After walking around on the Brighton Pier, the four of us settled onto the beach. This is where I turned into a little child myself. You see, I've been a rock and seashell collector all of my life. At certain points in my life, I have to pare down on my rock collection, as it is impossibly hard to sustain while moving around as much as I do. I have early childhood memories of rifling through rocks to find my favorite one; seashells are the same. I don't live anywhere near a beach, so when I can get my hands on a seashell, I'm a happy girl. So the moment I sat down, I began scouring the immediate vicinity for shells and cool rocks. Kirsteen and Lars soon picked up on my search, and began handing me shells they picked up. I tried to only take my favorites, but as you'll see from my picture below, I didn't succeed at narrowing my favorites down very well. As we were sitting, Lars began piling rocks on Kirsteen's outstretched legs, saying something about his having children while still being a child himself. We decided that when being a parent, one really must be a child at heart. (I'm not a parent, but Lars and Kirsteen will soon be!) 

When I think of being young at heart, I think of never being too old to take joy in running along the beach, or examining rocks and seashells closely enough to see the grooves and shades and pockmarks, or generally being able to look for the sublime in a small moment, or a small object, or a small thought. I see some people who never grow out of that, even through jobs and parenting and all the other "grown up" things we do, and I want to be one of those people always. Just a thought.

Here are some photos from our Brighton excursion. There are also a few from the drive home (South Downs, Jack and Jill windmills). 


I told Ari she looked like a movie star in this picture, and I don't know if she believed me. Don't you agree? 

Ari and I on Brighton's pebble beach

Ari and I with Lars and Kirsteen. I love these people!

Lars and Kirsteen

Brighton from the Pier

It's my collection! (look at this stuff, isn't it neat?)

Trying not to freeze atop South Downs hill 

Not a great picture, but the road reminded me of walking through a Middle Earthean forest 

Jack (or Jill) windmill

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a few photos from the sort-of-sunny UK

I say "sort of sunny" because we've had a couple of rainy days and a couple of sunshiny days. All beautiful. 

I'm going to blog frequently while I'm in the UK, but I'll probably post photos about once a week. So here they are, with my (at times lengthy) descriptions:

 When we got to the UK (and when I say "we," I mean my little UK group, including Ari, Kayla, Ben, and our facilitator Averyl. Right now I'm living with Ari, so mostly "we" will be applied to us two), I thought we'd all be staying in London, which was I think the plan; however, finding housing for us was turning out to be difficult, so Ari and I ended up going to live with a couple (Kirsteen and Laars) in Haywards Heath until our London housing could be sorted out. It's about a 45 minute train ride from London, and I admit I was a little frustrated because it's pricey to travel between London and Haywards Heath. My frustration quickly evaporated when I met Kirsteen and Laars, who are quite possibly the loveliest people ever in the world. Staying with them has made this first week the best first week I could imagine. I find more and more that it's possible to love people immediately, a claim that is supported by my meeting Kirsteen and Laars. Pictured above is the apartment complex, and our flat is on the first floor to the left (see bottom left window). 

These are the trees outside my window. See the snaky but leafless vines crawling up and down the trees? I love them. I'm a little obsessed, and I tried drawing them in my notebook but I'm such a terrible artist. So I took a picture and try to look at them as much as possible.

Ari and I went around exploring Hayward's Heath, and we happened upon this small, beautiful patch of land. I forgot how green everything is here! It's amazing how many shades of green can be found in one place–green is a very pleasant color, and I doubt I'll ever get sick of it.

The spring flowers are, of course, thriving, thanks to bucket-loads of rain. These flower are in Beech Hurst Gardens.

Ari and I

I made this picture extra large so you could adequately see the gorgeousness. Laars and Kirsteen drove us to South Downs, home to some large hills that you can climb (or drive) and be rewarded with this view. If you turn south, you can see Brighton and the coastline in the distance. We didn't stay for too long, as it was pretty cold, but I was amazed at how beautiful it was. The drive was very interesting: let me just say that British roads are indeed narrow (no tall tales there), and yes, there are roads so small that there's only room for one car at a time, and the road hopefully has small outlets to pull over so you can allow other drivers to pass. Phew! I'm glad I don't have to drive here. 

Of course, Ari and I wanted to be touristy for a bit and go to some markets. This is the Portobello crowd, and this is me with my ridiculous sunglasses.

Portobello Market was all well and good, but BOROUGH MARKET is where the food's at; so naturally, it's where we spent the most time. This is ciabatta bread from one stand and spinach hummus from another–I also bought stuffed grape leaves from the same stand as the hummus. Try to imagine the best hummus you've tasted and multiply that by four, and you'd just about have it.

Does a brownie need much of an introduction? 

I now understand why Edmund betrayed his family for turkish delight. This is pistachio, creamy rose, and milk coconut turkish delight. UHmazing.  We also had goat's milk ice cream, which was also the best thing ever in the world. As we were eating the ice cream, we passed a stand that sold homemade (of course) muesli and granola, and the lady gave us a bit to sprinkle over our ice cream. Heaven.


This is the Natural History Museum. We got there about 10 minutes before close, so we didn't see much, but isn't it an astoundingly majestic building?

There are a few highlights from my first week here in the UK. We're actually going to Brighton this afternoon with Kirsteen and Laars, so next week I might post some pictures by the sea! Hallelujah!

Friday, May 11, 2012

transitions and whims

I have pondered the difference between blogging and journal writing as of late, especially because I all but quit writing in my journal a few years ago, but I've had a regular blog since 2006. I imagine it'd be easy to keep a blog running forever, because unlike a journal, you will never run out of pages or room to write. However, after having the same blog for six years, I've been meaning to start a new blog. There's no practical reason to start a new blog, like running out of pages in a journal, but I do feel a sort of finished feeling, like my life has been in some sort of transition lately, and the transitionary period calls for a new blog.

I never expected the transition between undergrad and grad student to be a big transition, but my first year of grad school taught me otherwise. I don't know that I can really explain it. In my first year of grad school, I studied more and was more invested than I ever was as an undergraduate, and it was really really hard, and at the same time it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do, something that I loved to do, which made all of the late nights (early mornings) and writing and grading and falling asleep on the couch worth it. And I feel somehow different after the first year, mostly because I've realized how vital this transition is to my future. Not to be overdramatic, but I think it's changed my life in ways I might not completely understand just yet.

And for now, it has led me back to England for the summer. It seems like many of my big decisions in life have happened because of England. I decided to apply for my master's program when I was in England two years ago, and during my first  year of grad school I decided I'd go back. Both decisions seemed to have been made on a whim (especially this time), even to the point where I've gone to the very last minute without thinking about all the "important" details (like money, for example) because all I knew was that I was going to England, and hoped everything would work from there. So maybe that's why I titled my blog "on a whim and a fancy": because sometimes I feel like some of the best, most fulfilling and exciting experiences in my life have been made and done on a whim and a fancy. Which is probably not wise, as the very small practical part of my brain says.

But I'm very skilled at suppressing practicality. So here I am, in England once again, which is the perfect place to finally start a new blog.

So, welcome! Come again soon.