Greetings from sunny – wait, rainy – no wait, sunny again – London

I have to say, springtime in London is pretty awesome. The weather’s been pretty sunny up until today, the trees have been covered in flowers, tulips are blooming, and the city doesn’t look like a gray, sooty mess any more in daylight. I regret that I won’t get to enjoy the better weather here after I leave next month. Well, I’ll probably be back here and there, but it seems a shame that most of my time here was in the Autumn and Winter months. Plus, we don’t have swine flu over here… yet.

Here’s some shots from Tower Bridge of the London Marathon yesterday:

A month? Oops.

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted. It’s been a really busy month. I had a couple of big assignments due for school, so I was cranking away on those until I left for Austin last week. And I didn’t have internet access the whole week I was in Austin, so if I wasn’t in touch with you, it’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because I didn’t have any numbers or any way to contact anybody (except for those few numbers I have memorized).

Anyway, it was great being back home – so great that I almost changed my flight and stayed another week. But I know if I had stayed another week, I would have wanted to stay another month, and so on… And of course I have to finish out my masters here in London, so here I am. I miss the sunshine and BBQ and lake and cheeseburgers already. And my friends. I miss those guys the most. I wish I’d had more time to see everybody, but hopefully I’ll be back in May when I finish up, but I’m not sure if I’ll be moving back for good then, or if I’ll be spending my summer elsewhere. We’ll see!

The Fragmented Orchestra

This is one of the weirdest/coolest sounding events I’ve seen in a while:

The Fragmented Orchestra, winners of the PRS Foundation’s New Music Award 2008, presents 24 hours of music, neuroscience and performance at 24 sites across the UK. The London events include: 10am, at the Institute of Psychiatry, in Camberwell, a prerecorded debate on Music and the Mind is transmitted to the soundbox between (10 am-midday); Then, at the National Portrait Gallery (midday-1.30pm) the violinist Rolf Wilson plays excerpts from Bach’s Partita in E and Prokofiev’s unaccompanied Violin Sonata. Plus, the playwright/neurologist Paul Broks and actors present ‘The Fragmented Self’, exploring the human brain. The Stephen Lawrence Centre (Brookmill Rd, SE8, 1pm-2pm) hosts Howard Monk of The Local in an acoustic session featuring David Thomas Broughton and others. Followed (3pm-5pm) with an exmination of having a stroke, at the Rochelle School (Arnold Circus, E2). Including, Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ one of the paradigmatic pieces of contemporary classical music, and presented by South London Arts collective What They Could Do, They Did. St Andrew’s, Fulham Fields, the Stations of the Cross are walked liturgically between 6pm and 7pm with newly commissioned music and words of reflection. (See website for full details.)

London photo walk

I had about 8 free photo galleries on my list, and I managed to see 5 of them. Not bad, really, considering they were all spread around London, and I didn’t just breeze through any of them. Anyway, on my way, I took some photos of my own. It was a rare sunny winter day. Most of these are from my neighbo(u)rhood.

Update: I also meant to mention that the Angela Gorgas exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery is worth the trip down there all on its own. This photo is one of my new favorites of all time:

Martin Amis by Angela Gorgas

There are also two very good smaller (free) galleries near Old Street station. The Yvon Lambert had some really interesting large prints from Andres Serrano. His stuff borders on pornography, but there’s an almost painful intimacy to much of his work that helped it transcend the initial gross-out factor. That, and the gallery was curated really well, with photos in just the right places with respect to each other. The other gallery was Rivington Place, a larger and spacious gallery showing Santu Mofokeng’s work, which consists mostly of South African apartheid subject matter – perhaps less shocking than Serrano’s exhibit, but making no less of an impact.

Snow Day

I haven’t seen this much snow since I was very young. It’s been snowing all night and all morning, and pretty heavily at that. I snapped a few pics with my flatmate last night, we had a snowball fight and helped our neighbors roll a giant snowball for a snow man.

Snow Day Snow Day Snow Day

Snow Day Snow Day

I’m going to get ready and go out and take a ton more.

Everything’s funnier with the Benny Hill song

And now I relate two recent London misadventures. I encourage you to hit play above as you read.

This one hasn’t become funny yet, because it’s an ongoing nuisance. But I hope someday very, very soon I will look back and laugh. For the past week or so, every weekday morning at about 7 or 8, there begins a persistent and very loud jackhammering right beneath my window. They are literally digging up the entire street behind my flat, with giant machines that look strangely out of place on the narrow, crooked street. And since I only have early class one day a week, there’s now only one reason for me to be up at such a respectable hour the other four days. I lie there imagining all the things I’d like to do to exact my revenge – things involving pellet guns, paint guns, slingshots, water balloons, ferocious wild animals I cage and unleash at just the right moment – you get the idea. I haven’t done anything yet, but I hear that lack of sleep can make people crazy.

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Happy new year

I offer here an update on my life in London. It starts bleak, but ends happily (I hope).

I’ve fallen in love/hate with this city. It’s a paradoxical place – massive, teeming, cosmopolitan, beautiful and exciting; but also dreary, lonely, ugly, and dreadfully dull. It’s tough to know on a given week which London you’ll get, but know this – either one will cost you a small fortune to experience. Just leaving my flat costs me money. Even if I return home with empty hands and belly, it seems somehow I’ve spent the equivalent of $10. There are actually times I’ve wanted to go out and spend the rare beautiful day at a cafe and thought to myself, “it’s really not worth leaving the house.” That, and they don’t really do cafes in London. Perhaps because of the difficulty in getting from place to place cheaply (and the tube shuts around midnight), you can have friends all over the city but you’ll never see them, because no one leaves their neighborhoods.

But it’s not all bad. London at night is gorgeous. It’s nice sometimes just to drive around the city and take it all in. The south bank, near where I live, is particularly nice for a nighttime stroll, with lit trees, the London Eye, and an interesting mix of old and new architecture. And once you’ve found a good local pub, you’ve found a good reason not to leave your neighborhood too often anyway. There’s also a lot of good fun to be had if you know where to look. The tough part is late night, as it changes every week – you don’t typically find the same kind of crowd or music at the same venues.

But there are a few standouts in the early evening category – Shunt being one of them. It’s a vast network of cavernous alcoves beneath London Bridge train station, populated by a rotating series of eclectic art installations, musical experimentation and bizarre films. It opens at the back to a large hall with vaulted ceilings, a bar, dj booth and seating areas (one of which is seasonally decorated to appear to be outdoors). Pretty much the coolest place in London at my doorstep. I once saw a 15-foot-tall glowing white alien marionette being operated by a half dozen people dressed in black, lurching through the hallways and corridors as if actually alive and slightly drunk.

Living here for a long time? I don’t know about that. I still prefer Austin. But living here for a little while? I could recommend it. And I encourage a visit while I’m still around. I can offer a couch to crash on and a somewhat mediocre tour.

So this is Christmas

I hope everyone has a great break, enjoys time with family, eats delicious food, and gets lots of presents. Things are going well this side of the pond; I’m out for break and spending time with family. My brother’s over, and I’ve been trying to show him a good time in London – apparently Shoreditch and Camden are the places to be. Oh, and Portobello market is awesome, especially on Saturdays.  I took these the other day in Southampton. If we don’t have a white Christmas here, at least I think we’ll have a foggy one.