Thursday, 29 November 2007

I Saw a Famous British Person Today!

Today I did the most English thing I could think of doing: I went to a movie! What no-nothing tourist would just waste their time in a foreign country by going and watching a movie? How about one dedicated to doing what the Brits do? No native is going to BO'VAH with seeing Tower Bridge or looking at paintings! But plenty of locals go to the movies! I guarantee you that I was the ONLY American present for the 3:45 PM showing of "The Darjeeling Limited" starring Owen "my nose is actually supposed to be crooked in this movie" Wilson. Not only was I most likely the only American, but I was practically the only PERSON in the theatRE. This GUARANTEES that I was the only American. I say "practically" because, for whatever reason, the "Gentleman's TOILET" (that's their word for "bathroom" here, for you Americans out there!) was located right in the theatRE.

The movie was great, but on to more important news: I saw a Famous British Person today! I was walking down the street in Islington after I saw the movie, away from the Angel Tube Station because there had been a fire in it or something, passing a car accident with a victim lolling and rolling on a stretcher on the side of the road, when walking by me was none other than Tobias Menzies (I think that's how you spell it!). That's right: TOBIAS MENZIES!

He is such a great actor that, while he walked by the scene of the accident, he looked genuinely concerned and curious about the incident that had happened (involving a bus and a woman). I nearly shouted, "E tu, Brute?" at him and started to smile when the moment had passed - as they always quickly do when you walk by a really famous actor. I have been hitting myself about it ever since. That would have been the perfect line, you know? Well, if you ever have the good - no great - fortune of walking by Tobias Menzies, you have a good line to throw at him. Just don't expect a repeat performance of the emotional gravitas I saw him affect today. It's not every day that someone gets hit by a car just in time to be passed by a Famous British Actor!

Jamie Oliver Sprouts a New Fan!

One way I've tried to learn about British culture is by growing fond of Jamie Oliver. He's a chef here in England and he has a great new show called "Jamie at Home" where he tries to grow his own food AND cook it. This is the first time this has been done on a cooking show.

In the episode I saw, it was a cold and windy "autumn" (they don't say "fall" here) day, and he went inside to this brick mudroom, completely filled with jars and tupperware containers. He removes the lid from a jar, reaches in, and pulls out some bean sprouts. Voila, salad.

Well, I don't actually like bean sprouts all that much, but I figured I could learn if it was so easy to make them.

Here is what you do in England if you want to grow your own sprouts:

1. Designate one room as a Sprout Room.
2. Go to Sainsbury's or Tesco. These are the only grocery stores here.
3. Buy bags of dry mung beans, adoki beans, or lentils.
4. Steal a few jars from your English uncle who told you he didn't have any jars as he stared at his jar collection over your head on the top of the cupboards in the kitchen when you asked him if he had any jars.
5. Put enough beans in the jar to cover the bottom. You'll think you should put more, but don't.
6. Fill the jar with water and soak beans over night.
7. Buy porous cloth to cover top of jar. Don't try to poke holes in any jar lids with the corkscrew your wino aunt and English uncle would miss if you broke and give yourself cuts on your hands in the process.
8. Affix porous cloth to top of jars with rubberbands filched from aunt and English uncle's desks.
9. Drain jars of water.
10. Fill and empty jars with water twice daily.
11. Eat sprouts after they have filled the jar.

My first crop was a success. I had two jars filled with mung beans. I love the taste! Especially when I hide it with oil and vinegar and cheese. Delicious!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Journey to the CentRE.

I paid a visit to Oxford Street today to run some errands and explore my new foreign world. I shopped at Borders and drank a latte in its Starbucks. I made a great cultural discovery when I found out that when I say "Soy"-Latte, the deft employees translate that into "Soya"-Latte. It's the little verbal cues like that which distinguish the tourist from the "insider with an accent" - something I long to be!

Oxford street is teeming with business. I kept my head down and was fortunately wearing mis-matched coloUrs - so as not to attract attention as a tourist. I bumped into a man carrying a baby on his torso, attached there with straps. I nearly got mad, but then realized that it was a baby, not a bag or something. Good thing I have self-control, unlike so many people in this world (as I'm discovering)!

There are so many pickpockets here - the heirs to Jack Dawkins, I'm sure. I've never seen one myself, but that's the whole point! I look out for urchins with pageboy caps (definitely the pickpockets) and dusty chimney-sweeps (they will get your clothes so dirty, I'm sure!) as I wend my way towards H&M and Niketown. I'm just like a Londoner in these regards!

One thing I've noticed about Londoners - and I wish that this had been made known to me in my "Rough Guide" to the city, because I would surely have prepared better - is that it's truly acceptable to wear very dirty little shoes all the time. I have plenty at home, waiting for this trend to re-emerge! Why did no one tell me!? If you want to appear fashionable, boys and girls alike, you should wear very tight black jeans and dirty, dirty flats. I saw a boy wearing this garb today - and he was an American toboot! He was clearly spending a semester abroad, probably from Bard or Vassar or somewhere where it's perpetual-80s, and had taken up all the affects of young London. He and his American girl-compatriot were also going to Oxford Street to shop (like me, on the Jubilee Line), and his dirty little formerly-white Keds would have guaranteed his blending in. He was only betrayed by his accent and his less-camouflaged companion. She decidedly did NOT have the ubiquitous long fringe or dark, woolen tights-with-shorts-and-floppy-boots like most women here. I hope, for her sake, that her be-kedded friend was taking her to Topshop or something.

I am sorry to say that London does not have the supply of cheap nail salons that we do on Second Avenue on the Upper East Side. There is a "UV RAY Nails" establishment down the road from my aunt's place in New Cross Gate. I don't know what "UV Ray Nails" are, but they no doubt lead to cancer. There are, however, many many tanning salons. By the looks of things, no one has started using them yet. People here are paler than Clevelanders in January, but it's not like it matters because it's dark by 3:30 in the afternoon and you can only see people in the glaring lights of the tube. I am shocked that the nation is not suffering from rickets, en masse. I remember complaining last year about having to brave the ten minute walk from Truman High School to the 5-train on Baychester Ave. in the Bronx... I would leave school late at 6:00 and it would be dark. Now that I'm a world traveler and have gained some real-world perspective on things, I recognize my former myopia for what it was: ignorance. Next time you complain about the early winter sunsets, think of the poor, pale Brits walking down their High Streets, slinking too-quickly by the tanning salons.