I spent most of Sunday on Hampstead Heath, which was beyond lovely. A plethora of dogs, families with small children, trees, mud and grass. Who would have thought I'd be happy to have mud stains on my jeans? We meandered around Kenwood House and took in the scenic view from Parliament Hill. I was too busy enjoying it to take any pictures, which is just how I like it. I was spending time with two new friends who were wonderful in almost polar ways - one I could open up to about emotional and past and life things, and the other I could joke with about present and future plans.
In the middle of this week there was a student protest that marched down the Strand for free education. It had been on my radar for the weeks leading up to it, but I had no idea of the scale until I watched the masses go by, with policemen dotting the sidewalk. It was impressive but almost funny from an American standpoint; we pay so much more for education, and the long-term costs can be punishing. But I guess if you already have free healthcare it makes sense to make a move towards education. I wish America could get it together on both fronts.
Speaking of minute cultural differences...I often make cultural jokes/references that Americans, let alone Brits, don’t get. Some are pretty accessible (Arrested Development, Simpsons); others are more obscure. I was laughing with a friend from home about this and he suggested I create a guide to hand to people I meet: “How to Understand Annie: Through the Use of Popular Culture, Obscure Literary Works, and Historical References.” Or, “You’re Not Reading/Watching the Right Things: a Guide to Your Intellectual Betterment.”*
It would probably save us all a lot of time. On the plus side, at least the Brits here think I’m funny because they don’t know how much I’m quoting things.
Yesterday I saw Neil McGregor at the British Museum as we were going into the prints and drawings room for class. I got so excited that I smiled hugely but didn't say anything. I'm sure my face gave me away; hope he didn't think I was too much of a weirdo. Part of me wanted to say hello, but how do you greet a stranger without intruding? ("Hi, I enjoyed your books. Can I have your job someday?") I don't buy into the idea that celebrity makes someone 'public property.' But I do love how my celebrity moment in London is over an art historian-museum director. I was honestly more excited to recognize him than I would have been to see almost any actor. The only thing that could have beaten it would have been an actual introduction.
*Side note: I love that little pause between first and alternate titles. (Twelfth Night or, What You Will; The Hobbit or, There and Back Again.) It's the hopeful promise, the pregnant potential of that little “or,”