Are You Alright? You’re Clutching Your Pants

More on accents and Englishisms

Every time I go out someone asks me if I’m alright. My New York cynicism makes me want to scream “Yes. Why are you talking to me get away.” While my self-conscious nature leaves me thinking “why? what’s wrong with me? don’t I look alright?” Finally I remember I’m in the country whose slogan is Keep Calm and Carry On because if you hear the way they talk you’d think they were all about to Panic and Freak Out. Saying ‘are you alright?’ is the same as ‘how do you do’ or more aptly ‘let me know if you need anything’ (in stores that is). It’s a friendly non-committal I’m here for you which is a little odd for a country that has a national hug allergy. It’s so cold here you’d think everyone would be cuddle together for warmth but English stoicism is more than a myth it’s a pandemic; which is exactly how I like people – reserved, sarcastic and emotionally repressed (I think all the English soldier moved to New York after the war).

I’ve just gotten used to their make me feel awkward greeting when I discovered a new foe, the word clutching. I don’t know why but it makes me feel like someone’s just called me out on showing up to class drunk. I was in a meeting the other day when someone abruptly stopped speaking and asked me ‘what are you clutching’. -it was a bottle. I wasn’t holding it for dear life or anything but I got this self-image of me quivering in a corner clutching the bottle and drooling in bug-eyed fear like a raccoon who found a hot dog with bun and ketchup in the trash (the holy grail of nocturnal dumpster diving) and was terrified the night foxes would tear me to pieces for it. Oh dear I think I’ve just shat my pants (panties… remember?… see we’re learning!)


Cheers to my Pants – English Wit and an American Accent

Since moving from New York to London I have heard nothing but the constant and sardonic question, “do you have an accent yet?” The simple answer is no, but then again my answer would be I never did, which my friends here would disagree with since I came here begging for ‘cawfee’. While I have yet to learn to speak the Queen’s English, as far as I can tell it takes three years and then your in accent limbo where you don’t sound American nor do you sound English, I have lost a bit of my New York guttural drops and I have slowly adopted Lotte. Lotte is the voice in my head and she sounds like a daintier version of a GPS guide. Why my inner monologue is now broadcast with a British accent I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s something to do with being around Brits all day and my voice-box being unable to keep up. Either way I’m quite fond of Lotte and will be sad to see her go. For one, I think she’s had a rather beneficial effect on my writing. Not only in articles and papers but I find my e-mails have improved. While before I never knew how to end a semi-professional letter that was already rife with thank yous, Lotte had the answer. Cheers. It’s quirky, cute, and forces the person to ask about my time abroad, allowing me to try and express in mono-syllabic locutions just how fascinating I am and that they simply must hire me. Best works just as well when super-professional is required.

I’ve also discovered new words. I knew they existed before but much like tasting truffle oil for the first time knowing something exists and feeling it on your tongue are two entirely different sensory experiences. I’m not wearing pants I’m wearing jeans. This, and the fact that my dissertation advisor literally wrote the book on the consumption of denim, has made me see the blues in an entirely new light. Because while slacks and jeans are both pants in America, in Britain pants are undies; forcing trousers and jeans into their own separate corners and liberating slacks from that boring work appropriate, funeral mandatory section of your wardrobe – you know, the one you never touch. Now, I want to buy trousers for the sake of owning trousers. (Say the word… isn’t it fun?) Crisp linens and starched cotton, I no longer envision them in khaki or black but in a frenzy of colour Rainbow Brite would enjoy.


One Night in London

You have two days in London and you want to make the most of it, what ever are you to do? Broken down over forty-eight hours these are my fav things to do, a mix of culture and experience.

Westminster Abbey has some of the worst tourist lines and is by far the coolest of all the main London attractions. The history, the weddings, the architecture everything about the Abbey screams visit me.

From here you’re a five min. walk to Big Ben. Take your obligatory tourist shots.

Hop onto the tube and ride out to Queensway. From here it’s a quick walk into Kensington Gardens where you can have high tea (only 20 pounds and the cheapest/best by far) at the Orangery. You feel like royalty overlooking the Palace.

Let your meal digest with a walk through the park to the marble arch which leads to Oxford Street, the most famous shopping street in London. Start at Primark and work your way through TopshopMonsoonUrban Outfitters, and many many more. Stop and get a Ben’s Cookie if you have room!

Gordon’s wine bar is right out of Embankment tube in a small and endearing alley way. The bar itself is an old school basement, very Sherlock Holmes. Then after some wine or champagne Opal, a nightclub, is right next to you!

Possibly grab a few hours of sleep.

If it’s a Saturday or Sunday go to Portobello Road. Yes, Camden is the market everyone went on about in the 90s but now it’s mostly junk (although with more time the horse market is worth seeing for atmosphere). Portobello Road has a number of antiques and jewelry stands and while not inexpensive you can pick up some interesting souvenirs here. My friend recently bought a camera from the early 1900s, I’ve gotten art deco rings and compasses, there’s also plenty of Banksy art and prints. If you’re visiting on a weekday, marketing is better at Covent Garden’s Apple Market. The market itself is hit or miss but if the pickings are slim it’s a quick walk to either the Tower of London or Seven Dials shopping area. If you settle on Covent Garden you can also find your way to SNOG, the best frozen yogurt I’ve ever had.

Everyone who visits me wants to go out to Abbey Road and take a few pics, which can be fun but is time-consuming and in the end it’s just a picture opportunity. You can take the tube out to St. John’s Wood and walk to it, there is heavy traffic there so be careful. I always recommend the better option – head over to the British Library, this is frequently overlooked and besides their illuminated manuscripts and other historical items they have the original song lyrics and notes to many a Beatles tune.

Now you’re only a twenty min. walk from the British Museum. Must-sees here include the Rosetta Stone, Crystal Skull, Portland Vase, Elgin Marbles, and a very nice Moai. Free entry.

More shopping can be had at Harrods. The food hall is fun to taste things in but don’t show up too hungry as a hot fudge sundae can run you 20 quid. A blanket maybe 100,000. Amazing to see, I will decorate my mansion just like this.

Perfect night to see a show on the West End. Tickets can usually be purchased online or in the morning for sale tickets, standing can be around 5-10 pounds. Much cheaper than Broadway and the stars are brilliant!


Dream Travel Plans

I read somewhere that your body starts decaying after 22. You loose bone density, skin collagen, and who knows what else. At 22 I said “ah that’s not true. Shush.” At 24 I say, “ah! what’s happening to me? I have a grey hair already? My friends have stopped trying to goad me into bungee jumping and now try to lure me into book clubs?! How did this all happen so fast?” So as I travel around Europe I find myself spending more time in cafes rather than bars, strolling through country lanes rather than cliff diving into frigid waters (ok maybe a bit of strolling through frigid waters but it’s really cold here). To force myself out of my funk, and to take a hopeful stance on my future financial position, I have created a travel plan for the next ten years, the plan being to do all of my adventure-cations before I’m 40.

To start with now, 2012 at 24 years old move to London and travel around Europe. Check.

2014 at 26, travel to Australia to stay with friends and scuba dive

2015 at 27, travel to Japan, eat sushi, maybe see those dancing snow geese, get a Geisha make-over, finagle a short trip to Angkor WatCambodia at the end of it.

2016 at 28, Machu Picchu, hike, hike some more, opt not to do the really scary fall to your death hike they offer you at the end, hike, eat some chili chocolate

2018 at 30, Egypt, hope it lives up to the mythical proportions it has taken on in my mind, hope that by 30 my expectations are more reality-based, ride a camel, get spit on by a camel, see the valley of the kings, see the valley of the queens, swear i like the valley of the queens better for the sake of feminism, touch a pyramid, see tut’s mask, stalk Dr. Hawass, be transported back in time for an epic adventure. Take a day trip to PetraJordon.

2020, at 32, India for Holi Festival. Ruin every article of clothing I own, make friends with an elephant, see a tiger on safari and ONLY on safari, drink chai and try not to be disappointed it isn’t a chai late, buy a sari that is so revealing I’ll never wear it once I get home

2022, at 34, hike the Navajo Nation, eat fry bread so I can’t hike anymore, see how far up a dune I can get, try to take some Peter Lik worthy shots and fail wonderfully

2024, at 36, Iceland for the Northern Lights, stay in the overpriced ice hotel, sit in some Icelandic mud

2027, at 39, Take a cruise to the Galapagos, play with tortoise and finches, and from there down to Antarctica, be cold.


What are YOUR travel plans?


London Fashion

I haven’t incorporated this many flowers into my wardrobe since the 90s, then it was giant sunflowers on a denim “Blossom” hat – now it’s a daisy in my hair or small red roses on my leggings. Yes the 90s are making a come-back (isn’t that a bit fast?) but the flower prints in England are everywhere and it’s addicting. Floral china, flower power back-packs, flora earrings, even most houses have a small garden. My favorite thing about the city (which I may have mentioned already) is its phantom lilacs. These apparitions hit you when you least expect it, walking past a smelly dumpster, and make you think of childhood summers making bouquets and playing Indiana Jones. It all makes me want to get carried away.