A Hodge Podge of My Existence in London

A brief update on the job front – I have a 4th interview next Tuesday. Yes – four! I’ve seriously run out of things to wear, so I guess I’ll be going shopping. Life’s tough!

The sun is shining (on and off) and Phil and I have been taking complete advantage of the summer (because we’re completely horrified to think about fall or winter). We wandered Camden Market last Friday for a bite to eat. Saturday we headed to the British Museum in the morning and explored ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It’s fascinating to see artifacts from our elementary school social studies classes. British students have such an advantage in bringing history to life and helping students understand what the teacher is discussing. I’m sure the students don’t get quite as excited about that as I do. We discovered a new part of London – Primrose Hill, which is where all the celebrities and big names live. We even strolled casually past Gwyneth Paltrow’s house. In London, I can’t for the life of me figure out what makes a better neighbourhood than others. Personally, I like where we live better. We’re central to all forms of transit, the park is right next door and the area has some adorable homes that I love gazing in their windows when it’s dark out and they leave their blinds open. Come on – am I really the only person who does this? Primrose Hill does offer great views of London, which is probably why it appeals to the wealthy.

The Camden Market Horse. My kinda horse.

The Camden Market Horse. My kinda horse.

British Museum. I just liked the patterns.

British Museum. I just liked the patterns.

Ancient Egyptian stool. Ivory inlaid in ebony. Stools are actually a key indicator of wealth back in ancient times, because the only person who was allowed to sit was the king, queen, or high ranking citizens.

Ancient Egyptian stool. Ivory inlaid in ebony. Stools were actually a key indicator of wealth back in ancient times, because the only people allowed to sit were the king, queen, or high ranking citizens.

"Not so" Prim-rose Hill

“Not so” Prim-rose Hill

A home in Gwynnie's neighbourhood.

A home in Gwynnie’s neighbourhood.

We also walked to Swiss Cottage, which is not as cute and quaint as it’s made out to sound. We were on the search for a frisbee. In the store, another customer started chatting with us and invited us for a drink at the restaurant she owned around the corner. In Vancouver, we would have said no, but here, Phil and I thought “We’re just being funny. We should just grab a drink with random strangers. It’s good to meet new people.” So off we went with our new friend. On our way, we passed a road rage incident where a guy jumped out of his mini-van and started yelling at the grocery delivery guy for calling him stupid. I thought we might have to call the cops. We finally got to her Italian restaurant and she told us to take a seat and that we’d be completely taken care of and that we couldn’t pay. Warning bells were going off in my head. When she went in, Phil and I looked at each other and just new something didn’t feel right. I wanted to take off while she was inside, but Phil said that was rude and that we should just tell her we were leaving. We fumbled our way through that – both of us giving different excuses for why we were abruptly leaving. So nothing actually happened. We just didn’t feel right and in my experience, you should always trust that instinct.

Sunday we had amazing Italian food with real Italians at Pizzeria Pappagone. It was a surprise birthday dinner for one of Phil’s colleagues. The food was amazing and the Italians were loud. It really is true what they say about Italians.

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I’ll be honest – this week I’ve felt a little less than motivated to do anything work-wise. I’ve filled my days with events that are happening around London in the thought that I may not have as much spare time in the near future. I went to a lecture on 19th Century Paris as determined through British artists in Paris at The Wallace Collection. The elderly people in the audience, which was everyone except for me, were mostly asleep in the dark auditorium by the end. And I don’t blame them. The Wallace Collection is amazing though. I actually used their furniture pieces in a paper I wrote for Design History at BCIT about Georges Jacob, who designed furniture for Marie Antoinette. I couldn’t believe I was seeing these pieces in person. It was quite a moment (for me – probably not so much for you). And the special collection of watercolour paintings from France in the 19th century are jaw-dropping. It’s the kind of art that moves me. Maybe it’s because I love architecture. There’s something so amazing to me about someone who can paint in such detail, usually whilst sitting outside of the building itself.

The Discovery of Paris: Watercolours by Early Nineteenth-Century British Artists

T.S. Boys, 'The Quai de la Megisserie, the Pont au Change and the Ile de la Cite from the Pont-Neuf' (detail), 1833. Cat. 42. (c) The Trustees of the British Museum.

(images via here)

A settee by Georges Jacob

A settee by Georges Jacob

I also took a free walking tour of Clerkenwell and learned a few bits and pieces about that area of East London, which is where a lot of the design scene is. The name literally comes from Clerks Well, which was/is an underground spring. Now, the well sits in a tiny little cut out of a law office (much to the chagrin of the lawyers), and I don’t think there is actually fresh water still being supplied. In the 1140’s, the Priory in Clerkenwell was set up as the English headquarters of the Ordre of St John, which was a group of monks in Jerusalem who set up a hospital to care for the pilgrims. The Order in England dissolved when King Henry VIII decided he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, so he split England from the Catholic Church, which meant the lands associated with the Order went to the King and his cronies. Since that time, the buildings have been used for different purposes: offices of the Master of the Revels where Shakespeare would have gotten approval for his plays, a printing house for The Gentleman’s Magazine, an early 1700’s coffee shop (that apparently served bad coffee) and taught Latin at the same time. And here I thought Starbucks invented the coffee house. Of course, it wouldn’t be England without the building being a tavern at some point. During World War II, many of the buildings were bombed and today only the crypt is original to the 1100’s. In the 1870’s, the Order of St John was revived and the buildings were gradually converted to serve as headquarters for the Order and its subsidiary – St. John Ambulance.

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What St John’s Gate looks like today

File:View of the south front of the St John's Gate Clerkenwell by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.jpg

What St. John’s Gate would have looked like in the early 1800’s. Steel engraving by Thomas Hosmer Shepher 1829-1831

File:St John's Gate Clerkenwell by John Wykeham Archer.jpg

Have to include a watercolour! Painting by John Wykeham Archer is 1842.

(images via here)

The Crypt

The Crypt. I now know what the mean when in books when they say things like “the damp smell in the air” when referring to really old buildings.

The St. John's Garden which is replicated after the original garden that would have been there. All the plants are medicinal.

The St. John’s Garden which is replicated after the original garden that would have been there. All the plants are medicinal.

IMG_20130806_141744I keep forgetting to mention this amazing cabaret performance I went to with a couple of fellow Canadians at Shoreditch Town Hall. The performances were very intimate with just 30-50 people. The first performer told her life story about how she loved to dance, but she did so in a hilarious way. And the second performance I still can’t quite recover from. It was about all the tragedy that has happened to people who are Jewish, but done by a drag queen and a team of phenomenal dancer/singers. Both performances are really hard to describe.

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For the rest of my schedule, fill in the blanks with croissants, coffee, going to the park and lots of reading. Just how summer should be.

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4 thoughts on “A Hodge Podge of My Existence in London

  1. I’m not sure if your next meeting with the guy who owns the furniture business is an interview or a chance for him to share his vision on what he thinks needs to be done and for you and him to talk about it. More collaboration than interview?
    In this blog I feel like I just spent a few days or a week with you, and it was entertaining and very enjoyable, and heartwarming.
    I just love the experiences that you and Phil are creating in London.
    Love,
    Dad

  2. Great blog today. A wonderful way to start my day. I am on my deck, sipping coffee, beautiful sunshine and feel close to you and phil. I am so jealous too of your wonderful experiences. I love all the educational experiences – architecture; readings; entertainment – ahhhh so rich! Love it. Love it! Love it! Proud of you both and love keeping up to speed on your many many adventures. Loved the piece too about the ” Italian” woman who invited you for a drink! You are a TERRIFIC writer. Love, Love, Love – Auntie Jo xxxxoooxoxoxo

    • Thanks Aunty Jo!!! There are so many things to take in in London that just aren’t available anywhere else. Every day there are events happening. The hard part is determining which to go to. Love you too!!!

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