London with Coffee # 7: A Day off from Tourism

I took a day off from my tour of London.

Take a bus or tube … I wasn’t up for it.

I did my laundry.

It takes all day if you don’t know how to set the electronic switches:  wash, extra-wash, spin, extra spin…

Then I mailed some packages.

I shipped my books home.

It had reached the point where I could barely carry them.

But buying books in London is a good thing, is it not?  I supported the London Review of Books shop, Foyles, and Skoob Books.  I wandered into some other shops, but didn’t find anything of interest.  We have some first-rate used bookstores at home, and only Skoob measured up.

The selection at Daunt was very much like Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

If I can get it in the U.S., I don’t buy it.

The shipping costs were ridiculous, but even if I’d bought another bag, I doubt I could have lugged it into the airport.  And where ARE the porters these days?  I’ve seen them at O’Hare, but nowhere else.  And seldom at O’Hare.  I always drag my own luggage.

It was worth it to go to all the bookstores.  Thank you online for recommending them!

CULTURAL OBSERVATIONS.  Londoners don’t smile.  Can that possibly be true?  People are expressionless or frowning.  The area where I’m staying is over-crowded on the weekend, and tourists don’t know where they are or where they’re going.  (Finally I know where I’m going.  Huh!)

On the tube we’re all too cross to smile.

We don’t smile while we’re looking at art.

I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t take notes on the art.

People who work in bookstores don’t smile much, but they are friendly and competent.

People who work in service do often smile, and the smiling helps the communication.  My impression is that many with service jobs are immigrants, or else English is not their first language.

Londoners who give directions often smile.

And then there are some other helpful Londoners who don’t smile.

So I decided to practice my London scowl.

The problem is that when I squint, my mouth curves up into a smile.  I’m not smiling, but you can’t possibly know that.

I am reminded of the characters in Trollope who don’t smile because they have bad teeth.

Or is that in Trollope?

I wonder if we smile more in the U.S.?

SUITCASES.  This is a tourist area, or rather an area of suitcases.  If you lose your way to the tube, just follow the suitcases.  The hotel lobby is always full of suitcases.  And at museums sometimes tourists come in and try to check their suitcases.

“We’re out of room.”

Much gesturing, until the tourists understand that they have to park their suitcases on the free shelves.  They’re not happy about it.

FOOD.  There is some excellent food.  I had some gnocchi that was so wonderful I ignored the fact that there was bacon in it.  (In the U.S. we can’t eat pork right now because a terrible virus has hit the pigs.)

I had a sandwich at Pret-a-Manger, which was recommended by someone online, and it was delicious.

Shopping at the supermarket proved the best and cheapest, though.

I love Rachel’s Yogurt!   And the canned soup is better than that in the U.S.

You can find some good sandwiches.

At home it’s always easier to eat healthy, but there are always salads.

ACCENTS.  “Great,” I said.  I kept saying it.  I never say “Great” at home.

Everything is “gray-y-y-te” here.

I’ve never heard an American accent like mine.

I stepped off the plane and started talking like this.

Let’s talk a little quicker and narrow the vowels.

But it’s easy to say “good” or “great” when you have no idea what someone’s saying.

I almost talked with a Texas accent today.

It’s a good thing I didn’t go to the Oxford Literary Festival, because that might have been too Brideshead Revisited for me, and I can’t imagine what it would have done to my accent.

Too bad I didn’t get to see Sebastian Barry or Magaret Drabble (but she was not talking about her own books).  There really isn’t any reason to see writers though.  It’s their books I love.

COULD I LIVE IN LONDON?  A beautiful city, I absolutely love it, but it makes me appreciate our quietness.  I’m longing for the country!

3 thoughts on “London with Coffee # 7: A Day off from Tourism

  1. London is big and busy and friendly in places. Leicester (where my Middle and Youngest Child are) is a much friendlier city – but much smaller!!


  2. Have you noticed how British people continually say “sorry” – at every juncture? Listen for a bit and you’ll hear it over and over. Ever placating one another 🙂 In the US we are continually saying “thank you,” and “thanks … ” Ever ingratiating ….


  3. Karen, they’ve been very polite.:)

    Ellen, in the US we say “honey,” here it’s “luv.” I’m always surprised by “takeaway” and keep saying “to go.” I haven’t heard many “sorrys,” but I’ve certainly thanked and thank you-ed.


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