December 2, 2010
London notes – 02-12-10
They’re decorating Trafalgar Square (or as I say it, apparently, Traf-AW-lgar), for Christmas and Hanukkah. I wandered through the National Gallery while I was there. I especially loved the depictions of daily life in Europe in past centuries – and getting to see the amazing self portrait by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in person was a spectacular highlight. I read Germaine Greer’s The Obstacle Race as a teenager, where I became fascinated with Le Brun’s story among others.
I moved into my new room yesterday. This is the westward view from the terrace outside the front door, the towers of the City in the distance under the grey December sky. It has been snowing here, and the snow is sticking. I like the attitude towards snow here – everything pretty much shuts down and its OK to stay in and take it easy. Beats the macho Canadian thing, risking your life battling the elements for the most mundane reasons.
The building I’m living in is sort of like townhouses stacked one on top of another, you enter from a balcony/hall thing on the outside of the building. The townhouse I am in is full of nice young people from France and Spain.
My room is on the top floor, facing east. More about that later this week – I’m currently setting up a sleeping/living/working space in about 60 square feet (less than 10% of what I had in Toronto), that deserves a post of its own.
I am enjoying discovering my neighbourhood – Bethnal Green/Brick Lane area. It is “the Parkdale of London” as Shawn Micallef put it. I’ve never lived in a hip part of town before, unless you count that summer I spent in Kensington Market in Toronto. It is something to see so many creative young people, fashion and galleries, immigrants from everywhere, the United Nations of Takeout, and of course classic East London accents (like a Guy Ritchie movie), traditional caffs… all over the streets, it is very lively.
Just a couple blocks away is a huge art supply store, and when I was coming back with my new task lamp I saw a sheep picking at grass under the snow through the fence. A little urban farm, I think for children to visit, it is right beside a school. The sheep looked very cozy in their wool despite the snow.
The ponies (donkeys, OK) were wearing warm jackets, looking cute even though they’re bundled up. I admit in my old parka I’m feeling less than stylish among so many fashionable girls – but I am definitely warmer, and so glad that I brought it.