29 July, 2010

A little place called Old Malden

So, I have been reading Claire and Bill’s blurbs about their London and have to say that Bill seems awfully defensive about North London. I believe this is because he simply realizes that the south is better. I lived north of the river once, but otherwise the south has always been my home. I am not one to develop ties to an area necessarily as I have always moved around a lot and still do. In the past three years I have lived in three different towns. Currently, I am in a place called Old Malden, which is very near New Malden where I lived last year. This area has the largest South Korean community in Europe. It has a large Korean supermarket, endless Korean restaurants and shops. The South Korean ambassador’s former residence was in Wimbledon so many of the South Koreans wanted to live near the ambassador, but house prices were too high so they opted for the more affordable New Malden.

Old Malden apparently doesn’t exist, according to the post office, so my address actually states that I live in a place called Worcester Park. To be fair the train station I use every day is Worcester Park train station (3 minute walk away) yet I do not live in the same borough as most of Worcester Park. Personally, I am not quite as keen on Worcester Park as I am on New Malden. By this I am actually referring to the high street. Every town, be it in London or not, has a high street. In fact I still go back to New Malden to get my hair cut despite there being plenty of hairdressers in Worcester Park and this is not because I have any particular loyalty towards my hair dresser.

Now, I don’t want you getting the wrong impression. Worcester Park is a nice place. I’ll have you know that our nearest supermarket is Waitrose. When you all get to London you will learn about the supermarket hierarchy here in the UK. Waitrose is quite pricey, but does have good quality produce. It is just not where you would do you weekly shop as it all adds up. Where I live is actually quite secluded and quiet, yet right near a giant pub and the train station. I have Korean neighbours here. I haven’t officially met them but I hear the little girl scream “mom” in Korean at least 5 times a day so know for a fact that they are Korean. She is a very polite little girl (well to me, not so sure what she is like with her mother) so she can get away with it. After the “mom” bit my knowledge of Korean is a bit lacking.

I want to give you a bit of idea about where I live, but sadly forgot the camera. Thankfully a website that ends in ‘edia’ came to the rescue. Amazingly they know what Old Malden is! (p.s. this image has been released to the public domain). This is actually a picture of the local Harvester, which is a pub and a restaurant. They hold little fairs on the green outside the Harvester. I have not been to one, but have seen them whilst driving past......to go to New Malden.

I love how this makes it seem like I live in a little village in the country side. Not quite true, although some of you may consider zone 4 miles away. I also want to include a link to the Worcester Park blog, because I find it quite amusing. I can’t quite believe that there is a blog about Worcester Park. Who would have thought there could be so much to say about one smallish high street?

- The British Dog.

26 July, 2010

You can buy your soap in Britain, too!

I don't really know why oversize suitcases were invented.  It's like there is someone out there taunting students and willing them to over pack.  Over packing is an elementary error that can become painfully apparent the moment you try and pick up your suitcase.  The amazing thing is that a suitcase that is too heavy to move is sometimes not a deterrent to make the packer pack less.  Sometimes it's not until the case is weighed at the airport that the packer decides that there may be too much stuff in their bag.  And, more depressingly, some people don't realize that they have over packed until they get off the plane, having not slept very much, and try to lift their bags off the carousel.  Sometimes this is the moment of sad realization that they didn't need to bring four month supply of soap, shampoo and conditioner from home.
Fall 09 students arriving
September to December in London are not the warmest months, so you probably don't need to designate too much luggage space to summer clothes.  That space may be better used for your coat.  It's easy to forget to pack your coat in August, but often within a few weeks the wind will remind you how much warmer you would be with a coat on.  Another thing that's easy to forget is a towel.  Though you are likely to be looking for furnished flats to live in, this is something that is best provided by you.  You can of course get a towel here when you arrive, but in the past many students have brought an old one from home and then chucked it at the end of the semester.  On the other hand, sheets may be something that are better to purchase here.  Most people don't know until they find a flat what size bed they will be sleeping in.
This is probably what you will feel like when you arrive
You may also want to bear in mind that many students accumulate things that they want to bring back when they leave.  This could be stretching some people's ability to forward plan, but saving space in your suitcase from the beginning is a lot cheaper that having to having to pay for an extra suitcase or post things back home.  Many, though not all, flats have washing machines in them, so you don't need to bring every scrap of clothing that you own.  You may want to have a quick think before you start packing about the kinds of things that you think you will be doing while here.  Is there a dress code at your internship?  Have you picked up your London Centre school uniform from the bookstore?
Spring 10 students arriving
Some good things to remember are that plugs in the UK are different from plugs in the USA and both are different from plugs in continental Europe.  It's wise to bring your own adaptor before you get here, or else you will be carefully conserving your laptop battery.  There is also a different voltage in the UK.  Most laptop power cords have a transformer built into them, but many other electrical goods don't, and no one likes the smell of flaming alarm clock in the morning.  Another good thing to remember is that in these four months abroad you will get to experience food from around the world.  Leave that massive jar of peanut butter at home, give it's place in your suitcase to some more clean socks and consider the joy you will feel when you get home to your old favorite foods that you relinquished for British delicacies.   Before you fly find out the airline's weight limits for luggage.  Hand held luggage scales may make it easier to know how much you are carrying before you even leave home.  And make sure you can lift your own bags; most blocks of flats don't have elevators. 

Here is a parting narrative in the form of four limericks:
There once was a bag from Eau Claire
That had an itch to get out of there
It got packed full of stuff
Which was more than enough
But the packer didn't care.
The bag got on a plane
Though the airline complained
"This bag is too heavy,
It will have to pay a levy.
When we lift it we are pained."
When the suitcase had landed
There was no way to be candid.
It couldn't be lifted
Refusing to be shifted
And its packer just had to leave it stranded.
This story is a sad one,
 So here's the moral, then it's done:
If you are at all in doubt,
Leave those extra jeans out
And ensure that your bag weighs less than a metric tonne.

23 July, 2010

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner...

Reader, should you ever need to provide an example of bias, prejudice or arrogance, read on.

Here’s a question for the apprentice Londoners you are soon to become: what links Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Soho, St James’ Palace, Clarence House [home of Wills, Harry and their dad], Kensington Palace [post divorce home of their late mum], Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, the four Inns of Court [Lincoln's, Gray's, Middle Temple, Inner Temple – where solicitors and barristers are trained], Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Wren churches, the Old Bailey [the Central Criminal Court], the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street [ancient home of the press], the City, 9/10's of the Underground, 11 of the 13 railway termini [including the Eurostar terminus at St Pancras], the Guildhall, Canary Wharf [new home of business], all three Olympic sites [1908, 1948 and 2012], over 150 Embassies and High Commissions, the 73 bus, the major museums [British, V&A, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Science, Natural History, London, Docklands, Soane], all 5 of London’s Premiership football teams, Lords [the home of world cricket], 4 of London’s 5 airports,…? I could go on, but will restrict myself to three more, the Ithaca College London Centre, MY HOUSE and MY CATS! [OK, I know cats own you, not the other way around.] Have you figured out the common denominator yet? Right, they are all in north London because virtually everything that is important in London is north of the river. Sorry, Claire!

Second Question: of the 15 million visitors to London this year, how many have gone south of the river? Is it 1%, 0.5%, 0.75%, or 1.25%? Note well: I am not including the 2 coach loads of Japanese tourists who took a wrong turn in Parliament Square, crossed Westminster Bridge, only to be ambushed by Lambeth authorities demanding to see passports and visas and to inspect luggage for contraband. Since they didn’t have visas, Lambeth authorities imposed a crushing £500 fine on each person and confiscated their coaches, rings, cameras and watches. OK, Ok, I exaggerate, the above is ‘fiction’ [but fiction informs prejudice], but there can be no disputing the fact that the Thames divides London unevenly. The fates have favoured the north; they showered Heavyweight North London with rich and plentiful gifts, while casting only the crumbs to the South.

Oh, my colleague, my co-blogger, she who misguidedly raised London’s North-South divide, do not betray your south London affiliations. No one will take you seriously. It is better to sleep rough north of the river than to maintain a domicile in the south. It is more fun to spend a week at the dentist having all your teeth removed than to party in south London. It is more nutritious to exist on a diet of crisp bread and prunes than to sit at a south London table. Contrasting the merits of north and south London is a bit like betting on the likely outcome of a game between the NY Yankees and the winners of the Little League World Series. Of course, the south has some bits and pieces that merit a brief and hush-hush visit, like Wimbledon [that’s why no British man has won the title in over 70 years; it cannot be that serious if it’s south of the river], Greenwich [abandoned by the royals in the 17th century], Shakespeare’s Globe [wrongly located], the National Theatre & the Old Vic, but 95% of theatre land is north of the river. If officials at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square [north London] read this blog, they might re-think the decision of the State Department to re-locate the Embassy south of the river. Finally, this blogger has to admit that there is an oasis of sanity and good taste in Colliers Wood south London.

Ah, Stoke Newington, the ‘new village in the woods’, its housing stock chiefly mid-Victorian, just off the old Roman road running from Bishopsgate in the City to Lincoln and the north, full of trendy up and coming lawyers, teachers, & other professionals, a little Istanbul given the number of Turkish eateries, clubs, flower shops & barber shops in the High and Church streets [immerse yourself by coming up and sampling some ‘Testes’, the actual name of one of or local restaurants], adjacent to Britain’s largest Hasidic community, where football allegiances are split between Tottenham [Spurs] and Arsenal [Gunners or Gooners], where foxes roam the streets and gardens at night, where the bibulous wait outside the Rochester Castle at 10am on Sunday mornings to resume their pint consumption of Saturday night, where house prices are lower because the tube doesn’t go there, where young artists, musicians and gay people live. Stoke Newington, STOKEY or just plain N16 is a microcosm of the diversity, creativity and inner city problems of this FANTASTIC WORLD CITY.
IMPORTANT NUMBERS are 149, 73, 76, 476, 243, 106, 67: no they’re not my lucky lottery numbers, they’re the buses that take you into and out of my turf, my manor. I’ve lived in ‘Stokey’ for 28 years and I’m a governor of a local primary and a local secondary school. I live in one of the five 2012 Olympic Boroughs [Newham, where the stadium is located, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich]. My borough, Hackney, has the media centre, an important location for IC students from the Park school who hopefully will be interning here in summer 2012.

Finally, where lies my football allegiance in the country that invented the game? The cats give it away: Kolo and Sami – no Spurs fan would name his cats thus. And while on the subject of football, one of my favourite things, what’s the score over here? Alas it’s 3 to the south [maybe 4 if we count our postman who helps with odd jobs] and only 2 to the north. Although we are currently a goal down, Elsie, the other northerner on staff, would agree with me that the north is where’s it’s all happening. And if I might be prejudiced, she certainly is not. Stay tuned for the voice of sanity, Elsie’s blog.
-The only Dog from north of the river (and Elsie)

16 July, 2010

Claire's Camberwell

London loves its rivalries.  You can be an Arsenal supporter or a Chelsea supporter (or any of the other 9 football teams in London), you can vote Labour or Conservative (or Liberal Democrat or Plaid Cymru or Pirate Party UK or any one of over 100 parties listed standing in the 2010 UK General Election), you can be a North Londoner or a South Londoner (not to mention an East Londoner or a West Londoner).  The North/South divide created by the River Thames is one of London's oldest rivalries, as the water creates a natural barrier.  Both sides have their pros and cons: North London is better serviced by the London Underground system, while South London often has more affordable property.  For the first three years that I lived in London I was a North Londoner and proud of it.  It seemed that with each passing year I moved further and further north, going from Camden to Highgate to Muswell Hill, sinking my roots deeper and deeper into the north.  But then I left London.  When I came back I looked up an old friend who was thinking of moving and we decided that we would become flatmates.  I was beginning a job in London Bridge and she was starting work that would keep her traveling between Chelsea and Camberwell.  With two out of three of those locations in South London, that was where we decided to base our flat hunt.  In the course of about three days we had found a great flat in Camberwell.

Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago I like streets with leafy trees combined with some sounds of traffic.  When we first saw our street I knew I already liked it.  With lovely terraces of Victorian and Georgian homes, a handfull of bus stops within 5 minutes walk and being virtually on top of a railway station, my location is both picturesque and practical.  I can travel to South Kensington in about 35 minutes, Marylebone in about 45 minutes and London Bridge in about 8 minutes.  There is an enormous grocery story about 7 minutes walk from my flat which is open 24 hours (excepting Sunday hours, which are shortened for most large chain stores in the UK) where I like to shop at with my flatmate around 10pm on Thursday evenings so that we can go "Weirdo Watching".  The theory behind this is that since this is a kind of weird time to go grocery shopping, the people there must be weirdos.  Clearly my flatmate and I are completely normal, and are just interested in people watching at the same time as picking up a few groceries after we have watched as much QI and Have I Got News For You as we can handle (I used to have a similar hobby when I was a student in Ithaca, though the trips would happen after watching about 4 hours of Law and Order).

Part of what makes Camberwell such an interesting place to live is the input from some of London's universities.  Camberwell College of Art (part of the University of the Arts London) and King's College Hospital (part of the University of London) give a bustling atmosphere to the area during the week, while it remains a quiet, residential area on the weekends where the pubs spill over with football fans.  Camberwell's cuisine comes from all over the world with restaurants serving Indian, Greek, Chinese, Afro-Carribean and loads of other foods.  For parks, there is Camberwell Green, Burgess Park and, my favorite, Ruskin Park.  Ruskin Park is situated on a hill, and from the top of the park you can look north towards the rest of London, seeing Battersea Power Station, the London Eye, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf on a clear day.  For wildlife there is a metal wolf near Denmark Hill train station that quietly stalks the small family of metal sheep across the road.

Though you wouldn't know it from my accent, I now consider myself a South Londoner.  This made me all the more proud to read that in 2005 Time Out London took a tally on various aspects of the North/South London debate and gave more points to South London.  Whoop!
-One of the three dogs (and Elsie)

12 July, 2010

Meet the Three Dogs (and Elsie)

We are so excited about the upcoming semester at the Ithaca College London Centre that we are starting a blog! The aim of this blog is to talk about life in London, to give you an idea of what lies ahead while studying with us in London and we might even mention a little bit about ourselves. A lot of students study abroad hoping to immerse themselves in another culture. You will be pleased to know, despite the fact that an American, a Canadian and a token Welsh person are running this programme, we have jointly spent a total of 55 years in London. As foreigners ourselves (Welsh are not English) we are experts at getting to know the locals and have even picked up some local slang:

"Claire climbed the Apples today and recovered with a Rosy"
"Claire weren't 'alf knackered after climbing them stairs. She was gasping for a cuppa."

One of your first projects when you arrive will be the flat hunt.  Hopefully you have all started thinking about whom you would like to live with, what your budget is and possibly even started looking at different areas of London.  The Queen may have rooms to rent in Buckingham Palace, and with she and the family being out of town on the weekends, it should be an excellent house for hosting parties.  I needn't even mention the other parties that Princes William and Harry will be likely to invite you to.  But in case she falls through, you may want to start working on plan B.  On a serious note though, to get you thinking about where you are going to live in London our next blog will be about where we all live.You will get to hear about a great place in North London called Stoke Newington, a trendy place in South London called Camberwell and a more suburban place in South West London called Worcester Park. If you are lucky there might even be some photos!  We will also give you some information about areas of London that previous students have lived in recent semesters.  Zone 1, central London, probably has the most transport links and ease of access, but it is also the one of the most expensive places to live.  We three live in zones 2 and 4, with average commute times around 45 minutes.  Be open minded and have a look around at your options when you get here!

-The Three Dogs (and Elsie)