OR SHOULD I SAY THIS FINE MORNING.
And everyone’s kind of just hugging and goodbye-ing because we’re not sure if we’ll see each other again before we get back to Chicago. We’ve all gotten really close on this trip, and everyone’s been nice and smart and incredible and fun.
I’ll miss them. I’ll miss this.
Also police knocked on my neighbor’s door (they’re also people in the program) because one of the guys is so messed up they’re taking him to the hospital. Oh man.
So for one of our classes, the one about Oscar Wilde, the prof (who like I’ve mentioned before is really cool) assigned us a final essay, but gave us a lot of options. We could do like a regular 5-7 page essay, or we could do something more creative.
I ended up doing a photo essay related to the Picture of Dorian Gray, because Wilde mentions a lot of London places in the book. So I kind of retraced the steps of the characters.
So on Tuesday, after class, I went to Covent Garden and took pictures. Then I went to Mayfair, which is where all the upper-class characters in the book lived. I took pictures of the routes that are described in the book.
Then I got hungry so I went to Pizza Express and that’s when stuff happened.
So I was sitting there with my laptop, eating my pasta, and the waiter was very friendly and pleasant and the food was good. After I got my bill, I paid in cash, leaving a tip as well, and then I got up and left.
I hadn’t gotten very far when someone grabbed me. It was the waiter. He told me to come back with him, that he was sorry but he was going to have to call the police and get them involved.
At which point I was honestly like “What the hell are you talking about?”
He said that I couldn’t just walk away without paying the bill and that I was in the wrong and all this nonsense. I’m normally really afraid of confrontation and I get more scared than anything when people are yelling at me. I usually freeze up. So at first, I thought “Oh, maybe I put down two fives instead of a five and a ten.” So I was trying to tell him “Look, I do have money, it’s not like it was intentional, let me just give you the money.”
He just kept shouting in my face and dragging me down this busy street accusing me of unreasonable things. He was completely wrapped up in his conviction that I had just gotten up and left without paying, so when he reiterated that he was going to call the police, I honestly lost my temper. I had a week left in London and I was not going to have him mess it up for me by getting me in some sort of legal trouble for something I did not even do.
And apparently as soon as he’d seen the table he just charged right out of the restaurant because he’d dropped things on the street and other people were picking them up for him.
So he dragged me back into the restaurant and he pointed angrily to the table, on which sits a 10 pound bill and a few coins, and told me that it was not enough. I had clearly put down TWO bills. I knew that I had. So ignoring what I was starting to see as a ridiculous temper tantrum, I went to the table and started looking for the other bill. At this point I was starting to wonder if it was some sort of scam he was pulling, that maybe he had taken the money or something.
Then another guest spoke up. “There’s a five-pound bill right there,” she said, pointing to the floor. And WHAT DO YOU KNOW, RIGHT NEXT TO THE TABLE THERE IS A FIVE POUND BILL JUST SITTING THERE. GEE I WONDER WHERE THAT CAME FROM.
THAT was when he went quiet. He picked it up, looked at me, and kind of shrugged. “Oh, well, you must have, you know, when you were getting up, your backpack…” At that point I was like “You’re pathetic” and I just left without saying anything else to him. I was kind of trembly and angry the entire Tube ride back.
I actually still get kind of pissed off every time I think about it. Nothing sucks more than being accused of something you didn’t and would never do. It was just absolutely unreasonable. I HAD CLEARLY left money on the table, it wasn’t like I was actually trying to eat and run, and I was clearly not in a hurry to get away from the restaurant considering I was like twenty feet away when he caught up to me. Why in the world would your first thought be “SHE’S A THIEF” instead of “oh, she made a mistake counting the bill” or something. And also? CHECK THE FRIGGIN FLOOR AROUND YOU before you accuse someone and threaten to call the police, would you?
Also, the difference between what he thought I’d paid and what the bill was, not counting the tip that I paid: literally less than two pounds. Yeah, call the police, PLEASE. They’d be more upset with you than with me, let me tell you.
So yeah. That was the afternoon. Then, after the sun had set, I set out to find the shadiest, darkest alleys in Spitalfields that I could photograph. This was again for the photo essay - this time, I was protraying the East End as Wilde did: a den of iniquity, filled with brothels and opium dens and rough people.
It was actually really fun, a little because of the dangerous thrill element. I wanted to do the same thing as Dorian Gray, and kind of wander around without looking exactly where I was going. I was kind of cautious in that I didn’t go anywhere I really didn’t recognize. But I got a bunch of creepy narrow streets and orange lamps. The next morning, I got up before sunrise to take pictures of Covent Garden, because at one point Dorian Gray wanders blindly through the East End and, near dawn, finds himself in Covent Garden.
I don’t know everyone got really drunk tonight? Cause it was almost the end of the program? Even though we hadn’t finished our essays yet? And I only had like two sips of wine but I was really giggly? So maybe I was contact drunk? Also I was really sleepy?
So, like, what?
I really like people tonight.
Monday, after class, I went to Hyde Park. Posh Hyde Park, not Ghetto Hyde Park.
It was kind of really windy and cold and the park was really big, so I decided to travel around by renting a nice Barclays bike, colloquially known as the Boris bikes (after the great Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who is kind of awesome).
You have to pay 1 pound for a 24-hour access period, and then you can rent one. The first half hour is free, so all you have to do is bike around and return it before half an hour is up. Then wait five minutes, and you can check it back out for another half hour. It’s very nice.
Anyway, Hyde Park is a little bit desolate looking since it’s December. They have a Rose Garden and so much open space that all looked kind of beige and gray this time of year. I biked around and found this really interesting bird sanctuary.
I only noticed it because I saw parakeets flying around the trees above my head, and I wondered where they came from. I’ve heard UChicago also has a flock of domestic parakeets who hang out on 55th or at the Point. Anyway, these birds were very cute. I stopped to take pictures and immediately I was accosted by two squirrels.
They clearly really wanted food. They literally stared at me for like five minutes going, “food? food? you have food? what’s that in your pocket? your hand is in your pocket? are you getting food from pocket?” One of them literally went up to my shoes sniffing around. After a long time during which I just stood there staring back at them, they were like “fine. No food. I’m going to go raid the parakeets’ birdhouse for the twentieth time today.”
And the parakeets all flew agitatedly away and then sat on the higher branches with looks on their faces like “seriously dude? AGAIN?”
The west end of the park is Kensington Garden, which I did not go into as I didn’t have that much time. The building on the horizon is the monument Queen Victoria built for her husband Prince Albert after he passed away.
Along the river is also the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, which is this strange ring of trickling water.
The most interesting thing was the Christmas market going on. It was actually a market-cum-festival thingy, with lots of Christmas gift stalls and winter food stands but also if you walked past that there were amusement park rides and carnival games.
I got some churros and some hot spiced cider and I was happy. It gets so dark so quickly these days. By 4 the sun’s already out of sight.
Oh, and there was a marzipan stall! My first time tasting it. It’s good :>
Which was just
I can’t even get over it.