You may remember a post I did a few weeks ago concerning the differences between the UK and the US (Part 1) personally noted during this summer’s British Studies adventure. I’m an American commenting on what I saw in the United Kingdom.
One of my fellow British Study librarians posted an article from The Guardian where an Englishman (Paul Owen) comments on the differences he’s noted while living in New York. It’s highly enlightening and a wonderfully opposite perspective from mine!
…funny enough, though, we note some of the same differences.
“…2. You need to tip for everything. If you think maybe you should tip, you should tip. You should be tipping me for this article.
…21. Yeah, that’s right. And bragging is considered perfectly OK.
22. And so is telling someone sincerely that you think they, or something they have done, is amazing and fantastic.
23. I mean it.
24. No, really.
…30. If you’ve got good health insurance, the doctor will give you everything you need …and more.
31. If you haven’t… Oh, God. Good luck to you.
…39. Order a cup of tea in a cafe or restaurant and you will be confronted with a glass or mug of lukewarm water with a teabag of some alarming flavour, like pomegranate or boysenberry, floating sadly on the top like a punctured dinghy, and some “milk” that is probably 50% cream, delivered on request. I’m just going to say it once: the water needs to be at boiling point for the tea to infuse!!!
…47. The weather really means business.
48. Americans are acutely conscious of race, in the way British people are acutely conscious of class…”
My two favorite worlds are those of books and music.
Books contain stories and reading those words allows me to experience the character’s emotions and take a journey with him or her. Obviously I’m not going to read War and Peace for some light beach reading; I decide what to read based on how I want to feel.
Books and music are two sides of the same coin in my mind because stories are not innately tangible. They need a medium. Books, voices, sheets of music, instruments… they’re equivalent to me.
Drum and Bugle Corps (or drum corps for short) is like professional marching band. It’s INTENSE. There are no woodwinds, only brass and percussion. Corps travel the US all summer, sleeping on high school gymnasium floors, practicing outdoors up to 14 hours a day, every day but a few. They travel by coach and compete in stadiums all over the country. It’s like professional marching band… but they don’t get paid… they have to pay to do this. It’s life changing, though! The arts are an important aspect of life, just as libraries are an important part of any community.
11 and half minutes is finite.
No matter what you’re afraid of. Falling down. Legs turning to dust. Failing to do something well. Every runthrough will end in no more than 11 and a half minutes. All comes to pass.
You have a greater chance of dying in a marching accident than in a plane crash. Or a shark attack.
Drum corps is ABSURDLY dangerous. You run around a field with up to 50 pounds of equipment, multitasking for 11 and half minutes with 149 other people, and your drill writer literally writes dots inches apart from one another.
If you’re in pit and don’t march, you load and unload thousands of pounds of equipment from a truck 700 times a day.
Sometimes it’s 110 degrees outside.
Also, there are thunderstorms and most of your equipment conducts electricity.
If you survive even one year of this, you have a guardian…
Imagine… you are travelling to another country. Things will be very different from your everyday life.
That may sound obvious, but until you’re actually there you don’t fully realize the extent of how different everything is. Here is a list of things that I found different between the UK and US.
Currency -Study it a little, you’ll thank yourself. The first time I tried to pay for something I was flustered. I didn’t know the coinage yet, and you don’t swipe a card with Pin & Chip technology… you insert from the bottom.
Food -I only traveled to the UK, so most foods were fairly similar though they have dishes that we don’t (bangers and mash, black pudding, haggis, meat pies, etc.). It’s not that big of a cultural jump. Try them and have fun! Expand your horizons!
-Recognize that the UK uses different names, for example:
bacon=a ham-like meat, similar to what we call Canadian bacon
-Full English breakfasts consist of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes… and I think it’s delicious. Some people think the beans are weird, but try it! Full Scottish breakfasts add black pudding and have potato cakes.
-Water can be still (like tap water) or sparkling (carbonated).
-Coffee is taken quite seriously in the UK, I think. Every place I went had an espresso machine used to make coffee. There wasn’t any of the percolated, instant stuff! I was glad that I looked at a coffee infographic that described different coffee drinks… this isn’t your Starbucks macchiato, people.
-Tea is very serious in the UK, especially England. It’s hot tea, by the way. Americans have a fascination with iced tea and you might find it in the UK, but if tea is on the menu I’d bet money that it is severed hot.
-Usually tea is served in a pot and you get a couple of cupfuls out of it.
-English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and black tea blends might be severed with milk. You’ll be asked if you want any milk or it will be brought in a tiny pitcher; they won’t just put it in your cup, don’t worry.
-I wouldn’t ask for lemon slices… that’s generally not a thing… I think.
-You’ll find sugar on tables in restaurants, and your choices are brown or white. I rarely found sugar substitute packets. Also – sugar cubes are darling!
-Now this may be a stretch and I don’t know how accurate this is, but I theorize that UK food products use fewer preservatives and chemicals. This has the downside of not lasting as long as US products, but possibly it’s healthier? Maybe I can’t claim that UK food is altogether healthier, but it certainly tasted wonderful.
-A lot of European countries eat with a fork in their left hand and a knife in their right hand… normal so far for Americans… but they don’t switch the fork back and forth! I’ve known several Europeans who thought it very strange that we cut our food using the method picture below, set down the utensils, and switched the fork to the right hand in order to eat. Why not just keep the fork in the left to shovel into your mouth? Therefore, the British keep the fork in the left. I suggest trying it! What do you have to lose? You’re visiting another country, so why not “do as the Romans do” and so on?
-I was told UK beer is stronger than US beer. I prefer craft beer in the US, so I didn’t notice a big difference… but I just drank with meals.
-The drinking age in the UK is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for distilled alcohol.
-Check out my Food page to see examples of what you can find in the UK!
Restaurants -This isn’t the US anymore and the customer is, most definitely, not always right. You won’t get your way all the time. Don’t make a ruckus and expect to be compensated for throwing a fit. That’s rude and a “typical” American attitude.
-Like the US, some places want you to seat yourself while others ask that you wait to be seated… there weren’t always signs, though. Just ask someone!
-Pubs general had you find a table and then go to the bar to order food and drink. Remember your table number when you order so they can bring the food to you!
-Some places had you order before bringing you the appropriate utensils for your meal. It makes sense to me! Not everyone uses their spoon and then it’s unnecessarily washed… this way it’s more efficient.
-Tipping is a tricky topic. I don’t think you should tip in most places because the UK actually pays a living wage for service staff and bartenders… but then some places like you to tip! (Bartenders love US tourists because they habitually tip.) Some places tack on the gratuity, too, so always check your ticket.
-Speaking of tickets, you’ll most likely have to ask for your bill to be brought to the table. Servers don’t rush their customers out of the restaurant (again because they’re paid a living wage and don’t need to turn tables). Restaurant-goers can take their time eating the meal and don’t need to rush off after 45 minutes. Servers leave you alone the majority of the time, but don’t take that as rude! Kick back and enjoy the meal…
-Bathrooms don’t have outlets. Don’t expect to plug in your hairdryer, straightener, or curling iron.
-UK outlets are a stronger wattage from US and are an inverted three prong from the US.
-Outlets have a switch next to them to turn them on and off. Remember to switch it on when you charge your phone! …I learned that the hard way. 😉
-A lot of buildings don’t have air conditioning… it’s only hot for a little while! You can usually open the windows. That being said, large international chains (like Hilton) most likely have A/C.
-There’s a duvet cover on the bed and usually no sheets.
Transportation -In London transportation around the city was fairly simple to understand. The Underground was a beautiful, beautiful, fast system; the buses worked well to get around and see the city.
-When using escalators, stand on the right. I repeat: stand on the right!
-Because it’s a city of many people, it takes extra time to get around. (It took an hour to go 10 miles when visiting Kew Gardens.)
-They drive on the left side of the road.
-When crossing the street look right first, since they drive on the left. Basically make sure your head is on a swivel looking right, left, right, left…
-Use the crosswalks. They’re there because drivers pay attention to them… usually.
-They have more roundabouts than the US. AND THEY KNOW HOW TO DRIVE THEM TOO!
-When using transportation, especially the Underground, the British don’t really talk. Or make eye contact. It’s a little odd for someone coming from the Midwest where EVERYONE smiles and nods in acknowledgement of someone, but it was nice not having to fake small talk. Everyone minded their own business.
For fun! -Before leaving for the UK and while in London, Anglophenia on YouTube was a joy to watch! She explains most things British and it’s hilarious. Check out the videos! With titles like “How to Swear Like a Brit,” why shouldn’t you?!
Summary of my last days in London! *Prepare for long-ish post covering four days.*
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Not a lot went on this day.
I caught up with blog posts! It took several hours of work in the computer lab and by the time I finished I wasn’t feeling making any pilgrimages anywhere in London. I ended up walking down to the South Bank of the Thames, getting a burrito, and people watching.
People watching is one of my favorite activities… and no I wouldn’t say it’s weird! 🙂
Later that evening I went thought my pile (yes, pile) of gifts to see if I had gotten something for everyone on my list. The answer was no, unfortunately, so you know what that means? MORE SHOPPING!
Sunday, July 26, 2015
I treated myself to some brunch! It was Eggs Benedict and it was beautiful.
(Pictures on Food in England/Scotland page)
That was the highlight for the day really. 🙂
I walked down to the restaurant located in the BFI and wrote in my journal. It was raining, music was playing, coffee steaming… all very serene. I sat near the window and watched the rain make ripples in the puddles.
Rainy Sundays are perfect for waxing poetic, don’t you think?
I then walked down to Westminster area and Trafalgar Square to find some touristy souvenir things for the last few people on my list. I had a little bit of luck! I purchased a few picture frames, pins, and a pair of novelty socks for myself. 🙂 I have a thing for novelty socks. Why wear plain white socks when they could have pictures of a double-decker bus on them?! It’s a conversation starter! I wear Christmas socks all year long and I’m NOT ashamed. Novelty socks make a great gift… but I digress. Still no decent fudge boxes.
I still need to have a last tea too! I’m definitely going to miss that.
Monday, July 27, 2015
I slept later than I intended, but we’re all guilty of that every once in a while.
(Okay. So maybe a little more often than “once in a while,” but still fine!) 🙂
I turned in my computer card (thus why no blog posts until the Sunday after returning to the US) and made my way to the Strand. Remember the meat pie I had way back in the first week? (See Food page.) Well, I wanted to try their vegetarian pie. It had sweet potatoes, spinach, and goat cheese! GOAT CHEESE. It’s delicious, and I tend to want to eat something if it even has a hint of the stuff on it. It’s a weakness…
Anyway, I got there after they had opened but before the kitchen started serving food. No big deal! I wrote in my journal and had a lovely pot of tea. When the kitchen opened at noon I promptly ordered my pie and devoured it when I was served. It was delicious! I highly recommend it… 🙂
Resuming my quest for fudge, I continued walking the Strand and turned north at St. Paul’s Good ol’ St. Paul’s! From our very first student day, I remembered the Museum of London had lovely little boxes of fudge and decided to get several boxes there. They were cute and I was supporting the Museum!
Later I prepared for the… *dun dun duuuuun*… exam.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Don’t worry guys. The exam was a piece of cake!
Our Library Science class met for lunch at the King’s College cafeteria and went in a circle talking about our topic. We had to answer three questions: 1) What is our research topic and subsequent questions? 2) What libraries/archives/museums/collections/people did we talk to or use while in London? 3) Why is our research significant? Easy peasy! It was a maximum of 3 minutes and of course I had notes!
Not knowing what else to do with my final day and not having my Oyster card (used for the Underground and buses) any longer since it had been 30 days, I wanted to find some place interesting that had tea within walking distance.
My answer was the Tate Modern.
I know this art gallery/museum will not be for everybody… not everyone enjoys the style “Modern”… but I LOVED this museum. Art does not have to be stuffy or high brow or elitist. Art can be shocking or pretty. Art can be ugly and confusing. Art can be complex, intricate or puzzlingly simple. Art can simply be anything. Here are a few of my favorites:
Very simple… and dark…
Sculptural (an engine covered in copper sulfate and one that uses the rope/partition as part of the art)…
And Pop Art…
I apologize for not having all the names. I wasn’t thinking when I took the photos. I’ll try and look through the Tate website to update the names.
This is the place where I got to have my last tea, too. (Food page)
Several in our group went to dinner at a local Mediterranean restaurant and our our last dinner. It was delicious and fun to have enough space to eat as a group.
I’m so glad to have met the people that I did! Our LIS class is very special to me and hope that you all get to experience life a little outside your comfort zone. That’s where memories are made!
Friday, July 24, 2015
An independent study day!!
And I’m working on blog posts and sending emails.
I did have a couple of fun things planned for today though. 🙂
Firstly, I visited Borough Market. It’s the oldest open air fruit and veg markets in London and still operates Wednesday through Saturday.
I visited on a Friday afternoon in the rain (thankfully it’s partially covered) and the aisles still looked like this:
It’s busy for a good reason though! Everything… and I truly mean everything… looked and smelled delicious. Check out the Food… page to see my venison burger.
That’s only a picture of fruit! There were stalls for cheese, meat (dried and fresh), wine, oil, honey, bread, desserts… the list goes on!
I’m happy and sad that I only found this the last week before I return to the states. I can see why Londoners purchase food for only a few days at a time. The lack of preservatives (*cough* unlike America) makes HUGE difference. I could have easily spent waaaay more than I did. My only reservations were living in a dorm room without pots and kitchen utensils.
Later in the afternoon I visited Charing Cross Road and Cecil Court where the wonderful world of old and rare books lives. Seriously, though, there are tons of little book shops in this area with some great things for cheap… or expensive.
I had to find something… much to my luggage’s horror… and I found a signed, US first edition copy of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I read it several years ago after picking up a copy at a Half Price Books outlet store. Now I have a first edition! And signed!
I like signed books… I have a couple at home. 🙂
Lastly, I visited the Royal Opera House to see the Welsh National Opera perform Peter Pan. Peter Pan was written by J. M. Barrie, a Scottish author, originally as a play. The performance was directed by Keith Wagner and composed by Richard Ayres with libretto by Lavinia Greenlaw.
The production was much darker than I anticipated. The music was very dissonant with many clashing chords; the words sung didn’t rhyme like expected. Peter was sung in falcetto by a man, unlike the musical interpretations where a woman performs the part. Mr. Darling was Captain Hook and Mrs. Darling was Tiger Lily as expected. There were many grownup themes to the opera, which was wonderful to think about. It was commissioned as a part of the Welsh National Opera’s “Terrible Innocence” season… and I think that feeling was carried out perfectly.
Go support your local arts! It doesn’t have to be a fancy national opera house… go see the local high school drama or the community theatre. I think that the arts enhance life and give a new perspective on old stories.
I’ve visited a LOT of places this month and I’m starting to get a little bit of information overload. This post isn’t going to have a lot of technical information, because, well… I don’t understand the technical information.
I use computers.
You do too! Look at you now!
Do I understand them? Veeerry minimally.
The National Museum of Computing has pretty much the full history of computing in their buildings. It all started in WWII when some very intelligent people wanted to beat the codes created by other very intelligent people. Every heard of The Imitation Game staring Benedict Cumberbatch?
That movie only touches on the (somewhat inaccurate) history of computers.
Now for some cool pictures of computer stuff of which I won’t tell you much…
The Colossus Computer is considered the first programmable, electronic, digital computer. It’s program is a paper tape with holes punched in it where the man on the right is. It was developed for British code breakers to help analyse the Lorenz cipher. (Read more on Wikipedia)
The WITCH is next.
What does WITCH stand for you may ask?
It is the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell.
…say that five times fast…
It is the oldest functioning electronic stored program computer in the world… (Wikipedia is so helpful). It’s also very visual with lots of flashing lights which makes it perfect for school children and librarian students.
This is just a picture of what computer memory used to look like…
Later we casually passed by the entire evolution of personal computers. No big deal.
Coming back to Alan Turing, whom Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed above, there’s also a replica Bombe that Turing originally created.
I also got to see my second Enigma machine of the trip… (see the first one in this post!)
The tour guide in Bletchley Park was fantastic. He walked us around the grounds and told us the story of what it was like here during WWII. He made it come alive. So many secrets have been revealed, but so many secrets I’m sure have been kept quiet.
Upon arrive back to London, I quickly scurried over to the Globe Theatre to watch Measure for Measure. It was a great time and I was just a groundling!
You get to stand right next to the stage and the actors even interact with you… if it’s a comedy. I’m sure there isn’t as much ribaldry during a tragedy play.
But seriously, groundling tickets are only £5 and you get to see a world-renowned play in a world-renowned theatre! It’s a no-brainer!
We visited the Barbican Centre in the City of London borough today where the Barbican public library is located.
The library is open Monday through Saturday and is the leading lending library in the City of London. It opened in 1982, though the space was not designed as a library. It was an art center surrounded by residences in a major financial district. There are many online resources and an online catalog, but you have to be a member to access those. Anybody can join to view the materials in the library, but can’t be a member unless you regularly visit the physical library. Financial reasons…
The library has done tons of outreach, but still remains hidden. The Barbican Centre is almost a city in itself, but not everyone realizes a library lurks on the 2nd floor.
Above you’ll see the fiction section. To the right is the London and classic crime collections. Down to the left of this photo you’d find the children’s library (which is booming, by the way!) Behind us is the art collection and movie area. Behind me and to the left you’d find the music library.
The music library at the Barbican is the second largest public music repository in London, behind Westminster, I believe. There are hundreds of scores, theory books, magazines, periodicals, reference works, CDs, and DVDs for people to check out. The CD selection is the largest in London at 16,000 materials. Two pianos are available to use for hour-long periods. There’s even an exhibition area out front (currently being used by BBC)!
The head of the Barbican Library also came to speak with us for a moment. The main takeaway is for libraries to “be relevant.” It’s just that simple. Libraries, especially public institutions, should be something for everybody. She mentioned the Sieghart Report on Public Libraries as an interesting and poignant read.
Our guide was Richard Jones who is the author of the guide book Walking Dickensian London. He’s a qualified Blue Badge tourist Guide and certainly knows his stuff!
We walked and talked for about an hour and a half and visited many sites that influenced and inspired Dickens. He was able to quote from the books, give insights into Dickens’s personal life, and brought London to life through Dickens’s eyes.
The cool part for me was seeing some of the places mentioned in Bleak House, which I read in an undergrad class.
Excuse me, while I quote from Bleak House: “LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth… Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city… The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery. Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.”
Absolutely stinging isn’t it?!
The ticket price was only £10 and well worth it for a little bit of nerding out! We walked quite a bit, but Richard took us to several spots off the busy streets where we could sit and rest for a while. I even got a teacup and saucer at the Museum! One of our group went early to have tea and cake at the Museum. You won’t be disappointed if you like Dickens and choose to visit!
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
We visited Kew Gardens today! Like the title declares!
Kew Gardens is located roughly 10 miles west of London proper (Westminster, the Tower Bridge, and such). We took the overground train from Waterloo to Richmond, and then the underground from Richmond back to Kew Gardens. Those 10 miles took 40 minutes to complete… something amazing for one who lives in small-town Indiana.
Right outside of the actual gardens is the Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives building.
We were lucky enough to hear a presentation on Beatrix Potter in relation to Kew’s Library given by Andrew Wilcher. He knew the man, Leslie Linder, who broke Beatrix Potter’s diary code!
Background: Beatrix Potter is famously known as the author of the Peter Rabbit books.
She also had an intense fascination with fungi and other plants. She drew many illustrations, consulted with botanists at Kew Gardens, and even presented a scientific paper on the germination of spores to the Linnean Society in 1897, though her theories were dismissed. Now we recognize the truth to her findings.
Beatrix Potter wrote in her journal using a completely made up language, though a simple letter for letter substitution. Leslie Linder broke this code and transcribed her journals in 1958.
The key to cracking the code was the phrase “execution of Louis XVI in 1793.” She left XVI and 1793 in plain English for Linder to research! Isn’t that a bit of real-life spy fiction?
The materials shown to us were no less amazing. Botanical texts are always popular because they often have beautifully colored illustrations. We all know that photographs weren’t available before the 19th Century, so accurately depicted plants in books were essential for identification. “If this plant looks like this picture in the book, it’s poisonous and I shouldn’t eat it! Golly gee, thanks for helping me out book!”
The oldest book in their collection shows what I like to think is a sick man in bed, either from a plant or waiting to be saved by a plant.
For you Harry Potter fans… it also has an illustration of Mandrake root!
The next two show great illustrations of flowering plants at all stages of growth. Photographs can only show a plant at the stage of growth when the photo is taken – drawings can show all stages!
The final is just a really great representation of a title page… and it has to do with plants in America! There are only 30 copies of this book known in the world and each has a different hand-painted title page design.
The Herbarium was also really interesting, though we only got to view it for a few minutes. Think of it like a library for dried plants.
You need an appointment to access this library though.
Of course we had to visit the actual garden area too! It was definitely a highlight and a place where you should visit if you have a free afternoon in the London area.
Montage of flowers… GO!
My favorites in England have got to be the roses…
It was a beautiful afternoon with perfect weather and I highly suggest going! Even the food was good!
Monday, July 20, 2015
“Snap back to reality.
Oh there goes gravity.
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked…” (Lose Yourself by Eminem)
That’s right – I started this post with Eminem… because it fits.
Time to travel back to London.
I shall miss Scotland.
It’s such a lovely place.
The people are wonderful.
Everything is green.
The food was fantastic. And filling. (See Food… page)
Also the lyrics above reference “Rabbit,” which I can only assume is the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland…
…who is having her 150th anniversary this year!
It’s about making connections, people. Everything comes full circle. 🙂
Anywho. Today was a whole day of sitting in the train station and then sitting on the train. It only took about 4 hours to get back from Glasgow to London. Then I went grocery shopping. Yep. It’s an exciting life.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Off to Glasgow today! It’s the largest city in Scotland with over 2 million people in the Greater Glasgow area. The architecture is definitely more modern than Edinburgh, but I only spent a single day there.
We made it the Albion Hotel in Glasgow, the northwest corner of the city, and headed off to breakfast. Check that out on the Food in England/Scotland page. I chose this place because it was near the University of Glasgow and that’s what I really wanted to visit.
In the afternoon, our group headed down to the University and oogled all the buildings.
I popped my head into the Library for a moment, and the security guard was nice enough to let me wander without being a student of Glasgow. Just being a student was enough for him, thankfully. I wandered around, but it was a Sunday and students were only allowed self-service. That’s enough for them, but I didn’t get to talk to any librarians…
We then wandered down to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The Gallery and Museum was opened in 1901 as a part of the Glasgow International Exhibition. Interestingly, the architects focused on Spanish Baroque styles for the building. The collections are found in 22 themed galleries, which include French Impressionists, Scottish art, Ancient Egypt, natural history, and world cultures.
*Side note to my research: during WWII the museum materials were scattered around the country and hidden, which was fortunate because a bomb landed near by, shattering 50 tons of window glass and damaging sculptures in the central hall. Everyone was affected by the Wars…
Upon entering there was a surprise organ concert by John Kitchen! The organ has made its home in the Central Hall since 1902. John Kitchen was a Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh until 2014 when he retired. He now travels the country giving organ recitals and we were fortunate enough to hear him!
I did not get a chance to visit all of the rooms in the museum, but I did see some pretty amazing materials by well known artists. Especially in the French gallery:
The Scottish gallery focused on artists from Scotland and depictions of Scottish events. The gallery held:
The gallery and museum was huge, free, and easy to find. I’m glad I got to spend an afternoon wandering the halls and reflecting on art.