So I find myself in England for no particular reason. Well, I’m here with a study abroad group, so I suppose that constitutes a broad reason. But as to particulars I’m drawing a blank. What exactly am I doing here? Learning? I think not; we spend all our time in museums. Growing as a person? Unlikely, considering I’ve eaten McDonald’s at least fifteen times since we landed. Maybe I’m just here to accrue new material for a Calliope post, my one gateway to fame and recognition.1
Do I miss vacation time in America, where I could sleep as late as I want and eat McDonald’s without feeling guilty? Of course I do. But there is no better teacher than one from a country besides your own; that’s why an American professor’s assistants are always from a foreign country. BAM. All insensitive kidding aside, it’s really quite fine here, in the merry old land of England. It’s really only cold in the morning; by midday it may get all the way up to seventy, as it did this afternoon following three consecutive days of rain.
The differences between our countries can be fairly jarring though. For instance, in America you can go more than three feet without a tourist destination blocking your path. And the countryside of America does not offer spectacular vistas broken up with thousand-year-old castles. On the more personal level, the exchange rate is for (expletive)2. I withdrew 150 pounds for a run down Portobello Road and it charged me 230 American. Besides that, there are no free refills, except on water, but only if you ask for tap water. Otherwise they’ll bring you a bottle of mineral water, and that’s all you’re getting for your 1.65 pounds (2.10 American).
There are some good differences though. Proximity to France has given the average Briton fry-making skills the likes which Gordon Ramsey can only dream of. Every fry, or chip, here is crisped to perfection, with thirty percent more potato than any fry from America, sizzling fresh off the fryer; now I’ve said fry so much I’m starting to salivate. Burgers are thicker, sauces are richer, and the entire country drinks Coca-Cola. Because honestly, f***3 4Pepsi. Plus, both the legal drinking age and the legal gambling age are 18 here, which leads to an always funny scenario of a study-abroad group made up of freshmen stumbling jubilant and confident into a casino and coming out drunk and poor, phoning home for daddy to lend them another grand.
You’d need a lot more than a grand to be getting by on your own though, I’ll tell you that much. We’re staying in some flats in Bloomsbury, just west of London proper. I’m told the going price for one flat, which is one floor of a building, mind, is 3-5 million pounds. This might explain why tuition for this program was so astronomical. But hey, we’re pretty centrally located, right next to a Tube (subway) station, and the McDonald’s is just around the corner!
I’m joking of course. We call that wit in some circles. I’ve had some fairly good authentic island food, but even better Indian. There’s a place here, Brick Lane; every single restaurant there is Indian food, and a few Middle Eastern places as well. The multicultural fusion process seems to be getting on better here. Except one time when we were going to the National Gallery, a huge group of people were protesting about something. A small unrecognized African nation called Biafra?
I find even that protest encouraging though; you’d never see a group of 100+ African-Americans peacefully protesting in front of a national monument. The police would have turned it into a riot by the time the tenth one showed up.5
The weather is dreary though. One of the guys I’m rooming with suffers from depression, or as we call it in America, being a great big baby who is perfectly capable of getting better if he just ignores his biology, and the climate has not been kind to him. We saw the sun on the first day, and after that it was clouds all the way through, which does nothing to explain why everyone here is so bronzed Or maybe that’s just my pasty inferiority complex talking.
Oh yea, art. Britain has a lot of that. So much so one finds it suspicious that it’s all the sole intellectual property of an island. Well, in fact it isn’t. There’s quite a debate over that right now concerning the Elgin Marbles. Upon first hearing that I thought it was ridiculous that two countries should get so worked up about some tiny glass balls, but as it turns out the Elgin Marbles are several dozen decorative chunks of the Parthenon gifted to a Brit named Elgin some centuries ago, at a time when Greece was being ruled by the Ottomans. That being no longer the case, Greece is demanding their chunks of worn stone back.
The arguments on each side are pretty ridiculous. Greece claims it wants to put the Parthenon back together, in all its glory, forgetting or neglecting to mention that several chunks of it have been built into newer national landmarks, like the Washington Monument. Britain remains a passively superior jerk about the whole issue, claiming Greece is not secure enough to house and display the Marbles. Which may well be true now, what with the financial collapse and the influx of refugees. My stance on this is that you go to Paris for food and bohemian atmosphere, Germany for beer and an awkward acknowledgement of history, Spain for picturesque vacation and sightseeing, and Britain for its art and castles.
That’s all from the land of fish and chips for now. Tune in whenever my editor can be bothered to beat another installment of this little series out of me6
- Calliope makes no guarantees and all sales are final
- The editor has asked me to censor unnecessary cussing. In some ways analogous to the (expletive) Commies telling newspapers what to print
- I think this constitutes a necessary swear.
- Editor’s note: nice try Sonny Jim. Asterisks for you!
- Several paragraphs of inane rantings against our justice system have been omitted
- The editor would like to remind Malleus Contentedness III that though he is not under contract, the proper response would be, “Just as it is a good day to die, so it is always a good day to write for Calliope”