This was the last week of first term lectures. And celebrations there were, as we shall see, but now is actually when the real work begins.
On Wednesday, I bunked class to go ice skating next door in the courtyard of Somerset House. It’s quite the charming little rink, even though it seems like it must take a massive amount of energy to keep it frozen all throughout the day when the temperature is above freezing.
I was with my fellow London Study Ambassadors for the occasion, and although it has been several years since I’ve put blade to ice, apparently it’s like riding a bike, as it took only a few laps round the congested rink for me to find my groove again. Not so for my Indian colleagues who were engaging in this new mode of transport for the first time with much trepidation. The boldest of the lot was my friend Adil from Goldsmiths who insisted I escort him on a few cautious laps (PS, there are more skating pictures from my friend Zafar Khurshid)
I was even able to run back for the final, dramatic conclusion to my Practising Social Research class.
On Thursday I had my last lecture of the term. The merriment began early as, in giving a presentation on several books and articles written by our dear Risk Communication professor Ragnar Löfstedt, I was able to inweave the minstrel’s tale of Ragnar the Red, and invoke the spectre of Ragnarök, the Norse apocalypse. From there, it was off for celebratory drinks at The Knights Templar, our department’s old trusty standby for post-class drinks. As a sign of how far apart American and British politics are, my classmate Chris, who’s an advisor to a Tory cabinet minister in the UK government (and who’s always stirring the pot in class with conservative commentary), showed me the background of his smartphone — Obama.
Newly freed of my classroom obligations, and wishing to further postpone the work required for my assignments due in December, I went on Friday to get my hair cut at Alan D Academy for…£1! Normally I think the haircuts are free, but during the Christmas season they raise money for charity (although not that much money, it would seem, at those rates). I was a bit annoyed at how long my Iranian stylist-in-training spent blowdrying my hair (especially since I didn’t even want my hair blow-dried), but hey, it’s (practically) free!
Friday night, we went to my classmate Zoe’s house for (ostensibly) St. Andrew’s Day. You might not believe this, but she lives in a forest — Epping Forest, to be precise. But even the forests of London are only a 15-minute walk from the tube stop.
Saturday, oh Saturday. Faith was working at the Fair Christmas Fayre, a small bastion of ethical consumerism on Oxford Street, on behalf of Salvation Army. After doing her duty for responsible global citizenship, we joined the teeming hordes on Oxford Street.
Trying to navigate the sea of humanity is much like what I imagine trying to approach the Kaaba in Mecca must be like during Hajj. It actually was easier to walk between the crawling buses on the street than amongst the chaotic throngs of people on the pavement. That being said, there is something quite magical and apposite to the season about all the people under the lights on Oxford Street.
On Saturday night, we ended up with a few friends at The Tankard, a local pub in Walworth. Now, I’ve been in many English pubs already. But this was apparently the real deal. I actually didn’t have much of a stereotype of what a working-class English pub should be like, but apparently it’s The Tankard. There were old people dancing, a “DJ” spinning (in the literal sense) 60s, 70s and Irish music, and uncharacteristically extroverted Brits, happy to initiate a conversation with we obvious outsiders (on account of our age and foreignness). There was one slightly ragged chap who sat down with us, who might have been keen for a fight, but it was hard to tell and he left without incident. We also talked at length with a gregarious Scottish welder, and I wondered if I might be about to play the role of counselor as he waxed melancholic about his departed wife.
All this to say, if you’re looking for a true local pub experience, visit The Tankard.
On to the next one…