Friday, July 10, 2009

I woke up today in London

I'm Lauren, and I love London libraries - all libraries, really. I'm an MLIS student at the University of Alabama as of January 2009, so this is technically my second semester in library school. I like to jump in headfirst, what can I say? I don't know what kind of librarian I want to be yet, but I'm trying to keep my options open. So far I'm interested in academic libraries, public libraries, and special collections. I think I would enjoy reference librarian work in any setting, but I could also see myself doing a number of other things. I enjoy helping others in any way I can.

While in London, I simply want to soak in any and all experiences, library-related or otherwise. While I was born and raised in rural Alabama, I absolutely love big city life--I spent a year living in Toronto, Canada, and it felt like home. I hope London becomes another home for me as well.


Day the First

Since I wanted to take advantage of an airport greeting and coach shuttle, I chose one of the group flights. The closest one was Jackson, MS, which is a three-hour drive to Tuscaloosa. From Jackson we connected in Dallas, and from Dallas we had an 8 hour 50 minute flight to London. The flight was relatively painless, except for the crick in my neck from trying to sleep sitting upright. I slept on and off throughout the flight.

Our coach driver, Errol, made jokes and gave us helpful London hints throughout the drive from Heathrow to Stamford Street. First things first, he made sure we knew we were in a “coach” – he had 10 hours of driver’s training, while bus operators got their licenses from “a cereal box” or a “cigarette pack.” He told us about the designation of boroughs in London – there are 32 in all – and the postal codes reflect them. Ours is SE 1, for southeast London. As we drove through different postal codes, he pointed them out. He taught us about congested streets, where cameras take your car’s picture and you must pay 8 pounds by 10 pm that night for using the street. Coaches and motorcycles are exempt from this. The measure is meant to reduce traffic on highly congested streets. As for certain street pronunciations, “Chiswick” is pronounced “Chisick,” and “Grosvenor” is something like “Grove-ner.” He told us a little about the different neighbourhoods in London, and he recommended we say “Cheers” instead of “thank you.” He also attempted to blow our minds by mentioning Cockney Rhyming Slang, which I was already aware of, but do not know any of the phrases (except to keep my ears trained for someone rhyming words that sound like “Yank.”) A Britney Spear (Errol’s example, though he claims he never says it) is a beer. We drove right past landmarks like Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, and I felt anxious to photograph them properly.

My group had the latest flight to arrive, so when I finally got into my room at 2 pm, knowing my class would be taking a walking tour of the neighbourhood at 5:30 pm, I didn’t want to run any errands. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I unpacked a bit and rested on the bed (no sleeping, though – they told us it would only compound our jet lag).

At 5:30, everyone met in the courtyard and split off into their separate classes. I was glad to finally meet the 16 others in my British Libraries classes. Our professor, Dr. Teresa Welsh, is very nice and informative. She showed us important spots around the neighbourhood, and we bought Oyster passes for the Tube at Waterloo station (which is very close by). We walked along the south of the Thames, which provides a wonderful view for a stroll.

I also couldn’t help people watching along the way, wondering who “Londoners” were and how they would classify themselves. So far I've noticed that they really like leggings and public displays of affection. We finished the tour at a place called Gourmet Pizza, which was delicious and relatively inexpensive. While a few students went with Dr. Welsh to practice riding the tube (to Leicester Square, I believe) I was exhausted, and after running errands with Christina, we came back and retired to bed.

Or so I thought.

I’m writing this at 2 am London time, which is 8 pm Alabama time, because my body thinks I just took a nap and that it’s not really bed time. Recovering from jet lag is going to be fun.

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