Tuesday, December 01, 2009

London Notes 4

  • Edgware Rd. at night:  kids, mostly if not all Arabic, cruised midweek in new BMWs or small cars with souped-up engines, or maybe just the mufflers were scored.  A Huge crowd of teens milled and laughed good-naturedly around Baskin & Robbins and a neighboring cafe.
  • Friday evening, we met an internet friend of Irene's at a contemporary pub (the only one I saw on Edgware), whom she knew from a message board focusing on Colombia, where they both frequently go.  D married a Colombian woman "almost my own age," after having first dated far younger women, who, apparently, were more available in Colombia than in London.  D is an affable man, with the look of a cheerful killer--wide eyed, friendly, solidly built, not looking for a fight but god help the guy who chooses it with him--and teaches history to teenagers.  After D downed four pints of Guinness in 45 minutes, he took us to his club a block away.  It is an oasis, bright white walls, professional-looking patrons, all with some connection (however tenuous) to the British armed services.  Over another pint, we discussed politics briefly.  He described himself as a conservative, worried about the "culture war" in Britain.  We agreed that the 'culture wars' of Britain and America have different contours, and that it would probably take a long night of talk for a self-described American conservative and British conservative to discover where they truly shared beliefs and truly didn't understand one another.  D and I agree that the Ayn Rand fetish in America is both asinine and heartless.  I told him I'm a liberal, for the sake of honesty.  Fortunately, perhaps, Irene and I had to get to a play, so we didn't have time to explore our potential disagreements.  I liked D very much.
  • Saturday evening, rain finally returned London to it's seasonal self.  Rain continued to pelt miserably all day Sunday.  Huge crowds of Christmas shoppers and tourists all over London, undeterred by rain or jostling bodies.  Couldn't move an inch in Oxford Circus or in any of the touristed streets anywhere near Leicester Square.  On the south bank, We ducked into a Turkish restaurant across from The Globe that Irene liked from previous visits.  I recommend one of the pita pizza with diced or minced lamb on it.
  • Saturday, lunch and pints with Shelley and Anna, both UH grads, both living and working in London, Shelley one of Jack's actors.  I noticed that some of Shelley's vowels have begun to round after a year here.  Anna, who is German and speaks English as a second language after having learned it at school as Standard British, sounds unlike any other German speaker of English either Irene or I have met.  her accent is virtually unplaceable, sounding to me at times as subtly South African (I have South African relatives.)  She seemed happy that Shelley sounds slightly less American to her ear than he once did.  
  • Saturday evening, we saw END GAME with Mark Rylance as Hamm and Simon McBurney as Clov (couldn't get tickets for BLUEBEARD).  Yes, Rylance and McBurney chew scenery a bit too much--but this was a faithful, highly entertaining production.  Becket is another one of those playwrights whom we can forget is funny.  In this production, Hamm and Clov are charismatic, their relationship subtly vaudevillian.  Astoundingly, 95% of the text makes sense in Rylance's and McBurney's delivery.  Audience members who try digging too deeply below the surface of the text are probably those who are most frustrated and disappointed by END GAME:  meaning here is very explicit, something which I'd forgotten, even though I'd last seen END GAME in American Repertory Theater's perhaps over-explicit production, directed by Joanna Akalaitis, in the mid 1980s--Akalaitis's post-apocalyptic subway station setting may have led me to think, in my mis-remembrance, that the play needs directorial exegesis, when it absolutely doesn't.
  • Sunday evening, after a rainy day and the Tate Modern, we wandered off looking for a traditional pub in which to eat something peculiarly English, having dined all week in inexpensive noodle shops, or in Lebanese, Italian, and Asian eateries.  The vicinity immediate to Edgware has little in the way of pubs, but two or three blocks away we found one that remained uncrowded.  Stupidly, I ate fish and chips, which are the same everywhere, but Irene's Sunday roast hit the spot.  The couple next to us--an ex-pat Brit and Scot living in America--bought us a round.  Another Scot, a retired engineer, played his bag pipes between songs played on a piano in the other room, where a weekly Sunday sing-along featuring Broadway show tunes and WWII army ditties was in progress.  The middle-aged Arab man sitting with his friends liked the bag pipes so much he pulled from his pocket 150 pounds ($240) and paid the Scot to play for another five minutes, "The best busking job I ever had," said the Scot.  When the Scot was done, the Arab man also gave him the large gold watch on his wrist.  One of his friends said, "he is very wealthy.  He manages billions of dollars." For whom?  "Many countries," said the friend.  The Arab gentlemen were drinking pints, as they perhaps could not do in their home countries.  "I am British now," said the wealthy Arab, insisting on sharing with the bagpipe-playing Scotsman--who also spoke some fluent-sounding Arabic, having worked as an engineer in Saudia Arabia--the truffle-flavored stew he'd had the pub prepare especially for him.  "And now you are an Arab."
  • Monday, up at 3:00 a.m. for a 6:40 a.m. Air France to De Gaul.  Plane is late, then shudders and yaws violently on take-off.  Not having slept at all, I nod off.  They feed us a lot on the Air France flight from De Gaul to Houston.  My coach seat could be much worse.  Eat, sleep, eat, sleep.  Now we're home.


    Tim said...

    Agh! I love London so much. I love Mark Rylance too. I've seen him twice (Peer Gynt and Boeing-Boeing). Egad, after I saw Boeing-Boeing, I waited outside the theatre to meet him like a little middle school Backstreet Boys. It resulted in a quick signature and an incredibly short conversation that I can't even remember.

    But London! I'm jealous. Thanks for sharing notes.

    I took in a lot of Becket earlier this year, and I agree whole-heartedly about it being funny and the whole need to listen and watch rather than assess.

    A director pointed that out in his notes before I saw Happy Days, and that was the ticket for me.

    Zachary said...

    Anna and Shelley are both friends of mine, and I'm so glad to hear they're doing well! Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to London in the Spring, then Scotland . . . I absolutely cannot wait.

    We used to grill Anna about her accent all the time, because it was so unique.