Hello again, fans of the blag! It’s been a few days since last update, so I have a lot to cover. But first, let me talk a bit about the football match I attended last night between Arsenal FC and Swansea City.
- Getting off the tube felt like walking into a street festival, as the road to the stadium was lined with vendors selling both Arsenal products and food for consumption. I’ve never seen anything quite to that extent in the States. I picked up a new hat, Arsenal pin, and a bacon hamburger for around 12 pounds, a better deal than anything I would have found in the stadium. The 58,000 people walking to the stadium all seemed to have similar ideas.
So much swag.
- It’s been a bit cold in London. Two to four inches of snow are actually predicted to fall on the capital tomorrow, capping a week where the temperature has been locked in at about 30 degrees Fahrenheit (or, as the Brits would say, ‘-2 degrees Celsius’). And I certainly underestimated how cold an outdoor game that kicked off at 7:30 pm would feel. Thinking I would be quite warm with an extra pair of socks and a new Arsenal scarf and hat, I boldly set off to the stadium—but within about 15 minutes of sitting down I began to feel all feeling draining from my feet. There’s a debate about switching the MLS schedule to mirror the Premier League, and I am now convinced this is an awful idea because I can’t imagine anyone going to a soccer game in January in Montreal, Toronto, or Denver.
Me, freezing next to a statue of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. Did I mention that it was a bit chilly?
- The stadium is very modern and very beautiful; even from my seat far away I had a complete view of the action. All of the seats are covered by a roof, which would have been handy if rain was in the forecast. Arsenal were dominant for the entirety of the match, but had a lot of trouble finishing their scoring chances, thus causing a lot of exasperation amongst the crowd. However, with only four minutes separating us from a sure-to-cause-hypothermia period of overtime, Jack Wilshere (an England international) blasted home a game-winner and sent the crowd into a frenzy. (You can see the highlight in this clip.)
Right after the final whistle. We wonned!
- A few stray observations about the game: they didn’t sing the national anthem before the game started! I was anticipating a rousing “God Save The Queen” but the players basically ran out on the field, took a picture, and got the game started. At halftime, a crew of guys with sticks went out on the field and started patching up divots. Meanwhile, the entire crowd went inside and all tried to buy beer at the same time. This led to, uh, “queues” of extraordinary size. Chants and cheers seemed to bubble up organically from the crowd. They were easy to pick up—the only issue was that the English crowd tends to pronounce “Arsenal” as “Ahhhh-sen-al,” so my hard-R seemed a bit out of place.
In summary, it was a really terrific evening, one I’ll never forget. But that is not the only freezing-cold activity I have been up to!
- On Monday evening UCL hosted a evening cruise of the Thames for international students. If you’ve ever seen the cruise episode of “The Office”—it was much like that, except with prettier scenery. A nice way to take in a lot of the beautiful buildings but, again, terribly chilly. As we zoomed past the HMS Belfast—the ship on which Peter G. Andrews served during World War II—I had a new appreciation for how difficult shepherding convoys to Mother Russia in 1943 must have been!
Got my swim trunks and my flippy floppies.
- Before the Arsenal game yesterday I spent an hour or so in the National Gallery. While there was certainly some great art in there (and, after taking Art Hum, I actually have a bit of an appreciation for it now), I found it a bit lacking. Not as big as the Met or the Prado in Madrid. However I am looking forward to seeing the National Portrait Gallery at a later point. Afterwards we went for some afternoon tea. Aunt Diane, I made a noble attempt to acquire an eccles cake at this point! However, the tea shop we went to was French (?!?) and so did not have traditional Britishy things. As I was bemoaning this fact at our table, however, a woman not much older than me turned and informed us that she was actually from the town of Eccles! Pleasant conversation ensued. The quest goes on.
Note the disturbing lack of eccles cake.
As far as classes, they have been going well. I now know a lot about the history of the English parliament, which thus far mostly revolves around being angry at the King for one reason or another. Helpfully, all of the 17th c. Stuarts had one of three names (James, Charles, Mary), making it very easy to tell them apart. (Sarcasm alert.) My class on London architecture also brought me to the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich, designed by Christopher Wren. A remarkable complex, again only slightly impeded by the incredible cold.
My plan for tomorrow was to take a day trip to Cardiff in Wales; however, the snow set to hit England will actually take on blizzard conditions in Wales and potentially drop 12 inches (or 30 ‘centimeters’). So I have proactively changed my ticket and will do that in two weeks instead.
Hope all is well back in the States (or wherever you may be, noble reader)! Post a comment on the blag and I will happily respond. I leave you all with this vista from Trafalgar Square yesterday on a beautifully sunny day.