Friday, July 06, 2007

A weekend of wind and rain

flying kites on Parliament Hill, originally uploaded by supafly.

It has been unusually rainy in England since we've been here. It was a downpour most of Saturday so we spent a good part of the day inside rather than going to the city's Gay Pride festivities in Central London. In the afternoon, we went for a walk through our Peckham neighborhood (we're just in between Peckham and Camberwell Green) and on to Dulwich. Marshall finally got to see the cheap grocery store that I'd found. It's called Lidl and is a German chain. Our new roommate Martin, who is from Hanover, Germany, told us that it is considered nicer than Aldi since it actually sells namebrand products.

We then walked on to Dulwich through a constant drizzle. We stopped at the Sea Cow for some tasty fish and chips (and mushy peas). There was also an argument going on between one of the customers and the guy behind the counter frying fish. I'm not sure what it was about, but there was some yelling and then the guy left.

This is one of at least three fights I've seen in my neighborhood. There seems to be many passionate, hot-headed people here - and you can't blame it on hot weather because it's doesn't usually get above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The first big fight was on a bus headed from London Bridge back to Peckham. We were on the top level of a double decker and all of a sudden two men in the back started choking each other. One man banged the other man's head repeatedly against he window. A woman that was with them just laughed as they fought. Needless to say, everyone was watching and finally one person went down to tell the driver. The bus was stopped and the driver came up, but he didn't do much. It wasn't until everyone else started telling the bus driver to kick them off the bus that they stopped. First, they clutched each other's shirt sleeves and fought over who was going to let go first. "You let go." "No, you let go." It was ridiculous masculine ego. One of them went downstairs for awhile, but eventually came back up and talked on his cell phone as if nothing happened.

The next big fight I only heard. I was again on the top of a double decker, this time headed into the city from Peckham. I heard a lot of yelling below and the bus stopped. Many people yelled that they had to get to work. Eventually, we all got off and boarded the next bus that came by. On the next bus, several people were talking about the fight. It was apparently between a couple and one threw a glass bottle at the other as their kid sat in between them. A lot of the yelling had been other people telling them they shouldn't fight like that in front of their kid.

Back to the weekend...In Dulwich, I found the best charity shop yet. It was packed with Terry Prachett books! (He's a British fantasy writer.) I had the entire Discworld series, but there was a Johnny Maxwell trilogy he had written that I hadn't read so I bought it. After a few hours in the drizzle, we headed home on a bus to where it was warm and dry.

Sunday started out much nicer and we headed to the Brick Lane Sunday market. It reminded me of the Maxwell street market in Chicago but was much larger. They sold absolutely everything there. We were first bombarded by women selling porn and pirated blockbuster DVDs. Then we passed rows and rows of stalls selling hardware, tools, medicine, cosmetics, food, jewelry...come to think of it, the one thing I didn't see were hub caps for sale. We stopped to look at bicycles (probably stolen) that were being sold for £35 to £65. A steal compared to the price at a normal store. Behind some of the stalls were nice, artsy boutiques selling interesting and expensive housewares, jewelry, and clothing. One boutique had motorcycle jackets for sale - I was tempted by a women's jacket that had just come in, but they didn't have my size. There was also a lot of great graffiti. We stopped at Brick Lane Beigel Bake (open 24 hours) for some delicious freshly baked bagels. I got mine with salt beef (like pastrami) and mustard and Marshall got one with salami and one with butter.

Next, we headed to a couple of neighborhoods I thought Marshall would enjoy seeing. First to Camden town. We stopped to watch some boats go through the locks and then walked through the many food and clothing stalls. We went into one store selling raver gear. They had borg pods on the wall and lots of futuristic clothing under black lights. Marshall was impressed by all the food for sale and tried some lamb tagine from a Moroccan stall. I got an apple, lemon, ginger smoothie and a trio of freshly made cinnamon donuts.

Soon we boarded a bus to Hampstead Heath, which is just North of Camden. We found Keat's house (which I had missed by 1/2 a block the last time I was there). It was surprisingly big and plain. It looked too modern to be his home. We took a few photos and walked on. Marshall realized how posh the neighborhood was when he spotted a Maserati on the street. He had to have his picture taken with it, and then we entered the park.

We walked up to Parliament hill and watched the crowd of people that had gathered to fly kites. It was a windy day and there were many successful kite flyers. One woman and her son were having a hard time getting their bulky bi-plane shaped kite aloft and Marshall was getting irritated with their poor kite flying skills. The person next to them had a simple pentagon shaped kite flying the entire time - sometimes the string would drift towards us and I'd have to move it before it beheaded us. He was also trying to fly a stunt kite which was a lot more challenging, since it had two strings instead of one. Besides the kite flyers, we saw two men with metal detectors (searching for buried treasure?), many picnickers, and families strolling through the park.

When we got too cold, we headed down the hill and into the village of Hampstead to the Hollybush, an old Victorian pub, where we had cider (me), guinness (Marshall), and a sausage roll. We rested our feet and read a little as well. (Reading books in pubs is a common thing, unlikes bars in the US). Then, we headed home, satisfied in a full day of (almost dry) sightseeing.

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