London Calling

An A&E editor from the colonies takes on the British capital

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, performed at the famous Globe Theatre.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, performed at the famous Globe Theatre.
Buckingham Palace in the heart of London.
Buckingham Palace in the heart of London.

Living in central London, working at a publishing company, attending curry buffets, and dealing with neurotic British friends—you might think my name is Bridget Jones.

It’s not (see above). But the diary entries that follow attempt to reflect the thoughts of a twenty-something London, Ontario currently living in London, England.

Food

Many North Americans are perplexed by the Brits’ propensity to consume mass amounts of grease and beer and yet remain relatively thin. The preppy Vancouver boy at work who, I’m certain, must have a maple leaf tattooed somewhere on his body-offered his explanation for this phenomenon in a somewhat lamenting tone: “Well, ya know, there’s no Tim Horton’s here, eh? No timbits or ice caps.” Right. That must be it.

But with all the amazing food here, I must say I’m hardly missing Timmy’s. Being a vegetarian in London. I am in culinary heaven. The Prêt-à-Manger sandwich chain on every corner sells things like hummus, roasted peppers, and mescaline salad on homemade bread. They also cater to meat eaters, but have pretty little signs up that explain the origin of their meat: “Our chickens come only from a farm in Spain where they are fed on a vegetarian diet and are free to roam in the sun all day.” If I’m ever reincarnated, I hope to be a Prêt-à-Manger chicken.

My other saving grace here is the McDonald’s Curry Veggie Burger. Summed up in one sentence, it’s deep-fried goodness that doesn’t hurt animals. My only complaints about food are that there’s no peanut butter, no sour keys, and no Kraft Dinner.

Of course, chocolate for 30p usually makes up for this.

Theatre

While the theatre district in London is massive, hosting big-shot shows like “Les Miserables” and “The King and I,” I can’t say I’m enticed either by the neon lights or the ludicrous prices. What frightens me in particular are the endless posters for a production called “The Female Odd Couple.” In an attempt at wit, the “Female” is inserted with a scrawled-pencil-like font, as if it’s not supposed to be there. It probably shouldn’t.

As well, because my only friends here are 1) majoring in musical theatre, 2) on student budgets, and 3) gay I often find myself doing the same thing every Friday night—watching drag cabaret in a basement theatre in Picadilly. I’ve been ‘dragged’ to one show about four times now: Simply Barbara, an act with a cast of one, a verbose Italian from New York who idolizes Barbra Streisand.

After the fourth dose of Babs, I found myself craving something less... well... drag cabaret, So I made my way to the Globe Theatre to see “MacBeth.” Throughout the 2.5-hour performance, I felt like Alice in Wonderland, as the actors went about in tuxedos and party hats, throwing feathers and making meaningful thuds on the stage with gold-painted rocks.

It was like a formal dinner party on drugs. Or maybe just black-tie beatnik. Either way, near the end I began to suspect somebody had spiked my mead.

Canucks

I’ve never really been a fan of the ‘I Am Canadian’ speech; it troubles me that the only things we Canadians can find to be proud of are not being American, living on the world’s second largest land mass, and beavers.

But on July 1, being the good Canadian that I am, I donned some red and white and made my way to the Maple Leaf bar in Covent Garden.

For eight hours, thousands of Canadians and wannabe Canadians crammed into the street, did some striptease, paid £61 for a case of Canadian, met someone they knew from camp, and belted out that silly Joe Canadian speech. For a moment, I even got a warm fuzzy feeling. But that may have just been the Special Brand Tesco’s beer I was drinking (a true Canadian would NEVER pay that much for a Molson’s).

So far, this has been my London experience. I have come to appreciate confusing British humour; I have learned not to convert (£ to $ that is); I have discovered the city with the widest selection of shoes, take-out curry and stolen artifacts .

But I’ve also come to miss and appreciate clean air, the option to recycle, Reese’s pieces, and of course, most of all, witty articles in university rags.

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