Where You Lay Your Head.

jmbarclay

I was sat in a computer workshop yesterday about online citation softwares that was so boring I’m pretty sure it should have audition for a place as one of the circles of hell. The librarian is admirably excited about Knowledge. “Knowledge” said with a big, round O in the middle for the sake of reverence. I suspect he’s also a little bit of a conspiracy wing-nut. He kept digressing into sideways comments about “the man behind the curtain” who secretly controls the freedom of information on the internet. He talks about himself in the 3rd person, and uses phrases like “cruisin’ for a bruisin’.” Though not technically falling under the category of “paying attention” and yet gamefully in the spirit of the class, I was mining my WordPress dashboard for discarded drafts, unfinished works, half-completed thoughts. Karma caught me a cheeky uppercut to the emotional jaw though. I made myself homesick. I came across this:

The audience chitters, taking seats, spilling drinks from structurally defunct plastic cups, arranging cushions, fluffing blankets, patting pockets for half-rememebered tickets (just-in-case,) perusing seat numbers, checking out seat neighbours, assessing the view for the evening. I am trying not to snuffle like a hog with its head in the mud. I have a cold, but I am there. I am full of Boots’ finest cold medications and I have enough tissues to stem the nosebleeds of the entire New York Rangers’ fourth line. I. Am. There. And thank god I am. I could not have missed this for a bout of necrotising fasciitis, let alone a piddling little head-cold.

What seems like a plain old audience member jumps to her feet, a well-thumbed book in her hands, and begins to read. In that instant I am thrown bodily into the past, into my school days. As first one, then another  and still another voice rises from among us to sound out the beginning of the tale, I remember the emotional maelstrom I rode out the first time I came across Harper Lee’s shattering, Pulitzer prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ah, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Big, and green and inviting, with fairy lights and summer warmth and excited theatre-goers making magic out of thin air. Sat under fluorescent lighting listening to a little man wax lyrical about database search bars I was deeply heartsick for summer nights at Regent’s Park. Unfortunately for my diligent attention to truncating my search terms so as to better broaden the scope of my research, homesickness is a snowballing phenomenon.

From Regents Park its a short mental hop to Marylebone highstreet with its soft, round scones and tea with my mum after a shopping day. In that situation I’d most likely have been on a stressful last-minute hunt for something to wear for an event or party. I’d have insisted all along I didn’t need anything new, until at last, almost too late, I’d have cracked and dragged Mum out to hunt for The Perfect Dress. Poor Mum, she always come through though. Her special Mum alchemy means she always finds something that looks on the hanger like nothing I’d ever wear but after some gentle persuasion I try on and fall in love with.

Tea gets me thinking about Fortnum and Mason and Dean St Town House, all the places I go with Jane to splurge on afternoon tea, something I have yet to find in NYC. Afternoon tea, like marmite, seems to be an English phenomenon Americans have no interest in. British things that have no equal in New York leads me to thinking about Covent Garden, and even my documented hatred of cobblestones  can’t dissuade me from romanticizing my memories of the Royal Opera House or boiled eggs at Le Pain Quotidien.  I miss English pubs, and never having to talk to anyone in an elevator or on the tube (I miss calling it the tube!). These days, as I splash gracelessly up to my ankles in New York’s winter speciality: the curb-side slush puddle, I miss England’s lack of snow. Who’d have thought I’d come to miss English weather?!

I miss my sofa at home, the broad brown sofa where I nest into one corner until my parents make fun of the hole I’ve made in the cushion, the exact shape of myself. What my apartment optimistically designates a sofa wouldn’t be out of place in a hospital waiting room, and the only way to make a comfy little hole in it would be to take a chainsaw to it and carve one out.

I feel a little silly being 24 years old, living in an apartment on Broadway, and yet still getting homesick. Guess I should have listened when they told me home was where the heart is.

xxx

The Little Toast That Was French.

brunch_h

I do not like French toast.

I think we Brits usually call it eggy bread. I mean, that has to be up there with spotted dick for the least-palatable-name-of-an-edible-thing award. It actually sounds like a gag. “Eggy.” Just say it out loud for a second. “Eggy.” Even the sound comes from right there in the back of your mouth where your upchuck reflex lives.

I digress. Back to French toast.

Ordering French toast in America, in front of an American, as an English person, puts you in danger of eliciting the following accusation: But British people hate French things.

Sigh.

Where did America get hold of this idea that the English and the French still loathe each other with every fiber of our national identity? Did I tell you about the guy at the Halloween party who came up to me, hand literally on heart, all hang-dog about the face? He looks at me a moment, very serious, and says “I’m so sorry, but I’m a Francophile.” Then, of course, there was this tremendous pause into which I think I was suppose to commiserate that our burgeoning friendship would have to go the way of the dodo because English people simply can’t bear French things. It ended up being a bit awkward because, harboring absolutely no ill will to anyone or anything French, I missed the cue and just stood there with my tongue between my teeth completely at a loss for a reply.

I do have a theory. England and France were on opposite sides during the American Revolution. America, seeing only the American in everything, naturally assumes that England and France have remained on opposing sides of all things ever since. Even on the very contentious topic of bread dipped in eggs and fried in butter.

However, in the very sneakiest of baits-and-switches, this turns out to actually be a post about The Time I Liked French Toast. And not just any French toast, an even Frenchier French toast. A French toast made with Brioche. (Go on, say French toast one more time. I dare ya.)

French toast!

I’m converted. But the whole point of telling you all this was actually to tell you about Fabulous Best Friend coming to visit. I had been internally panicking about that moment when someone comes to visit and says something along the lines of “lets go to all your favorite places in New York.” Instant. Lifestyle. Atrophy: Oh god, I’ve never been anywhere, ever. What do you mean I live in the cultural capital of the world (according to Americans) all I ever do is sit in my Ivory Tower on Broadway and look at videos of animals riding roombas on the Internet.

Thankfully there is an institution that comes riding in on a wonderful maple-coloured horse to save the day: Brunch. It’s a very serious matter here. It’s a bonafide activity that takes half the day and can involve both pancakes and alcohol. It’s the greatest idea in the history of ideas (and I’m including penicillin and the wheel.) It also leaves just enough time for a little buzz around an art gallery or a museum before retiring smugly to a midtown bar, happy in the knowledge that you “did” New York. (Throwing in a bowl of ramen the size of your face at Ippudo never hurts either – just a little insider tip while we’re here.)

I’m afraid I have to go – I am sat next to an olfactory terrorist in class, and his feet smell like dead people who bathe in melted gorgonzola. Not breathing through my nose is splitting my focus, and you deserve my full attention.

But the moral of the story is that you will come to New York, you will have Brunch (you may even have French Toast) and several mimosas, you will love it and it will have nothing whatever to do with Anglo-French relations. 😉

Bye for now xxx

A Class in the Life Of.

cat-studying

Last semester there was the seeming-eternal torture of The Class I Did Not Understand, this semester there is the weekly gauntlet of The Class That Is Technically Useful But Is As Much Fun As Having Sandpaper Rubbed Over Your Eyeballs. There’s always got to be one that sucks, I think it’s life’s way of including perspective in the day-to-day running of your existence. That, and finding the head of a cricket in your box of raspberries. You know, a gentle reminder that you might think you’re the big cheese on campus with your intellect and your having moved to America, and your Manhattan apartment that you talk about to everyone who will listen, to the point where they wish humans had never evolved speech… but you’re still not above having to pick disarticulated bug carcasses out of your fruit.

So here I sit, with a coffee the size of my right arm, and half a book about the history of thought between me and the latest episode of The Bridge. Yes, you read that right: the history of thought. At least, I think that’s what it’s about. Check it out.

“In the nineteenth century, philosophy was to reside in the gap between history and History, between events and the Origin, between evolution and the first rending open of the source, between oblivion and the Return. It will be Meta-physics, therefore, only in so far as it is Memory, and it will necessarily lead thought back to the question of knowing what it means for thought to have a history.”

… Um. What?

Now, I’m sure there are people lined up around the block to tell me Foucault is da Bomb, but I personally think capitalizing a word to give it a different meaning is the sneakiest form of cheating. And ‘between oblivion and the Return’ sounds like something out of T.S.Eliot. If you can’t find me, I’ll be firmly on the side of the fence with the people who think philosophy and modernist poetry don’t play well together. (Phew, how many metaphors can I cram into a sentence!?) That thing that he’s doing (prepare yourselves for a little showing off) where he starts every clause with ‘between,’ is called anaphora. It’s a rhetorical device designed to bring a sentence to a great big roaring crescendo of dramatic effect!… Unless of course you lose your reader somewhere around the idea of a ‘gap between history and History,’ when instead of crescendo you’ll get a kind of wet, feeble squeaking noise. It’s more like Foucault let go of a balloon he was blowing up and it went whizzing impotently around his head to land in a pointless latex heap on the carpet. Sorry Foucault.

What is with all this anthropomorphizing of concepts too? As if thought were a little old man and Meta-physics his dodgy sat nav, which he thinks is leading him to the greener grass, but actually just plonks him back on his own dismal doorstep at the nursing home for geriatric semantic movements. *Aaaand breathe* Here is why I’m still only on part I of the half we’ve been set after nesting in the library for about 4 hours. I find it so much more fun to articulate all the reasons I think Foucault is a booby, than to actually apply myself to figuring out what his point is. So many of my past teachers would roll their eyes until they could see their brain if they read this. Not to mention the professor who set the text in the first place! I’m pretty sure analogies about google maps and The Wasteland were not what she had in mind.

On that note, better get back to it. There’s a section on economics coming up… anyone who’s ever tried to calculate a restaurant bill with me will know how well I’m going to handle that. Can’t wait 🙂

Bye for now.

xxx