Friday, September 23, 2005

Cambridge Girls Embrace Luke Ford

For the weeks before my trip, I was tired and depressed, so I husbanded my energies for this trip.
I'm writing this report now at 1:05pm Friday in Wapping, near Canary Wharf, London. I'm overlooking the Thamas. I'm sitting in an old warehouse which is being used as a set for an independent movie.
I'm wearing my black undertaker suit, which I also wore on the plane over because I didn't want to carry it around. I just brought a backpack with about 20 pounds of clothes (I just wash them in the bathtub and re-use), three books, two books on tape, a digital recorder and a small digital camera.
My flight over here was everything I could dream of -- I had the company of an attractive smart young woman who couldn't get away from me for ten hours. She was bound to her chair and it was just the two of us by the window and the rest of the world could go to hell.
I did not talk to her for the first 45 minutes, playing hard to get. I buried myself in my Michael Lewis book, Liar's Poker. Then, while we were past Nevada, I turned to her and extended my hand. "Hi, Luke."
She shook my hand. "Hi, I'm Fiona."
Twenty seven, she was a graduate student at Cambridge. Her parents lived in Southern California.
We chatted for about an hour until dinner came. I asked her if she wanted her chocolate cake. She didn't so I scoffed it. Then I asked her if she wanted her waters. She did.
That was about the last thing we said to each other. For the next eight hours, we lived in our own worlds.
I expected that the women in England would be as rough as bags but there are a ton of hotties. The English are reserved however, which makes it difficult to make quick connections like you can in Los Angeles.
What I most love about traveling is that it places you in frequent situations where people are virtually forced to talk to me (such as being seated next to me on a plane, train, or automobile). In normal life, people frequently avoid me. But I've constructed a preferred personality on the internet where I'm a legend on the (don't believe the unflattering things he write about me, nor the true things).
I've been walking about six miles a day. I have several painful blisters on my feet. I've done most of the famous tourist attractions in London, including the Tower of London, the Clink, Parliament House, walked by Westminster Abbey past Downing Street and Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.
I went to Cambridge Thursday, ran into a bunch of 10th grade schoolgirls from Stafford who asked me if i was famous. I said I was semi-famous. I signed about a dozen autographs, took pictures, told them I wrote on religion. They went home and googled me. One just emailed me. I have quite a fan base among the intellectuals in London.
Because I was from Los Angeles, the girls mainly wanted to know if I knew anyone famous, perhaps Britney Spears or Aussie cricketers Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
I do not.
I haven't run into one rude person in London, but almost everyone is reserved. One buxom blonde woman around 40 was bubbly and outspoken on my train ride back from Cambridge but she's been the only one Brit who's overflowed.
I've seen things here that I've never seen before, such as a mate snorting cocaine so he could have the energy to go out with me that night. Also, on three different occasions, I walked in on a guy taking a wank. I was freaked but he seemed pretty relaxed about it. The English don't take things too seriously.
I've been up early and out late every night. I went to the club Cheers till 3am Thursday morning. It was filled with Tourists and they played an ABBA song. I haven't heard an Air Supply tune since I've been here and I'm having withdrawals.
I'm heading for North London in a few hours to celebrate the Sabbath with some Orthodox blogger friends I've never met. Then Saturday night I'm off to Paris (it's three hours and £100). I'll stay the night at a cheap hotel, take a tour Sunday, and return to London late Sunday night.
For the first time since I've been here, it's raining. The high temperatures have been in the sixties all week and about 50 at night.
This trip has cured my depression, and I'll be feeling even better if I'm able to break down some of that British reserve and truly make a unique impression.
I'm going to hit Oxford next week.
I'm surprised that I've noticed no difference in the way people dress between England and America, though one American executive I saw here said the British dress a bit finer.
I've been reading a great book: WATCHING THE ENGLISH. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the customs of this country.
In Australia we have the stereotype that the English don't bathe. My mom grew up in England and she says she only had a bath twice a week. Now it seems with upgrades in plumbing, the English shower every day just like Yanks and Aussies.
I haven't noticed the horrible teeth that the English are (or used to be) infamous for.
I've been staying in Chelsea, a little over a mile from Parliament House and Westminster Abbey, and just a few blocks from Sloane Square, around which the Sloane Rangers hang out (upper-class trendsetters). My sister was enamored of the Sloane Rangers 20 years ago when she lived here and got a law degree from Buckingham University.
There's little crime in the nice areas I've been (though one side of a street can be in a nice area and the other side a nasty one). The tube (London's underground subway) is clean and people are reserved and well-behaved (though designed by an American, the tube far cleaner and kinder than the New York version). They know how to que.
I'm sitting at a computer with two big screens and I can use my mouse to pop between the screens from the same keyboard. I've never had that before.
The English keyboard has about a dozen differences from the American one. The most important difference I struggled with was the "@" sign. I couldn't send an email until I had found it (it was way over on the right, on top of the single quote mark).