Festivals, weddings, and some other fun things

It’s been a little longer than usual since my last post. You see, I’ve been taking a break from the excitement of travelling in favour of essay writing and exam studying. Unfortunately it has to be done. Naturally, when I’ve spent days with my head buried in books, there is less to write about than when I’ve been gallivanting from one European city to another.

However, when I say I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks engaged in academia, that’s not the whole truth. So here are some highlights which have constituted nice study breaks…

Summer weather!

I wasn’t convinced London ever experienced warmer weather, but I have been proven wrong. Last week, suddenly it was at least 25 degrees (celsius) pretty much every day. In fact, it reached close to 30 a couple of times. Not only that, but it was sunny.

This gorgeous weather has provided ample opportunity for a couple of visits to Hampstead Heath, including a picnic there last weekend. This picnic was especially noteworthy because I’ve been urging my friends who live in another King’s College Residence closer to campus to make the trip up to Hampstead. Finally, they did, and saw what all the fuss is about. They might have even been a little jealous…

Tiernan, Me, Isabel and Laia picnicing at Hampstead Heath

I remember a while back, a friend of my mum’s who had been to London in the summer recounted how Londoners consider this sort of weather to be a ‘heat wave.’ Coming from Australia, where mid 20s borders on mild, I thought that was quite a bizarre notion. But I understand it better now. The thing is, in London (perhaps this extends to the rest of the country too, I’m not sure) they don’t know how to monitor the temperatures of buildings. Here goes my rant…

In our halls, we’ve been suffering in stifling heat for the last few weeks. I’m talking widnows wide open 24/7, cold showers to cool off, chocolate melting in my room. You see, through all of this warm weather, the heating in our building has remained on. Many of us complained (while sweating profusely) to the relevant authorities, but apparently, there is a set date each year when they turn the heating off. No earlier, no later – stupid if you ask me. Fortunately, the date was on Tuesday. That, combined with the weather dropping a few degrees, has made a noticable and much welcomed difference.

Passover

At home, in the weeks leading up to Passover, I’m used to seeing my mum methodically cleaning out the kitchen of any chametz, and then stocking the pantry with food that is kosher for Passover. I’ve become accustomed to two Seders prepared with little effort on my part, and spending the eight days with family and friends who understand the strange food I’m eating and why I’m eating it. Naturally, Passover this year was a little different.

A few weeks ago, when I was discussing the upcoming festival with my friend Isabel, she suggested that our Study Abroad group have our own Seder. I thought this was a great idea. Firstly, I hadn’t yet found a place to go for the Seder. And secondly, I’m always keen for the chance to teach non-Jewish friends a little about my religion and cultural traditions.

Fortunately, Hampstead is a relatively Jewish area, which made it easy for me to get my hands on Matzah and other Pesach goods. On the day of the Seder, I went to Golder’s Green (London’s Caulfield equivalent) and found a Kosher butcher. Isabel and I spent the afternoon preparing for the Seder, which turned out to be a real success. As always, Isabel amazed everyone with her culinary talent. She has some Jewish roots herself, so she knew how to make chicken soup with matza balls, or knaidl as I call them. Yum. Everyone enjoyed learning a few of the rituals associated with Passover, such as eating the bitter herbs and charostet, and looking for the Afikoman.

Our not-quite-conventional Seder

The rest of the festival was fun too. I didn’t go as super Kosher as we do at home, but there was no chametz to be had. It gave me incentive to get a bit creative with my cooking, since many of my staple easy meals were ruled out. Also, it was interesting explaining to people at my residence what the hell I was eating. As usual though, I was glad on Tuesday night when it was over. Mmmmm… bread.

Easter

Even if you don’t know me well, you still would have ascertained from the above portion of this blog post that I don’t celebrate Easter. However, some of my friends here do, so on Sunday I was invited to an Easter Barbeque. An Australian friend hosted it at her place out in the suburbs. Although I was limited in what I could eat (because of Passover), good company and the aforementioned beautiful weather ensured that it was an enjoyable day.

Meeting Jodi Picoult

I saw a poster a while ago that one of my favourite authors, Jodi Picoult, was going to appear at the bookstore close to where I live. Of course, I diarised the event, and went along with fellow fan Colleen last Wednesday. Picoult is an American author who is probably most famous for writing ‘My Sister’s Keeper,’ but has also written 17 other novels, including ‘The Pact,’ ‘House Rules,’ and ‘Handle With Care.’ Her books deal with a range of intriguing and often controversial issues.

Colleen and I each bought copies of her latest book, ‘Sing You Home,’ and had her sign it. I got her to sign it for my mum, who owns almost every one of her books, and really enjoys them. She was very friendly and I got quite a buzz out of meeting such a famous author!

Slightly awkward photo of Colleen and me with Jodi Picoult. Photo courtesy of Colleen’s iPod.

Another museum

The other day Bev and I visited the Geffrye Museum, another one on our list. I’m becoming quite the expert when it comes to London museums. This particular one shows the changing style of English homes from about 1600 to today. Its collections of furniture, textiles, paintings, decorative arts and more are displayed in a chronological series of period rooms. It’s quite something.

Family reunion imminent

For a long time, my parents coming to visit has seemed like an event far off in the future. But all of a sudden, it’s tomorrow. And I’m really really looking forward to it. Of course, after four months I can’t wait to see them. But what’s also exciting is showing them my life here. I’m excited at the prospect of showing them where I’ve been living, my university, and playing tour guide to them in this city that I’ve come to know so well.

After a few days in London, we’re going to Poland to trace some family heritage. So as for the exciting blog material, fear not, there is definitely more to come. Although I think I’ve done a pretty good job with this one, considering I’ve supposedly spent the last two weeks studying…

The Royal Wedding

I couldn’t end this post without some mention of our darling royal couple, Wills and Kate. Although I’m not going wedding crazy, this city absolutely is. Every shop is selling some kind of wedding merchandise. I haven’t been into the city for a while, but I believe it’s all decked out. Certainly the media can’t talk about much else.

You won’t find me lining the streets before the sun comes up, like I know many are planning to do. But we might find somewhere to watch a bit of it, if Mum and Dad can stay awake after their 24-hour journey here. I guess I’m pretty lucky to be in London for such a historical event. So I better soak up the atmosphere and make the most of it.

Catch you soon. Happy Royal Wedding!

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