Friday, January 19, 2001

Another Week in London

Crossing the streets is still a major challenge. Though I try not to be adroit-centric, and I have always referred to Brits as driving on the 'other side' of the road and not the 'wrong side' of the road, I am beginning to think that I am too diplomatic in this regard. It seems that Brits want to Keep Right, too, even though their infrastructure is designed to Keep Left.

The confusion of keeping to the left or keeping to the right is epidemic here. Granted, I live and work in areas of London that are rife with foreigners (it is odd to be the foreigner in an English speaking culture); but, the problem is not just the direction the autos travel. People on the sidewalks and in the subways seem to want to Keep Right in an effort to avoid bumping into each other, and you see the confusion in their faces as they try to dance Left to stay out of each others' way. The tube stations even have signs that say Keep Left while everyone is veering to the Right! Now, these can not be ALL foreigners! A certain percentage of the population in London's financial District (The City) must be from the UK!

In some tube stations, all the escalators will be 'opposite' of what you expect and pedestrians will be all mixed up trying to avoid going up-the-down-staircase, and vice versa. Suddenly, you will approach a set of escalators that are moving in the opposite (correct) direction as all the rest, and the crowd of pedestrians attempting to manoeuvre around is like something out of a Bunuel film!

Fortunately, when dealing with vehicular traffic, the City government has taken to painting in the crosswalk 'Look Left' and 'Look Right' so that we know the direction from which the traffic will strike us.

I am convinced that I am not adroit-centric: I do not think that people SHOULD or SHOULD NOT Keep Right to help traffic flow properly; but, I think that people's natural inclination is to do such. I would like to hear from my left-handed friends if they find adroit-centric cultures to be gauche-phobic, and if they would be more comfortable in a British culture that has you Keep Left.

On another note: it snowed in London today. Or, at least it snowed 18 stories up. It was pretty to look through the snow at The Thames, and Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. I'm still not adjusted to the antiquity of much of The City.

Visited the National Gallery. What a remarkable collection. We took pix from the front entrance which overlooks Trafalgar Square with Big Ben in the background. As far apart as everything seems, it is all rather close together.

Our apartment is at St. Paul's Cathedral, a few metres in from the Churchyard, half a block North of Queen Victoria Street. The Churchyard becomes Fleet Street, which becomes The Strand, which runs along the West End, past Trafalgar Square and becomes Pall Mall. (Total of about 1.5 miles.) Yes, it took me two weeks to figure that out!

It's easy to miss America! The challenge is (and an exciting challenge it is) to find all the wonderful differences that make London a great city. This weekend is Islington, just North of The City.

Next week, Anne and I are going to Amsterdam.