The number of days and pages separating London and me continues to shrink, and my excitement just keeps growing! After finishing The Old Curiosity Shop, I read four stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and Mrs. Dalloway, and all of them were wonderful in their own ways. Somehow, the same city manifests itself differently in every work. The London of Sherlock Holmes is described as “that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained;” but Peter Pan’s London pulses with the laughter of children as they sail toy boats in the park and slip away from their governesses to stay out all night with fairies and living trees. Mrs. Dalloway’s London is the pleasant, light-flooded backdrop to the interior lives of the central characters, but the psychological bustle of thousands of minds and points of view proves overwhelming for Londoners, driving them to either jaded acceptance of the chaos of the metropolis or hopeless confusion. In every work, London reflects life, enigmatic and beautiful, with an ever-changing surface but a constant heart, beating to the steady rhythms of the human experience.
I just started the next work on the list, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. I have yet to actually read any of the poetry; I can’t help it, I love novels too much to take a poetry break. One side-note, reading Mrs. Dalloway may lead to spontaneous flower-arranging and an inexplicable desire to plan dinner parties. The bursting blooms in this vase are courtesy of my mother and her flower beds. A bright morning last weekend, my dad and I went out kayaking on the lakes near our house where I plucked a couple of these waterlilies. I was surprised that they had as much scent as they did!
Preparations for my departure for the UK continue, which in this case means shopping for jeans and sweaters in June, booking walking tours of London and Edinburgh, and applying for my visa (look out for a post on visa applications soon!). Today the man who was taking my fingerprints for my visa application asked me what I would be studying in the UK. When I told him I was an English major, he jokingly said that you can’t study English there—they speak different English. The subtle language difference is honestly one of my greatest fears about moving to Scotland. I love British spellings and sayings, but the “pants” dilemma scares me to death. In case you haven’t encountered it before, the British term pants refers to the undergarments Americans would say they wear under their pants. This one just makes me nervous because I have a feeling I will forget about it frequently. Adapting to other things, like British food, doesn’t worry me too much, it is just the language barrier. As Wilde or Shaw said (no one actually knows which), “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”
On the other hand, I can’t wait to try some British food. Wandering through a farmer’s market recently, I came across a display case piled with meat pies, pasties, scones, tea cake, and itty bitty bakewell tarts. It was magical, but I decided to wait to have the real delicacies in their native British setting or experiment with more recipes from the BBC’s Good Food. For your viewing enjoyment, here is an infographic guide to the pastries of Great Britain:
Until I can sample sweets on the other side of the great salty sea, I guess I will have to bake my own. So, I made this little vanilla chiffon cake with chocolatey fig filling and brown sugar buttercream. The vanilla chiffon recipe came from Fine Cooking, the fig filling was of my own devising, and I took the brown sugar Swiss meringue frosting from Dessert Design Life. The flavor combination was very nice, particularly fig and chocolate. Of course, I also had fun decorating it!
Well, summer keeps flying, but it truly is a fine time.