Beware: long letter ahead. Monday and Tuesday heralded finals, so nothing too exciting there. Although I have found my new Regular Place at Caffe Forum on Gloucester Road. They give free croissants to the first 100 customers, so needless to say I will be there a lot.
Tuesday night I finally finished ALL of my work and so we went out to the discounted student night at XOYO, which was underwhelming. I did eat a very good falafel wrap far too quickly afterward, however. Wednesday morning was spent lazing about as a reward. I am a lapsed Catholic (read: largely a non-believer) but still greatly enjoy the ritual of Mass (perhaps because I no longer am forced to attend). So for Ash Wednesday, I felt like going to a service. London is predominantly and unsurprisingly Anglican, so I figured I’d go all out and attend the evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I cannot being to describe how lovely it was. I wanted to sit in the quire but was content with the front row next to the altar. Westminster Abbey is a friendly place — they invited all who received Communion in their own church to do so (so I did), and I also was able to get ashes. The music and the acoustics floored me, and it was funny how the rituals of Mass made me feel at home. It’s not so different from ours. I’m writing a poem about the experience (the first I’ve written in a while!).
It was early to bed Wednesday night because on Thursday morning I left for my much anticipated Edinburgh trip! I left around 6 AM from my flat and went to Kings Cross Station. I saw the famous Platform 9 3/4 (complete with cart trolley shoved in the wall) but had no one to take my picture because I was traveling alone! Depressing, really. My train left at 7:30 and arrived at Edinburgh Waverley Station around 12:30. Maryam, my friend from Wheaton and Emerson House, picked me up and we went and dropped my stuff off at Zach’s (also from Wheaton) flat. We went to lunch (at which I ate my first bit of haggis, which I liked?) and I got a good tour of the city. We were chattering away the whole time even though it’s only been two months since we’ve seen each other. There’s always so many funny stories to trade with Maryam. I think we see a lot of the same humor in things. Edinburgh is really a quaint, cobbled, beautiful place. Perhaps I felt more fondly toward it because I was on vacation, but it was such a relief to be there, in a city of 500,000. London becomes daunting at times, even though my setting for most of the time feels more like a neighborhood than anything else. Regardless: I really like Edinburgh.
We headed down to Scottish Parliament (where Zach works) around 5 to pick him up. I made a huge fuss when he came out of the building and it was SO good to see him. I saw him briefly in December, and July in Albany before that, but it was like a wave of relief washed over me. Familiar faces are so comforting when you’ve felt a little bit in a sea of new ones. We briefly went back to Zach’s flat, and the Tesco around the corner. We bought ibuprofen (because my ear really started hurting — FORESHADOWING) and Irn Bru, a strange orange cream soda which is “Scotland’s Other National Drink” (the first is of course Scotch whisky).
After this, we went to a lecture hosted by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association by Linda Bellos, a feminist and a founder of Black History Month. The lecture was about LGBT History Month, which is obviously something important to me. It was really interesting and I was so glad to get back into feminist culture, which I haven’t really been involved with here, sadly enough. It got a little wild when this women raised her hand (normal, the lecture fostered discussion) and starting talking and slowly revealed herself as a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, aka someone who is stuck in second wave ideology). Suddenly someone who was running the lecture stood up and announced their zero tolerance policy and a security guard essentially ESCORTED HER OUT. I’ve never seen anything like that at a university sponsored event…actually let alone anywhere. That, plus the free wine the event was giving out, made it a very exciting night. What I liked most about the evening (besides the wine) happened after it ended. People shuffled out, and the three of us stuck around enjoying our wine and processing the lecture. The other students still around came and sat at our table and talked with us too. We had a great conversation and then the night staff kicked us out so we went to a local bar, The Brass Monkey, and had more drinks and conversation until we were feeling tired, around 1 AM. I went to bed happy, looking forward to the next day. Then…something interesting happened.
Around 3 AM, I woke up in excruciating pain. Remember the briefly aforementioned ear pain? It got way, way worse. Full disclosure: I started crying and did the only thing I know how to do, which is call my mother. She and my dad pulled some research on clinics near me and then later in the night after ibuprofen wasn’t working my dad suggested that I call the Scottish NHS’ off-hours line, which I proceeded to do. The most wonderful Scottish woman asked all about how I was feeling. She then said “alright, I’ve made you an appointment at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for 7 AM.” I was a little freaked out because it’s a large hospital, but I took the appointment and booked a cab and headed out. Not before freaking out a sleeping Zach on the couch by saying “hi, I’m going to the hospital, I’ll be right back.” Probably not the best word choice, but off I went. Everything was empty because of how early it was, including the off-hours clinic. I walked in and three Scottish guys laughing at reception looked up at me and said “are you Emily? Do you have the 7 o’clock?” I said yes and yes, even though the hearing in my right ear at that point was seriously limited. I got a doctor in approximately 30 seconds, and he confirmed that I did indeed have an acute ear canal infection, just like I did last year (this leads me to believe that something is probably Up with my ears and I should probably see an ENT when I go back to the States). He gave me some ear drops and I dropped a not-subtle hint that I’d appreciate a course of oral antibiotics just to ensure it went away. He said “oh, sure!!!” very excitedly and also brought back a huge box of codeine pills — “just in case.” He said that he hoped I felt better, and I, expecting a co-pay, was confused. I said, hesitantly, “uh…am I all set?” and he said “oh, yeah, they’ll book you a cab back home at reception. Bye!” IT WAS ALL FREE. So I just…went home. I felt like I was robbing the hospital. So the biggest shout-out of this letter goes out to the NHS, because they are truly shout-out-worthy.
I went home and was locked out of Zach’s flat for several hours because there was some confusion and then he had to go to a final, but I had a nice big breakfast at a cafe around the corner from his place, and then Maryam let me sleep in her bed at her dorm for a couple of hours. Then I felt GREAT, and was ready to take on the rest of the day, which entailed picking up GRACE from the airport. Grace is one of my best friends in this life (also from Wheaton), and I had not seen her since May, when sophomore year ended, because she went to Bhutan and I didn’t see her this summer or winter. Our reunion was spectacular. We all made dinner together in Zach’s kitchen and we were sitting and scarfing down rice and Grace commented that it could be the same in Norton, or Thimphu, or Edinburgh — sitting around a table and eating home-cooked food with good friends never gets old. It’s true. I so relished the ability this weekend to be stupid around non-judgmental friends that I value so much. Then we went to a couple of bars in Edinburgh, bopping about town until will all got some well deserved rest.
On Saturday morning Zach and I thought it was only right that Grace experienced a proper fry-up, but one that we made ourselves. We’ve always loved cooking together, so it was nice to blabber and listen to music and fry bacon. It was all very good and we sat gorging ourselves and decimating the groceries we had only just purchased. And what do you do after a proper Scottish breakfast? Tour Scottish Parliament, and climb Arthur’s Seat. Scottish Parliament looks like it doesn’t belong in Edinburgh — I guess that’s because it’s so recent. But it was an awesome building to tour, and I felt very cool because we got special visiting passes because Zach works there. Then we were off to walk — but really hike — Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t think to bring proper climbing shoes, so my regular black riding boots somehow got me up the mountain. I was laughing all the way up, and the climb was so worth the view and the muddy hands. After we got down Zach and Grace wanted to give me a taste of the Himalayan cuisine they so enjoyed last semester, so we went to a cafe specializing in the food of the region and we ate momos, which are traditional dumplings. They were so good and perfect for a trio of famished travelers.
One of my favorite parts of this weekend was probably pushing the two couches in Zach’s living room together and getting under fuzzy blankets with Zach and Grace with bowls of spaghetti, sleepily reminiscing and watching silly videos, before we went out for the evening. Nothing ever changes. Before I arrived Zach promised me that he would give me my first queer bar experience in the Pink Triangle neighborhood of Edinburgh, so Maryam came over and we set out. I won’t get into the nitty gritty but it was interesting. Fun is a better word. I had fun. I found a friend that went to Wheaton my first-year but transferred out and she was excited to see me on her turf (specifically a gay bar). This was definitely our latest night, for several reasons, so we took a cab home and all passed out.
Getting up on Sunday was tough but Zach, Grace, and I dragged ourselves out for a final brunch, which was lovely, and then we went to the National Gallery of Scotland as my final piece of culture. It’s a smaller museum (smaller than London ones at least) but I really liked it. I felt like I could actually see everything in it. We met up with Maryam (and Jordana, also from Wheaton/Emerson) for coffee before I took the train back to Kings Cross at 5. It was a wistful ride home (before I fell dead asleep).
I was so happy to see my friends. It was a good break, and I feel absolutely re-energized and ready to start my new class (British Cinema and Society) and my new internship (on Tuesday). Thank you so much to Zach and Maryam for their hospitality, and Grace, I can’t wait to see you on Tuesday when you arrive in London!
No Things I Read and Liked This Week — I think this was enough.
And that’s the week that was!
P.S. word of the week: bairn.