I think I forgot to mention this earlier, but I spend a lot of time getting dressed. I mean, a lot. Far more than I ever have previously. I am extremely self-conscious. For starters, most people in London dress quite well. How to spot an American tourist: look for the person in crappy jeans, white tennis shoes, a sweatshirt and an ugly North Face or REI jacket. A Londoner wouldn't be caught dead outside in that lot. I feel the need to wear An Outfit every day. Since many more layers of clothing are involved than in California, this takes time. I need to match shoes/boots, socks or stockings, trousers/skirt and top or dress, coat, scarf, gloves, headwrap/hat and jewelry. I wear makeup every day, too. I've been looking "posh" the past few days, wearing skirts and heeled boots and a long, elegant, velvety coat. Today, I decide I'm going to go cyber-industrial. I don a long green tank top, cutoff black cargo trousers, a short black bomber jacket, my oxblood TredAir UKs and a lot of jewelry involving chains and spikes.
What I don't realize is that apparently this outfit causes me to emit an aura of Whore of Babylon. I choose a bus that's traveling to the West End, so I can go to Kensington Gardens and try out my new Lomo camera – it's sunny and bright outside. Naturally, I misgauge the stops, so I get off the bus too early and have to walk perhaps four blocks to the gardens. On the way, no less than three groups of punters in builder's trucks (Californians, imagine an MMM - Mexican moving-mobile - with a chicken coop on the back, except in better repair) have yowled at me. Not subtly, either. One of them, an elaborately coifed mod, sticks his head completely out the window, turns around and shouts, "Hey, baby!" Mind you, this is while he's driving. Another truck pulls up next to me and three yobs lean forward like a row of evil Muppets to leer at me and make strange, but presumably obscene, gestures. I can't understand a thing they say to me, their Cockney accents are so thick. I'm sort of glad about this.
Did I mention that this was in a nice part of town? Lotuses parked on the side streets type nice.
I continue into the gardens. The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn. There's a breeze blowing, and the ducks, geese and squirrels that frequent the grounds are so tame that you can walk right up to them. All of this makes it a perfect testing ground for my new camera. This particular model doesn't have a viewfinder. It takes four frames on each exposure at either 0.2 or 2 seconds. It's useless to try to get good pictures with the thing. It's mostly luck, although selection of a close-up subject can help. I like the idea. It's very liberating, especially for someone like me, who is given to obsessing over compositional detail to the point where I am blinded to the larger context. I take my time, go through 18 exposures, get very hungry from the brisk walk, and head for the famous Orangery for tea. When I walk in, I'm almost afraid I won't be served. It's so formal there. I probably raise the blood pressure of more than few elderly ladies, but I smile into the stares and sit down anyway. The tea is expensive, but worth every penny. If you've never had an afternoon tea before, it goes something like this. First, you receive your teapot and milk. Unless you request loose-leaf, you probably will get a teabag, even at a nice place like this. Then you receive sandwiches, usually cucumber and cream cheese, with the crusts cut off and sliced into pleasing shapes. When you've finished with those, you receive your hot scones, clotted cream and jam. Your scones may have nuts and sultanas (raisins) in them. Lastly, you receive a slice of cake. Mine was sponge cake. It was the only thing I couldn't finish, because it was much too sweet. I like the portions, though. They're entirely manageable, unlike the ones you often get in the US.
I went the long way back through the gardens to Oxford Circus to buy boring house supplies and a clever birthday present for Marco, which I am much too excited to give him. Tomorrow I'll have to wrap it so I can't spoil the surprise. We're both very bad about gifts.