Friday, September 14, 2012

Adventures in Bloomsbury

I haven't been there, but I'm going tomorrow. After riding the Picadilly line tomorrow morning, I will meet my friend on the steps of the British Library and, most likely, recount stories from my first week in London and environs.

 This first week has been mostly about words. It is culturally insensitive to use the wrong word in certain social situations, especially when others realize that the mistake is being made more out of laziness than ineptitude.

So, while two of us queued to get our tickets for Leonard Cohen last Sunday, the night before my first day of work, the third person went to 'fetch' 'chips,' a task that involved 'queuing up' by the chip truck (chip 'lorry'?).

 We actually made it in with plenty of time to spare before Cohen came on and he went on to play for 3.5 hours (with a 15 minute intermission). It was an unforgettable show and it was a great way to start my new job, feeling just a little bit tired the next day.

Often I'm anxious at a new job, but here I'm not. It could be that I have more confidence now, or it could be that I seem to take to the sense of humor I'm finding here. I seem to be able to bring up the issue of words without it becoming too weird.

 'Bespoke' is another one, and then there's 'surgery.' Surgery is apparently like clinic, insofar as a North American might use the word clinic as a sort of metaphor for diagnosing something other than a human body. The British use 'surgery' this way.

So I made up the phrase 'bespoke surgery' which may or may not be funny, but we found it so (the three of us, my roommate and his wife who so generously showed me around London my first couple of days here).

And what, after all this, do I know of Bloomsbury? Next to nothing, other than that it is the literary heart of London, and that is saying something. I'm hoping to find bookshops and cafes, but I can't even picture the place in my mind. When I think Bloomsbury I somehow always think Leopold Bloom from Joyce's Ulysses.

Which is entirely inaccurate, but not entirely inappropriate, at least not for me.  It has an appropriately literary quality and it is, I hope, a peripatetic reference because I seem to remember characters in Ulysses walking around a lot.  But it has been a while since I read it.

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