Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"London Jottings - 8"

Odds and ends…

I went back to the “Old Bailey” later in the trip. (I sat in on a murder case that seems, to me, worthy of consideration as an SVU episode. A 20 year-old Sikh woman was molested by a close friend, she told other friends about it, and the attempted rapist was later found burned to death in his car. The question to be decided was, was it murder, or did the assailant commit suicide, as penance for his shameful misdeed? What do you think? Is that “chung-chung” material, or what?)

On the Underground (subway) ride to the courthouse, I sat opposite an impeccably groomed young woman doing something which, to me, was either immensely skillful or foohardily dangerous. I will leave you to decide.

The subway train is barreling down the tracks. And as it bounces along, the young woman is sitting there, utilizing a series of needle-like implements, in a “makeover”-level effort to beautify her eyes.

I’m talking “herky-jerky” subway ride. Passengers cling tightly to the poles, so they don’t fall on top of each other. And as the train careens down the tracks, this entirely unself-conscious woman is wielding a sword-tip sharpened black pencil, a thin pointy stick and a menacing pair of tweezers, in an effort to make her eye area, I don’t know....pop.

I sat there the whole trip, wondering if I should be impressed by her dexterity, or whether, at any moment, a horror movie was about to break out.


“My EYE!!!

Nothing happened. Still, it seemed like she could have completed all that eye refurbishment at home. Is it possible I had encountered my first ever “Makeup Daredevil”?

Complementary Stories

Printed in the local newspaper…

Police cars, uniforms, and even handcuffs have been stolen from under the noses of officers, according to new figures that show that a crime takes place every hour in British police stations.

Printed in the same newspaper…

Americans bought record numbers of guns last month amid an apparent surge in popularity for weapons as Christmas presents.

I don’t know why they bothered buying the guns when could simply go to England and steal them from police stations.

(Yes, London police stations have guns. You just have to sign them out.

“Wait right there, Mr. Perpetrator. I’ll be right back.”)

Learning About The Locals…

One of the great thrills about London is that, wherever you look, you find statues and plaques paying honor to historic personages. Literally half a block from our hotel, there was a plaque on a building, announcing that Sir Isaac Newton had lived there. The English clearly revere their past. (Including their historic losers, like “Scott of the Antarctic”, who reached the South Pole second, and perished with his entire company on the way back. Big statue. He looks cold.)

I also noticed many interesting street signs on our visit, like the one that said,

Glasshouse Street Closed To Through Traffic from 22 September, 2008.

Another English attribute: They do not seem to mind waiting.


There’s a banner hanging outside the British Museum (or there should be) saying:


An Unusual Dining Experience

Ate at a restaurant called St. John, in the heart of London’s meatpacking district. I know I’m in challenging territory when, on the top of the menu, I spot a hand drawn picture of an entire pig.

The menu includes more than just pork, however. For those who don’t eat pork, there’s rabbit. For those who don’t eat pork or rabbit, there are lamb tongues. And for those who don’t eat pork or rabbit or lamb tongues, there are Snail Sausages. Setting the tone, the motto printed at the bottom of St. John’s menu reads,

Nose to Tail Eating.

The one oasis of culinary sanity is a dish comprised of lentils and goat cheese. But when you order it, the waiter makes a face.


It was an unusual eatery all around. An apparent lawsuit-indemnifying disclaimer informs diners that

“Some game and fowl may contain lead shot.”

I had never experienced that before. A main course including potatoes, a choice of vegetable

And bullets.

Why did I select such an establishment? Did I mention I was not traveling alone?

(Full Disclosure: I sampled the rabbit. At that point, my stomach threw its hands in the air in consternation and dismay. On the trip, I had eaten pork, venison and, now, rabbit. My mouth was unquestionably “Under New Management.”)

Sign posted at a fashionable London boutique in January:

“Gone Tanning.”

Us And Them

America is defined by its entrepreneurial individualism, their longstanding businesses branded by the driving passion of a singular vision – Macy's, Tiffany’s, Bloomingdales, Levi Strauss. These names say “success.” They say “We did it on our own!” With the underlying implication, “And we’re not splitting the money!”

In England, the template for success is, apparently, teamwork.

Almost anywhere I looked, I saw business establishments bearing two names: Fortnam and Mason (gourmet grocers), Turnbull and Asser (upscale clothiers.) We patronized a cheese store called Paxton and Whitfield. Even cheese sellers seem incapable of a solo attempt.

This difference seems embedded in the characters of the two nations. America is Daniel Boone, a man who sets out alone to seek his fortune, and two hundred years later, is immortalized in a television series starring Fess Parker.

In England, the entrepreneurial leap seems to require the bolstering fortitude of a team.

PAXTON: Whitfield, I’m thinking of opening a sort of a cheese thingee. You know like an emporium, or some such. Care to go in with me?

WHITFIELD: Me? A shopkeeper?

PAXTON: Oh, please do, Whitfield. All the finer retailers are two-named affairs these days. If the customers see only one name on the sign, they might suspect problems with the cheese.

A dual effort not only supplies security, it apparently signals trust.

“If Paxton trusts Whitfield, and vice versa, perhaps we can trust them as well.”

Also, if the enterprise goes under, there is always the other partner to blame.

PAXTON: Whitfield was, shall we say, rather imaginative with the books.

WHITFIELD: While serving a sampling of Northumbrian Blue, Paxton inexplicably went to his nose. The word got around, and like that! – we were done for.

Theoretical imaginings. But there is clearly a difference.

Flyer posted in the window of a store that sold cookbooks:

“Sausages Workshop With Eric. Wednesday Jan 11th.”

Bad luck for us. We were departing on the Tenth.

1 comment:

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; was Napoleon right, is it a nation of shopkeepers? It would seem so given today's report.

BTW: Lewis and Clarke, Orville and Wilbur, Burns and Allen, Cheech and Chong, Nichols and May. Americans work in teams, just not when they open a shop it would seem.

have fun on the rest of your trip,