Southbound

phd072409s

I have been lied to. I was supposed to have Internet on the train for the six hours it took me to come south, but did I? Alas, I did not. But, no bother. I spent the time writing finishing Chapter 10 of Bede and reading articles for my dissertation. In the month of July I wrote two chapters of my dissertation and a chapter of a novel to a grand total of at least 12,000 words. Hooray!

I also sat with an American couple from New Mexico. They were both retired and were on vacation. As expected, they asked what I was studying. “I’m a PhD student in medieval literature.” (blank stare) “So what will that prepare you for?” “Well I’ll have a PhD” “So you’re going to teach?” (A little part of me died inside.) “Yes,” I answered.

Then, before the woman would let me alone to continue working on Bede, she asked, “Do you know the capital of Indonesia?” She was working on a crossword puzzle. “Jakarta.”

Later on she asked, “Are you from Edinburgh? Or London?” She was surprised to hear I’m from Texas. I don’t think my accent has changed that much. Practically the entire School of English is American. My neighbors are all Chinese. You get the picture.

She later told her husband that Rick Steves said to be very careful of pickpockets in London—“wear your fanny pack”—I’ve never really thought about London being dangerous. I guess perhaps on the Tube. But if you don’t make yourself stand out, if you stay aware of your surroundings, you should be fine. Tourists who stand out as tourists are the most at risk. I must admit, I derived some pleasure today out of going from Kings Cross station to Paddington station via the Underground without giving it much second thought. However, I did not like that when I bought a sandwich, the clerk waved my Scottish note at her manager in confusion and then smiled at me, “You’re from Scotland?” Yes, and I’m tired of my money being suspect whenever I come south, thankyouverymuch.

I do not intend to sound critical of my train companions, they merely baffled me. They reminded me of how friendly Americans can be, even if somewhat exasperating. In the woman’s favor, however, she did ask about the details of what I was studying, and I was able to spread knowledge about medieval cycle dramas. When she asked me what Doomsday was, I answered “Judgement Day. It’s when Jesus comes back to judge the living and the dead”—and immediately realized that I answered with the Creed. Oh well.

(Also, Harry Potter’s birthday is today. Happy 29th!)

After being on the move for literally ten hours, I finally sat down in Christ Church meadow to be still while at least three clocktowers tolled 6 o’clock. Tomorrow I shall dive back into the books and articles and revise in earnest, but for now, I have paid for my Internet with a pot of peppermint tea, and now I’m going to enjoy it.

12 thoughts on “Southbound

  1. Apodeictic says:

    I’ve only recently started reading your blog since your Harry Potter post but it would appear from this post that you are currently in Oxford. If so and you’d like to meet (absolutely NO obligation there) let me know. Otherwise, enjoy your stay in the city of dreaming spires πŸ™‚

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  2. Joseph says:

    I’m sorry to be a southern stickler, Chera, but according to the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers “you should not rely absolutely on Scottish notes being accepted outside Scotland.” They are not legal tender, even in Scotland.

    http://www.scotbanks.org.uk/legal_position.php

    As for London, it is very safe for tourists, but those of us who live here are in a permanent state of mild apprehension.

    I hope you are not going to go around telling English girls to ”wear your fanny pack” because, as I’m sure you know, this doesn’t have the same innocent meaning that it has in Texas.

    I sound churlish, don’t I, but I love your blog. πŸ™‚

    I’m glad you made it down south safely. We’re not as violent as those hooligans in Glasgow and Moss Side.

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    • Chera says:

      Yes, I know that technically Scottish money isn’t legal tender, but I don’t see why someone doesn’t do something to fix it so that it is, or just let us use our money. It’s a minor annoyance. I could either wait to withdraw money in England, and have no money on the train, or take Scottish money with me on the train and have it be turned down once I’m in England. Oh well.

      Is there an English name for the innocent American-style fanny packs? Seems like something to know to avoid unnecessary confusion… To be honest I don’t think I would tell ANYONE to wear one. Unfortunately I see tourists wearing them everywhere. I had to be very careful not to let my dismay be apparent when I heard my travel companion tell her husband to wear one.

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      • Apodeictic says:

        Yes. It’s called a “bum bag”. “Fanny” is a much more offensive word in the UK and most of the Commonwealth and comprises a different part of the (female) anatomy. People will probably understand you if you call it a “fanny pack” but that’s NOT what they’re called here (for obvious reasons once you understand what part of the female anatomy the f-word refers to).

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      • Apodeictic says:

        You can certainly exchange Scottish or Northern Irish notes for English ones at any bank in England. That’s never a problem. But it’s a hassle to have to go and do that.

        In my experience most shopkeepers in England *will* take Scottish notes. The problem is usually one of unfamiliarity rather than hostility. Be prepared for a few stares, some consternation (the RBS Β£1 note gets the most!) and the odd “a Scotty!” exclamation when they finally work out what it is you’re paying with. I find that sometimes there is greater unfamiliarity if the shop is staffed by immigrants rather than native born English people as immigrants may be less familiar with Scottish (& NI) notes.

        But you can also experience a problem with English notes north of the border. Not so much one of unfamiliarity but sometimes hostility. There would be certain pubs in Glasgow, for instance, where I would advise you NOT to try paying with a Bank of England note πŸ™‚

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    • Chera says:

      I have been accepted into the PhD program, thus, I am a PhD student. And it was easier than explaining the whole MLitt to PhD process. I prefer simple answers if I can manage them.

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  3. Joseph says:

    “There would be certain pubs in Glasgow, for instance, where I would advise you NOT to try paying with a Bank of England note.”

    Exactly. You see we are very tolerant here in London. So kind, really.

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  4. Megan says:

    Well, as for your accent, I don’t think I could’ve mistaken you for a Brit, but in their defense, you’ve never had a typical American accent. I mean, not just a non-Texan accent, but you just have a different way of pronouncing and articulating. (Perhaps ethereal is the word…) And you just must blend in well enough there that they thought you had some sort of British accent. Or maybe you’ve picked up more of an accent than you think. πŸ™‚ I’ll let you know when next I see you.

    And, it could have more to do with your use of words like “Tube” and vast knowledge of the area. Hee

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    • Chera says:

      Ethereal? The adjective meaning:
      1. light, airy, or tenuous: an ethereal world created through the poetic imagination.
      2. extremely delicate or refined: ethereal beauty.
      3. heavenly or celestial: gone to his ethereal home.
      4. of or pertaining to the upper regions of space.

      Tee hee, now I’m trying to imagine what ethereal speech sounds like. Perhaps a mix of Luna Lovegood and the elves of Lothlorien? πŸ˜‰ I did pull out a Scottish inflection yesterday when I asked a question and Chris laughed at me. Oh well.

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