Thursday, August 28, 2008, London
At last the day arrived when I met my students for the first time, discovered where my office is located and met the support staff on whom I know I will come to rely deeply. Llew and I went our separate ways at the British Museum where he decided to spend the morning before joining a friend for lunch. I made my way towards Bedford Square and as soon as I opened the door, ran straight into Anna Maguire who was in the lobby and who recognized me from the photo I sent her for my NYU ID card. She introduced me to a bunch of administrators. It's great to finally put faces to the names of all the folks with whom I’ve been corresponding all summer long—Ruth Smith, Becky Kelley and finally, Yvonne Hunkin, who worked so hard to find me this flat at Holborn and who has attended to my every need.
I took the elevator up to the third floor where I met Ruth and Yvonne and was escorted by Ruth to my office in the basement. It is the kind of office that I have seen in my fantasies—with a flight of stairs leading up to Bloomsbury Street—still have to pinch myself to believe that my office is in Bloomsbury! Had a chance to check my email after more than 2 weeks and was overwhelmed by the amount that had accumulated. Managed to look at some of it, then met Fred in the lobby (he walked in as if in cue just as we were leaving for lunch with the Freshmen in the Brunei Gallery of the School of Oriental and African Studies--SOAS). What a dream come true to be at SOAS and to have the chance to do some research there! That was where Karen and I connected and it was great to see her again! Lunch was chaotic and in short supply as freshmen swarmed around the food demolishing each plate of finger food as they were delivered. Settling on some rather mediocre chocolate cake as I was starving by that point, we met some more faculty members including David Ruben before I escaped once more to my office to make a few calls—one to my cousin Cherry and one to my friend Janie. More clearance of email followed before I had to rush off to another meeting—a New Faculty Meeting with David, Fred, Karen, David Margulies and David Crout and then it was time to rush off to the Parents’ Tea—another rather longish opportunity for the parents to ask questions about the Program, most of which were fielded by Fred.
Then, off we went, Karen and I, back to SOAS to meet our set of advisees—many of mine did not turn up but I guess I will meet them in due course. We discussed Billy Connolly’s Sailing Alone Around the Room and I was heartened to see that every single one of them had an opinion and was quite ready to articulate it. I loved the lot of students that I met today and if they are anything to go by, I think I shall have a truly fulfilling semester here in London.
Then, it was 6 pm and Karen and I made our way to the Radisson Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel at Great Russell Square to the Creation Restaurant where David Ruben hosted a meeting for new faculty over a really splendid dinner. After all the sandwiches that Llew and I have consumed over the past couple of weeks, I have to say that this was a welcome change—For an appetizer, I ordered scallops that were just delicious with grilled sea bream served with a smoked salmon risotto which was really really good. With a cappuccino and Eton Mess—a concoction consisting of whipped cream, meringue and fresh strawberries about which I had first heard from Nigella Lawson—except that there were too few strawberries. Anyway, it was a great introduction to the cuisine of London and to what is going to be my new life in this city. Karen and I walked out of the restaurant about 9.45 and by 10 pm, I was home.
It was great to see Llew waiting for me at home—I savored the feeling because I know that for the next few months, I will come home to an empty house. Sigh!