Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Relatively Uneventful Days

Monday and Tuesday, September 29 and 30, 2008

Spent almost every minute of the last two days at home, save for this evening (Tuesday) when I stepped out to our NYU campus to see This is England, Shane Meadows' brilliant film about Thacherite England during the Falklands War.

Yesterday was beautifully sunny. Tempting though it was to get outdoors, I had too much catching up to do after my weekend in Liverpool. Checked my Barcelona itinerary for this coming weekend, making my easybus booking to Stanstead airport and back, wrote my Liverpool travelogue (which I put on this blog), downloaded, edited and captioned all my photographs, made a few pending calls, etc. and before I knew it, my day was done.

Another interesting aspect about yesterday was watching a crew of city maintenance guys at work. Sometime during the weekend, in my absence, someone mowed down two adjoining telephone booths across the street on which I live. When I poked my head out in the morning, I saw them still standing but dangerously tilted backwards, a pile of shattered glass lying all around them. By about 10 am, two sweepers had the glass neatly swept into a pile. About noon, the maintenance crew arrived with two trucks, one of which they pulled up on the pavement, the other they left on the road. They erected a protective barrier around the booths and set to work.

I had no idea what they intended to do. Did they propose to repair the booths? Little did I expect them to do what they ended up doing. As the afternoon wore on, the irritating sounds of drilling wafted up to my windows and I shut them to be able to continue working in peace. From time to time, I stuck my head out to see how far they had progressed. By 5 pm, they had achieved nothing very substantial. At 5. 30pm, they stopped to eat their meal from styrofoam containers, not having done very much at all.

Then, after 6 pm, work began in earnest. One of the trucks contained a crane and to my astonishment, they hauled up each booth and got it to lie horizontally on the truck. When both booths were on their backs on the floor of the truck, they began to work on the pavement. This continued until about 9 pm. by which time darkness had fallen and the human traffic on the pavement dwindled down to almost nothing. Since the truck covered the spot, I could not see what they doing. At any rate, by 10pm, I retired for the night, leaving them still at work.

When I awoke this morning, it was as if the telephone booths had never been there at all. The only tell-tale signs on the pavement were five flagstones that had been neatly placed in the spot where the booths used to be. They were new and whiter than the dark brown flagstones surrounding them. It had taken the crew one whole day to get the work done, but at the end of the day, they had done a great job, even if they lingered through normal working hours in order to push the clock after 6 pm allowing themselves, undoubtedly, to claim overtime allowances. I realized that maintenance crews are the same all over the world. Working without supervision, they make a packet swindling the municipal administrations everywhere in their attempts to squeeze as much money out of the system as possible. Sigh!

This morning dawned wet and overcast and I was glad I stayed home to prepare my classes for Thursday. In the evening, I walked to campus and saw Meadows' movie that can boast some masterful performance particularly from Thomas Trusgood, the 10 year old kid who had never acted in his life until he appeared at the audition and told the casting director that he would do the film for five pounds. It was exactly that brand of cockiness and braggadocio that the director wanted his character Sean to portray and the rest is history. The film is so superbly directed that at no point do you believe that the characters are acting--they are naturalness personified and I was riveted throughout. But for the difficulty I had following those Nottingham accents--which, incidentally, lent terrific authenticity to the script--I loved every second of it and would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in seeing quality contemporary British cinema.

I am also pleased to have found out that the weekly TV program is available with the Sunday Mail which I purchased on Sunday in Liverpool in order to get my hands on the free CD that came with the paper--Ten Tenors singing some of the most famous arias of all time. The bonus in the magazine inside was ten pages of recipes from Nigella Lawson's new book and some mouthwatering pictures of the domestic diva who was also on the cover. I seem to be slowly entering into the spirit of my new life in London what with discovering its Sunday papers and learning to recognize its celebrities--Jamie Oliver, Kylie Minogue, Lawrence, Llewellyn-Bowen, Charles Saatchi and Sienna Miller. I am afraid I might suffer reverse cultural ignorance by the time I return to the USA.

Another warming thought is that my next door neighbor Tim, a software designer, knocked on my door this evening to invite me to lunch on Sunday in his flat that he shares with his wife Barbara Cookson, an attorney. I had to sadly decline as I will be in Barcelona for the weekend, but I promised him that I would get in touch upon my return. I also found a message awaiting me on my machine (or 'answer phone' as they say in the UK) from my friend Michelle wanting to know if I was getting on OK. How thoughtful of her!

Who said the English are reserved? I don't seem to be doing too badly myself in making and keeping friends here.

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