20 August: Hilary and I walked down to Churchill’s War Room for a commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It was quite moving to hear Churchill’s “the Few” few speech while standing a stone’s throw from Parliament, surrounded by WWII vets along with their children and grandchildren. After the speech there was a flyover by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, two of the aircraft instrumental in the Battle of Britain and WWII generally.
After we came back, we went by Argos and I purchased my replacement camera. Argos is also interesting because it’s like a modern version of an old-school Sears and Roebuck. You walk into the store and all there are basically only two things: rows of catalogues and cashiers. You look through the catalogue, write down the SKU number, give that and your money to the cashier, wait, and the cashier brings you your product.
After we had my new camera home and charging, we went over to the British Museum to look around for a few minutes. I’ll definitely want to go back so I can actually take some pictures, plus I’d really like to be able to spend a little more time on the individual exhibits (we came shortly before closing). Fortunately the museum receives public funds, so it’s open, free of charge, to any and all. I’ll reserve further comment for a dedicated note to the museum, but I will say that no one appropriates and preserves the cultural treasures of other nations like the British!
21 August: Today was shopping day. First, we took the Tube over to Harrod’s. If there exists the Platonic form of the high-end department store, it’s Harrod’s. They have over 300 departments and here is a small sample of the things you can buy: clothes, electronics, pets of all kinds, gold bars, fossils, antique maps, furniture, toys, cars, houses, yachts, platinum cellular phones, foods stuffs from all over the world, art, books, plants, toys, jewelry, perfume and most importantly… freshly made Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Further, if they don’t have an item you’re looking for at the store, the item CAN be bought somewhere in the world and it’s legal to sell it in the UK, they’ll find it and sell it to you… for a price.
We also wandered down Oxford St and eventually made our way to Primark. If Harrod’s is the Platonic form of a high-end department store, then Primark is the Platonic form of the low cost ValueMart. I have never…in my life…which includes 10yrs of working retail and many Black Fridays…seen ANY place…as crowded with people and goods as I did at Primark on a normal Saturday afternoon. Even the busiest Walmart on the morning after Thanksgiving, doesn’t compare. It was absolutely insane. I may go back at some point during the week because they are MUCH cheaper than anything nearby, but wild horses couldn’t drag me back there on a weekend again.
Tip VII: H&M and Marks and Spencers are good of reasonably price, reasonable quality clothing. Primark is good for VERY cheap clothing with a fair to middlin’ chance of not falling apart before it’s time to return to the states. Also as you may have gathered from my post if you go to Primark, go during the week preferably after 18:00.
Overall the first week was amazing. Classes are going well. I love the city, the program, and the people I’m studying with. I can’t wait to see what week two holds.