Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Dickens, Hardy & London

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The Prime Minister and Thanksgiving Dinner

Roger Market ’09 - On Thursday, our sixth day in England, we traveled by Tube to the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, and then went for a walk in Hampstead Heath (to Parliament Hill and back down). While these sites were indeed interesting, I was particularly intrigued by two minor events that I noticed throughout the day.

First, while riding the rail to the Heath, I noticed a timid young woman sitting adjacent to me, rocking forward and backward. I thought maybe she was nervous because she was sitting between two men she didn’t know, a black gentleman and Wabash’s own Mitch Palmer. Whatever her true feelings, she made me think about the state of the world now versus the state of the world in Victorian times. Certainly, there are similarities: For instance, just like Jack the Ripper terrorized London for three months in the autumn of 1888, we have serial killers today that remain at large for long periods of time, some even longer than Jack the Ripper. Perhaps the crime world of today is not necessarily any larger than it was in those days, when considered as a percent of population, but it is certainly more noticed and sensationalized. If I were that girl, stuck between two strange men, on a modern-day Underground rail system, I might be nervous as well.

Next, as we were walking through Hampstead Heath, an English woman came up to Dr. Herzog and asked him if he knew how to get to Wells Street. Though we were in the middle of the Heath, Dr. Herzog knew exactly how to get to Wells Street, and he directed the woman there without a problem. I was amazed at and wildly impressed with his ability to orient himself with London/England so well, as I have been on numerous other occasions throughout this very well planned/timed trip. Standing on the Heath, in the cold, misty rain, listening to Dr. Herzog’s directions, I was reminded that the world is a big place, that London is a big place; thus, it was particularly incredible that Dr. Herzog—who we know to be American from Indiana—could tell an English person how to navigate one of her own cities. I wonder if the woman knew he was American when she decided to ask him for directions, and would she have addressed him if she knew his nationality beforehand?

When we got back to the hotel that evening, after a long day on the Tube and in the Heath, we took some time to get cleaned up, and then put on the best clothes we brought with us and went to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner at Cosmobia, an Italian restaurant situated about a block from the Russell Square Tube station. The food was good, but the prices were a little steep. If any readers are planning a trip to London, be relieved when I say that this twenty or thirty pounds spent at dinner is actually the most I have spent at any one location. London can be expensive in some cases, but for the most part, I think the astronomical pricing we hear about in the States is overstated. There are plenty of decent prices here. Of course, with a terrible world economy and low currency exchange rates, now is about the best time to tour London, and that probably has something to do with the surprisingly good deals we are regularly encountering across “the Pond.”