Friday, February 1, 2008
One Day Down
Our first day in the UK is now behind us. Though I’m likely posting this on our second day, it’s being written on our first night in London. Sitting in bed in the Days Inn Westminster off the Pimlico tube stop on the Victoria line, Meredith is asleep and I’m taking a break from grading papers to write this post.
Though Meredith’s flight from Portland to Minneapolis was a less than pleasant experience, thanks to the foul-smelling New Englander in the seat next to her, she survived the ordeal to meet up with me for our flight to London Gatwick. Scattered between catching up, grading papers, eating mediocre airplane food, and watching The Beach on our in-flight entertainment systems, I managed to catch a few hours of shut-eye, but Meredith was awake for nearly the whole thing. When we arrived at 9am, we were already looking forward to a nap.
After a bit of confusion, we met up with Patrick from the ESU at Victoria station. We braved the drizzling weather on the way to our hotel to drop off our bags, but we couldn’t yet check into our room. Having abandoned our luggage to the check room, we headed toward the ESU - a trip we’re sure to become quite familiar with. The weather took a turn for the worse, however, sending us Underground for the trip as we got drenched by the ever growing downpour. To quote Meredith, she looked like a “drowned rat.” I, of course, always look like a rat, so the change wasn’t as drastic on my part.
Walking into the ESU, we were struck by a grandeur and class that seems entirely impossible in America. Understated and very comfortable, the lobby of the Dartmouth House has a sign asking members not to use cell phones or laptop computers. Founded in 1918, the Union acquired the building not too long afterwards, and has its the offices across a courtyard in the back. Ascending the labyrinth of stairs, we found ourselves in a much more familiar environment - a debate office. Almanacs, computers, and messy desks occupied by the people who would be helping us out over the next two weeks.
I haven’t mentioned lunch yet, and if you’re wondering when we were going to eat, you know how I was feeling. When James, one of our email contacts at the ESU, suggested we head to the pub, we readily agreed. The Red Lion is a short walk from the Dartmouth House and everything I hoped for in an English pub. Dark wood, strange beers on tap, and a menu that quickly led all of us to ordering fish and chips - the seemingly safe call. And a good one, as it turned out, since we all inhaled our meals while discussing the etymology of “recent,” the history of Cardiff, and disgraced members of the US Congress.
After our meal, we finally had our chance at that nap. While my first hope was to spend the time grading papers, I found myself utterly incapable of forming thoughts into sentences. Seeing as my students seem to be capable of this, it seemed unfair to grade them while in this state, so I decided to - and did - fall asleep twenty seconds later. To say I woke up refreshed would be a lie that would put my country’s administration to shame, so I’ll be honest: after two hours of rest, I wanted nothing more than to get some more. Knowing that it would make the jet-lag far worse, however, I pulled myself groggily out of bed and onto the streets of London to head back to the ESU. By way of contrast, Meredith was fully awake and had all of her faculties about her. It was entirely thanks to her lucidity that we didn’t end up taking the tube in the wrong direction or walking accidentally into the Thames.
Upon our arrival, we learned that we really would be seeing “a good deal of the UK,” as vaguely promised in an earlier email. Starting tomorrow, we will be competing in the Inner Temple IV here in London, and will be sticking around the city until February 7 when we head to Oxford. From there, we head to Cardiff for the IV on February 9. Though our plans for the next few days are still being settled, we’re really not too concerned because we head to Scotland on the 12th. We leave on the 15th, and if the itinerary is any indication, we will have done a whole lot before then.
Posted by Darryl at 8:43 AM