One such scary product is Quorn (capitalisation intentional - trade mark issues involved). I assume Quorn is available everywhere, but I hadn't seen it before here. It's some freaky stuff, supposedly made out of a fungus or some such. That is their story, but I am not entirely convinced that chicken-style Quorn pieces are not, in fact, chicken. It is one thing to replicate the taste of meat, but its texture? Offputting. Rather unpredictably, Grant is fond of the stuff and we now have 700g (GBP4!) of it in the fridge. Come around to ours for some Quorn (insert name of dish) here!
You can also get mince but I am too scared of that to try it at this stage.
Ironically given the wealth of fake meat products, buying plain firm tofu in Notting Hill and surrounds appears to be impossible.
Londonish stuff this week consisted of two giant weekend walks. On Saturday we walked from here to the Church St markets off Edgware Road. Compared to Portobello Markets, this place is blissfully quiet albeit a little more down-market. Lots of cheap clothes around, and I managed to pick up an OK winter coat for 15 quid, which was timely as it was FREEZING. The coat's only fault besides its slight lack of stylin' is the fact that it reeks of dry cleaning chemicals, which is rather difficult to address when you do not have access to a covered outdoor area for airing. Come around to ours for a bathroom that smells of a dry cleaners! (Kulcha note: it's not "laundrette" over here, it's "laundErette." Fortunately for us, our laundEry is in the kitchen, so we don't have to avail ourselves of the facilities of the laundErette around the corner).
The Church St market has decent street food too, as always. I love how you can get Halal chicken tikka in this country. Beat that for fusion cuisine!
On Sunday we hiked about an hour into town past all the usual landmarks of my uni commute (now including New Zealand war memorial beside Victory arch). There were rather a lot of people and rather a lot of poppies around still from Remembrance Day the day before. It's rather interesting to see how many people wear poppies, etc over here for the occasion - I suppose the memory of war is a lot closer? A woman in a niqab was looking at the giant Royal Artillery war memorial near there and its fake-poppy wreaths with her little boy, and a picture of that might have helped in the middle of the race-hate law disaster of last week rather a lot, I think.
We had a dim sum lunch in Chinatown - rather a taste of home. Chinatown here appears smaller than in Sydney, and the usual form of dim sum is a little different from yum cha and usually involved ordering rather than picking from carts of food, which does take away a bit of the fun. On the plus side, the ordering system meant that you weren't just writing a blank checque to the establishment and did have a fair idea of how much you were spending, and the food was excellent. We will not dwell on how the pleasant waiter asked if we wanted to leave a tip AFTER applying the 10% service charge (uh, that would be a NO).
We are FINALLY deep in Autumn. The trees are changing in the many parks I cycle through to get to and from Uni. It is really something to ride through Hyde Park or Kensington Palace Gardens at twilight with all the colours around. Though it is getting colder, hovering under 10, I can still ride with jeans and a really thin jacket. However, it has effectively killed my desire to ride unless I am riding somewhere in particular. I am getting better at the necessary between-lane scooting along the Strand, and for the rest of the ride traffic flows smoothly or I am in a park and therefore off the road, with only dog and pedestrian dodging to worry about. Which reminds me, re: the rules of traffic, London-style (and I use the term "rules" loosely):
- there is little consensus between walking on the left and walking on the right over here, making every cycleway a deathtrap - at least the cars have worked that part out, MOSTLY. Grant is a one man enforcement machine where this is concerned, but I tend to duck out of the way even if it means walking on the right rather than risk grievous bodily harm. One could consider blaming the Americans or the Eurotrash;
- the traffic lights turn orange before they turn green as well as before they turn red. They frequently do this while corresponding pedestrian lights are still green. I believe the intended meaning is "get ready to go" but the signal is invariably interpreted along a spectrum between a dropping checkered flag and "faster, pussycat! Kill, kill!". It may be that the system was originally intended to give a sporting chance to slower moving innocents such as pedestrians and cyclists, but if so that has long since been left behind. In caution: before crossing Kensington High Street even if the lights are in your favour, watch out for the crazed Maserati drivers (see: above re Eurotrash);
- at an intersection with dedicated lights for a left or right turn, the straight-ahead signal will be a green up arrow, and the turn signals will be plain lights. I could go on about how this ascribes a normative significance to turning rather than going straight ahead, and what this means about the Empire as a whole, but I'm too busy remembering how not to get killed; and
- on really special occasions, if you are a cyclist, buses will try to change lanes INSIDE A ROUNDABOUT by turning right into YOUR LANE. They are bigger than you, so there's no point making a fuss. You may have to run a red light to escape death by crushing though. Why the buses didn't think of the potential difficulties BEFORE the roundabout is anyone's guess, but the Strand and Trafalgar Square roundabout are not places for the fainthearted.
Grant's jobhunt has been hotting up - he has an interview today, two tomorrow, one Thursday and one Friday. Cross all available fingers. One of the jobs is pretty much what he was doing back in Oz, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Of course, he also has a giant headcold so you might want to consider crossing toes as well just to be sure.
We are off to visit Birmingham this weekend - German markets for all! - and are very much looking forward to it. I am taking my coat, regardless of the funny smell. $$ tip: you can get to Brum and back for GBP10 by bus or roughly GBP100,000,000 if you catch the train. Witness the free market at work.
UK gripe of the week: WHY DO TEABAGS NOT HAVE STRINGS? WHY? If anyone knows a brand that DOES have a string (and at this point I really don't care what it tastes like), let me know.