After my university degree in Educational Science I decided that you can never have too many degrees and enrolled with a new Master’s programme called European Culture and Economy. It was an international course and the German students were advised to spend a semester abroad. This is how, in 2003 (damn it! That’s 10 years ago!), I got to spend a semester in London. Wow, London! Well, it wasn’t exactly London, but East London. And to be fair, it wasn’t really East London either, but Barking. Yes, this is actually the name of the place and geographically it is Essex rather than the capital. The fact that we were told not to sit by the window in the local pub because of the possibility of stones being thrown through them says it all! But anyways, officially it was London and it’s also something you can just nonchalantly drop into conversations…. “When I studied in London…” – “You studied in LONDON?” – “Oh yeah, no biggie…”.
However, there is a lot to be told about my stay there but for today, I just dug out a few Emails from back then, because I wrote some ‘reports’ to my friends and family. My reports were in German, so I translated abridgements for this article. Now if you like, travel with me, back to the year 2003…
Now I have been here for more than a week again (side note: I had started the semester in January but had to go back to Germany for some exams) and will now give you a first interim report as I am getting better with the English keyboard (…). Most of you know about my accommodation here, I have got a room in the student dorms with really nice neighbours (English and Irish, and they are probably the only native speakers in this building). Some English people on LSD had the brilliant idea to paint all the rooms in a bright turquoise (fans of ‘The Blue Lagoon’ will recognise the colour), so it seems more like an aquarium.
(…) Last week I went sightseeing in London with my new Dutch friend Miss J. – very much recommendable: Camden Town! We did somehow manage to not buy anything there which is nearly impossible. Then we went for dinner and I had ordered my burger well-done (no food that bleeds for me, please!!) but it was still bright red. Miss J. sorted this out for me, she just told the waitress that I was pregnant and not allowed to eat raw meat – as a result, the staff were super-friendly and very concerned about my well-being! I didn’t even dare to smoke anymore there (side note: smoking in pubs… remember?) because of my sudden metamorphosis to motherhood!
The Queen was home by the way when we were at Buckingham Palace, but we did not get an audience with her for some reason and she did not give me William’s phone number either!
Saturday night we went out in London Town – very nice, and you don’t even convert the horrendous prices into Euro anymore after the first bottle of wine! Getting in touch with the male population is different as well. Not the stupid German “Have we met before?” – no, here they get straight to the point: “Do you have a boyfriend?” – “Yes!” – “Ok, bye!” Well, there you go!
(…) I got used to my classes by now and already handed in my first assignment about the exiting topic of ‘France and the beef sector’. Apart from this, we have cases of CRIMINAL ENERGY here on campus; the other day they arrested some idiot who had broken the lock to one of the corridors and then poured (attention!) tomato sauce and flour all over the place… hm… I think this is a bit disturbing but maybe he has some sort of trauma and it’s not his fault after all. (…) Last week we hosted our first kitchen party (VERY en vogue here) – what a disaster, most of the guests had been in the pub all afternoon and therefore arrived really drunk! (…)
This email will contain the following aspects:
1. Encounters – people and their stories
2. Second sight – I am a medium!
1. Here you constantly meet people who force you to listen to their mostly weird stories. The first person to come to my mind, forced himself on me and my friend Mike in an Irish pub in the picturesque (ahem) town of Ilford. We stopped there to catch up properly after not having seen each other for quite some time. Regrettably, Mike caught the attention of some guy (he did not introduce himself but let’s call him John, it’s very likely that this is indeed his name), because Mike was wearing a Barcelona jersey – how careless of him! John took this as a reason to force a conversation on Mike only at first.
Unfortunately, John was so drunk that he had forgotten any information after two minutes and asked the same question about 100 times. At some point he noticed my accent and concluded sharply that I was not a native speaker and asked where I was from. My answer “Germany” made him nearly explode with delight, since his new girlfriend Hildegard was German, too! At first, I cracked up over him going on for ages about how beautiful the name ‘Hildegard’ is. Then he got deeper (what an appropriate term at this point) into the subject and informed us about the fact that Hildegard had not had intercourse in five years but that him and her made up for this loss. Very unfortunately he went more into detail which I do not want to reproduce here because it was not only gross but I also missed an important part of his story – Mike, would you please explain the bit with the butter now?!. He then proceeded to trying to find out my underwear size because he wanted to surprise Hildegard with some knickers… ewww…
Finally, poor Mike had to promise to marry me next year because he did not manage to defend himself in the following conversation:
John: “Are you going to marry this girl?”
Mike: “Well, we don’t have plans there, no.” (side note: Mike and I were just friends that were trying to have a peaceful drink!)
John: “Is she phoning you every day? This is very German. Hildegard … (10 minute repetition of the facts about Hildegard) … uhm, are you going to marry this girl?”
Mike: “As I said, there are no real plans!”
John: “Hmmm… Hildegard has not had intercourse for five years.”
Mike: “Yes, we know.”
John: “Are you going to marry this girl?”
Mike: “LISTEN, I WAS GOING TO PROPOSE TO HER TONIGHT BUT YOU HAVE RUINED IT! YES WE ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!”
John: “Oh really! Am I invited? And Hildegard as well? You know, she has not had intercourse for five years…”
I guess it’s time to fade out here. If anyone is interested in further information about Hildegard, feel free to contact me!
2. I am a medium. I did it twice! Predict that I am going to run into someone I know, that is. The first time, Miss J. and I were lounging in Hyde Park when I got the feeling to meet someone I know. A few hours later, I left the tube at Angel Station and literally bumped into a fellow student from home. She is English but not from London and she was only there for the night! Oh. My. God.
The second time I was in ‘The Underworld’ in Camden with my friend Judith (we finally arrived there after a true odyssey because the bus driver played tricks on us on the way from Notting Hill to Camden; and all of a sudden we were in Chiswick without even knowing that such a place existed). Once again I mentioned my weird feeling but I thought it was caused by all the metal heads in the pub which remotely reminded me of a club back home. There were also a few bands in the pub. However, I was queuing for food and all of a sudden, my friend Joey was there – he was on tour and the band was playing there that night. So when I got back to Judith I had an AAA pass with me and Judith instantly accused me of having hit on innocent metal dudes. Something I would never do!
This report will elaborate on the following topics:
1. I am free!
2. I saw the Queen, I saw the Queen!
3. I look English!
4. More encounters
1. Free as a bird! I am through with my exams! And now, Miss J. and I have finally set up a sightseeing plan. Our first stop was Modern Tate Gallery. Well, modern art is really not my thing. How can you paint a canvas just blue and then claim that it is art? We can all do that with our water-colour set, right? And my favourite (NOT), Mr. Beuys was represented, too, of course, I always have fun with his stuff. Put a chair in the middle of the room and interpret your life into it!
2. I saw her, I saw her! We had planned to go swimming on Monday morning, but the pool was closed. Someone told us that Lizzie was in Westminster Abbey for her golden crown jubilee. So we went and of course it was all closed off, but I clearly spotted her lovely bright yellow hat on the horizon! And William was there, too! I am convinced he waved at me very royally. Really! Later we went to Buckingham palace and talked to some hard-core fan. The lady lengthily explained to us that William is very lovely (ok, I agree) and that a possible wedding between Charles and Camilla has to be prevented by all means (I don’t really care). Oh, and she told us in detail what William’s future bride will look like, because all men always look for a wife that resembles their mother. However, the lucky one will be tall, blond and blue-eyed. This is exactly me! I knew it!
3. Well, despite the tales about the horrible English weather, it is roasting here! And since we were so euphoric about my wedding with William we totally forgot that the sun is evil and looked like a lobster last night! I look English!
4. I somehow attract weirdos. Yesterday we went to ASDA, my favourite supermarket, and when we were standing at the bus stop, we caught the attention of some old guy. Of course he noticed very soon that I am not a native. He got it pretty wrong first, though “Are you Spanish?” So I had to reveal my origin once again and on he went… “Oh Germany, I was there when I was in the army!”… OH NO! But Germany is such a nice country, he said, and the women, he still likes the women. There was one called Ingrid… OH NO! Not another Hildegard story! I need to go! And there he was already, informing us that he does not need Viagra despite his old age… luckily, the bus came… WHY ALWAYS ME?
Before this article turns into a novel, I shall finish for today. But there will surely be more parts on England. I hope you enjoyed this one; I surely enjoyed digging out the memories! In this spirit: don’t talk to strangers!
Yours truly, madly, deeply!
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