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I See Elsie

The Ithaca College London Centre

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:30AM   |  Add a comment


I would like to measure this fall's orientation week against a loaf of bread.


This summer, for my birthday, I was given a bread machine. I love making bread in it, though I sometimes get frustrated because I don't make it through the whole loaf of bread in the course of a week, by which time it starts growing mold.  In an effort to waste less food, I haven't made a ton of loaves of bread.  But on Monday evening of this week, when I had come home from a day of feverishly preparing the ICLC for the arrival of 50 new students, I thought I would make a loaf of bread.  Normally orientation week has the building buzzing with students coming in and out all day reporting back on flats that they have looked at, finding out about how to withdraw enough money to put down a deposit, how to set up internet, where to go for their internship, which areas of London are both nice and affordable...  With all this excitement happening in the building I could foresee very little opportunity of popping out to get a bite to eat, and with a loaf of fresh bread at home I decided it would be a good week for homemade sandwiches.

Fresh fall '10 faces, straight off the plane

It's now Thursday, and the building is pretty quiet.  By Wednesday evening most groups of students either had flats sorted or very promising leads that just needed a bit of finalization.  I, as it turns out, have the time to go out and get something to eat if I want.  I'm not going to, because I have been responsible about making sandwiches each morning this week.  Actually, I'm beginning to think that I should continue doing this, because I have tallied my bill for lunch this week and it comes to an average of about £1.50 a day.  I can't complain on that count.  I can also report that this loaf of bread has been the perfect size to make for a week of sandwiches, with very little left over.  I think by Friday afternoon the whole loaf will have been eaten!  This will be a real first for my bread machine and me.

I baked that bread!

Knock on wood, the housing experience seems to be going pretty smoothly.  When I was a student here my group was that last to sign a lease.  I think it wasn't until Friday afternoon that we signed.  That afternoon felt as if it came years later than the Tuesday afternoon three days earlier that we started flat hunting.  With any luck, those feelings of complete exhaustion and weariness won't be plaguing the fall '10 students.  You can sit back and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with having a place to live.

The Common Room isn't usually this empty during Orientation Week

It looks like everything is coming together for the semester.  The builders have nearly finished all their work in the bathrooms, though I would keep an eye out for 'Wet Paint' signs around the building.  The students are hopefully getting a bit of free time to be tourists in London before the term starts.  And Bill, Sarah and I all got to take a turn on the scooter belonging to Pete, the builder.  As for my bread, I have learned that with diligence I can eat a whole loaf on my own over the course of a week.

This is Bill's scootering face

-Claire (and Elsie)


Posted by Sarah Davies at 10:36AM   |  Add a comment

Reader, should you ever need to provide an example of bias, prejudice or arrogance, read on.

Here’s a question for the apprentice Londoners you are soon to become: what links Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Soho, St James’ Palace, Clarence House [home of Wills, Harry and their dad], Kensington Palace [post divorce home of their late mum], Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, the four Inns of Court [Lincoln's, Gray's, Middle Temple, Inner Temple – where solicitors and barristers are trained], Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Wren churches, the Old Bailey [the Central Criminal Court], the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street [ancient home of the press], the City, 9/10's of the Underground, 11 of the 13 railway termini [including the Eurostar terminus at St Pancras], the Guildhall, Canary Wharf [new home of business], all three Olympic sites [1908, 1948 and 2012], over 150 Embassies and High Commissions, the 73 bus, the major museums [British, V&A, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Science, Natural History, London, Docklands, Soane], all 5 of London’s Premiership football teams, Lords [the home of world cricket], 4 of London’s 5 airports,…? I could go on, but will restrict myself to three more, the Ithaca College London Centre, MY HOUSE and MY CATS! [OK, I know cats own you, not the other way around.] Have you figured out the common denominator yet? Right, they are all in north London because virtually everything that is important in London is north of the river. Sorry, Claire!

Second Question: of the 15 million visitors to London this year, how many have gone south of the river? Is it 1%, 0.5%, 0.75%, or 1.25%? Note well: I am not including the 2 coach loads of Japanese tourists who took a wrong turn in Parliament Square, crossed Westminster Bridge, only to be ambushed by Lambeth authorities demanding to see passports and visas and to inspect luggage for contraband. Since they didn’t have visas, Lambeth authorities imposed a crushing £500 fine on each person and confiscated their coaches, rings, cameras and watches. OK, Ok, I exaggerate, the above is ‘fiction’ [but fiction informs prejudice], but there can be no disputing the fact that the Thames divides London unevenly. The fates have favoured the north; they showered Heavyweight North London with rich and plentiful gifts, while casting only the crumbs to the South.

Oh, my colleague, my co-blogger, she who misguidedly raised London’s North-South divide, do not betray your south London affiliations. No one will take you seriously. It is better to sleep rough north of the river than to maintain a domicile in the south. It is more fun to spend a week at the dentist having all your teeth removed than to party in south London. It is more nutritious to exist on a diet of crisp bread and prunes than to sit at a south London table. Contrasting the merits of north and south London is a bit like betting on the likely outcome of a game between the NY Yankees and the winners of the Little League World Series. Of course, the south has some bits and pieces that merit a brief and hush-hush visit, like Wimbledon [that’s why no British man has won the title in over 70 years; it cannot be that serious if it’s south of the river], Greenwich [abandoned by the royals in the 17th century], Shakespeare’s Globe [wrongly located], the National Theatre & the Old Vic, but 95% of theatre land is north of the river. If officials at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square [north London] read this blog, they might re-think the decision of the State Department to re-locate the Embassy south of the river. Finally, this blogger has to admit that there is an oasis of sanity and good taste in Colliers Wood south London.

Ah, Stoke Newington, the ‘new village in the woods’, its housing stock chiefly mid-Victorian, just off the old Roman road running from Bishopsgate in the City to Lincoln and the north, full of trendy up and coming lawyers, teachers, & other professionals, a little Istanbul given the number of Turkish eateries, clubs, flower shops & barber shops in the High and Church streets [immerse yourself by coming up and sampling some ‘Testes’, the actual name of one of or local restaurants], adjacent to Britain’s largest Hasidic community, where football allegiances are split between Tottenham [Spurs] and Arsenal [Gunners or Gooners], where foxes roam the streets and gardens at night, where the bibulous wait outside the Rochester Castle at 10am on Sunday mornings to resume their pint consumption of Saturday night, where house prices are lower because the tube doesn’t go there, where young artists, musicians and gay people live. Stoke Newington, STOKEY or just plain N16 is a microcosm of the diversity, creativity and inner city problems of this FANTASTIC WORLD CITY.

IMPORTANT NUMBERS are 149, 73, 76, 476, 243, 106, 67: no they’re not my lucky lottery numbers, they’re the buses that take you into and out of my turf, my manor. I’ve lived in ‘Stokey’ for 28 years and I’m a governor of a local primary and a local secondary school. I live in one of the five 2012 Olympic Boroughs [Newham, where the stadium is located, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich]. My borough, Hackney, has the media centre, an important location for IC students from the Park school who hopefully will be interning here in summer 2012.

Finally, where lies my football allegiance in the country that invented the game? The cats give it away: Kolo and Sami – no Spurs fan would name his cats thus. And while on the subject of football, one of my favourite things, what’s the score over here? Alas it’s 3 to the south [maybe 4 if we count our postman who helps with odd jobs] and only 2 to the north. Although we are currently a goal down, Elsie, the other northerner on staff, would agree with me that the north is where’s it’s all happening. And if I might be prejudiced, she certainly is not. Stay tuned for the voice of sanity, Elsie’s blog.
-The only Dog from north of the river (and Elsie)

Posted by Sarah Davies at 12:34PM   |  Add a comment

London loves its rivalries.  You can be an Arsenal supporter or a Chelsea supporter (or any of the other 9 football teams in London), you can vote Labour or Conservative (or Liberal Democrat or Plaid Cymru or Pirate Party UK or any one of over 100 parties listed standing in the 2010 UK General Election), you can be a North Londoner or a South Londoner (not to mention an East Londoner or a West Londoner).  The North/South divide created by the River Thames is one of London's oldest rivalries, as the water creates a natural barrier.  Both sides have their pros and cons: North London is better serviced by the London Underground system, while South London often has more affordable property.  For the first three years that I lived in London I was a North Londoner and proud of it.  It seemed that with each passing year I moved further and further north, going from Camden to Highgate to Muswell Hill, sinking my roots deeper and deeper into the north.  But then I left London.  When I came back I looked up an old friend who was thinking of moving and we decided that we would become flatmates.  I was beginning a job in London Bridge and she was starting work that would keep her traveling between Chelsea and Camberwell.  With two out of three of those locations in South London, that was where we decided to base our flat hunt.  In the course of about three days we had found a great flat in Camberwell.

Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago I like streets with leafy trees combined with some sounds of traffic.  When we first saw our street I knew I already liked it.  With lovely terraces of Victorian and Georgian homes, a handfull of bus stops within 5 minutes walk and being virtually on top of a railway station, my location is both picturesque and practical.  I can travel to South Kensington in about 35 minutes, Marylebone in about 45 minutes and London Bridge in about 8 minutes.  There is an enormous grocery story about 7 minutes walk from my flat which is open 24 hours (excepting Sunday hours, which are shortened for most large chain stores in the UK) where I like to shop at with my flatmate around 10pm on Thursday evenings so that we can go "Weirdo Watching".  The theory behind this is that since this is a kind of weird time to go grocery shopping, the people there must be weirdos.  Clearly my flatmate and I are completely normal, and are just interested in people watching at the same time as picking up a few groceries after we have watched as much QI and Have I Got News For You as we can handle (I used to have a similar hobby when I was a student in Ithaca, though the trips would happen after watching about 4 hours of Law and Order).

Part of what makes Camberwell such an interesting place to live is the input from some of London's universities.  Camberwell College of Art (part of the University of the Arts London) and King's College Hospital (part of the University of London) give a bustling atmosphere to the area during the week, while it remains a quiet, residential area on the weekends where the pubs spill over with football fans.  Camberwell's cuisine comes from all over the world with restaurants serving Indian, Greek, Chinese, Afro-Carribean and loads of other foods.  For parks, there is Camberwell Green, Burgess Park and, my favorite, Ruskin Park.  Ruskin Park is situated on a hill, and from the top of the park you can look north towards the rest of London, seeing Battersea Power Station, the London Eye, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf on a clear day.  For wildlife there is a metal wolf near Denmark Hill train station that quietly stalks the small family of metal sheep across the road.

Though you wouldn't know it from my accent, I now consider myself a South Londoner.  This made me all the more proud to read that in 2005 Time Out London took a tally on various aspects of the North/South London debate and gave more points to South London.  Whoop!
-One of the three dogs (and Elsie)

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