Sunday, October 3, 2010

Days 4-5 & Postcard to a Stranger #2

So it is now the beginning of day 6 of my overseas tour, and I have to say:

The English make the best cup of tea. Practice makes perfect, apparently, and since they've already made me alone about 1,000 cups of tea, just imagine how many, as a country, they've made collectively.

So, yesterday I finished up in Dublin, where they kept asking me if I had a Confederate flag on the back of my car and making fun of my accent (I have no accent, y'all). To be fair, I did point out to them that they said H ("haitch") and R ("or") weirdly. It was reciprocal. I liked them. The kids at my school visit were pleasant hooligans, which is also what I am.

Dublin also had fantastic doors. I had to battle an impulse to take photos of all of them, since I'd fill up my memory card in about four seconds.

Then it was back to London. Scholastic had booked me and my sister tickets to the see the Enchanted Palace exhibition at Kensington Palace which was fantastic. The palace was done up in artsy, whimsical, eerie Tim-Burtonesque sort of displays to showcase the stories of seven princesses that had lived there. The last display, the Room of the Dancing Princesses, was my absolute favorite -- they had real trees and blue lighting to make an eerie, sad little grove in one of the bedrooms.

By the time we were headed to my signing at Kensington Waterstone's, it had become fashionably rainy. I've learned how to identify American tourists -- they're the ones that, like me, have hair that frizzes in the rain. English women? Their hair remains straight and sleek and shiny. I was both pleased and aggrieved to see that the line of folks to see me stretched out onto the sidewalk. It seems terrible that their Shiver-affection had to be tested by drizzle. (A big thanks to Waterstone's, by the way, who learned of my obsession with Jaffa Cakes and arranged for me to have a box of them).

After the signing, Scholastic had set up a tea with me and several UK bloggers (and Karen Mahoney, who snuck in at the last moment with an evil grin) -- anyway, twas me, Narratively Speaking, Book Reviews by Sarah, Portrait of a Woman, and the Bookette. The venue? A place called Sketch. The first thing the girls and I noticed was that outside the door was this statue.
Yes, that is a dog without a head. A boxer, I think. At first, we thought something had happened to its face, but . . . no, having been inside Sketch, I now think someone said, yes, a headless dog, that's what we need out front. I will admit that the first thing I noticed was not that it had no face but that it had cropped ears and a docked tail, both illegal in England but common in the States.

FINE, I'm a dog geek.

Anyway, in we go. It's dark. Our table, they say, is not ready for ten minutes -- would we like to check out the Exhibition? Sure, says we. In we go to this large room full of nothing but white leather sofas. The Exhibition turns out to be flickering lights and images projected on the walls while beeps, whistles, men's voices, groaning, and whispering play in the background. The images range from those migraine sufferers are familiar with to things that look suspiciously like men and women or men and men or women and women or possibly boxers and boxers getting it on. But it's all very abstract and trippy so the only thing you can say for certain is that you have one pack of very wide-eyed book bloggers and a Scholastic publicist looking at my 19 year old sister who is looking back at her.

I am thinking: I am too middle-class for this.

Oh, but I had no idea.

Tea turns out to be this perfectly lovely cream tea in a room generally normal except for the red laser sights that sweep down across the walls and across diners' foreheads. The company's great, all is good, but then, we need to go to the bathroom. The toilets turn out to be . . . I'm not sure how to describe this. You have to go up wide white plastic stairs around a center underground "control" station that I think possibly contained a bar or orgy pits. And then at the top of these stairs are . . . pods. And in each pod is a toilet. And when you are in the pod, on the toilet, there is a speaker, somewhere, that plays cow moos and goat sounds at you.

People, I cannot make this up. My talents in fiction only lay in werewolves.

They tell me later that the toilets switched to tube announcements and chanting, but it was always mooing for me. My publicist, Alyx, said that her pod laughed at her. I do not doubt it. Anyway, after some conference at the table, we all agreed that this was the ideal venue for the next Postcard to a Stranger. So here it is.

The pods:

The scene of the crime:

The laying of the card:

And the card itself:

I'm not saying, necessarily, that if you're in a pod toilet that you're on a wrong road, but I'm not ruling it out either.

Anyway, it was actually a fantastic time. The bloggers (and author!) were great fun and great sports. The night ended with delivery curry (there is not much better than that, I have to tell you, curry brought right to your door while you played Bananagram with your sister). And basically, this:

Today I'm off the Bath for the festival there. More from the trenches later!


Jonathon Arntson said...

Bath is my favorite city in the UK. Or should I say favourite?

It's so clean and the people are friendly. Have a good time!

Zoƫ Marriott said...

Oh, *London* (shakes head). Headless dogs? Pod toilets? MOOING? You were representing my fair country to Maggie and you have LET ME DOWN.

Well, I'm glad to hear the tea was good, anyway.

storyqueen said...

I laughed out loud about the mooing. Actually, I can't stop laughing.

Could they not have at least managed howling?

I love these on the road posts!


hi. i'm callie said...

mmmm...jaffa cakes...the gluey orangey goodness, the too dry cookie part and the bittersweet chocolate. my heaven will have jaffa cakes.

Unknown said...

I totally have a picture of myself in front of those gates, too!

And toilet pods = awesome.

Alyssa said...

I've been in that place!!! I studied abroad in London last fall and my art class went to Sketch to see the exhibition and yes, the toilet pods. Didn't try them out. Although, a man did use one as my class was examining them. Awkward?

Anonymous said...

Maggie, I think you'll want to look at this.

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