Back at home after an intensive fortnight in London. Mind filled with impressions, happy memories, grammar and vocabulary, not to mention all the new friends I made during the visit.
A short list of the best things I did/had/experienced in London:
Weather: well, let’s just say, it could have been even worse. It only rained in the beginning and in the end. All weekends were beautiful and we could enjoy our trips to Bath, Stonehenge, Wimbledon, Notting Hill etc. in beautiful weather. When it rained, we had school. So no complaints, although I admit enjoying the Finnish sunshine and warm summer days even more now, after a fortnight of cold winds and low temperatures.
Politeness: no need to say, people are nice and polite in Britain, even in London, where the pace of life is faster than elsewhere. I like the way people treat each other. On Friday night four of us popped into a karaoke bar in the neighbourhood. We we’re warmly welcomed although we did not sing as well as the others 🙂 But we did begin with Abba’s Waterloo…
Newspapers: There are more newspapers that are politically oriented in Britain than in Finland, but I enjoyed reading both right-wing and left-wing papers. I didn’t buy the Sunday Times but read both The Daily Telegraph (right-wing) and The Guardian (slightly left-wing) and appreciated the level of journalism in both of them. We even made a visit to the Daily Telegraph, which was an enlightning experiece. (In the photo the cartoonist of the Daily Telegraph drawing for next day’s paper. Photo (c) Sonja Baer.
At media classes we were introduced to the world of British newspapers by our teacher George Andersson. After an afternoon of studying the headlines playing with words it was a lot easier to understand the vocabulary and meaning of those, sometimes, cryptic headlines. I also enjoyed reading newspaper reviews of fiction and art exhibitions.
Food: student meals were better than expected.
Other cities: We took part in the excursion to Bath and Stonehenge. I would have liked to spend more time in Bath, a city that has Roman roots and baths, but has also interesting architecture from Georgian period. Stonehenge was ok. Oxford I did miss, but there’s a good reason to go back and get there next time.
Musicals: Billy Elliot is worth seeing, can recommend it warmly. We also got free tickets to the Phantom of the Opera, which I had seen earlier. Luckily we saw the Phantom first. After Billy Elliot’s magnificent show it would have been a disappointment to see Phantom.
Theatre: Despite our many efforts to get reasonably priced tickets to the sold-out play The Audience, starring Helen Mirren, we couldn’t afford tickets worth £200 each, so we had to give up. Other interesting theatre events would have been available, starring e.g. Judy Dench, but in the end we didn’t have enough days to get them.
Museums: Instead we managed to see the much appraised David Bowie Exhibition at V&A. Instead, although our school was located behind the British Museum, I didn’t have time or energy to go there.
Traffic: It was a miracle that we survived without an accident. And just as we had learned to look left, instead of right, before crossing the street, it was time to come home and get used to the so-called normal traffic. As we now had a chance to travel in London for free, we often took the advantage of wondering around the city by bus and tube quite a lot. Some days after classes we just jumped in a bus that we knew nothing about; neither its goal nor the place of departure. We never got lost and always made it to somewhere we could have a cup of coffee or see around a bit. This is something you cannot do if you only stay for a weekend.
Boroughs: As they say, every borough (neighbourhood) is a town in itself differing from other towns of London. Every part of London was unique, different in its own way. I liked them all.
Language: I did learn many new things: new vocabulary and grammar among other things although I was an advanced learner in the beginning of the course as well as in the end. Happy with the teaching methods and classmates. I have always hated pair discussions and group work but it seems, that if the teacher is competent enough, those can be much fun as well. I had a priviledge to study in a group where both teachers and students were excellent communicators and listeners and interested in learning. I learned to disagree politely and use collocations that improve the oral expression a lot.
Books: are much cheaper in Britain where there is no VAT on books and because of some other things as well. In Finland translations cost (although I’m not complaining, since I really appreciate the translations into Finnish) as well as because the print runs here do not amount to as many copies as in the English-speaking world. I decided to start reading books in English again since I managed to read The Great Gatsby in one day. Bought only three books from Foyles and Blackwell, which is a miracle since I’m a heavy user of literature, but they are books I will read as soon as possible, on summer vacation at the latest. I bought Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and The Woman Upstairs by American author Claire Messud. The last one had excellent reviews last week in all newspapers so I thought I’d better get it now.
Miscellaneous: I will always miss London and the good time we had among our group of 12 experienced journalists. I had forgotten how fun it is to travel with others. I’ve travelled alone a lot and sometimes with a friend, but often friends do not share same interests. In London I was lucky enough to find a good companion with whom we shared same interests and were eager to see as much as possible during the stay. Sometimes there were three of us and sometimes more, and we had a lot of fun exploring the city. (Editor’s note: In fact, the City refers only to the historical centre of London, where business is done even today.)
Below some photos in random order.