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Monday February 04, 2002, 18:38 GMT

It was my intent today to walk outside and, with camera in hand, document the world I saw around me. The world, a new one for me, glistening, shiny and new, at least for me, under the sprinkling of a mid-winter rain. I hear that the weather here in London remains consistently gloomy and pleasant throughout the entire year, the sky much as it was this morning, a lightish gray with a full cloud cover, indirect light casting soft shadows over everything. There are, supposedly, a couple of months there in the middle of the year when things are supposed to actually get nice, but I have not been privy to that sort of experience as of yet.

Now as it turned out, I left my camera at home, which is to say, what I have adopted as my home as I am here, due to the fact that I was, this morning, walking the home's true occupant to the subway station on her way to work. This was to be a brief outing to be followed by a more substantial outing during which I would, with camera in hand and an open eye to the world, explore the city and get myself very very lost.

As it turned out, I ended up staying out just after dropping her off, wandering down a fairly main thoroughfare until I found myself somewhere familiar, if only by name. I had several goals for the day and if I could accomplish them before returning home (that is to say, my home here) I could rest easy with the knowledge that the day had not been a total waste.

Exercise 1 - Find needle and thread. This, to begin, would not seem to be such a difficult matter on its own but for the realization that the English do not consider needle and thread suitable fare for a pharmacy. That is, unlike in the United States, where the pharmacy is a store in which one can find almost anything one could possibly want, from tooth brushes to laundry soap to canned soups and paper towels, the English version of the pharmacy contains a much more constrained subset of the items that one would need in everyday trials of the world. That is, one can find birth control and nail polish, but not needle and thread. Emory boards a-plenty (which was another item on my list), but in two large pharmacies I entered, it was as if I had inquired as to whether they carried elephant diapers.

The supermarket, with an attached pharmacy, did have needle and thread available and there I was presented either with an assortment of a dozen pastel colored polyester thread, or two white and a black spool for slightly less money. I opted for the more useful of the two and proceeded on my way, satisfied, finally, that I found someone who would stop looking at me strangely.

Interestingly enough, I do not feel out of place here, which is comforting. Americans are so well received across the world (well, or not) that I am often embarrassed to open my mouth to speak for fear that the person to whom I am talking will hear my accent and immediately picture me a large, obnoxious, talking hamburger. I suppose that there are enough Americans wandering around this country that it doesn't so much matter, just as the opposite is true when it comes to the English wandering around New York. But still, as the reluctance to speak wears off, it is still present, and will have to be dealt with if I want the remainder of this visit to continue to be as enjoyable as it has thus far.

Further examination reveals that there was only one exercise of the day. The second could be considered the work I had to do, that is now complete, that I did because, as a freelancer, I get the flexibility to move around and as a freelancer, the less I work the less I get paid. That project took up the better part of the afternoon, that is, the part of the afternoon after I got the sewing kit after wandering about in the rain and after getting only slightly turned around in the mess of a road system that makes up the un-grid of London.

But really, who wants to hear about work? So I will just sit here and let my eyes drift off to sleep and realize that there is something so much more comfortable about working in London at this exact moment in my life than if I was back in New York doing the exact same thing.

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