I have been thinking this week of Professor Peterec. He was one of the best professors I had at Bucknell University. He taught political geography with a larger than life presence. Almost live theater. His class was stellar and eye opening for 20 year old college kids. One of the things I remember most from that class was him talking derisively about “tick book travel”. Basically, this is traveling to another place with your list of things to see (your “tick book”), hurtling from one sight to another and checking them off as you go. In doing so, you are little changed as your interactions with true local culture are minimized. I have thought a lot about this over the years and tried to fight the impulse to merely check off sights in my tick book. Of course, to some extent, I still have one; on our first trip to London we made sure to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc. But I have tried to push myself to go beyond this “ticking”. This has been made easier by being raised by a father who tended to befriend everyone we met when we traveled as a family, whether in Athens or Warsaw or wherever. I am not quite at Tony Kales level yet, but my kids do laugh (as I did when I was their age at my dad) at my need “to talk to everyone!”.
As mentioned in Part I, we have stayed in a different part of London this trip. While the East End is definitely “hip” with lots of pockets of restaurants and trendy shops, it is also very diverse both culturally and in terms of class. Our building, Adelaide Wharf, is surrounded by what the British call council estates or public housing. It has been delightful to see the children marching off to school this week (their summer break is only 6 weeks) in their matching uniforms walking by the flat. Adelaide Wharf itself is a really interesting building and won awards for its design; it includes both privately sold and “socially rented” apartments and contains a large internal garden and play area.
I have loved walking the surrounding streets and seeing the murals on the buildings. Very different from West London.
And of course, the other thing that is quite non-tick book about this trip is the working nature of it.
The rest of the week at the conference has gone very well. My poster was presented on Wednesday. It was kind of hilarious to see what happens to posters if they are left behind. Poster graveyard.
That evening, Tasia and I traveled to Soho to meet the son of one of my best friends from residency. He is getting his PhD in the UK and his girlfriend is attending medical school in London. We had a delightful dinner at Cinnamon Bazaar and particularly enjoyed comparing notes on British vs. UK humor. And also, getting the important question answered of why there are two toilet buttons in the UK.
On Thursday, we had the big unveiling of a report issued by an international dementia care commission that I was privileged to serve on. Two colleagues from the UK and I gave commentary about the impact of the panel to a crowd of about 150 people. You can read the gist of my comments here. The report has been widely picked up internationally including in the US which is very gratifying. To see a group of international experts come together and get something truly relevant done has been a great process. So very “chuffed” about this as they say in the UK.
That night we celebrated with a dinner in the Covent Garden area at Café Murano and also toasted to a new grant that my team will be participating in. We made plans to meet at the conference that is being held in Chicago next year as well as for two of the colleagues to visit Ann Arbor.
Tasia finished up her week at the National Health Service on Friday afternoon. She has had an amazing experience going to many different types of sites. One of her favorite parts of the week has been the home visits; seeing people in their own homes adds an important part of the picture that we clinic doctors often do not see.
We headed off for a last day adventure, starting off to Palm Vaults, a café and coffee place recommended to us by our waitress at El Ganso several nights earlier (whom we had befriended when we told her we were going to ‘steal’ the 1/2 consumed bottle of sparkling water and she termed us “naughty Americans”).
Next stop was the Hackney City Farm where, missing our 2 dogs like crazy, we got in our fix of adorable animals. We never saw the “inquisitive goose” mentioned in the picture below but the description gave us a laugh.
That evening we decided to go to the West End to see a play and chose “An American in Paris“. It was lovely with exhilarating choreography, striking sets and Gershwin music. A perfect ending to a great trip with its themes of living as an American in another city. Goodbye to London for now!