Extracurriculars

One of the main reasons we moved to London, the most culture-y city in the English-speaking world, was to be able to participate in some fun cultural arty activities. Like…we can go see a musical any time we want, and it’s pretty cheap usually — something like 15 to 25 pounds for a West End show. We can go to the library. There’s any kind of music, every neighborhood, every night.*Harriet’s already signed up for a tap dance class in Herne Hill (just two neighborhoods north of us) and I have tried several things so far. In no particular order, here are the extracurricular things I have tried:

1. Improv theatre. I learned a few favorite games and techniques, including “scene study”, a game in which you present a made-up scene from a made-up play as if you’ve been rehearsing every line/gesture/meaningful glace for an entire week. “Now we’ll see the famous ‘Barn love scene’ from the Tenessee Williams classic ‘Palaver Wednesdays Down at the Ranch”. The class is over now, it ended back in June. We met on Wendesday nights and then went to the pub after class.

2. Choir. Recently I joined the Victoria Park Singers, and they’re even doing a few songs that my college choir actually did for their Christmas concert. It’s a fun bunch of people. One of the guys is 90 years old and was a spook for MI5 during the Cold War, listening in on Soviet agents, and now he sings tenor. He was talking about learning French by immersion, and going down to meet his son in Bordeaux. What a cool guy. The choir meets on Wednesday nights and then goes down to the pub after class.

3. The London Bridge Writers’ group. I found this one on Meetup, and everyone takes a turn reading out loud whatever they’ve brought for ten minutes (~2000 words) and then everyone gives constructive criticism for about ten minutes. It’s a really supportive group with some really skilled writers. A few short stories, a YA novel in verse, fantasy, poetry, literary fiction…it’s really helpful for me, since this is my first foray into longform fiction. I’ve only read once there (both because I don’t want to crowd everyone out, and because I am a coward) but I have gotten some fabulous commentary from them and I am happy to give it in return. The writing group meets Monday nights in a room above a pub, which is convenient, because we don’t have to go anywhere else after the meeting.

As you have now surmised, English social life revolves around pubs. It’s pretty ok.

*One memorable nights out was Miranda’s birthday at a live-band piano request bar called Pianoman. They actually had a line to get in the door — maybe the first time I’ve ever had to wait in line and get accepted by a bouncer, which I thought basically only happened in LA, New York, and TV — and inside it was RAMMED. We could barely move through the throng. The band was on an elevated platform in the middle of the room, the bar was at the far end, and the rest of the place was a maze of smaller rooms and private booths and screaming humans. There were tiny pads of paper at each table for requesting songs, and then you had to submit the songs to a huge vat overflowing with slips of paper, and then the slips of paper would get transferred to the music stands of the players. I naturally came up with a way to avoid all that and picked a song that I knew would be fun for the players — “Because I Got High” by Afroman — and then gave it directly to the drummer, the most underappreciated player in any live band (next to perhaps the bassist.) They played it about five minutes later. Brendon, as usual, bought everyone too many beers and tried to get them to sing the Kiwi classic, Tutira mai Nga Iwi. This is a common pattern with him: buy beers for everyone, sing Tutira mai Nga Iwi. It is a great pattern. I always sing along.

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