As promised, here’s a link to Popcorn Movie, a comedy chase through London.
My film acting and directing debut.
As promised, here’s a link to Popcorn Movie, a comedy chase through London.
My film acting and directing debut.
This is it.
As I write this, I am sitting comfortably on my couch at home in Iowa. The last month in London rushed by quicker than I anticipated and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I want to share all the highlights from this past month that I intended to write about at the time.
When I first came to London I knew my parents and sister would be coming to see me, but all semester it feels like I’ve had a fairly regular stream of visitors who were travelling to London for one reason or another. I got to see my uncle while he was on a business trip. My cousin Daniel came and crashed on my couch with his friend. Emma and Allie came from Australia and Spain, and I got to see Sinan. It made me realize how much of a global city London really is, and that it’s really a destination for people from all over.
I didn’t celebrate a traditional American Thanksgiving this year. Instead I went to a Lumineers concert. Thomas and Joe came with me, I think mostly to tease me about how much I love the band. But that didn’t stop me from shamelessly singing along. Hearing Ho Hey in a crowd with thousands of other people singing along is a pretty cool experience and I think it more than made up for the lack of turkey.
My internship kept me busy doing all sorts of things I never would have had the chance to do otherwise: film pre-production, managing social media for a company, creating a brand for an organization, and working with young people and vulnerably housed adults. All my coworkers are amazing people and I’m going to miss them the most out of anything from this semester. Since everyone works different days I’ve been saying goodbye to someone almost every day for the last few weeks and it’s been hard, but if I’m ever back in London (fingers crossed) I’ll visit for sure.
Being part of film club has been one of my favorite things in London. I’ve never had the chance to make movies before and it’s definitely inspired me to make some of my own now that I’m back home. Our last shoot was a psychological thriller starring an author who slowly goes insane while writing her novel. She begins seeing a doppelganger of herself who tries to kill her and things get bizarre. At one point we were using a strobe light app on someone’s phone in a dark hallway. I think it’s going to look really cool. My role in this shoot was mostly to document the process with photos, but I’ll post a link to this one when it’s done, too.
I know, I know. This one is kind of silly, but seeing The Hobbit (the Desolation of Smaug) in London has been on my list since before I arrived. Thomas, Meredith and I went to see it in the Leicester Square Odeon, which was also a fitting goodbye to Leicester Square for us since we’ve seen a fair amount of movies there (mostly at Prince Charles Cinema).
I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Hobbit movie, so my expectations weren’t high for this one. But I have to say I thought it was really good. The action kept it fast-paced, so it didn’t drag as much as the first one did, and the characters were a little more differentiated so they felt like unique people. But the best moment was, of course, the dragon. The first scene where Bilbo enters the mountain and meets Smaug was very well done, and actually quite close to how I imagined it from the books. I was on the edge of my seat and I felt like a little kid again seeing Smaug for the first time. And obviously Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch did excellent jobs, a winning combination for anything.
After the film we walked along the Thames by Parliament and back to Blackfriars, which is one of my favorite walks in the city. It was a good way to reflect on everything we’d done, and to say goodbye to the city. Being in London represented some big milestones for me. It was the longest I’ve ever lived outside of Iowa, or the US, and my first time really living in a city. I think I survived those steps remarkably well. Except for the tube during rush hour I really enjoyed being in the city.
What I didn’t expect was for London to feel so much like home after only four months. But it does. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sad to leave a place. I’m leaving behind so many great memories. The last four months have been some of the best of my life and I really feel like I’ve changed as a person because of that.
What I’m thankful for is the time I spent there, and the relationships I formed. I’m so glad I got to know everyone in my office and I feel like I’m leaving behind a family. But I also got the chance to become close to all my Grinnell-in-London classmates and I can rest easy knowing I’ll see all of them in January.
I want to thank everyone for reading this blog. It’s been long and rambling at times, but it’s important to me to have this way of remembering everything. However, this blog is not over. Someday in the future I will travel again, and the Roaming Iowan will return.
I’ve been very lucky in my internship to learn about different aspects of film making for the first time and one thing that I’m really going to miss when I go home is Film Club, which is run by Azeem Mustafa and meets weekly in my office. The other week four of us: Azeem, me, Michael (a regular film club attendee), and Cardine (who works in my office with me) went out on a Sunday and shot an improvised short film.
We set out to shoot a comedic chase sequence based on the idea of one person stealing another person’s bag of popcorn. Our shoot started in Piccadilly Circus and we worked our way around downtown London, ending up near Parliament and the London Eye. During the course of the film new characters appear and steal the popcorn and the finale was a four way battle over the popcorn, ending as the bag explodes and we all fall to the ground.
It was a lot of fun, especially because all four of us had the chance to be both behind the camera and in front of it. I haven’t done any acting in a while, so it was cool to do that again. And I’ve been really curious about shooting and directing so it was a lot of fun to be behind the camera and come up with what shots I wanted to see in the film.
I’ll post a link once the final cut is complete.
Arcade Fire definitely know how to put on a show, even when they’re touring as the fake band The Reflektors.
I saw them at the Roundhouse in London on November 11th (yes, this post is a little late) and they were incredible. I bought the tickets impulsively, and for a lot of money, but it was so worth it to see one of my favorite bands live for the first time. They did not disappoint.
The show opened, a curtain dropped, they started playing Reflektor, and I was blown away. I love their new album and I’ve listened to it quite a lot, but hearing all the songs live gave me a new perspective on them. And singing along with the entire crowd was absolutely thrilling.
I was just ecstatic the entire time and so thankful to actually have the chance to see them live. As my time in London begins to draw to a close I want to make sure I recognize all the opportunities I have here that I don’t have in Iowa and take advantage of them.
Our last stop of the week was in Newcastle, where two of Amul’s friends go to university. It was really fun seeing what Amul’s high school friends were like and we all joined together to tease him. Newcastle is a university town with a surprisingly active club scene. We were there on Halloween so when we went out at night the streets were flooded with thousands of costumed people filling the streets. The crowds were so bad that we decided to go back to Amul’s friend’s flat to hang out there.
I had an amazing week overall. It was so good to be out of the city for a while and I hope I get the chance to go back to Scotland someday. But next time I won’t take the bus back to London.
I decided I had to see a bit more nature before going back to London, so on Wednesday I took a train from Glasgow to Balloch, a little village on the River Leven right where the river flows into Loch Lomond. It’s a lovely town and it gave me an excuse to get out of the city and ride another train. I’ve discovered this week that I am in love with train travel. There’s something really peaceful about riding through the countryside, often away from towns, cities, and roads. The trains here are mostly comfortable and I don’t feel cramped like I do on planes. I also enjoy train stations more than any other stations or airports. I don’t know why. It might be the openness of them, the high, vaulted roofs, or the fact that security isn’t as problematic as in airports. Mostly I just think the idea of train travel has a romantic appeal.
I was like a little kid at Loch Lomond. I was practically skipping down the trail and running around behind trees and to the shore to get photos of everything. Balloch also has a castle overlooking the loch, so I ran up there to explore as well. There was an amazing view of the loch from there and the trail back down passed a series of streams and little waterfalls that burbled down through the forest. There was nobody around. It was so peaceful. By the time I got back down to the loch I just sat on the water’s edge for thirty minutes, just watching the water and thinking about how this would be the last time in months where I could just sit alone in nature. It was somewhat melancholy, but the weather was nice. Until it rained. But by that time I was having a long lunch in a local place called Corrie’s and I mostly missed the rain.
By the time we got to Glasgow on Tuesday I was already missing the highland countryside, but the city was nice nonetheless. Amul and I walked through George Square and saw the statues of all the super famous Victorians, including the Queen herself and Prince Albert. Then we wandered around the city for a while. Central Glasgow is much more commercial than any of the other cities we’ve visited. While there are shops in Edinburgh and Inverness, Glasgow has enormous shopping centres and pedestrian streets devoted to storefront after storefront. It might be unfair to categorize Glasgow this way since I didn’t see much of the wider city, but it’s definitely true in the central city.
Our hostel in Glasgow had the oddest mix of people. Every hostel is unique, but Glasgow is the only one where I didn’t sleep well. There was the probably 80 year old man who loved responding to anything anyone said. There was the Thor-like man who invited us to a Halloween party and, when we declined, proclaimed that he would most certainly lose his key there and would knock to be let in. There was also the man who took Amul’s bed, despite the fact that his bags were on it. And finally there was the guy who banged around the room for thirty minutes after everyone else was trying to sleep. All in all, I’m happy to be in my own bed in London again.
Amul and I also walked along the river in Glasgow, which was my favorite part, although I missed out on the exploring he did the next day since I took a train to Loch Lomond.
The train ride to Inverness was incredible. There’s something unique about the Scottish countryside. You can tell. Forests of pines on rocky hills, mixed with the orange leaves as the birch trees begin turning colors for autumn. The stream that ran alongside the train tracks, foaming over jagged rocks. My first instinct was to compare the land to Colorado, but there’s something different about the sharpness of the rocks, or the biting cold air, or the purple and orange lichens and shrubs that cling to the hills, or the tall, tufted grass. It is magical, especially after two months in central London.
Inverness is a river town, like Stratford-upon-Avon, like Bristol, like York, like Glasgow, like London. I’m discovering that I absolutely love river towns. There’s something peaceful about a nice walk by a body of water. Since Inverness is so close to the coast the water is especially fast flowing. Amul and I walked upstream, past the Ness Islands, which dot the center of the river. Bridges have been built to each of the islands, so we wandered through groves of trees with water on either side. I don’t think I can stress how beautiful everything is, and pictures don’t do it justice at all, especially since my camera was dying and I was struggling to photograph everything before it finally lost power. When we got to the end of the islands and stared up the river I definitely had a moment. I stared at the water coming towards me and desperately wanted to get in, despite how cold it was. It was so pristine that I wanted to be a part of it.
Inverness is also the capital of the Highlands, and we definitely felt the difference in temperature, landscape, and language, where I saw signs printed in two languages and heard people speaking words that I didn’t recognize. The castle in Inverness is unique as well. The old castle was destroyed twice, so the new one was built in 1846 as a center of civil government. To this day a court and prison operate there.
In some ways Edinburgh was the main destination of our journey as we spent three nights there, longer than we stayed in any other city. I’m glad we got to explore Edinburgh in more depth because it’s a beautiful city. In fact, even travelling through Scotland by train is beautiful and I was frantically trying to snap photos of the ocean from the moving train. Edinburgh is a perfect mix of historic and natural. The castle and many churches give it a historic feel, and the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat – massive cliffs/stone outcroppings/mountains – rise up in the middle of the city, making it feel wild. I swear they should have filmed Lord of the Rings on the Salisbury Crags, it was just that beautiful. Hiking up the Crags, and Arthur’s Seat the next day, may have been my favorite part of break. It was definitely my favorite part of Edinburgh. It’s a very satisfying hike, and I got such a sense of satisfaction on reaching the top, not to mention the sublime view of the city. I was a little worried on the top of Arthur’s Seat since I encountered what may have been the strongest wind ever and was nearly blown off the rocky outcropping down a steep slope. I did manage to fall on some grass on my way down (it was slick with rain) and got a lovely mud stain on my pants and jacket.
There’s too much to tell about Edinburgh and most of it involves nature rather than the city, like the secret garden behind an old church that one man kindly let us explore, or the Duddingston Loch, around the far side of Arthur’s Seat, or the ocean. We spent an hour walking through the city down to the coast to finally see the ocean up close. I forgot how amazing it can be.
We also got a pint at the Sheep’s Heid Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Scotland, first built in 1360.
I’ve spent the last week on a journey across Scotland with Amul for fall break. I’ve also been away from the internet for a week, so I’m about to post a few updates.
We decided to split the journey north by staying Thursday night in York. This turned out to be a great choice as we spent the afternoon wandering around the central historic city. We saw Clifford’s Tower, an old fort on a hill which offered spectacular panoramic view of the city. We also saw the York Cathedral, although we didn’t explore inside since they were charging 9 pounds for entry which I feel is a little un-Christian. Appropriately enough, we had Yorkshire pudding for dinner and afterwards we met Sally, one of our roommates at the hostel, and went out for a few drinks to complain about how messed up the politics in each of our countries are (she’s from Australia).
The next morning before leaving we walked up along the old medieval wall, which was fun despite some rain and wind. I think the most gratifying part of York was being able to discover things about the city just by wandering around. This has been a theme of the journey throughout. We didn’t expect to see Clifford’s Tower, so finding it was a great surprise. Also that morning we discovered a large garden in the center of the city which had paths to a few historic churches, part of an old Roman wall, and the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, of which only two walls remain. The Abbey was destroyed in the sixteenth century as part of the Catholic purge of Henry VIII. Seeing the ruins of the Abbey, with a perfect lawn of green grass growing around it, was for me a more beautiful and sacred experience than entering any cathedral. I felt an overwhelming sense of connection to past traditions that remain strong despite the destruction of this particular church.