Jetlag, Zip Line Nuances, Libraries that Abhor Interdisciplinary Interactions, and the Airfix Curse

by David Ng

Sorry for the less frequent postings on Popperfont. I’m actually in England right now, and posting is a little on the sporadic side. On the other hand, I’m having a bit of fun writing about the trip, so you can read on if you’re curious.

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The trip, so far, has been pleasant enough, although the jetlag seems to have grappled us tighter than usual. We’re still a little disorientated in our sleep patterns with our brains mostly insisting that it’s perfectly fun and cheery to be awake at the most strangest of hours.

Indeed, no one in our family seems to be immune to this (especially Kate and Hannah), which is why we’ve sort of decided to just take things extra easy over the next few days.

Still, we’ve had a good look-see of the local neighbourhood, which appears to be flanked by a couple of very different looking high streets (Kilburn High Street and Salusbury), and a lovely assortment of parks. Queen’s Park is definitely the favourite so far, buoyed by the presence of a zipline, and subliminally enhanced by an as yet perfect ice cream record (we’ve already been twice, and both times got something sweet, cold and of the diary persuasion). I even got to go on the zip line today (twice), which is more strategic than you think, since I get slightly embarrassed by the fact that I’m more than double the height of all of the other human beings lining up to have a go.

We’ve also hit two libraries in our few days here. Swiss Cottage was the first. It is quite big, and also interesting to me since it’s the first library I’ve been to that (perhaps inadvertently) encapsulates C.P. Snow’s much maligned “Two Cultures” train of thought. The library is mostly composed of two physically separate and distinct areas, defiantly labeled “Sciences” and “Arts,” and kept apart by a cavernous and presumably deliberately unexciting middle space. A sort of bookish “no man’s land,” which if nothing else, makes it very clear that the “Here there be Sciences” and “Here there be Arts” areas are not to be mixed in any manner whatsoever.

Or maybe, I’m just overanalyzing – especially since this science art thing is a bit of a theme on the book that I’m supposed to be working on (as oppose to, say, writing blog posts).

Anyway, the other library (Kilburn library) was much smaller, but also much less worried about confusing folks who happen to enjoy both science and art things, more so when they are deliberately mixed together. Still, Kilburn library did manage to confuse us a little, as it took some friendly staff to teach us how to use the book machines properly (yes, this is as lame as it sounds – I’d imagine that if the CCTV camera caught our attempts, those photos would make a brilliant pamphlet on what not to do in a library, or as an introductory piece on the whimsical luddite attributes of Canadians). Oh, and the library is also a lot closer than the big one, so I think it’s going to be our library during our time here.

As far as heading out past our neighbourhood, we have had a few excursions, mostly with an aim to find Ben a particular toy which he has been asking for since we’ve gotten here. To those, who don’t know this story, the toy in question happens to be an Airfix model, inspired in part, by a recent viewing of a James May television show where Mr. May went about and made himself an Airfix spitfire, but at 1:1 scale (!)

As a result of this hunt, we’ve also popped by a few of our favourite haunts from our previous London visits (Holland Park, Natural History Museum, and the Victoria Albert Museum). Just quick visits for now, which is entirely doable since a particular grace of the city is that a lot of its most extraordinary museums are free to visit.

Anyway, you’d think that finding a model kit toy in the greatest city in the world would be pretty straightforward. Except that it isn’t – if anything, it’s turned into a bit of an epic quest, with Ben currently believing that a curse of some sort has been cast upon him! For instance:

1. We go to Kensington High Street to have a picnic at Holland Park, but also because we know that there is a nice toy shop along that road. We get there, and find out that shop closed up a year ago. Strike one.

2. We next pop into an Argos (a sort of catalog place where you look things up, and then see if they have it in the back of the room). We see that they do indeed stock such airfix things. Except that they are out of stock, and not expecting anymore for a few weeks, with which they could then mail it to us, at a cost that would more than double the original purchase price. Strike Two.

3. Then, we plan a trip to a bank that happens to be close to the museums, and note that there is, indeed, another toy shop in the immediate vicinity. We track it down, and instead find a pastry shop. This toy shop, apparently, was also closed a year or so ago. Strike Three.

4. Finally, we do another google search around the museum area and see that another toy shop (this one called the “Hoop and Toy” is only a few minutes away. Again, we follow our maps and descend upon its coordinates, only to discover that the “Hoop and Toy” is, in fact, a pub. Strike Four.

5. And today, we find a place that sells mugs proudly emblazon with airfix images! But not an actual airfix model in sight. Strike Five

Clearly , in baseball vernacular, we would be done with this – although now it’s turned into a bit of a “thing” for us here. Still, we’ve only been here for less than a week. So for now, let’s just do the sensible thing and blame it on the jetlag.