HoT goes to BoB

While I have clearly been nothing but super involved and fascinating since I touched down on British soil I do occasionally just sit in my comfy bed and kill time on the internet. Because I am a human. But somehow even my downtime found a way to keep life interesting. After a carelessly written, but fortuitous tweet I won a contest for a lovely handbag and tickets to the Best of Britannia expo! So off I went to Farringdon where the Farmiloe Factory Building had been transformed, with market lights, an inflatable awning, and a gin food truck into a multi story pop up department store.

 

 

Here British brands and their British goods propped up colorful and charming stands with everything from printed cushions, furniture and motorcycles, to the satisfyingly traditional wool wares, brogues, and fascinators. And then there are some of the only high heels manufactured entirely in the UK, by Yull, which happen to be completely adorable- I’m a little obsessed.

The links are to some of my favorite brands and products that I ran into at the expo, but there are so many more fantastic ones- I didn’t even tell you about all the sock companies! You can browse the comprehensive list by clicking here. If I could only manage to get invited to a hundred more weddings and races then I would basically be best friends with Jess Collett and sleep in her hats.

The rather incredible venue.
Jess Collett and a few of her beautiful headpieces.
A signature Yull court shoe.

The day out was made even better by the interruption of a cold and delicious locally brewed beer and the yummiest pulled pork sandwich I’ve had this side of the Atlantic from the very cheeky food truck, Pulled. The beautiful handbag, from Ally Capellino, that started it all, is not in my hands quite yet, but I very eagerly anticipate it. I may or may not have been very cross with an evangelist who came to my door when they were not the mailman with my bag.

Cheeky sandwich signage.

Of course I can’t forget all the fun I had with Roohani from Scarlett of Soho, which is essentially London’s answer to Warby Parker. You get to take home and test out four different frames for five days, mail them back and order the ones you like best, with your prescription of course, at a very reasonable price. I liked these so much I almost walked away with them on my face, but they stopped me. And they have sunglasses, too! (I’m trying to find the picture I took – will update this post when I do.)

Special thanks also must go to Uber London, without whose tweet and support of Best of Britannia this whole amazing day never would have happened. Also they are great and pick you up from clubs in Shoreditch when you realize how old you are.

This year’s expo is over, but they do plan to start having them more frequently, and you can shop all the British brands all year round.

*This post is not sponsored by anyone. All my favorites are genuine.

Beyonce of Britain

They warned me. And I didn’t listen. I should have known better. Every time I travel somewhere, for any length of time, I get a bit more attention then when I’m back where I grew up. You know what kind of attention I’m talking about. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that my happy quotient dramatically increases when I’m somewhere new and exciting and amazing. Leading up to my intercontinental move, certain of my friends and family, while supportive, told me to be careful because the male population was going to prostrate themselves at my feet (the unsupportive ones said I would be kidnapped and stabbed – but same idea). And I laughed. Because that would never happen.

I had to think for a long time how best to explain this. Now it isn’t as if I’ve never inspired surprising behavior from men before in my life, or women for that matter, and anyone who has been in public with me knows that I am a crazy magnet (like that guy with one eye who pet my hair in line at the grocery store…and…that’s another blog). But I have not been at university for a while now and working early hours with an early bedtime has meant that I’m used to being treated mostly normally in a professional setting. I naturally assumed that those days of leaving lustful insanity in my wake were in my past.

Wrong. So wrong. Saying it out loud sounds like a lie. I would think I had imagined it if it weren’t for the physical evidence to hand and the baffled looks on the faces of passersby.

I have been undeniably stalked on five completely separate occasions in the last two weeks. Even for someone whom weird things happen around this seems excessive. And because we live in a gender biased world full of assumptions we should be embarrassed by, let me just say that I was not wearing anything particularly provocative and none of these occurrences were in a bar or a club. And I tell you this not to explain or defend myself, but to illustrate the whole picture. One in a shop, one at dinner, one on the tube, one on the street, and one while I was sitting next to a fountain. After the second one it was really hard not to say, “Again?? Really?!”

And the things they said… “Are you sleeping with anyone right now?” “We’ll go to dinner tonight.” (Not a question.) “Where are you going right now?” “So, where is your house?” “You’re so attractive I had to try.” How did they imagine this going?? I don’t know you! I don’t know what the charming way is to approach a complete stranger with an appeal to spend time with them, but I know that these were not it.

 

When I say stalking I literally mean I was standing and walking and they would place themselves a step behind and right next to me for a significant amount of time before blurting out personal questions and eventually asking for my number, phone in hand. Now, I’ve been out of the game for a while but I’m pretty sure that this is not a generally accepted method of flirting. It can’t be. When my first instinct is to hold my purse closer and scan my immediate surroundings for witnesses you are not putting me in a frame of mind to want to spend time with you in the future. And how are you confident enough in this plan to already have your phone out? I genuinely hope that these were once in a lifetime occurrences for all of these men – even if that’s giving myself way too much credit – because I’m not ready to acknowledge a world where there is enough positive reinforcement to encourage that kind of behavior. I was led to believe that British men were more reticent than the usual and formal introductions would be necessary before any romantic entanglements could even be hinted at. And that still seems to be the case with the ones I actually want to talk to, but my goodness, the ones I don’t. I walk down the street like a normal person and somehow they see this:

Except, you know, much whiter. Most of the time I would love to be mistaken for a Beyonce-like creature, but in this instance I’m only using the simile because she’s the only reference I could think of that seems to be set apart from the typical human experience. Someone for whom this kind of insanity might be commonplace. And she might be the only one I can talk to about it, because the most obnoxious part of this experience has been not the stalking itself – which is bad enough – but the reactions of people I tell, with a few exceptions. Even in the age of #YesAllWomen and #womenshould the general consensus has been “Well, aren’t you lucky”, “You weren’t stripping when this happened?”, and “Have you tried being less pretty?”

I’m really not sure what to do with that. For now my fake boyfriend I’m always on my way to meet is developing a rather complex back story. Beyond that I’ll just have to hope you can think about how “Pretty Hurts” when you’re a “Single Lady” without too much “Resentment”, while I try to avoid those both “Crazy In Love” and “Drunk in Love” in my search for something “Irreplaceable” while I “Run the World”. “XO”.

HoT

Did anyone realize that the abbreviation for my blog is HoT? Because I only just recently came to this realization and in three days this blog will have been around for exactly 5 years!!!!! It started with the stories from my first foray into London. People liked to hear them so much that I finally wrote them down and put them on the internet. And a short half decade (interminably long slog through life) later I have come full circle to this city where all the best things seem to happen.

Though I didn’t manage it right when I landed I did eventually make it to Byron Hamburgers, which is a massive English chain and not exactly exclusive or secret, but they do happen to have the best malted vanilla milkshakes in the whole world. Then, with a milkshake induced smile on my face, I wandered my way over to Kensington Palace and Gardens to offer my congratulations in person that we are going to meet a new baby Cambridge in a few short months. I’m sure they noticed and appreciated it. Scoped out the Orangery and the maze for future outings before a mandatory stroll about Hyde Park. And as I walked past the imperious granite gaze of Queen Victoria in front of the Round Pond with the sun setting behind the trees and rooftops of the palace I experienced this clarifying moment of peaceful rightness. Like a weeble that had finally stopped wobbling; I found my center. And then I took my bus back to Shepherd’s Bush.

I’ve also managed to squeeze in a book event with one of my favorite authors and a wander over to Portobello Road to find something to put on my walls where I had my choice between Scarface movie poster or two hundred year old mounted bird. I decided to keep looking for room decor. I did manage to get lost in the wilds of Notting Hill, but I can’t be all that upset about it when it meant accidentally running into the entire Beckham family. “Oh, that looks like the Beckhams. That is because it is.” And then Romeo tried to do the thing on the scooter that Brooklyn was doing and fell over, and I was a nanny for way too long not to go pick him up and ask if he wanted a band-aid. He was fine and got up with a big grin and then his very polite father said “Thank you, appreciate it.” and pushed Harper along. Victoria even gave me a sort of half smile smirk which I decided meant two British Victoria’s had looked kindly upon my new enterprise.

Any visitor to London has seen the soldiers in front of the royal palaces, with their big bearskin hats, bright red coats, and cloppy black boots. If you have ever wondered what would happen should you cross one of these well postured fellows I will tell you. Some very obnoxious tourists tested the chain boundary today and the guard on duty responded with a very prompt (and loud) “Oi!” and stomped his foot. That’s it. The rest of us, cameras at the ready, were very disappointed not to have witnessed a bayoneting, but it was still very exciting to see the notoriously stoic soldiers do something slightly out of the ordinary. I discovered later that this was the back entrance to Clarence House (the official London residence of the Prince of Wales) and that I missed Prince Harry’s birthday party by mere hours.

A visiting friend had the brilliant idea to visit the BBC broadcast center and, to no one’s surprise (ok, the Chinese tourists were a bit taken aback) I took over the tour. What started out as a nice walk through of the old concert hall and taunting the weather man during his live broadcast turned into a fully mic-ed radio play re-enactment with sound effects. Then I intimidated the tour guide with my television experience and he let me read the in-house news broadcast. If the teleprompter is any indication I really do need to start talking slower. Once I got my media career off on the right foot I took a walk through Regent’s Park and ogled the penguins at the zoo. Then crashed some wedding pictures at Primrose Hill.

Later in the week I hit up every gift shop on The Mall – discovered the art galleries along the way that evidently everyone knew about but me – and revisited one of my favorite places in London, the National Portrait Gallery. If they let me I would sleep in there. I love staring at all those faces, from throughout human history, reading their stories, and making up the bits that are missing or just coming up with better versions in my head.

Soon I’ll actually have to spend my time studying and discussing and writing papers. It should be interesting to have the tables turned again and go back to being a student,  but I’m looking forward to a year of someone else coming up with the lesson plans. And shopping for school supplies. Maybe more the latter. No, definitely the latter. Pens….

Anyway, I’ll keep doing some travel journal posts here and there but I do plan to also keep up with my usual ruminations and stories. And if you want up to the minute news and jokes and things remember to find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as subscribing to the blog.

HoT x