Right now, I’m exploring my own corner of paradise: not so sunny Northern California from inside of a tiny (but beautiful) work from home apartment. And from my track record in Ireland, Scotland, and the UK, you’d know those chilly rainy days are some of my favorite for writing. But the sun is currently blistering hot in South Bay.
So my apartment is not rainy, foggy, or at all ready for writing.
But here I am, nevertheless, beset by allergies and editing my work one sip of kava tea at a time.
The weather was always the same in Edinburgh: cold, wet, and erratic. At the time, the coffee culture was pretty much nonexistent or reserved to hotel lobbies, where men dressed in tuxedos called you “Miss” and coffee was served in China cups and delicate saucers. The crepes were always bland at these places, and overpriced for my taste. But here I am complaining, when in reality, I should have appreciated it more.
Edinburgh defined my sense of fashion. Women’s boots had high heels and rhinestones. Regular shoes were adorned with leather and studs. People cared about showing off who they wore with what they wore. Or people didn’t care at all. In America, we’re somewhere in between. Unless you’re in LA, then you’re in LA.
You see, in America, we don’t really care how we look or how loud we are.
My fashion at the University of Edinburgh was quintessential. I wore beret like hats and cat earmuffs (this was back in 2012 just FYI). I had flannel plaid and big puffy faux fur sweaters. Cardigans were always loosely fitted, draped with scarves, and layers of clothes. I wore boots up to my knees, and my socks matched. My favorite place to go on campus was the university-sanctioned bar—cheap food, cheaper coffee, and all the people to write about. I usually went to study eating.
You see, in America, we don’t really care how we look or how loud we are. Everyone at restaurants eat with their hands, slurp their soups, and talk with their mouth full. No one taught us manners, and quite frankly, we’re just a more open & free culture thank you. No, we won’t let you marry who you want but you want to eat cross legged on a bar stool with your feet? Go for it.
In Scotland, like in the most of Europe and the UK, people take quite care when they eat out.
…hiding in plain sight.
My fondest memory was going to a pizza restaurant with a bunch of Americans. As our orders came, one by one my friends pulled apart the slices, complaining how it hadn’t already been precut, picked them up and started munching and talking with half a pizza hanging out of their hands. You could have heard a pin drop around us. Everyone else was so quiet. Curiously staring, and then one by one, all started to put down their forks and knives, and quietly, almost shamefully, ate a piece of pizza with their hands too.
The kids were ballistic with happiness. You could tell by their smiles how free, and how happy they were. The parents too seemed more relaxed. None of my friends noticed this happened. They weren’t in London, trying to assimilate, staring at the world through whatever lens I have. They were just eating pizza. And that was enough for them.
Smiling at this memory, my waiter slid a very large pizza eyeing me cautiously. Yes, I was going to eat this all alone. No, I didn’t need a drink. Coffee and water was fine. He looked at my notebook, filled with scribbles. Writers, it seemed, were always the sort that did this out of ordinary behavior. He walked away, satisfied. I picked up my fork and knife.
I wasn’t going to blow my cover.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova