We visited our first Anglican church today. I find the fact that there’s a state church (in an almost completely secular nation) and how it works fascinating. Like, I know very little of the history, just that it originated as a break from Roman Catholicism for purely political reasons. Based on that one piece of knowledge, and having read random descriptions about the boring, liturgical structure of Episcopal churches in America, I for the longest time just assumed it was basically a Protestant version of a Catholic mass. It’s only when I started reading English Christian writers in my teens that I realized, hey wait, they’re more like other Protestants than Catholics. Matt Redman and Tim Hughes are involved with Anglican churches, and I never heard music like that at a Catholic mass. Abby’s gone to VBS at this local Episcopalian church the past 3 years and it’s pretty much like any other Protestant church, other than the pastor wearing a clerical collar. So yeah, no clue what Anglicans are typically like nor how they got there.
One other thing I’m interested in finding out is how much influence the U.S. South has on music here. When I was young, I’d get bored whenever I had to attend worship service with adults, so I’d sometimes amuse myself by reading through the hymnal and trying to find out random things, like the oldest hymn included (usually one by Luther) or how many ones were written by classical music composers I’d heard of (e.g. Bach, Mendelssohn). In the Southern Baptist Hymnal in the 80s, it was crazy how many of them were written by Southerners like Bill Gaither. And a lot of them were translated into Korean as well, so many Koreans know these Southern Gospel hymns. Did that influence extend to England also? I’m curious. I was reminded of this when we sang Be Thou My Vision, which is Irish. If we sing How Great Thou Art, I’ll let you know. Boring.
We went to yet another Korean restaurant yesterday – apparently there’s a tiny enclave of Koreans in Golder’s Green, not that far from where we are, so there are a couple of Korean groceries and a few restaurants around there. The restaurant was pretty good, probably the best we’ve had in London so far, and might be our go-to. There are a few things about the Korean restaurants here I still can’t get over, how the customers (SN – the receipt said “Thank you for your custom”. I’d never read that, but that makes sense if we’re customers, I guess) are mostly non-Korean, how some of the wait staff aren’t Korean, and how the side dishes are not included. I’m usually lax about eating side dishes but when it costs $3 for a few leaves of seaweed (true fact), I make sure I consume every crumb.
Another thing I’ve noticed about the food here is that they do espresso drinks really well. I’ve yet to have a bad one, and they’re usually very well made. Because of Sting, I assumed that all English drink tea, not coffee, so I assumed the tea here would be brilliant but the coffee bad. Not true. Fantastic coffee in London.
Life gets easier here just by understanding the smallest things. I mentioned before how I drove around in Korea, and it was completely stressful because I was driving U.S.-style (defensive) rather than Korean-style (offensive). Defensive driving is safer, but only if everyone does it. Do that in Korea and you could get killed (e.g. stopping at a stop sign when there are no cars around – the car behind you might accidentally ram you). That’s just a microcosm of social life – things work better when you do what everyone else does, but it takes some time to figure out because it’s not written down anywhere. So here, they have these pedestrian crossings, and some are marked by zigzagged street lines and striped poles, though no crossing signal. At these, pedestrians have the right of way. In the U.S., pedestrians always wait at crossings where there’s no signal to make sure cars stop (actually, I wait even when I have a signal because U.S. drivers, while defensive, are still aggressive. That makes no sense, but it’s true). You do that here and drivers get mad at you because you’re making them wait longer. It took a while to get used to confidently stepping out in front of approaching cars, but it’s key, because drivers getting repeatedly mad at you while you walk is emotionally taxing.
Speaking of which, man, we’re walking a lot. That’s city life I guess but it’s exhausting. Especially when you’re carrying a lazy near 4-year-old who won’t walk himself. I find myself hungry all the time nowadays. I think it’s a combination of the walking all the time and smaller portions here.
So one thing I’m curious about – how big were the Paralympics outside the U.K? London is still on a post-Olympics high. They all thought it would be a disaster beforehand and they’re kind of stunned and proud that they went so well. Papers are still writing about it. And this encompasses the Paralympics. They were hugely attended (like sold-out events) and while Olympics spectators were mostly foreigners, the Paralympics were attended almost entirely by Brits, so they almost feel like the Paralympics were a more British celebration. And it was pretty cool to see on TV – I saw some of Pastorius’ Paralympics races and the stands were packed and loud. So yeah, big deal here, and Eleanor Simmonds is a pretty big star. Did that happen in the U.S?