The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

An Onion’s Labyrinth: To be or not to be…a drunk

To the average, non-travelling American, London might seem like a place where the elderly sip afternoon tea while conversing with their fellow colleagues about the scores of Cambridge’s latest croquet game. London is seen as the home of the all-exclusive, prestigious tennis tournament (the only known tennis event that requires athletes to wear white-collared shirts). Buckingham Palace might seem like a typical posh getaway for hasty WASP travelers. But venture outside of the golden gates of a suburb like Chelsea, and it won’t be long until you realize what secret gems Her Majesty’s city has in store. These are some of the things I learned from last semester abroad in London.

1. They absolutely love Shakespeare. 

“Finally got out of Titus Andronicus just now!!” I joyously texted one of my University College of London (UCL) friends. “Awesome man, loved that one, what’d ya think?” one of them enthusiastically replied. What did I think? It was a three-hour drag of actors in business suits (it was a modern rendition), speaking in language I didn’t understand, with, SPOILER ALERT, blood everywhere because at the end everyone dies. In my mind, I had just escaped the terrible perils of what others might call a hell. Yet, my friend’s enthusiastic attitude about Shakespeare was synonymous with almost every Londoner’s attitude I talked to.  On the Strand and West End (London’s Broadway), four Shakespeare plays are currently running, with another eight to come for the year. The University of London school system (which comprises of 58 schools) even offers discounts for students who purchase same-day tickets, which frequently sell out. When intermission begins and the people rejoice over the performance, I usually rush towards the bar with enough pounds in my pocket to buy me a scotch that would put Ron Burgundy to sleep. Discounted tickets might not motivate me enough to attend one of the Shakespeare productions, but one of the theatres’ many bars might. Fortunate for me that…

2. The British love to drink … a lot. 

The first time I had a drink in London, I didn’t realize I was drinking alcohol. Seriously, it’s that good. After four hours of showcasing my god-awful American soccer skills (redundant?) around the field for a UCL soccer tryouts, 400 other sweaty attendees and myself loaded onto the five groundhog buses that transported us back to campus. The hour-long ride nearly killed me, not from the exhaustion (I forgot water that day), but from the terrible smell of sweat, grass stains and more sweat, which created a yellow cloud by the end of our adventure. As we stepped off the bus, still in our jerseys and tube socks, the captains announced that they were having a get-together at The Court, right down the street from the bus stop. I sighed. I shrugged. And I followed a couple hundred smelly, sweaty athletes, only wishing to have brought some water. I entered the bar, and immediately rushed towards the bathroom, whether for a drink from the toilet bowl or a yack in the trash can, I did not know. “What do you want?” my friend asked me. “WATER” I screamed before I left for the unisex bathroom, which isn’t uncommon to find in a London establishment. As I returned, my buddy apathetically apologized for forgetting that I wanted a water (a common British ploy they’ll use to persuade you to drink) and instead handed me a glass so big my five-foot, six-inch frame would drown in it. It was certainly not water, but I couldn’t care less. What followed next was miraculous; because at that moment, I discovered the British Cider. I drank. I drank. And I drank like it was my goddamn 10/10 campus shot, for it was the most delicious form of alcohol I had ever tasted. The city has the bars to carry such drinks. London alone boasts over 1,000 breweries and many more pubs. All of which bars offer an assortment of spirits, cider and beer (although it is less popular than in the U.S.). The Daily Mail reported that the country ranks 13th in alcohol consumption (third for females), with the average Englander drinking over 750 pints a year. It’s safe to assume that they’re literally drinking every day.

My buddy stared at me as I washed down my third order of cider. He asked, “What’d ya think.” And with my exhausted lungs, putrid body-odor and drunken heavy head, I replied, “Great! Let’s go see some bloody Shakespeare.”

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