Because people drive on the left side of the road here is not why you need to be fearful when walking around London. Because people are assholes, and they get in cars, is why you need to be fearful when walking around London.
Coming from a society where pedestrians have the right of way, always, without question or negotiation, this is a recipe for disaster. Here, not only are the cars in charge, but their drivers are massive jerkfaces.
In New York, you’re really only in danger of getting your knees nipped when the odd sports car-driving banker who needs to prove something is making a right-hand turn, or—obviously—cabbies. I know everyone’s not crazy like me, but you bet your bottom that I perfected the art of crossing the street while staring down cab drivers to the point they leaned out their windows to actually apologize. (I am that scary-looking when I want to be.) But here: Every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they’re on Top Gear and humans crossing the street are mere traffic cones. There is not even so much as a pause to consider letting you cross in front of them. If you are already crossing, and a car then approaches the intersection: You seriously better move your ass to the other side, ’cause they are not slowin’ down for you.
So you cannot even falter; cannot so much as lose your footing a little into an intersection if there is a car within 30 miles. It doesn’t matter what side they’re coming from, it’s that they do not care if you are interested in crossing the street and you better get out of the way. NOW.
You know what they call what I just did here? Whinging. Not whining. Whinging. Soft ‘G.’
We went to Leeds for the Easter bank holiday. Rookie mistake. Chris and I kept trying to figure out what glorious US city it most nearly matched: Worcester, MA? Baltimore, MD? Rochester, NY? But we stayed in a really beautiful, historic hotel, and managed to do some really great things. We visited Kirkgate Market, which is apparently the largest covered market in Europe, and it was buzzing the day before Easter. Sadly we were not in the market for large cuts of meat or used CDs, but you could see how the city revolved around it and the traditions it came from. We had some truly (without sarcasm) spectacular meals between Piazza by Anthony in the renovated former Corn Exchange of Leeds, Brasserie 44, right on one of the canals, and gastropub A Nation of Shopkeepers. There were lots of hipsters there, and lots of things around the city named “Brooklin” or some variation of that, because they very clearly wish they were Brooklyn. (But like I said, actually falling somewhere in the yucky-industrial-city-which-was-hoppin’-at-the-turn-of-the-century range). Highlights were a spiced pear with cream cheese parfait and honey ice cream at Anthony’s, a caramelised orange panna cotta at Brasserie 44, and the out-of-this-world chips at A Nation of Shopkeepers. (Psst! I mean french fries!) No, seriously, I was trying to tell the guy they were the best fries I’ve ever had in my life and he corrected me. These people cannot take compliments.
We spent Easter Sunday at Kirkstall Abbey, which photographed better than I can take credit for. (I’ll share some of the photos soon!) We then attempted to see a joust at The Royal Armouries Museum, but much to Chris’s dismay, we were too late! We still enjoyed the museum, which had some pretty amazing antique hunting weapons, crazy Victorian-era guns, and as you might expect: lots of suits of armor. I would never in a million years expect to have enjoyed a museum full of weapons so much, but there you have it. I mean, they had an umbrella that hid a gun. LIKE THE PENGUIN IN BATMAN. On Sunday we took a cab out to a historic home called Temple Newsam, called such as it once was owned by the Knights Templar. It was one of those typically weirdly-evolved English houses that from the outside looks like a Tudor palace, and then inside has Art Deco Chinoiserie wallpaper. Stunning nonetheless, but disjointed. It’s famous for its collection of Chippendale furniture, so I was obviously all over that. I think Chris might be concerned about the lengths I will travel to see a desk and some sideboards. We took a taxi back to the city centre to grab a quick lunch and half pint at Whitelocks, which originally opened in 1715, before heading for the train back to Kings’ Cross. And, YES, glad you asked: Chris and I love to see pubs, or even your average cider label, and say “This is older than our entire country.”