Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Seen on the Street

Determined to be the compleat digital journalist, before leaving Washington I bought a compact digital camera, the sort you can slip into a pocket and produce at a moment's notice, like a magician pulling a coin from behind an unsuspecting ear. (And really, aren't all ears unsuspecting, when you get right down to it?)

I also bought a laptop computer, an Apple MacBook. So equipped, I was ready to snap away and surf away and blog away.

Then I boarded the airplane at Dulles, shoving my laptop into my briefcase before stowing it in the overhead luggage compartment. When I arrived at Heathrow I discovered that as fragile as laptop computers may be, they're sturdier than digital cameras. The MacBook had intersected with the camera in such a way that the camera's screen was cracked. Only the bottom third of the screen worked. It's amazing how often you need to see the top two-thirds of what it is you're taking a picture of.

So I bought a new camera in Oxford, a nicer one actually (at great expense: 1 dollar = 50 pence). And I bought a case for it. Why, here's a photo I took just today:


It's a Chinese restaurant not far from the Oxford train station called "The Oriental Condor." And what's that hanging in the window? Could it be? Yes, it's...


...Peking condor!

Of course it's not Peking condor. It's Peking duck. Or maybe it's an art installation by Damien Hirst.

We haven't been eating out much since we've been in Oxford (1 dollar = 50 pence, remember). We haven't had a curry, the best fast food in Britain. There isn't a fish and chip shop near us (an outrage, if you ask me). There's a mobile kebab stand that rolls up each evening a few blocks from our house to serve drunken teenagers who are eager to conjure up from their stomachs something more colorful than an evening's worth of Foster's when they inevitably succumb to their binge-drinking.

Here's the kebab place I want to sample:

That logo makes the Kebab Kid look like the James Dean of take-away halal food. Or is it the Fonzie of falafel?

I'm fascinated by the streetscape of Oxford. It isn't all dreaming spires. There's an understandable tension between the architecturally notable buildings that tourists take pictures of and the greasy spoons that I've taken pictures of.

Earlier this week, noted Oxford resident Philip Pullman, author of the wonderful "His Dark Materials" trilogy, complained that development is threatening the city's unique character. He's among those protesting redevelopment down by the waterfront, in a cool neighborhood called Jericho. The argument can be made that if Oxford needs tourists to survive, the more you do to make the city less attractive to tourists, the fewer who are going to come. And the counter argument is, Screw the tourists, I live here, I want a cheap kebab.

But enough about that. I had two more photos I wanted to share. One is of a candy wrapper my older daughter brought me a few days ago, knowing I would find it appealing:

The candy's name--"Tangfastics"--is not to be confused with the tanning salon in Wilmington, North Carolina, that I snapped back in August:

I took that "Tan-Fastics" photo with my old digital camera--may it rest in pieces.


Anonymous said...

Your newer blogs are great! It is fun to see how you are settling in and how different and the same live there is!

suburbancorrespondent said...

You're getting more comfortable with this blog thing, I can tell. Why isn't the Post paying you to blog on their web page? There must be a lot of Post readers who want to follow your adventures abroad.

And what's with the "pence"? I thought everyone had gone to euros? Am I being stupid?

Beatrice said...

Correction, your lovely daughter took that photo with your old camera.