Thursday, January 15, 2009

Navigatin' Troubles

This morning was horrendous — the worst I've felt in years. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm obsessive, or at least overly proactive, about navigation, knowing where I am and where I need to be going. That's all well and good in Phoenix's grid. But in London's spaghetti roadmap, I'm completely at the mercy of landmark navigation, something I loathe but accept partly because I have to, partly because I chalk it up to the quaintness, the different-ness of London. In other words, you don't go north on 'A' road and then take a left onto 'B' avenue, you have to go sort-of left across the street from the tube station towards the museum until you get to the Starbucks where you take the street up the hill with the funny median. No street signs, no cardinal directions. If where you need to go is a short distance from a tube station, it's easy enough, but if not, forget it: there are no comprehensive bus maps.

I needed to go somewhere a bit off the beaten path, this morning, Brentfield primary school, to help give music workshops to fifth-years (roughly ten years old? That's only a guess). In lieu of comprehensive bus maps, Transport for London has the Routefinder; like Mapquest directions, only using public transport. So this morning I got off the train at Alperton station, like it said, took the 224 bus from stop B, like it said, and, lo and behold, ended up miles from where I needed to be. It turns out that the 224 stops at this particular stop in both directions (something I've never come across) because it makes a separate loop to (of all things) the local Sainsbury's. In any case, I was supposed to be at the school by 8:30, and by the time I figured out that I was on the wrong bus, crossed the street, waited for the 224 in the opposite direction, went back the way I came, made the loop to Sainsbury's, traveled the distance I had needed to in the first place, got off at the second Beresford Avenue stop (two bus stops, many blocks apart, same name?), and walked to the school, it was 9:15. I wasn't so much worried about being late (though I was) as I was frustrated with this particular gap in TFL's logic.

Enough of that... the actual workshop itself went quite well. I was less uncomfortable/annoyed with working with kids than I had anticipated, and the other team leaders (also RCM students) were great and easy to work with. At one point, I was asked to talk to the kids about being a composer (this on the heels of another leader's talk — on the saxophone — how could I follow gleaming gold keys, reeds, and smooth jazz?). I have a hard time conversing on the what, how, and why of composition with an adult; how does one explain it to 10 year-olds? I made my way through it okay, sputtered a bit, and was rescued by the workshop leader who was clearly more experienced in communicating with kids.

Next week, the workshop should be even better — you know, because I'll get there on time.

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