Last Days in the United Kingdom

Just a moment ago it seemed I had 2 weeks left in the UK. Today I sit dumbfounded that I have a week and 2 days left. I already know I will miss England very much, but it is time to go home, as I am utterly broke and in desperate need of a job. It will be good to go back to New Mexico and bum off my parents for a month before I head back to the South and a full schedule again. It feels as if I have had 6 months of holiday, and I have, aside from the fact that I spent a quarter or a third of it in the library studying; but even that was an adventure, studying in a foreign country. If course, England doesn’t feel so different now, and I am well used to English accents now, as broad as they may be, except the deep Yorkshire one – can’t seem to get used to that. As for vacation, I have slept more these 6 months than I have in the last 2 years, I believe! It must be the English air. If I could store up on sleep and rest, I would be set for the next 2 years!

brand new exterior of Carnegie stadium

Well, these last few weeks have been pretty laid back and lazy, but I have managed to cross off several more very important things I must do before I leave. Here they are, along with my subsequent list of things I have to do ‘next time’, which keeps getting longer…

Leeds Headingly Carnegie Cricket Stadiumger and longer…

Check:

  • Had a true weekend at the lake and camping in the Lake District.
  • Saw a classic Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang car.
  • Went to a Cricket match in the famous Headingly Carnegie stadium.
  • Visited Golden Acre Park.
  • Biked up along the Yorkshire Dales (50 miles of hills!).
  • Drank Elderflower cordial with soda.
  • Drank plenty of Pimms.
  • Danced in Hyde Park (several times. I hope no one was watching)
  • Watched the new Robin Hood film before going to Nottingham.
  • Been to Wales and Scotland.
  • Had Scottish whisky.
  • Watched the World Cup in Millennium Square, Leeds.
  • Drove my bike on the other side of the road without killing myself or anyone else.
  • Played croquet.
  • Drank tea every day.
  • Started saying ‘bugger’, ‘well fit’, ‘massive’ and ‘hiya’
  • Ate pastries for breakfast, pasties for lunch.

Must Do Next Time:

  • Visit Ireland
  • Visit France
  • Spain again
  • And Germany
  • In England:
  • Stratford upon Avon – birthplace of Shapkespeare
  • Birmingham – see Sadler Well’s Ballet
  • Go back to Nottingham and wander in Sherwood Forest
  • Whitby – origin of the Count of Dracula story
  • Loch Ness in Scotland, and the Highlands
  • The Southern coast of England
  • See a Rugby match

Never Going to Do:

  • Try black pudding
  • Or haggis
  • Or goose liver paté
  • Get so drunk I fall asleep on a park bench.
  • Start calling dinner ‘tea’.
  • Talk noncessantly about the weather.
  • Drive a Mini.
  • Say ‘fanny’ aloud in public again.

Until Next Time I go the UK:

  • Keep in touch with all the good friends I made (so I have a place to stay).
  • Re-learn French.
  • Pick up playing the piano again.
  • Get back into dancing hardcore, but maybe more contemporary.
  • Get my Pilates teacher certification so I can teach again.
  • Practice my proper English accent.
  • Save money so I can go back again!

    Ilkley Moore, view from the top of one of the hills

    Calf and Cow Rock, Ilkley Moore

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Wales, Castles and Manor Houses

My latest bit of traveling I managed while my belt is getting tight (metaphorically speaking, unfortunately) I spent three days staying with my flat mate Cat at her parents’ house in Cheshire from June 6-8. It is some of the most beautiful country side I have ever seen; the northwest near the Welsh border is quintessentially England with lush green rolling hills, gray stone walls, horses and sheep dotting the fields.

Wales: June 7

  • Conway Castle in Conwy, Wales
  • I enjoyed trying to pronounce all the Welsh signs on the drive there.
  • I don’t think Cat appreciated my butchering the archaic Celtic language.
  • Conwy is the closest to a fairy tale story castle I have seen so far.
  • One of Edward I’s many castles, completed in the 13th century.

Knutsford, England: June 8

  • Cat’s house is one of two of four remaining Victorian guard houses, to a demolished manor house.
  • Visited her mom’s and sister Josie’s half Arabians horses Sunny and Heidi.
  • Watched English saddle riding
  • Tried to kick neighbor chickens out of the corral, but they kept coming back to eat the horses’ grain.
  • Lots of old fashioned boutiques and inns in the ‘city center’
  • Many big league football players live in outside Knutsford in grand neighborhoods.
  • Home to the beautiful Tatten Park

Disley, England: June 8

  • Lyme Park Manor House:
  • Site of Pemberly, Mr Darcey’s house, in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
  • I had to watch the entire 5 hour-long film once we got back home.
  • My first time inside an old manor house.
  • Exquisite Elizabethan interior, portraiture and furniture

Manchester: June 9

  • Before catching my coach back to Leeds, I took a few hours to look around the city.
  • Home to arguably England’s greatest football teams, Manchester United
  • I spent my time inside the Manchester City Art Gallery, my usual stop in a new city.
  • Found China Town on accident and bought some oriental goods there.

London, Bath, Jane Austin and French lessons

What a perfectly adequate first trip to London I had! I did not dare leave England without visiting that great city. I have to say, it is one of my favorites, minus the rain. If London came with sun and pleasant weather more often, I would undoubtedly move there. As it is, I think I may opt for France or Spain for a post graduate job, or somewhere with a pleasant clime… not to say that I wouldn’t jump at the chance to live in London any day!

Since my travels this spring I have gained many things: a different perspective on the world, greater understanding of different people and governments, and appreciation for European culture and British intelligence, just to begin… I know I will travel more, but now I have no doubts about moving somewhere where English is not the first language. I would really like to go live somewhere for a year where I have to learn the language. That is what many young foreigners I have met do. They move to England for a year or so just to practice their English and they work in the meantime and engage in a culture not their own. I am through with being part of the narrow-minded American society of bigots and experience absorbing another culture, no matter how similar or different from mine, rather than expecting everyone conform to us.

I have been questioning the uses of becoming a homogenous society like America claims to be. How much would be lost from each of the distinct cultures! How much has been lost already because of British and American influence and technology. But that is not a question to wear out on this blog… I think I will relate some of my favorite things about my 3 day stay in London, and my subsequent trip to Bath, from where I am writing this. Tomorrow’s plans are to go to see Stonehenge, the famed ancient stone monument.

Because of my decommissioned camera, again I will be relying on Google images or friends’ photographs.

London: May 29-June 1

  • Uneventful bus ride from Leeds to London. As expected, I slept most of it.
  • Proper London welcome: pouring rain when I arrived
  • Had to call Rachel in Leeds to give me tube directions to my hostel.
  • Finding a location in London is a mission, especially when streets get split up and half of the street with the same name is a block away, surrounding another square of grassy park.
  • No one in my hostel room snored – always a relief.
  • Met two other Americans I toured the city center with.
  • Walked across all the important bridges including Millennium Bridge and London Tower Bridge on the River Thames.
  • Met a lady from NY at the Globe theatre. Didn’t get tickets for a play that night, but gained a friend to spend a lively night with.
  • Danced to a street musician’s music, singing and snogging until the tube had closed. Whoops.
  • Next day, I met two French students also in my hostel I practiced my French with and went to the theatre.
  • Saw Les Miserables at Queens Theatre in Piccadilly, with my two French friends.
  • Had a really neat conversation with the African hostel cleaner who I thought hated me because he yelled at me the day before for not washing my mug. Discovered he is actually a very brilliant man with a Masters in Business Management, and we have something in common: we both have lived in Boston.
  • Tasted the sweetest cider ever in a Piccadilly pub.

Bath: June 1-3

  • Met my old time NM neighbor Catherine and her daughter and two daughters for high tea at the Royal Pump Room.
  • The fountain was filled with bubbles when I arrived.
  • Bazaar Bath tour: no history, just comedy. Real British comedy: dry, cruel humour.
  • Stayed in an amazing flat which Regan had rented in a posh Bath lane and imagined all the people who lived here during its popularity during the 18th century.
  • Jane Austen!!! Visted the Jane Austen Museum and the town houses and flats in which she and her father, mother and sister had lived after her brothers had all gone away.

  • I ought to mention some of the other 18th Century lit in which Bath the setting: Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Burney’s Evelina, Austen’s
    Northanger Abbey and Persuasion
  • Visited the Roman Baths: relics from a Roman city there over 1,000 years ago, where the hot springs were seen as a miracle from one of their gods.
  • Therma Spa: modern-day version of the Roman baths – Catherine generously treated me to go with her.

Stonehenge, June 2:

  • It’s a mystery who built it and why. These prehistoric Britains have been dubbed ‘the Beaker’ people, probably of Celtic or Saxon origin.
  • What is most impressive to me is how they managed to transport those massive stones from Whales, chisel them to fit together, and hoist them up into position. After more than 4,000 years, half of them are still standing.

Laycock, June 2:

  • We visited the little village of Laycock on the way up to Stonehenge, where many films were shot, including Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter.
  • We saw Harry Potter’s parents house, Professor Sloghorn’s house, and the street from the first scene in the first film.

On the way back:

  • I did manage to miss my bus from Bath, so I was forced to buy a train ticket which was much more expensive, but got me to London to catch my next bus faster!
  • I can’t wait to spend time with Regan’s little girls again when I return to London; and I will have to, in the next month, to see a ballet and more theatre.

Kirkstall Abbey Adventure

Today I ran down to Kirkstall Abbey, in West Yorkshire, just a 50 minute walk or 20 minute jog from where I live in Headingly, Leeds. Becca and I visited the abbey on Saturday when it was sunny and families were picnicking and playing football in the park surrounding it, but we got there too late to go inside. I couldn’t have left England knowing I didn’t visit the sights so close to Leeds. Isn’t it funny how we travel hundreds or thousands of miles to see new places, but don’t explore everything that is so near us? That is how I feel about the Grand Canyon and Mexico when people hear I’m from New Mexico.

This abbey is one of the oldest buildings I have seen, other than those in Rome. It is a monastery dating from before the 12th century, when Cistercian monks built it next to the River Aire before there was ever a Leeds. There are many abbey ruins in the British Isles, as there are many in France and Spain as well as other parts of post-Catholic Europe. (appropriate field trip for my Catholic Europe History module I just finished, don’t you think?) While these may be normal sights for the average European, I am all enamored with the historical grandeur of such a place as this. Perhaps it is because we don’t have thousand-year-old structures built by human hands in North America, to my knowledge. I suppose we do have cave drawings, and thousand year old redwoods…

As I walked around the grassy grounds of the abbey, I like to imagine the monks and lay brothers who lived, worked, and ate here so long ago. Not even a hundred years after the abbey was decommissioned by Henry VIII in the 1500’s, a market was set up and later the main road to Leeds was built straight through the church corridor. Passersby carved their initials into the stone columns. One meticulous piece of graffiti I found on the wall of the monks’ small library looked more calligraphic than criminal. There was spelled out a man’s initials and last name, complete with the date 1816. If all graffiti artists today were as articulate as this man’s, I might not mind it so much. The other thing that impressed me upon my inspection was the monks’ use and design of waterways. There are still some existing wash basins in the walls of chapel’s the adjacent rooms. They empty out the bottom, through a spout either onto the tile floor or down through the stone walls into the ground floor and into the monastery’s water channel. I could imagine they used this channel to transport waste outside the monastery as well. The designers’ ingenuity from such an early time amazes me, not to mention how they built such impressive structures out of hand-hewn stone blocks. And just where did they get the stone from? As amazed as I am at the remains of people who lived so long before us, I am happy to belong in the 21st century.

Since my camera is out of commission, I will have to rely on Google images of the abbey:

Revision Time

I compiled a list of recent things I think about in the library when I should be revising (reviewing/studying, my American friends) for my exams. Here’s a list of interesting (or not so interesting) revelations, quips, and other wandering thoughts ideas I jotted down so I could get my mind back on studying:

  • Why am I still wearing a scarf in Leeds? It’s supposed to be May!
  • Wonder if John Milton ever was married? That stuff about Eve in Paradise Lost just didn’t quite help out the reputation of women.
  • How am I going to get this ring that’s stuck off my finger?
  • That person’s Converse under the desk over there are cool. I want colorful laces like that.
  • When I wear mascara, am I feeding the miniscule organisms that live on my eyelashes?
  • If I never cut my hair, how long would it be?
  • What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?
  • Why do the UK and the US hold Mother’s Day in different months?
  • I still find it hard to believe that Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) has a British accent.
  • I could just take a quick nap on my desk.
  • I should move over behind those bookshelves so no one sees me.
  • I think my face looked better when I was thinner.
  • Tea is so cheap in England. I’m going to miss it. I want some tea now, with a little milk.
  • I think I would marry Mr. Darcy over Lord Orville.
  • What does Lady Gaga look like now?
  • I would rather inspect the artwork on the cover of all the books on the shelves than read my own book…
  • Glad I didn’t live in the 17th century or I would’ve been burnt alive as a witch. EEEEK!
  • I could go get ‘sweeties’ to help with revising. Yes, that will definitely help me focus!
  • Another cuppa tea?
  • I need to shave my legs.
  • Does rumba start on count one or two? I always forget…
  • Hope it really is ok to drink water out of the bathroom tap here…
  • I want to go dancing!
  • Ok, read one more chapter, then I can get up and have a break…

     

Honest Scrap Award

I received this exciting “Honest Scrap” blog award from another Becca, author of Finding Flapjack blog. We Beccas seem to flock together, whether for moral support or just because we’re that cool, I’m not sure. Anyway, the rules of this award are as follows: I am to write 10 honest facts about myself, and then award it to other bloggers who I think deserve the reward. I have a feeling this will be harder than I expect; to tell things are deathly honest about me. Most of us, let’s be honest, try to embellish our lives just a little to make ourselves sound more interesting or put together to other people. Or we down play our stories out of fear embarrassment or others’ disinterest. Luckily I am used to embarrassment so I don’t think I will have a problem with this. So here goes…

  1. I raised a dairy heifer each year, for four or five years in a row and showed them in the county 4-H fair. I can’t remember how many heifers exactly; it was so long ago. Although I did win Champion Showman one year, and showed in New Mexico State Fair one year. I also raised and showed rabbits, New Zealand Whites were my breed of specialty. They look like the tradition Easter bunny: white fur with pink eyes.
  2. I started drinking coffee at age 12 to try to impress my Dad, who can guzzle gallons of the black liquid with only sugar. Somehow, I still ended up being rather tall for a girl, 5 foot 7 inches. Dad was pleased when I took at job at Starbucks – that meant free pounds of coffee occasionally for him.
  3. I played piano but didn’t practice very much so I eventually quit. The only reason my mom put me in piano lessons was because a ballet mistress I had when I was young told her I was very talented, but lacked musicality. “She hears the music differently,” is what I remember her telling mom. Piano lessons had one purpose: to teach me to count the music so I could dance to it.
  4. I went through mild stages of depression as a young aspiring dancer, when I did not live up to my expectations. I was very hard on myself, and didn’t learn to let out my frustration except through crying. I eventually learned to vent my frustrations and thoughts into writing a journals when I was 12 or 13, and I have kept one ever since. My writing style has changed dramatically and much for the better as I’ve matured.
  5. I carry a notebook or journal with me everywhere I go, and only in the last year decided to consolidate into two journals from the several different ones I would keep at a time previously: personal and Bible study notes/prayers, and arts criticism for the exhibitions and performances I see.
  6. I don’t like to eat meat. I can only recall a few times when I had a very good piece of meat that I enjoyed, and that was usually home-raised meat (beef, lamb, pork, turkey or duck), or bites out of someone’s hamburger when it smelled too good to be true. I get fed meat when I go home to visit my family in New Mexico, which is pretty much the only time I eat it. Upon coming to England, I decided to give up meat for good and call myself a vegetarian. It really was no sacrifice for me. Now, if I had to give up sweets, on the other hand…
  7. One of my favorite stuffed animals was a cow in an 18th century style pink dress. Her name was Ms. Moo. Ms Moo’s bell around her neck would apparently tinkle in the middle of the night while she slept on my bed with me, and it would wake my Dad up from all the way down the end of the hall. I never heard it.
  8. I have been in one movie: a Disney feature film called The Gameplan, with the Rock Johnson. I had no idea who the Rock was until I met him on set, and he and his Samoan cousin body double were both the friendliest celebrities you’d ever meet. He would sit down and chat with us Boston Ballet kids when he wasn’t on camera flashing that big smile of his or memorizing his lines. I regret not getting a picture with him. That’s probably the closest to fame I’ll ever get.
  9. I have really bad vision. It’s horrendous! I like to tell people when I spend the night at their house that I can’t find the bathroom without my glasses or contacts. Currently my prescription is -5.75, and that’s an improvement from two years ago! Thanks, Mom, for my hereditary eyesight. J
  10. Last one! I will preserve a little of my pride, I think, and go with this: My relationship with the Lord is the most important thing in my life. In the last few months, He has been teaching me and revealing to me how I can begin to let go of my self-consciousness and worship Him in honesty and freedom. My favorite way to do that is through singing (although somewhat badly, but pleasing to my Lord’s ears) and dancing – what comes most naturally to me.

Now for the fun part: I get to do this to several others. Don’t ignore this award if I give it to you; take it as an honor and an opportunity to share some insightful truths about yourself. We need more open people in this world. Don’t take it as one of those annoying chain letters we all used to receive when email was still in its early stages, because it’s not. Here we are, my nominees:

Becca Bluett Dunkin’s blog: http://findingflapjack.blogspot.com/

Scottish Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet

 

Saturday night I was in Glasgow just to see Scottish Ballet’s opening night of their not-so-classical Romeo and Juliet. They are one of my favorite companies, a must-see while in the UK. It is one of my favorite ballets, which I am set out to see as many different choreographer’s interpretations as possible.

Choreographer Krzysztof Pastor guides the audience through the couple’s love story over three eras in twentieth century Italy in his version of the love story. If it weren’t for the exuberant choreography and the excellence of the Scottish Ballet’s skill to execute it seamlessly, this version of the story would fall flat. There is hardly enough difference in setting and mood to determine the changing seasons, from staunch, dictatorial Italy in the 1930’s to post-war optimism in the 1950’s to modern day Italy in the 1990’s. Only the dress and the film running on the backdrop give the audience sure signs there is something not static about the setting for this story. It was, nevertheless, a challenge that Pastor took on to create something new without losing the magic of the original.

Principal dancers Sophie Martin and Erik Cavallari portrayed the type of connection and chemistry between them that one would expect two young lovers willing to kill themselves for each other to possess. I could watch Martin’s smooth transitions and elegance all night long; and it didn’t hurt that they are two of the most genuinely Italian (and good looking) Romeo and Juliets I have seen onstage. They certainly convinced me of their passion more than NBT’s Romeo and Juliet did last month.

As for the rest of the choreography, it was rather repetitive, especially with some of the jumps in the corps de ballet’s Montague and the Capulet families, and the two maids, Juliet’s friend. I suppose that sort of repetition create a sort of continuity throughout the ballet, and retains the families’ individuality over the 60 year gap. I liked Pastor’s choice to show off some of the very strong and captivating female dancers in the company with more supporting soloist dancing roles, among these tall, svelte and blonde Eve Mutso, who portrayed Juliet’s Mother with utmost power and understanding, contrasted that of her not-much-younger-looking and innocent Juliet. Paul Liburd earned his round of applause as the daunting, lighthearted Mercutio. His sing-songy playfulness could only work for a man so refined and brawny as he is. The friar was the most unbelievable character in the story; the sleeping potion somehow just can’t be pulled off as part of a 1990’s Venice story. Perhaps that is why Pastor chose to get over with the friar’s involvement with the couple as fast as possible. The end of the ballet came to a nonchalant ending, where each family stares at the body of their dead member, then picks up the body and walks off, oh, in 1990’s street clothes. Still, it was a satisfactory and creative ballet, not the best Romeo and Juliet I have seen, but not disappointing.