Sunday, October 30, 2011

It must be Halloween. There are bodies everywhere.

No, really, there are.  Well, all over my sketchbook, anyway.  We were taking turns doing 1 and 3 minute poses to practice figure drawings in our drawing class.  A few notes from that: First off, guys aren't the only ones who randomly start strength competitions if given the chance.  Second, if someone does something cool in the beginning, they're hard to beat.  Third, if you decide during the beginning of one of these kinds of things to show off and hold a rather difficult position for one and/or for three minutes, don't be surprised when your legs protest when you stand up.  (Fourth, just don't do that.  It's silly.)

That was the morning, then, and it filled up my sketchbook.  But we're interested in Halloween here, so we now move on.

I went out to Camden Market and I'm beginning to think that half of London is either open-air market or park, but anyway my friends were looking for costume supplies.  I was ready to pick up something if it was small and cheap and could be easily modified into a good costume but the only things I saw that I wanted were awesome looking coats and top hats, the latter of which I'd have trouble getting home and the former were rather pricey.  So I didn't get anything and ended up at the last moment putting on a skirt, throwing a scarf around my waist, my shoulder, and my head, asking a friend to curl my hair, borrowing some bright eyeshadow, and calling myself a gypsy.  There were some pretty awesome costumes--we had TMNTs, some of the English students dressed as artists with berets and painted-up shirts that said "What is Art?" on the back to mock in homage to Heiddeger or however you spell his name, John Bennion and his son dressed as each other which was utterly hilarious, there was a pirate, a chimney sweep, a few bobbies, a wolf, a cartoon character a la Lichtenstein...lots of others, you get the idea.  Pretty clever stuff, too.

So, party--Thais had made some awesome cream-cheese-and-shrimp stuff baked into pumpkins which you ate with the pumpkin flesh on rice and it was delicious, and there was candy and light-up table decor and much rejoicing.  We followed this up with sugar-cookie decorating and consumption, and then a dance party in the classroom which was highly entertaining and quite fun (We'd had a party earlier for one of the days when two of the girls had birthdays on the same day and I somehow managed over the course of these two dance parties to convince some of the girls here that I'm an awesome dancer in the freestyle not-ballroom method.  My doing the worm during the first party may have had something to do with that.)  All in all, great night.  And on Saturday after a failed attempt to go on the Harry Potter tour which we were late for and found out it wasn't free after all anyway and a sketchbook excursion which led to more wandering around London down in the Kensington area, we watched Nightmare Before Christmas on Saturday evening.  Happy Halloween and hauntings and spookiness, all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Excellence of Excellent Museums

So...the Royal Academy of Art had an exhibit called Degas and the Ballet which was beyond words amazing.  Every picture you've ever ever seen by Degas concerning ballet was there, lots of paintings you've never heard of, a lot of sketches and practices, the Little Dancer sculpture in a case in the middle of the room surrounded by sketches of the model from all angles.  It was unbelievably awesome.  We were looking at composition again--how did Degas incorporate movement into an art form that is, by nature, static?  Because he's a genius who did that.  Some of the ones I put in my sketchbook-- Just look at this!  The whole thing makes rhythm! Their postures send the movement through them, and if you look, it directs your eye, oddly enough, off and to the corner, not to mention the fact that the dancers, although definitely the focal point, are not in the center. (second picture down)  The very fact that the dancer, who is lightest and therefore draws the eye, is so little defined, means the focus has to be elsewhere, and it lands on her position and hence the movement.  Please note, these are my thoughts and I don't claim to be an expert.  Also sketched--Dancers in Blue and his Russian Dancers.  Because they're awesome and because Degas inspires me.

The exhibit also incorporated a few rooms of contemporaries of Degas who may have inspired him.  (More links coming up!)  Francois Willeme (he's got symbols in his names I can't replicate easily) made three-dimensional images by photographing a person in a dome simultaneously from 24 angles and then tracing the photos with an instrument that etched the movements into a block of clay; after that, he'd smooth it a bit and add details by hand.  I unfortunately can't even link you somewhere with more info.  Next, Etienne-Jules Marey--he was a scientist who was fascinated by movement and made sequential photos and sculptures thereof--for example, birds flying.  One series showed individual birds, while the next had a wavelike structure showing a seagull flying, but it was two dozen birds melded into one sculpture so that their wings were the most distinct part of them.  According to his wiki, he had a "photographic gun" and is the one who discovered/made the theory that cats always land on their feet.  Loie Fuller (she has two dots on the "i") was a dancer who did some incredible dancing with a robe she invented.  There aren't any videos of her dancing, but there are imitators and this is the kind of thing she did.  (Maybe I was analyzing the make of her robe and contemplating imitating it...what's that to you?) (This is the video they played there, color was added later.)  Incidentally, her robe is probably about twice as long as it is wide, gathered around the shoulders,  extended by sticks, and had to be short enough to not trip her at its shortest part, which would be her height.  It also had to be rather light but durable fabric or it would have a) been a killer to wear and b) wouldn't have flowed well.  (Yet another costume idea...)

The next museum we went to was the Imperial War Museum.  For many of my friends, I know what you're thinking.  Stop it.  Now.  There are no mouse droids, no blasters, no stormtrooper helmets, no Star Wars. Just stop.  :)  What was there--a Jagdpanzer, a Sherman, various other tanks, rockets, exhibits on merchant sailors, wartime artwork, an exhibit on the Holocaust which I kind of avoided, an exhibit on the "Secret War" about the MI5, MI6, and the other British Secret Services, which I found very intriguing.  They had invisible ink literally everywhere, from their shirt collars to their socks.  There was one match in a matchbox   that had a message.  Ingenious little devices, and devices they discovered.  I think that's where the phrase "double-crosser" came from, as the code name for the spies who switched sides was "Operation Double Cross."

The part I remember most about the museum, though, is the feelings and the discussion it caused.  I couldn't help leaving there wondering at the horrors of human ingenuity when turned to kill others, or the tragedy that is war.  We held a long discussion on the steps about war, about why people fight, and if there's a way to not fight.  Some of the thoughts raised were that war is the easy way out, that as humans, lashing back is our natural reaction, that there are always peaceful means that we can use.  I mention these because my view is slightly different.  I want to say first that I think war is tragic; it's one of the worst, if not the worst, thing that we as mankind do to each other.  But there are times when I think it can't be avoided.  There are wicked people in the world who do wicked things, whether that be oppression, murder, or any number of things.  Sometimes they don't listen when you try to work things out peacefully, and sometimes war is the only way to oppose.  Sometimes you have to fight to protect something, whether it be your country, your family, or some ideal.  The Nephites fought for the Anti-Nephi-Lehies after they took an oath not to raise their weapons of war again.  But, by the same token, their sons fought the Lamanites.  I think the biggest question when deciding about war--what are your true motives for the war?  Do you respect not only the lives of your people but the lives of the soldiers you fight against?  Have you tried peaceful means, and/or would trying cost more than fighting?  Not necessarily in lives, there are times when something is more important than life.

Those are my thoughts that I just wrote in a few minutes; I don't know how organized or logical they are, but there they are.  And I think that the fact that the museum made me think is something that's valuable--that's why I think we have museums, to make us think and to look at the past and learn from it.

More Art! Pile it on, folks!

I had a fun day one of the days between the art fair and this post running around to Cass Art, L. Cornellson and Sons, and a fancy paper store with Emily, picking up various art supplies at each place.  It was beautiful and brisk and exciting.  Wandering London is cool.

Moving on...

We went to visit the Courtauld Gallery.  It's part of a university, I believe, so we got in free since we're a university (and because when they asked Peter if we were London-based, he didn't lie about it and they were impressed).  The Courtauld is cool because, although it's a rather small museum, they have things like Van Goghs (self portrait with bandaged ear) and Picassos (little girl with a dove, beginning of blue period) and Cezannes (one or two of that mountain he was always doing) and Manets (lady at the bar) see where I'm going with this?  It was really interesting to be able to see them in person and I touch my forehead to Mark Johnson, my old art history professor, since I got some of what was going on, but no more than that because he was a boring professor and made it a boring subject and hence I didn't know more.  Sorry, but it's true.  We were talking about composition; how shapes, colors, values, and so on create the composition and affect how you see it.

There was a lantern festival that evening, so a group of us hopped a tube and headed over.  It was pretty fun; they had a procession with paper lanterns that had transparent/translucent circular faces and an LED light inside that made them glow very nicely.  The sides were strips of paper, and this whole little bundle was hung from the end of a dowel rod, and they followed a group of drummers around the park for a while.  It was very pretty to watch and the rhythm was very catching.  Unfortunately, that's about all there was to that, so we were there for maybe half an hour if not less.

And then I managed to get a runny nose and sat there cursing it for most of the weekend.  Good times.  Especially during Stake Conference on Sunday--half of the group went to the same place for once on a Sunday.  It was a very good Stake Conference.  I believe there were probably about 500 people, at a guess.  As you can tell from that statement, I'm very very sure of my numbers.  *cough*  I also think it was due to the cold that, despite bringing paper with the intent of making sure my fingers stayed occupied so my brain stayed focused, and paying attention up through the sustainings, I suddenly found myself waking up just before the rest hymn with no memory of having fallen asleep in the first place.  But the talks that I heard were very excellent.  And one of the members of the stake presidency said he'd put one of their youth up against any 10 in Europe.  (Don't tell the other youth in Europe...)'s everywhere...HELP!

The above describes my approximate feelings about the Frieze Art Fair.  The FAF is a big thing, apparently; galleries from all over the world pick their favorite artists and send their work and possibly them to this one place where they set up a big tent--retail-department-store big--and sell it all.  It's in a few places including New York; this year, it was set up in Regent's Park and hoo, boy, was it crowded.  Not just with people.  There were some ridiculous things there.  There were these huge bulbous shapes; they looked like dew drops, but they were polished mirror things.  Big wooden sculptures, little pieces of art, crystalline shapes, a big "credit-card-destroying" machine--no, really--a giant bent clothes hanger, some video art (there was a depressing one of Popeye that I think will disturb me forever, and one of dogs jumping down a sidewalk on their hind legs that just caused an o.O expression), and on and on and on...  The art, the crush of people--it was all rather overwhelming and rather exhausted me by the end.  Basically, I've decided that huge art sales are not my thing and my taste in art tends away from the grotesque and to things that don't jump out and obnoxiously scream for your attention, but the pieces that are easier enjoyed quietly and by your choosing to seek them out.  I actually think that taste extends to most of my life.  (With a few exceptions...wearing a cloak is not something you do when you don't want to attract attention.)

Feeling Austen

This one's going to be a bit short; sorry about that.

The last day of our trip started with a trip to Stourhead Gardens.  It's a garden made to look like one of the garden paintings from Italy.  They made the pond and everything. They've got grottos, temples, and lots and lots of trees from all over.  And yes, one of those temples is related to Pride and Prejudice again--the first proposal was filmed there.  (Yep, freak out.  Most of the girls on the trip did.  I felt rather required to go as the token Elizabeth--oddly enough, although we've got 2 Sara(h)s, 2 Lauras and a Lauren and a Laurel and a Laurie, I'm the only Elizabeth.)  I think we went at the best time; it was just opened, so everything was dappled in morning, with a bit of mist still rising off from the lake.  I rather liked the grotto; there were two fountain statues--not quite fountains themselves, the statues were surrounded by water.  And there was a beautiful view out of one onto the lake through a "ruined wall."  Constructed ruins, aren't they fun?  I also may have gone up a little ways into some of the trees.  What can I say?  I've got climbing fever. You could say I'm attempting to compensate for a height deficiency, but I lay no credit to such claims.  Also you'd just be wrong.  To conclude: Stourhead is pretty cool and if you go, go in the morning.  Or the evening; I think it'd be nice in the sunset.  But that's when the bugs come out.

We then took a hop and skip further back to visit...wait for it...Stonehenge!  (After the impressiveness-disappointment of Men an Tol and Lanyon Quoit, I'd had a dream about Stonehenge where the rocks came up to about my forehead and I was ready to be on the warpath about that.)  Fortunately, it lived up to its name and was really very impressive.  ...Unfortunately, there's not an awful lot to say about Stonehenge, either.  You can't really go up to it, so you go, take pictures, sketch it, and then you're pretty much done.  (I hear the neo-pagans got permission to go and do some sort of something or other there that evening.  We weren't there.  And I only saw one person who may have been a neo-pagan.  Either that or she has a propensity for dressing oddly and going to big stone monolithic monuments.  I won't comment too much on that because I think it'd be hilarious to, for example, get a group of Latin scholars to dress in togas and wander around the Roman baths looking at these strange individuals who have invaded their baths extremely skeptically and speaking nothing but Latin.  Besides, she wasn't even all that strangely dressed.  I also toyed with the thought of going to various castles in full garb.  It'd be great.)

After this, we jumped straight back through time to where we'd been before (Wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, you wouldn't understand) and landed at the Jane Austen house where she'd lived when she published most of her books, if not all.  Had a few people playing piano there again, delighting the people who were there again, then looked at all of the things and artifacts from her life.  I always feel kind of awkward doing that--I mean, it's kind of weird looking at stuff that people lived with, that was part of their daily lives, with signs that say "Don't touch" and describe exactly what it is.  Interesting, though.  The writing table she used was there, and let me tell you, I'm surprised she managed to do anything on a table that size.  There was a bit of an emphasis on Sense and Sensibility at the time; I think it's their book of the year or something.  They had dresses and so on from the movies, pages of manuscript and original copies--you get the idea.  There was also a gentleman there who was very concerned that we make it to the movie--he reminded me every time he saw me for a good 15 minutes leading up, even though I told him I was waiting for a friend to catch up.

We then headed back to the center, arriving at about 6 in the afternoon.  And so concludes that trip.

Incidentally, would you do me a favor?  I just want to know how many people read this--could you comment with your name?  Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Location, Location, Location

Of all the places we have been and all the things that we have seen I've never seen a house like this before!  (I reference this video which is awesome and funny and also I've been those places!  Okay, I haven't gone in the London Eye, but I've seen it. )  We drove back down towards Penzance (I forgot to mention, the End of the World was near Penzance and we stopped there before walking off towards Land's End.) and looked across the water to St. Michael's Mount.  More stories!  Once upon a time, St. Michael appeared to the shepherds here.  Hence the name.  There was also a giant once who was eating all the cattle (possibly other things more nefarious, but I don't want to put words in their mouths) so they caught him by digging a well and they buried his heart up the path a ways and if you stand on the heart-shaped stone, they say you can hear his heart beat.  (There's another heart nearby, so Carolyn proposed the idea that he's a Gallifreyan.)  Then this island became a focal point in a bunch of wars because, hey, island!  Fortifiable!  So we walked over to it to explore.

...Yes, we walked.  I exaggerate not.  Not on top of the water, nor wading through the shallows.  Dry (ish) ground.  We didn't pull a Moses, either; there's a causeway that comes when the tide is low.  We started right when it was starting to appear and by the time we were across, it was high and kind of sort of dry.  Charming island; there are 8 families who live there; of course, that means their lives are ruled by weather and tides especially if they want to do anything extra-islandal.

Michael's Mount, then, is essentially a small hill stuck out in the middle of the bay.  There's a protected cove for docking boats and a ramp up from the causeway and out of the sea for people who walk.  The road leads up to a castle on the top through the gardens, which are rather nice but we didn't spend too long in them.  They were allowed to be wilder than any of the other gardens we've been to.  I rather felt like the castle, too, was allowed to be less imposing.  It felt more comfortable and more like a home than any of the others.  So I decided of all the places, this is the one I'll take.  It's still a castle, but it's not trying to scream POWER! in your face like most of the others--it felt like somewhere a person could live without being smothered in opulence.'s on a island!  Really!  You've got a 5-minute walk to the beach when the tide is out, and you just walk down to the water when it's not! Beat that.  There were some nice rooms around; they didn't let us into all of them, of course, but those that were there felt elegant--there was wealth but there was also control.  (See also: Not the Palace of Versailles)  There were some courtyards/outdoor walkways that overlooked the ocean, the town, the little bay below, and the causeway, which were cool and fresh in the (misty again) morning.  Even the chapel there was small and controlled, its decoration coming from the beautiful stained-glass windows, the candle holders--it was well decorated, but it wasn't overly done to the point of making you feel like a tiny speck floating out in nowhere.

After that, I spent several hours combing the beach for sea-glass and interesting shells, wading in the water (which grew increasingly difficult as the tide continued to recede), and enjoying being on the beach, which I haven't done for years.  Funnily enough, while we were looking for sea-glass, a gentleman came up and warned me about being barefoot because there was glass on the beach.  Speaking of which, ah, the joyfulness of being barefoot!  So much more connection to the ground that way.  I just felt bad that I tracked a lot of sand on to Tony's bus.

This was followed by a long long bus ride to Salisbury where we stayed overnight at the hostel--I missed the people going to the cathedral and I didn't want to try to find my way there in the dark.  Blargh.  I keep missing things and it is not a happy thing for me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lands of Legend

So after the abbey, we went to Tintagel, where the coach dropped half of us, including me, off at the coach park, then went to Boscastle with the other half.  We were in two separate youth hostels that night, see.  My group was in Boscastle.  We walked there.  And what a walk it was!  We went straight out to the sea and walked the coastal path--the path on the edge of cliffs towering above water a colour of turquoise that I have never seen before.  It was amazingly beautiful.  A few steep stairs, yes, but the view!  Wow!

You know, some things like walks and concerts are hard to describe, because I can't go over every lilt of music or every mile of terrain.  Suffice it to say it was one of the most incredible walks that I think exist.  We arrived eventually in Boscastle and noticed that luck of the draw which had assigned our hostels had been kind to us--our hostel was directly next to the water in a great little village tucked between two mountains.  Not to mention Peter was cooking dinner and made an incredible pasta lasagna type dish and garlic bread, it was delicious.  We missed the evening singing but I was tired anyway.  Which meant I did not join the group of girls who went out to the water at 4 in the morning.  Well, that wasn't the only reason...there are certain activities in which I'm not interested in participating.

The next morning, Tony picked us up and shuttled us back to Tintagel and we went to the ruins of the castle there which are said to be where Arthur was born.  Also featured: Merlin's Cave in a little cove on the way there.  I...Look, I'm not sure how to describe how I felt accurately.  I'm going to add an essay I've been working on that is extremely rough and a bit short right now, but bear with me.

Don't talk to me right now.
Sorry, it's nothing against you, but you see, I won't hear you.
Thing is, I'm not here right now. I'm standing on a rock, wind in my hair, and waves crashing around the bottom. It's a sheltered cove, rocky crags reaching to the sky and pigeons and sea birds swirling through the air. The water is a beautiful shade of turquoise, like a polished gem. And there's a selkie poking her head above the waves.
You doubt me. But that's because you're not here. You don't see it. You haven't come with me. Take my hand and follow me. Wait, though, before we go—you have to promise me you'll stay quiet. Just listen and feel it. Ready?
Here we go, then.
Welcome to Merlin's Cove. I don't know what they call it, but we're in Tintagel. Behind us is a wooden staircase. Sorry you slipped, but I did warn you they were a bit slick. The rocks after that led to the beach, covered in long twisted sticky-brown seaweed leaves. I saw you, picking your way around so you didn't step on them. Don't worry, I did, too. There's the stream, too, trickling down a rock wall off on our right. Don't turn and look. Look out. See that? The waves coming in, the tide going out, all of it like breath. Like a heartbeat. Look at the rock, stained black by sea salt spray. Trace the lines of mussels with your eyes, following to the edge of the waves' reach. Come on out with me, step into the tide, and climb on top of this rock. Careful; do it between waves or your shoes will get soaked. Whoops, okay, I lied. It's impossible to stay dry, but here, it's not important.
You know what this place is, don't you?
This is Arthur's territory. King of the Britons, wielder of Excalibur, his dog Cafall always by his side. This is the land where Merlin lives. Highest of wizards, wielder of power unimaginable, living backwards through time. This is the land where they live, the land where every rock is charged with sorcery and you can't find a stream or a tree without a guardian spirit. That's why you don't look at the stream; the nymph there is very protective.
We're not in the boring land behind us, the land where everything is ruled by precision, by science and measured and meted so precisely that legends and stories only exist in analysis, pinned to the card where the butterfly loses its magic. But that's not here. This is the place where the fact diminishes to the fossil it is and is buried in the rock. This is the land of legends.
Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean the legends here “come to life.” A silly phrase; it means they were dead. Here, they live eternally. The very air here is the breath of kings and magicians, of magic and of fantastic creatures like you've only ever imagined. See the selkie? I told you, here, it's not a seal. In the land of facts, they'd know every muscle that made her move, but the soul of the creature here...there's no doubt she's a selkie, born and raised, and waiting for us mere mortals to get off her beach and leave her some privacy.

Like I said, rough, but the way I felt while I was there was unbelievable.  It was absolutely beautiful and I would not have been surprised to run into Merlin walking along those shores.

I walked up to the castle after the cove and poked around the ruins for a while, but I just couldn't stop staring off the side and out.  I actually...don't laugh at me, but I had a conversation with a seagull for a while.  (Hey, he was just standing there, even when I sat down not far away, and I wanted to voice my feelings somehow.) It was a windswept and rough land, but beautiful.

This is short, but I honestly am having trouble expressing just what it was like.

After that we went even further back, visiting a place called "Lanyon Quoit" which was four uprights with a big stone on top, 47 feet around at one point, I believe, that was once covered in earth except maybe the top, which no one quite knows what it was for--possibly communication with the spirit world, religious ceremonies, all that.  It's now a good bit shorter because one of the uprights fell (because people were messing with it so much) but it used to be tall enough for a horse and rider to both fit underneath.

We also saw Men an Tol which means "rock with a hole" which was...a rock with a hole through it!

(By the way...the above two--we'd expected them to be bigger and were mildly disappointed.  Which is silly, I suppose, but there you are.)

After that, we took a hike.  Really.  Started off at a beach (where I stood on another rock watching the waves and got soaked the rest of the way when one wave was abnormally large) and then proceeded to walk around the coast in a land becoming increasingly shrouded in mist.  (Remember that bit where I could believe that the legends were real?  This was territory where I wouldn't have batted an eye at a dragon peeling off a cliff and taking a jaunt over the waves.  People didn't entirely believe me when I told them about taking a flight with a dragon over the ocean.)  When we reached Land's End, it was entirely misty so you couldn't see far beyond you, which meant the land's end really was just a fog.  Not much to see.  It's like sleeping through the apocalypse.  "What happened?"  "Oh, you know, Ragnarok, end of the world, calamity, fire and earthquakes, Final Judgment.  Where were you?"  "...I had a long day yesterday, okay?"  Fine, maybe not that dramatic.  There were also small houses set up in a little village for an unknown purpose...My first impulse was to terrorize them...I don't know what that says about me, but I do know it means I'm not alone as we got several people doing the same.

Hey, check it out!  A picture!  Charming first picture, eh?

Welcome to the Isle of Avalon.

No, really.  I went to the Isle of Avalon.

Well, that's what Glastonbury Abbey says it is, anyway.

That was our first stop the next day.  Glastonbury...what can I say?  If the legends are all right, it's the location of the oldest purpose-built church building, know what, let me start from the beginning.  Or at least give some background.  So we show up at this old abbey, almost on the ground, and wander through the museum where they've picked up a few artifacts like broken glass and talk about what the abbey would have been like at its height, and then we split into two groups and followed our guides.  Ours was a Tudor lawyer who'd come to investigate the abbey.  The guy was awesome.  And so was his garb.  Anyway, he took us around and explained  the mythology and/or history of the monastery.  I'm not going to go through the whole "legend says" every time I say something, but here's what they say about it.

Waaaay back in about the second decade AD or so, a certain tinsmith came to Britain to find tin for the Romans, which is how he established his wealth enough to have a large gravesite in his hometown.  Hometown: Jerusalem.  Name: Joseph of Arimathea.  He actually went several times, and once or twice brought his young nephew, named Jesus.  While there, he noticed an interesting hill once out in a swampy area  that seemed perfectly round (from one angle, that's how it looks). Fastforward a few decades, this nephew had a large following who called themselves Christians, had been crucified by the Romans, and the Romans weren't...altogether accepting of the Christians.  Nor were most people, apparently.  Some Christians stayed in Jerusalem, some got on a boat or traveled and ended up in France-ish, where, guess what, there were still Romans.  Remember, big empire at the time, they weren't staying in Italy.  Persecution resumed, and Joseph, who happened to be with this traveling group, remembered this hill on this country that wasn't under strong Roman rule, and so he gathered up about 11 others and they crossed the channel and found this hill, climbed to the top, where Joseph stuck his staff in the ground and said "We are weary, all."  So the hill is now called the Wearall hill, or however they spell it.  The staff, incidentally, took root and became the Glastonbury Thorn Tree that flowers once in the spring for Easter and once in the winter for Christmas.  Hence the name; that and its shape and so on.  Every year at Christmas, they have a ceremony where they cut a sprig and send it to London where it graces the Queen's (or presumably King's) breakfast table on Christmas morning.

Well, they settled down and built a little community--12 wattle and daub houses around a central building, their wattle and daub chapel.  See, first purpose-built church!  Assuming they were still doing the "hide in caves" or "use people's houses" thing out in Jerusalem.  And when the Romans showed up later, a) they'd cooled (a bit) on the whole "Christians are only good as lion-fodder and entertainment" thing and b) couldn't tell the difference between a wattle-and-daub chapel and a wattle-and-daub goose pen.  (So you don't make the same mistake, the goose pen has feathers and goose dung in it, and not just on the walls.)  Eventually, Joseph grew old and knew he wasn't long for this world, but there was something he needed to take care of first, so he wrote to his brother to come pick up and take care of some objects for him.  He'd buried them "at the bottom of the hill next to the well."  Unfortunately, he died before his brother got the letter, or maybe his brother never got the letter, because said objects have never been found.  What are they?  Only the Holy Grail and two small containers containing the blood and sweat of Christ from the cross.  There is a "Grail Well" on Glastonbury Tor, but it's named that through legend and not since a few hundred years ago because it turns the surrounding rocks red.

English history being English history, some invaders swept through the country after a span of time.  These ones in particular were Saxons!  Fierce, bloodthirsty, barbarous, and probably not all that different from a whole bunch of the locals except they had practice Saxons!  (Come on, they were called in the first place because one of the (thick in the head) kings wanted help with a war.) Well, as they began taking over and settling in a sweep across the country, they somewhere ran into Christianity, converted, and were well enough settled in that new religion that by the time they reached Glastonbury, they wanted to preserve it as a site sacred to their new religion.  Maybe it was because it was a new religion for them and a memory of a time when the church itself was still only a fledgling.  Anyway, they built a church there and enclosed the original chapel in a box of wood and lead to preserve it.

Time passed, Thomas a Becket got offed, and King Henry felt like his soul was at stake because he'd been responsible for the death of a friend and the archbishop of Canterbury (no worries, mate, he gets that whole "hooly blisful martir" deal and people go pilgrimaging for him), so he's looking for ways to up his ratings on the eternal meter.  It so happens the Saxon church burns down around this time and Henry goes "Ah, shame.  Waaaait...this is a really important religious site, isn't it?  So...if I put money into fixing it up...I could, oh, you know, make it to Heaven, theoretically?"  So he pours money into building a new cathedral there to St. Mary, which actually was colorful like you wouldn't believe if all you know of old churches is the stone that's left because paint has a shorter shelf life than stone but you might believe it if you've studied this stuff.  And this is a big thing.  People pour in on their pilgrimages here, too, to the extent that they have to put a "Mary and Jesus" stone on the outside (they carved the words into one of the exterior walls) just to have another spot for the masses of pilgrims to pray.  Then the bishop at the time thinks, you know, people come here because it's where the original Joseph of Arimathea church was, so I should put a place for them to go and then there'll be even more pilgrims!  (Which is, of course, important because pilgrims bring not just faith and prayers and problems but also cash, and if you can part them from it, it stays when they go home and you get to use it.)  So this bishop looks around and realizes something--his church is standing on the best spot for this worship site, seeing as they keep building on the same sites.  So he excavates beneath it and makes a new chapel below the church for these pilgrims.  This erases all evidence that may have once existed of a wattle-and-daub building encased in lead,'s impossible to verify.  Way to go, you.

More time passes and Richard is up on the throne!  Yay, good ol' Lionheart!  There's just one problem with this king.  He's never home.  He's all "CRUSADES!  HOLY LAND!  CHAAARGE!"  which some people are fine with but some people aren't but it doesn't much matter because he's the bally King and if he says he wants to go Crusading, he's going to go Crusading and I'd like to see you try and stop him.  But turns out Crusading takes money, too.  Lots, in fact, so he drains the budget that went to all the other church functions (Wouldn't you love that to be a church function?  "So in October, there's a potluck, we'll have a dance in November, and for Christmas, since it's kind of cold, maybe we'll head down to the Middle East and visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  And take them over by force.") which left Glastonbury Abbey/Cathedral high and dry.  Literally, because it's on a hill.  But more on that in a second.  At this point, incidentally, all the monasteries are pretty open.  The public can use their cathedrals and there aren't rules about that whole messy "marriage" issue.  That's not until the future from then which is now well in the past.  Anyway, where were we?  Ah, yes, cathedral with a money stoppage.  Especially because the pilgrimage furor isn't hitting people as much at the time.  They've been there, done that, there are no new pilgrimages any more.  *dramatic "Or are there?"*  So the monks gather around and have a prayer.  One of these fine fellows has a dream that guides him to the graveyard where they've had so many people buried they've had to start stacking them.  This guys says his dream led him to a pyramid or some such which we'd now call an obelisk (Not Obelix!  Get it straight!) and they dig under it and find a huge oak chest.  No, no gold.  Sorry to disappoint.  It's got cooler stuff.  They open this and find two skeletons--one is a man who is so tall his shin bone is taller than the shin bone of the tallest guy at the monastery by a good three inches.  They checked.  Also, he's got battle scars on the bones and his skull is cracked open on one side.  The other is a smaller one, a woman, and her hair glitters gold when they open the casket until a greedy monk tries to touch it and it turns to dust.  Any guesses of who it is now?  The lead cross they find with it clinches the deal--"Here lies buried the famous King Arthur with Guinevere, his second wife, in the isle of Avalon."  The lead cross has been lost over time, too, by the way.  Anyway, this discovery sends a huge rush of pilgrims and their moneybags with them back to Glastonbury who now has money for all the repairs and everything they need.  About a hundred years after that, Edward has a huge ceremony where they put the skeletons in a huge carved black marble coffin in the center of the (by now huge) cathedral.  Or at least up past the nave where all the important people get to sit.  (The coffin's gone too, along with the skeleton, because of the icon destruction thing.)  People believe this may have been a hoax because aside from the part where they got money out of it, the Welsh were at the time being troublesome in the English mind and they were talking about Arthur being their hero, so it may have been a "stick it to 'em" issue.  On the other hand, there was a very large hill fort nearby, Arthur was supposed to have fallen because Mordred hit him on the head after Arthur ran him through, and if the church was there at the time, you take people to a place where they can be healed and the priests are generally pretty good with medicine besides the fact that prayers were just as effective in their minds for healing people, and if someone dies at a church, you bury them there.  Plus, the stories say he was taken to Avalon and that's what they called this hill, which was surrounded long back by marshes and wet wet wet terrain, making it an island.

And then Henry VIII tears it all down because he's ruining the monasteries and this was one of the richest but he needed a reason, so our Tudor guide friend's persona comes in as one of the lawyers sent to investigate and discovers wealth unrecorded in the royal records which is treason so they overly thoroughly kill the bishop, the monastery is quarried and taken apart, and then is eventually bought by the historical people and they're now preserving it.

This isn't all for the day, but it's enough for one post.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Tony received a very warm welcome back as he showed up to take us on our Southwest tour.  Really, we clapped for him.  (The coach driver who took us to Cambridge made himself a name as a curmudgeon, an irritating guy, and all around no substitute for Tony.  Kind of surprised me that the girl who I thought teased Tony the most for his comments was the one happiest to see him back.)

Our first stop: Bath!  Everyone knows why it's called that, right?  The Roman baths.  Guess our first stop.  An art museum!  Yep, really.  It was a little museum, made up of a collection by this Holbourn guy.  Most of it was really nice.  They had some spectacular miniatures and their art was pretty impressive, also.  It was an odd trip for me, though, because our assignment for our art class was to find a piece of artwork we didn't like.  I was nervous about that one and it flavoured the museum visit oddly for me, but I did find a piece I didn't like and discovered, through the process of writing about it, that I honestly didn't like it even more and I knew why.  (It was an earthenware piece.  There are some pretty things done with earthenware, but the artist was trying to work with it in ways earthenware shouldn't be worked with and ended up with a gaudy, tacky, sloppy mess of what should have been a beautiful, even sacred, scene.)

Then we went to the Roman Baths.  Walked around the top where someone had built Roman statues to look like what would have been there originally and even aged the statues as he made them!  They had a walk-through telling you about the different parts, why the Romans came, which Romans would have come, exhibits on how they built the baths, displays of how the water was heated and came up, a replica of one of the original statues, displays of carved rock and so forth found there, explanations of the prayers and curses written on lead sheets and chucked into the pool to the local gods/goddesses, and the main feature was the big bathing pool.  With the mineral spring running through it.  The guards told people not to touch the water but didn't especially care if people did.  "We say that because it's not treated, you could get sick if you got it in your mouth."  It was very pleasantly warm.  (Me, touch it?  Of course not!  How could you suggest that I would go near that beautifully warm water when it's just sitting there begging to be touched?)  Much warmer in the stream coming directly in, of course.  It was all green, and one of the guards said that when they drained it, people would go onto the first step to touch the water still and slowly slip off the green stuff and into the pool.  The worst time?  When a bride was getting her pictures done (the ceremony was there) and slipped.  That had to be fun.

On the way to our next stop, we got some hot chocolate that beats the Chocolate Soup hot chocolate, but only just.  The Chocolate Soup stuff was amazing and incredible and in all other ways awesome, but its thickness was mostly due to the milk.  This stuff tasted lie a melted chocolate bar.  Dark, of course, and amazingly delicious.  Smaller, though, and got cold much faster but that was probably because it was colder outside and I was outside in the first place.

Our next scheduled stop, then, was the Bath Fashion Museum.  It was a downstairs walk-through exhibit from I believe the 18th century to now.  Some ridiculous fashions down there.  Like corsets.  ...which all the girls tried on.  And there are some tiny tiny girls in our group.  I may as well mention now that we've got a bizarre mix of girls on this trip (the guys hardly register--I mean, our professors are great, but we rarely see their sons, so it's essentially a huge group of girls), hipsters (self-confessed), book nerds, geeks, knitters, singers and songwriters, musicians, artists, scientists, two affianced, the "girly" girls which I wish I could describe more accurately but without stereotyping too much, and many others, and these groups are no means exclusive; they're all blended together.  There are closer friendship groups, yeah, but I don't think they're entirely exclusive.  But when we were down there, everyone was laughing and putting on corsets and helping other people out, and generally having a grand old time.  There were some girls who fit into corsets that didn't even get all the way around my sides, which I think was made for children in the first place.  I was pretty surprised.  Oh, and the farthingale, which there was only one of but it got passed around quite a bit.  The other bit we all descended on was the 'draw a dress' thing, where they had papers with an outline of a woman to display your dress idea on.  I...may have left a viking apron dress drawing at the fashion museum...

After that, we all met at the Royal Crescent to see the Bath architecture.  Bath was one of the places bombed to smithereens in WWII, but when it was being rebuilt, the people there made a firm stand that they wanted Bath to always be like it was originally, made of the local pale yellow sandstone, in the original style.  It's actually where the first "listed" homes were--homes that were always to stay the same in appearance.  Pretty cool, really.

After that, to the grocery store to be able to eat, then Sarah, Nicole, and I walked home along a "shortcut."  Now, don't go off on shortcut stereotypes.  It was shorter, but I wish it hadn't been because it was the most beautiful walk I'd been on.  At the time.  We walked through some beautiful countryside, up several stairs, across a canal complete with lock, and past a pasture just at dusk until we came out on a hill overlooking the city.  The pale houses set against the dark green trees, the lights coming on, the approach of the dark--it was a scene like none other.  We had to stop and look for a while; we couldn't not.  More on that later, possibly.  If I decide to put essays on here.

Well.  That's Bath!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Everyone's Favourite Henry

Say hello to Hampton Court, (one of the many) home(s) of Henry VIII!  Beautiful little (I lie) (half-)Tudor castle snuggled in the countryside.  Enter up a long drive, and the first thing we see is...scaffolding.  Lots and lots of scaffolding.  Because the Olympics are coming, and so everything in England is being cleaned.  Italics=intensely so.  Like the tube--you have to check before you leave to make sure they aren't working on part of the tube that's essential to your journey before leaving.  Or Chatsworth; that was being cleaned, too.  Everywhere we've gone, they're cleaning everything to make it sleek and shiny when the world shows up in a year to dirty it all up again.  :)

Anyway, back to the Tudors:

So Henry had this place built and had it remodeled multiple times.  'Cause hey, who wants to sleep in the old wife's room?  Yeah, not any of the new ones.  So that's at least 5 extra rooms right there...Plus every other room he happens to want.  Not to mention the part where you have to take down all the random insignias from the old wife, too.  (He actually missed some of Catherine of Aragon's pomegranates, but they're pretty well hidden in the woodwork.)  I started off by wandering through the kitchen complex.  The kitchens are huge!  The biggest house I've lived in doesn't take up that much space!  Which, when you consider the number of people served, the fact that there were rooms for cooking pasties, making stews, roasting whole anything-but-pork (cheap, peasant meat), and then more to plate it all, rooms for washing and even a room for a guy to keep track of all the food coming in and going out, it begins to make sense.  Oh, also, they had a 70% meat diet.  At least.  It may have been 80.  But according to one of the guys there, roasted meat is the best--far superior to any other type.  Makes me want to rig up a spit and try it out.

After emerging from the labyrinth that was the kitchen complex, I went up to the main castle.  They had a whole scenario going on setting it up as the time of Henry's last marriage to Catherine Parr.  They had a Catherine, a Henry, and a few advisors, adjuncts, and others wandering about garbed up. (That's a job that would be fun.)  I saw Henry while he was talking to a group of schoolchildren--all of whom were wearing robes because you can't present yourself to the king in those clothes!  *eyes mundane outfit skeptically*  I had an audio tour that took me through the great hall hung with some really pretty unfortunately very faded tapestries, through the pages' room, and a few other places along the way.  There was one room behind the great hall where there were blankets, pillows, and games.  Nine-man's-morris!  Whee!  I played Sara and won, but I had the advantage of knowing what I was doing.  We then played Fox-and-geese and I lost by a lot.  Because I'm bad at strategy.

After emerging from that room, we saw the marriage ceremony through an open door where it was projected on the wall.  There were more pictures, paintings, and so on all over the walls.  Including a lovely family scene with Mary on one side, Elizabeth on the other, and the happy family in the center--you know, Henry, Edward at probably 10 years old, and Jane Seymour.  Because she was totally alive 10 years after she died giving birth to Edward.  Yeah, painted from life, that one.  The tour ended down a spiral staircase, and we then went to the chapel there.  Wow.  Very wow.  Intricate, detailed, carved all over, and the ceiling was quite an impressive blue.

Then we went to a different exhibit.  Young Henry.  Because what does everyone know about Henry?  He killed a whole bunch of wives.  (Which, really, there's only a 1:2 chance you'd die as his queen, and less than that that he'd kill you!)  So they were telling about Henry as a young man when he was charismatic, athletic, a good fighter, a bit proud, a good leader, and, well, when we saw the video (Yeah, they had the guy playing Henry show off a bit) Sara said something along the lines of "Well, no wonder he got all those girls!"  But then, by the time he divorced Catherine of Aragon, he was old and fat.  So I still don't know.  Aside from the whole "I'm the king" bit.  Speaking of Catherine, I feel really bad for her.  Henry blamed everything on her eventually, and it's not that she didn't have sons. She did.  Two.  One was stillborn, the other died a week after his birth in the middle of celebrations honoring him.  And then there were the 3 princesses who never made it.  And of course Mary, who honestly just got lucky.  Other things, too; she just had an awful life.  Cardinal Woolsey, too.  Trusted advisor of the king, then everything comes crashing down around his ears even though he's still doing just what he used to.

We followed this up with a walk through their small museum, where they had the Triumphs of Caesar by Mantegna up on a wall.  Big huge parade, Caesar at the back like Santa at the Macey's parade.  Everyone's excited about the whole thing, but he's the one they stay to the end to see and would feel cheated if he wasn't there.  Pretty cool painting, though.

After that we went to the gardens.  Them's some nice gardens.  Big open lawns, trees, fountains, a little river, and that was only in part of it.  Oh, and I discovered something--any swans on the Thames officially belong to the Queen.  So mess not with them.  I mean, really, it's a bad idea to mess with swans, anyway.

Fascinating place, all told.  Go there.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A weekend of talks and music. And blanket forts.

Conference weekend:  random stuff happening.

For starters, I woke up to discover that the center had been covered in yarn that was all stringing to the parlour--we pretty much had a spider's web going on.  And in said parlour--all the furniture and one or two other things had been turned into a rather large blanket fort.  More yarn all over the room, small toys everywhere, and poems about childhood.  It was an installation project from some of the girls to remind us to play, and to remember childhood, basically.

We also got an awesome breakfast.  When you consider that breakfast every day is cold cereal, yogurt, juice, and toast, having a hot breakfast is quite a treat.  We had pancakes, English bacon, scrambled eggs, and potatoes.  Delicious stuff.  I like hot breakfasts and hadn't had pancakes in a while and missed them.

That evening, we went to a classical music concert.  Can't remember where at present; I'll get back to you on that one.  Conference was scheduled to start at 5, I believe, but we were leaving for the concert at about 5:30 or so.  (I did find out before leaving that the Provo Tabernacle was being rebuilt and was very excited to hear that--jumping up and down excited.)  The concert was very nice.  I believe it was the royal orchestra--again, I'll get back with the details later, hopefully.  The concert hall was pretty cool, also--there were funny square balconies sticking out on the sides.  We weren't in those, we were in the center at about mid-back.  I still think I like being closer to the music.

That finished, and several of us went out to the other end of town where Emily Brown had gotten a chance to play at a local venue--we were in what one of the girls called "the indie part of town."  First gig like that I've ever been to.  It was fun; there were about 10 or so of us and probably another 10 to 15 people in the room, and we all liked Emily's music quite a bit.  See also: .  She's also got music on Spotify, if you use that.

Got back and tried to listen to some conference but I was tired and drifted off about an hour into the first session, so I gave up and went to sleep, then listened the next morning.  That meant that with another 4 hours in the evening up in the classroom, I got 6-7 hours of conference in in one day.  That's kind of a lot.  We had conference streamed to a laptop connected to the big-screen TV in the classroom, and it worked very well except for the not-so-infrequent pauses which could get frustrating.  (We also got cookies/biscuits and milk between sessions, which was rather fun.  Big, chewy cookies which I haven't seen a lot of around here.  Tasty.)  I thought it was kind of amusing that last conference was "Get married!"  and this one is "Have kids!"  Good stuff, though--I always like conference.

There's a sketch of the weekend.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Don't know about the world, but the Globe--yeah, that's a stage.

After classes ended the next day, Friday, we were sent to Borough Market for lunch.  Never been to/heard of Borough Market?  Let me tell you something.  FOOD PARADISE.  Seriously.  They've got breads, rolls, tarts, all sorts of baked goods, sweets, nuts, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, food from all over the world, meats, cheeses, oils and vinegars, chutneys, dips and sauces--you get the general idea.  It was overwhelming.  People everywhere, of course, but hey, great food!  And there are quite a few samples.  I picked up some seafood paella, which is some of the best stuff I've eaten in a good while, added a pippin apple to that, and a bit of Belgian chocolate tart to round it all off.  May I just say...yum.  Incredible.  The paella was from a curry stand where they also had a seafood curry and another dish that wasn't familiar cooking beside the paella in three huge metal pans over some burners.  I didn't go to/see the exotic meat section, but some people apparently got some (either zebra or ostrich) burgers there.

Deliciousness obtained, it was a quick jaunt by the Thames to the Globe Theatre.  This is, of course, the re-built theatre, and on the far side of the river from its original location.  All the same, though...I was at the GLOBE THEATRE watching a performance of Much Ado About Nothing!  

We showed our tickets to get in the gate, then they checked them again before letting us in the theatre.  We were groundlings, of course, and what better seats in the house?  The stage came up to just below my chin--yes, I was in the front row.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I was in the first-and-a-half and then squeezed between my friends to be up next to it.  Incredible play.  Wow.  Memorable things: 
Claudio (on learning they'd be staying and he'd be able to see Hero):  *throws both arms in the air* YES!  *Arms back down, looks slightly embarrassed*  (Repeated/imitated/mocked several times throughout the play and by us after.)
Benedick and Beatrice fighting--they got some real zingers off on each other, and the reactions of the actors were superb
Before the play started, some musicians came out to entertain us and the oboe player and the...I don't know what it was called, but it had a tuba pitch and was shaped like two stacked S's--anyway, the two of them had a bit of a showing-off competition, which they also kept up a good bit
Who can forget the two hecklers hearing professions of the other's love from their friends?  Benedick was in the orchard, waiting for a servant to bring him his book, and on overhearing something of the conversation, picked up a rake and a straw hat to inconspicuously draw nearer, darted around pillars, and eventually ended up in a tree (pillar in costume) and was still there when the gardeners took the ladder away, dangling halfway out of the tree holding a pulley.  Beatrice was told the two in the garden hanging laundry were talking about her, and they pretended not to notice as their sheet moved up and down the line following them.  Or avoiding, as necessary.  And both of them utterly astonished, and suddenly full of passion for each other as opposed to against.  (Oh, and after Benedick managed to get out of the tree, and told the audience what a wonderful thing love is and how he'd never scorn Beatrice again, she came out to fetch him to dinner, rang a bell excessively in his ear and said "I am sent to tell you to come eat or there won't be any."  He responded in a somewhat sweet manner which earned him an odd look as she left somewhat hurriedly, and he said "Look how she tries to hide it!  Ah, alas for the poor maid" or something along those lines.  [Hey, I don't have the text and I'm not looking it up for you.  You can do that yourself.])
Along the same lines, they seized papers of the other's affection at the end after they'd quarreled again, ran after each other trying to get them back, finally shoved the fact that they had the papers in each other's faces, read them on opposite sides of the stage, laughed at the writing, then finally looked up with puppy-dog eyes at each other.  Good times, good times.
The rest of the staging was excellent, as well.  They did make use of walking through the audience, notably as Hero came to get married and they threw small circles of paper from the top balcony that drifted down for a good while.  Also, Beatrice spoke of love to two of my friends because they happened to be front and center.  And called one of the guys nearby either ugly or fat, I don't remember which.  

Overall, I give the experience 5 of 5 stars.  Highly recommended.

Oh, forgive me, I forgot to tell of Dogberry the constable whose every misspoken sentence, malaprop, and comedic flub was accompanied by a strange pause of speech accompanied by a ridiculous motion.  His friend the very tall fellow was very fond of his lantern and both of them vied for the bigger lamp.  The clown and comedic relief in a comedy.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011


The day after St. Paul's saw us boarding a coach and shipping to Cambridge.  First thing we did on arrival was get lost.  Okay, we were supposed to go to one punting push-off and ended up at the wrong one.

Having hiked across Cambridge to the proper place, we got on our punts.  They're square-bottomed gondolas and the puntier (I mean, it is a gondolier, so it makes sense) stands on the back and pushes with a pole.  Our puntier was David (there are so many Davids in the world, although I may be prejudiced towards one; namely my dad) who was a history major from a different university and punting as a summer job.  As such, he was well prepared to tell us the history of various places.  For example, the Bridge of Sighs (see?  We were in Venice!), or rather, one of the four.  The original one in Venice was copied in Cambridge, Oxford, and...guess where!  Las Vegas!  (Go figure.)  Or the chapel in Kings College, which was built slowly as construction was interrupted by lack of money due to the War of the Roses.  It was also amusing to hear him tell us "This is the new part of the university.  It was built in [don't know precise year but it was early 1800s]."  Yeaaah...our school wasn't founded yet...  Not the newest buildings, I'll grant, but I guess it was the newest college.  The first woman's college was in Cambridge, also--one of the rich nobility folks decided she wanted an education and since that generally wasn't done, she bought one.  Bought a college, had personal professors, all that good stuff.  Of course, with a student body of 18,396 and a student-faculty ratio of 6:1 with no more than 15 people per class, it wasn't so extraordinarily different from modern Cambridge.  The punting tour was wonderful (although I felt kind of bad for David when all the BYU girls in two boats started asking him about his dating life, including why he hadn't proposed yet...poor guy) and I think having a university on a river is kind of an excellent idea.

From there we went to the Fitzwilliam art museum.  It was a smaller museum than we've been going to but it was still quite nice.  They had a lot of pottery, some glass, Italian and Dutch Ren galleries, and...I may have spent most of my time in the armory... But they had swords and armor and swords and all sorts of cool stuff!  And swords.  Apparently, there were a few centuries where the making of artificial limbs was relegated to blacksmiths and other armor makers because they'd had the experience with reticulated limb-shaped pieces of metal.  The example in the museum had an arm with a button on the palm area which, when pushed, closed the fingers around whatever was in the hand.  Oh, also, some people got kicked out/not let in because the museum staff was shocked at the number of people coming in and decided they weren't letting the group in anymore--the curates apparently got peeved on learning this, but we now caution people about going places in large groups so people don't "pull a Cambridge" on us.

After that, we were released to wander.  I did my group-hopping number, following one group until I couldn't/didn't want to/they started spending money (I was in one of my NOT SPENDING ANYTHING days that day--rather, I'd brought 10 pounds and used it for a cd of the Kings College Choir because we didn't get to hear their Evensong and besides I wanted a cd of theirs) so I wandered around Kings College, down the street for a while, helped a lady (Lili from New York) unload her books, that kind of stuff.  Also, there's a store there that sells ice cream that they make there--I've heard good things about the flavor and got a sample of the blood orange sorbet that was pretty much amazing.

That's about that; again, ask questions and more information will be dispensed.  But no one asks questions, so I don't know why I say this.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stupid Pigeons--they can find their own food

I reference, of course, this movie.  Which, I'm sure, leads you to understand exactly where we went on our next walks class.  St. Paul's!  Yay!  We got the guided tour--we started in a side chapel where we saw the coats of arms of the members of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, then went through the nave and saw the incredible work they'd done.  Christopher Wren was the chief architect after the original burned down in the Fire.  He'd wanted to make a classical cathedral, but the city officials wanted it Gothic, so he was trying to make compromises to them until he ended up with an ugly combination of both that they accepted and told him he could "make any modifications he deemed necessary" at which point he ceased keeping notes on paper, kept the whole thing hidden, and when he finally unveiled it, the officials found something nothing like the Gothic cathedral they'd wanted--especially not that dome up top.  And Wren got the last laugh.  Or so he thought; the Victorians redid the front section.  When you see mosaics from St. Paul's, that's all the Victorian's doing.  Further down, a good bit of it got destroyed during the bombing when a nice little shell dropped straight through the ceiling and managed by a miracle or several to not hurt anyone, but that part was redone again, and there's a memorial at the end to the American servicemen who died in the UK--there are 3 stained-glass windows with the state seals on them, and in the carvings you can find homages to the air force, the army, and one fish for the military and even a rocket (hidden in a classical-looking carving very cunningly).  We sat in the seats in the quire as we looked at the mosaics and our guide told us about the large organ they have--I forgot the number, but there were several thousand.  We kind of had a "we're happy for you" reaction to that, thinking of the Tabernacle Organ of 11,623 pipes.  It was fun, though, to hear about the new trumpets that had been put in and were played as the queen was entering and startled her so much she almost fell down, so now they are only played after she sits down.  We also went down to the crypts where they've buried tons of people.  (Wow!  Really?  Yeah, really!)  Okay, so they're important people.  Like Caldecott, and quite several famous authors, as well as Nelson and I believe Wellington.  (I love it when I remember things right.)

After we finished admiring the dead guys, we went on quite a hike.  Up to the Whispering Gallery, up long winding shallow and suddenly narrower and steeper spiral stairs.  Quite a place, quite a view.  And I didn't hear anyone whispering anything particular, because there were quite a few people and quite a few of them were talking.  From there, up more stairs and steeper to the Stone Gallery, on the outside at the base of the dome visible from the outside, which is quite high up there, I must say.  Up again, on ridiculously steep mostly steel spiral staircase along the inner dome to the Golden Gallery which is waaaay up top and throat-clenchingly high.  And not very big.  I think that's the staircase that's pretty difficult to go up if you're a few inches taller or broader-shouldered than I am, especially both at once because the doors get very very narrow and short.

Lunch was at the base of the tower.  Have I mentioned before how extremely bold the pigeons are around here?  I've seen them fly on to people to get at food.  Well, I found out that the squirrels are no better.  One of them was wandering between us trying to get food.  It put its paw on one girl's leg and jumped on my lap for a second.  Yeah, brazen as brass.

After that we took a quick wander around town and found our way back to the center.

Skipping and Snogging.

So...the Wednesday after returning from the trip, we were going to Kew Gardens.  It's huge.  Really huge.  It's on the outer part of London, and it's big partly due to the mere fact that it's got some specimen of 1/8th of the plants in the world.  Plants, seeds, dried specimens, you name it.  There's a seed bank there, some lily gardens and other habitat kind of areas.  Someone said it was like a zoo for plants.  But this is all hearsay.

Because I never made it in.

See, I left around the middle of people leaving but for no particularly good reason, I ended up going out on my own.  I knew where to go, but there was a long line for one station, so I went to the next, got a train to Central, tried to get the train I wanted, switched, missed a train, switched again, got stuck, and got to the garden entrance about half an hour after the time they were giving people to get there.  ...yeah...  So I went to Portobello Road instead and found myself with a pocket watch.  I wouldn't say it's a good trade, but I do like the watch.  But I'd been planning on getting one anyway, so basically it just ended up being disappointing.

Anyway, on to the snogging, because I'm sure you all want to know about it if you don't already.  On the following Monday, a few of us who didn't have FHE groups that day got together to go Snogging.  In other words, we went to get frozen yogurt at a place called Snog.  They have fun with the name.  The yogurt is sugar free, fat free, etc, and sweetened with acai.  They have vanilla/plain, chocolate, green tea, and guava (?), which you can top with a variety of fruits, nuts, and free-trade chocolate.  My opinion--if you like the slightly-sour taste of yogurt (yoghurt?), you'll like Snog, but if you don't, don't try it.  I thought it was pretty good.  I got chocolate, of course, with some raspberries and chocolate bits.  They also had some funny pictures on the walls, and we had a great evening.

That's that story, and it's fun times.

Hodge Podge Mishmash Stuffness

So, I'm catching up and I will just go ahead and say now that unless something happened, I'm going to skip detailing most of my days.  If I don't talk about 'em, here's what's going on--Monday and Thursdays are English classes; we're dashing through English literary history at a breakneck pace, then there's an hour break while the 218 class goes before my 317 essay class--we're writing essays.  There's some entertaining prompts, I'll say that.  Tuesdays and Fridays are art.  My class is the 101 Intro to Drawing.  We've done blind and normal contour drawings, negative space, value, and composition exercises, mostly made up of styrofoam boxes and styrofoam cups.  Might be getting a bit dull...  Don't get me wrong, I love drawing, but I'm tired of sketching the same things, or just sketching.  But it is good to be able to have museums around where we go on occasion.  Wednesdays are Walks classes, so I'll have something to say about most Wednesdays.  After classes, we have free time.  So plenty of time to explore, which I should take advantage of more often.

Saturdays and Sundays are good days, too.  Saturdays are completely ours (normally) which normally means sleeping in, because breakfast isn't at 7:30 but whenever we get our own.  Sundays--I try to make breakfast but don't always.  Our group of 4 leaves for church at 8:30, 8:45, and take the Central line on the Tube from Queensway, switch to the Victoria for one jump, then to the Northern line for a while, hop off, grab a bus and take it to church, and arrive just on time at 10:00.  Sacrament meeting is first, which I honestly prefer, and the ward is great--small, but great.  They just called the second councilor, finishing the bishopric switch.  The new councilor has four kids who are all smart, great kids.  And make up a third or a quarter of the primary, depending on the day.  There's about 5, 10 minutes of break before Sunday School starts, in the chapel.  It's an interesting room, really--the biggest in the church, with the stand behind a curtain and the pews on wheels so they can be easily rolled to the side, which we did for the munch and mingle/break the fast a few Sundays back.  Our Sunday School teacher is great.  He really prepares, you can tell, and combines the history of the lesson, the doctrine involved, and relates it to our lives and to other scriptures.  If I teach again, I hope I can do that rather than my hurried preparation of freshman year.  I leave a little bit early to get to the primary room just before the kids gather for sharing time, and hopefully have time to run through a song or two before they get there.  They consider it a large primary with 12 or 13, and I'm used to having three or four times that, so it's kind of odd for me.  They have quite the mix, though--loud, energetic, knowledgeable, goofy, quiet, obedient, stubborn, they've got the gambit.  It's still kind of rough playing, because I still don't know the songs too well and I am still very, very rusty at playing, but they don't always follow the piano, so it works out somewhere, I think.  It's hardest when the teacher decides to have the song speed up in the middle... *fingers fly off hand as brain splits while trying to keep up* 

On our off days, or even during down time, one thing people like doing is finding and playing a movie.  In fact, there have been days where there were at least 3 movies on at once, and it's kind of fun to movie-skip.  Then again, movies in the servery have a tendency to be drowned out easily when anyone starts talking and some people like talking during movies, so the servery is not ideal.  (Actually, at present, Despicable Me is on in the Servery and some people are watching the long version of Pride and Prejudice right on the other side of the dining room.)

That's my mismatch of info.  Again, questions and comments welcome!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Unto This Post

The namesake of this post, Unto This Last, is a book written by a fellow named John Ruskin.  Guess whose house we visited the next day.

Ruskin was a contemporary of Adam Smith, I any case, Unto This Last was a response to the Invisible Hand idea.  His thought was this:  Adam Smith and others of that ilk said that they should eliminate inconstants and determine the formula of market theory--you know the Invisible Hand principle, so you get the idea.  But, said Ruskin, that's like coming to understand pure nitrogen and deciding it's stable, but having to deal in practice with chloride.  "And this, the moment we touch it on our established principles, sends us and our apparatus through the ceiling."  His chloride, here, is the human soul.  Basically, Ruskin argued for the soul and for the worth of man.  Which was, of course, dismissed as "twaddle" at the time but eventually took hold.

Ruskin was a renaissance man.  He drew, painted, was an accomplished scientist and naturalist, wrote, became a renowned art critic, read, and more. There was a xylophone modeled on one he'd made that was made of different stones, using their natural stones.  It was really rather impressive.  They'd made a smaller one hooked to a digitalizer for the entertainment of all, called the iRock.  I may have spent a good while entertaining myself with that.

Ruskin had larger gardens, even, than Wordsworth, but I was fascinated by the house (and it was raining and my shoes were my less durable pair) so I stayed indoors.  They also had a piano open for guests and some of our extremely talented members played some music.  Beautiful music.  I could have stayed and listened for hours, many more than we spent.  Probably longer than they would have wanted to play, really...

Another note about the Lake District (where we still were, just a slightly different part)--there are blackberry bushes all over.  So if you read Peter Rabbit about Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail going to pick blackberries, it's hardly a surprise.

Overall, I'd say you should look up Ruskin.  He was a neat guy.

We arrived back at the centre that evening and I realized that I've forgotten to tell you about another thing in Ambleside.  At about the most inconvenient time possible--I was about to fall asleep--the fire alarm went off. Some of us trudged reluctantly outside.  Yeah, there's a possibility that the building is burning down and we go stand right next to it, moving slowly and worrying about our stuff.  Yup.  Safe, eh?  Well, turns out it was a malfunction.  As was the next time it went off.  And the next.  And the last that I didn't hear, and our poor hostel manager didn't get to sleep until 3 trying to fix it.  And the day we got home, or rather 2 in the morning the next day, the alarm went off in the London Centre.  So we milled about and fewer of us left than before, and that went off again at 7.  Yay, fire alarms.  I think there was a poltergeist.  But that's me.

What's a Wordsworth? About 1/1000 of a Picture.

We took a few-minute bus ride in the morning to Grasmere.  Guess who lived there?  Bet ya can't figure that out from the title.  Give up?  It's Wordsworth!  Who knew, right?

So we first visited the cemetery where William, Mary, Dorothy, and one of his brothers (John, I think) are buried.  They are very simple headstones.  He wanted to be buried in Grasmere because he loved it there; he felt it was the place of his childhood, I believe.  The museum had memorabilia from his life, some things about life in general at the time, and words about his friendship with Coleridge, and some things about/by Coleridge as well, particularly the entirety of Kubla Khan and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner on different wall displays.  There was an exhibit on the Shelleys in the basement, as well.

We then moved on to Dove Cottage.  Wordsworth bought it in 1799 and moved in with his sister Dorothy.  Shortly afterwards, he married, and by the time they moved out, in 1808, they'd had five children.  The cottage had once been a pub, so all the wood paneling was dark, the floors were flagstone, and the rest of the walls were whitewashed.  There was also a "cool room" that had a spring running under it, so it stayed constantly cool and was good for storing anything that needed cooler temperatures.  We saw Dorothy's room on the first floor, the sitting room, William and Mary's room, the guests' room, and the children's room which was tiny and papered in newspaper to keep it warmer.  The gardens were also preserved in the state Wordsworth and Dorothy had kept them--half wild and beautiful.

From there, we hiked to Rydal Mount, where the Wordsworths lived 5 years after leaving Dove Cottage.  The house was much, much larger, testament to the fact that Wordsworth was becoming very successful.  Actually, the time he was at Dove Cottage was considered to be when he wrote his best poetry, things like I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and so forth.  While he was at Rydal, he was asked to be poet laureate twice. He turned it down the first time because he didn't want to write on demand.  So the second time they told him he would not be required to write poetry for all state occasions unless he desired to.  Basically, as my professor said, he told them he wouldn't write poetry unless he felt like it, and he never felt like it.  Yep, Wordsworth is the only poet laureate who didn't write a bit of poetry (at all) while poet laureate.

The house was very nice.  It was two stories tall, it had an even larger garden than the first, there were separate rooms for everyone but William and Mary, he had a study, there was a sitting area, a library, a kitchen, and so forth.  Very nice.  They had some chairs that you could sit on, which was nice (as I pored over the tour in Welsh, trying to see how much of the language I could remember and what I could interpret because I'm weird like that).  They also had things like some of Dorothy's needlework, many pictures of the Wordsworths and of others, several busts and statues, and more memories from the lives of the poet and co.

We finished this day by hiking back to Ambleside to meet the bus, and then driving to a hotel so far out in the middle of nowhere that the hotel was not only not visible from the road, but when we finally got to it from the road, you couldn't hear the traffic.  Wonderful night, though--there was a wood-burning fire in the lobby which was wonderful for cold wet feet, and I got my own room for the first time in quite a while, especially since being out here (6 is the fewest in any room at the center or hostel that I've had yet).  (Okay, I got the dorm to myself the first night and the room at the apartment in Texas but those aren't quite the same as a private room.)  Not to mention the part where we got a very nice dinner with the hotel stay.

The Name is Appropriate

The day after, we bid Edinburgh "Guid cheerio the nou!"  (...okay, maybe I looked that up, and maybe we just left...) and returned to the north of England, to Potter country.  No, not Harry, more hairy.  You know, as in little fuzzy animals with names like Peter and Benjamin and Jemima and Mrs.  Tiggy-Winkle.  Beatrix Potter country. Specifically to a town called Ambleside.  The houses there are very nice; they're made of stacked slate and look rather like the walls, except they actually do have cement holding them together.  We found our hostel and dumped our stuff, then took off hiking.  Let me tell you, if you're a hiking enthusiast, or just like walks through amazing countryside, go to the Lake District.  Seriously.  Now.  (Oh, fine, you don't have to go this very instant, but you should try.)

We hiked up a pike--wish I could tell you the name, but I forgot rather quickly.  But it looked over the lake--Grasmere, I think.  The woods were very very green and the parts not in woods were through farmland.  Through.  As in we ran into sheep and cows.  It was a bit muddy due to rain (Imagine that!  Rain!  In England!) but the hiking was otherwise good.  Another piece of advice.  If you do go hiking, take wellies.  Or some type of waterproof shoe that comes up your leg at least to mid-calf.  My shoes suffered greatly.  But wow, the view from the top.  Incredible.  We took a little break after cresting to sit and think.  I was on a little piece of grass-covered rock that jutted out , so if I looked out and not up, it felt like sitting on the top of the hill.  Again, so very green.  I could hear chicken and sheep noises rising out of the valley below.

As we got off of that trail, we hiked a bit further to a waterfall.  Very impres...okay, I've seen bigger ones, but it was nice all the same.  The interesting thing about the waterfall--we got off the pike hike (haha, see what I did there?) and were wondering which direction the waterfall was, so we saw a couple coming down the hill and asked them which direction.  The gentleman pointed us down the hill, so we thanked them and went on.  As we turned off to the waterfall, the lady (minus the guy) passed us and said "See, there's the waterfall!  There!  Needed to ask a man."  It was a rather scathing tone, too.  I really don't know why that was such a big deal to her.  Maybe it had felt to her like I was asking the man instead of asking them neutrally?

Anyway...finished that, went back to town, and several of us went out to eat.  Again, on Tony's suggestion, we went to find a gluten-free place he'd told us about called Lucy's.  He'd forgotten/neglected to mention it was actually Lucy 4's, and a little bit more of a bar than a restaurant.  But the dinner was excellent.  The look on the waiter's face when we told him none of us would be needing the drink list... Something of a "You're here...why, exactly?"  The food was Mediterranean, multiple little dishes coming out and being split around.  Excellent food.  Pricey, perhaps, but tasty.  There were figs, olives, meats, vegetables, all cooked well.  After that we grabbed two things of ice cream and ate those back at the hostel.  Good times.

Incidentally, remember how I mentioned Beatrix Potter in the beginning?  Well, as we were driving out to the Lake District, Tony pointed out some sheep that were mottled gray and white, telling us that the breed owed its continued existence to said author.  Apparently, she bought many of the farms from the big land-owners (not the farmers who actually lived there; they hadn't ever owned the farms to start with) to prevent them from being built up.  That particular breed of sheep had been dying out because people weren't raising them any more--according to Tony, they weren't good for wool because it didn't dye well, and the meat wasn't much good either.  Beatrix Potter wanted to save them, so she offered incentives to people to continue raising them.  And Rachel, one of the TA's here, found a rug-maker who argues the "the wool doesn't dye well" idea; I've got a cone of it, actually, that says it looks pretty good dyed.

Tony also told us that the air force uses this as a training ground for pilots, and there have been times he's been driving and jets have flown past him lower than the coach. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tartan and Bagpipes

As you can tell from the title, I'm still in Scotland!  This is the half of the day after the castle.  Before I continue, just wanted to make some notes--the buildings in Scotland, or at least that we saw, are tall.  The ceilings are on average 12 feet, instead of 10 as they are in England.  Also, there were wool shops and bagpipes and Celtic decorations everywhere--it made me happy. So...on again.  Left the castle, found my way to the Writer's Museum.  It was a small place, dedicated to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.  Much of the display consisted of documents, letters, and paraphernalia.  Especially for Stevenson--lots of souvenirs and trinkets from his trips to the south seas and so forth.  They also had several locks of hair, which I found intriguing.
From there, I went to the Scottish National Gallery.  Pretty cool; very nice artwork.  I must say, though, that London has spoiled me for museums; that one felt small.  But the band outside was great.  Drums, electric guitar, and bagpipe.  Sounded great.  Also, there are fiberglass wild animals--tigers, alligators, and orangutans--scattered throughout Edinburgh, painted by local artists.  My favorite was outside the National Gallery--posh gent sitting on a white tiger with his umbrella out and up.  Very fun.
From there I proceeded to the Museum of Modern Art.  Turns out there were 2, but I'd spent so long in the castle I was a little behind, so I didn't go to the first half.  They had an exhibit by Hiroshi Sugimoto, a photographer.  Half of the images were expanded prints of negatives from someone else...sorry, can't remember quite how those worked.  The others were black backgrounds that he's run a static current across to create images like lightning.  I suppose it literally was lightning, just a more controlled form thereof.  Those were my favorites.  See also:  I also may or may not have gotten turned around on the way there because the street switched names unexpectedly and then switched back which was rather irritating (it actually did something along the lines of (I), where the I is the street I wanted and the ()s went around it and I saw their names and got really confused) so there is one monument I passed, what, 4 times that day?

After exploring, I met a group of people in front of the museum to make our way to a place called Chocolate Soup.  On our way, we saw a street artist who worked with spray paint.  Lucky him, he found a group of artists.  We all sat and watched from pretty much the beginning until in half an hour or less he'd created a spectacular black-and-white landscape of a waterfall in the woods, detailed and beautiful, using spray paint cans, paper, a knife, and a sponge as tools.  We were much impressed and especially admired the methods he used.  And so we continued to the Chocolate Soup.  They have hot chocolate there.  There were 2 flavor options: Dark or White.  If you don't like dark chocolate--and I mean if you don't think dark is the best way to eat chocolate and milk-lovers are wimps--then you get white.  Or mix the two, if you need the chocolate flavor.  I got dark.  They put the chocolate syrup in and then added steaming hot milk and the hot chocolate was to die for.  (That one's not literal...I think I could survive without tasting it again, but it would be a slightly less satisfying life.)  It was rich, it was kind of foamy, and it was so thick (probably the foam) that the straw stood up straight in the middle.  No joke.  So much molten deliciousness.  There was a lady there, too, who was sitting behind me (I was at the end of the long table) who kept trying to talk to me but I honestly couldn't understand a word she was saying because she had a soft tone, an accent, a bit of a lisp, and there was other noise.  So most of the conversation was me smiling and nodding and trying to turn back to the table but she would keep talking.  She also was getting after people for using flash photography--which was because she had epilepsy, so that's understandable--but was then telling them to not take pictures in general, which I admit I didn't understand the reason for.  The overall experience was enjoyable, though.

After that, we got some pizza--Sarah, one of my friends, is gluten-intolerant, but so is Tony, so he told her where she could find gluten-free pizza and we all went.  On the way there, we stopped by an old book store. Old books, old store, owner not old, more middle-aged.  We ended up having a wonderful conversation with him. He told us all about the Scottish-English history, and especially about Mary, Queen of Scots.  The conversation ended with a more religious bent (not via the previously mentioned conversation, we talked about where we were from and BYU and it led from there to religion).  He was a very interesting man, and he had obviously thought about religion a lot.

And then we get to post-pizza excursions--walking up to a monument overlooking Edinburgh in the dark, all 8 of us.  Fun times, fun times.  We talked a lot, some people started singing Hercules, general mirth and fellowship abounded, and then we found out we'd gone the long way up, which had been fun of itself.  By the time we got back to the hostel, it was well late and we all went straight to bed.

More to follow.

Royally Good Times

The next day, we were still in Edinburgh and started the day with a trip to the Edinburgh castle.  Where to start?  Wow that was awesome.  The view from the walls is great, and slightly closer than, say, looking at the city from on top of the mountain of last post.  The castle itself has gone through many, many different incarnations.  The only parts of it left from the middle ages, for example, are a chapel and some towers buried beneath the rest.  The chapel is tiny--a little thing perched on top of a rock with probably enough room to fit 15 people comfortably, 20 if you want to squish.  They put in new stained glass windows upon rediscovering it (after it had been used by the army as a powder magazine) and still use it for baptisms and marriages in the army.  The other part, the tower, was where the infamous Black Dinner was held.
"Sir William Crichton was keeper of the castle in 1440 when the infamous Black dinner took place. Using his position he invited his arch-rivals the sixth Earl of Douglas and his younger brother, David, to dine with the king in the castle. When the great feast was over Crichton presented the Earl a bulls head which was the sign of condemnation to death. The king protested but to no effect. After dinner the 2 Douglases were dragged to Castle Hill and executed. The Douglas clan then laid seige to Edinburgh Castle and Crichton percieving the danger surrendered the castle to the king and an uneasy truce was declared."
They had a little light slideshow thing on the wall of the castle with some noises in the background to give slight illustration to the story on the placard.
Other interesting parts of the castle--there was a Dragoon Museum, the chambers where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI/James I, depending on whether you're Scottish or English, respectively, and the story of and a display case with the Scottish Crown Jewels, including the Stone of Scone which still comes out for coronations.
There was also a very impressive war memorial.  There are war memorials all over the UK; many of the museums have something dedicated to the memory of those from that museum who served, especially in one or both of the World Wars, and I found on my first day a memorial in the Baker Street tube station to the former railway employees who had served.  The one at the castle wasn't a plaque, it was a whole building.  The outside had been carved with images of the virtues in prominent positions, animals representing the vices, and the inside had badges and flags from many regiments, as well as a regularly updated roll of honor, and the original in a cask on a block of marble, under an image of Michael treading on and slaying a dragon.  It felt very solemn and I was glad of the chance to see it.

To be continued.