Monday, 8 April 2013

Aliens, Shakespeare and Paris Pickpockets Oh My!

Yes! It is truth! You're eyes do not deceive you nor have I altered this photo in any way! WE'VE GOT SUNSHINE AT HARLAXTON!!!!! And we're lovin' it! According to the locals England has put on its' roughest winter in FIFTY years just for us. This week we've FINALLY been allowed a peek at the English sun and let me just say it is indeed loverly. :D

Only two more weeks at Harlaxton and three more weeks in this incredible country and already I miss it terribly. The minute people started talking about 'Departure Procedures' I wanted to run screaming into the Harlaxton wood and never come out. I've been in love with England for the majority of my love and these beautiful three months have only made that love stronger. I can't imagine waking up without the scent of the country air, the choral music upon entering classes, the fish and chips! I knew this place would be captivating but I had no idea just how much so. I fear there will be much whining these next several days....

It's been a whirlwind few weeks with the SciFi Weekender, a visit to THE William Shakespeare's home town and five days in the crazy city of Paris. I've seen more than I could possibly tell and have learned so very much.

I knew from the get go that the month of March would be the crazy one but wasn't entirely prepared for just how crazy. The first weekend was consumed with one of the best trips in the entire semester. The SciFi Weekender is an excuse for full grown adults to act like children. It's great. The costumes, the toys and the all out insanity is just a total blast. The first time I went back in 2010 it was great but not nearly so large an event. It's now become a huge fantastical adventure for the entire family. All I could think about was how much my own family would've loved it. If ever in England or Wales during those chilly months you could do worse than join this great group of complete nerds for a weekend of awesomeness. :D

Unfortunately, homework and regular classes are required in the midst of all this 'funness'. It's ridiculous, I know. But there are some perks to even schoolwork. As a required field trip for my Shakespeare class we toured the lovely little town of Stratford Upon Avon one Saturday and ended the day by attending the Royal Shakespeare Company's opening performance of Hamlet. It was incredible. I saw where William Shakespeare was born, where his remains now lie and walked all over the streets which he frequented throughout his lifetime. The entire town is charged with almost a palpable electricity of sheer talent. I don't know how anyone lives in that place without experiencing random bouts of brilliance. Stepping out of Shakespeare's church into a light spring rain in the early afternoon sun I was struck with verse myself. It can't be helped. There so much history. So much depth. Just so much.

Paris. Ah Paris. I had a completely pre-conceived idea about Paris, France. I really should've known better than to form an opinion based on nothing more substantial than film and photos but alas, I did not. It's really nothing like either of those things. There's a completely different sort of feel to Paris as opposed to say London or Bath or even San Antonio. If I had to choose a city that was even slightly similar I'd have to say Austin. The history is still there, pushed back into neatly arranged corners for the tourists but the rush and hustle of the modern era has really taken precedence. The Eiffel Tower, The Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, OSCAR WILDE'S GRAVE!!!! All amazing and breathtaking experiences. It was a fantastic, whirlwind weekend of cultural exposure that'll I'll never forget but it was very different from England. The appreciation of history for its' own sake just wasn't there. Though Paris does seem to beat England on one front...there policemen, security and even their ice cream men look like they belong on the front of a men's fashion magazine. It's nice. Go for a visit. ;)

One of the highlights, possibly the highlight of the month occurred only yesterday when I was invited to go along with some friends to the exhibition for the excavation of my very favourite English monarch King Richard III. It was utterly fascinating. The tour, though brief, gave an extensive explanation for the reason they dug where they did and just how they determined that the skeleton found was in fact the king. I also visited the Guildhall of Leicester, a building that was standing when Richard himself rode through town to his final battle. The hall has been standing there since the mid 1300's. As is often the case in this country, I felt so very small and insignificant. Nothing makes one contemplate the meaning of ones' own mortality than standing in the midst of 600+ old history. I walked around the Leicester Cathedral where Richard will be interred next year. If at all possible I would very much like to be present for that event.

(Tomorrow: Hometowns, Purchasing A Professor and This Generation.)

Something I Miss Now: My Family.
Something I Will Miss: Flapjacks. (The British kind are waaaay better than ours!)

Life At Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #9 Weekend In Paris

Monday, 18 February 2013

Theology, North Wales, The Gregory and The King in the Car Park

In the vein of the good Doctor Watson I'll start this post chronologically backwards...

(And yes, I know the picture is too large for the screen. It was intentional because Wales is too awesome for proper description. ;))
North Wales

It's truly impossible to adequately describe the breathtaking beauty of North Wales. We visited many parts of the little nation this past weekend including Llandudno, Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed and the awe inspiring Caenarfon Castle of William the Conqueror. I took more pictures than could possibly be necessary but even still I feel I've done it an injustice. The green fields, tree studded mountains and rolling oceans of North Wales are past material description. One simply must see this nation for ones self. Put it on your list because by the end of this post you'll have but a taste of the true splendour.

This was my first trip to a place in which English is not the primary language. In Wales everything is written in both Welsh and English and nearly everyone I met spoke English but the foremost language on every sign and many a tongue is that of Welsh. It a lovely language that to my poor unpractised ears sounds like a vowel-less disaster. I love it. Sans Japanese I find Welsh to be the most beautiful language I've ever heard. Though the writing is nigh on impossible to pronounce. We gave up trying with every word save 'Pergyl' which is the Welsh word for 'Danger' and with it's glorious terrain is seen often...and it's enormous fun to shout aloud. Try it. ;) I also made the acquaintance of a very charming Welshman while strolling along the beach...

Isn't he precious? We were just walking along and there he was! He must've been napping when the tide went out then came scampering down to the water when we happened by. It was really the chance of a lifetime, something I'll surely never forget. :)

Unfortunately since we're doing a great deal of travelling this month I've been unable to attend New Life on Sundays. It's only been two weeks and I already miss the lively little church. Several times during my stay here I've been informed of the differences in religion between the UK and the US. Apparently the US has a reputation of being an extreme 'religious' country. Being an American I've had to sadly correct that false idea. The main difference in religious ideas between the two countries is that here in the UK Christianity is still a large part of the state. Royal marriages involve many Biblical aspects, cathedrals and churches are plentiful and a cross or prayer or the mention of God in public places is not thought of as 'politically incorrect'. In the US of course this is completely the opposite. Churches are plentiful but the government pushes God and anything to do with Him as far out of their sphere as possible. Christianity thrives in small, sincere pockets but it is certainly 'cool' in the US to be anti-Christianity. I really am not saying that one country is any better than the other because I really don't know, but I've definitely noticed the difference.

We've also had some very fascinating historical events whilst here. Anyone else heard of Richard III?? Well, the other day while just before class it was announced that THEY FOUND HIM. Yes. King Richard III was found in a car park not far from where I live! It's crazy. It's just crazy to be this close to history in the making. They had minute by minute reports on the news as they were doing the DNA testings. It all seemed so unreal as they announced, "King Richard III has been found at last." I think the most incredible thing about being in England is that one feels so close, so very close to history, to time itself. Richard fought Henry VII and died on the battlefield only an hour train ride away. It's humbling.

I've also begun to settle a bit into the 'English' life. Spent two charming evenings in local pubs, The first was at the The Gregory last Thursday night and the second at the Prince Albert in Llandudno. Not being much of a drinker of course (not to mention poor as a church mouse), I didn't indulge in anything stronger than Earl Grey at either but had some marvellous conversation. Theology at one and politics at the other. ;) Pubs apparently are much different from American 'bars'. There's no smoking allowed in ANY buildings in the UK so no dingy smoke-filled rooms. And pubs are much more oh, family oriented perhaps? While at the Prince Albert with my Welsh friend Graham I saw many a family with children, it was a nice calm setting. They had several 'tellys' on to watch the football match but none louder than necessary. It was a most enjoyable time. I recommend the British pub to any and all! :D

Finally I really must comment on the health here. Not the health care but the health status of Harlaxton specifically, everyone is constantly ill! The students I mean, not so much the faculty. Some people have even had the same thing twice. One girl was complaining that no here knew how her voice really sounded as she'd been sick the entire time! It's crazy. Thanking God that neither my roommate nor myself has even been remotely under the weather once as of yet. I truly put it down to proper rest and the grace of God because that's the only thing I really do different than anyone else. No party time for me thank you, when 10 rolls's time for bed. :) And as such, good night until next weekend. It's off to Stonehenge tomorrow!!!

B. J. Tucker

Something I Miss Now: Real Thunderstorms.
Something I Will Miss: Coronation Chicken. (It's to die for, seriously.)

Photo Album Link(s) -
Life At Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #4 - North Wales Part #1
Life At Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #5 - North Wales Part #2
Life At Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #6 - North Wales Part #3

Monday, 4 February 2013

Aslan Has Won!!!

This picture is deceptive. Aslan has won thus the snow has fled. All's green and lush around Harlaxton Manor. Still cold though. Which still isn't bothering me much. Have a majorly busy weekend ahead of me. Papers to write, books to read, exams for which to prepare. Ah yes, and fish and chips in less than an hour. At least it'll start off right. :)

These past two weeks have been interesting. I've learnt some things and forgotten some things. For example, I intended for this to be a once a week blog, I'd post every weekend clue what happened to last weekend. I don't think I did much of anything but I don't really recall...and they say alcohols' a good idea...I can't remember what I did without drinking.

We took a coach to Stamford on Wednesday. It was fantastic. Brandy had never been on a double decker before thus we sat on the top on the way there. It was wonderfully windy that day so it felt more like a boat than a coach. Stamford is a gorgeous little town. They have seventeen churches. Seriously. Not all are in use but all are open for visitation. We managed to see four of them in the few hours we had to explore. I was 'gobsmacked' as per usual. All Saints' Church was by far the most incredible. It dates as far back as the 12th century but only a portion of the original stonework remains. The rest is oh so much more in 13th century. It was amazing. The most beautiful stained glass windows adorn the walls with the most lifelike of faces.

         (More on fb)

St. Martins' is beyond comparison. Having now seen many incredible English churches I was still not prepared for the giant statues and TOMB in St. Martins'. You just never know what you might find. :)

I'd left my bag in our seat on the coach but one of these irritating adolescents tossed it aside thus we were booted from our view on high. Even in the little things I notice Gods' hand. In something so small and seemingly insignificant as losing your place on a half hour coach ride. There was no more room up top thus Brandy and I was told to go to the very front of the lower level. We were seated with the only other 'mid'twenties' person here and Dr Green, one of the coolest professors on this campus. He and I struck up a conversation about films and television and discovered we had very similar tastes. Within minutes we were naming actors such as Charlton Heston, Ingrid Bergman and Errol Flynn as favourites. It was fantastic. But the best conversation was when I described one film as 'dodgy' and Brandy asked what the heck I'd just said, she'd never heard such a word. Dr Green informed her that was a perfectly good word...a battle of British English versus American English began. It was two against one thus rather short lived. :P If we'd kept our upper level seats we both would've been asleep within minutes. Instead we had a blast. The Lord works in mysterious ways! :)

Ever Amazed,

B. J. Tucker

Something I Miss Now: My Family.
Something I Will Miss: Double decker coaches.

Photo Album Link(s) -
Life At Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #3 - Day Trip to Stamford

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Life At Harlaxton - First Entry

Exactly two weeks and one day has passed since I arrived in London. Exhausted and dishevelled, I still couldn't wipe the smile from my face.

It's been three years since I've been here. I thought maybe that this time would be different. This time Jeron (my brother) and Kegan (best friend) are not here with me. This time I'm here not just to enjoy England but to work, to complete another semester of college. I thought maybe the combination of these things would deplete the overwhelming excitement that I was expecting to feel the moment my shoes hit English didn't. And a touch over two weeks later I'm still every bit as much in love with England as I've ever been. It's incredible. It's amazing, it's full of history, everywhere I go, everything place I stand holds the memory of a deep and moving past. I've seen the Crown Jewels, I stood where Lady Jane Grey was imprisoned, where she watched her husband die and where she herself fell before the executioners' axe. I've seen Sir Walter Raleighs' grave, I've walked the steps built by William the Conqueror, I've walked the halls of Henry VIII and his numerous wives. We have names and dates and sometimes even faces in our history books but it's not till you walk where they walked, stand where they faced the decisions that altered history that you begin to feel what they felt. I don't believe in any sort of earthly future for those that have passed over but it's almost as if their emotions be so strong that the stones around them are permanently scarred. I cannot describe the emotions that I felt as I stood before the sword of Henry V, or the childs' armour of boy king, Henry VI. It's terrifying and awe-inspiring simultaneously. It's beyond comprehension.

In the more academic aspect, we are taken and shown these places of monumental historical value then we return and read of them, discuss them, write and test about them. It's really quite amazing how much simpler things are to recall when you can think, "Now where was in that Anne Boleyn lived? Oh yes, I was there, Hampton Court Palace". It's too cool. :) We have some really fantastic teachers, the British Studies professors being, of course, British; and the rest (which for me is only one) being American. I've been blessed with amazing professors all around for which I'm terribly grateful. My only American teacher is both for my International Cinema class and my Shakespeare class. She teaches in the states and is married to a Frenchman who lives in London...makes for quite a fascinating lady. ;) We'll be visiting the home of Shakespeare later in the semester and seeing Hamlet performed in one of the nearby theatres. Yes, it boggles the mind.

Most unexpectedly, the food is gorgeous! The average college meal plan fare is blown out of the water by our kitchen. I was worried initially that they'd attempt to cater to American tastes but Heaven forbid. It's fish and chips, Shepards' Pie, Pudding and custard. They throw in the occasional pizza and "Mexican Night" for those poor souls suffering from culture shock but over all I've been very pleased. The rooms are charming, not large but large enough to be comfortable. I was also placed with a student near my age which has been a total God send. Think I would've lost my mind with one of these partying teenagers. O.o

The house. Gracious the 'house'. How to describe living in a mansion 'castle' in the middle of the English countryside? I dare not attempt it, I can only say see the photo album! It's gorgeous, it's lovely and every time I walk the halls to a class whether it be in the servants' quarters below or the Long Gallery stateroom above I am awestruck by the beauty and architecture of a bygone age. These walls by which I am surrounded speak of love, joy, fear and pain every bit as much as does the Tower of London. I'm dumbstruck continuously.

I'll end with an anecdote that rather sums up my permanent state of mind: I was walking through Henry VIIs' palace and turned to enter the chapel from the Queens' balcony. The place is gorgeous beyond description and my mouth quite literally fell open. It was just incredible. The guards on either side of the door laughed at me and said, "You're gobsmacked already!" To which I replied, "Oh, I've been gobsmacked for days, trust me!" haha Tis truth.

The ever gobsmacked,

B.J. Tucker

Photo Album Link(s) -
Life At Harlaxton 2013
Life at Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #1 - Weekend Trip to London
Life at Harlaxton 2013 Sub Folder #2 - Weekend Trip to London