November 07, 2004

Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night

So Norwood, Laura and I went over to Kenilworth, a small town about 2 miles from the university to celebrate Guy Fawkes night. Guy Fawkes being the traitor caught in the basement of the Houses of Parliament with a little too much gunpowder to look quite innocent. Why the english celebrate the torture and execution of Guy Fawkes or the near blowing-up of Parliament is a little curious. Still it was a cultural event not to be missed. As it happened it was one of those nights where there was a light but constant drizzle and way too many people. The fireworks and bonfire were to be set off near Kenilworth Castle. We had visited the castle a few weeks earlier just before Halloween and went on a "Haunted Kenilworth" tour during which our guide pointed out various points at which past residents had been maimed and killed and where their various ghosts had been spotted. One of the most haunted spots in the castle was actually the now-drained moat that surrounds it. There was a siege of the castle during which Edward I snuck up on the enemy outside the castle walls and killed many of them in their sleep and to warn the rebellious residents in the castle through all of the bodies in the moat, so they could see the hundreds of dead bodies floating around for god knows how long. Most of these bodies eventually sank to the bottom of the moat, hence none of them had a proper burial, hence many sighted ghosts around the moat. Where did we watch the fireworks display? Yes, in the drained moat. Add to this the fact that it had been drizzling for some time so we were constantly sinking our feet into deep mud—I kept imagining a clammy, scabby hand rising through the muck to grab my ankle. Although I suppose the fact that we were surrounded by hundreds of other people meant that this was probably not going to happen, it was still a lingering weird feeling. I could not see if there was a Guy Fawkes effigy or one of the Pope burning on the bonfire bec. although it was impressive it was still quite far away. Nevertheless, one of the only successful photos of the night was of us standing in front of the bonfire.

Eventually the lights were darkened and the castle walls were lit in multiple colors that flashed to some bad generic synthesizer rock. Then huge fireworks lit up the sky, really close so they seemed even larger than they usually do in the U.S. More bad music, beginning with Christina Aguilera's version of "Carwash"—again what this has to do with fireworks or Guy Fawkes, I simply cannot say. Finally it was over with one final humongous firework that lit up everything and we slowly made our way out with the crowd.

We were very hungry and went to a nearby pub, a chain I think, called The Beefeater. The food wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible either, just overpriced and generic but the pub itself was nice and possibly very old (Tudor beams, lowish ceilings, etc.). We were all really craving hamburgers but they didn't serve them—plenty of steaks and a lamb burger which Norwood settled for, but no beef burgers! Actually after we finished and got outside we noticed the menu of the pub right next door which had a full array of hamburgers! I guess we'll have to see what British burgers are like another time.

November 04, 2004

Election Night in Oxford

Norwood has set up this blog so that we can give a few of our impressions of our time here in England and keep all of our friends back home up to date on what we are up to. Enjoy! Kerry

Norwood and I spent election night in Oxford. Our friend Laura, who is also a fellow in the history department here managed to get tickets to a panel discussion about the election at the Oxford Union. The union also had a tv set up to show the election results. The panel was interesting but by the time the tv room was set up the place was packed. Luckily we ran into another friend who is studying at Balliol College who invited us to come watch back at a lounge in his college's dorm, which was much better, plus they could get CNBC and CNN. We also got a quick sneak peek at Balliol, the oldest university at Oxford (though at least 3 other colleges claim the same prestige) which was neat all of the colleges are gated at night and only students are allowed in. Since results didn't start coming in after midnight here I ended up napping through a lot of it. Finally, by 6:00 a.m. we gave up on the increasingly dismal results and headed back to the home of a Warwick University professor who lives in Oxford and let us stay at her place when we were done. It is a beautiful large house and we were really thankful to have a place to stay and sleep for a few hours. The next morning with the results more or less conclusive we gathered to commiserate and bitch. Norwood went to the Bodleian Library and said the traditional pledge to become a reader there—basically some mutterings about not setting the fire to the place. I decided the best cure was to go shopping and bought a few Christmas presents and just generally walked around. I really like Oxford. If I ever got a job in publishing here I think I would prefer to have it in Oxford actually rather than London. Besides being slightly less expensive than London, though from what I understand Oxford can still be somewhat expenisive, it seems a bit smaller and nicer (in the center anyway) and of course as Norwood said "It's academic Valhalla!"

Hey there, world!

Welcome to a series of occasional comments on eclectic topics by me, Norwood, and by Kerry. We're here at Warwick only briefly, but hope to make good use of this, our little platform. Come embark with us upon our journey into the future.

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