Kenyon College

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Some things - Bath & Other

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Bath to see a rugby game. We spent a good part of the day wandering around Bath in search of the elusive music shop. The best music shop turned out to be the first one we found, and it was obscured by scaffolding. Guitars lined the walls and floor, and it was staffed by a cheeky long-haired fellow and several skinny lads who I could only assume were his underlings. He seemed like the sort of music shop employee who would enjoy having underlings.

An exchange:
Me: "Can I hold a guitar?"
Him [pausing for an uncomfortable moment to assess me]: "Yeah, it looks like you could hold one."

I smiled in a resigned sort of way, and perhaps mumbled something appreciative, and led him over to the guitar I wanted. And there was a certainty in my heart as I held it. I would post a picture, but its beauty cannot be captured by the photographs on the internet. All you need to know is that it is made of an exotic wood called Bubinga, and it is quite simply the most beautiful creature that human hands have ever crafted.

It's a Tanglewood, which I feel is an appropriately poetic name, and on the back it says "Tanglewood Guitar Company - United Kingdom," and I love it.

I got a bag for it and we ate pasties for lunch. A pre-game pint of Guinness later, we were off to the stadium, where we queued orderly for a bit, then shuffled to the wrong seats, as we were to realize later on. It was all okay, though it was a bit cold. A rugby game goes something like this: there are men running for two seconds, then there is a tangled knot of dudes sort of trying to give birth to the rugby ball, then there is a second more of running before another knot gathers violently, and so on. It was entertaining, and Bath Rugby beat Edinburgh, a fact I attribute entirely to the man behind us who would yell every five minutes at the top of his lungs, "COME ON YOU BATH BOYS!" His voice thundered over the field like a war cry. I hugged my guitar.

More on trains:

Just the other day it was Christmas Eve, and I had to wake up quite early to catch a train to London Paddington. I curled up as the train was pulling out of Exeter St. David's, passed out, and woke an hour later to fields of snow going by out the window. I was delighted, as I was living with the certainty that I would never see snow in the UK. How wrong I was! It was grand.

Paddington station is freezing and full of people carting bags and children and clustering around the arrivals and departures screens. I both love it and hate it. This conflict probably arises out of the tension between my love of trains, and my dislike for crowds and waiting in the cold.

Nevertheless, I picked up my charge-for-twelve-days at Paddington, and we caught the 12:06 back to Exeter. This was a journey spent in the vestibule, listening to the mumbling train manager joking with us over the speakers about delays caused by someone pilfering the copper out of some vital electrical component, and how we may have to divert etc, etc, and it all added up to the train running 1 hours 41 minutes late.

As concerns Christmas, it just isn't the same when the country you're in doesn't do pumpkin pie. This caused me several moments of incredulous despair.

That is all I have at the moment. In the next few days my charge and I will be going to London, and from there tunnelling to Paris for the new year. More on this later!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Topsham Adventures

Last weekend I went to Topsham, a small town about 15 minutes from Exeter by train, to do some shopping and get some cream tea with our professor. Everything was going well. Tea was amazing (if you ever find yourself in Topsham, get cream tea at the Georgian Tea Room) and Topsham was adorable. Our little group went to get the train back to Exeter and that's when things went pear-shaped. We were early by about 10 minutes but we figured something was wrong when the train hadn't shown up after half an hour. So I called Deborah (our professor) who lives in Topsham to ask what we should do. As she was suggesting that we wait for the next train, a guy waiting for the same train told us (don't ask me how he found out) that the late train, never mind the one after it, was going to be another 32 minutes. O.o When Deborah heard that she told us to come to her house and that she would drive us back to our dorms. And that attitude is precisely why everyone loves Deborah.

I also took some pretty, pretty pictures!


Sunday, December 6, 2009


Sadly (or maybe productively)we took our last group trip of this semester this weekend. We went to Stratford yesterday to see Arabian Nights and came back to Exeter today by way of Bath. I think it was a wonderful way to spend the weekend and a brilliant trip to end the year!

1) The play was excellent. I got really into it. They had some great special effects (in fact, I am of the opinion that Harry Potter was backstage lending a hand) and told some awesome stories. There were some stories that anyone would recognize like Ali Baba and Sinbad, as well as some new ones like The Big Fart (I swear!). Plus the actor playing the king was hott (yes, with two t's).

2) If you ever find yourself in Stratford, eat at the Garrick. I had the duck. It was delicious.

3) Bath. I enjoyed myself immensely. It was the last day of the Christmas Market so it was crowded, but not unnavigable. Other areas of interest include The Circus, Royal Crescent, the Pump Room and Roman Baths, and Bath Abbey. Oh. And Sally Lunn's restaurant. Wonderful buns.

Here be pictures!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Large Continental

Some little things:
  • Tea. I am perhaps more addicted to tea than I am to coffee, if only because tea is more mysterious about its purpose. Think of coffee like a golden retriever with the leash in his mouth, and think of tea like a black cat looking at you plaintively from the windowsill. You know they both want something, but the dog's motives are easier to guess.

    I need several cups of Earl Grey every morning and afternoon, or I will go about clutching my head. If you asked me before coming here if I thought that England would make me go off coffee, I would've laughed at you. Now, look where I am. Relying on tea to get me through the day. In the evening, however, my mood shifts, and I have a selection of tea for every shade of melancholy. Camomile? Peppermint? Lady Grey, the Earl's lighter, sweeter friend?

    The ability of tea to fill in shadows and bring out highlights in any given day is one of the many things I love about living here.

  • Trains. These metal beasts are a comfort in a different way. I stand on the platform, watching the neat and ordered ticking-by of the arrivals and departures. There is something reassuring in it, in hearing the wheeze and puff of the trains as they whine to a stop, sigh as if overtaxed, and push humans out into the drizzle. Something like the rhythm of poetry. There is an order to the operation of trains that, like the pulse of meter, can be felt but not immediately seen.
Thursday, 19 November, 2009.
This day, I have recently said to Ai Binh, holds the single happiest moment of my time here, so far. It is the night when one of my favorite bands, Frightened Rabbit, came to the Lemon Grove.
It was, in a word, glorious. It was, in many words, like this:
They were there supporting Gomez, a band in whom no one of my party showed much interest. However, the opposite seemed to be true for the rest of the crowd, meaning that when we got there at the opening of the doors, there wasn't much competition for standing room to see Frightened Rabbit. Meaning that I, TJ, Logan, Lauren, Sam, and our flatmate Melissa got to stand closer than anyone to these marvelous people. We were mere feet away from Scott Hutchison, the lead singer (though thankfully not situated properly to catch his flung-off beads of sweat). Unfortunately, and this was the only damper on an otherwise perfect night, the people at the door took away our cameras.

But nevertheless, from the first "We're Frightened Rabbit, we're from Scotland," until the last beautiful notes of "Keep Yourself Warm," drifted away, I was enchanted, entranced, in a state of pure musical bliss. I could barely move - usually one is inspired to punch other people when at a concert? - but I was rooted to the spot, transfixed, the music loud and all around.

And afterward, we got to speak to the entire band. Actual conversation! With Frightened Rabbit! I was still a bit loopy from the show, and so remember very little of what I actually said. But I do remember getting my broken drumstick signed (TJ got the other half), and being able to step on a guitar player. Like so:

So, like I said, basically the best thing ever.

There is still much to speak of, so if you'd like, you can take a break at this point. Get a cup of tea. I'll still be here when you get back.

Mama Stone's (again)
I love this place. It just so happens that they have the most delicious chips (but they call them fries, which throws me off, as I have already adjusted to chips) in the galaxy, and also the coolest vibe in town. It also happens that on Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, they hosted an event called Beat Roots, a night of spoken word, comedy, music n all that mixed together. All of us, however, came for Logan's performance with Jessie, and they were scheduled to play last. So we got there early for dinner, which was the right idea as the place filled up quickly as the night wore on, and we now had guaranteed cushions.

Mama Stone's was more packed than I had ever previously seen it. We chilled until Logan and Jessie got up, and then TJ and I went down to the very very front and took pictures. Here is a link to Logan's music, which rocks: Reindeer Johnny and the Hop Scotch Kid
And here are some pictures (please do click for larger versions):


Everyone on the stairs before the posh London party (a big thank you to our hosts!):

Some thoughts (inspired, if not coherent)

Now that it is December, we have been here for a little more than two months. It came to me as I was walking to Boston Tea Party on a silent Sunday morning. I am in England. My home is very far away, and very different to this place. The people who are most important to me are an ocean away, and yet I am here. I am creating something. In Plymouth we saw The Pitmen Painters, a play about coal miners who learn to paint, but also about (to me) how art is about single voices speaking together, and how people go about finding themselves, and expressing that to others, and the difficulty of understanding any of this or making yourself understood. Harry says, "Everybody has their own journey." You set about to create your life, and in doing so, find your own way of looking at things and processing the world.

And we are here, us Kenyon students, doing all this together. It is a properly epic chance to create something, and I'm being completely serious. It needn't be tangible. The Kenyon-Exeter program is about everyone's individual experience together.

This is a side-quest, to throw in a video game analogy. A track that diverts from the main thoroughfare of your life as you know it, but runs parallel, and when you see that thoroughfare through the trees, you'll be looking at it from under the mercurial English sky. Nothing will ever be the same again.