Kenyon College

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kenyon's Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Blogger

I mean it, too. Worst blogger ever, here at last. Well. Since you've been kindly waiting for three months rather than three days (whoops, I really dropped the ball there didn't I? *slaps wrist*) for my AMAZINGLY AWESOME post...wait no longer!

The home of the Aclands. As in the Aclands and Acland Street. Anyway, we went in March during one of our seminars. It's actually quite close to Exeter. A National Trust property, Killerton is well preserved and has an interesting exhibit on fashion on the second floor.

Here Kristy and I are competing on Ken-Ex's Next Top Austen.

Back to business. The Aclands lived at Killerton from the early 17th century and only left in 1942, selling some of Killerton to the National Trust (and donating the rest) in order to raise money for the Common Wealth Party. But how, you say, are these Aclands related to our Aclands?

I forget. I know that it had something to do with Hannah More. And it was significant enough for Kenyon and Gambier to name things "Acland this" and "Acland that."

Here! Pretty pictures!

"Claire! That was in no way the EXCELLENT post you promised! Shame on you!" You're right Ashley. Guess I'll just have to post again!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wales Week 2; Home

I am writing this from my desk at home, in the state of Washington. I've been home for about four days now. I expected that I would experience a culture shock on coming back, similar to what I felt as I acclimated to England in the beginning. Strangely, however, I slipped right back into my way of living here as easily as if I'd never left.

Of course it is not the same. Now I have seven months of life in a richly beautiful country behind me, a section of my life unlike anything I have experienced in the past. Everything that I saw, everyone I met, everywhere I traveled, these things have all changed me, and now I look at my home with different eyes.

That is to be expected, I suppose. All I know is that, even though those seven months were, at times, difficult, they had a profound impact on my life and my perspective on the world, and I am so glad, and so lucky, to have been able to live in a different country for a whole school year. It is an experience I would recommend wholeheartedly to any person. Chances like these are rare.

That being said, I will close this blog with a recounting of the final week of our group trip, in which we moved north into the Lake District.

The beauty of the Lake District is very hard to describe. It is full of deeply colored hills, fading one into the other as they stretch away under a blue and gray sky. The sun, as it set over Easedale Tarn, pierced through silver clouds and cast everything in brown and gold. We walked past a clear and quick stream that fell easily into the angles and outcroppings of small, many-fingered waterfalls coursing over black rock. Sheep moved like tiny grounded clouds or roaming stones across the hills and mingled in the valleys, bleating in the growing dark as we walked back from the lake through twilight.

We walked through Dove Cottage, where William and Dorothy Wordsworth lived for several years. Knowing Wordsworth scaled the very hills we did gave every sight an even more subtle depth, and the question arose for me - will anybody ever love this place again like Wordsworth did? Our cameras are the obstacles to our true appreciation of a place. Although we can capture an image of nature's beauty and keep it forever, it is two-dimensional, virtually lifeless, once removed from the experience of being there, of putting your feet carefully down on rocks, holding onto wet stones with your hands, feeling the waterfall trickle down their shining surfaces.

It seems like Wordsworth, at least, devoted his passion to such sensations, and the attempt to record them. The Romantics wanted a way to capture forever an image of the sublime or the beautiful or the picturesque in nature. Though they were reaching for the idea of the camera, the reality of the camera seems a step backward from what they were trying to accomplish. In many ways, and in the hands of most, the camera is an inhibition to our love of a beautiful place.

To stand on top of a windy hill and see a land, half brilliant water, half field and hill, bounded only by the ever-changing sky, stretching away from you - it is a sensation unlike any other. You feel at once powerful, triumphant, and vulnerable, insignificant. Perhaps it is with these words I can describe the entirety of our trip.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wales, Week 1

"This is my office," the young guide said to us in his thick Welsh accent, gesturing from the back of his horse to the packed sand, the ocean, and the sun sinking its golden light over the hills and cliffs of Pembrokeshire. The wind was cold and persistent around us, but the four of us were riding strong, dependable horses on the beach in the evening, and there was little that could detract from the beauty of the moment.

Our shadows stretched across the sand, and I wondered why, when asked what I thought of Wales, I could only say, "It's beautiful." I hoped that, given time, I could put words to this experience, these two weeks that truly feel like a wrapping-up. Each field of sheep and lambs that I pass, each sudden view of the hazy blue ocean, each trek to each ruined castle makes me think about the finality of it all. What I'm leaving, what I'm going toward, the final impression of all that I've seen on my year abroad. These deserve words. Luckily I have one more week to puzzle this out, and there may be no neat answer. I think that would be okay.

Sights & Destinations

We have been seeing Wales from the windows of a coach, from the tops of cliffs and crumbling castle towers, and through the eyes of coal miners, painters, poets. A camera cannot adequately capture the broad expanses and deep crags of the part cliff-jagged, part sand-smooth coastline, or the calm green emptiness of the rolling hedgerowed fields.

Wales shows itself best in the morning or evening sunlight, when the countryside goes yellow or gold and lengthens into shadow. As we depart in the morning, the air is cool and shot through with pale beams of sunlight. In the evening we look for dinner amongst old stone buildings made warm from the sun. (The weather has been good to us; no rain so far.)

Firstly we stopped at Tintern Abbey, and were even able to hike to a location quite some ways above Tintern Abbey. If you forget about the parking lot and tourist shop nearby, you can easily transport yourself to the end of the 18th century. I pictured myself on a boat going down the Wye, an experience I think I would quite enjoy.

Another place we went that I enjoyed was Hay-on-Wye, which is known as being the "Town of Books." This means that it is full of bookshops. It is a town taken over by bookshops, and is the location of a writers festival, about which Margaret Atwood has written. Of course it was a beautiful afternoon when we arrived, and I enjoyed a cookie and an iced coffee while we visited the bookshops. They were so prolific, some were inevitably skipped by us. I particularly wanted to visit the poetry bookshop, though most of the books there were expensive. I did manage to purchase a copy of Great Expectations, as well as Isaac Asimov's Foundation.

Later on we arrived at the best hotel in all the galaxy, fondly called the Dru (short for Druidstone), which is a sort of friendly haven for artists and eclectic characters, being a cafe/bar/restaurant as well as a hotel. It has a wonderful view overlooking an expansive beach, a beach on which a few of us got to ride horses. That was a marvelous experience, and cantering through the surf is a pleasure I won't soon forget. Talking to our guides about their experiences in Australia, and their disdain over their friend who went to Colorado and learned the Western style of riding, which is much more laid-back, and being able to find out more about Pembrokeshire slang, and the satisfaction of working with horses and people; all of this, plus walking the beach, climbing around on the cliffs by myself, eating fabulous dinners with the rest of the group, and passing the time on the gorgeous Welsh coast, it all added up to a delightful two days.

I will miss that place, but today we were leaving Aberystwyth and arrived, quite suddenly, into the midst of mountains. I am from a place that is cradled on both east and west by mountains, and they mean quite a bit to me. So, to find myself among them where for seven months before there had been only rolling hills was striking, and I thought of home. The mountains through which we drove were brown-green and covered in some places by pine trees, dotted with sheep, lambs, and small clusters of stone buildings. It was peaceful to look out the window.

We will shortly be heading to the Lake District; expect more.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Honiton; the Sea Tractor

I was walking down to St David's train station today, taking the wooded footpath and weaving through a residential area, and everywhere there were daffodils in bloom, and profusions of other colorful flowers, and the air was a perfect balance of cool and warm. It is finally starting to feel like summer could be around the corner; yesterday I didn't even have to wear a jacket into town! That is a first, believe it or not.

I took the train into Honiton, a weary old town that still has a unique charm. I prefer this sort of charm to Exeter's, which is loud and attracts everyone. Honiton seems to know that it isn't as popular, and is in fact a little crumbly around the edges, but the shops are small and friendly, and it has, most importantly, a Boston Tea Party. The purpose of my visit to Honiton today was to visit this Boston Tea Party, the last on my list to visit. I've sat and had a coffee, whether by myself or with friends, at every Boston Tea Party in existence, the one in Bath, the two in Bristol, the one in Barnstaple, and the one in Exeter.

I wouldn't keep going on about this cafe if it didn't hold such an important role in forming my experience abroad. I would go to the BTP in Exeter whenever I could, and I would always order the same thing: a large Continental. I experienced a moment of joy when one of the servers there was able to predict what I would order the other day. Me: "Can I have...." Her: "A Continental of some sort? Large?" and it was good.

Most of the time I would take my reading for class there, or I would work on a creative writing assignment. Sitting, a little oasis of calm on the edge of a bustling, happy room of people sharing conversation over coffee and food, I could relax and feel like a part of everything. It was as though I could connect, if only for a little bit, with the energy of the city and the people in it. In this microcosmic state, it was easy to let my mind wander to creative tasks, or to concentrate on and really understand what I was reading. It may sound silly, but by seeking out this place in Exeter, I felt like I could let go of my identity as an American student for a little bit, and become, perhaps, a British student, or just a person living and working in Exeter, taking their lunch break at the Boston Tea Party.

To commemorate the importance of the Boston Tea Party, and of visiting the last one on my list, I bought a mug emblazoned with the tea-sipping gent of their logo. The great thing about these cafes is that each one is different, having carved out its place in a strangely shaped building, with its own array of tables, chairs, and sofas, perhaps an upstairs, perhaps a back garden for nice days like today. Like the cities and towns they inhabit, each Boston Tea Party has its own character.

On Tuesday, Claire, Logan, and I went with Professors Laycock and Carson to Bigbury-on-Sea. There were surfers in abundance, as well as the occasional kayaker and windsurfer. It was a beautiful day that day, as well, and an excellent time to ride the sea tractor! The sea tractor is a large-wheeled beast that trundles folks across the sandy causeway between Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island, when the tide is high enough to cover the causeway with water.

After spending some time on Burgh Island, and getting lunch at the Pilchard Inn, which was manned by an eccentric Italian (?) bartender, we took the sea tractor back across the causeway, which, as the tide receded, was becoming traversable by foot.

Another walk along the coast followed, in which we saw sheep, and lambs! The wind was strong, and both I and my sniffles were thankful for the hot chocolate and warm car at the end of the excursion.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Four Days in Edinburgh

We stayed at a lovely, small bed & breakfast called Highfield House, which was an old Scottish manse dating from 1730. Every morning the owners of the house would cook breakfast for Karl and me (as we were the only guests there at the time), along with delicious coffee that I greatly enjoyed. From the house every morning we would walk a few minutes down to the train stop to catch the train into Edinburgh.

Coming out from the station by way of the Princes Mall puts you out on to Princes Street, where all the new shops are. (Within five minutes of exiting the station, we heard bagpipers playing. The street leading away from the Castle is also monopolized by "tartan" shops.) This area of town is part of what is called the New Town, part of the city that was added on way back when the town was overcrowded and cramped due to its being confined within its walls. They drained the Nor'Loch which was to the north of the Edinburgh Castle, and built the New Town. There is a monument to Sir Walter Scott in the gardens where the Nor'Loch used to be. (We learned all of this at the tiny Museum of Edinburgh, on the Royal Mile in the Old Town. I guess you could also learn it on Wikipedia.) There is a very distinct difference in feel between the Old Town and the New Town, but the whole city is beautiful and grand and has its own peculiar character, due to the way it did not expand beyond its walls for a very long time, and grew upwards rather than outwards.

Basically, Karl and I fell in love with Edinburgh, and walked all over, from one end to the other. Everything is in close proximity to everything else, and walking was consistently rewarding. We traipsed from the Castle to the Palace, where we climbed Arthur's Seat and looked out over the entire city.

We also circumnavigated the New Town, and found that only "keyholders" could enter the gardens that dominate a large portion of the New Town's blocks. Nevertheless, there were loads of alleyways with pubs and cute restaurants (we found a Mexican restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of the food.) We spent a couple nights of pints and dinner in a pub called The Tron (a few blocks away from the Castle), which was run by a chain called Scream (I think?) that was very hip and quirky and served cheap, edible food. What we liked were the couches, and remarking on the eclectic music chosen for the speakers.

All in all, it was a brilliant time and Edinburgh is my new favorite place. (I feel like every place has been my new favorite place... this is a good thing, though!) I loved it so much I even had to get a little Edinburgh keychain.

Revelations in Hyde Park

On March 14 I am in Hyde Park in London, waiting for Karl's train to get into Paddington Station. One of the entrances to Hyde Park is very close to the station, and you come into the park near a little rectangle of fountains. I stand there, with my coffee, alone by the fountains, leaning against the rail. It is a brilliant sunny afternoon, a auspicious sign for the coming ten days. Sometimes the sun will disappear behind a cloud, and you can watch the shadow of that cloud creep over the rolling grasses of Hyde Park, and then you can see the sunlight slowly flood the lawns again as the cloud passes by. The park is full of people, mostly couples with children, or joggers with dogs, or photographers taking advantage of the park showing itself in its full glory. In the air is the fresh cleanness of spring, and you can feel it lifting everyone's spirits.

I am struck by the lightness of the moment, and the pureness of the contentment that I feel. Amid all the stress of paper-writing, and travel plans, and money, and the thought of returning home, there is this small moment of clarity. I realize that these worries are insignificant against such beauty, such life, and that there are so many reasons to be happy in the moment, and so many niggling worries that should not be bothering me.

A cluster of pigeons on a rooftop, disturbed, alight from the shingles. Their shadows sweep over the stones of the fountains as they circle and return to their places. Families circumnavigate the fountains, and I watch a swan swim round and round a small pool. It seems to regard me. The fountains bend in the wind. A father, seeing this, and predicting the trajectory of the spray, gently guides his young son out of the way. Moments later, the cement in front of them receives the arc and splash of water. Father and son continue their circuit.

There are eleven birds in the fountain-pool that I am watching. One big swan, several orange-eyed ducks, a seagull, some white-faced, pointy-beaked black birds. The fountains sway in the breeze; the sun cloaks itself in clouds.

The next day, in Bath, the sun is still out, and its light falls warmly on the unique Bath stone that forms many of the buildings. We walk in gardens, and along the River Avon; we share a cream tea and find a sweet shop that sells fried eggs. Experiences like these days in London and Bath are the moments I will remember about my time here, not the looming deadlines or financial worries, or the struggle of navigating a busy street. These days make all the difference.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quick Update

I didn't want you to think I abandoned you! This post is just to let you know that there will be an awesome post either tomorrow or Thursday. It will have lots of pictures. And I'll talk about tea. Cream tea. *drool*

See you soon!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Papers, Procrastination, and Pudding

Ok, not really pudding, but I'll get to that. And I think procrastination really speaks for itself. But I wanted an alliterative title, so there you go.

One of the oddest things about studying at Exeter is the method of turning in and picking up papers. It isn't necessarily good or bad. Just odd, at least compared to Kenyon. Each class has three assignments, each an essay unless you're in a creative writing or some film classes.

The first paper has a due date as determined by the professor, but they're usually due around the same time. This semester most first papers were due between February 12th and 19th. The second paper has the same due date across all the courses (at least third year courses). *Exception: your professor didn't get your first papers back by the week before, then the paper has to be pushed back.*
For just about everyone the second essay was due yesterday, March 5th. The third papers aren't due until May 15th. Of course those tend to be worth a lot more of the overall grade and creative writing courses tend to have all three assignments due at the end.
When turning in your paper you have until 4:00pm on the due date to turn it in to the office. With barcoded cover sheet. Yeah. Odd. You also need two copies: one with your student number and one with your name. Why? The papers aren't just graded by the professor, they're also assessed by a third party. Once the professor is done (as far as I can tell, this is the grade you receive and the other assessment is more for the class) they turn the papers back in to the office for sorting. The office has all the papers ready for pickup by a certain date before the next paper is due. We got our first papers back February 26th (or whenever we got to the office).
The good: 1) You definitely get your papers back before turning in the next one. Unless you're in a creative writing class. In which case, hope that you get feedback in class. 2) The office doesn't care if you skip class in order to write the essay. 3) Blind grading--your professor gets the copy with your student number and doesn't know who's essay it is.The tolerable: 1) No begging your professor for an extension--if you want an extension you have to ask the office and you better have a good excuse. 2) Lines. If even just some classes all have a paper due the same day, you can find yourself standing in line. And since they use the barcode on the cover sheet to check your paper into the system, then if you are still in line at 4 your grade will suffer for being late. 3) Blind grading--since your professors don't know whose paper is whose, they don't have a clue what you wrote about when you go to their office hours.
It's not a bad system. Just...odd. At least after getting used to Kenyon for two years.

SO! In order to celebrate the successful passing of our second due date, several friends and I did a Day of Food. It started with lunch. Don't judge us for sleeping in! I made hoagies. They looked a little like this:
Why, yes. That is homemade bread. And meat. No, not homemade meat. Nevertheless. They were more than delicious. /bragging

For dinner we had scrumptious creamy garlic chicken. And heavenly mashed potatoes. With a side of fresh fruit salad. My tummy was a happy camper.

We topped off our Day of Food with brownies. And possibly a viewing of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Because we are girls. And stories like TSP are the perfect brownie topping.

The lesson: Turn in your papers early enough to plan a fattening day with your homies. Also, knitting burns calories. A few, anyway.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trains & A Walk

Yesterday evening, around 5:40, I was on a train heading south out of Exeter. It had been a beautiful sunny day, still crisp with winter, and the sun had a restorative effect on everyone's spirits. Now, as I looked up from my book to watch the countryside pass by, I saw the pinkish golden sunset in the low hills to the west, laying everything deeper into a soft grey shadow with the onset of twilight. It struck me again, as it has done many times in the past: I am in England, set down here like a grain of rice on the ground, so that this whole country, though much smaller than the States, feels vastly larger. I think these moments come about when I feel like everything about my experience so far can be encapsulated in what I am seeing. That pinkish gold sunset, the deep rose color of the sky - all at once it seemed to me that this was the perfect and only way to express my time here.

It may be somewhat silly, but there it is.

As you may have read from Claire's previous entries, she and I took a lovely walk a couple weeks ago that started out in the town of Beer, headed out across the fields and through a small wood, paused for a moment in a hamlet of Branscombe, then circled back along the steep gold cliffs toward Beer Head, with a stunning view of Seaton Bay, and finally returned to Beer. We chose a glorious day for a walk, as the sun was resplendent in all its late-February glory, and so the chill helped out quite a bit as we ascended the hillside, up to the top of the cliffs that led away from Branscombe. Seeing the figures on the beach get smaller and smaller as we climbed, stopping and looking at the water stretch away from us, was quite an experience. I adore these walks, the shared experience of beholding something beautiful. Saying hello to passing walkers is one of my favorite things now; it is like acknowledging that shared experience with a simple smile and a greeting.

Now that it is March, the weather seems to have got itself together a little bit. The sun makes itself known more often, and it was even almost warm the other day. It's very pleasant... almost too pleasant. There must be a severe bout of rain soon. I won't get my hopes up for a continuation of this sunlight. It is England, after all.

There are only four weeks of classes left. I have no papers due for more than a month. In the coming weeks I will be going to see Frightened Rabbit (again! Yes!) in Bristol, and when Karl comes to visit, we will be taking a day trip to Bath, and spending a long weekend in Edinburgh. Do expect more from me concerning these events.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Long Awaited Wine and Cheese Party

Early last semester Deborah asked us if we would be interested, as a group, in a wine and cheese tasting hosted by Kenyon (and Kenyon Exeter) alum Marc Millon. What do you think our answer was? Alcohol & Dairy Products = Par-tay! W00t! It would be a refined kind of evening. Very adult. Filled with comments about vintage, aroma, and palette. Yes. Let's pretend we're all grown up for a moment.

Anyhoo. This event was finally held, after schedules were worked out, last Thursday. Marc, Deborah, and Mark's son Guy put together a great night. We tasted 8 wines in total, 4 with cheese and 4 with dinner. I went into the evening knowing little about wine other than the fact that I like to cook chicken in it. I came out of the tasting feeling that even though I'm no connoisseur, I can at least find my way through the wine section at Liquor Barn. A little more knowledgeable and a little more confidant.

The cheese was good too. I ate it. I ate it ALL.

In all seriousness, this party was not only a wonderful break from the Exeter campus, it was an opportunity to see Kenyon friends outside of class and to meet two very interesting and entertaining men. The evening was full of laughs, food, and pictures. And of course, the wine flowed into and out of our glasses.

This is one reason the Exeter program stands out. Great friends, great food, and an experience that opens you. And you feel it. Wine tastings are for grown-ups. And, whether we noticed or not, we are.

Blogger Fail

So, I make a promise to update on Saturdays and Tuesday and then I go and miss the first Saturday! I'm so sorry faithful readers! I'll make it up to you! With two, count 'em TWO posts today! First of all...the wonder of baked goods.

For various reasons, this semester the lovely Ashley and I decided to grace our Kenyon Seminar class with cupcakes every week. First, we thought it would be fun. Second, a three-hour seminar is always improved by the presence of food. Third, we love our group and want to give them yummy desserts.

This has been an exercise in commitment, creativity, and self-control. Commitment because we do it every Tuesday and it can take awhile. Today it went pretty quickly, I like to think that we get faster every week but we were also the only ones in the kitchen, and it still took a good 4 hours. A long day can take a LOT longer. Though we usually finish by 7. At the latest. After starting around 2:30. Yeah.

Our creativity has been...stretched through our decorating. My decorating. :) Going into this, we knew we were doing superhero themes each week. So far we've had Batman, X-men, Power Rangers, Superman, Underdog and Captain Underpants, and this week we did Justice League. We can't get too complicated. Our decorating set only has so many tips. That silver one in the pic is going to get worn out by the end. So we've been sticking to the symbols or recognizable characteristics.
And our control. Well who doesn't love cupcake batter?! I ask you!

Bonus: this cupcake was poked to test its doneness. It was done. However, the poke punctured the top and a black hole (more like black slot) resulted. It consumed any icing that came near it. I think this picture was taken around the third time we touched it up. :P

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beer to Branscombe

I won't be talking a lot in this post as I believe Caitlin will be posting about this in much better detail than I could.

Last Saturday she and I went on a walk. But not just any walk! We walked from Beer to Branscombe and back. It involved many obstacles. Like a cliff. And stiles. It was not for the faint of heart!

View Beer to Branscombe in a larger map

Here are some nice pictures for you!

This is Fore Street in Beer. We got very confused for awhile. This was not the direction in which we should have been pointing. Oops.

This is Starr House. It is old. Very, very old. Certainly older than your house.

The view once we got our breath back. This is looking back at Beer.

Here are the rest of the photos!

Beer to Branscombe

Why, hello. I do believe this place looks familiar...

I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted. Claire-proven fact: time goes by faster in England.

Anyhoo. My winter break was glorious. I will put links to pictures at the end of the post.

Since then, it's been crazy. I have three classes: Literatures of Memory on Mondays, Serious Play (a creative writing class) on Tuesdays, and the Kenyon Seminar on Wednesdays. That's right. I have a four-day weekend every weekend! The downside is that it seems to make the weeks go by SO much faster. March is next week. Next week! *looks longingly at the calendar*

Because things are happening so quickly, I've decided to try and keep a posting schedule. Look for my posts on Tuesdays and Saturdays. And if I don't post, you have my permission to kick me until I do.


I started in France...

Offenburg, Strasbourg

...and moved on to Germany...
Koln, Magdeburg

...before going to Denmark...
Hamburg, Copenhagen, Fuzzy

Helsingor, Copenhagen

...and ending in Sweden!
Malmo and Hassleholm

Another post in a minute!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A return to Bristol and London.

I returned to my two favorite cities for two spectacular concerts. On Valentine's Day I was in Bristol, and on the 16th, London. (Disclaimer: Do not let the fact that I felt okay skipping a week of classes for fun things be a deciding factor if you are a student looking for a study abroad program. Nope. Especially if you have a weakness for fun.)

Bristol - The Maccabees, The Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Pink, The Drums

  • One main bit of Bristol has a lot of shops and they're all on a steep hill. You feel like, at the top, you should have reached some awesome spectacle - indeed, there are some very nice buildings up there. It's worth the walk. (The Boston Tea Party on this hill is also worth the walk.)
  • Any spare wall is plastered with posters for upcoming shows - Bristol is a very happening place, musically. It reminds me of Seattle. How nice it would be to live in Bristol and have access to the music!
  • The slide: You may recall from my last post concerning Bristol a discussion of the smooth rock slope that has been polished to a metallic sheen from having seen the downward trajectories of so many rear ends. On the afternoon of my former visit to the slide, I was not able to go down it because it was monopolized by children. Pah! This time, however, was different. The slide was damp, but it did not hinder me. No, if anything, it sped me more quickly to the bottom, at which lay a large rocky outcropping! If not a near-death experience, it was certainly a near-injury experience. And yet, though I was yelling the whole way down and though I crashed bodily into the rocky outcropping at the bottom (it was the only way to stop) - afterward, I felt changed. Enlightened somehow. I wanted to do it again.
  • The show: For dinner we ate at this very hip place that TJ knew (he seems to know all the hip places and is thus a valuable addition to any adventuring party), and it was called Start The Bus. Wow! Even the website is hip! The walls had been painted with quirky, professionally done doodles, with strange cartoons ("Sometimes you just want chips," says a doodle with chips protruding from mouth, nose, and ears.) and a Boston Tea Party-esque array of furniture. Almost oppressively hip. After that experience we traveled to the O2 Academy for the show, where at the door they took my camera (sigh) and so I have no pictures of what was otherwise an incredible night.
    The Drums, an American band, had a lead singer who was twig-like, blonde, and felt the overpowering need to make robotic gestures as he sang such fun songs as "Let's Go Surfing." Part of what I love about concerts is the audience participation. The lead singer of the Bombay Bicycle Club looked so happy when the crowd sang along with him (the crowd is a being with one voice and many hands.) As for the Maccabees' performance, well, let me just say that this band will probably define my time in Exeter.

London - Spoon, The White Rabbits

My next trip, for expenses' sake, was conducted in a low-budget way - cheap coach, cheap hostel, but these things weren't even hindrances. My time in London was amazingly fun. We spent most of it in the part of London known as Camden, which - well - I've mentioned before. It's my favorite part of London. It's probably the best place in the world. The atmosphere, the people, the market, the pubs, the music; everything is slightly off-beat, run-down in some places but charming and sharp in others, crowded and colorful, full of people selling things, wanderers, musicians, strangely-dressed folks and mundanely-dressed folks, huge statues of horses and labyrinthine markets hung with fairy lights and chandeliers, shops smelling of incense and the tang of spices mingling with the cool winter air and the press of voices.

In short, it is another world.

Now, as for the show, it took place in a venue called The Electric Ballroom. Somehow, some way, TJ and I were able to scoot right on up to the front of the crowd. I got to lean against the rail and be mere feet away from the bands, just like at the Frightened Rabbit show. I even got to take my camera in! The White Rabbits, whose music is full of energy on the studio album, is even more attention-grabbing on stage, and their performance was - how shall I say this? - electric. They swapped singing duties and instruments like it was nothing. I was enthralled, and then Spoon came on. Now, if you don't listen to Spoon's music, you should. Hearing all the songs I loved being played right in front of me, everything else disappeared. That night was seriously one of the best ever, right up there with Frightened Rabbit.

Afterward, the crowd left pretty quickly, but I wanted to meet Spoon. We caught sight of, and were able to talk to, two of the band's members, but Britt, the lead singer, evanesced before we knew it. While we were talking, a security guard came up (he was ushering out the stragglers) and asked us for our "passes" (like press passes, or backstage passes, I suppose). Dazedly, I handed him our tickets, which he seemed to accept as justification for our presence there, and so we were able to continue talking with half of Spoon long after everyone else was evacuated. It was great.

In closing: fried eggs.


The silver ball at Bristol - sadly out of focus (that's us!)

White Rabbits

White Rabbits

White Rabbits