Friday, October 23, 2009

As October Rolls On

What ho, what ho!

I know I've been terribly remiss in posting. . . I know this because some of my loyal readers have been kindly reminding me that I haven't posted in a month. But! This means that I'm having fun right? You wouldn't want me to be posting all the time about how I've been sitting in my room so these tomes few and far between are better for both of us. It doesn't mean I don't love you, just that. . . I'm new to this, I suppose. So let's play some catch-up.

(Fun fact: ketchup tastes different here. As does mayonnaise.)

So my month of October has been filled with lots of school, societies, sights, sounds, cider, and sickness.

My classes for this semester are Henry V, the Early Reformation, and Christianity and Islam: relations therein. They are very different from my interests at home, but I am warming to them over time. Save for Christianity and Islam because there is a mail strike and I have yet to receive my introductory text and I have NEVER done anything pre-four digit dates before. All the profs are wonderful though, and wonderfully accented, and since there is so little class time it doesn't really interfere too much with my schedule. We are expected to do most of the learning ourselves through copious amounts of reading, which I am working my way into slowly. It helps though that I live less than a block away from a charming cafe (local, organic, donates to charity and what not) where I've had one of my best study experiences of all time: reading about the financial finagling of Henry V (more interesting that in seems, at least for me), drinking drip coffee (OH MAN I miss coffee), listening to the Fleet Foxes playing in the background, all with big smooshy couches and polka-dot tablecloths. I think I should be fine.

The other lovely thing about British schools, aside from the small amount of time spent at them, is the proliferation of societies. People go in for clubs and such much more here than at home, so they are really where you meet people. At the "Freshers Fair" I joined pretty much any club that offered candy or food, but the ones I've stuck with are the Bristol University Sustainability Team (BUST), the University of Bristol Expedition Society (UBES), the Cheese Society, and the History Society. They host socials, showing us noobs the best pubs and clubs, and though some may seem like their only point is drinking they all seem to have a cause as well. This weekend I am going, with some friends as well as about 25 others, to Snowdonia in Wales with UBES. It was a bit expensive to kit myself out - sleeping bag, hiking shoes, waterproof trousers (not pants, cause those would be diapers. . . so I just embarrass myself all the time whilst shopping) - but the trips sound like such fun, and their socials have been the best so far, so I'm sure it will all be worth it. I'll be sure to post sooner to let you all know how it went. BUST is also filled with lovely people who are super-organized and are tackling tonnes of issues surrounding sustainability in Bristol. Luckily, Bristol is going for the title of being a "Green City" in Europe, and the University wants to up its reputation as well, so they have allies at all different levels. I'm missing the Cheese Soc social tonight to go to Snowdonia. . . but who doesn't like free fancy cheese. . . and the ensuing wine? We'll go in the future. I had to miss the last History Soc thing too, but I'll go to their next socials and find people to come to Bletchley with me and such.

You'll also be proud that I've started the grand "I've come to England to meet celebrities" plan as well. On the 7th, when one bought their album, one was able to see a free concert of Mumford and Sons. It was glorious. Up until that evening I had only been able to listen to them on MySpace, and though I begrudge the medium nothing, only four songs leaves a lot to be desired. They put on a wonderful show, though. They were actually playing in Bath that evening and had just run over from their sound-check to play a half-hour set, but they stuck around to sign autographs (though I was too far back in the queue and just missed Marcus Mumford), and since it was such a small place I was able to congratulate them in person. Their album? Amazing. If in the meanwhile you want to check them out, which I highly suggest you do, their MySpace is They are a folky band, lots of banjos and accordions and such, but Marcus Mumford has a really gravelly voice and writes a killer lyric.

Much of my time during the weeks and weekends revolves around pubs and hanging out with friends, so a tad hard, and boring, to chronicle, but I will say that cider is still treating me well. I've even started to become a bit of a snob about it too: no more of this fizzy Strongbow nonsense. I'll have to bring the proper stuff back at Christmas. It really is delish. We've also been finding lots of pubs to call our own which makes me feel like I am assimilating somewhat. One of the best is the Highbury Vaults where many of the society socials have been held. It looks like your classic British pub, as they all do I guess, but they also have a covered terrace which is lovely when you are there with 30 other members of your society, plus the regulars, cause it gets rather steamy. Just to make it even better, before it was a pub, it housed the vaults that criminals would be locked in before they were to be hanged on the top of Bristol Hill. Wonderful no? Another favourite is this place called The Woods, quite near where we live, which looks like Canada on the inside. It has two floors, a patio, and is decorated with antlers, bugs, Victorian wallpaper, wainscoting. What more could a girl ask for? Or, at least, could this girl ask for? The crowd there is a bit older, and the drinks there a bit pricier, but definitely a contender for a quieter night out. Finally, there is the Coronation Tap (CoriTap to locals), which is a Bristol favourite. Tucked away down a dead-end in Clifton is this lovely pub which made me feel like I was in an episode of Heartbeat. They are the sole providers of Exhibition Cider, a drink so strong they will only sell it in half-pints. We all got some, then listened to a charming folk band and people watched the absolutely CLASSIC old British men and women joke about. It was so much Britain concentrated I almost had an overdose. Although it's me we're talking about, aren't we, so there could be no such thing. Just sayin', if you come, we're going there.

Speaking of Canada, way back I grant, my friend Marika also hosted a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner for us Canadians, Canadian-Americans, and Americans on Thanksgiving Monday. We each contributed a dish, but they were all very Thanksgiving-y so it didn't feel like a pot-luck at all. Brendan made two chickens (there were no turkeys to be found for love nor money), Marika made peas and pumpkin pie, Ariana made mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, and Adrianna and Annika made salad and brought wine. I was sick at the time (ugh, still am), so I was on photograph and dish duty. It tasted just like home; we ate, drank, and were merry; and we even each said what we were thankful for. It was such a hit that our hope is to get together each week to have a proper dinner (Marika's place is HUGE and she has a lovely kitchen). It was unfortunately cancelled last week due to everyone being down with the plague, but I'll take more food pictures for when they happen in the future.

Chronologically before Thanksgiving Adrianna, Ariana, and I took a day trip to Cardiff as well. Trains here? Wonderful. You hop a train, a proper train, like VIA Rail, and within an hour you are in a different country. We were only there for about four hours, so we spent all of our time at the Cardiff Castle. Within the castle walls, upon a hill, is the Norman Keep, of course the oldest part of the whole do. Along one side is also a Victorian manner home. So really, I got to satiate all my history-based longings in one, let alone be totally charmed by the sheer silliness of the Welsh language (disclaimer: Welsh is not a silly language, but it does look so to us travellers from an arcane land). Really, the pictures speak for themselves. My reaction was very much like it is for everything I see here: 1) Gorgeous 2) Old! So delightfully old! I still need to see so many more whilst I am here, but the trip to Cardiff was a nice little getaway in the meanwhile.

So, I guess those were the highlights of my first month-ish here. I'm enjoying myself immensely and have been chronicling poorly, so do forgive me. I will try to be better. Expect one next week about Snowdonia aaaaand, drumroll for QI fans, Alan Davies! He's being interviewed at St. George's and I have snagged myself a ticket. I can't seem to book any tickets for the next season of QI yet, so this will have to satiate me until that time. I will take lots of silly school girl pictures and be a bumbling fool for all at home who feel this same way.

Toodle pip till then,

Your friend Lina

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