Saturday, November 14, 2009

Famous Folks and Famous Places

I shouldn't have let my head get all inflated with the rapidity of my last posts. I am obviously terrible at this. And this post will be a monster, so I hope whatever you have stopped doing isn't that important cause you're in for a doozy.

(Jeez, Lina, you're not that interesting. You've just met some people we've never heard of and then stood in fields and towns.)

So it all starts the day after I got back from Snowdonia. The Bristol Festival of Ideas was in full swing, and their event for the evening was hosting possibly the second most exciting person for me to see whilst on this small Island. St George's (either a current or former Cathedral a block from where I live) was hosting Alan Davies! I went to see him alone for QI has very much not caught on with any of my friends here yet, though I have found an ally in Ariana's roommate Damien for the future. Either way, he was mostly interviewed about his book, which I would like to read but is a bit expensive and about a time period from way before I was born but hey ho such is life, and he also answered some questions about QI and Jonathan Creek. At the bit of Q&A they had at the end someone asked if ever there was anyone on QI who he didn't really get along with. This prompted a nice little tid-bit in that most of the people on the show (he named Jo Brand, Sean Locke, Bill Bailey, and Phill Jupitus) used to all do comedy together in the 80s when they were all unknowns. That makes those episodes sort of a reunion which is why they seem like such fun. Without naming names, he did say that if someone has only been on the show once, with the exception of Pam Ayres, it means they are "a bit of a twat". My other favourite from the evening was prompted from someone asking him whether he was happy with the celebrity that has come from Jonathan Creek and QI. He said "I live in the first world and I'm employed so I can already say that I'm pretty happy. Also, everyone I know, literally every last person I know wants to meet Stephen Fry, so that's not too bad either." Got right to the heart of the matter for me. Afterwards he stuck around to sign copies of his book. I didn't have one, but he was kind enough to sign my black book whist I stared at him adoringly and in awe. Afterwards I had to look at pictures to believe it had happened. It was madness, I was so star-struck. Hoy. Cool.

Later that week brought the royal we to Halloween. It wasn't the biggest of deals here cause they are dressed-up (in "fancy dress") all the time here anyway. Honestly, I see roving bands of smurfs all the time as they roll from pub to pub. Either way, us Study-Abroaders all got together, got dolled up, and then spent the night as we often do: pre-drinking, then roving from house to house to venue to venue. We had to come back and pour some members of the party to bed earlier on, but then the real survivors of the group got some lovely food from the chippy, sat down on the docks by the harbour, and witnessed our friends running through the fountain. All in all a good time. I didn't get to be any of the propaganda girls I wanted to be (either Rosie or Victory Bonds) because I left it too late and I don't think they had the same propaganda we did so it wouldn't have been understood. C'est la vie. At least my costume allowed me to buy a dress I had been wanting for a while anyway.

Unfortunately, boys and girls, things slowed down after that because I had a monster paper and a presentation due the following week, so unless you want to hear about my opinions on the various libraries at the University of Bristol (Wills is obviously nicer, but not open as long as Arts and Social Sciences [that's right, ASS], nor with the resources I need. . . .) I'll stop now.

Two nights ago, my first proper night out since I finished the paper, Beatrice took us to Itchy Feet. Itchy Feet is held once a month a club farther than I have gone before (called Lakota, which, to North Americans, is a gimmicky topical pain reliever rather than a rockin' good time), which plays mostly 50s and 60s music. The DJ of course dropped some Michael Jackson and the remix of RESPECT which made it horrible to sing along to, but a good time was had by all. The night had started with snooker and conversation at a pub with other Study Abroadsters and UBESies and ultimately finished with Chips and Cheese with Burger Sauce (I KNOW) from the Hunger Hatch, so was quite profitable if indeed financially draining.

Last night saw me towards a FANTASTIC night of Canadiana. Dan Mangan, quite the hot guy in town in the alt-folk-indie-rock (yogurt on a street in Montreal) scene in Canada, was playing at a local pub in Bristol. Opening for him was another Vancouverite, Jimmy Goodrich, followed by two Brits, Stanton Delaplane and Jack Cheshire. Jack Cheshire was fantastic, he definitely will be one to watch for in the next couple years. I give him this generous time span because when we bought his album it was a three-song EP on a burnable disk that he had scrawled on, but the songs contained in were lovely of course. I'm being bad with chronology though.

The show started at 7:30, so, cause we were keen (I was there with fellow Canadians Brendan, Ariana, and Marika) we showed up while they were still setting up, thoroughly making fools of ourselves yet getting to talk to Dan a bit. When they were ready, we were some of the first people up there (second floor of the pub, about the size of a living room), and so got some awesome seats. Brendan and I bought copies of his new album "Nice, Nice, Very Nice" which he then signed for us. The rest of the folks played, fantastically. Jack Cheshire, who was the second-to-last performer was from Bristol, and, as it turned out, much of the crowd were there to see him. Thus, when it was Dan's turn to play a bunch of the audience had left, save for a loyal group of Canadians (other than ourselves). He was entirely charming and personable, joking and chatting with us throughout (joking that, unlike the other cats who had sung before him, if he tried to loop over himself as Stanton Delaplane had done he would just sounds like a "gravelly bag of rocks"). He was very heartfelt with his performance, almost bringing me to tears when singing a song about grandparents getting old, and putting on SUCH a good performance of Robots, my favourite song of his. He really played up Canada, ie played well to the crowd of ex-pats, and seemed to have sincerely enjoyed himself, which I hope is true cause I sure did.

In response to my night of hyper-Canadiana, I then had a day of super-Britannia with Ariana. She had sussed out a tour that took us from Bath 'round to Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock, and Castle Combe, all quintessential sights and sounds of the Southwest. We were only in Bath for about half-an-hour before our tour picked us up, but I was smitten just then. The weather was beautiful, just the right temperature and sunny but with idyllic clouds, so I will very much have to go back soon and spend a day there. We hopped onto the mini-bus with other super-tourists like ourselves from the States, Australia, and China. Our tour-guide was the grandfatherly and utterly charming Charles who was knowledgeable and kind. I've had some very bad experiences with tour guides in the past, but he was absolutely what you would want in such a character. He first took us to Stonehenge, explaining local histories and little tid-bits about the environs all the while of the hour-long drive.

To those who have said that Stonehenge is not as impressive in person, poo-poo to you sirs and madams. I was entirely impressed. I admit, it was smaller than it seems to be in popular imagination, but the sheer size and fame and inexplicability of them overwhelmed me. We were given an hour to walk around the henge (the distance of which would take about 10 minutes to walk), but Ariana and I were still the last ones on the bus. We got an excellent combination of sunny and cold and windy and rainy, all conditions British. I took altogether too many photos to be of interest to anyone else, but when will I be there again? Stunning. It was then back onto the minibus and off to Avebury.

The whole of the town of Avebury is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Throughout the town are stone circles dating from prehistory, similar in ilk to Stonehenge. These stones were a bit more ravaged by time, weather, politics, and religion than Stonehenge, so fewer of them remain. Stillawesome though. They are sort of hard to explain in a blog post in that to the casual observer they look like a big pile of rocks in a circle but when one is actually there one finds oneself fascinated. Or in my case romantically inclined? Lies, I stole this photo from Ariana who has an academic and romantic love for Avebury of which I could not compare, but I did like it very much.

After Avebury we were taken to Lacock, famous for being in the movie-films. The whole of the town is no more than on block square, but because it was so very old is often used as a set. One of the streets was used in the Sixth Harry Potter as Hogsmeade, and one of the homes was used as the former home of Lily and James Potter. Another one of the streets was used in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice as well as a recent Dame Judy Dench period piece. Aside from taking pictures of all these streets and ducking into the (which he ate and donated to the) National Trust shop pretending to be interested in shortbread whilst avoiding the icy rain, we had a charming pub lunch in a pub that has had its license since the 1300s. I mean, really.

Our final stop of the day took us to Castle Combe in the Cotswolds. This village used to be big in the wool industry, but entered a slump which devastated the growth of the town. Therefore, to this day, it is one street long, and the only people who can afford to live there are wealthy commuters. To that end though, the town is pretty much perfectly preserved. We were shown around the church which was built in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, and then given free reign to walk down the one street and have a gander of the creek, which we duly did, posing along the way. I again was, of course, thorough charmed. Also by this time though I was throughout wet and cold, and so hopping back on to the minibus for a half-hour drive through misty but idyllic countryside was not frowned upon.

Therefore, to sum up: I like England and the People in it.

And I like you too.


Your friend Lina

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fun handful of days indeed. I'm jealous of course.