May 2018

Bizarre Bath Comedy Walk

Jennifer, Maddie, and myself decided to take advantage of a warm spring evening for some comedy centered around the city of Bath.  We met our guide outside the Huntsman.  He was a hilarious jokester with a penchant for improv.  One of the first stunts he did was take us to the “red light district of Bath”, where he claimed to be able to sense lay lines.  To prove his point he had a member of our group blindfold him, and he began his quest for a lay line.  Thus I think we may have shocked a poor taxi driver who was innocently minding his own business when a blindfolded man dressed entirely in purple stumbled past, followed by a large group of earnest tourists.  Right after this stunt a bizarre biker flew past, wearing a bag on his head.  Our guide quickly quipped that he must be off to find the Stonehenge lay lines.

The next big stunt involved a stuffed bunny named Stu, who was an escape artist following in the footsteps of Houdini.  The poor creature was bound and weighted before being tossed in the river, but miraculously emerged unscathed.

After creating a balloon animal (not without recreating the music from Psycho) that rather resembled a “dog from Chernobyl” we made our way to Bath Abbey.  For his next stunt her borrowed a lady’s wedding ring to tie to a balloon.  Alas, it slipped from his grasp and began to peacefully meander over the abbey.  Lost forever, surely.  Well not quite.  Who should emerge to save the day?  None other than Stu the stuffed bunny, who rolled in on a little motorized car accompanied by the ring.

We next made our way to a little area with the world’s “largest bonsai tree” and wooden stocks.  Jennifer was selected to help with a demonstration, and was promptly placed in said stocks.  Our guide then produced a large saw and a bucket, presumably to catch poor Jennifer’s head.  Luckily the only thing harmed by his saw were some carrots.  I have photograph evidence of this event, but I’ve been sworn not to release them on the internet, lest we have to revisit the stocks…

I don’t know who took the time to wander around Bath and find little funny anecdotes and structures around the city, but it certainly makes for an amusing evening.

Walking to Bradford-on-Avon (Legitimately)

Since the hike to Bristol, it seemed only fitting to attempt the canal path in the opposite direction towards Bradford-on-Avon.  Maddie graciously took me up on this quest.  After visiting Henrietta Park and Sydney Gardens, we made our way to the path itself.  We were quickly greeted by a canal boat market, where various goods were being sold and different instruments were being played.  It was somewhat reminiscent of Glastonbury.

The canal path was quite busy.  A balmy 75 degrees (Fahrenheit) seems to coax out the English.  We even ran into a fellow ASE student who happened to be roller-skiing down the path.  It was a gorgeous day.

After crossing a canal bridge that took us over the river (Maddie described this as a sort of water inception, with water flowing over water), the path we were on suddenly turned into a trail.  Before we knew it, we were in the woods overlooking the canal, where we could see travelers in the distance continuing on their merry way on the opposite side of the water.  We had missed crossing the canal, and now we were in a bit of a quandary, stuck in the woods.  We decided to take a chance and hope that this trail would meet up with the canal path again.  Little did we know that we would soon have our perseverance tested by various obstacles.

The first was, aptly, mud.  Not quite Keynsham level mud that I had seen on my first canal excursion.  But significant mud none the less.  I have a tendency to approach mud with a fair amount of optimism (it is an adventure after all) but Maddie wasn’t as enthused as I was by the prospect of mud crossing.

Our second obstacle was a fallen tree across our path.  This was much more suited to Maddie’s taste, and she easily perched herself on the tree, becoming quite fond of it.

At this point I had the Road to El Dorado song “The Trail We Blaze” stuck in my head.  We eventually came to the end of the woods where we were greeted with a field that we began to cross.  As we approached the opposite side, it became apparent that the whole area was enclosed, and no gate was evident in any obvious way.  Rather than search for such a gate, Maddie declared that we would scale the wall.  Which we did with a fair degree of success.

After this excursion we were now at a road that allowed us to return to the proper canal path.  We eventually hit some nice shaded areas alongside the water, which made for pleasant traveling.

We soon made our way to the town of Avoncliff, where we stopped for some light food and air conditioning.  We then forged onward, eventually taking a little trail to walk along the river rather than the canal, which was a more direct route to Bradford-on-Avon.

Keep in mind that during this adventure I’m hiking along with a trusty walking stick found during our detour into the woods.  Walking sticks may make me a strange sight to more casual travelers, but they are quite useful.

Finally we reached our destination of Bradford-on-Avon.  It was a pretty town that was fun to casually explore before stopping for a drink.  Maddie introduced me to the refreshing deliciousness that is Old Mout cider, before we made our way to the train station for the final leg of our journey back to Bath.  We ended the day with 10 miles, over 28,000 steps, beautiful pictures, and a great adventure successfully completed.

Laurel’s Art Showcase

The end of our time in England is approaching, and thus we’ve moved into the stage where we begin celebrating the culmination of our studies (in addition to final papers, dissertations, and exams…).  This past Thursday was an excellent example of this.  Laurel has been doing a tutorial over the course of the semester on printmaking, and was showcasing some of her work at a local art gallery.  Sarah was interning there and did a great job helping with setup and refreshments, accompanied by two excellent servers in the form of Andrew and Jonathan.

It was fun to see another student’s work on display, and especially to see the influence of her family and personal experience on her art.  We were also able to peruse other exhibits, which used all sorts of different mediums, including wood and sculpture.  It was a great way to experience art and highlight the accomplishments of a semester.

Jane Austen Dancing: Take Six

Wednesday nights have been marked by Jane Austen dancing, and this Wednesday was no different.  There were several new people at the event, and as such it seems like we chose some easier songs.  But this meant that I could attempt to make some quality improvements.  I still struggle with footwork.  One of the typical callers was my partner for one dance, and she helped guide me through setting (a little side to side step).  I turns out I had been assuming it was based on a one-two beat when it was really one-two-three.  Small things like that make a real difference in dance accuracy and quality.

At one point when my partner and I stepped out for a section, I grabbed my phone to take some pictures.  Martin graciously took over for and took some great video where you can see me attempting Jane Austen dancing.  I’ve been wanting to get some proper evidence of my work for a while now, and now I have it!


Internship Reflection

Over the past semester I’ve had the chance to intern at Suited & Booted Studios, a short film and documentary company based here in Bath.  I’ve gotten to assist with a range of tasks, from pre-production to communication to even some light editing and acting.  I’ve learned a lot about the workplace, and most especially a small British workplace.

My last day reiterated to me just how wonderful the people at my internship are.  Around 4pm I was called upstairs to the meeting room, where I was greeted by all of the employees who had set up a cream tea for me (one of the most British send-offs you could have).  They had set up scones and butter (cream) and jam and tea (which sparked many conversations about how you pronounce scone and do you put cream or jam on your scone first?).  They had all signed a lovely card for me.  And to top it all off, they got me a present.  I had mentioned a few times about my exploits with Jane Austen dancing, which they found highly amusing.  And so they had gotten me a CD of Jane Austen era music!

It was a lovely way to end my time at my internship.  I’m so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work with such great people.

Bath and the Transatlantic Slave Trade Talk

Bath is a gorgeous Georgian city.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that its history is as pleasant as its architecture.  The evening began with some refreshments and drinks, before launching into an explanation of Bath’s connection to the slave trade.  Nearby cities were also heavily implicated.  Our speaker had read my blog, and specifically referenced our attempted walk to Bristol.  Apparently Bristol was a huge port connected to the trade.  And numerous individuals in Bath profited specifically from plantations.  A lot of the discussion was history oriented, but I managed to comment with a bit of neuroscience, as there is research to suggest that when we dehumanize people, we literally do so at the level of the brain. Areas that respond to inanimate objects like rocks will activate, but not the areas that respond to fellow humans.  It’s a disturbing insight into how atrocities are allowed to happen.

The second portion of the session was devoted to Andrew, who once again acted as our city guide.  He took as to several different points around Bath, telling us about the history and the people involved.  He was so engaging that I believe a couple of tourists briefly joined our group to take pictures.  He ended by quoting some disturbing remarks of our own Nelson of Nelson house (the main academic building of the program).  Many of us agreed that we should rename the building in Andrew’s honor.

The evening provided important insights into the reality of Bath.  History and truth should not be forgotten, no matter how unpleasant.

A Night of Poetry, Magic, and Music

I met up with Maddie, Emily, and Kinaya to walk to the St. James Wine Vaults for a unique evening.  We’ve attended many events during our time in Bath, but not many put young people front and center, and it turned out that this would be an excellent opportunity to experience British youth culture.

Of course, we didn’t know that going into the night.  We weren’t sure what to expect from an event entitled Garbage, Gay, Vaginas, and Magic.  But as it turned out, it seemed to be a night showcasing creativity, largely from Bath Spa University students.

Our MC for the night was Garbage Girl, face decorated with glitter.  She introduced the first segment, which was poetry.  Some of it dripped with the angst that has come to be associated with the millennial generation.  But through it all was a sharing of experiences through the beauty of words.

The second segment was a magic show.  Due to the large number of people, our magician for the night chose a central location to perform his act, which just happened to be in front of our table!  He performed many card tricks with a smattering of coin magic thrown in, often choosing audience members such as Maddie and Emily to participate.  I used to dabble in magic myself, so I could occasionally see some of the mechanics of what he was doing, but it didn’t detract from the fun experience.

The last segment was music.  Our first performer was YONIC, who performed various hilarious and yet poignantly truthful feminist songs.  To give you a taste, an ode to armpit hair was her opening number.  And our last act for the night was Garbage Girl herself, who performed some raw personal pieces.

The event was a great opportunity to relax and hang out with British people our own age, and take in their various crafts.


Bath Skyline Walk and Sham Castle

Maddie has become the resident expert of the Bath Skyline Walk.  She’s visited the trail over a dozen times, and was thankfully kind enough to act as my guide for my first excursion on the trail.  This was especially useful since the entrance can be a bit tricky to find.  She took me up to her favorite tree, where you can easily perch and see a gorgeous view of Bath laid out below you.

From there she showed me how to find Sham Castle, a famous landmark in Bath.  The structure is a facade of a castle, seemingly created purely for aesthetic reasons.  While certainly an oddity, it was beautiful to see the evening light fading on Bath from underneath it’s arch.

We ended our time with a stroll through a field back to the city.  It was a lovely time that blended the best that the city and the surrounding nature has to offer.

The British Film Institute and The Telegraph

My study trip for my UK Media in a Globalized World class involved a trip back to London.  We had two stops: the first at the British Film Institute and the second at The Telegraph.

At the BFI we had the opportunity to explore the online archives, where I found some fascinating older documentaries.  While definitely not politically correct, the documentaries provided a great deal of insight into the perspectives of the times, as the interviewees were quite open with their opinions and views.

Our second stop was at The Telegraph, a major English newspaper company.  Our tour guide was an older gentleman who had been in the business for over fifty years.  His enthusiasm for his job and the business of the newspaper was inspiring.  He explained to us that his heart pounds every day as he comes into work, just thinking about putting out the evening editions of the newspaper.  It was wonderful to see someone so passionate about their work.

Overall the outing was a great way to highlight British media, both through film and print.

Jane Austen Dancing: Take Five

My fifth Jane Austen dancing session was unique in that the event was divided into two parts.  The first half was dedicated to a costume workshop and demonstration, followed by the normal practice in the second half.

Jane Austen enthusiasts showed off all sorts of needlework and costuming, before beginning a wonderfully entertaining skit.  The costumes were amazing, and the skit itself did a great job imitating posh socializing of the time.  But perhaps the biggest highlight was Martin (one of the most photographed men in Bath for his reenactment work at the Jane Austen Centre) acting as the announcer for the arrival of the “guests” in the skit.  His booming voice was hilarious.

The regular practice was excellent as well.  As we only had half a section, we took no breaks.  And because most of the participants were regulars, more vigorous and difficult dances were used.  I was most definitely sweating by the end.  But we had the chance to perform two of my favorite dances: the sea shanty and the one with stomping (and I learned that the proper name for this latter dance is the College Hornpipe)!  It was another excellent session of Jane Austen dancing.