Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Well, we dodged the bullet last month [one of those implausible metaphors: I trust I will never be in a situation where I have a micro instant to decide whether to jump to the left or to the right, up or down, to avoid such a missile. I’d be dead as I’m the type who doesn’t usually act precipitously; I like to weigh the advantages of all the options.*] What I mean by this metaphor is that we decided to stick to our guns [oops, again – summon DR FREUD and his ‘psychopathology of the everyday blogger’) and ran our autumn 2012 term at the usual time, partly because we have led off with the Edinburgh festival for a dozen years now and partly because we want the students home by Christmas. Why was it a risk?
The problem we faced was the ‘once in a lifetime’ uniquess of the period 27 July to September 9, the period when London hosted the games of the XXX Olympiad and the Paralympics, plus the associated greed of house owners and landlords to make serious money out of the tourist trade. Apologies: cancel ‘greed’, and substitute ‘take advantage of favourable market conditions’. Luckily, our gamble paid off. Students were able to get housed without too much stress [says me, who helps from the side-lines]. We’re already in our second week of classes and all systems are ‘go’. Of course, in the process we lost ‘our’ Claire to the University of the ‘Arts’ [Sarah’s alma mater], and we all agree that she will be a hard act to follow. But we’ve found a strong replacement who will be introducing herself to our regular readers in mid-month. Meanwhile we wish our departed ‘blogmeister’ Claire the best of luck in her new surroundings near the river where HM Prison Milbank used to be. And we hope that her new glove fits and doesn’t interfere too much with her typing and her cooking! We also recommend, while thinking about safety in the big city, that she not wear her bejewelled glove on public transport, while shopping at Tesco’s or at Primark, or anywhere south of the river, at least until she gets the glove insured or buys a Rottweiler for company. We spare no expense in our leaving gifts.
What else has been happening? We always top load the semester with extracurricular activities to give students a better grounding in their new surroundings. On Friday morning half the group toured the ‘mother of parliaments’ in Westminster where they learned something of the arcane mysteries of the place which won British [and American] liberties. From ‘Black Rod’ banging on the door of the Commons after having it slammed shut in his face, to ‘sticky wickets’ [see blog 2] in the afternoon, to the truncated St Bart’s the Great in West Smithfield where ‘mel gibson’ lost his head, arms, legs, innards and outer appendage(s), to the flags of the BIG 12 livery companies in the Guildhall hanging limply down into this massive hall [the 3rd largest in the UK after Westminster and Canterbury], to the site of gladiatorial gore in the Roman amphitheatre under the Guildhall yard, to the ringing of ‘bow bells’ which, by legend, summoned the despondent Dick Whittington and his cat back from Highgate Hill to try one more time to make his name and fortune in London [which he did, becoming Lord Mayor 4 times], then to rugby in Richmond [Richmond Football Club founded 1861 just as the US Civil war was starting] and finally to 6 east London Sunday markets with the mandatory purchase of fresh beigels in the Brick Lane beigel shops. Then to top it all off, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield! What a sweet weekend!
This Friday and Saturday we finish orientation by getting the group outside this most un-english of English cities to Avebury [medieval village lurking in Neolithic circle], Glastonbury [a bit on the new age side, not unlike Ithaca], beautiful and tranquil Wells, the UNESCO world heritage site, Bath [pr. Baaath], and finally Stonehenge. The west country or ‘Wessex’, en route to ‘Sarah’s land’ [Wales], home of dragons and source of the Arthurian legends, is the heartland of England. ‘Wessex’ reminds us that this is a beautiful country, especially if you have occasion to sit on a village green, watching cricket while reading a good book [the two are not incompatible], sipping a local brew and hearing on the radio that your side just scored its fourth goal against Chelsea/Man U/ other suspects. Oui, c’est la vie!
*Probably the decision to marry was the only one I took precipitously, not unlike other people I know.
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