Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Last Leg of 2008

Remember me? I know, I know.... it's been a long time. I blame the condition of being a graduate student. The course work this semester ate up nearly all of my time, but I have hopes that next term will be just as invigorating while being a little less rigorous. It's an irrational hope, I know. I'll be starting my thesis during the semester, so the realistic view from here is a pile of books and wall-eye from staring at my computer for so long. I'm excited!

It's fairly uncharacteristic of us to stay put for so long without taking any trips, but one's coming up soon. Just after the New Year, we'll head up to Scotland for a few days, and then, to balance things out, we'll spend a couple days seeing London and then Windsor Castle. I'm surprisingly excited about Windsor Castle! It's so gigantic! The Queen still spends time there! It's in all the movies! They'll be showing a special exhibition in honor of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales! Okay, that one didn't deserve an exclamation point. It was just a statement. However, I'm sure we'll tour the exhibition.

In all seriousness, though, I've wanted to see Edinburgh for a long time.... much more than I've wanted to see any parts of England. I think it's because of their underdog status - Scotland and Ireland have always been the poor relatives of England, and I don't know even know what to say about Wales. Wales is its own country, yes, but, well, Charles is the Prince of Wales, so... well, I don't know what conclusion to draw from that. I suppose Wales is simply the lesser-known entity in the British Isles. I'd very much like to see it, though the Norfolk folk seem to have a disdain for Wales (perhaps a testament to that same poor relative status?), and they tend to spit the word out like an olive pit, much as they do with the word Scotland (that one's a much larger olive pit). I suppose that all these countries have been rubbing up against each other for a millenium, and they have a little sibling rivalry. At any rate, I will surely post many pictures of various places around the island when we return from our little trip, so keep an eye out.

Norwich has been an easy place to be, though, and as the weather gets colder and Christmas gets closer, it's been a bit more festive and beautiful outside.

St Peter Mancroft Church

They've erected an ice rink in front of the town forum (where one can find the city library, the tourist information center, and BBC Norwich), and it is the smallest ice rink I have ever seen. If I weren't the most terrible ice skater of all time, I would probably give it a whirl, because it's sandwiched by the Forum and the St. Peter Mancroft Church, which is quite beautiful. The Forum is very modern, while the Church was built in the 1400s.

Forum reflecting the St P.M. Church

The ice rink, though, is much less of a local attraction than the sheer number of places to shop in Norwich. The slim lanes and the market square are full of holiday shoppers pushing buggies and toting bags from the Primark and the Topshop (the former being the absolute cheapest place to buy non-secondhand clothes that I have ever seen - it's truly incredible). I would think that with the economy tanking the way it is, the shopping would be curbed a bit - or kerbed, as they sometimes spell it here. (The spelling differences are numerous and sometimes hilarious. The slang, too, sometimes leaves me guessing.) However, the shoppers are out in droves, though they are noticeably less rabid than many American Christmas shoppers. The people here, for instance, would probably not trample anyone to death. I have to give them that.

Brad will probably have to work way too many hours over the holidays, but both of us know that our real celebration will be getting on the train and traveling for a few days, so it isn't too bad. As for myself, I have an essay to write (yes, still) and I'll be thinking of family and friends. By this time next year, we'll surely be back in the contiguous United States, and we'll be able to celebrate with you in person, not just in thought. In the meantime, don't make fun of our little tree.


So Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope the New Year is full of cheer and good luck...