Some Time For A Jubilee

Published August 1, 2011 by Aker

Abbey Road

Saturday was music day for me! I went to the O2, which was a mall-like venue under a huge white tent at North Greenwich. Besides flat fountains that spouted up water, restaurants, a cinema and a Titanic exhibition, there was also The British Music Experience, interactive museum, and that was my destination. The museum had the concert feel, the doors opened at scheduled times and you walked into a dark room to watch on a short video on how the museum worked. Then you walked down a hall which felt like the same walk musicians go down before they hit the big stage: a lot of noise and strobe lights. The next set of doors opened to reveal a circular room with British music of the past 66 years (1945-2011) divided into sections based on the musical era. In each section, were rooms filled with fake keyboards and guitar frets used to select short clips discussing each item in the display case. Then there was a huge screen displaying facts from each time period that you could click on. with a huge mouse as well as jukebox machines to listen to several songs from each time period. Also, each room had short documentaries that you could watch with musicians and other creative people who were part of that time. Other sections in the middle of the room displayed media (ex. radio) technology that was used to broadcast music and music shows, dances over the years, geography and music, DJ culture and two studios in which you could actually play instruments. At the end, we walked into a dance club room where they mixed together all the music and music videos of over six decades on a screen to hear and see what music might sound like in the future. I find it interesting how much American, British and even Caribbean music are connected and influenced each other and I have a whole new crop of artists to listen to now. It was a great experience and worth my $12 ticket.

Abbey Road Studios

After I left the souvenir shop, I rode the Jubilee line again to St. John’s Wood and walked to Abbey Road, the famous crossing that was part of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album. It was hilarious to watch people try to do the pose before they were almost hit by cars; it is actual street that people walk and drive on (some say it should be cut off for visitors, but oh well). I walked a few feet down to Abbey Road Studios where people were taking pictures of the outside (visitors are not allowed to go in, boohoo) and signing the walls of the gate, so I signed it, too. On the wall, I wrote “Thanks for the great music – Sherese. BTW, I love Ringo!” Haha.


Over the Hills and Far Away

Published July 29, 2011 by Aker

As you can probably tell from my Led Zeppelin reference, we traveled far today. Where you ask? To Glastonbury! On what? A tour bus! We were off at eight in the morning and listened to our tour guide, Chris, as he told us histories behind the East end where our university is located. This is the area where Jack the Ripper roamed looking for his next victim, where the crime family the Krays committed crimes at the Blind Beggar pub and where Winston Chruchill went to the trial of the anarchists who did the Siege of Sidney Street. We continued to the Magnus Martyr, the place mentioned in T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, and the place where John Quincy Adams was married. We traveled under the bridges of London, where Chris mentioned the Waterloo Bridge, also known as the “Ladies’ Bridge” because it was built by women, and the Blackfriars Bridge, which was the site of a murder of an Italian banker for the Vatican.

Then we went deep into the countryside of England with the sheep, cows, bulls, horses and pigs. We passed by the Stonehenge and heard a brief history of it. As he told us the truths and legends behind King Arthur, we rode into Shrewtown, where they had a old-fashioned jail called the Cooler because they believed that a criminal had hot blood and so a cool stream of water flowed under the jail to cool them down while they were in there. Also, we passed by another town, a German one formed during the Cold War. The classed learned about the origins of the rhyme, Jack Horner, which was about a man named Thomas Horner who received deeds to manors made of lead, a metal with a latin name, Plumbum, hence the plum in the rhyme.

When we arrived to Glastonbury, we climbed a VERY HIGH holy hill, or tor, that was worst that climbing the 311 steps of the Monument and on the way met some sheep and a lot of feces. However, the view at the top, next to the St. Michael’s tower, was beautiful, even in the fog. Back down the hill, we went to the Chalice well, which was said to hold the Holy Grail. I drank from the water, which tasted like pennies. After that, we walked around the neighborhood and basically the people in Glastobury are “new age” types of people, aka hippies. They have a Glastonbury festival every year, which is comparable to Woodstock. At the end of the day, the bus passed London’s Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrods. So, today was a really productive day! Now for sleep!

Avenues and Alleyways

Published July 28, 2011 by Aker

The above song “Avenues and Alleyways” is by English singer Tony Christie and the song’s title covers where I have been going for the beginning of this week. I have observed the street performers, or as they are called here, buskers, in Piccadilly Circus, the mostly Muslim community of Whitechapel at night, the Docklands, the streets where the homes of Dracula (138 Piccadilly, where there is a Hard Rock Cafe now) and Sherlock Holmes (221B Baker Street) were located in the books and today, Brixton, a neighborhood similar to southeast Queens where I live in New York City. These places are definitely not your typical tourist attractions, but it is interesting to learn the history behind these neighborhoods.

Also, our professor introduced us to a 1966 British film, Morgan, which he was named after. It is actually a funny and engaging movie; not only because it has the wacky British comedy, but it also has subtle commentary on communism, capitalism, marriage, love and sanity. Here is a clip:

“…A Little Ejaculation of Impatience”

Published July 26, 2011 by Aker

The above quote is from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Empty House.” It is one of the several readings we had for this class and the line is how I have been feeling about this class lately. Three hour classes are not usually my style and this one drags on. Don’t get me wrong, Morgan, as we call him in class, instead of the more formal Professor Schulz or Professor, is an interesting character. He has tousled dirty blond hair, blue eyes and every other day wears a baggy orange pants, all of which makes him look like a surfer dude. He has a background in the military and went to West Point, but gave it up for his true passion in English and writing. Morgan knows a lot of information about books, movies, history and the process of writing (five W’s, five senses, time/situation/space,etc.) that is really helpful because I want to know how to effectively write long stories. He has introduced us to a wide range of stories, novels, books, authors, new ways of thinking about works that are now part of mainstream culture, such as Harry Potter, Dracula, V for Vendetta and to questioning everything, including ourselves. To top it off, he is actually funny and is not afraid to mock us and our cultural norms in a non-offensive way.

However, at times it is hard to connect to all that he is saying and sitting in class with him for three hours can be overwhelming and tiring, including the tiredness from touring around the city from the previous night and doing the readings. I understand most of what he says, but it is a lot to digest. Also, Morgan seems pompous in his deepness sometimes, as if he is claiming to know everything while at the same time stating he knows nothing. Moreover, he shows his privileges as a white, middle-class man at the strangest points. For example, a group of Jewish female students are in the class and he stated they were from Israel or declaring that the four African-American women, including myself, in the class were connected because we wrote about water and our mothers, our race and our names start with an S. He looks for something deeper in something that is just a coincidence or brings up a characteristic about us that has little to do with the conversation. Now I am in a conflicted space where I want to stay in London, but I also want this class to end or ease up a little. Maybe when this is over and I can reflect, I will appreciate it all more, but for now, while I am in the midst of it, I am getting antsy.

If I Could Save Time In A Bottle….

Published July 24, 2011 by Aker

The classic struggle and balancing act between being a tourer and tourist, and the obligation of being a student in a stuffy classroom and wanting to explore a new city. This is where I stand right now and it is exhausting. London has so much to see and I have so little time to see most of them, especially with a three-hour class five days a week and walking around London, which is tiring. But I will persevere… Did I mention that there is SO much to do in London.

Tuesday, the Tower of London:

Not much to say about it, but it does reinforce the fact that London is a very stony city. We went into two towers, the White Tower and the Bloody tower, before we were bored and decided to leave. I guess the history of the place as a tower for torturing and killing prisoners as well as the seat of power for the monarchy did not quite connect with us. However the Thames River walk did and I actually wrote my first piece for class on a staircase at the beginning of the walk along the Thames that led directly into the river. It may become a full piece of work by the end of this study abroad trip.

Wednesday: British Museum

The museum is huge! I went last week, but our professor wanted us to go again and it is still immense the second time around. Actually walking around with a journal in the museum, I noticed how many of the visitors were taking pictures of the artifacts and artwork in the exhibitions instead of actually looking at them and enjoying the experience. After a while, I was slightly annoyed by them and tried to get away from every person who was taking a picture…oh no, I am becoming more deep! haha.

Thursday: Dicken’s house and pub

Charles Dickens lived in a nice house. I stood next to the seat and desk where he wrote his last words, looked at the funny sketches on the walls, and saw his dingy looking washroom and wine cellar. Then we went to his favorite pub, The Lamb, for a few minutes but I didn’t get a drink (paper due next day, ugh!).




Friday: Ferry ride on the Thames to Greenwich

To the land where modern Time was invented! Wondering why London is five hours ahead of New York, blame this place! We traveled on the City Cruises’ River Red Rover ferry ride on which we heard stories of pirates, pubs and prolific novelists (Dickens again). Then we took a walk up the large hill to the observatory and maritime museum, but instead of going in, I decided to go around the park and take notes in my journal. I recorded a lot about animals that day; I may have notes for a new Animal Farm, hehe.

Saturday: Camden Market

I think I may have fond the perfect flea market for me! This market has so many things: food, clothes, bags, records, posters, shoes, CDs, DVDs, accessories, etc. I was so tempted to buy everything. But as you have heard yesterday, my day was dampened by the death of Amy Winehouse, who lived in Camden. So, we were basically in the same area as her when she passed. RIP.

London Bridge

Sunday: Thames Walk

This may have been the longest walk of my life! I started by going back to the staircase at the beginning of the Thames Walk and the waters had receded to the point that you could see the whole staircase and there was a small sandy beach. Then I went to the London Bridge, which looks like a pieces of cardboard in comparison to the Tower Bridge. Why is there a song about it! I walked across it where I saw an immense view of the Tower Bridge, Tower of London and ships. After, I walked back and went to the Monument of the Great Fire of London. Stupidly, I decided to climb all 311 narrow steps to the top and almost passed out at the top. When I got out, I gasped for breath looking for an open store to buy a drink and also to look for the London Stone, which was embedded in a building and I almost missed it (not worth the trouble to find). Then I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and sat in the garden. The next stop was the Museum of London, where I went through the history of London compacted into several exhibitions. I liked the Changing London exhibition best because that was the only one I could relate to (Yay, Brixton!) Finally, I went on a long walkway to the Barbican Center, where my journey ended near the fountains by it. Now I am back in my room feeling dead with sores on my feet. So time for a nice warm shower, a book to read and bed. Bye.

Suite Mates are Not So Sweet…

Published July 24, 2011 by Aker

Kitchen Table

The downside to living in London as a student is having to dorm with people who are not particularly house trained. I live with my parents, so I am not used to dealing with this. Basically, I live in a suite at Queen Mary University with five other people. Two of them I get along well with (Stacey and Sunnie), the other three, I kind of want them to disappear. I will not name names, but these people are irritating me! It is not that they are not nice most of the time, it is just that they have little consideration for the other people who live in the suite. To put it simply, they are disgusting! We try to show them respect, but it is barely reciprocal. As the saying goes, you do not truly know someone until you have to live with them and then all hell breaks loose.

For the past two weeks, besides having to listen to one of our suite mates sheepish sounding laugh (you know, the stereotypical flirting laugh because she is hooking up with another suite mate), we have had to deal with loud music at inappropriate times when the respectful thing to do would be to turn the music down or close their doors! Even though they are down the hall (I feel bad for Sunnie because she is closer to them), I can still hear them! They have had a drinking party; first of all they did not invite us, and second, they invited a bunch of people from the rest of the class to the suite and did not ask us if it was okay. So, some nights I could not even go to sleep immediately when I was really tired.

The cake that was left out

We do not share rooms, but we do share a kitchen, which they have been hogging (luckily, the three of us have been able to use it lately), and it seems like every morning the kitchen is a mess! After the drinking party, the next morning, beer cans in the sink, alcohol spills on the floor and table and open bottles on the table. Stacey was more than angry when a pot she bought was used to make couscous  and not washed for a couple of days. One of our suite mates brought to the suite, a cake which he has left uncovered for a few days now. Yesterday, one of them left open a jar of peanut butter and bread on the table for most of the day. Does it have to take them days to clean the kitchen and wash dishes? Also, I have resigned to putting food I buy into my room because they have used some of my stuff without asking (ex. my peanut butter) and almost finished it. I think because we have housekeepers coming to clean, they think they can lay back and chill, but I do not want to live in filth the rest of the time! Seriously, my patience is thinning out and I needed to rant about it today.

Kitchen sink

Back to Black

Published July 23, 2011 by Aker

Today I found out about the passing of the talented and troubled British singer Amy Winehouse in her Camden flat. My friend Stacey and I were in Camden Market today and came back to read about it. She actually had passed by a poster of her about her last concert and wanted to go to her next concert.

Sadly she is part of the string of talented people who did not live past 27. Not only did she have a beautiful voice, but her lyrics came from a real place. I wished she had received the help she so desperately needed. May she rest in peace and song.