Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

English Pubs and Biker Bars

September 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

From the limited experience I have with American bars, or even American bars in the style of English pubs, I would have to say that they are extremely different from their English equivalent.  Physically, and atmospherically, the two were at one time mutually exclusive.  Now however, with the advent of a global community, influences from the other are creeping into various establishments, both here and at home.  Despite these changes the basic feel and idea behind British pubs is far different than in America and, I find, is an altogether more enjoyable experience.  

To start, the atmosphere caters to an entirely different crowd.  Pubs allow for anyone to come in and have a pint with a friend, be it businessmen just off work, old men with canes and dogs, or college students just wanting to hang out with friends.  In the U.S. it seems that every type of person has their own seperate bar, and god forbid if you go into the wrong one.   Granted, most of my experience with bars has been in the far north of the midwest, where bars are mostly frequented by loggers and bikers.  Thus, the se bars are a bit more rough and tumble than others, and my judgement may be skewed a little.

Physically, I’ve found that traditional English pubs are quite different from their American counterparts.  Due to lack of space, the buildings are often smaller, and the bars themselves are quite different.  In the U.S. we are used to the catwalk-sized bars that take up the whole room.  They often have seating along them.  Here the bars are smaller with no seating.  Customers are supposed to take their drinks and move, or if they must, stand at the bar. 

The general mentality behind visiting pubs doesn’t seem to be to just get drunk.  Often times back home I would see people downing beer after beer (or something harder) in a blatent attempt to get smashed.  Here, however, a person goes to a pub with friends, and if after a few drinks one begins to feel a little bit differently it wasn’t a result of trying.  Rather, people enjoy having fun with friends and if it happens, it happens. 

I know other people have written about this place, but one of the pubs that I found most enjoyable was The Court.  Located a few blocks from our hotel, most of its customers were college students.  It had cheap drinks and food, and the bartenders were our age and enjoyed having fun.  It had a great atmosphere and was the perfect place to spend the evenings.  Now perhaps I just haven’t found the right place yet, but I have yet to find a bar in the U.S. that appealed to me as much as The Court. 

If American bars are your thing, that’s great, but I prefer the atmosphere elicited by pubs here.  The attitudes are more friendly and the beer is better.  I’d take a pub over a biker bar any day.

Tags: Campbell

Personal Space in Public Parks

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments

   Perfect space. Invasion of perfect space. Straight alleys, grass cut to the perfect inch, clean fountains with not even a leaf floating in sight, trees planted in a straight row with carefully calculated distance. Regent’s Park is one of the most perfect parks in existence, so are the Green and Hyde Parks. Coincidently they are all located in London, England. After spending a month in London and visiting the parks as well as having a few class sessions held in Regent’s Park I have learned to appreciate the high mannerism of English parks. After all, I am used to Central and Prospect Parks in New York City, where every couple of steps you will find young adults on blankets, playing music from their speakers on the highest volume possible, dogs running freely, and tramps, as the English like to say, trying to find a spot to spend a night. In London parks it seems that all of the above would be considered as poor behavior in a park. William Pitt said “The parks are the lungs of London,” therefore, I believe that the parks that we have explored are  great representations of the London culture and its society. 

   I want to begin by discussing Green Park and Hyde Park which are both part of Royal Parks of London. Both are of great size; however, Hyde Park wins with 350 acres of space. Upon entering the parks, I was overwhelmed, by not only the perfection of the parks but also the beauty. In the busy and crowded London, it is surprising to find that such large, green spaces that provide a sense of escape. Escape. Throughout centuries, parks seem to do just that, provide leisure and relaxation for Londoners, no matter what their background or social class. With fountains, lakes, and open space for exercising,  parks provide the “personal space” for every individual. Although Regent’s Park as well as the other two have a sense of perfection, it seemed that the London residents are comfortable using the park for their daily escape for jogging, laying on the grass, walking their dogs, or just getting their daily dose of fresh air. 

   As I have mentioned before, the care that goes into maintaining the beauty of London parks is of great task. It reflects the importance that parks have on the society, as well as the importance of order for the English. Parks are also the representation of London’s history. Green Park, besides being currently connected to the Buckingham Palace and its gardens, is said to have originally served as a swampy burial ground for lepers from the nearby hospital at St. James’s. Henry VIII enclosed it in 16th Century, after which the area was surrendered to Charles II who made it into a Royal Park. At the present time, there are government offices and corridors, linking the nearby Royal palaces, beneath the east side of Green Park and continue to run to the south. 

   Although at first I was uncomfortable with the perfection of the London parks and its well groomed grounds, I learned to appreciate the care and the history of each park. Residents of London have made parks as spaces of their own. I still prefer the smaller squares around Bloomsbury area that provide more intimate feeling, but I can say that there are no parks in the world like the ones here in London.

Tags: Jeyla

Simple Beauty in Greenspace

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments

Like much of London, many of the parks in London range in appearance. This might come as a shock seeing as how parks mainly serve as green spaces. Yet, each park has a unique characteristic, appearance or vibe the moment you walk into it. Walking into Regents Park to have class was one experience I will never forget. Since Mrs. Dalloway was sent in the park it gave me more of a connection to how the characters lived, and interacted with each other. But as we sat down to have class and I observed the park, I felt as if we weren’t supposed to be there. Everything was so neatly placed that I literally felt rude for invading the space. The tone of the park gave off a “poche” vibe, making me feel even worse for sitting on the green neatly cut grass.

I can say that I felt completely opposite when I entered Green Park. Green Park felt like any other park, being noticeably smaller than Regents Park. I felt as if I entered a regular communal park in Los Angeles, until I saw Buckingham palace. Serving as the center piece for the area Buckingham palace, took all of Green Parks dignity. It made sense to me that Green Park was so small, simply because the purpose of the park was not to draw attention from the surrounding area like Regents Park but simply serve as a modest green space.

Hyde Park however, was the most beautiful parks I have ever witnessed. Regardless on which entrance you walk through the park will immediately leave you speechless. Housing over seven major sights, and a beautiful lake the park is one of the most spectacular symbols of London’s history one could see. The Diana memorial alone gave me chills. It really opened my eyes to how much she meant to the United Kingdom and emphasized her impact on not only the Uk but the world. Going from the lake, to the July 7th memorial one could get lost in the beauty of Hyde Park, as well as Hyde Park itself.

The point of the parks in London, are to illustrate the ever changing beauty that is London. Not only through the parks can you see the diversity of London’s appearance, but also the importance of its history.

Tags: Anthony

The Sir John Soane Museum in Comparison to other London Museums

September 19th, 2009 · 4 Comments

The Sir John Soane Museum was the last thing I was able to squeeze in before leaving for Norwich. The museum was interesting, however I do not think it was very educational. It was essentially just peering in on Sir John’s house and his collection, but there were very few signs telling the museumgoer about the relics that were scattered around the house. The architecture was amazing as was the collection, and like most of my classmates I would love to live there if it were not so narrow in parts of the house. However, I do not see its relevance to the course. Why Professor Qualls did you choose to throw it onto our list? I am having a hard time saying anything about the museum because I do not see how it fits into the theme for this class. Honestly, I have learned more from the museum’s website than I did in the actual museum. The website has the entire collection on it with blurbs about the history of each piece. However, unlike most other museums the website does not display a mission statement or any of the museums goals. I believe that every museum should have a mission statement. This makes helps the curators organize exhibits, artifacts, and information panels. With out a strong goal relics are just crammed together, like in the V&A, or there is very minimal educational material, like the Sir John Soane Museum.
I never thought of myself as particularly interested in museum studies, but after visiting all these museums I can see what foundations need to be there for a museum to work. Out of all the museums we visited I feel that the Docklands museum did the best job in presenting and preserving its artifacts and its history while doing a great job educating its visitors. The museum has a clear goal: to educate the public on the history of the docklands. It also has a clear pathway that one can choose to fallow at their own pace, while the British museum had no path way and tended to get very congested at various parts of the exhibits. These large crowds of people greatly affect the safety of the artifacts that the museum is trying to preserve. People should not be allowed to touch, feel, hug, and take pictures of ancient Egyptian sculptures. These crowds are also not good for the safety and education of the museumgoer. Old women or men should not have to be pushed around to have a glance at the mommies, and one should be able to easily see and read the information panels next to the relics if they choose to do so. At least The Sir John Soane museum limited the number of people in the museum at one time in order to protect the artifacts and the people (as it would probably be a fire hazard for too many people to crowd into that building). Maybe the British museum can look to the Soane museum for advice and limit the number of people in the mummy room at one time and increase security. While perhaps the Sir John Soane museum can fallow the British museum’s model and provide more information on the artifacts within the house.

Tags: Rebecca

Classical leisure: pubs and plays.

September 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

   Nights out in London have been proven to be interesting. Whether going out dancing in Metra, seeing a Shakespeare play at the Globe, grabbing a drink at a random pub, or walking through Thames River at night and enjoying a festival, London has a variety of entertainments for those looking to get out of their “residence” spaces aka the Arran House. The choice is behind a Londoner on what to do for “a night out.” For a typical night out in London, one can expect to pay a visit to at least one pub to grab a drink or two, to chat with “drunk locals who seem as much part of the building as the rafters that support the roof,” staying until the closing time and then heading back to the locations of “residence.” Although pubs have been the source of entertainment in England for centuries and one can not find anything similar in other parts of the world, I have not been particularly impressed by the pub culture in England, but that maybe also be because I rather dance the night away than sit around drinking Ale. Luckily, I was able to find several locations in trendy London where they play music that I, an American, recognized and I had great friends with me who are amazing dancers and are willing to “break it down” on any dance floor. In comparison to the American night life culture, it seems that the Brits are laid back, satisfied with socializing and more focused on chit-chating the night away. While experiencing the actual night life in London, I was more interested in “classical leisure.” 


   Always being a fan of plays, musicals, theater and anything involving a plot , I was that one individual who was excited before every show we were going to see during our time in London.  Some were more disappointing than others  (shall I say…Marilyn Monroe in Blood Brothers) while others brought on tears, laughter, compassion and love. With watching two Shakespeare plays, As You Like It and Troilus and Cressida in the actual Globe Theater, seeing the creativity behind the staging and lighting of All’s Well That Ends Well, and an interesting idea of Arcadia which compares two different families in two different centuries yet again there are ways in which their lives are interconnected. Being that this was the first time that I had ever seen Shakespeare plays, I want to focus on the characters presented by the writer in Troilus and Cressida,As You LIke It  and All’s Well That Ends Well. 


   Although Shakespeare has written plots from dramatical pieces to comedy, his comedian side seems to always pay a visit. In all of the three Shakespearean plays that we have seen, we have had a character who one might say is not only entertaining but is also the representation of truth and class differences. In Troilus and Cressida a character by the name of Thersites can be described as “a deformed and scurrilous low class fool.” Although throughout the play, the plot of the story does not focus on him, he provides the audience a laugh as well as a different outlook on the war that is going on between the Trojans and the Greeks as well as on the love triangle that is continuos throughout the play. In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, there is a more obvious character who we know will serve the comedic role. A character Touchstone, whose first scene involves a joker costume was an instant hit and a constant laugh. Hands down he has been my favorite character in all of the plays we have seen. 


   Shakespeare’s focus on his characters and his plots show realistic situations of actual people. His emphasize on the interrelationship between characters, most of the times very complicated relationships, Shakespeare was able to focus on history, love, and passion and make his plays educational in every sense possible. I was also very surprised that the plays that we have viewed all had recurring themes of sexuality. It is clear that Shakespeare was ahead of his times. And of course, the theme of love did not escape me. Shakespeare’s ideas of unconditional love, jealousy, and desire were clearly displayed by the actors who were lucky to be performing on the stages of the National Theater as well as the Globe Theater (although it is not the original!). 


original design of The Globe


   I have greatly enjoyed the varieties of the performances we have seen in London over this past month. I can not express how grateful I am for everything that I was able to witness. These experiences will stay with me forever. Thank You everyone and Professor Qualls! 

Tags: Jeyla · Pubs · Theatre