Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from January 2010

Scouting in the U.K. Part Two

January 29th, 2010 · 2 Comments

This evening I attended my second Explorer Scout Meeting.   I was driven to the last meeting so this was the first time that I had to find the location on my own. Utilizing Google Maps and my Norwich A to Z to their fullest I calculated that it would actually be faster for me to walk to the meeting instead of taking a 21 or 22 bus (23 minutes vs. 29 minutes).  This seemed like a great idea until it started, snowing, raining, sleeting etc.  Nevertheless I bundled up, braved the elements and trudged my way over towards Bowthorpe Road hoping for the best.

Upon arrival (5 minutes early!) I greeted the troop leader, Lesley, and the scouts that I had met at the previous meeting.  Glad to be inside I shed a few layers and prepared for the opening ceremony.  When I was home over winter break I decided to bring my scout shirt back with me to wear at meetings/other events.  The scouts found it very interesting and we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the similarities and differences between my uniform and theirs.

After witnessing a flag ceremony I was informed that the scouts would be working on making/decorating troop t-shirts at the meeting.  My primary job consisted of cutting out cardboard squares for the scouts to mount their completed t-shirts on.  This was so the paint they were using to decorate them would dry easier.  This task took me longer than I expected  since my pocketknife was getting a little dull.

As the scouts were decorating their t-shirts I chatted with them about various subjects.  Two weeks ago the scouts attended Wintercamp at Gilwell Park, just outside of London.  Since I plan on visiting Gilwell within the next few weeks I asked the scouts about their winter camp experience and about the park itself.

One scout was decorating his t-shirt in the colors of Norwich FC because he is a big fan.  When I informed him that I was attending the Norwich vs. Hartlepool match tomorrow he was quite jealous.

We also spent a lot of time talking about education in the U.K. since a few of these scouts are preparing to take their A-Levels.  They asked me what I was studying at UEA and if I was enjoying my time in England.  Many of the scouts had very different academic interests but all seemed pretty sure of what they wanted to do as a career.  I found this interesting.  When I was 16 or 17 I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in at College, let alone know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Even now I am unsure/change my mind from time to time.  Since many of the students that I have met at UEA seem to have their future planned out as well  I wonder whether it is simply a cultural phenomenon that American students are generally not as decisive  at an early age as English students when it comes to careers.  Maybe it was just that I, and many of my friends, knew that we wanted to attend liberal arts colleges but I think I am on to something here.

After cleaning up all the supplies I witnessed an awards ceremony and we concluded the meeting.  I was given a “Programme of Events” for the rest of the spring so now I know what the scouts will be working on from meeting to meeting.  After saying goodbye to everyone I put back on my layers and made my way back out into the cold.  Having found my way there I knew my way back comfortably and walked at a brisk Kelley pace, returning to the village in just under 20 minutes.

Although I hurried back to the village because of the cold I realized on my walk back that I would really like to explore more of Norwich, especially the parts outside of the city centre.  As I spent more and more time at Dickinson I began to walk around and explore  Carlisle a little bit and actually stumbled upon some pretty cool things.  I’m sure Norwich will have similar if not greater surprises waiting for me. Once the weather warms up this will be my adventure.

Volunteer Hours: 2.5

Total: 5.5

Tags: Henry

An Interview with Terenia Morrison, Project Coordinator with Age Concern Norfolk

January 27th, 2010 · 2 Comments

     Over a cup of hot chocolate and a fruit scone, Terenia Morrison and I discussed the inner workings of Age Concern, a charitable organization which provides services to the elderly of the whole of the United Kingdom. In speaking with her, I became immediately aware that Terenia, a project coordinator with Age Concern’s Norfolk branch, is passionate about her career, and well-aware of the challenges that elderly of the UK face on a day-to-day basis. She has noticed the elderly “are not treated well in this country” and that “our community spirit is not particularly good here,” but believes that Age Concern is doing their part to improve the quality of life for elderly peoples throughout the UK.

     Age Concern provides many different products, programs and services to the aged of the UK, including: help with money matters; insurance information; assistance in obtaining energy subsidies; bereavement services; community development; out-reach posts; access to a care home database; and much more. Terenia mentioned two additional programs which I found especially touching. These were the Pabulum and call centre programs.

     At call centres across the UK, like the one in Buckinghamshire which opened in 2007, volunteers ring participants once a week to chat and offer a fun quiz which keep the mind active and alert. Terenia stated, “experience tells us that old people want warmth, friendship, and nourishment,” and that the loneliness the elderly so often feel “is palpable.” The call centre provides the friendship that so many aged people long for, and assuages the loneliness they might have felt otherwise.

     Pabulum is a program designed specifically for those elderly who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Pabulum frequently hosts “cafés,” themed, 2- or 3-hour sessions run entirely by volunteers consisting of music, lunch, and “reminiscence based activities,” according to the website. The closest Pabulum café venue can be found in nearby Costessey.

    Three of my own grandparents have passed away: I was witness to my own grandfather’s gradual deterioration as a result of Alzheimer’s, until he finally passed away in 2007; I watched my other grandfather pass away, also in 2007; I was lying on the bed next to my grandmother, holding her hand, as I watched her take her last breath, in 2005.

     Talking with Terenia was a very emotional experience, but one that was also refreshing. It is comforting to know that there are good people and charitable organizations that provide services that are so close to my own heart and my own experiences. Terenia Morrison and her fellow volunteers working with Age Concern are truly special people. Dedicating their time and energy to “improving the lives and providing… dignity to the people of Norfolk,” is a loving sacrifice which the most special people, and kindest hearts, are willing to make.

Tags: Anya

Bombing Missions, “My Aching Ass” and Swiss Internment Camps: Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

January 26th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Last Wednesday I made my way to the Norwich Archive Centre where I took a tour of their facility.  I decided that since I was doing my Humanities 310 research paper on the 2nd Air Division, I could possibly assist in my research by volunteering at the Archive Centre.  Getting to the Archive Centre was fairly easy; I took the 25 bus into town and then got on to the 100 bus; luckily I was able to use my bus pass.  What I first noticed about the Archive Centre was that there was a replica Jaguar aircraft outside.  Inside, I had to put my schoolbag and jacket in a locker for “security reasons.”  I then met my contact, Hannah (an archivist), and proceeded with a tour of their facility.  She mentioned that there was over 7km of archival material (if lined up properly of course).  The building itself is very modern and high-tech; most rooms require key card access.  Though the Archive Centre is quite large, the amount of staff did surprise me.

After the tour I met up with Jonathan, who deals with audio recordings.  He instructed me that as part of my volunteer work I would be listening to sound recording of American WWII veterans who served in the 2nd Air Division.  It would be my job to note anything of interest basically.  I would be doing this because in a few months Jonathan is giving a lecture and he would like to use a few audio clips in it.  Interestingly, Jonathan mentioned that I would undoubtedly come across some fascinating, odd and humorous accounts.  One account he told me was of a roughly thirty second clip of an American veteran basically saying: “I was shot down on my 2nd combat mission and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp…you don’t want to hear about that.”  That was it.  I figured not only would this be perfect to help with my essay, but it would be an amazing learning experience as well.

Today (26 Tuesday 2010) I was able to make it to the Archive Centre and listen to some audio clips.  Jonathan made sure to tell me that because of the size of the facility, it would be best to look over what audio clips interested me the day before and then e-mail Hannah so she could obtain them for me and have them ready the next day.  I did just that and today I was able to listen to two American veterans.  The first clip was pretty much a half hour on the dot.  The veteran recording it mentioned that he was drafted in 1942 but did not arrive in the United Kingdom until 1944 (mostly due to training and washing out of certain programs).   He was a tail gunner for a B-24 and had a few interesting anecdotes, especially one involving a pub (“Labour in Vain”) which he found striking due to the name and the circumstances the world was in at the time.  Interestingly, he mentions that he did not serve on one single B-24, but 14!  One humorous name of an aircraft he flew on was “My Aching Ass.”

The second audio clip I found particularly interesting.  The veteran in it was another tail gunner for a B-24.  He notes that his first impression of English people was of them trying to get into the chow line because the GIs had the best food in the area (due to rationing).  More seriously, he mentions a mission to Kjeller, Oslo, Norway in which on the way back his aircraft was shot at by German fighters but managed to make it back to the coast of England, where he was forced to parachute out.  Not knowing where he was, the first thing he asked to the first person he found was “Is this England?”  However, the most fascinating part of this recording was the end in which he describes the before and after aspects of a bombing mission against Lechfeld, South Augsburg, Germany.  The veteran notes that this a was a deep penetration mission and that on the way back, due to low oil pressure and not enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Switzerland.  However, since Switzerland was neutral at the time and because an unknown bomber was entering its airspace, the Swiss fired upon it.  Fortunately, the aircraft was able to land and the crew was interned.  Despite being shot at by the Swiss, the veteran makes note to mention how hospitable the Swiss were.  They offered limited travel and even gave the opportunity to take courses in French and German.  The veteran ends the recording by stating how the Swiss internment camps were a “microcosm of the world at war” due to the camps holding internees from almost every country (including Germany, US, UK, Italy, and even South Africa).

From these two audio clips I was able to obtain about six fragments that could be of use to Jonathan.

Volunteer Time: 2 hrs.

Total Time: 2 hrs.

Tags: Andrew F

Scouting in the United Kingdom: An Introduction

January 25th, 2010 · 2 Comments

For my Humanities 310 research project I am observing the influence that scouting has had on youth in Norfolk both now and throughout its history here.  My experiential  component will involve scouting as well.  In late November I linked up with a group of Explorer Scouts in Norwich.  I have attended one meeting already (more details below) and will be attending weekly two hour meetings every Friday for the remainder of my time at UEA.  In addition to my volunteer work I have added another experiential component.  Since one can be a scout until age 25 in the U.K. (versus 18 in the U.S.) I have joined a local scout Network for 18-25 year olds.  I have already gone on one kayaking trip with this group prior to winter break (more details below) and plan on attending additional group functions with them this semester as well.

Basic Background of Scouting

The concept of scouting was created in 1907 by Robert Baden Powell, a retired Lieutenant in the British Army. Powell believed that British nationalism was dwindling so he pioneered the idea of creating camps for young men to hone their physical, moral and mental abilities in hopes that training the youth in these values would lead Britain towards a brighter future .  In 1908 Powell published Scouting For Boys, the original text that sparked the scouting movement.  Powell’s book continues to be one of the most widely read texts of all time.  The idea of scouting spread like wildfire and over the next few years many countries began to develop scouting programs of their own.  The Boy Scouts of America got their start in 1910.  This Summer’s National Scout Jamboree, held in Fort A.P. Hill, VA marks the 100th anniversary of scouting in the U.S.  Today there are over 200 countries that have scouting organizations.  It remains the largest youth organization in the world.

Volunteer Experience

I had a pretty good idea from the moment I arrived in Norwich that I wanted to get involved with a local scouting group in some way.  I began to search for groups back in October.  Finally through an organization called “Vinvolved” that was present at the Job and Volunteer fair in the LCR in the fall, I was given the contact information of the Norfolk Chapter Scout Executive, Mike Clemo.  After corresponding with Mike I discovered that the Norfolk scout headquarters was located in Norwich, not that far away from Sainsbury’s.  I asked Mike if I could stop in one morning to meet with him and take a look at the scouting headquarters and he agreed.  During our meeting I asked him about possible volunteer opportunities with local scout troops.  After telling him that I would prefer to work with the 14-18 age group he assigned me to a group of Explorer Scouts that meet weekly off of Bowthorpe Road.  I got a ride to a meeting in the fall with David, another scout executive that I met with, and really enjoyed the first meeting I attended.

The biggest difference between scouting in the U.S. and scouting in the U.K. is that it is co-educational here.  Although this was not something I was used to I actually thought the meeting ran fairly smoothly with both sexes present.  During the meeting the scouts were working on their Cooking Badge and had to bake two cakes.  They had chosen the week before to make a pineapple upside down cake and a chocolate and orange cake.  Both cakes sounded rather exotic to me but I was pleasantly surprised with the results.  My first immediate observation as I began helping out was that I could distinguish a similar accent among most of the scouts present.  Just like in London when we didn’t get an accurate sense of “Englishness” because we were in a major international city, I felt as though I had not fully grasped what a Norfolk/Norwich accent sounded like since most of the time I find myself interacting with students from all over the country and the world.  It was pretty cool to finally discover that a bunch of people actually spoke with a similar accent in one location.  Overall I noticed more similarities than differences between U.S. scouts and U.K. scouts during my first meeting.  Like with any group natural leaders emerged and some people put in more work then others.  Overall the uniforms were pretty comparable but I didn’t get a chance to observe that too closely.  I look forward to attending more meetings in the coming weeks, getting to know the scouts better and continuing to learn about the similarities and differences between scouting here and back in the U.S.

2 hours complete

Norfolk Network Kayaking Experience

I mentioned above that I had a chance to go kayaking with the Norfolk Network group in the fall.  We went to Swanton Morley , a small village about 15 minutes northwest of Norwich.  Here there are a few small streams that eventually turn into the Norwich Broads if you follow them long enough.  It was a cold, rainy, early December day and we were encouraged to bundle up as much as possible.  Eight of us kayaked for about two hours before the rain started to pick up and things became a little less enjoyable.  After carrying our boats back to shore and changing out of our wet clothes we headed off to a local pub where we grabbed some lunch.  Out of the eight of us present five of us were new to the Norfolk Network.  There was a scout on the trip from Finland and another from Romania.  It was fascinating to discuss our varying international scouting experiences.  All in all this was a wonderful trip. I met some great people and I hope that there will be more events coming up in the near future.

Tags: Henry

Bishopbridge Internship, Entry 1

January 22nd, 2010 · 1 Comment

About the Organization

On Wednesday morning, my first meeting regarding my internship with St. Martin’s Housing Trust was a success.  Supposedly located at 35 Bishopgate (near the Adam and Eve Pub, the primary schools, and the hospital), I took the 25 bus into the city center and decided to walk the rest of the way.  In fact, the website of the organization misled me to its office complex, located a few blocks away from where I was meant to be.  Thus, after being directed elsewhere, I made my way to Bishopbridge House at 45 William Kett Close on Gas Hill. (The Bishopbridge Housing leaflet may be found here.)

Anna Hassan, my contact for this assignment, greeted me and showed me to her office to tell me a bit about the association and discuss my plans for working with her staff.  In the progression from sleeping on the streets to having permanent housing, Bishopbridge House is the opening landmark.  That is to say, Bishopbridge is the first accommodation of many in the arduous process of escaping homelessness.  It specializes in providing aid for people with drug problems, alcohol problems, or mental illness.  Because of this (and because Bishopbridge precedes any other accommodations a person might receive), this particular group has a responsibility to link patrons with organizations dealing with addiction or other disabilities to make them more “marketable” to other groups.   By introducing clients to sobriety, independence, and a sense of responsibility, these people become more likely to receive other types of aid just by beginning their journey at Bishopbridge.

The first step involves actually finding these people and letting them know that accommodations such as Bishopbridge exist.  The organization has a routine series of stops to check for “rough sleepers,” and the town council also alerts them to potential people in need of help and shelter.  Each morning and evening, a team embarks into Norwich to extend a hand to the homeless they find along the way (which, according to Anna’s recounts, didn’t often seem to be a particularly high number-perhaps three or four people in a session, some of which may decline access to the shelter).  The winter months provide a particular challenge, though.  Legislation dictates that if the weather drops below zero degrees Celsius for three nights in a row, the shelter is required to house all those desirous of lodging regardless of available space.  If this occurs, Bishopbridge becomes overcrowded and understaffed, but it does keep the homeless safe from the elements for a short period of time.

To expand, issues of space do affect Bishopbridge regularly.  The shelter has a very high turnover rate, meaning that the staff accepts clients, assesses their individual needs, provides an appropriate starting point to receive help, and moves them to the next step in accommodations as soon as possible.  This allows the shelter to serve as many people as possible simply by getting them off the streets as quickly as possible.  A free bed is a total rarity at Bishopbridge, thus proving that all space is usable and lodging is in high demand.  While the teams that actually trek the streets (the CAPS) encourage Bishopbridge to take more and more clients, the staff is forced to counter this due to space, time, and resource constraints.  This constant push and pull between the CAPS and the staff is one problem that Bishopbridge faces.

Staying in the house costs twenty five pounds per week (in my future research, I hope to learn where clients are expected to find this money).  This charge helps cover costs of food, electricity, water, and basic maintenance of the organization itself.  Regarding food, there are two halves of the building.  In one, a chef cooks all meals for the clients who often speak of “moving up to the other side.”  Once promoted, so to speak, they receive a bit more responsibility: the shelter returns twenty pounds of the fee for food shopping.  On their first excursion, a patron and a member of staff go together to learn how to make nutritious, affordable meal choices.  When their dependability is proven, clients may food shop on their own.  However, they must continue to present the receipts to make sure that appropriate selections are being made each time.

At Bishopbridge, people may keep their pets.  Dog training classes are available, as well as recreational lessons like computer classes (where usage of Facebook is taught to reunite clients with their families and friends) and flower pot painting.

My Internship

I will be exploring each of the aforementioned facets of Bishopbridge’s mission over the course of a month.  For one morning session and one night session, I will go out with CAPS to the streets of Norwich and inform the homeless of Bishopbridge, as well as encourage them to use its resources.   I will also be taught how the homeless are designated to various organizations, as well as the process of moving through the system.  One Monday, I will sit in on the distribution of stipends and possibly shadow a member of staff during food shopping.  I hope to watch a recreational class in session, and generally see how the shelter is run while simultaneously learning about homelessness in Norwich as a general issue.

Hours Logged: 1

Total Hours: 1

Tags: Amy

What’s hip ’bout the airship? Steampunk in the UK

January 22nd, 2010 · 1 Comment

So this is by no means what I am doing or my presentations; however, I felt it would be of interest to you folks anyway. Over winter holiday, I went to visit the MHS (Museum of the History of Science) to see their exhibit on the art that has come out of steampunk movement, both and England and worldwide. It was fantastic, and I definitely recommend it as it is running until  February 21st.

For most people, the idea of steampunk (and the movement surrounding it) is quite foreign, so I will do my best to explain what I believe it to be. I stress that this is strictly my interpretation, as it is a severally decentralized idea with many interpretations. The way I see it there are three major aspects of steampunk. The first being the history surrounding it. The second is the art that has come from it, both literature, music and painting. And the third, is the DIY(do it yourself). 

It is difficult to pinpoint when “steampunk” first originated.  The OED places the term steampunk around 1987 by Jeter in Locus; it being based off of the previous genre of cyberpunk, which is is an entire different subject.  Despite its fairly modern coinage, steampunk has arguably been around since the Victorian era (whence it is based).  Works from Jules Verne to H.G Wells sought to look into the future of technology, using what understanding they had around them.  In more modern works, steampunk looks at modern technology and wonders how the Victorian era would have created it. How would our society have benefits or been illed if the social atmosphere of the 1800s had continued to present day?

As the art exhibit showed, steampunk is still inspiring people today to push the boundaries of what art is. There were beautifully remastered keyboards, fitted with wood panels and type-writer letters, a light fixture that was simply amazing. There were, however, less practical aspects such as a teleportation device. This blending of functionality and impractically is a keystone of the steampunk dogma. It doesn’t truly matter if something makes sense; it is almost as if steampunk asks us to question the rationality of our modernity.

The exhibit itself is very well laid out and organized, and it is a great forum for learning more, seeing its capabilities, and talking with international artists about their motivations and techniques. If anything it was great simply for the people-watching aspect. I will not embarrass myself by putting up the picture of my get up, but needless to say I went in full nerd glory. What was nice about the experience was that dressed up and not dressed up basically gave each other the same looks of curiosity– anthropologists observing a foreign culture. It felt as though there was a mutual understanding of appreciation and acceptance.

What I found most amusing about the whole experience was the music that has come out of the steampunk movement. As with many DIY groups, the instrumentation was weird to say the least.  While it wasn’t at the show this guitar is probably one of the neater things I have seen. You even have entire bands devoted to steampunk such as Abney Park.

Do it yourself comes into play for obvious reasons as there isn’t really a plethora of steampunk outlets. But it also works as a means of expression. Once you’ve sown together your first frock coat, or even your first button, there is a strange sense of pride seldom found in modern activities, not unlike finishing a painting or running a 5k. Obviously with our budges as they are arts and crafts probably aren’t on the top of anyone’s list, but it is interesting to see how much you can create with recycled goods. While it is by no means on par with Dickinson’s removal of the lunch trays (or the creation of a sushi bar), I would argue that steampunk is up there in the sustainability zone.

I think my only quarrel with the whole idea is that people often forget about the societal norms of the Victorian era.  As we have learned there certainly were social reform movements going on through Queen Victoria and Prince Albert such as the opening of parks and the support of artistic movements. Overall, however, the Victorian era was set by ridge social ques and mass oppression.  At the exhibit a young female artist tried to explain to me how the Victorian era was a period of femenistic empowerment, which is absolute bollocks. The idea of sexual equality is something only sense in period pieces when a director needs to have a head strong, coy female lead so as to attract a larger demographic (cough Guy Ritchie cough).  For that matter, sexuality in general was severally hampered. Showing your calves, man or woman, was considered an outrageous fopaux.

Much as its brother genres of the science fiction realm, it allows us an interesting thought-experiment and temporary escape. But the modern interpretation of steampunk has drifted further away from its Victorian roots. This decentralization is both a blessing and a curse, as it allows for vast array of artistic expression. It is for that reason that it is so amazing something like the exhibit at the MHS could have been put together and still seem cohesive.

If you’d like some more info on steampunk feel free to ask me anything. I don’t claim to know too much, so here are some sites that know better.




Tags: Andrew R