Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Holidays from Home Volunteering: Introduction

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

A scene from one of the many amazing vacations I've taken just this year, something I do indeed take for granted

Though I would have liked to do something related to my paper on English identity, I wasn’t confident enough that I could get deeper into the issue through interviews of participant observation, especially with a topic so latent and personal. Instead, I chose to look for volunteering opportunities around Norwich, hoping I could learn more about the community and ideally have it relate to my topic. Though I’m happy to have helped out (and want to continue to do so) at  Holidays from Home my (fairly long) search for a more relevant volunteering opportunity has actually shown me valuable things about the nature of charity and volunteering in the Norwich area and in Britain as a whole, which I’ll be addressing in subsequent posts.

Holidays from Home, as Sarah, who’s also volunteering for this group explained in her blog is a Norwich-based organization which provides “virtual holidays” to people who are ill, disabled, elderly and homebound. These holidays are multifaceted; they use books, sounds, the internet, films, and other media to give the traveler a comprehensive, intimate, life-like experience. Though just a few full holidays have been created in its four year existence, HFH just received a lottery-funded grant to offer 400 holidays to people in Norfolk.  Volunteers were needed to develop new holidays and tweak the old ones to be a bit more user-friendly.

Though I volunteered to do research and give notes of my travel experiences (that’s what Sarah’s doing) founder Claire Wade wanted me to spend time looking into how to incorporate Google Earth technologies (cheers, KQ) into the existing holidays (with which I’ve had mixed results). The idea is to provide a quick one link that could either lead directly to a tour or to a Youtube video so as to simulate views or travel in a more lifelike way than before. Any input from any Google Earth specialists or anyone who managed this for 310 would be much appreciated. More on HFH upcoming along with my thoughts on some similar organizations I came across in my search for volunteering. Also, I hope to throw in a few posts on some interesting parts of my English Identity research I didn’t get to address in more than a few sentences in my paper.

Tags: Aidan

Friendship Bracelets at the Friendship Group

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Ok, so not getting a CRB check was slightly problematic, until Dee, the head of Interface Learning pointed out something rather obvious. It went a little like this.

Dee: Wait, your an international student!

Me: Yes.

Dee: Well than you are an international woman and can come to the International Friendship Group anyways.

Me: Ohhhh…

So, we managed to sidestep that little inconvenience, which just meant that I won’t be able to go into the crèche, which is the children’s playroom. Like that’s a problem for me. It’s really more of a gift, actually. The group gets together once a week, and while the mothers have an English class with a certified English teacher, the children are dropped off in the free childcare. The ladies cook a communal lunch, with everyone taking turns to “host” the meal. Since I couldn’t help with the children I was sort of a gopher by bringing the dishes from storage to the kitchen, etc. It was a lot of fun, and while the younger volunteers I had met at the meeting were very friendly, these women were a lot more reserved and shy with me. It was rather obvious though that many of the women knew each other and spent time together outside of their weekly meeting.

There were a couple teenagers who weren’t in class and they most definitely did not need day care, so they spent the morning in the café with myself, the other volunteers, and Dee. I was amazed by one young woman’s embroidery. She was working on a pillow while waiting for her companion, and the thread that Dee had provided was the same as the kind that I used to make friendship bracelets in summer camp ages ago. When I mentioned that, I was greeted with blank looks from both other volunteers, Louise and Faith. So when I took some of the scraps and showed them what I meant I didn’t realize that I would end up being the referee in their race to start and finish their own bracelets. Unfortunately class ended before a winner could be determined. A small sidenote, I once again had to cross the huge scary roundabout to get to the Children’s Centre, but on the way back Faith taught me a shortcut! No more rotary! Now, I just have to figure out the shortcut in reverse.

Tags: Uncategorized

All Headlines Lie!

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

As a Law and Policy major I have devoted a serious chunk of my college education on the study of government, law, and policy management. Because of this I have seen how a piece of legislation can be traced from the Committees in Congress to the President signing a bill into law, a bill that could later drive a case through the ranks of the judicial system where it can be called into question in front of the Supreme Court, but all of that basically can be boiled down to checks and balances. I also see how issues become a sensation to the media and problems blown way out of proportion, or the focus of the issue is shifted. That was really driven home today when I was in volunteer training at the New Routes Organization. They are part of the greater program called Interface Learning. The program is devoted to long-term integration of refugees in the Norwich area.

During the training the leader of the organization shared some newspaper headlines that read, “Refugees swarm the UK like ants,” and “City Flooded with Immigrants,” as well as several others. The second quote was taken from a Norwich paper immediately after Norwich was opened as an immigration dispersal point in 2003. The first headline was written in 1900. I’m not saying that newspapers are wrong because in the end they are just a company out to make a profit, but often when it comes to immigration we see that they use dehumanizing language to make a terrified refugee out to protect herself and her family into a faceless horde. The majority of immigrants come from wealthy families looking for better opportunities and they do not need to “steal” benefits from hardworking citizens. Two immigrants that I met today were highly trained computer specialists from Iraq looking to contribute to society, and another was trained at an American institute in Kenya. She also probably speaks better English than some of my flatmates.  No mumbling!

The UK is home to roughly 0.3% of the world’s refugees since many will flee to no farther than the safest place, an example is that refugees in Africa will often run to other places within the continent because they do not have the money to make it farther than the closest “safe” place. It saddens me that many British, like Americans, cannot see any farther than a newspaper headline to look at some actual statistics. As of last year the biggest refugee population in the UK was from Afghanistan, and the largest population of illegal immigrants? They were from Australia. Overall, I found the five hours of training incredibly interesting and I can’t wait to meet the other volunteers at the monthly meeting!

Tags: Uncategorized

Death By Roundabout

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

The meeting at New Routes that I went to was pretty surprising. The volunteers I met at the training were largely older people who had been involved with New Routes and Interface before. They were a mix of teachers, career volunteers, and several international students. The volunteers that I met at the monthly meeting were largely part of the Mentor program, and most were my age. Among them were many UEA students who served as mentors, and several mentees also came.  What came as a surprise is that Dee was drafting many of the pairs to volunteer together at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, so they could both have a mentor/mentee meeting and do some extracurricular volunteer work. She also introduced the Voices Program to us, which would be conducted by the BBC. The Program wanted members of New Routes to come and tell their stories on camera. It sounded like the program was focusing on the younger set, but that could just have been because everyone at the meeting was in the teenage age group. After business was wrapped up, the group broke up to have a cup of tea (it was pretty rainy and cold) and have a kibbitz, and they weren’t shy about including me or asking me questions. After some tea and biscuits I braved the rain and cold and safely crossed the Rotary of Doom. Which I actually considered a great accomplishment considering the rotary didn’t have any crosswalks…Hopefully I won’t have to cross it in the dark again!

I’m going to combine my frustration with the CRB check with this entry, since I just found out that the UK couldn’t get enough information on me for the check to come through. I’m not sure how I’m going to get the actual volunteering part done now. Uh oh.

Tags: Uncategorized

Future is looking Greener

May 11th, 2010 · 1 Comment

As I finish up the last bits of Qualls’ paper, I realize that one more blog post is necessary. Surely it won’t affect whatever grade these things actually get, but it seems my civic duty to address this.  The election is over–in case you were living under a rock– and not surprisingly Green didn’t win, they didn’t even get third (as I had predicted). However, what they did do was once again double their percentage. This election they scored over 14% of the vote, which is quite impressive. This increase may be connected to the disappearance of the ‘legalize cannabis party’ (I’m not joking) normally found in Norwich. As noted on their website, the Green Party now supports a gradual integration program of decriminalization.  Adrian Ramsay, despite his best efforts and the immense student campaigning, did not win. Alas. But campaigning really needs to be done on a two year scale, so if anything I consider this election nothing more than campaigning for the next election. And besides, Brighton got a Green seat, which is what really needed to happen. Once one seat is attained, the rest will follow….unless you’re from the RESPECT party.

So why didn’t Green win in Norwich south? I see there being three reasons: the targeted demographic, students and civic workers, were possibly too lazily idealistic, people were too afraid to vote for an “other” party, or the Lib-Dems just did so incredibly well that other third parties didn’t really stand a chance.  Honestly, the TV debates really helped out Lib-Dems; I would argue they gained the most from them out of any party, and with their national status, it would have been difficult to compete. Nevertheless, I think this was a further learning experience for the Green Party, and they will definitely continue to gain support within Norwich South. Maybe next time boys.

On an unrelated note, I realize we’re all gearing up to leave England. And by we’re all, I mean you guys are. I’ll be staying Europe side until August, and I’ll be keeping a general blog. If anyone is interested in getting the url for it and checking up on the whacking misadventures of Russ, send me a message or something. Hope you all had as good a time as I did.


Tags: Andrew R

People Watching and Art

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Fractal Contemporary Gallery is located on St. Giles Street, a few blocks from Norwich City Hall. When I walked in I was immediately reminded of my Aunt Leslie and Uncle Barry’s old house in Richmond. Why? Because I always got the same feeling of awe when I stepped into their main sitting room. The walls were covered in surrealist and abstract art and the way the light filtered into the room just gave everything a clean, soft white glow. The art that covers the walls in Fractal Contemporary is nothing like my Uncle Barry’s collection, but the light is the same, and the soft carpet reminds me of a family room. I immediately felt welcome there. I knew I would have a good experience working with this gallery. I couldn’t have been more right. Ms. Lisa Thurlow is the owner and director of the gallery. Fractal Contemporary has been open for just under two years and while the recession did have some impact on the business, the profits are once again on the rise. Through my interviews with Ms. Thurlow, I gained a great deal of insight into how a small independent gallery operates and where she finds her artists. Usually she travels around to University degree shows and open studio events. She also subscribes to the Art of England magazine. This way she not only finds local Norfolk artists, but artists from all around the world. As a result the art in her gallery is incredibly varied, the gallery sells an eclectic array of art including, paintings, drawings, sculpture, jewelry and even some knitwear. As I would soon find out, working in a gallery requires a lot of patience. Most people that walk in will not buy anything, but the fact that they made the effort to come in and look around gives the hope that they might be back. And as I have learned from my research, the job of the dealer is to help match people with the art. Mrs. Thurlow lets her potential customers have their space and look around before she steps in to negotiate a sale. She only ‘swoops in’ when she overhears the potential customers discussing price of if they ask her a question. This business is all about reading people, their body language and a little bit of eavesdropping. In her own words, “one has to be a bit ‘hawk-like’ and be aware of what people are looking for.” People watching? Art? Sign me up. Most of her business is from people who walk in off the street, so her welcoming window display and friendly atmosphere are working to her advantage. Whilst the gallery does have a few collectors, most of her energy is devoted to cultivating new relationships with the people who come into the gallery and her artists. Unlike many dealers, who put on a façade of non-commercial self-representation, I truly believe that Ms. Thurlow is more concerned with the people rather than the money. Of course she wants to sell the art and make a profit, but I think she is in this business because she loves what she does and she loves the people who she meets by selling fine art. I have learned so much by talking to Lisa Thurlow, and I hope we are able to stay in touch even after I leave Norwich.

Tags: Grace

Poor Manners, Flared Jeans and A City of Culture

May 11th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I had hoped that my interview experience with Mandell’s Gallery on Elm Hill would make up for Mr. Mandell’s poor email correspondence… it didn’t. I began to email and call the gallery after another art dealer that I should go and ask a few questions about the gallery suggested it to me. The first time I went into the gallery (around March), I told Mr. Mandell my name and about my research paper. He seemed interested enough, but said he didn’t have time for an interview at the moment. I told him that was fine (I know his business comes first) and that I would email him the questionnaire so he could fill things out at his earliest convenience. After a few weeks I began to email again, no response. I called to make sure I had the right email address. The woman on the line told me the Gallery was about to open a show of John Kiki’s works and that Mr. Mandell would be more available after the opening…. OK, so I wouldn’t have the interview until after the first draft of my paper was due. OK, not going to panic. After a week and still no response (email or otherwise) I decided to go into the gallery to see if I could get some answers. The way I was raised, this kind of behavior is unacceptable. If you receive email or a call, at least have the decency to respond…even if it’s just to say you’re too busy and to give a date when you WILL be available. Well, after I reintroduced myself to Mr. Mandell he kind of gave me the ‘I think I remember you, but I’m just not quite sure’ kind of look and then searched his inbox for my email. “Ah, yes” he said, “yes, I don’t really feel comfortable answering some of these questions…I think they are a bit leading” Alright, how does one respond to that? I’m sorry? I didn’t think my questions were that leading….just enquiring about the general policies of the gallery and what kind of people buy their art. Apparently Mr. Mandell’s competition is hot for him right now and they will do ANYTHING to learn his secrets. I was a bit taken aback, and although I assured him my research was purely academic, he was still unwilling to answer any questions about how he prices his art or what kind of client he markets for. Mr. Mandell, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but I really don’t think you have any reason to worry…I am NOT going to spill any sort of insider gallery dealer secrets. I think you are probably a nice guy, especially after you told me you used to vent your jeans in the 60s to make them flare out…it’s cool, it was the 60s after all. Anyway…back to the point. While this interview was not as helpful on the specifics of buying art in Norwich, he did have some opinions on the general culture in Norwich. Essentially, Norwich has always been a bit of a hot spot for the arts…the only problem? Geographical isolation. However, this isolation made the arts in Norwich a priority as the people would have hardly been able to travel to London to see a play or a painting. Norwich has always had a thriving theatre (the first being the Maddermarket Theatre) and the Norwich School artists are probably the area’s most famous visual artists. Even today, the Norfolk and Norwich Contemporary Art Circle, the Playhouse Theatre and the city’s recent bid to become a UK ‘City of Culture’ keep this arts-rich area a cultural meeting place. Despite the provincial setting, the isolation has kept the art world in Norwich centered on Norwich. And with so many galleries opening in the last fifteen years, the people in this area still don’t have to travel down to London to acquire great art. Right now, I’d say the traditional subject matter of landscape and portraiture are still outselling the more abstract contemporary pieces, but the contemporary arts are on the rise. The trends in art (and other areas) will come and go, but Norwich will always remain a city of the arts.

Tags: Grace

Interviews, Questions, and Synthesis

May 11th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Ah here I am again discussing my experiential learning. I really wanted to interview the tour guide (the Man in Black) but unfortunately instead of just answering my questions, he asked me to email him. So email him I did, (though he has yet to email me back) and the questions that I had sought to ask him are as follows:

Question 1. What got you interested in this field?

Question 2. How many tours have you given?

Question 3. How many people on average take these tours?

Question 4. Why do you think so many people are interested in this topic?

Question 5. What is the most surprising thing about working in this field?

Question 6. Do ghost stories possess a greater value than simply being entertaining?

Question 7.  What is your favourite part of giving a ghost tour?

If the Man in Black stops being a ghost hunter for a minute, maybe he will respond and I’ll have another interesting blog post to write. But if not, I apologize for the unanswered questions that are above and if you’d prefer, I can make up some answers that support my paper topic just to add an extra flavour of overall cohesion. In the mean time, I decided that the best idea was to go back to the Adam and Eve pub and interview more people! So I made the trek back out there and yet again experienced another fascinating interview, this time I found a young man named Clive who was more than willing to participate. He actually noticed ME jotting things down in my notebook and asked what research I was doing. I explained the whole historical/anthropological hypothesis that I had spent months developing and researching for our class and how I was tying my broader findings into Norwich’s history in the hopes that it might reveal a lot more about the atmosphere of the city. He was quite supportive actually which was nice…and to my relief he didn’t interrogate me like the dynamic duo that is Maud and Mary. I explained to Clive that I was just going to ask a few questions and it would be best if he answered them honestly and as in depth as he felt comfortable going. The interview looked a little something like this:

Q. So what brings you on this tour?

A. Well I simply believe in ghosts. I love the history that ghost tours and stories reveal. It’s also a beautiful evening.

Q. Yes it is lovely out! So tell me, why do you believe in ghosts?

A. (Vaguely) I can’t really be too sure. I have had experiences with them if you know what I mean…

Q. I actually don’t really know what you mean…I myself am a sceptic. Can you explain?

A. Well like, I can feel them. Right now, there is no one following us on this tour.

Q (long pause)…….WHAT?

A. There is no one on this tour with us. No ghost, I mean.

Q. (Trying to recover) So…have there been ghosts on the other tours you’ve taken? How many other tours have you been on?

A. Yes, I have felt them before. They are just curious and they wander behind us. I have been on about 4 other tours before.

Q. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completely caught off guard by that statement…I don’t even know what to say. Do you communicate with them?

A. I have psychic abilities. I can just feel them when other’s can’t.

A. (Backing away slowly) Wow. Well thank you so much for answering my questions. You’ve been really helpful! I hope you enjoy the rest of your tour!

Clive was pretty cool, but I really wasn’t expecting the answers that he gave me. Now that I think about it, I’m glad I happen to stumble across people with such varying views on ghost stories. The interesting thing to note here, is that all the people that I interviewed (approximately 10 individuals) have each said that they are interested in the history of Norwich, or the history behind the struggles that supposedly torture souls of the East Anglians past. I’m relieved actually, mostly because this continues to prove my point: that ghost stories are important lenses through which our modern culture can use to adjust and the focus on past social, religious, and political problems. I’ve learned a tremendous amount through this experiential learning component of our final project, mostly about Norwich itself and its community. I discovered just how important Norwich’s history is to its community and how much pride they feel when they learn about it. The ghost walk was exciting, fun and entertaining, providing me with a new way to see Norwich…but it was really my interviews that were the most important component of my experiential learning. Ultimately, I feel like I spent a lot of time interacting with the city that we so often take for granted, and by doing so I learned an exorbitant amount that could not be simply researched. For that, I’m relieved to conclude that my overall experiential portion of this project was a complete success and one that will stick with me long after my project is turned in.

Tags: Maddie

“All Those Who Wish to Walk the Corridor of Death, Queue Over Here”

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Originally, I expected this tour to consist of only a very limited number of people. Maybe it would just be myself and my friend Jimmy, whom I had recruited to join me. This was a rather large worry for me for some reason, maybe I didn’t want to be seen as the dork that I am. But once Jimmy and I had made the trek to the Adam and Eve pub, I began to worry that maybe I had actually gotten the date wrong and there was no tour. We went in and asked the bar tender who assured us that it was in fact still on. Jimmy reasonably asked “how will we know who the tour guide is?” The bar tender literally laughed in our faces and said “you’ll just know”.  And he was not wrong. The “Man in Black” was just that, a man in all black with a red tie, skull-topped cane, and top hat. I liked him immediately.  After we’d paid, I realized that A LOT more people had joined us. Final head count: 45 people even. 10 kids (8 girls, 2 boys) and about an equal number of adult men and women. This was turning out much, much better than I expected. I was about to begin conducting another interview when I was cut off by the Man in Black who yelled over everyone (direct quote here) “All those who wish to walk the corridor of death, please queue over here”.  So Jimmy and I gathered around our tour guide who began the tour by telling us that he himself was a ghost who had died in 1875 (totally cheesy, totally awesome). He also set a few records straight, stating that all of the stories are historically true on this walk and that he himself has sifted through the legends and histories. He also advised us to not harass the ghosts if we happen to “feel” them. (OK…what!?) The Man in Black began the tour by discussing the significance of the Adam and Eve pub which was established in 1549. Essentially this pub is haunted by a General who received a mortal wound near the Great Hospital and was rushed back to the pub where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. As a side note: I won’t ruin the tour in case anyone is interested in taking it so if you want to find out just how our General received such a mortal wound, take the tour! Anyways, supposedly there are numerous stories about strange occurrences within the Adam & Eve. Tappings, tugging on hair, blood dripping from the walls, and unnatural cold spells. We then proceeded to walked past Gerald’s Factory located along the river and our tour guide continued to explain the historical significance of the area. As we were standing there along the water one of the girls pointed out a figure in the bushes which turned out to be a really uncoordinated and conspicuous “ghost” who was attempting to hide from us. This marked the beginning of a serious of unfortunate failures from this particular “ghost”. Deciding that his jig was up, he sort of jumped out at us awkwardly and simply walked away. Obviously this little hiccup in the coordinated act even confused the Man in Black, who at this point started laughing.

We continued on to Tombland where enormous holes were dug to place thousands of bodies. There are seven total in Norwich and six are located right in Tombland. Altogether approximately 22,000 corpses were laid to rest there. Tombland was not named for these massive graves however, and it is simply a coincidence that the tombs were placed there. In the medieval time, Tombland was the most open space available within the area to place the bodies. From there we continued to the Cathedral where a few interesting things happened at once. We learned about the various ghosts that haunt that area, and ghost haunting that continued to happen through as recently as 1952. The most important thing to note here, is that each of these stories describes true historical events that have withstood the test of time. They simultaneously encourage people to preserve and invest interest in their own history. So as I was nerding out and thinking about how well all of all of these things tied into my paper, I heard a TERRYFYING scream. And I mean like an ear-splitting, bone chilling, screech. Jimmy jumped about 50 feet in the air and yelled “WHAT THE FU…” We both had gotten entirely surprised by a new “ghost” that was supposed to represent the “girl in grey” who had been sentenced to death by the Bishop. This particular “ghost” had selected Jimmy and I to scare, and she did so skilfully by screaming right behind us. Everyone else laughed, but I think Jimmy might have had a massive heart attack…So anyways the story behind the girl in grey is another incredibly interesting tale, so I’m going to make another shameless plug here and ask you guys to all take the walk with the Man in Black. After that little episode, the Man in Black continued to take us to several other locations with equally interesting stories, which ironically really brings each of the locations to life. As we began to wrap up the tour, which was about 3 hours long, I felt confident in the knowledge that I had acquired to represent Norwich’s ghost stories. If you want to learn more specifically about the history behind each location, then take the tour (or just read my final essay!).

Tags: Maddie · Uncategorized

Maud & Mary: An Interview

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

As I have mentioned before, my paper topic is about the importance and anthropological value that lies unnoticed in the often overlooked history of ghost stories. In order to understand how and why ghost stories are relevant to our understanding of history, I first wanted to ask selected people (those about to embark upon the walking tour downtown that I had yet to take) a few questions that would enable me to sift through the “myths” and misconceptions that revolve around the modern ghost stories. So I constructed a very brief questionnaire for my victims, i mean subjects, to answer. My questions are as follows:

  1. Why are you taking this tour?
  2. Why are you interested in this topic?
  3. How many tours have you been on?
  4. Why does do you think people are so interested in the supernatural?
  5. What was the most interesting thing that you have learned while on a ghost tour?

I believed this was long enough to hold their attention, but short enough to not completely bore my subjects. I never expected what would happen next. TO begin, I wanted to start out slowly because I am single-handedly the most awkward human being alive. I chose two older women whom I believed would act a lot like my grandmother…sweet, quiet, and willing to help. Instead, I got Mary and Maud. Both women were grasping enormous pints of ale which led me to believe that they very well could have kicked my ass if I asked the wrong questions.  BUT this was research so I worked up my courage, threw out my cigarette and cautiously approached them. My little speech began something like this: (Read extraordinarily quickly) Hi my name is Madeleine and I’m doing some research about the contemporary and historical significance of ghost stories and I was just wondering if I could ask you a few questions….” Maud and Mary just stared at me for a good 10 seconds after I had awkwardly trailed off which sounds like a short amount of time, but think “1 MISS..I..SSI…PI”.  Then Maud, the larger one, simply said “right” which I took to indicate her consent and I geared up to proceed. Mary however, began asking me questions instead, including, but not limited to things like: Where abouts are you from? Why are you here? Who are you with? Do you like Norwich? Are the boys friendly? Once I answered all her questions, I think they decided that I was indeed trustworthy and told me “to ask the questions, then.”  This is how the conversation went:

Q. So what brings you out here this evening? Why are you taking this tour?

A. (Maud) It’s a lovely evening, we are both on holiday and wanted to do something new every night. (Mary, in agreement) Yes.

Q. Oh yeah? That’s nice, I’m on holiday too. So why are you interested in this ghost tour?

A. (Mary) Simple entertainment. This sort of thing is fun. (Maud, in a feat of uncommon depth) You can learn a lot about the past through these ghosts, can’t you?

Q. (Excitedly) That you can! And that is what my research is all about! So how many other tours have you been on?

A. (Maud) Twice, a couple of years ago. (Mary) Never before, actually.

Q. I only have a few more questions. Why do you think people enjoy these tours?

A. (Maud) Entertainment, belief, interest in the unknown….

Q. All great points! Ok, final question. What was the most interesting thing that you learned on these ghost tours?

A. (Maud…vaguely) I once learned about a guy…(trails off into an unnecessary story that I didn’t even bother to record)

Towards the very end of my interview, they really started to warm up to me and once I’d concluded the interview altogether, Maud wanted to discuss some irrelevant things such as where I could find the nearest medium to communicate with the dead. I attempted to sidestep this subject in the vain hopes to interview more people, but the two women were extremely persistent and they continued to talk to me. This sort of ruined my plans of interviewing other people, so I decided to just settle by returning the following Thursday to take both the tour, and interview others. In the mean time, I had to put up with Maud and Mary would spent a good 45 minutes talking to me before the tour started (they had two more beers in that amount of time, by the way). I decided to bow out when I could feel the more people start to queue up for the tour and I thanked both Maud and Mary for being more than willing participants in my survey. As I was walking back to the city centre, I briefly reflected on the interview. Despite being extraordinarily gregarious, Maud and Mary supplied good answers to my questions and not only that, but their desire to walk the ghost tour that day proved something to me. Ghost stories are important in contemporary culture because they create a link, a bridge from the present to the past that reveals an unparalleled insight into the nature of humanity. Ghost stories depict class segregation, lost love, murder, religious tumult, the corruption of political power…all subjects that we can identify with even now. One doesn’t have to be a believer or a non-believer to understand that something else is going on here, something much deeper than most people (including myself) previously thought. Supernatural folklore ties the past into the present. I mean, why exactly do all legends of ghosts depict pain, suffering, and social unrest? Not to sound potentially pessimistic, but I think that this somehow proves that the only constant throughout history is human suffering. These stories provide glimpses into the painful past of our ancestors, and perhaps attempt to teach us about ourselves and what could potentially be at stake if we become too wrapped up in power (religiously, politically, monetarily). I’m really looking forward to the Norwich ghost tour next week now, I’m excited to see if I can prove my theory by actually taking the walk.

Tags: Maddie · Uncategorized