Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

The Thames Festival… No Red Stripe?

September 12th, 2010 · 4 Comments

I can’t begin to imagine the amount of beer cans that were picked up off the streets of Notting Hill after that gigantic parade/fair that I visited at the beginning of the program. Everyone was drinking as they followed the floats (if you call reggae DJ’s riding on big buses floats) down the streets of the neighborhood, throwing their beers on the ground as they were receiving a joint from a generous hand or reaching into their pockets for two pounds to purchase a sketchy jello shot. The side walks were engulfed in the trash that overflowed behind the jerk chicken and Bob Marley tee shirt vendors. Though it sounds dirty, which I guess it was, it was a unique (not going to say fun) experience. First off, I don’t think I’d ever seen saw many people in one spot in my entire life. I was nearly crushed to death so many times. I also liked some of the costumes that the paraders were wearing. I didn’t really like the costumes themselves, women in feather decorated bikinis, but they represented the enthusiasm that so many people had for this event. I soon got tired of it all though, and after trying to get through the crowds of drunk and high people, the closed subway stations just got me even more frustrated.

But the Thames Festival! It was like a five year olds birthday party compared to what I went through at Notting Hill. Like the previous festival there were vendors, but here there were much more and they offered a lot of different foods and crafts. It wasn’t exclusive to one neighborhood, so people were selling everything from Greek food, to pizza and from Japanese, to sweet and tasty churos. Lots of vendors sold toys, like bubble makers and glow wands, while other offered paintings and clothing. As I walked along the shore of the Thames, under the London Eye, I moved through the foot traffic easily and listened to a concert that was off on the grass close by. The paths along the river were busy, but there were no traffic jams. There were people holding clear plastic cups of beer, but that was really the extent of the drinking. I didn’t notice anyone that I thought was wasted. Anyway, the big event of the night were the fireworks. I found a spot on the bridge next to the London Eye and waited half an hour for the fireworks to start. Sadly, I was on the wrong side, and blocking my view of the show were the steel supports for the train track that ran through the middle of the bridge. From what little I saw, but more from the “ohs” and “ahs” of the huge crowd watching, I assume the fireworks were incredible. The tube station and the bus stops were remarkably uncrowded, so the trip back home took as long as it would any other day.

Two different experiences, one a little more comfortable than the other, but both well worth attending. The Thames Festival, if it happened every weekend I would go. For the Notting Hill Festival, I think once every three to four years would be okay.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

To EAT or Not to Eat…

September 12th, 2010 · 6 Comments

              I’ve always been a moderately healthy eater. I try to stay clear of junk and fast food as much as possible. However, leading a healthy lifestyle can put quite a dent in your pockets in the states, especially if you don’t have the time to cook. This is the exact reason why so many people in the U.S. don’t eat as healthy as they should, especially in big cities and urban communities. In a fast pace environment, convenience plays a big role in deciding what to eat for lunch; basically whatever is prepared to grab and go. For example, this summer I worked on Fifth Avenue in New York City, which is always bustling with people no matter what day of the week it is. The allotted time for my lunch period ranged from thirty to forty five minutes, which sounds like a decent amount of time but by the time I made my way through the swarms of people on the streets, waited in line and ordered my food, and then hustled back to the break room, I barely had fifteen minutes left to actually eat my lunch. For the first couple of weeks, I would get lunch from PAX Wholesome Foods, which serves healthy sandwiches, drinks and other snacks. A small sandwich would run me about seven to eight dollars, and then I would have to buy a drink and sometimes fruit. I would end up spending around thirteen to fourteen dollars and would end up being not being completely satisfied taste-wise and hungry again in an hour or two. Once I began to calculate how much money I was spending on food, plus transportation to work all week, I realized I was spending almost half of a weeks’ paycheck. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about the price of transportation, so I had to cut down on how much I was spending on food, which led to the occasional trips to McDonalds (yuck!).

              Once in England, it wasn’t as difficult to eat healthy on the go. I have never consumed so many sandwiches in the course of two weeks. There are a number of healthy outlets scattered throughout London. A couple of us have designated the chain EAT: The Real Food Company, as our favorite lunch spot. EAT would be the slight equivalent to the PAX chain that I mentioned before, except richer in variety and quality, and more accessible with locations everywhere! Dedicated to fresh food, all of EAT’s sandwiches are handmade daily and baguettes are baked every morning, which PAX didn’t do.  The sandwiches vary between 3 to 5 pounds, depending on content, and taste really good! It would be impossible to find a place in NYC that freshly prepared food daily and was this affordable.  Planet Organic is also another venue that has captured my heart and taste buds. It’s quick, affordable and sooo delicious (it deserves the extra o’s). My favorite lunch, which is a filling serving of their mixed vegetable soup with complementary bread and butter and a 1.5L of water and sometimes a blueberry muffin, runs me less than five pounds. I’ve never been supermarket shopping, but from what I’ve heard there are also healthy and reasonably priced items as well. I feel that here in London the money that I spend on food goes a much longer way than it does back in New York. I am able to eat right and still have money left for dessert!

Tags: 2010 Melissa · Uncategorized

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. A**hole that yelled at me on Tottenham Court

September 12th, 2010 · 3 Comments

I’ve been fascinated by the effects of alcohol ever since I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in my freshman year, the same time I was introduced to college drinking social norms. By day students go to class and make self-aware, well thought out comments and criticisms of society, and by night drink and do all manner of scandalous things to gossip about in the morning (obviously not everyone, but a sizeable portion). We’ve been talk about the British social dis-ease, but I wonder if American social customs are really all that different.

Kate Fox notes that our expectations of alcohol’s effects are cultural rather than purely biological (261). England is known for its aggressive drunks and that expectation, and possibly a little national pride, is a self fulfilling prophecy. As the drunk insane asylum manager from everyone’s favorite show, Bedlam, says as he stumbles around the stage, “We’re English. It’s what we do” to which the audience responded with a proud cheer. For whatever reason, boisterous drunkness is a major source of identity for England, even if it’s also a symptom of the inability to socialize without a lubricant to put you in a liminal state. As a result, while Latin American countries associate alcohol with more peaceful states, England gets bars in Covent Square Garden that forbid the wearing of football colors to prevent bar fights.

I’ve tried to visit a few different types of pubs, and I’ve found so far that no matter the atmosphere, the clientele, or even the level of drunkenness, when it comes to alcohol the Brits are not the friendliest bunch (You see what I did there? Understatement. I’m so assimilated). I’ve managed to get over the occasional obvious refusals of service when pubs close at an oddly specific time if they see a group of five Americans coming toward them. The slightly more expensive pubs I’ve gone to have not been as bad. I usually just get a server who refuses to make any form of polite small talk or eye contact with me, unless he is joining in the group glare that I often receive from everyone in the room when I speak, stand in the wrong place, or exist. The younger, louder pubs were pretty nice because fewer people could hear my accent and it was too loud for me to hear angry throat clears. Unfortunately, the minute I got outside, a few drunk men took it upon themselves to fix that by yelling obscenities and telling me to go back to America (In their defense, I think I might have offended them when I was praising the benefits of Razor Scooters as they walked past. Hot button issue).

During the day, besides the occasional angry glare when I use my 6 inch voice instead of my 4 inch voice in the library, people have been generally friendly, which leads me to believe that Fox is right about the British extremes in behavior.  They’re excessively mild and polite (Jekyll) until they drink a potion that makes them grow fur on their hands and have a strong desire to beat me to death with a cane.

Tags: 2010 Jesse