Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as '2010 Luke'

At the allotment 5

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

The epic conclusion!

I arrive at the allotment at 10.  Since it is Sunday, the allotment is quite busy, so I get straight to work.  I have finished clearing my patch of earth, but I need to hover back over every inch of it to pull out any remaining weeds.  It is fickle, tedious, unrewarding work, but it is indeed an integral, unavoidable part of the same task that has occupied my hours previously spent at the allotment, one that I do deem rewarding.

I spend the entire duration of the alltoment’s Sunday “open hours” 10:00-13:00 busy at work, and I have removed a lot of weeds, tracked down remaining roots from the soil and removed them too.  Also, I have raked the soil multiple times to remove rocks, yet, after the three hours spent doing so, there is still plenty of visable work yet to be done; weeds to be pulled and compost to be added.  lBut, in spite of this, the progress I have made is quite noticable.

I have enjoyed my 20 hours spent at the allotment, and I feel a sense of commitment to the project I have started.  Though this last three hours completes my number of required hours, the project is not complete.  I plan to return to the allotment during the next “open hours” on Wednesday, talk to Mahesh while he is less busy, and work out a plan to finish the job.  I certainly have the time for it, so I think I shall indeed keep volunteering while in Norwich.

Date:  8/5

Time:  10:00 – 13:00

Location:  Allotment

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Hours:  3

Tags: 2010 Luke

At the allotment 4

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

The day was Friday and I was back at my task.  My patch of Earth to clear was almost finished, I had about a third or so left to go; and, as always, I was ready to go.  Over the following hours, I made decent progress, sufficient enough to see the entire patch cleared at midday.

However, there still remained a few weeds here and there that I would need to go back to and pull out, the very annoying, laborious type of work, and so I spent the next hour doing so.  I made a bit of progress, but much more scrutinizing the plot will have to be done before compost can be added and we commence in planting.

It was a nice couple of hours spent getting my hands dirty and doing some physical labour.  I found that my technique had improved and also that I was able to retain more soil from the roots into the bed.  I could tell that the soil at this moment, was quite poor and needed a lot of working before planting.  I am excited to see it when we finally do plant and I believe I will be coming back after the May 8th deadline to watch and help.

Date: 6/5

Time: 10:00-13:00

Location:  Allotment

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Hours:  3

Tags: 2010 Luke

At the allotment 3

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

On my third day at the allotment, I was back at my task of digging out my patch of grass.  I found it to be very rewarding work, for it is land that should have things growing on it, but, for whatever reasons, it has been overgrown.  I feel that leaving the land as is, would be a waste, and unsustainable.

I believe that this perhaps is a task that would not perhaps be accomplished if it were not for myself.  I think that the allotment is a very busy operation and, without the influx of new volunteers (myself) there is not exactly a surplus of people willing to reclaim this plot, so it is very rewarding to think about that too.

As I am a Dickinsonian, I am also thinking about sustainability, the main goal behind the Grown-Our-Own allotment.  It is easy to lump things together under the meaningless label of “green,” but I think sustainability is something different.  It is a process that is not taxing and can be repeated over and over again without harming the environment.  At the allotment, this is very true.  The allotment could exist growing organic vegetables for years without harming the environment.

Date:  5/5

Time:  10:00-14:00

Location:  Allotment

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Hours: 4

Tags: 2010 Luke

Back at the allotment …

May 6th, 2011 · No Comments

On my second visit to the allotment, I found myself handling more intermediate tasks.  Ok, still brainless busywork, but I at least felt that I was gardening.  My job was to sow seeds into black plastic trays, each tray containing mid-size holes filled with dirt.  I sowed 2 trays of sweet corn, 1 tray of sprouts and 1 tray of squash.  Each tray consisted of 84 holes for planting; with 4 trays planted, we’re talking about a lot of potential food.

Just before I left the allotment for lunch, the initiative supervisor Mahesh, showed me what would be my project for the rest of the week.  He showed me a patch of grass that ran behind four plots, overgrown with grass.  This patch had once had plants growing there, and it was my task to dig out the weeds, leaving bare soil for planting.  I thought back to the seeds I had spent the morning sowing.  My space to clear was about 4 feet by 25 feet, so, again, we’re talking about a lot of potential food.  Mahesh gave me a pair of gloves and said “The shed is always unlocked, so you can come down here whenever you like to dig out the grass.”

I took a break at my flat, ate some beans on toast, and then headed back to the allotment to get started on my task.  I prefer tough manual work rather than small busy work, so I was glad that I had a big physical task that would take me awhile to complete.  I spent the afternoon digging out a patch of grass, shaking out the soil and chucking the remaining grass and its roots in the compost.

Date:  4/5

Time:  10:00-13:00; 14:00-16:00

Location:  Grown-Our-Own Allotment

Hours: 5

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Tags: 2010 Luke · Uncategorized

A Sunday spent gardening

May 2nd, 2011 · No Comments

This past Sunday, I took a stroll down The Avenues to the allotment.  The allotment is a product of the Norwich, Grow Our Own, sustainability initiative.  On the allotment, the goal is simple.  Increase sustainability by growing organic fruits and vegetables.  On the allotment, there are scores of plots, a 3×10 foot space, available for rent from the sustainability initiative and there is one communal area, bigger than two plots, where things were grown and plants were kept for others’ use.  On each plot, one can grow whatever they please.  Most grow fruits and vegetables, but some have rented out multiple plots and grow food in one, flowers in another and place a small fish pond in another.  The English love gardening, so most gardeners on the allotment also maintain a garden at home as well.

When I arrived at the allotment, I was eager to get to work.  For, despite it being a sunny day, it was not quite as warm in Norwich as Barcelona (I had arrived the day before) and I was looking to get my garden on and warm up.

My first task was to take a wheelbarrow of compost to two beds that were soon to be planted.  Then, I was to take two wheelbarrows of manure (they call it ‘muck’) to each again and then mix it in with the compost.  This last step was necessary, for the manure contained many nitrates, which would bake in the sun and thwart any potential growth of the seeds to be planted.

After that, we broke for tea.  As I sat there, I found there to be no other more typical English Sunday.  Drinking tea and gardening on a lovely Norwich morning.

Then, it was back to work.  I was given the task of “digging out” a patch of gooseberry bushes.  I was not sure what this meant, and I kind of botched it, but I talked to Bridgette and it was all fine.  It took awhile, but I basically removed the weeds from around the gooseberry bushes and gave them some water.

Then we broke for lunch.  Luckily for me, it was the first Sunday of the month, meaning all of the gardeners of the allotment had a shared lunch.  There was loads of delicious food and great conversation with the other gardeners.  I remarked how English I thought all of this was.  One gardener said, “Gardening is English, sure, but the allotments and the shared lunch isn’t very English.”

I thought about this and, of course, Kate Fox’s “social disease,” but looking around at all of the members of the allotment, I couldn’t really see it, maybe they had just moved passed all of that.

After lunch, I was back to work, but given more entry-level tasks.  I took more wheelbarrows of muck and compost to three more beds and then worked around the communal allotment area pulling weeds, cutting high grass and removing nettles.  All of this was more caretaking than gardening, but I was quite happy to do it.  I was very impressed with the sustainability initiative and was grateful to be a part of such a rewarding activity.  English or not, I had a great day.  When I left, Bridgette gave me some organic spinach that was grown in the communal area.  I cooked it the next night in an chicken-spinach egg-white omlette.

Date:  May, 1, 2011

Time:  10:00-15:00

Hours:  5

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Tags: 2010 Luke

Burnham Market

November 18th, 2010 · No Comments

See Burnham Market for photos from our presentation.

A short summary of our presentation:

How to Get there: 25/35 Bus to Norwich Railway; Norwich to Sheringham or Kings Lynn; Coast Hopper Bus to the Burnham Market stop

About the population: People who live here are in a higher socioeconomic bracket. Named cottages, private businesses, and expensive prices denote richer clientel. Known also as Chelsea-on-sea, the area is a popular place for seasonal homes.

To Do: Shopping, boating, musical events, Holkham Estate Tour, Bygone museum, beach. Most of the area’s attractions are dictated by tourism or summer events.

History: Named for it’s proximity to the river Burn, the town is a culmination of three smaller villages. It’s most famous resident is Horatio Nelson.

Shopping: Shops in Burnham Market are all independent merchants with relatively expensive pricing including a butcher, a baker, several independent clothing stores, a vintage shop, cafes, and several art galleries. Most stores boast locally procuded goods and handmade items. The one chain store in the main shopping area, Jack Mills, sold preppy, fairly expensive clothing as well, but targeted a slightly younger consumer.

Image: Ivy creepers, calculatedly careless shop designs (i.e. the inside of the post office), and hand painted signs creating the image of a quaint, old time village. Clerks gave customers individualized attention and boast hand made items to create a more personalized appearance. The Jack Wills emblem, a duck with a top hat and cane above the words “Fabulously British” exemplifies the image of Britishness that Burnham Market illicts, the duck appealing to a good humored, modern crowd, and the top hat and cane hearken back to moneyed and aristocratic roots.

For more information about Burnham Market http://www.burnhammarket.co.uk/

Tags: 2010 Jesse · 2010 Luke · 2010 Melissa

Human Existence: The Museum!!!

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

For my requisite museums blog, I ventured away from the canon of London museums such as the British Museum and the National and National Portrait Galleries and found an intriguingly fresh museum along Euston Road, The Wellcome Collection.  The museum bills itself as “a free destination for the incurably curious” and one can easily see why.  The museum is a mix of art, modern art and historical artefacts that focus on human well being; however, the negative, uglier sides of human health are equally represented, if not more than the positive.  The museum warns that perhaps this museum may not suit the squeamish very well.

The Wellcome Collection consisted of two main exhibits, one on the history of medicine, represented through the eyes of the arts, sciences and patients, while the other was simply titled, “Skin.”   The main goal of the Wellcome Collection is stated clearly:  “to consider human existence and what it means to be human.”  With this lens in place, the Wellcome Collection proved to be fascinating.  The history of medicine exhibit focused on illness, but more importantly the various ways in which humans make sense of disease within their respective societies.  The exhibit featured artwork, both classical and modern as well as various antiquated medical tools.  One of the most shocking elements in the museum was a line up of twelve to fifteen saws used in the eighteenth century for amputations.  The distance we have come as a human race in the field of medicine really does make what think about our existence and how we should define ourselves.

The “Skin” exhibit I felt really drove home the Wellcome Collection’s message as well.  The exhibit’s tagline:  “consider our existence within our constantly changing skin.”  Surely in our history as a species skin is an important aspect of what it means to be a human.  I quite like this exhibit because it was so basic in its line rhetoric and process of questioning, yet I felt it very relevant to the museum’s basic philosophy.  By walking through the exhibit I realized that there are countless ways to think critically about humanity, even if they are basic and somewhat obvious.  I feel that through analyzing the endless characteristics of human-ness present in our skin the museum emphasized this point.

The Wellcome Collection was small and understated, but posed to its viewing public a fascinating idea:  think about what it means to be a human.  In any religious or secular sense, I find this idea to be both mentally rigorous and rewarding.  Also, I generously give my remarks to the curator for constructing such a deeply philosophical idea in just two small understated exhibits.  I am very glad I found this museum, and subsequent visits to London may require a quick peek to see which exhibits they choose next that will further symbolize their discourse on humanity.

Tags: 2010 Luke · Uncategorized

The Proper Pub: London Edition

September 20th, 2010 · 2 Comments

I like the way in which Orwell describes both his favourite and ideal pub, citing that those are two different ideas and, that as good as The Moon Under the Water is, it does not entirely meet his ideal setting criteria.  I think his pragmatism is admirable, therefore I have differentiated my ideal criteria from the pub that takes the number one spot on my list that I’ve visited during the past four weeks.

Here are my criteria:

1. Football.  Every good pub needs to have the match on.  There is nothing that lends itself more to a pub than football.  All the elements of a pub:  beer, argument etc. are present in a football match.  I have a great suspicion that sole reasons pubs have flourished throughout English history; but, as of yet, I lack evidence to support that claim.

2.  Pub Quiz.  Every good pub should have a weekly pub quiz.  The level of seriousness and competitiveness may vary, but there should be a weekly quiz nonetheless.  Also, the pub needs to have a quiz master that takes the quiz more seriously than their job, and this is mandatory.  In order for this trivia quiz to appear to have any significance in the lives of the pub regulars, the questions asked must be presented by the quiz master with the illusion that they are of endless importance to our human existence.  One can always tell how the quiz master has prepared for each quiz.  The recommend time is 18-20 hours a day, all week.

3.  Sunday Roast.  A Sunday roast is a cherished English tradition and every good pub should take it on as a priority.  Mmmm … Yorkshire puddings.

4.  The pub’s fish ‘n should be made with cod.  Ok, I have nothing against haddock.  It is a fine fish I’m sure; but, I think parliament should consider making a national law making mandatory for haddock fish ‘n chips to be CLEARLY stated on all pub menus.  Words cannot express the disappointment in ordering fish ‘n chips and having haddock arrive on your plate … tough break oh-ten.

5.  Drink specials, specifically 4-pint pitchers.  For those of us that are a bit new to the rounds-buying system of buying drinks in pubs, pitchers make things a bit easier, as well as save you a few quid.

6.  No live DJ.  DJ’s are alright, but what they’re really trying to do is turn a pub into a nightclub.  I’m not down with that.

1.  During my brief stay here in London, I have lacked sufficient time to judge each of the many pubs I’ve been to by all of these criteria.  However, I do have a favourite.  The Rising Sun, on Tottenham Court Road, has become my go-to pub to watch a football match, and for this reason, it probably takes my top spot.  Also, the show their games on Sky Sport 3D, and for a five quid deposit, you can get glasses to watch the match in 3D (Ok, I’ll admit, like any football purist, I scoffed at this idea at first, but after watching a 4-0 England rout of Switzerland in 3-D, I’m a believer).  The Rising Sun also offers pitchers that save you a few pounds here and there and they do well about steering clear of the problematic diversions, such as DJs that could damage the atmosphere of the pub.  The Rising Sun is not a place to spend a night out on the town getting wasted, but rather it is a great place to have one or two pints, and, if you’re lucky, check out the footy.

2.  The second on my  list is The Court.  The Court consists of a pool table, perhaps the best pitcher deal in the Bloomsbury area and a group of regulars that seem to have a decent taste in music.  Operated by a public juke box, The Court gains major points for a patronage that put 2 Bowie songs in a row, Prince, Otis Redding and Earth Wind and Fire all in a night. Well done.

3.  Third is The Rocket.  Quality deals on bottles of Becks, and Newcastle Brown Ale is never out of stock.  This pub offers later hours on weekends (2am) on Thursdays and weekends for the later crowd.  Thursday night live DJ threatens to ruin the atmosphere, but the he is pretty chilled out, realizes that he’s not DJing at a club and generally plays what people ask to hear.

4.  The last spot on my rankings, gaining an Honourable Mention, is The Bank of England.  My most recent pub experience offers great porter and a classy, elegant night out to the pub.  Decorated very luxuriously, The Bank of England makes it into the top four by means of a very positive first impression.  Not much on the drink specials, but its understated elegance, no music and great ale selection make no muddle of defining The Bank of England as another shining example of the “proper pub.”

Tags: 2010 Luke

A Play’s Reach Should Exceed its Grasp: A Commentary by Luke Wronski

September 17th, 2010 · 2 Comments

As a class, we have seen three very different plays during our time here in London, and tonight, I was finally satiated with The Habit of Art.  Before starting another heated argument equal to me being the only student on the program that enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway, I would immediately agree with all the primary critiques.  The play was indulgent.  The play-within-a-play theme did not really do much at all for the work as a whole except insert a few quick laughs.  The first act really tested my patience with the playwright.  However, after intermission, things changed.  Ideas became more fully developed and more ideas were brought forth.  Alan Bennett seemed to gain more control over his thoughts and presented them more clearly to the audience.  And, perhaps the most essential thing that occurred in the play’s latter half, it started to make sense.  When the play ended, not all the Quallms mentioned above were resolved; but, I kept thinking about the second set of qualities to the play and I was thoroughly intrigued, even if I did not have many clear answers.

The Habit of Art differs greatly from the other plays in that it tries very hard to achieve very difficult and complex goals and, ultimately, it misses.  But, it does not miss by much, and its attempt is an admirable one.  In The Merry Wives of Windsor and The 39 Steps we see the opposite.  Simple and clever ideas performed to their maximum potential in skilled productions with experienced actors in their own rights.  However, given the choice between the contrasting types of plays, I invariably side with the former.  I heartily enjoyed Merry Wives and found 39 Steps to be adequate; but, I feel that after watching The Habit of Art, I walked home with more than chuckles.   I’ll explain my reasoning.

Merry Wives easily comes in as my number two, but there are several factors that prevented it from claiming my top spot.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare (I’m practically majoring in Shakespeare), but let’s be honest, Merry Wives is not one of Bill’s best works.  Merry Wives was conceived by Shakespeare after Queen Elizabeth asked the poet himself to write another play featuring the most popular Shakespearean character of his time, Falstaff.  This explains why the knight, known for his hilarious appearances in Shakespeare’s medieval histories (Henry IV I& II), is present in a play about contemporary Elizabethan Windsor aristocracy, about two hundred years later.  (Also, in my opinion, the popularity of Falstaff also explains why Henry IV part II was written, after pretty much every event of consequence had already occurred in Part I).  Merry Wives was written as another opportunity for Elizabethan playgoers to see their favourite debauched knight get into more hilarious hijiniks.  The play is decidedly funny, but ultimately lacks the substance along with the laughs typical of Shakespeare’s comedies and later romances.  What seems to me to be an even greater marvel of Merry Wives is trying to gauge the ease in which Shakespeare churned out this comedy, a product of popular demand.  Its plots, characters and laughs are all fresh and full of comic zeal, even if lacking that extra bit more.  Merry Wives is more along the lines of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies (think Comedy of Errors), but what I was really looking for in the course was The Winter’s Tale.

39 Steps treads along slightly different lines than Merry Wives.  It is not so much an effortless product of a brilliant playwright, as it is one simple, very clever idea executed to perfection.  Just the sheer thought of it:  a famous Hitchcock film, performed by a cast of four and played for slapstick laughs is a masterstroke.  However, the West End has seen this all before.  Many productions prove the point that, on the West End, a clever idea can be turned into a long-running hit that makes a lot of money.  You know, it reminds me … there’s this quote about cleverness … but, I forget what it is.  39 Steps was very crisply performed and played for maximum laughs, but I think that slapstick comedy falls on deaf ears after awhile.  I would suspect if we went to a production of similar character the very next night, it would not only diminish our collective opinion of the latter, but of the former as well.  39 Steps was funny, enthusiastic, but formulaic.  In my opinion, John Buchan, the playwright of 39 Steps, did not so much succeed in matching witty dialogue to an idea with potential as he did just not mess up a funny premise with the potential to be converted into a West End mega cash cow.  For me, I was looking for a play with a bit more.

The Habit of Art gave me that extra bit more, even without ignoring its problematic elements.  What excited me about that production were simply the play’s ideas.  The Habit of Art was full of them.  Ideas about Auden, about Britten, about the two of them.  Ideas about history, about remembering the great artists and about the people close to them that were forgotten.  Allegories to the aforementioned themes of greatness in the arts and the theatre may have surfaced amidst a puddle of murky water; but, in the end, they were drawn clearly enough to identify and appreciate.  Alan Bennett has not written a flaw-free play by any stretch of imagination, but he has thought long and hard, and presented those ideas to us adequately.  This is why I praise Bennett’s play; it has substance.  When I left the theatre (among other people leaving the theatre was Sir Ian McKellan … just saying) I thought about Bennett’s various arguments, as a I do now, and that is really why I go to see plays.  I view the theatre as a forum for one playwright’s insight on human nature, not as a source of diversion similar to television and film.  It is in this sense where The Habit of Art exceeds the others.  But enough of my pretension.  Basically, I agree with the saying (and this quote I do know) “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.”  I feel that a play that nearly misses on something complex and intricate is more admirable (and in my opinion, more enjoyable) than a play that succeeds in its modest goals.  The Habit of Art (and Mrs. Dalloway) gave that to me and that is why I praise the production as my favourite among the trio and esteem it above the others.

Tags: 2010 Luke

Synagogue Reveals Stunning Insight into British Religion

September 16th, 2010 · No Comments

While visiting the Central Synagogue a few days ago, something that our tour guide said stuck with me.  “Here in England, we don’t have the separation of church and state that you have in America.”  This idea had never struck me before, but after thinking about it for a bit, I realized he was right.  While America has no official church or religion, England assigns the Church of England as its national religion.  However, it seems strangely paradoxical to me that, in America, a nation of no official religion, atheism is detested and atheists are looked upon as social deviants; whereas in England, despite its national church, the English seem remarkably apathetic toward religion.

After vacating the Prime Minister’s office, Tony Blair converted to Catholicism.  His reasons for doing so were not to gain some perspective after losing the Prime Ministry, but simply because his wife is Catholic.  This begs the question, however, why didn’t he convert earlier, before his political career was over?  As our tour guide explained, Blair waited until after he was out of office, because the English would think he was “a bit weird” and would feel uncomfortable with a Prime Minister with significant religious faith.

This notion is fascinating to me.  Blair’s political career would have come to a dead halt for converting to Catholicism; but, more importantly, simply being an ardently religious person is enough for one’s constituents to feel uneasy.  This is the completely the opposite case for America.  Politicians have to repeatedly assert their strong religious faiths; for, in not doing so, they would jeopardize their electoral chances, almost entirely.  It will be interesting over the course of this year to do some additional cultural research regarding the ideas of a national church that breeds atheism and religious apathy, while the separation of church and state breeds strong faith and a society that views atheism as some sort of social “other.”   As ambiguous as this connection seems, I believe it is vital in explaining the ways in which religion has developed so differently in these two nations.

Tags: 2010 Luke