Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Tower of London and a bit on Democrats

I was in London the second time yesterday. We went to the Tower of London first. The white tower in the middle was the palace before Hampton Court before Buckingham Palace.. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1066. then they built and outer wall and then another outer wall and then they built a mote with another wall. so it is huge, the oldest part in the middle. It took 200 years to build. There are 20 towers in all- it's like a little city inside a city- like the vatican- but not. The first zoo in the world was there. The first royal observatory was too before they moved it to Greenwich. We saw some crazy armoury stuff inside the tower! And the crowned jewels- GEEZE- tooooo many diamonds. tooooo obnoxiously but pretty many diamonds. They had a tribute in there to the diamond quarries in South Africa from 70 years ago- but they treated it like it was a historical tragedy- not a current issue- see Blood Diamond if you haven't. It is interesting spending all my time with all these northern liberals. Northern liberals are very different from the few southern liberals that I encounter- as silly as that sounds it is true. We have lots of political debates- environment, oil, war, taxes, social programs, social freedoms, health care and whatever the heck else. Anyway. I'll put a video clip on the Tower of London up later. The Tower of London was the prison for all the nobility accused of high treason. We saw Tower Hill where thousands of public executions (hang to almost dead, disemboweled, drawn and quartered, and decapitated. Then they'd stick their heads on pikes on the London bridge until they rotted and fell into the river but they buried their quartered bodies. Then, London Bridge was the only way to cross the Thames for miles so people would definitely see the heads coming to town or traveling to trade. The gory tour guide told a story about a duke who was decapitated and then they realized that they didn't have a recent portrait of him so they sent a beefeater back to the bridge to get his head and reattached it to his body and a painter painted the fastest painting he'd ever painted- in a day and a half- and it was an ugly painting. We saw the room where people like Sir Walter Raleigh were kept- they had furniture and could even bring their wives to prison with them- weird huh.
The picture on top is me in front of Traitor's Gate. It used to be called Water Gate since it was the boat entrance. I am standing underneath "Bloody Tower" because the tower was quite bloody back then. Funny, saying "I'm going to the Bloody Tower" here is sort of like saying an American "taking dam pictures" at Hoover Dam. They have a draw bridge and a spiky, reel-up metal bar door to slam down! I think that's exciting.

Other things and Monks in a Pub

After that, we ran down to Piccadilly Circus at night time- that was pretty. It is like New York's Time Square but not quite. Fancy bright lights and signs. Then we walked around China Town before we came back to Cambridge. London has a pretty good China Town.

I went to the British Museum! AAAh Chorus singing. Lovely. We looked thorugh the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian rooms. And I saw the Rosetta Stone- AAAh! I was SO Excited!

HAHAHAHA. Okay so we went to lunch in the oldest brewery in England. Just came upon it on accident- IT WAS SO NEAT!! Huge vats up along the ceiling and catwalks running all the around them. And it was just a neat bar and restaurant too. So we were in there- I was drinking a coca-cola, a really good cold glass bottled one- and this group of guys dressed like monks started streaming in until there were like 15 of them and a few nuns too. We were curious so we started talking to them. They had just come from a jousting festival in Bristol and were starting there London pub rounds so they were tipsy enough to laugh at without being disgusted. They had this banged up antique horn that they were blowing on and they were altogether absolutely hislarious. They were facinated by us Americans. It was just me and these two random guys from my program because we had lost the rest of our group- one is from New Hampshire and one from Arkansas and course the British monk boys only knew were Texas is and they were instantly fascinated with me. I cannot say that there are many things more fun than being the center of 10 cute British monk guys attention for half and hour. They wanted to know know if I ride horses and if I bootscoot and they had me yell "ye ha" and "howdy" and they thought I was cute. I taught a boy to dance a little and then I dipped into him and he swept me up and spun me all around crazy and put me back down- it was funny. Lots of them took pictures with me, two asked for my number, and a tall blond on that kinda looked like Prince William told me that he thought I was very pretty and he asked me if he could please kiss me on the cheek. I said yes and he did. So that was a thrill I dont think I will ever forget it. haha.


So England was the only country in the world to recognize Texas as a country back when we were independent. So there was a Texas Embassy in London. Now, it is a restaurant and I ate there last night. I had a burger and it was quite good. Aside from my Romanian waiter, I really felt very at home there! They did an excellent job of decorating it. I am sure the Brits who go there think it is probably over the top but it actually wasn't. Two stories, dirty plaster thrown on the walls, bright Christmas lights hanging from the high ceiling, murals of Mexican ladies and mustached men in sombreros, concrete floor, mosaics on the tables, good country music playing, and Texas flags hanging from in the middle of the room. There was a flag for almost every University in Texas. The only univ. that had two flags was A&M! So I took pictures! And I bought a t-shirt. There was a big sign for Leddy's boot repair shop and I laughed and laughed because I know where the main one is in the Fort Worth Stockyards and I have shopped there with my daddy. I told the bar tender girls that I am from Texas and that I own three pairs of boots and have had them resoled several times and they didn't believe me- they thought that all the Texas hype there was an overdone joke- nope. The funny thing to see what the photos from concert evens where the Brits had TRIED to dress Texas... hahaha I made fun of those- the guys had painted on frisky beards, had funny wanna-be hats and big red bandannas and no boots. After we got back outside, I had to reorient myself to London because I felt like I had stepped back into Texas. It made me week- I needed that.

My favorite stained glass window I've ever seen

I was sitting in Michaelhouse's side chapel the other day just praying and reading and the sun was pouring pefectly directly into a big stained glass window with assorted crazy stuff all over it. It was beautiful. And I noticed this one small part of the window which really means alot to me now. So Accountability girls, this counts for my closest to Christ moment. LET ME TELL YOU! It was a depiction of the Trinity. Latin, Pater=father est/and Filius=son est Spiritus Sanctus=holy spirit forming a triangle around Deus=God in the shape of a shield. I drew a little picture. I had never thought about God as my shield and protector quite like this before but I love the image- it's so reassuring! I had a really long awesome Bible study right there.

Psalm 27
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
...I will be confident.

Then Psalm 28
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;

Exodus 15:3
The LORD is a warrior;
the LORD is his name.

Then I looked at The Armour of God in Ephesians 6.

(And God's Covenant With Abram
1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward." and Hebrews 11:8-12 talks about Abraham's faith.)

My favorite though is the first verse. It sums up the stained glass window perfectly. "The Lord is my LIGHT." That is how they stained glass works, the LIGHT pours in through the windows and the colours brighten up like beautiful! The Lord is my Light! and He is my Warrior and my Shield!

I love stained glass.

C.S. Lewis Lecture Notebook

I wrote before about John, the adorable elderly man from my Bible study group whom I bring Latin notes to because he loves translating it with me and he was on of C.S. Lewis' pupils in the 1950s... Well, he decided to loan me his notebook from when he was 19 years old with a lot of C.S. Lewis lectures in it! There are lectures on Joyce, Chaucer, Malory, Shakespeare, and Donne! It is a really old bound notebook, the pages are yellowed and brittle and he obviously used an oldschool fountain pen in it. It's pretty. I've read about 3/4 of it already. It is so funny because I am taking a class on Malory as well as one on Shakespeare here now, so it is neat to read his notes on what Lewis taught in this town 50 years ago- exactly what I am learning about here now. He told me to be careful with it, so I am. I'm just flattered that he doesn't mind me borrowing it because I know he values it alot.

I made him a gift in return. I haven't given it to him yet but I am excited about it. I painted the Lord's prayer in Latin on some textured brown paper and then mounted it on some reddishbrown paper. I think he will like it alot.

I met the Boy Scouts of Holland today. They are on tour with their brass band and they wear funny outfits.

Friday, July 27, 2007


We went punting today! The river is pretty shallow near town so instead of gondolas, Cambridge has punts. About 6 people can ride in each long flat boat and the punter stands on a higher platform on the back end and uses a tall wooden pole to push off the bottom and down the river. Each boat has one small paddle for in case of an emergency. There's quite a bit of technique to it. They warn you that if your pole sticks, let go of it because if you don't, of course, your boat will keep moving and go right out from under you. The apparently happens quite often so Cambridge makes fun of their tourists for having wet sweaters from falling into the Cam. The poles float so if you let go, you can paddle back for it. There were six of us girls in our boat and I tried at punting second. The pole stuck and I am a good listener so I let go of it, but it didn't float, it stuck there like a flooded tree stump. We were about to go under a bridge, so I thought fast and grabbed onto it, pulled myself to a crumbling sidewalk, hurried across a tributary and got a little wet, climbed a fence, and hung over the bank to pull it out. The thing is awkwardly long so running it back to the boat was a funny feat. My boat had already gone under the bridge by the time I got back across the tributary so a nice girl up on the bridge let me pass it up to her while i climbed up and over the railing, then I ran through a private garden and jumped back onto the boat and kept going. It was pretty smooth really-haha. They didn't see it get stuck or me abandon the boat, so they just turned around and their punter was gone. That was probably a funny surprise.

Shakespeare in the college gardens

We just went to see Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" in St. John's College garden. Okay so that was amazing! (Kiss Me Kate and Ten Things I Hate About You are based on this play). It was grand to see a comedy because both of the plays we have seen so far have been tragedies.
Last Thursday we went to see Macbeth in Stratford, the town where Shakespeare was born and died. It was a very morbid rendition of the play! Way too many dead babies.
Anyway, they Cambridge Summer Shakespeare Festival is put on by students from here every year and the actors in Taming of the Shrew were HILARIOUS!! There were probably about 50 people there. And the performed around a tree and bench there in the garden. We sat in the grass wrapped up in blankets because it ws twilight and a little cold and drank hot malt wine and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I will never forget that.

Lances and Steering Wheels and the Sherriff of Cambridge

Drivers drive on the Left side of the road in UK, Australia, and Japan. FUN FACT: The reason is that when knights jousted, they held the lance in the right hand and therefore passed left!

Today I saw a little boy wearing a full cowboy outfit. hat, chaps, vest, fringe, and a sherriff's badge. I told him howdy. and his mom laughed.
You know the word "sherriff" came from Old English "Shire Reeve" which basically means tax collector of a shire (Cambridge is in Cambridgeshire.) This is why, in Disney's Robin Hood, the wolf Sherriff of Nottingham collects taxes. In America it has come to mean something quite different. By the way, I am 85 miles from Nottingham.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tree Climbing, Building Scaling, and a Rowing Tournament!

The other night about four of us illegally played in some flat boats on the river. oops. No, they were tied to the dock- we didn't do anything that bad. And I climbed a willow tree. Those are excellent for climbing. I pulled myself up one of the stronger long branches and dangled a while from pretty highup- but I was in a skirt. a long skirt. Matt showed me up though when he bear hugged the trunk and shimmied up to the tip top. He was yelling down from up there- "Heather, I see a ____. what is it?" and I would answer him the building or spot and it's history if I knew it. Yes, I am that girl that hiked around the whole city and read everything about every college, church, and building as soon as I got here, so they all ask me questions. I like it. After the tree climbing adventure, we took to scaling college buildings. We have been told not to do this but we did it anyway- it was dark- nobody could see us. I did pretty well. I lept from one wall to the other and latched on securely and pulled myself up the ledge. Say, good job heather. gee thanks.
Last night I watched a rowing tournament! That was fun! We drove out to the country- my first time in a British car (the steering wheel is on the right so so sitting passenger on the left feels REALLY weird) and ate dinner at a cute pub. The river is deeper and wider out there and oldschool low wooden houseboats line the bank. Willow trees everwhere. and children running around in their pajamas-dont ask me why. In rowing you have a long skinny boat with about a dozen men sitting single file with a paddle each, alternating lefts and rights and the goal is to bump the guys in front of you. I would rather be a persuer than a persued. Whenever they bumped, both have to pull off to the side while the next set of boats pass. It is a tradition that if you win a bump, the whole team stuffs foliage down their shirts. ha ha. So lots of spectators bring knives so if a boat pulls up next to them they start cutting branches off trees and passing it to them. So if a team goes by you with leaves hanging out their armpits and collars, it is because they won a bump. There was a bicycle path on the other side of the river and bicycles would start off with the boats and race them down. so with ever set of boats, there were about a dozen bicyclists speeding down the path. that was funny too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ultimate Frisbee and a Red Double Decker Bus

Yesterday I played Ultimate Frisbee on Jesus Greene. This town was basically built on an island in the middle of a swamp and the town expanded before they figured up a drainage system. Consequently, the the 18th century-to-present suburbs are several acres away from the 17th centurey part of the town. When they drained it, the business men tried to build on the new dry land but the city said no and it turned it into lovely parks that wrap all the way around the city. Because of this, even though Cambridge has a population of 200,000 the old town is trapped and feels like a small ancient town. Anyway, about 10 of us played ultimate and soccer there yesterday. I am horrible at soccer but not too shabby with the frisbee.

Today I rode on a Red Doubledecker Bus. I was thrilled!!! I walked about 3 miles across town to get my computer and they still wouldn't give it to me and took the bus back for £1.10.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More London

The Globe at night time.

So I have a thing for Big Ben- I really like it. People say it's under-rated but I beg to differ. When I look at it, I think of The Great Mouse Detective cartoon and that climactic fight scene with the Villain-Rat who is actually a cat on the clock. The rat falls off and dies.

The big church is Westminster Abbey. I saw so many famous peoples graves there. Henry III, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret Beaufort, Edward III, The Coronation Chair which has been used since 1308, Richard II, Geoffrey Chaucer, Alfred Lord Tennyson (I am taking a class on him right now), Charles Dickens, Handel, Darwin, Newton and memorials for Shelly, Keats, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare (I saw Shakespeare's grave in stratford later).

Me with on of the 4 giant lions under the Nelson Tower at Trafalgar Square. Me in the flower gardens at Hyde Park, another stoic guard at Buckingham Palace, and St. Pauls Cathedral from across the river after the Globe play. St. Pauls is the third largest Cathedral in the world. The biggest is in the Vatican, second in Milan which is also in Italy, the fourth is Notre Dame.

Okay Scroll Down. There Are New Pictures Below.

Stained Glass Windows and Cathedral Roof Walks

Today a friend and I took a train out to Ely, a little town nearby- only £3.50 ticket. There is a Cathedral there built in 1081 and it is extra-ordinary! The only Stained Glass Museum in the world is there and it was so neat. I learned all about how stained glass is made and the history of it. It turned out that they were supposed to teach a workshop to some school kids there today but they canceled at the last minute, so since they already had all the supplies set up they just let us use it. So I made a sheet of stain glass! For free. They are going to fire it in the kiln tonight and then I am going back to pick it up later. They give you a sheet of glass and you use a razor blade to push very fine lead shavings into the outline you want them in (that's the modern way of doing it) then use fill it in with crushed-powder coloured glass. They sent the die through the glass when they were making it and then pulverized it and you just use a table spoon and the razor to place it. It was an amazing experience! The lady who was leading the workshop also is a big photographer so she talked for a long time about photography- I learned a bit. So we were sitting on the second floor balcony in an 11th century huge cathedral looking down and up all surrounded by beautiful and then an amazing Boys Choir started singing downstairs and the sounds reverberated all over the room. Oh wow! It was like all my senses were triggered- I see the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen, I hear a choir in it, I am tactile-working on a stained glass sheet, and eating a plum! Wayne got me into plums. I eat one everyday. So then okay this is like the second best part! I got to climb on top of the cathedral! I have always wanted to go through all those secret stairways and such but never get to! This church is famous for its "lantern." Its an octagonal shaped tower with windows and all around it 140 feet up!

The Ely Pictures I Promised

So this is Ely Cathedral. Queen Ethelreda first had a church built here in 673 A.D. and the building as it is now was completed in 1081 except for The Lantern which was built in 1321 after the East tower completely collapsed. I'll tell about that in the next post.

There's me going through the huge enterance door.

And a stained glass window about Noah. Since common people were illeterate then, they put Bible stories on the windows for them to learn them. These windows were put in in the Victorian period/ 1800s because after Henry VIII split from the catholic church as well as the Protestant Reformation, they came and knocked them all out and scraped all the paint off the walls (they used to be vibrant colors, not plain stone) because they thought it was too gaudy and we needed to be humbler. There was another crashing of the surviving colorful cathedrals under Oliver Cromwell because Puritans also wanted everything simple. In the Victorian period, they restored the windows in the newer styles.


They built the original building over clay which would have been good except that the Queens chapel that they added later rechanneled the water so that the foundation shifted, columns crazhed and boom. It is interesting to see the changed in architecture where they rebuilt and the old part. The older parts are just rows of Norman arches- the half circles on columns and then the more gothic style is the newer part. Anyway, so instead of rebuilding the tower identical to the west tower, they built an octagonal room sort lined with windows that make the light bounce back and forth a certain way to light up the room like crazy beautiful. thus the "lantern."

Here I am walking from the front of the Cathedral to the back ceilngward:
First, the West tower. There is a labyrinth on the floor put in under Queen Victoria.

You can see the Norman arches in the second and third pictures- i wish I had taken one by the transformatin point. oh well.

Then looking up at the lantern which is in the middle of he cathedral. The building is in the shape of a cross which was typical.

Then the elaborate ceiling in the back chapel. It was too high for Cromwell's men to take the paint off so they left it.