Friday, 13 September 2013

London: So Much to See, So Little Time

As the weekend rolled around, and the majority of Harlaxtonians prepared to embark on the school trip to London, I began to feel more and more that what I was doing was insane.

Rather than signing up for the well-rounded itinerary of the school trip, my friends and I had decided we would plan London independently. We’d booked our hostel back in August, so we knew that we at least had a place to stay, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. What if we couldn’t find it? What if we got on the wrong train? What if –– and this was a truly terrible thought –– we got to the hostel in one piece and found that it was simply not a safe place to stay? What if our roommates were creepy old men who ogled at us in our towels or shifty-eyed characters who stole our stuff?


It turned out that our hostel was none of these things. We were in South Kensington, a pretty posh borough where we wouldn’t have been able to stay otherwise, and all of our roommates seemed reasonably normal. We weren’t all in the same room ––– in what seemed blindingly obvious in hindsight, we’d booked independently and hoped to be grouped together ––– but the woman behind the counter did her best to try to get us together. And we found the hostel just fine, although it took some map-reading and good guesswork to actually find the building once we got off the tube. So all in all, I felt pretty proud of our abilities to go somewhere by ourselves and not end up lost or taken. But just getting to the destination does not make a good trip, I soon discovered. While there, we had to do things like figure out where to eat and what to see, and someone was bound to be disappointed. I worried that I would leave London feeling like I’d seen absolutely nothing, or that I’d wasted my money, or, worse, that despite the fun we’d had, it would never be able to leave up to my fabulous daydreams of the trip. I worried that, like a kid who awaits Christmas with a feverish anticipation only to unwrap socks, my unrealistic expectations vs. the inevitably flawed reality would let me down. But, thankfully, I was wrong.

My trip to London wasn’t perfect. I showered in a space the size of an airport bathroom, forgot my railcard for the journey to Watford Junction, had my walking tour held up by a car show, and came down with a cold in the process. I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted to. But I also drank butterbeer outside of the actual Potters’ cottage, watched the changing of the guard, climbed the lions in Trafalgar Square, ate wonderfully authentic Middle Eastern food (and fish ‘n chips), and affirmed my ability to safely and successfully navigate places beyond my wildest imagination. I met Germans and Vancouverites and saw street performers dressed as cats and drank in weird pubs with some great friends, and I was not let down at all.

Leaving London, I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of a city rich in history and culture. Because to be honest, two days is not enough to see a city. I could spend months pub-crawling and museum-visiting and tea-sipping before I ever felt I’d experienced enough to say I really knew or saw everything London has to offer. But I got a little taste. And though it wasn’t complete, I don’t hesitate to say that it was one hundred percent worth it.

-Anna Sheffer

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Progression

To coin a phrase from Doctor Who, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective point of view, it is more like a big ball of wibbily-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff.” Admittedly, time is not necessarily as flexible for those of us without the ability to travel through time and space at our own convenience, but it still fluctuates a little more than we tend to notice. What we learn today, about yesterday, impacts our tomorrow, after all. No matter where we are, whether it is in Grantham, England or back home, we are entirely submersed in history, in the present, in our futures. It’s a rather mind-blowing concept, if you care to look deep enough.

So what does that have to do with Harlaxton?

I am sitting here, typing this out, while listening to birds chirp and watching the sun shine through the window panes. For a week now I have been living in England. For one week, to this day, I have been out of my own country, far from home, and living in a place where history and fantasy stand alongside each other.

Two weeks ago, two short weeks, I was transitioning from being terribly excited, talking about this looming adventure at every turn, to being, well, terrified: I can’t leave the country, I can’t do it, there’s no way, no no no. I was not packed, had not said my last good-byes, and was torn in such polarizing directions that I could not contain myself. On my own blog, I wrote a post about how those last two weeks were weeks of lasts: It would be the last time I went to work, the last time I saw my friends, the last time I cuddled my dog or tormented my brother. These were not indefinite lasts, of course, because surely I would do all these things again, but they most certainly felt like it at the time. Because then, sitting in my living room, surrounded by clothes and suitcases and more clothes, it felt like I was saying a final goodbye—four months is a long time, after all.

But here we are now.

A week in.

It has been a week of magic, of fascination, of exploration (and, let’s face it, a week of jetlag). We have bounced from activity to activity, taking in as much of this magical place as possible. Even now, a week later, it does not seem possible that we are really here: That we’re here on these beautiful grounds and preparing for a weekend in London (and trying to get some studying in every now and then).

But we are—we’re here.  

I was more than a little apprehensive about traveling at first. I have never been too far from home without a reliable, built-in, back-up system, and this time I was entirely on my own—there was no turning back. Saying good-bye to my family at airport security seemed like the hardest thing to do, especially for a family as close as my own. In that one instant I was terrified about all the things to come, of all that could be, but as soon as I walked past that gate, hands shaking, I knew I was going to be okay.

And I was right.

So time might not be completely linear, or, at least, grounded in the way we have always imagined it. Time is moving, time is passing, and before we know it, it’ll be the end of the semester. This time here in the manor will have come and passed and we will all have been the better for it.

Now, though—now is when it counts. We have the next four months ahead of us, so let’s make the absolute best of it.

- Abby Ponder

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Leaving the Nest

      I’ve been to Britain before, once, for two weeks when I was thirteen.
      That doesn’t mean I’m not nervous about living at Harlaxton.

      Last time I traveled abroad, I had my parents with me. This time, I don’t. Sure, sometimes I think I’d like to move out of their house permanently, but there’s a difference between moving across town and spending four months across the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve never been away from my parents for more than three nights at a time. I’ve never even lived in a dorm before.

    I guess I have to start being self-reliant some time. What better place is there for me to grow up a little than a manor in England?

   I love Britain, anyway. When I returned from my trip to Britain six years ago, I felt homesick for Britain. The island captured my imagination. It was everything that I’d read in the history books I adored. There really were ancient Roman walls in the middle of cities. I really could stand in churches where monks had stood a thousand years earlier.  At Harlaxton, I get to live in a manor. This morning, I went to church in Harlaxton village. That church was originally erected in the twelfth century, put together in bits and pieces through the centuries. It’s been through the Reformation and many, many wars. Later this semester, with my Shakespeare class, I’ll visit Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s old town. History is everywhere in Britain. What’s not to love?

   I know I’ll have a hard time adjusting to life away from home at first. I won’t be able to get hugs and kisses from my mum whenever I need them…but that’s just a part of growing up. I can Skype her, and I can learn to take care of myself. Once I’ve settled in and classes start, I’ll be so busy studying—fantasy literature, British Studies, Irish literature, Shakespeare—and adventuring—London! Edinburgh! York!—that I won’t have time to be homesick. I’ll learn to travel the world by myself and speak for myself. I’ll get to live in a land where history is everywhere you look.

    As I sit in the courtyard of the Carriage House, feeling the cool breeze and looking up at the sunny sky, that prospect doesn’t seem frightening at all.  

           - Kirstin Ethridge