Saturday, 16 May 2009

Wiccy Wiccy Wild Wild West

You would think after all our Hever frivolity that the three of us had had all the fun we could have. That was until the Student Union decided to throw a WILD WILD WEST night! Oh yes. The three of us marched down to Egham and went to the local junk store to buy cheap cowboy hats. We were messing with fate as the hats were made - shock horror - in Mexico.

UPDATE: None of us has swine flu.

We each dressed up as Western cowgirl-ish as we could get given that this kind of took us by surprise. It's funny because this is the first Union night Miranda has been to and it's a Western night - ha ha.

These things start at 10 but no one usually arrives until 11 or so... so we hung around Leonore's and had a delicious dinner of lasagne and mars bars ice-creams for desserts! Then Miranda said something I never thought I would hear "Umm... when are we ... going to ... drink the... ... alcohol?" Whoa! This is going to be one heck of an evening. That day we bought some interesting flavoured cider and some Cactus Jack apple schnapps (quite appropriate). Okay... so when we were buying the drinks the guy in the supermarket asked to see our IDs. So I got mine out and showed it but he didn't accept my international student card - sigh - okay here's my driver's license - he's thinking - he gets his manager and asks if the license is okay. The manager nods before turning to me and going "That's not the most flattering picture of yourself". Or words to that affect. I cannot believe I was shamed by a guy who works in a store called "Ice land"! Of all the injustices - who was he to judge? Damn Ice land man...

Anyway - despite that hiccup in the day - we watched some TV and added the final touches to our outfits. We decided that we would have Western names and characters for the evening - this included us talking in Southern accents all evening.

Here we have the three Southern sisters - Betty - the sweetheart...
Played by Miranda... Next we have Mary-Lou - the alcoholic ...
Played by Leonore and finally me... playing Sarah-Beth - the skanky one... Yeehaw! And here is their family photo ... Heh heh heh... Cactus Jack helped the creative process... Onto the Union! Because you have to pay to check coats in we all walked through the gale that is England. Rain was whipping us with the aid of a cruel wind and it was rather chilly. Luckily there was no queue as we were there early. So early, in fact, that the dance floor wasn't even open yet! Boo! More drinks needed.

It was past 10 so I didn't think we were that early but they opened the dance floor and it was awesome because there were few people dancing so we could take up as much room as wanted. And we did. The DJ was wearing a vest and a cowboy hat and the whole stage was tarted up with what the English think is appropriate Western-ness. There was a teepee, totem pole, rooters, cacti and a sign that read "Rattlesnake Canyon". Miranda was home! We got our groove on and danced the night away. Or rather danced as long as the people around us would let us. Good grief some of the kids here were behaving in a very silly manner! Listen to me - I couldn't get a single move out because of these rapscallions! I was actually shaking my fist then... so you know. So yeah after a while more people turned up and the dance floor was packed so we started getting tired of being elbowed in every body part or accosted by pairs getting rather physical on the dance floor - yuk. We were just about ready to leave feeling sad because they didn't play "Single Ladies" by Beyonce until... "all the single ladies! All the single ladies..." Yay! The evening was complete as we grooved to this excellent tune. Overall, a very fun evening had by all. Oh I forgot to mention but during the evening some guy came up to me (drunk as) put his arm around me and angled the three of us in a photo with him! Some random took the random photo. Thus the evening was complete... that girl will be flicking through her photos an go "wait - who are those girls you're posing with?". Success!

It saddens me to say that this will be my last blog for a little while because as of Sunday Miranda and I are going on our trip around Europe! Trip number 1. We're going to Paris, Eurodisneyland, Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, Salzburg and Munich. I'm taking a notepad and will write blogs for my trip when I get back here to Founders on June 1st - in the mean time - ... err ... bye!

Hit Me Hever One More Time!

And now... what you've all been waiting for... Another video of me and my friends behaving like loons in historical places! Ha-zah!

In case you hadn't realised (we actually hadn't until... a little while ago) that our videos take inspiration from various decades... "Waterloo" was 70s, "Total Eclipse" was 80s and "Four Minutes" was 00s... which means that THIS video is inspired by the 90s! And what better song than Britney Spears' great hit "Hit me Baby One More Time"? Once again we take all our inspiration from the actual video clip so watch that to get in the mood... Enjoy!

Just in case the writing is too hard to read:

On the long train to Hever Castle - the childhood home of Anne Boleyn...

... one reflects on the destructive romance between Anne and King Henry VIII ...

... How Anne's obsession with Henry drove her crazy ...

... and cost Anne her head ...

... how was Anne supposed to know ...

... that something wasn't right.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Hever - Hip Hip Hooray!

We FINALLY made it to Hever Castle! My goodness all last week Leonore, Miranda and I were debating when to go - where we up to it today? - what about next week? etc etc. But today we went! The weather forecast was rainy which means miserable. Nevertheless we put on our happy faces, armed with umbrellas and caught the train. A simple statement "caught the train" but this was a major event of the day. Every time and I mean EVERY time we go anywhere we plan to get a train, plan a time to meet and then on the home stretch to the train station it flies past us. But today - for the first time - we got the train we wanted! Happy dance!

We had had to change trains twice because this castle is basically in the middle of nowhere. It seems that those who visit this castle are on tour buses because when we got off the train there was no one around and no signs. Great. Luckily, Leonore had packed some directions so off we set into this overgrown town. I use the term "town" loosely given that I saw a few houses on the way there but mostly trees and such. This place (for some unknown reason) has no footpaths so we had to walk on the road and come face to face with death given that the few cars that were around would go roaring around blind corners in this small town - what clever occupants.

But - we made it! Hooray! In case you didn't know Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. The castle was surprisingly small - how modest - but the gardens were pretty big and there was a hedge maze and a water maze - oh this gets good.

First, the hedge maze. Sadly, there was a sign that said the hedge maze was being given "surgery" as the type of hedge takes hundreds of years to grow. This meant that when we walked through the maze we could see straight through it. Oh well it didn't stop us getting lost. Miranda boldly went first - into several cobwebs. We didn't think this maze was so underused given that there were loads of kids on school trips running about but then we realised - school children are quite short and these cobwebs were getting us in the face. Yum. We each took turns and I had taken to walking through the maze as if I was miming wearing cloak with my arm out in front of me. Eventually, we made it to the middle! Thinking there would be an awesome fountain or statue or something in the middle as a reward - we were greatly disappointed as there was a stone block where a statue or something should have been. Brilliant. We improvised.

Jolly good. The trick to getting into the middle of mazes is to put your hand on the left wall and just follow your hand. Seriously, that's how we made it.

Out of the maze and onto the grounds. Very lovely. I can imagine Anne strolling through these gardens with small defined steps plotting how she was going to ensnare Henry VIII in her womanly clutches. The gardens led to a huge lake where you could hire boats. It was all very grand. Take a look.

The funniest thing about this place are the ducks. They were masses of them! And no matter where you go in the place - a duck will surely follow. They came right up to us and quacked for food. We tried tricking them with leaves but they weren't having any of it! Miranda foolishly put her bag on the ground and three ducks waddled up and tried to nibble away the strap of her bag.

Now comes the water maze. This maze is the coolest thing ever. There's a big rock in the middle with waterfalls coming out on all sides which is where you have to get to. To get to it there are stone paths all around it (in maze form). The stones have water in between so you have to watch where you step - they even had an attendant on hand in case you managed to slip off and knock your head - he was reading and didn't look up the entire time we were there. Given that the maze had loads of signs around it saying "be prepared to get wet" we thought - surely it can't be that bad. We even though that after seeing many soggy children. We didn't know what to expect until (thank goodness) there was a group of people in front of us who rushed onto the maze which was when we all realised that when you step on certain stones the weight of your body sets of jets of water to spray on you - tricky! After following the certain path of the other people we made it to the middle, learning that if you walk really slowly onto the stones you can trick them into not squirting you. We still got somewhat wet though. Nevertheless - VICTORY!

Wow - I haven't even got to the castle yet! Well that comes now so let's go. Into the castle. Here's what it looks like...

Yep there's a drawbridge. And a moat! With really really big fish in it. I mean these fish could eat a duck in one go - that's how big they were. Inside we went and - boo - no photography allowed inside. Well... we'll see. The castle was pretty neat inside except that the Astor family (rich peeps who own the Waldorf Astoria and so on) renovated the castle in 1905! Why do they do this? I got to go into Anne's bedroom - yep - it's a bedroom. Then we got to go into the room that Henry VIII would have stayed in when he stayed in Hever. Don't get me wrong I'm not liking Henry over Anne I think it was AMAZING that I got to be in the place where they were hundreds and hundreds of years ago - breathing the same particles that they would have breathed. It's pretty cool. There was another room where behind the panelling in the wall there was a catholic chapel so the occupants of the house (not entirely sure who this was at the time) could pray without fear of getting bumped off by Henry VIII. By this time Leonore and I were lost in a flood of small boys and girls who all clomped into the room shouting things like "CORRRR look at this SWORD!" "No, no look at that BED" before leaning over things and smelling them - ? Strange. This one woman who ran the place kept telling the children to use their inside voices. We went upstairs (despite looking small this place had a lot of rooms) and found that they had got wax models of Henry and all his wives. Miranda knows this clever rhyme about his wives which is "divorced, killed, died, divorced, killed, survived" - how true. Miranda really wanted a photo with Henry so we waited until the lady ran off to remind the children about their indoor voices once more and took the shot! Ha ha! Take that Hever.

Another room contained all these war things like suits of armour and old swords and stuff. There was one thing that caught my eye. This thing. And do you know what the plaque read? "Man trap" Ahh it's what every girl needs... Maybe that's how Anne got Henry... Watch out boys of Oz! I'm bringing this knowledge home...

Out we went and started our walk back to the train station and long journey back to Egham. It's funny because all throughout our trip home we kept getting further and further in our idea for a new children's show called "Kitties on Bins". Seriously. That morning we saw two cats sitting on two different rubbish bins and throughout the space of the day we came up with - names, new characters, obstacles, place, accents and plot development. Brilliant. So whenever there was a silence, really, we would just cry "Kitties on bins!" Patent pending! Not long til Miranda and I jet off to Paris! But there will be more blogs before we go... maybe a video even? Hmm? Anyone interested?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A Day of Royalty ... and cup cakes.

Hello one and all!

Today (Saturday) Miranda, Leonore and I trained our way to London once more. Miranda hasn't seen the changing of the guards before and neither has Leonore so off we set. I've seen it before but the guards were in their grey winter coats and that's no fun. We arrived half an hour early thinking that this might give us a slight advantage. No. We were forced through the crowds like mince in a mincer. This is bringing up images of Pink Floyd... Hmm...

Anyway Miranda found us a really good spot where we were only a couple of people from the front of the gate. At first we couldn't see anything but eventually (once people became sick of standing up) we wangled our way in. The three of us were making jokes about how to get to the front by coughing loudly and saying "Oh man... I never should have gone to Mexico" and "I've got swine flu? - Again?" The woman next to us had a chuckle. The guards marched in with the band in tow. I never realised before that it is actually a changing of guards from the guards who look like ice-cream men to the ones with the fuzzy hats. The different posses stand opposite one another and I said to Miranda "they're going to start dance fighting any second".

They marched about, saluted, stamped - the whole nine yards - and then the band started to play once more. Band playing - meh - we don't even know this boring song-- wait -- the band started to play "that's the way, uh huh uh huh, she likes it, uh huh uh huh" I kid you not. We looked at one another and began to boogie along to this hip medley of songs. It was so random. The Queen wasn't in today (her flag wasn't up) so I guess the band pretty much just do whatever they want.

An hour later the 'show' finished with a whole lot of guys in metal, roman style armour and helmets with swishy bits clip clopping down the street (they were on horses by the way - not in high heels). It was very elaborate and I'm glad I got to see it again to actually make sense of it all.

Then Miranda led Leonore and I through Kensington Gardens where we saw the Peter Pan statue which was actually financed by J.M. Barrie. It's pretty cool. We continued on, grumbling at the weather, to Kensington Palace. In case you were wondering the weather all day would be freezing as soon as a cloud blocked the sun and then boiling once it emerged. The whole day was spent in a state of uncertainty as to whether or not the jacket came off or stayed on.

Kensington Palace! The childhood home of Queen Victoria and also home to Princess Diana. They had this whole exhibition about the last debutantes as well as a bunch of Diana's dresses. Pretty random match up but I think they're designed to keep old bitties interested - I was. The tour starts by explaining the debutantes. So basically the elite were so good that when their daughters reached a certain age they would put them in a fancy frock, stick some ostrich feathers on their head and boot them in front of the Queen so that all the other blue blooded boys could choose their future wives. Sadly, this cattle exchange stopped in 1958. It was mostly because WWII was over and women were more independent but I think it was mostly because the Queen couldn't handle seeing anymore of these curtsying fools.

They had a bunch of hands-on activities like walking with a book on your head as a debutante must be poised. Way too easy. I would like to say that it was easy because I'm so graceful but more likely because the top of my head is flat. On the floor they marked out the steps for a waltz and the important of never making eye contact with your partner (romantic much?). Some old couple in front of us were arguing and stepping on one anothers' feet so Miranda and I stepped in and picked it up right away! I've never waltzed before so I must be a natural. All the old dears behind us were complimenting our sweet skills. They also taught you how to curtsy properly as that was the main part of the ritual. They were stories of girls being so nervous they fell over or got their heel caught on their dress and one girl even dacked herself! Ba ha ha! That'd be the girl I'd chose... the one with no skirt.

After learning about the elite meat trade we continued on into the State rooms of the palace. Wow. Pretty ritzy place - I'd live there. I saw actual bedroom of Queen Victoria which was restored with all her original stuff! Pretty amazing. The audio guide reminded me that Kensington Palace wasn't a lovely and happy home for all those who resided within it. Queen Mary died of smallpox there after having 18 children - none surviving. Yikes.

All in all Kensington Palace was pretty cool. After this we had a look at the Albert memorial. Man Queen Victoria sure did love her husband...

After that we went to this AMAZING cupcake shop that Leonore knew about and I had a Nutella cup cake. I've tasted heaven - who knew it was in cup cake form? We're planning another visit... a day of cake. Mmm...

We managed to work out how to get home because pretty much all the tube lines were down in various ways. Some were closed altogether whereas others were only running between various stops or only going west or some such nonsense. We made it home though! Stay tuned because Miranda only has one more exam to go and then it's party time! And by party I mean we're going to Hever Castle. We are such nerds.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Life Without Exams

The title of this blog, alone, will be angering some people I know. Heh heh.

As you can guess I've had a pretty relaxed week of sleeping in until all hours and eating too much as I watch TV on my laptop. On Tuesday, however, I had the great honour of finally being put in a Holloway Players show! Yippee!

All Tuesday I wasn't feeling very well with nervousness. I kept trying to relax, then remembering and worrying that I wasn't funny enough and I would be booed off the small, yet daunting, stage. Managed to get some dinner in and set off to set-up and warm-up. There isn't really anything you can do to prepare for a show of improvisation - considering that that would defeat the purpose. So we played some warm-up games and set-up the stage ready for people to come and watch. Not many people showed up. I mean it wasn't nearly as full as it usually is when I'm watching - but that didn't matter. Miranda and Leonore even took time from their busy study schedules to come and watch me! I was very pleased. Especially when the MC read out each of our names in turn and when they said "Phoebe Black" I heard very loud "WOOOOOO"s coming from their direction. : ) That's right. I typed a smiley face emoticon. It's how pleased it made me.

The show began and I was put into various games. I got up to do puppets where other people move my body and I have to try and justify the actions they are doing while carrying on a scene. It's funny (for everyone but me) that whenever I play this game the other person in the scene with me is this guy, Josh, and we always end up touching one another - thank you puppeteers. The audience loves it so... there you go. Felt pretty good after that. I also played genre replay where I play out a scene and throughout the scene the MC yells "freeze" and gives us a new genre to continue the scene. It was quite amusing when we got called to do Cirque du Soleil which involved me waving my limbs about, wailing and saying random made up words in a whispery voice like "carpaggio".

All in all it went rather well and people were praising me afterwards so I had a very good evening!

As for the rest of the week... Miranda and I went to Staines and I bought a carry-on size suitcase to take on our Europe travels. We finished booking our first European arch and it's very exciting! We keep saying things like "this time in two weeks we'll be in Paris" or whatever. It's very exciting. Another day Leonore, Miranda and I went to Staines to see a movie. I dare not speak its name but I won't lie in saying we knew it would be rubbish and we enjoyed it just the same. It was "17 Again". Don't judge.

The three of us also went into London yesterday so Miranda and Leonore could see the Victoria and Albert museum. It was lovely as ever and I got to see more of it this time so that was good. We also ended up going to (my favourite place) Primark. The cheapest and therefore best store in London. I needed a belt and, well, let's just say I left with more than a belt.

Today, Miranda had lunch with her friend Carla and then we finished booking our second European arch! We're going on a Greek cruise! I cannot wait. It will be AMAZING. It was also really sad though because we get back from Athens on the 21st of June and Miranda leaves for Phoenix on the 22nd! I don't want to say goodbye. We almost had a little teary thinking about that over dinner. People probably thought we were upset about the quality of the food and thought nothing of it.

Tomorrow we are going into London to see Kensington Palace and the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace - I want to see them in their red coats this time! Last time they were in grey coats for winter. Maybe I'll pop in and see the Queen as well. I hear Her Madge has excellent tea ... and corgis.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Jane Austen's Stomping Ground

Okay - I've been very slack and I am so sorry. Note the italics - that means I'm emphasising those words.

So not much has been happening this week... Really not much... Leonore, Miranda and I went to see "Wolverine" on Wednesday in Staines and we all drooled, simultaneously, at Hugh Jackman's amazing man body. Other than that I've been hanging around just recovering from my week of assignments... Today, however, I went to Winchester.

Today is Saturday by the way. Okay so Winchester. We caught the train there and at some point in the day the three of us must have really angered the transport god because no matter what type of public transport we were after - it hated us. We were either just missing it, waiting for ages or it was cancelled. You will understand as I go along.

Anyway we got to Winchester and had a look around the town which was so lovely. It was the prettiest little town. Every single thing was in its right place - flower gardens and vibrant bright green leaves shaded us wherever we went. Then we went to some ancient ruins of a castle built 1000 years ago. It was quiet and peaceful with the blue sky above us and birds singing. Outside the ruins was an ice-cream van so we had ice-cream and ruins in one sitting! Brilliant!

The weather today was really sporadic as one minute the clouds would cover the sky and it would be cold and then the sun would pop out and we'd all shed our jumpers. After contemplating buying another ice-cream (I didn't) we carried on through the little town to the house where Jane Austen died (we did her life in a funny order so just bear with me). This house was the house she lived in for the two months before she died. Apparently, they moved her here for her health in thinking that by being closer to the hospital she would heal better - she died. Oops. But this is the house and the poor thing was only 41 when she died! She was the first of her family members to kick the Victorian bucket. Shame. The house had a sign in the window saying "this is not open to the general public". They must get a lot of people knocking on their door asking to see the room where she died.

We carried on admiring the well dressed school boys - it sounds weird I KNOW. But they are wearing suits to school. It's a nice change from untucked T-shirts with sauce and various other stains as a uniform...

Next we went to the Cathedral where Jane is buried. We went inside and were told there was a tour starting at one that was free - jolly good show. Bought our tickets - "Did you know there is a tour at one?". Went inside "there will be a tour here in about five minutes". OKAY. Miranda later asked one of the employees where the bathroom was waiting to here - "well it's outside round the corn- did you know there is a tour at one?". ANYWAY we got to her grave and Leonore told us to stop and just remember that we were in the dead presence of one the greatest female writers in English literature. It was pretty cosmic. Now for those of you who know me ... I'm not the biggest Jane Austen fan in the world. I have studied her and I appreciate and admire the hard work she put in and also the excellent writing but it's just not my cup of tea. Which is why I did this. Love ya Jane!
The cathedral itself was quite spectacular.

After that we were a bit peckish and decided to get a traditional pasty for lunch. We sat outside and watched the people go by. This had to be one of the highlights of the day. Next to us is this giant spire looking thing (very old) which seemed to be the popular hang-out and meeting place for pre-teens. Sad. So the three of us came up with dialogues and plots for the pre-teens. There was Starving Artist kid (he had lanky long hair and was very gaunt) who was sitting next to Nerdy Girl who was sitting next to Frowning Boy who was sitting next to Forgettable Boy in the Brown Shirt. Nerdy Girl is secretly in love with Frowning Boy who wanted to be more than just friends but she is the girl that he confides his liking of other girls so she can do nothing but be saddened and hopeful. It went on and on as our pasties were steaming hot so we needed to occupy ourselves while we waited.

After laughing profusely at our hilarity we walked up the high street to go to see the table of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. Seriously. We went inside the big castle type building and looked around for the table. We found this plain round wood one and assumed this could be it.
It wasn't. It was just some old table someone had left in there from what looked like IKEA. This is the round table...

Pretty big! I think they mounted it on the wall to stop loons like us recreating a knightly scene and staging a duel. Makes sense. After seeing this we took a walk back the other way to get a bus to Chawton which is where Jane Austen's house is. This house is the one she lived in before she moved to the one you saw earlier. So this is her alive house where she wrote several of her novels. Here is her house - I'm sure the sign saying "Jane Austen's House" wasn't there when she was around. Maybe it was. At least then she wouldn't forget which house was hers.

Here you can see her actual bedroom! Yes I felt the need to pose like a fool every time. I was in a Jane Austen type mood.

This is her actual writing desk. This tiny little thing is where she wrote Pride & Prejudice - how mad is that? And this is in her garden. Her surroundings were much nicer than that of the Bronte sisters I must say.

We wanted to have cream tea (tea and scones) to celebrate our jaunt but the shop was closed. Instead we found a park and played on the swings. We headed back to the bus stop to wait, for what seemed forever, for the bus. We began to get desperate when the bus wasn't showing up began to discuss the possibility of starving in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I remembered we were next to a giant roundabout and in the middle is an island with many rabbits bouncing around. We wouldn't starve - we would go hunting in Bunny Island. We amused ourselves by playing various singing games (no one was around thankfully) until finally the bus came over the rise and we scrambled to stand up "hooray"ing all the while. We got back to Winchester and then went to the train station where our train was cancelled. A different train arrived which was going to Egham but just the longer route so we made it home. Not without having some random teen boys coming up to us - are we magnets for them?? Two of them sat down next to us and said "Hello. How old are you guys? We're 17". Miranda goes "Well I'm 24". To which Leonore added "So keep walking". They left us alone whilst yelling and jostling one another about how "drunk they were". Sad, sad little boys. We finally made it back to Egham.

I was looking forward to a good night sleep but this wasn't going to happen. The people in halls have been SO GOOD lately there has been no noise. But now I have another problem. The boy in the room below me has a very... ahem... vocal girlfriend. 3am. Not the first time either. What am I supposed to do?