As You Like It

12 07 2007

The usual classes, which continue to be quite interesting, occurred. The plenary lecture this time ’round was “Shakespeare, Skepticism and Belief.” Which had some interesting philosophical points, but was overall a bit towards the boring side, though that could have been my lack of sleep as well.

For lunch we ended up over at the Eagle, a pub. The food and drink wasn’t too overpriced, and it was delicious. No one had any complaints about their food, beyond the large size of the portions. I decided to go traditional and order fish and chips (and an ale). My decision was rewarded by a meal both filling and delicious.

After a later subject course it was shopping time. We hit up St. Andrews Street again and then it was off the large Market Place. I stopped by Boots (a CVS like store) to pick up some essentials. Also of special noteMarks and Spencers, which is a popular superstore selling a remarkable range of items from food to clothes, had a manned kiosk that changed money without charging commission; and at a descent rate too!

Dinner was followed by an evening lecture on Cambridge and the Colleges, a sort of historical look at the structure and origins of the University. The lecture was not exactly what I expected, but the speaker was humorous and it was pretty good. I ended off in the bar in St. Catharine’s, which had a good beer selection and was inexpensive. I ended off the night with a bit of Shakespeare.

The Problem With Pickles

10 07 2007

Meet Monday. Thankfully, though I have heard reports of one or two below expectation professors, mine, and as I hear it, most of the others, are excellent. However, let us not get ahead of ourselves…

It has been a full day, not only have I had the regular classes; but orientation lectures have been squeezed in as well. The day started off with breakfast at the Saint Catharine’s College dining hall.

Let me tell you, I’m not sure I can stomach the typical English breakfast. It seems they enjoy beans, lots of meats, and mushrooms in the morning. I can’t stand any of that stuff before noon myself.

Afterwards we ran through the classes, my first subject course was Shakespeare’s Natural History (Part 1). After that was a somewhat interesting plenary lecture reviewing the general theme of the future plenary lectures, Fiction and Reality, via the experiences of Don Quixote.

After all this: lunch break. Yesterday I had headed down to the Mapalm(sp?), which is the main local electronic store, in order to pick up a laptop adaptor. They hadn’t had one, but it was fortunate that they didn’t because, by walking farther down St. Andrews Street, I stumbled on a small convenience store (or News Store as they call them here) which carried the same item for less then it would have been at the more tourist-targeted Mapalm. The upside is that I was able to help out my fellow Mason students by leading them to the same store to pick up electronics-related supplies of their own.

We picked up lunch on our way back. Unfortunately, everything is expensive, and when you do the conversion from pounds back to dollars, you have to practically double the price. We looked around though and were able to find a little coffee shop stuck between an office and a church. We were able to have sandwiches and drinks for about four pounds, which around here is a very good price.

When we got our sandwiches I spotted a “Pickle Platter” on the Menu. I ordered it but, much to my surprise, what I got was anything but. I had thought that I’d be getting a side dish with some sliced pickles on it to stick in the sandwich, but instead I got a square condiment container filled with something purple with chunks of something in it. I’m not really sure what we’d call it in America, (perhaps chutney?) but it was most certainly not pickles. I liked it anyway though, even if it was unexpected.

Afterwards, was the second special subject course, The Novel Today: Re-Writing History. The most fascinating of the courses so far. It’s very interesting because the British modern novels don’t really reach us in the US, and it was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to read through them. It’s somewhat heartening to my inner English major to see the plain and effusive enthusiasm the British have for their novels. I noted on the train ride in that there were more ads along the walls for novels than for anything else. Indeed, it is no wonder, the British love their writers, even having included some on their currency. It was only as I was walking out of the lecture, thinking forward to tomorrow’s examination of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, that I realized the significance of the pickle. [Ha, bonus points if you can catch that reference.]

In Roy’s novel (as in Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children which I read for a spring semester class) there is a constant mention of pickles and their creation. The novel goes on for quite a bit about mango pickles, the secret recipe for creating them, and the long process that goes into them. I had never quite gotten it, what was up with all this effort? Suddenly, I understood. That purple stuff was what they were talking about. Ahha! Now everything clicks.

Anyway, we ended off the classes with a short lecture about how we should write the essay that Cambridge would be grading. Then it was off for a welcome reception in the main courtyard of St. Catharine’s (aka Cat’s) with some fairly decent wine. Dinner was served in the dining room and wasn’t half bad.

Afterwards, the Mason-ites gathered and headed off to the first large looking bar in sight. This one happened to be a vodka bar named Revolution. As bars go, this one wasn’t too bad. They certainly had a lot of vodka, of many different types and flavors (which ranged in quality). Also, Guinness, cold, on tap. It was delicious. Unfortunately, once people started leaving the menu, the prices started to skyrocket and the quality of the mixed drinks to fall, though I eventually switched to the simple (and cheap) supplement of JD; one person’s Long Island cost the equivalent of over 22 USD. It was fun, but for some on the expensive side.

A quick note, don’t try and tip the bartenders. They get insulted.