Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Travel writing, a market, a banquet, and Parliament talk

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, I owe you guys something. But first, here’s a little summary of each day:

Friday: Travel Writing Workshop, and Gloucester Arms

Saturday: Portobello Market and Medieval Banquet

Sunday: 7:30 PM Mass, and really nothing very exciting

Monday: Class meeting with Member of Parliament—election talk

We’ll start with Friday. In the afternoon I had signed up for this Travel Writing Workshop, as part of the Travelers’ Tales Festival. It was a whole weekend event, with talks about photography and travel writing for the two days. I just signed up for a workshop. It was located at the building, right down the road from me, of the Royal Geographical Society. So, I took the bus down two or three stops, got off, and headed to the building. It was in a pretty plain, run of the mill room, but the rest of the place looked pretty interesting. In between talks I walked around, and saw some of the maps and paintings they had hung up. Anyways, the workshop started off with a talk by Jonathon Lorie (who ran the event) and Matthew Teller and Sarah Monaghan. Probably three people you have never heard of, but the last two are travel writers, I’ll let you look them up. Now, I should say that most of the people there were pretty serious about travel writing, a solid chunk of them looking to make that their living. So I was sort of the odd man out in that sense. But moving on. The second part was what they called a “masterclass,” really a talk, by Chris Steward, who wrote a book called “Driving Over Lemons.” Now, apparently this guy was the drummer for Genesis when they started playing, but they, or he, moved on relatively early. He was very funny, and interesting, and listed a bunch of books to read, most of which sounded interesting. And then the last part was titled “Meet the Editors,” where they had Sarah Miller, who is the editor of Conde Nast Traveler, and Ed Grenby, the editor of the Sunday Times Travel magazine. It was interesting, I learned that magazine editors have to plan wayyy ahead to make sure they get articles published at the right time. Overall, it was a good experience, and I learned a thing or two from it.

That night, we’re still on Friday here, I went out with some friends to the local pub, Gloucester Arms (pronounced like it’s spelled Gloster). I had a beer and played some cards with those friends, and then we went back and chatted for a little while in a girl’s room. I have to say, so far I’ve found that wine isn’t all that great, and beer is alright, but nothing for me to get too excited about, which is probably a good thing.

Saturday, I slept in, a surprisingly rare occurrence for me here. That afternoon, I went to the Portobello Market. It was reallllyyy crowded. Which is fun in a way. My problem was that the group I was with took their time going through the area, and there was a lot of waiting for 15 minutes for people to get food. We ended up spending something like 2 ½ hours there, a little long for me. I plan to go back, they had some interesting stuff there, but will probably go by myself to get in and out faster. I’m glad I went, I just would’ve gone through faster.

Saturday night I went to the Medieval Banquet. It was a little on the pricey side, but worth going. And of course there were a lot of obnoxious people there, but you have to bet on that when you go to something like this. I feel like I’ve spent the last two paragraphs complaining about different things, so let’s get to the positive stuff. I went with two of my friends, Cameron and Leah. We sat next to some interesting people: a group from Holland on a vacation, a couple from Southampton celebrating their wedding anniversary, and an older couple (the wife seemed like she had had a glass of wine or two before getting there, and they didn’t seem to have such a great night). There were something like 350 people there, but it was in a solid sized basement room.

Sunday was more relaxing. I slept in again, couldn’t really fall asleep the night before. Didn’t do nearly as much, mainly because I had an earache to figure out. I went to 7:30 Mass at the local church with a friend, and then came back and hung out here. The homily was good at Mass, I do remember that.

Yesterday was another day of classes. But, for one of my classes we meet in 1 Parliament Street (the least fancy of the Parliament buildings) with a Member of Parliament (MP). We have people presenting on different topics each week, which he then analyzes, and corrects if need be. Our MP is Mr. John Hayes, the Shadow Minister for Education and Skills, or something like that. He’s a very nice guy, and like any politician can talk for ages. This week we didn’t start till 6:15, and by start I mean we got into the room then. He then talked about what is currently happening in Parliament, as they are about to come back into session in the next week or two (they’ve been in recess recently). I’m actually glad I took this class, especially at this time. There has to be a general election called here in the UK by June, and the Prime Minister gets to decide when the election will be. He has to give a certain amount of notice, and of course technically he has to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament, but in reality this is a huge tool for him. The current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is a few points behind the Conservative (sometimes referred to as the Tory) Party leader David Cameron. Our MP is a member of the Conservative Party, hence being a Shadow Minister (technically this Shadow Government is Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition) currently. So this is an interesting time for him, and for the Conservative party. The lead the Conservative’s had has narrowed, which will probably cause Brown to wait longer to call for an election. Of course, there is talk that even if the Conservative’s win, aka get the most people elected into the House of Commons, they won’t have a large enough majority in the Commons to create a government (a poll recently showed them getting something like %40 of the votes). Their electoral system is different from ours, and so is the way the government is run. But for now, suffice to say, there could be what is called a “hung Parliament” if the Conservatives have a numerical majority, but cannot get enough other parties to side with them in creating a government. This brings the Queen into play, and all sorts of interesting things could happen. I’ll leave you with that, though, hopefully it isn’t all too much to swallow. We had two presentations that day, and we are technically supposed to get out at 7, but we got out at 11:30, not bad considering we didn’t start the presentations until at least 6:30, maybe more like 6:45. Politicians can talk and talllkkk and taalllkkk. I had fun passing notes back and forth with a friend, though. I’ve found that I’ve done more note passing in college than I did in the rest of my life combined. And yes mom and dad, I’m paying attention, for the most part. But on a serious not, I’m hoping that something crazy happens with the government while I’m here, so I’m also hoping an election is called sooner rather than later…

That’s it for now, if I can say that’s it and not sound hypocritical (I feel like that’s not the right word to use there). I need to work on this putting out shorter blog posts idea…


  1. I for one am not too disappointed you don't like beer or wine too much.... :-) But I'm glad you are experiencing local cuisine. Have you tried fish and chips yet? What about Sheperd's Pie?


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