The Humble Tour — Week 1: Friday (London)

After yesterday’s super insanity, I wanted to take it easy today. Spent the morning and most of the afternoon lounging around, raiding my friend’s fridge and cupboards, catching up on a bit of television (BBC’s “Shakespearean” Upstart Crow had me in stitches), planning more of my itinerary, booking more train tickets, and so on. In fact, I didn’t leave my friend’s cosy flat until around 4:30pm, and that was only because I wanted to catch the 5pm Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Yeah, I’m a confused agnostic…

Whenever I’m sitting in on a service (as opposed to singing in one), I’m always struck by how the acoustics tend to go all over the place, and anyone beyond the quire can only hear consonants and very little of the actual words. St. Paul’s, with its massive dome, is notorious for eating up any kind of enunciation. There were also some particularly dodgy notes sung (especially in the Ayleward Responses, which I’ve known well from both Durham and Belfast), but overall, it was a lovely experience in its familiarity.

I might even go so far to say I felt “cleansed” afterward. Confused agnostic, at your service.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Samantha’s Humble Tour and the English Dream Trip — Week One: Thursday

I’ve always found it difficult to achieve a good balance between experiencing and documenting all the crazy and wonderful things in my life, and I’m well-aware of the massive backlog I’ve acquired over the last few months of work and life explosions. But right now, the PhD thesis has been submitted, the university semester is over, the final essays have been marked and returned, the Shakespeare conferences and talks and film introductions have been given, the contents of my Belfast life have been donated or stored safely at a good friend’s, the house has been successfully vacated, the 30 or so insect bites along my legs and ankles (my souvenir from Paris two weeks ago) have healed reasonably well, and I am here in London with my trusty carry-on, ready to embark on five (!!) weeks of work-free, deadline-free, and laptop-free adventures. (Okay, maybe not entirely work-free, since I’ll probably do a bit of novelling and other writing, but these are super funfunfun things!)

So I thought I might take this opportunity to document the next five weeks of Samantha’s Humble Tour (as opposed to the traditional Grand Tour). A good chunk of it will be what I’ve called my “English Dream Trip”, and, since I’ve decided not to rent a car, I’ll be spending a lot of time on trains. The “English Dream Trip” attempts to cover as many of the places I’ve always wanted to go but never managed. When I first accepted the PhD scholarship at Queen’s University Belfast, I had every intention of going on trips to other parts of the UK and beyond every fortnight or month–and it never happened, because I developed an unprecedented case of workaholism for both the PhD and Tea For Three Studios, and I was also committed to sing in a cathedral choir every Sunday.

But no more! The English Dream Trip is indeed happening (even if I’m planning it as I go), and I will indeed document it and share the uber shinies with my iPhone-only photos! I also thought I’d share the cost of everything, since it might be helpful for anyone else preparing their own English (or perhaps Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish) Dream Trips, and because I want to show that a lot of these trips are rather affordable (accommodation notwithstanding–I had some horrible hostel experiences a few years back, and am thus disinclined to share my sleeping quarters with strangers). Also, to put some prices into context, I have several perks as a “student” and have acquired a Railcard, which gives me 1/3 off a range of trains–I’ll try to put the normal prices were applicable.

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