Monday, October 29, 2007

Audience: Antarctic Explorers

Last weekend we went to The Lowry at Salford Quays to see a production of Tom Crean - Antarctic Explorer, written and performed by Aidan Dooley. I heard about this show from my parents who had seen it at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City a few months ago. As discerning theatre goers, their rave recommendation really meant something to me. So when I discovered there was going to be a one-off performance near Manchester, I jumped at the chance to go. Well, Mr. Dooley's performance was nothing short of transporting. With minimal props, he used words and gestures to weave this incredible story of a man who traveled on expeditions with both Scott and Shackleton, yet remained relatively unknown after his death. And we, the audience, used our imaginations, sparked without the use video imagery or technological wizardry, to follow Tom Crean through his stark adventures. This was truly a participatory event. Go see it!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Up with Downham

This past weekend I visited a number of villages around the Ribble Valley in Lancashire County including Hurst Green (near the beautiful campus of Stonyhurst College), Clitheroe and one of the loveliest villages I've seen, Downham (check out these pictures I found). One of the reasons it looks so picturesque and unchanged is because all the power and electrical lines were relocated underground. This move helped to ensure its place as the quintessential tranquil English village (and popular film and television location).

In keeping with my new found interest in pairing disparate places and things, New York City also maintains its power lines underground. After the Blizzard of 1888, when the weight of the snow brought down the lines, effectively shutting the city down, they were moved below ground. See the "before" picture above.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I would love to visit one now

On one of my recent excursions through the Lancashire countryside with Jack, while observing the ubiquitous public footpath signs, I was reminded of the also ubiquitous onsen, or natural hot spring baths, in Japan. I remembered hearing or reading that there are so many onsen in Japan, if you wanted to visit a different one every week, it would take you 40 years! I wonder then, how many UK public footpaths could you traverse each week before exhausting them all (and yourself)? So what is unique, interesting and "ubiquitous" where you live? For the U.S., the great American Diner came to mind, where you're served unlimited coffee refills and can order just about anything available on earth. But what about your city, town, hamlet?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Picture Perfect Prague

Seeing as it's a slow week, I thought I'd post some pictures from my trip to Prague last month when I was visiting my parents while they were traveling through Europe. Just so you know, the discount airlines (Easyjet, Jet2, for example), with super cheap fares throughout Europe, do exist, but their schedules frequently have you arrive late at night, so it's not always the best option. Fly the friendly skies!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Canna: Living Island

I've just returned from a short trip to Edinburgh where I saw a fascinating photo exhibition on the Hebridean Island of Canna, the most westerly of the Small Isles in Scotland. In 1981, the island was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. With only a handful of people living there, the Trust has worked to help the tiny island continue to thrive (they even went so far as to advertise for new residents!). The photos, both old and new, are so interesting especially because so much is still the same and the only way to tell the difference is that the recent photos are in color.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

North & South

Thanks to the comment on my last posting, I am inspired to write about another aspect of life here that comes up over and over again. Although England is about the size of the U.S. State of Louisiana, apparently extensive and deep rivalries exist throughout the country, from North and South, to East and West. And the difference in accents is only the audible aspect! History, social class and sport all contribute to the on-going conflict. In a nutshell, it's the power, prestige and pomposity of London in the South versus the grit from the mills and mines (and those that toiled in them) in the North. Given the fact that these industries have since shut down, the face of the North (and Northwest) is changing. I'm keen on reading this book by Charles Nevin, Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love, which explores all this, and have been waiting for it to be returned to the library so I can find out more!