Published on May 18th, 2012 | by TLV News0
A Broad Abroad: Local Girl Visits The U.K. (Pt. 1 – by Sarah Reddick – from TLV #156)
Sarah Reddick traveled to the UK in March of this year. The trip was orchestrated by Beth Spencer, a professor in the English Department at Ole Miss, and it was part of a Study Abroad course called “Fantasy Fiction in the UK.”
Part 1: Arriving
In the months leading up to the trip, I played a thousand scenarios over and over again in my head. What the long plane ride would be like, how walking up to an actual castle would feel…I had a million questions and images from books and movies struggling to fill in the blanks.
The plane ride was mostly uneventful, although a friend of mine helped me decide that one day when airport security asks me to begin removing things I will…and I won’t stop. Until I’m naked. Just to shake things up a lot and make their systematic embarrassment process a little more entertaining.
In Amsterdam I was equally tempted to buy a tiny pair of wooden clogs and pay a ridiculous amount of money to have a petite, impossibly chipper Dutch woman rub my shoulders for ten minutes. I settled for two glasses of white wine followed by a Daily Star (English version of The Enquirer) and a tall can of Heineken. The Daily Star was completely entertaining, each headline making us laugh harder than the previous one; one in particular that screamed “IMO HOOKER SHOCK!” This was at approximately 5 am home time. Jet lag hadn’t kicked in yet and I was giddy because of the sheer fact that we’d made it across the Atlantic.
A sign hanging in the Newcastle Airport right after we made it through customs proclaimed “Welcome to the Land of Cheese Ham!” This is one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most so far…the signage. The soap in our bathroom at Alnwick proclaimed that it had been, “TESTED ON GARLIC, FISH, AND ONION ODOURS.” If that doesn’t sell you on a bottle of antibacterial hand soap, nothing will. The menu at the Ye Olde Cross pub (also known as The Dirty Bottles because of the, well, dirty bottles in the window; legend has it if you touch them you’re cursed) advertised “Light Bites and Snacks” followed by the leading question, “Fancy a tasty nibble or something extra on your meal?”
We stayed at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland the first three nights we were in England. Jet lag and a party being thrown on the castle grounds kept me awake until early in the morning our first night. I wandered down to the courtyard area to smoke a cigarette and watch the party’s attendees get down on the dance floor through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. One older gentleman in a tuxedo approached me and said, “Hello, are you in your pajamas?” When I answered yes, (I was wearing full button up flannel pajamas with different types of dogs all over them and a pea-coat) he followed that with, “Well, are ye sad?” I laughed and said no, I wasn’t sad, and he hugged me and kissed my cheeks. There was something very dreamlike about being in the castle that has been occupied by the Percys of Northumberland for 700 years while also singing along to speakers that were blaring “Islands in the Stream.”
Right before I went back inside, two other gentlemen approached me and asked me for a lighter. I obliged, and they proceeded to tease me about being in Alnwick as part of a school program of any kind, and then when I told them I went to school in Mississippi, one of them shouted, “Oy! The very pinnacle of education!”
I knew they were joking, and I didn’t take offense, but I did neglect to tell one of them that the zipper on his tartan trousers was most decidedly in the down position.