An Idiot Abroad

Yes, I stole the title from a TV show! Plagiarism at its best.

I’M JUST A STUDENT:

Alright, aside from learning how to not get on a soccer team, I have been broadening my horizons on a few other areas.

First of all, like I have explained before, I have read a number of books. I am going to list off the books I’ve read with a very brief summary.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird– Classic story about standing up to racism in the South. There are so many classic books that I haven’t read, but I mean too! This was a start.
  • Brideshead Revisited– I feel like I’ve been a criminal in some circles for not reading this. Thank God I will be welcome back into society now. Very good! (and I have one upped most of you on this now – see below).
  • The Road– A gripping story about a father and son travelling through a post apocalyptic world. Reading this story was like the tendency I have for not being able to take my eyes off something hideous (like the mirror). It was a very captivating, well written story and is worth a read if you are into this genre of book.
  • David of Jerusalem– Bible stories can be pretty epic – especially in the old testament-  and this is a good example of that! It’s got everything, love, war, friendship, betrayal, human strength, and human weakness and the role and rule of God in it all. Even though you may know the basic story, this one is retold excellently.
  • I Am The Secret Footballer– an unnamed footballer tells about life playing professional football in England. Anytime anyone starts off telling you that they shouldn’t tell you something, but they are going too anyway, I’m immediately interested. Provides some interesting perspectives and some not so impressive tendencies of some professional athletes.
  • The Damned Utd – You can see my thoughts on this book here.
  • I started reading the Winnie the Pooh series, but it was a bit over my head, so instead I went back to a soccer book and am currently reading Fever Pitch – which is essentially a story about being a football fan. It looks like there is a “Fever Pitch” baseball movie too…you have been warned.

Please, if you want to know more about any of these or have any recommendations let me know.

Moving on, here is a small list of other things I have learned in England

  1. Tea = Dinner and Pudding = Desert. So, if someone asks you to stay for tea, make sure you have the time, and if someone asks you if you’d like some pudding the answer is always “yes, please”.
  2. It’s ridiculously hard to figure out bus schedules. I recommend asking, because your day will be over before you figure  it out.
  3. In Yorkshire it doesn’t rain all the time as you might have heard, but you can be assured it will rain when you go outside.
  4. It makes sense with its geographical location, but there is significantly less daylight this time of year than at home. It already gets dark here around 4:30…or maybe that’s just the constant cloud covering. Sigh.
  5. Pounds are worth more than $$dollars$$ – I know it’s a “DUH”, but it easily slips the mind.
  6. On that note, the money lingo is confusing too: I say “It’s a couple of bucks”, they say “whose ducks?!”; they say “that’ll be 2 quid”, I say “no thanks, I don’t like squid”.
  7. The left side of the road thing isn’t a big deal since I’m not driving, but I have walked toward the wrong seat a few times. Also, I randomly panic when crossing the street unsure if I’m supposed to look left-right-left, or right-left-right, while the observer is wondering why the hell I’m gesturing “NO” so emphatically.
  8. “Poe-tay-toe, poe-taa-toe, it doesn’t matter, just eat the damn thing!”
  9. I’ve learned more, but I’m just to embarrassed to tell you how…

Shout out:

I must also thank my friend Steve Duran (are you happy now Steve!) for providing me with a load of talks on subjects of a more spiritual nature which help enrich my soul. Alleluia! Before you think too highly of him mom, he is just doing his job working for Lighthouse Catholic Media. Jokes aside, it’s much appreciated, thanks Stevie!

I’M JUST A TOURIST:

Like any good learning experiences, mine has included a few field trips as well, courtesy of my cousins the Inglehearns.

NRM – National Railway Museum

The first trip was to the NRM in York. Talk about getting up close and personal with trains! The NRM is the biggest train museum in the world. I didn’t have any particular inclination toward trains prior to this visit – probably because the only thing trains ever meant growing up was being stuck in my neighborhood – but it was pretty cool! I also have a new found respect for trains merely because I use them so much now.

The museum is essentially a couple of warehouses packed with everything train. This includes anything from the first steam train, to the high-speed trains found in Asia and everything in between (like snazzy royal carriages). It’s fascinating to see all of these impressive machines and learn a little about how they worked. It is also critical to understand just how important they were to Britain and the world. Oh and in case you ever come across it in a trivia game…

Q: _______ was to trains what Detroit was to cars?
A: Swindon. 
 

I still think the craziest train fact is that there is a train tunnel underneath the English channel (and that’s not even the longest train tunnel). Talk about an excavating job! “Hey, Bob, your gonna need more than a pooper scooper for that!” Pretty awesome.

See the slideshow at the bottom for some of the pictures from the train museum.

Castle Howard

This massive 18th century English estate, in North Yorkshire, is still lived in by English nobility. The country house, if you could call it that, is home to Hon. Simon Howard, his wife and his two children. While the family still lives there in private, albeit large, quarters, the rest of the house and grounds is open to the public during the day.

The most striking thing about Castle Howard, aside from its beauty, was the sheer amount of wealth that it represented. Even today the art on display throughout the house alone is worth millions; not to mention the staggering collection of antique books. It is a living example of the upper echelons of the rigid class structure that was so prevalent in its time. Although the Howard family still lives there, the house is not sustainable merely as a home and has thus been commercialized since about the 1950s…much to the benefit of all.

Part of the commercialization of Castle Howard, aside from the tourist aspect, is it’s role in the classic TV series based off the novel Brideshead Revisited (see above) and in more recent times the movie, starring Emma Thompson. This was a stroke of genius by the Howard’s for a couple of reasons. The first, more obvious benefit, was that it gained incredible notoriety for its role as Brideshead mansion, which increased awareness and interest all over the world. Not so well known, however, is the fact that instead of charging the film producers to shoot at the location, the Howard’s told them that to do the series they had to repair the extensive damage done by a fire in the 1940s. Effectively, this helped the Howard’s avoid both the cost of the renovation and the cost of taxes on what would have been a fat paycheck.

Overall, it was a absolutely lovely place to visit! It was a gorgeous fall day with crisp autumn sunshine which added to the beauty. So, for all you Brideshead die-hard’s out there, I see you and I raise you!

Side note: In a past life, Chris Inglehearn used to give tours at Castle Howard, so we also had a personal tour guide with us. Many thanks to the Inglehearn’s for both trips!

Here are a load of pictures from both the NRM and Castle Howard. A couple of apologies here: my phone camera isn’t top notch, I didn’t get many pics from inside at Howard, and sorry I couldn’t split them into two slideshows 😦

Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Till next time, use your head-first!

Cheers – I learned that too

Seano

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