Friday, 29 April 2011

Photo Friday: Royal Wedding

The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment prepares for the Royal Wedding

Let's hope all that preparation is worth it: this photo will link you to the official Monarchy flickr page which should have the best photos on the day!

All the best to Prince William and Kate!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Bluebell Woods

Bluebell Woods by Harlaxton College
Bluebell Woods, a photo by Harlaxton College on Flickr.

The woods are open to the public this Sunday from 1-4pm: I thought I'd add a link to all of the photos on Flickr so far... it's already amazing back there so I hope it's a nice weekend for everyone!

Just click the above photo to be taken straight to our Flickr account, where you can see lots of photos of the Manor.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

St. Georges Day

When I was travelling in America you couldn't even drive a few blocks without seeing an American flag. My favourite thing to spot on the way out of Evansville was this fantastic car dealership: I think it had something like 26 American flags flying? On one memorable car game we played 'Spot the American Flag' where whoever spotted them first got to punch someone: like "the Yellow Car game" or "Punch Buggy"... we had to give it up because it was getting to be painful!

In England, most of the time, it's rare to see flags flying and when they do fly it's generally the 'Union Flag' that you'll see, not the cross of our patron saint, St. George. It's a difficult position we find ourselves in: flanked by countries with holidays on their patron saint days and national flags they fly with pride, whilst being completely unsure if we're even meant to have the cross flag anymore! (There was a pretty memorable story in 2006 when a pub owner decided to show St. George fighting the dragon from the Welsh flag as part of her St Georges Day celebrations and was subsequently arrested for it, oops!) You will see the Union flag occassionally (like on the front of Harlaxton!) but not too often: we're just not big flag-flyers in general.

Today is St. Georges Day, which was a national feasting and celebration day until the 18th century. It's also apparently both the birth- and death day of William Shakespeare, poor man! In recent years there's been a gradual increase in celebration of St Georges day in this country, and hopefully the increase will continue so we can enjoy a patriotic day on par with St Patricks day, Burns Night and St Davids day. Today you'll see plenty of flags flying and especially pubs decked out to mark the occassion. Let's celebrate: we're British and we're English too!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Photo Friday: The Great British Phone Booth

I wanted to pay homage this week to a Great British icon: the humble red phone box. Of course if you've been at Harlaxton College you will know the college phone pretty well (hopefully becuase you've been ordering another British favourite: Indian takeaway!). Apparently in 1924 there was a competition to redesign the phone boxes and this is what won, although originally they were meant to be silver. They weigh 750kgs (1653 Lbs) and stand an impressive eight foot four inches by three foot square. I really think they'd be less iconic without that bright red paint job!

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Goodbye Hedgehog.

When I came to England in January, I had many obsessions (Doctor Who, Harry Potter, a growing obsession with tea and custard... need I name more?)

But perhaps the biggest obsession of mine was to see a hedgehog before I left the country. As an animal lover, I've always wanted to see those adorable little sea urchins with legs. Unfortunately for me, they don't live in the States. Also unfortunately, it got to be April and I still hadn't seen any hedgehogs despite the plethora of hedges in the area.

So with the clock counting down to the end of the semester and a rising sense of panic about leaving, I dug in my heels. I was NOT leaving England without seeing a hedgehog. Luckily with the warm weather and a woods right behind the manor, this wasn't an impossible goal.

I was lucky enough to have a few friends crazy enough to sit with me in the woods before dusk to start what I like to call "the Great Hedgehog Hunt." We sat for about an hour being bitten by various insects in the growing darkness.  I felt like we were on a David Attenborough nature program: "And here we see the branches that the wild hedgehog could hide in. Its brown colour makes for excellent camouflage among the leaves and in the darkness." But sadly, no hedgehogs were seen.

But our perseverance hadn't been for nothing! On our way back to the Carriage House, completely by chance, there it was, just sitting there! The hedgehog I'd been waiting my whole life to see!

The fat little guy was just chilling outside the Sports Hall. I like to think it was waiting for someone to invite it in to watch basketball. Who knows? Unfortunately we startled it, but I laughed when I saw it run off! Its little legs moved so fast but it seemed to be going nowhere by comparison!
One was not enough, though! In the next few days, I saw even more. They are not hard to find once you know what to look for, and they are actually quite loud, rustling in the leaves and undergrowth. I've seen five in just three days of casual walking about! They are such funny little creatures. Just the way they move, like a cross between a beetle and a guinea pig, makes me laugh. And they have such cute faces! (which a camera flash does not do justice to!)

On a sadder note though, I guess I can leave the country now that I've seen the elusive hedgehog.

I've tried not to be sad in the last few weeks. After all, I've had the opportunity to travel all over the UK and to France. I can say I've lived in a fancy manor house (which believe me, impresses the heck out of everyone back home!) and I have lived and learned an awful, awful lot this semester. If that isn't something to celebrate, what is?

But now that I'm packed, I can't help but look out over the Lincolnshire fields and feel a sense of loss for a place that's become my home.

Maybe the hedgehogs were waiting for the week before I left to come out and say goodbye. Kind of a nice "Farewell, you're leaving, so we'll make you smile a bit even though it hurts to leave a place you love."

At least, I like to think so. The Goodbye Hedgehog is a mysterious and elusive subspecies, but a comforting one. And just like every single one of the experiences I've had here, the sight of the hedgehog is something I'm very grateful for. And although I know I'll miss hedgehogs, the manor, new friends, my Meet-A-Family, proper tea, custard, Cadbury's, and a multitude of other things after I go home on Wednesday, it's only because I'm  happy to have had all these experiences.

Goodbye, hedgehog. Goodbye, Harlaxton Manor. I'll miss you. But how could I stay away forever from a place as wonderful as this? In the words of Arnold Scharzenegger, "I'LL BE BACK." Someday. And the hedgehogs just better come out to welcome me home.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

And So It Ends...

My last few days at the Manor are fast approaching.  I've taken two of my three final exams.  Tonight is our last Sunday Roast.  And packing starts tomorrow.  And I must say, it has been an excellent semester.  Harlaxton really is a great place to meet people and make new friends, both from other colleges and the fourth floor of your old dorm!  It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study here and I'm so glad that I made the choice to!  The fact that Harlaxton really does try to set the school schedule so that we can make the most of our weekends and go travelling is awesome.  True, I will have absolutely no money in either of my accounts when I get back home, but the experiences I had make the expense totally worth it.  I wouldn't go back and undo any of the trips I've taken for the world.  It's not like you can just decide to hop on over to Spain for a weekend in Evansville!  That would require hours upon hours of travelling.  Not here though!  I know people who headed over to Poland for the weekend.  There is so much to do and see in the UK and Europe that I wish I had more time (and money!) so that I could see even more.  Plus, I got to live in a manor.  It's so ornate!  Even when you get used to it, it's still fun to look up from note-taking in one of the state rooms and look around and realize that you are surrounded by all of this stuff!  There's so much detail (and cherubs!) all around.  Looking at it never seems to get old.  I know everyone's experience with studying abroad is different, but it seems like there's one thing that everyone agrees on: It's an amazing experience.  So yes, I am going home soon, but I am not leaving Harlaxton behind; the experiences I've had here will always be with me.  And I don't think any of us here could have asked for more.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Photo Friday: Harlaxton Bluebells


Did you know that 70% of the worlds bluebells are in Great Britain? In Lincolnshire especially the presence of the common bluebell, or Hyacinthoides non-scripta is used as an indicator of ancient woodlands, so it's good to hear that in April and May the woods at the back of the Manor will be covered in them. Although the name states 'common' they are actually endangered from hybridisation with another species, so removing the flowers, seeds or bulbs for trade is an offense. You can tell if a plant is a hybrid because the stalk will be upright, not drooping like the true bluebell shown to the left.

Lets hope for an early flowering this year, in time for the Spring Semester students to see them!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Spring 2011 - Valedictory Dinner

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A wonderful closing ceremony and dinner.

Congratulations to the award winners.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

News from the Manor: Charity Events and Awards

P1000248.jpg by Harlaxton College
P1000248.jpg, a photo by Harlaxton College on Flickr.

Congratulations to Tony Sheridan, our Catering Manager, who received the University's Employee of the Month Award for April 2011. This award marks his dedication to the University of Evansville, not just Harlaxton College, and is justly deserved.

Tony is also about to celebrate 30 years of service to the College, having joined in 1981. Thank you Tony!

Also in staff news recently, Ben Baxter has raised a fantastic £1200 for charity after shaving off his hair and beard: he has been growing them for the last year. The great shave took place in Harlaxton's Great Hall, with many students turning up to chip in: well done Ben for raising so much money for a great cause.


Finally, news of The Harlaxton Team (Hose Fun Run 2011) - Congrats to the team and especially Richard Kirchgessner who came third overall.


There's always lots on at Harlaxton College!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

If you go down to Burghley today...

Today I snuck along on a college arranged trip to Burghley House: a 16th century country home just inside Cambridgeshire. The building itself was used in filming both 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Pride and Prejudice' (although sadly not the brilliant TV version, just the 2005 film with vacant Kiera Knightley) and is just as ostentatious as Harlaxton Manor, but a lot bigger and with an impressive collection of richly decorated state rooms. Theres a lot of bedrooms named and prepared for various members of Royalty who never visited, and you get to see servants quarters as well although sadly there's no photography allowed inside so I will do my best by collaborating with Google on this one.

I think that Burghley is best known for the 'Hell Staircase' and 'Heaven Room', both painted by Antonio Verrio (although only the stair ceiling is attributed to him). I've added some photos of the Heaven room above and the Hell staircase below: both paintings are huge and stuffed with figures from Roman and Greek mythology. Luckily there were plenty of guides there to explain who was there, as some of the figures were terrifyingly alien: in the Hell ceiling there was a woman whose body from the waist down consisted of the torsos of six angry dogs. I was glad to get into the heaven room and be confronted instead by the detail of a tiny painted slug, creeping up a vase just over the doorway: I like to think of being in a room of that size long enough to spot more details like that myself!

In the less decorous rooms the walls are crammed with some of the more beautiful paintings: I recognised a lot of the portraits from books on costume. It's hard to find a favourite but I was completely besotted by this carving of a dead bird:

I know it doesn't look like much (and also is a bit morbit, when you think about it!), but when you consider that it's carved entirely from one block of limewood, it becomes all the more amazing: even the string holding the bird to the nail is carved from wood! Look closely and you'll see a fly has landed on the birds head: literally every vein in every feather on this sculpture had been carved by someone. Could we do the same thing today, with modern tools? I highly doubt it!

ANYWAY, before I get carried away lets get outside and take a look at the Gardens of Surprise! That's the name of the water gardens at Burghley: literally so exciting they make you jump for joy!

Actually it's a pretty nice place to be on such a lovely day: there's lots of themed areas and fountains and to get out you have to run through a carefully times water gate: luckily it was a nice hot day! We also learnt how to play merrelles, which is a bit like extreme noughts and crosses. There's vast amounts of parkland to wander, clutching your icecreams and sorbets, and loads of fallow deer wandering around.

All in all, a pretty good afternoon out,a nd only a 45 minute bus ride from Harlaxton: it's amazing to think what our Manor would have looked like had it remained the property on a wealthy family like the Gregorys, but then of course it's unlikely we'd be living in it at all...