Posts Tagged ‘Travel Writing’

A Scene from Gubbay Hall

May 7, 2009

We spend all of our lives trying to move from one place to the next. Or at least I have so far. I cannot be satisfied where I am. I move in to a place, I unpack, I sit in the chair. I stare out the window. Make a cup of coffee. Sigh. Go outside. Have a smoke. Watch the sun set behind my new neighborhood. The next day, the room is a mess, I’ve accidentally blown out the power, and I need to get the hell out of there.

The dorms over in Middlesex University in the northern suburbs of London were called halls. I know the difference in language is slight, but the little changes in terms added up over time. I found myself constantly jingling from the large amount of change that the British use in their currency system. I was not sure what the difference was between one quid and one pound; it turns out they meant the same thing.

Simon cracked open another tall can of Stella and looked at me with a dim twinkle in his eye. The room was a chaotic mess of rubbish, bitter, and wankers (which was our lot). I was finally starting to understand more than three words at a time that came out of Simon’s mouth; his accent was thick, but not nearly as indecipherable as Alex’s, who was from Manchester. We were discussing the differences between American and British slang. I was trying to keep up with the Brits as they spewed out talk in their strange code.

“Yeahp, Alex is a chav,” Simon mumbled, smiling.

Alex hit him on the arm. “Ye best not listen to this bloke,” Alex laughed, reaching for another beer. “He’s a bloody tosser.”

I frowned. “Tosser?”

Alex laughed. “Ye know. A wanker.”

I was still confused. Alex, sensing that his insult was lost in translation, made a vulgar gesture with his free hand. “Ye know, when there’s no tart around, ye have a wank. Yer tossing. Simon is a tosser.”

I nodded. The room erupted with laughter.

It turns out that a chav is a derogatory term for someone of the lower class. Chav seems to be the British equivalent of the American white trash. When I was hanging out with that crowd, generally I did not hear them refer to each other as blokes or chaps. But there were a hell of a lot of tossers and chavs. Oh, and of course, I was the token yank of the group. They flattered me.

Selective memory, I suppose. Paired with some wanderlust.

-Michael

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Stonehenge- It Still Works

April 28, 2009

It was just… sitting there. Outside of our coach window, Stonehenge was a craggy blemish in the middle of the Salisbury Plain. We were let out across the old road and took a tunnel underground. We passed by a few souvenir kiosks, and finally, there it was, in person, with no glass between us and one of the most magnificent enigmas our species has created.

The heat was brutal. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it rains all the time in the United Kingdom. However, it was a necessary trip. Within a few days I’d be leaving the United Kingdom, alone, to backpack all over the continent. But first, I needed to see a little more of Great Britain. After a long day of travel and arguing with the bus company in Salisbury, we finally arrived at Stonehenge. I turned to my travel companion, whom I’d just met days earlier, smiled, and walked as close as we could to the rocks. We walked the path around the monument, paused to take pictures and watched as birds flew around and perched on the great bluestones. The actual monument itself was roped off; though it was slightly disappointing to not be able to touch the thing, it was nice to be able to see it in all of its mysterious glory without having to ignore little kids using it as a playground.

As we wound around it, I paused and turned to the tourists. We were parading around Stonehenge like we were participating in some great religious rite. I thought about how the ancient people that built the monument knew exactly what they were doing. Whoever built it, for whatever reason, had the right idea; people still circle around and pay their respects to Stonehenge. It’s a pilgrimage to make it out that far. But we still do it. We revel in the mystery. Whoever built Stonehenge, wherever you are now, I just want you to know one thing: it worked.

-Michael

Bianca and I at Stonehenge

Bianca and I at Stonehenge

Here is a link to a great feature on Stonehenge (I brought this issue of National Geographic with me to the actual site):

Stonehenge Decoded- National Geographic