Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 109: I'm [Not] Going Home For Christmas

As I write this, I'm sitting on a train between York and Newark, on my way to Nottingham. I left St. Andrews early this morning, and I won't be back until the end of January. In the next month and a half I'll be visiting as many as ten countries... but Canada won't be one of them.

Do I mind not going home for Christmas? Yes, of course. Whenever my Christmas playlist gets to 'I'm Going Home for Christmas' I can't help but feel a little sad. For the first time in my life, I won't be there for the Christmas crackers, or the 'rounds' of presents, or decorating the tree. With Christmas being such a family-oriented holiday, I can't help but wish that I was going to be at home for it.

But... I'm okay that I'm not. At this point in my life, it just made so much more sense for me to stay on this side of the pond. Money was a big factor (my month-long Europe tour will cost less than the flight home), as was travel time. If I went back to Canada for three weeks then I'd only have two weeks for travel, which isn't near enough for everything I want to see.

Finally, it would just feel odd to go home now. I've settled in over here. For a year, I'm living in Scotland. The year is supposed to be all new, and a challenge, and an adventure. To go back to Canada during that year, back to everything familiar, would somehow feel wrong.

Christmas will be different this year, but then again, it's a different sort of year. I'll be in Nottingham, with my great aunt and uncle, so I'll still be with family, just ones I don't know that well (yet!). Then I'll be in London over New Years, watching the fireworks, which will likely be more exciting than playing board games at home. ;) And then, instead of sitting at home enjoying a PEI winter, I'll explore Europe for a month.

At this point, I'm just excited. I'm sad I won't be home over Christmas, but I'm still glad I'm not going back. I'm ready to meet more people and see the world. I'm ready for a 'different' Christmas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 71: Iolanthe Opening

Back in the good old days when Iolanthe was still an everyday part of my life, I wrote a couple blog posts about the experience. Due to lack of photos and general busy-ness, I never posted them. So now, I present to you, a series of three posts about Iolanthe. Today's installment was written the day of the first show, when I was definitely feeling the pre-show jitters...


Iolanthe opens today!

It’s bizarre to think that we’ll actually be performing in just a few hours. The dress rehearsal yesterday, where we finally got to use the real stage, made it feel a bit more real, but it’s still strange to think that all our hard work is going to pay off tonight.

There's nothing like being on stage again...
We’ve put so much effort into this show. Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas aren’t easy, but I’ve been really impressed with how everyone has handled the challenge. For the most part it’s been relatively smooth sailing, until the past few weeks where the little issues have started to surface. Singing with a live orchestra, for instance, is much more difficult than I expected. However, everyone’s really stepped up their game in the past few days, and I’m confident everything will fall into place tonight.

Fairies watching during the dress rehearsal
We had a bit of a scare on Saturday when our title character was ill. One of the other chorus principles was bumped up to play Iolanthe, so I had to take her songs and a few lines. It was a little stressful, having to learn extra parts at such short notice, but it was also really exciting to find that we were so well prepared to handle the crisis. As it turned out, the actress playing Iolanthe was better in time for the dress rehearsal, so the show will run as planned. But I still know Lelia’s part, in case she accidentally trips on the stairs…

One thing I’ve loved about being in Iolanthe is that I got to be the choreographer for the show. I joined the production expecting that there would be quite a bit of choreography involved (all the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas I’ve seen before have been quite dance-heavy) and was disappointed to learn that there would be very little dance. When the director learned I was interested in choreography, he started giving me little bits of music to fill with dance until eventually, just three weeks ago, I was officially dubbed Lord High Choreographer.

Loudly let the trumpets bray!
Initially, it was rather stressful being thrown into this role three weeks before the show (not that I’m complaining—I kinda asked for it…) I had four dance segments to create and teach to a cast of mainly non-dancers. The first choreography rehearsal was really nerve-wracking because I had just spent hours composing the dances, and I was worried the director wouldn’t like them. Instead, he really liked what I had created, and he contributed a couple ideas to make them even better. My volunteer dancers were also super keen and enthusiastic, and they learned the combination really quickly.

In short, Iolanthe has been a whirlwind of singing and dancing, of new experiences and new friends combined with general Gilbert and Sullivan awesomeness. It’s been so much fun, and I’m already excited for next year’s production. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Days 81-85: London Sightseeing

*drumroll please*

Now, from the dark cave of Revision Week, from the midst of studying, I bring you... the final blog post about my London trip! I apologize for it being so late, but I had to sort through approximately 500 pictures to bring you the 70 best ones. Enjoy!

Since I've already covered  the West End shows and Doctor Who convention, I'm going to finish up with a post on some of the sightseeing I did in London and general thoughts about the city and my trip as a whole.

Thursday was a big day for sightseeing because it was all so new. I decided to start out with a general view of the city, so I took a bus down to canary wharf (doctor who fans?) and then hopped on the Thames Clipper, which took me all along the river, under the tower bridge and up to Westminster bridge.

I spent the rest of the day (when not watching shows) walking around and snapping photos. I saw Big Ben, Westminster abbey, the London eye, the Globe theatre, Trafalgar Square, and I briefly toured the British Gallery, where I saw some pretty famous paintings (like Van Gogh's sunflowers).

One odd thing about London is that everything is either free (the British gallery, the museum, the library... etc...) or really expensive. To go up the Shard (a really tall office building) costs 25 pounds, and even going in Westminster abbey is 15 pounds. I ended up not doing anything that cost money (so I could save up for the theatre) and instead spent my time doing free things.

Another strange thing in London is that there are simply so many tourists there. I wasn't expecting many people to be there in late November, but on every street corner there'd be people with cameras, and I'm pretty sure no London native is going to be taking a selfie in front of Big Ben on his way to work. There are also a bazillion tourist shops, all selling the exact same items. Prices were somewhat reasonable, so I picked up a few gifts for my family.

On Saturday I mainly just walked around because I got rather lost trying to find Harrod's (a really high end department store) and so I ended up seeing some less touristy parts of London that I otherwise wouldn't have visited. Then on Monday I visited St. Paul's cathedral, where lots of famous people are buried (including the poet John Donne and the composer Arthur Sullivan) and which has absolutely amazing views from its galleries (my legs are still sore from climbing hundreds of stairs. I also briefly visited the British museum (which definitely warrants another visit... or a week of visits) and the British library, which is an English nerd's paradise.

In short, I saw a lot in London, but there's still so much I didn't see. I didn't visit the Tower of London, or walk over tower bridge (though the Thames clipper did go under it) and I didn't visit Sherlock Holmes house at 221b Baker Street. However, I plan to be back in London for new year's, then again at the end of January to see David Tennant and tom Hiddleston, and then possibly again in the summer to see some performances at Shakespeare's globe... so I think it's okay that I didn't see everything on my first visit.

The train down past Edinburgh-- got some lovely ocean views

Train for London! :D

Cliffs of Scotland (or northern England... not sure where the border was)

Newcastle,  I believe

A pier at Newcastle... Rather St. Andrew'sish

London tube (people were looking at me really oddly when I was taking a photo)

My bedroom. Have I mentioned that the people I stayed with were fantastic? So kind and welcoming.

Canary Wharf. Still not really sure what it is, but there were a lot of people running around in suits.
No Daleks or Cybermen, though. I was disappointed.

Bridge at Canary Wharf. You can see the Shard and other famous buildings in the distance

London Riverline

I took the Thames Clipper down to the city centre. Expensive, as public transit goes, but worth it for the view.

"Sweet Thames, run softly 'till I end my song
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud nor long"
--- T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Tower Bridge! We went right under it, but I need to visit it up close another time.

The Shard (and various other buildings whose names I don't know)

Trafalgar Square!

British National Gallery-- home to some famous painters... and Zygons...

Trafalgar square... super busy even in November

Some large archway on the west side of Trafalgar Square

The other side of the archway (since I know you all wanted the full view)

Everyone seemed to be really excited that the heron was around.
I was more interested in the London Eye and the British flag in the background.


"I heard the minx remark
She'd meet him after dark
Inside St. James' Park and give him one!"
---- Gilbert and Sullivan, Iolanthe

Lovely monument right outside Buckingham Palace

Residence of the Queen. She, unfortunately, did not make an appearance.

Oh, hey there, Buckingham Palace...

Most British photo of life

Big Ben, and part of the Parliament buildings (I think)

The entrance to Westminster Abbey (not the prettiest bit)

The front of Westminster Abbey (much prettier)

Big Ben! And the London Eye! ALL THE BRITISH!

Any idea what this is? Any guesses? No?

Thames river when standing on Westminster Bridge

Nope, I take back what I said earlier. This is the most British photo of life.

London Eye

More London Eye

And (wait for it) more London Eye
(apologies for making that LOTR reference twice on this blog)

The Dome on the left is St. Paul's cathedral... but look how many bridges there are!

Shakespeare's Globe. :) I didn't properly go in because tours are expensive, and I figure that I'll come back to see a play next summer anyways

Police Public Call Box!

Trafalgar Square... at night! (well, really, it's probably about 6pm... but that counts as night this far north)

And Big Ben looks even cooler at night

Christmas lights EVERYWHERE

Some random white houses... this is when I got lost south of the West End and just wandered around for awhile.

Harrod's! Super cool department store, but way too crowded with tourists.

No idea what this is, but it was pretty.

Wellington Arch (I think... don't really remember)

Memorial of those who gave their lives in the Great War.

Trees. Sun. Happiness.
The parks in London do make great places to walk through.

Piccadilly Circus! (I think... Pretty sure this is where the opening sequence of Sherlock is filmed. But honestly, I was a bit lost at this point, so I'm not quite sure where I was)

Selfie by the fountain in Trafalgar Square... great place to stop and journal for a few minutes.

Random giant rooster in Trafalgar Square. I don't understand.

The view south when standing on that giant monument in Trafalgar Square.


Feed the birds...

And feed the birds in Portrait...

And the birds come down with their wings dramatically sun-tipped...

The river flowing through St. James' Park

Leicester Square at night (vue cinema is where I saw the Doctor Who episode)

Not quite sure what this is called... but it always shows up on TV shows.
The church I went to was right around here.

St. Paul's Cathedral

London skyline from the middle of St. Paul's three galleries (several hundred steps up)

(I admit to editing... but I couldn't resist...)


One of St. Paul's spires

Spiral staircases on the way up to the highest gallery

Such a fantastic view

The poor little Globe, so surrounded...

Mordor again... I need someone to photoshop Sauron's eye onto this pic

The front of St. Paul's (see those spires? I was up higher than that)

I didn't find the Muffin Man... :'(

Covent Garden Market (didn't stay for long, just sorta ran through)

British musem

Roman Emperors. I think one is Marcus Aurelius, but I can't remember which. The odd thing is that the one on the right looks exactly like one of the guys in my Beowulf class...