Published: July 9th 2010July 9th 2010
It's tea time here in England and I am sitting in my friend Lynne's House in Beenham, England which is a little town of about a 1,000 people just outside of Reading. I arrived here on the train last night about an hour and a half south of Coventry. I grew up with Lynne's children in Toronto and she and her family have invited me to spend a weekend here with them as my course takes a pause for a few days. I am sorry to have not updated sooner, my course is busy and the internet isn't as accessible or as cheap and I have been enjoying the sights in and around Coventry.
Since I last wrote we have been on a few adventures. After our trip to see the performance at the Leigh School for the CovCool Kids we took the train to Birmingham. I have always been interested in the city as it is really the root of the industrial revolution in England. I had only passed through the city when I was en route to Wales so it seemed to be a quick train ride away and so off we went-6 of us. We arrived to the New Street station to a how bunch of shopping malls all together, we went to see the Cathedral and found that there were a few markets nearby. I had heard that the Jewellery quarter was something to check out--and we walked a ways to get there, but it wasn't as exciting as the walk there was. Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK and much busier and crowded than Coventry. We decided to take a local tram back downtown and met a ticket collector who was about to head to Toronto and he was so excited to meet us and inundated us with questions about places to go and to see. I just love train stations in England, all the signage is so old and makes you feel like you are transported back in time. My friends who I was with hadn't really travelled on trains at all, so they were excited to experience it.
We went to a local pub for fruit cider in Chinatown, after we walked through the Gay Village and then met up with our friends for dinner at an Asian restaurant called the Wagamama. The food was mostly noodles and soup, but was so delicious. I had Yakisoba rice noodles. Yummy! We got our photos taken with the Birmingham bull sculpture and stopped in to see all the treats in the Siegfried Department store before heading back to Coventry. It was a nice little day trip!
On Wednesday in class we focussed on Forum Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed-social justice theatre that was excellent! I definitely learned a lot of strategies for the leadership work I do in the city. After class I decided to meander and went to the Medieval street in Coventry called Spon Street. I went for Yorkshire Tea at this amazing little cafe called the Tin Angel. It is a neat corner shop that sells cds and promotes local music. As I was about to leave they posted a sign about an open mike night of music and told me to come back in the evening. I then ventured back to the Coventry Cathedral and walked about in the ruins--it is very powerful to walk through in silence and imagine the impact of the bombings. Dinner that night was £5 Steak or Chicken dinners at the Priory Pub. The food was outstanding. I actually had the cajun chicken and potatoes. I headed back to the Tin Angel just in time for the start of the Open Mike. There were 5 singers/bands from Wolverhampton, Coventry and surrounding. I was so happy to hear amazing live music and the Tin Angel is such a unique little spot, similar to the Great Little Bread Company that was in Peterborough when I was going to school. I LOVED IT!
Thursday was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my trip so far as we went to visit a highschool called Ash Green School and Arts College! What an amazing school! It is clear that the admin, teachers and students, who once worked in a school that struggled a lot with behaviour and low academic results, have now turned the school around to be the 4th most improved school in England. The facilities are exceptional! Their theatre/gym/auditorium has arena seating, their drama studios are all painted black and all have built in smartboards and LCD projectors, wireless internet, full lighting in the studios. There are quotations with positive messages around the school, Mac computers and beautiful grounds. The staff were so kind and generous and welcoming. We got to watch a grade 9 class do a lesson on spontaneous improv and dialogue relating to the Trenches of World War I-a lesson I would teach. We then saw a lesson on trestle masks and in the afternoon a special workshop on Romeo and Juliet. It was outstanding! I was so inspired! Hope to connect with Kay and Claire our host teachers again.
Thursday night I took the train here to Beenham and when I arrived I got to see the church where Lynne and David attend on a Manor called Aldermaston. Thursday nights they practice ringing the English Bells in the belfry. What an amazing thing to watch. The church dates back to the 13th Century and has amazing frescoes and old pews and even the musty smell of an old carpet. There is a cemetery of old headstones in the churchyard. We finished the day with a pint at the Hind's Head pub in Aldermaston.
Today I got a much needed sleep in and this afternoon we went to visit a Roman Village in Sichester. Lynne's granddaughter Sydney and her grandson Patrick and daughter Sue came along with. It was fun to watch Sydney and teach her about the area. We got to play about on the old walls and it was fun to play along with her as she make believed that the church was being readied for the visit of a Queen! What fun it is to be 5! It is a beautiful day of 32C in Beenham.
I should head off to enjoy the rest of the sunshine and the British countryside.
Hope you are all doing well.