Monthly Archives: January 2010

Top Ten UK Singles for January 24, 2010

1. Owl City – Fireflies


2. Replay – Iyaz


3. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Glee 🙂


4. Starstrukk – 3OH!3 featuring Katie Perry


5. Riverside – Sidney Samson


6. Won’t Go Quietly – Example


7. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey


8. Broken Heels – Alexandra Burke


9. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga


10. One Shot – JLS


All information compiled with the BBC Singles Chart.

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Highgate Cemetery

I read Audrey Niffinger’s book “Her Fearful Symmetry” which was set mainly in  and around Highgate Cemetery, a working Victorian high Anglican cemetery. It took a bit of a while to get there–I live in west London and the cemetery is far North–and to actually find the cemetery I had to walk out of the tube, up two streets, left, another left, and down Swains Lane (which is not easy to find). It was completely worth the visit however. I took a guided tour of the west cemetery, and saw some beautiful statues and mausoleums and learned a lot about Victorian life by observing how they remembered their dead. It was painfully obvious who was wealthy or who wasn’t in death, some of the graves said where the people lived as evidence of how rich they were. Some also built giant mausoleums to house their families, but those who were poor just had small grave markers.

Here are some of the pictures I took there:

A Sleeping Angel over a grave.

They built some graves in the shape of pyramids because they believed it made it harder for the devil to lie on top of the graves.

Alexander Litvinenko, the poisoned ex-KGB agent is buried here. It’s still a working cemetery.

So tragic, this grave is of a 19 year old burned to death, and it took her ten days to die. At the bottom, it says, In the bloom of youth, I prayed amid agonies for death.

A catacomb of a well-to-do-man.

I highly recommend visiting Highgate if you have a chance! The village Highgate is also quite beautiful, and has a wonderful quiet charm. It’s high up on a hill, and it has some gorgeous views of London if you look from the right spots.

Cheers!

Sarah

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How Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Okay, so Jane Austen really didn’t ruin my life. I didn’t come across her novels until I was a freshman in college. I never had to study her works during my British Literature class in AP, or had seen any of the film adaptations. My exposure to Austen had been a half an hour with a dog parading as Mr. Darcy when I was nine.

Does this image look familiar? If not, it’s from the PBS show, “Wishbone.” It was about a dog that reenacted famous literary works like “Don Quixote”or “Ivanhoe” and simplified the book for kids. (“What’s the story, Wishbone?”)

Ever since meeting a close Janeite  (a Jane Austen junkie) friend my freshman year of college and seeing “Pride and Prejudice” starring Keira Knightley, I’ve been hooked on all things Austen. Who can resist the terror, drama and suspense of rooting for a heroine of a  lower social ranking and a man of fortune becoming united in love while overcoming odds against them? (A bit of sarcasm there…)

While browsing through rows of books, I happened upon one called “Jane Austen Ruined my Life” by Beth Pattillo. That sounded like an interesting title and on the cover is a woman dressed in red, holding a letter and looking either utterly distressed or constipated. After reading the description on the back, I knew I had to read it.

This book follows the life of Emma Douglas. She was a professor of English literature with a specialty in all things Austen. She had her fairy tale happy ending with a world-famous John Milton expert and thought she had the life. Her fantasy life ended one day when she found her husband  spread-eagled on her kitchen table with her teacher’s assistant. She arrived at Gatwick Airport with two bags fleeing the dissolve of her marriage and allegations of plagiarism on behalf of the other woman.

Emma thought she would find refuge in Hampshire, England where her cousin lived. Upon entering the house she found her ex-best male friend standing half-naked in the foyer and her cousin gone off to Paris for a tĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘte. Her life became a literal roller coaster as she takes up the offer of a mysterious widow called Mrs. Parrot. Mrs. Parrot offered Emma a chance to see original long-lost letters from Jane Austen that divulged information about the hermit author that few had seen before.

Emma took off across England to Austen’s England from her home in Steventon to Bath to Lyme Regis to find out Austen’s secrets and uncover a few of her own.

It’s very much like Austen’s own novel “Emma”, the namesake of the main character. It’s a fast chicklit read, but one that demands the attention of anyone in need of a light read or something comical involving the famous Jane Austen.

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Stonehenge and Bath

Today, I went on a coach (bus) to visit Stonehenge and the town of Bath. It was such a dreary day weather wise-cold rain and overcast-so not the best day for sightseeing but I still had a really nice time.

Me at Stonehenge. It was smaller than I expected, and visitors aren’t allowed to go up close to the actual stones which was a bit disappointing. Stonehenge is a bit out in the middle of nowhere, the closest occupants to the mysterious landmark are sheep.

There’s def. a lot more to see in Bath! It’s a beautiful city that has so much history. The first king of England was crowned here, and the city has ruins and buildings that date back to norman and saxon conquest. The city got its namesake from the hot springs that the Romans bathed in, and this is what they look like:

Check out the steam!

The buildings in downtown Bath are very pretty. My favorites were the Georgian-style ones, like this:

My tour guide told me that one of these apartments sell for 5 million pounds. Anyone want to buy a girl a flat?

And here is an uneven street with a phone booth and an old limestone wall. I quite like this photo:

Besides the weather, I had an exciting day of visiting new places. Tomorrow, I am going to go see Tony Head’s new play at the Old Vic called ‘Six Degrees of Separation’, and I’ll write about that.

Cheers,

Sarah

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Just Touched Down in London Town

I’m spending the semester abroad in London, in the Earl’s Court neighborhood of the Royal Borough of Kensingston and Chelsea. I’m doing an internship at the European Bureau of a news outlet and taking classes about international journalism and British Life and Culture. I arrived this Wednesday–an atypical snowy day in London.The cab driver was chatty, but I’ve noticed that most Londoners I’ve seen so far do not engage in small talk like Midwestern Americans do. It’s not a good or a bad thing, just different. People keep to themselves and avoid eye contact on the tube or buses.

Here are a few photos and more observations from my time here so far.

Remnants of Old Posters at the Notting Hill Gate Tube Stop.

Easter Egg pastely houses in Notting Hill.

Typical Gray Day outside Buckingham.

There is a TARDIS outside the Earl’s Court Tube Stop–the one closest to me. No David Tennant though. Or Matt Smith, the new Doctor. I’m pretty sure it’s the same size on the inside too.

So far, so good! London is gorgeous. It’s exciting and multicultural and while people do like to complain about the weather–it’s been a lot warmer than my native Chicago. I’m in a nice Victorian flat with a modern kitchen. I’m sharing a room with two other girls, and space is tight, but I’ll be able to manage. I don’t think I have enough room for all my clothes, though 🙂 Speaking of clothes, I’m really close to High Street Kensington, which has some really nice shops. It also has a Whole Foods, which I hope will inspire me to eat healthily and not just indulge in pastries from some of the amazing cafes nearby! One of my favorite foods is chocolate croissants, and there are some great French cafes in South Kensington where my classes are.

I start work tomorrow, I’m going to Bath and Stonehenge Friday, and will post any good pictures I get there!

Cheers,
Sarah

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The Top Ten UK Singles for January 17, 2010

1. Replay – Iyaz

2. Fireflies – Owl City

3. Riverside (Let’s Go) – Sidney Samson featuring Wizard Sleeve

4. Starstrukk – 3Oh!3 featuring Katy Perry

5. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Glee Cast

6. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

7. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga

8. You’ve Got the Love – Florence and the Machine

9. Stay Too Long – Plan B

10. Broken Heels – Alexandra Burke

All information is compiled from the BBC Radio 1 Singles Charts.

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That bizarre kid called ‘Keith’

Think about your life now. What’s going on with it? What’s the best thing? What’s the worst thing?

Who is one person that you’ve met that totally turned your life upside down and you were never the same?

For Natalie, that person was Keith.

I was up late organizing my room after moving back with my parents. I typed in Netflix’s address and the first suggestion for a movie was “Keith”. Upon reading the summary for the film I thought I’d give it a chance, but I’m glad I did because it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a while.

The plot is easy. Popular girl who has everything (looks, sports, grades, boys) gets chosen by this boy to be his lab partner. The teacher says everyone was randomly placed together, but they weren’t. It was all Keith’s doing.

Keith, played by Jesse McCartney, is a strange guy who leaves bowling balls on people’s front steps and likes to create fictional stories that would leave anyone’s head spinning. He’s cocky, has a chip on his shoulder, an outsider and is harboring a secret. His favorite thing is an ancient banana yellow truck.

Natalie gets sucked into this world and it changes everything about her. One meeting to fill out a lab report expands her life in ways she never dreamed before. She wanted to go to Duke on a tennis scholarship and to be an editor of a magazine. She had the good looking boyfriend and perfect grades. She had her entire life mapped out until Keith started arranging meeting times to hang out at 4 a.m., 5 p.m., whenever he felt like it.

They develop a bizarre friendship and later a relationship based on experiences and reactions that are explained at the end of the film. Without giving anything away, I say just watch it.

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