Monday, June 12, 2006

The heat is on

Whew! In a single week, England morphed from frozen, windswept tundra into humid, muggy oven. I actually have tan lines now -- real tan lines! -- and we've finally remembered what it's like to walk without carrying an umbrella or wearing a raincoat. My poorly insulated flat has adapted to the trend: I can't see my breath in the evenings anymore, but now I can lie on top of my sheets at night, sweating and wondering why no one in Cambridge considered proper ventilation when constructing student homes.

Unfortunately, England is scheduled to revert back into land of tepid downpours this week, and I've been warned by several Cambridge residents that this may be the only time I see the sun this summer.

Excuse me while I crawl back into my room and die now.

At least the presence of World Cup fanatics will keep the area warmer for awhile, surrounded as we are by hordes of shirtless, sweaty, ale-guzzling fans who invade the pubs with their faces painted and their England flags hoisted high.

On Saturday, we visited Stratford-upon-Avon, home to the one dead white male worth worshipping.

Yes, that is the Bard's Officially Rumored Birthplace, and that's me touching the railing in the desperate hope that talent radiates from the building and will transfer to passersby.

Naturally, the afternoon matinee of Romeo and Juliet didn't finish until
Shakespeare's Birthplace closed for the night, so we had to stand outside and oogle the dust-filled windows. It may not have mattered anyway. Since the entrance to the birthplace was three buildings down in a shiny new edifice blaring "Enter Shakespeare's Birthplace HERE!", I'm thinking perhaps the Bard's abode still has a lingering touch of the plague.

Alas, I'm afraid I've married someone who does not appreciate the Bard's wit, so it's probably just as well that I'm not an English PhD because I'd have to disown him. Over our pints after the show, he looked at me nervously and stutteringly said, "So, so you like this stuff. Can I ask: why?" Math people. Dropped at birth, I tell you. I suppose I can still find some redeeming qualities.

Granted, this performance didn't rank among Stratford's finest. A modernized rendition, it featured ambiguous period costumes that could have been 1920s Verona, although Juliet spent most of her time running around in a slip for no apparent reason. The low point had to be the avant-garde decision of the director to feature...Dance Fighting. That's right, Mercutio and Thibault perform some sort of Flamenco-Tap-Capoeira choreography and melodramatically swing giant bamboo poles at each other, occasionally pausing to hammer them on the ground, ape-like, and then are impaled/bludgeoned/embarrassed to death.

It was pretty awful. Ruined some otherwise fine acting, too. Alas, thanks to the dancing fools, the only way I'll ever get the husband back to Shakespeare involves a lot of lies and drugs.

Fortunately for us, we were able to experience more dancing fools at the Dirty Duck, a famous literary and theatric hangout. I'd hoped to see a famous Shakespearean actor or two while we nursed our pints, but this was the afternoon of England's first World Cup match, so instead we were treated to the sights and sounds of approximately 15 pale, shirtless men howling children's songs from picnic tabletops in the beer garden. England, it seemed, had won.

Clearly, the appearance of mandatory plastic cups was not a coincidence.

After being treated to about 11 cycles of "Sunshine Mountain," we were severely disappointed when a barkeep came out and asked them to leave. Frankly, I couldn't imagine a more interesting evening than one that involved trying to discuss postmodern literary theory to a chorus of "Going up Sunshine Mountain...Meee and youuuuuu!"

Naturally, I had to have a photo with one of the quotes on the bar walls. It had to be either Hamlet or King Lear, but the Lear quote wasn't spectacular and this somehow seemed appropriate for a grad student:

Note: I am neither bright red nor that sweaty in real life. I blame the questionable camera quality.

Stratford itself is charming: lots of shaded paths along the riverside, quiet side streets, quaint shops bearing every name ever found in a Shakespeare play...but alas, the trip ended too soon and today I am feeling completely overwhelmed by the ever-growing workload.

The thing in the middle is the conceptual map I'm trying to make for the "discussion" part of my thesis. My new problem is that my literature review and my fieldwork discussion aren't exactly matching up. I think I would like to quit now.

Two more months. I should be elated, but the very thought of time slipping away has me panicked...and next week is May Week, or the most Drunken of Debauched Summer Days, and there's no way I'm getting anything done then because I am either attending some sort of snooty soiree or recovering from the soiree. Oh yeah, and did I mention I had a lovely ant infestation this morning to top everything else off? Gotta love living with slobs for flatmates...I think I'm going to go drown my sorrows in a bowl of ice cream. Might as well get fat if I have to spend all summer inside...heh heh. Sigh.

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