The Cave of Wonders

Waking up yesterday morning was very uneventful for me. On other days I have been enthusiastically jumping out of my bed and into an outfit fitting for the days’ activities.

However yesterday, I only somehow managed to roll out of bed and into a not-so-comfortable outfit to face the first part of my day…. Shopping.

I am not a shopaholic nor do I enjoy pointlessly wandering about department stores filled with name brands and wanna-be name brands. I do not fantasize about designer dresses or the new line that whoever is about to release. Basically, having a morning filled with Harrods filled me with disgust and a slight amount of self-loathing.

(Although the Disney Store did become my safe haven and when I stepped outside the brown sugar sculptors were awesome).

You will be pleased to hear, despite the first encounter, I survived.

The HUGE store with little to no advertisement around the city was filled top to bottom (which includes 7 levels by American terms) with designers, name brands, and sales.

Everything was so expensive, I probably couldn’t even afford a hanger. The place was literally the cave of wonders for shopaholics: you can look, but you can’t touch anything, no matter how tempting it might be.

I will admit, that previous statement may have been a little dramatic, there were certain stores that were reasonably priced (I even bought a little travel coffee mug, that I later filled with sweet potato fries… that’s a different story though).

Once I took a step back, and looked past my melodramatic attitude, I realized, Harrods is actually more of a Venus-flytrap for shopaholics. Harrods creates a very loyal relationship with their customers, and the other stores they provide space for. Basically, if a brand was in Harrods, they’ve made it. There were designers that I have never even heard of, but I knew they were big because they were right next to Prada and Micheal Kors. And once that shopaholic steps over the threshold, it’s over. They get lost and end up buying everything.

As for the marketing and advertisements for Harrods itself: I would have never known about this Cave of Wonders had everyone I had come in contact not been talking about it. Harrods is the “it” department store here and even though there is not advertisements all over the city, plastered on billboards and underground stations or marketed across sidewalks and newspapers, the people of London, and any shopper even remotely up to date, markets for Harrods.

Although I had never heard of Harrods before, everyone else seemed to have heard and known of them before, and they were just killing to get through those doors.

Going to Harrods was not a shopping trip for me, however, it was an experience in itself. One that I personally am not going to do again without purpose. I know that if I was a shopaholic, I never would have left the place. I mean, it’s a livable place: restaurants on each floor, furniture galleries with beds big enough to fit my whole class, and I would surely never run out of clothes.

But anyone who knows me knows I would never wish that fate on my worst enemy.

Nice try London, but you didn’t get me this time!

What My Father Doesn’t Know Won’t Hurt Him

London has been an adventure (so far), and today only proved that as all 16 members of my class rode the underground to a dead end, marched through the pouring down rain onto a bus, only to get off that bus and run to catch another one (that we missed anyway), and finally ending up at the Museum of Brands.

I have yet to feel at home in this city that is 2,900 times larger than my own home. However, today – despite the confusing and bumpy start involving London transportation – took me to a new place, a little closer to home.

We visited the Museum of Brands today, and unlike all the other museums with ginormous marble archways, ancient monuments over hundreds of years old, and crammed full of people, this museum is small, orderly, with fewer people than I have seen in most restaurants here.

Maybe it was the size of the place that took me home, or the quite street that it was located on, or the orderly but chaotic fashion that the brands were displayed in, the same fashion that my family is far too familiar with.

But what I really think took me home is when I first stepped into the museum of brands, finally off the wet and cold streets, I looked at the displays and thought to myself:

“My dad would absolutely love this place.”

It’s true, it was like walking into an American Pickers heaven. The first and short hallway that we walked down had a showcase from floor to ceiling filled with radios. Every radio I have ever heard of was on those shelves. Our class walked past them and into the next room with only a few short glances towards the case, but I knew that if my dad were with me, it would have taken over an hour to walk down that hallway that only took me 12 paces to pass.

But that was just the beginning, as we walked into the other two rooms, I know the hour long radio hallway walk would have been the least of my problems if I was with my dad.

The first and smaller room had advertisements and some miscellaneous displays showing how brands and advertisements have changed over their time in the market.

(I’m guessing this would have taken about an hour to watch the two short advertisement reels on the two TV screens, an hour to talk about the TVs, and maybe 30 minutes to finish the rest of the room.)

The next room, I personally found very interesting, as the brands and advertisements were organized by the years they were popular in.

Starting in the 1910s: all the advertisements were military or war based. One advertisement even had a father sitting on a chair with his daughter in his lap and little boy on the ground playing with army men and it read “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?” (I mean, can you say guilt trip?) Children were dressed up in wartime attire with medic outfits and decorated military uniforms. This was the advertisements used to recruit in the 1910s.

The 1920s and 30s were a little different, with women cooking and cleaning and little girls helping out with chores and buying groceries.

Move on the 1940s though and you can again see war taking a toll on advertisements and logos. All the portions in this time period are smaller. Rationing was very evident in the 1940s and this particular display made that known. This time, war affected advertisements and logos by making a lot of something seem like a bad thing.

As I walked along the displays I could practically feel my dad (more than 10 paces behind me) peering at the brands behind the glass. Every now and then I would see something (like the Guinness display) and I knew that if my dad were here, I would look at the display and then move on, only to have my dad call over to me a little later when he finally made it to that display and start talking my ear off about all the different brand logos that he had seen is his time and then how far back it dates and then he would probably end up somewhere near the subject of his high school years.

(And don’t even get me started about what he would talk about when he would have made it to the 1980s when the Star Wars and Star Trek made up a lot of the advertisements.)

All in all, I went home for a little bit today, and I still feel a little bit of guilt for not gawking at ever little detail like my dad would have wanted me to.

Oh well.

This is our little secret, London, don’t tell my dad.

Not a Fan

I have never particularly been a fan of Shakespeare.

At least, not a fan in the sense that most people are fans. Most people are baseball fans, basketball fans, fangirls, boy band fans, fans of a hobby, and fans of a person. They speculate and they imagine the outcome of the game or what the celebrity might do next. According to Wikipedia “a fan, or fanatic, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something or somebody, such as a band, a sports team, a genre, a book, a movie or an entertainer.”

I would not say that I am devoted to Shakespeare, his plays, or his sonnets, therefore I am not a fan.

I enjoy reading his work, however, I have never done so unless it was an assignment. I have never googled a YouTube video the tell me about Shakespeare or to make a skit out of one of his works, but I have seen them as someone else has shown me. I cannot quote Shakespeare on demand, yet I found out today that I actually use a lot of his quotes in my everyday language. I carefully look for excuses to bring up his plays such as Titus Andronicus and the Tempest because I actually sound like a have a good education as I recite lessons I learned from my British Literature teacher in high school, but if the conversation goes anywhere other than brutality and forgiveness I quickly change the subject back to something less intelligent (like the whether or cheese or something.)

No, I am not a fan.

Visiting Stratford upon Avon today, I didn’t stop to gawk at the quotes on the wall or the dated bedroom that may or may not have been Shakespeare’s, honestly, I didn’t stay long enough to find out.

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But what I did do was tread lightly on the floor that was over 500 years old, the floor that William Shakespeare did walk on. My eyes did widen as I read the graffiti window and knew Alfred Tennyson’s name was somewhere on there even though it was scribbled over. And, I did imagine sitting down at a desk and looking out a window with my fingers just hovering above the keys of a laptop and imagined a story that could some day be the only memory of me.

I imagined leaving and then writing about the place from memory – the crowded streets filled with tourist, the small bakery’s with delicious Mac & Cheese, the cobblestone streets and sidewalks, and the quaint little houses spotting the outskirts of the river Avon. I imagined what it would have been like to stay instead of come back to London, and then I realized, Shakespeare probably had the exact same thought.

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His father was a wealthy man, Shakespeare easily could have followed in his footsteps and just stayed in Stratford, but he didn’t. Kind of just like I did by leaving home for college. I considered staying a lot and sometimes I still consider going back. Although it was over 450 years ago, I bet young William thought about it, too.

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But just because I can relate to him does NOT make me a fan.

I now sit at my computer and imagine what it would be like if people still read about me and visited my home in 450 years. I imagine what little old Athens, Illinois would be like if they made my house a monument and put up a “Bohannan Centre” next to it filled with quotes from my work and artwork that people did of me. I imagine what stories I might have to write to become like that.

And just because I would like to write like he did doesn’t make me a fan either.

In the modern day, some authors are just as famous as their books, and the actors that perform and bring their stories to life on the big screen. I can only believe that Shakespeare would be looked upon in the same way.

His stories where so captivating because of their originality and tragic endings that people flocked to the theatres. I would compare it to the recent Star Wars hype over the new movies.

Shakespeare is a universal name to know because you don’t have to read one of his works to see his plays. The Lion King II is a spin off of Romeo and Juliet, as is Warm Bodies which is a zombie movie.

And just because I LOVE those movies does not make me a fan.

Shakespeare is unavoidable. He had such ground-breaking ideas and stories, they are still referenced today. He’s the J. K. Rowling of the 1600s!

I absolutely loved visiting his birthplace, seeing his hometown, and learning more about him. I enjoyed the artwork that the Shakespeare Centre included of him and I enjoyed talking about the plays I had read, the sonnets I had recited, and the YouTube videos I had watched as I walked around his home. This incredible day has been something I never thought I would do. Not only did I get to pretend to be a princess at Warwick castle, but I visited where a legend was born. I practically walked in his footsteps. I recited sonnets in my head as I read quotes on magnets in the gift shops. I totally bragged about where I had been on the bus ride back as my family asked me where I had been today.

But, I’m not a fan….. Right?

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A Tragic But Epic Love

The city of London is a tragic but epic love.

Not every aspect of London is breathtaking, or even pretty by most terms. There is construction everywhere, obscuring pathways with little caution to pedestrians; the streets – although they are seasonally decorated with Christmas lights and artificial pine – are not always kept clean or even modestly tidy; don’t even get me started on the people, in a city this big, you’ll probably never bump into the same person ever again by coincidence, but there’s also no familiar and friendly faces waiting to greet you at your morning train stop. There is so much noise. I cannot obtain silence here, even when I close my windows, cram my head into the very depths of my pillows, and take a deep breath, my mind wanders to the city that never stops to take a break or even a quick breather for that matter.

I stood at the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral today. It was my first glance at the city as a whole. As I climbed countless (and I literally mean I lost count trying to take note of all the steps I was taking) I began giving myself a little bit of a pep talk to keep me moving upward and not just turn around and tumble back down to the crypt. I tried imagining what the whole city would look like as soon as I stepped out of the dome. I tried imagining what word I would use to describe the scene that would soon (hopefully) be before me. I tried imagining how rewarding it would be to have climbed ALL these stairs for the prize of a spectacular view just waiting for me a few (hundred) more flights ahead.

I’ve never climbed a mountain, but I would compare this to reaching the summit of a great mountain. It felt like the most pure air in the world as I took in that first deep breath, my legs stretched all the way out, standing up tall for the first time in what felt like decades, and slowly, my eyes adjusted to the bitter, bright light of an overcast sky.

Suddenly, I felt small. Not the small that you feel like you’ve been shrunken, but rather small as in you are insignificant, as in you always have been.

The city wasn’t the glorious skyline as I hoped it would be, in fact, it met none of my expectations I had been setting for it, not only the expectations I set as I trekked up the St. Paul’s mountain, but all the expectations I had been setting since I was a little girl watching Peter Pan fly over it.

I could literally feel my world come ungraciously tumbling in towards me.

I felt incredibly ignorant to have thought my expectations would be met by this city that I met through Disney animations. I felt ignorant to have kept my heart content with a fairytale about how wonderful this city actually is as I have walked the streets these past few days in awe and wonder.

Those words that I had imagined on my way up to this place that I thought would be used to describe what I saw in front of me – breathtaking, wonderful, fantastic, beautiful – and all the words I had imagined to describe how I might feel – awe-struck, wonderment, dazzled, content – fell short of what I was seeing now.

London was captivating, alluring, enthralling, and enchanting.

The noise got even louder as the church-bells rang, the flaws of the streets and construction sites had no place to hide, the people were everywhere. Yet all I could see is London, and that was enough.

London did not meet my expectations, because it cannot (and should not) even be calculated on the same scale as what my imagining has led me to construct.

I looked at the people and I saw myself. I was as little as them if we switched positions, we all were insignificant in certain ways. Mine just happened to be because I didn’t see the big picture until I had climbed a mountain and then looked out across the flawed and cracked and broken-down horizon.

I heard the noise that I am not accustomed to coming from rural USA, and I heard music. It was as lovely as a symphony and as classic as a vinyl with the sound of church-bells ringing at the lead, the river was the back-up, and the streets were the instruments.

I saw the flaws of a city, with construction obscuring miles of my view, and I saw growth. It wasn’t safety hazards and cranes that made up the unfinished lots, it was the beginning of something else, it was making a new city within the original.

All of this happened at once, but spanned out to feel as though it took a millennia. It happened so quickly it destroyed my world with a tumble, but it felt so long, a new empire rose up within me.

I see a new city that I have never really seen before, I walk different streets that I didn’t really know that well anyway, I see brand new people that I’ve probably never seen before, and probably never will again, I walk past construction on dirty streets, but my eyes are not on those, I look at the life, the busses as they speed past, the horns as the honk as people try and cross the road quickly, I look at the stories that London is so deeply embedded into.

I thought coming to London would be the last step to take to get and know London, away from a TV screen, away from a book, away from my imagination, but today taught me different when I really looked at London.

London is not always breathtaking, or even pretty by most terms, but because of that, I tragically and epically love it.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of His Story (Me)

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Sitting in the very depths of the darkest corner of my bedroom, at my humble desk cluttered with pens, pencils, miscellaneous papers, and Nutty Bar wrappers, with only a dim desk light that would flicker every time someone the floor above me would tromp around too heavily, at the age of 13, wearing a large sweatshirt and running pants, I wrapped myself up in a warm blanket and the beginning of an incredible adventure that I only had to turn the page to continue; This is where I first discovered the wonderful world of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter put a spell on me within the first chapter and I was captivated without a second thought of what I was getting myself into.

My process was simple: read the book, watch the movie, move on to the next book. I figured I could easily handle that process.

I was wrong.

Before I knew it, I was reading books faster than I could get the next one, and watching the movie didn’t help any because I was just reminded of the questions that the last book had left me. One night, I watched three Harry Potter movies in a row without once ever leaving my bedroom.

I still remember the exact moment I finished the  7th book.

I was in Wisconsin, vacationing with my family on our annual snowmobiling trip and it was New Year’s Eve. My dad and I had just finished watching Indiana Jones together. Although I would have rather been reading, I kept myself away from the book and out by the TV because I was in denial that the series was about to be over for me.

It was well past 2am when I finally went to bed, it was late, I was tired, I knew I could just go into my room, lay my head on the pillow, and fall right to sleep without reading a single word. Harry Potter would live if not but one more day for Bailey! For that I was sure.

I was wrong again.

Less than 5 minuets into tossing and turning in bed, I “accidentally” turned to my bedside table and grabbed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Some might have looked at my bookmark and figured I still had at least a few more days to finish it, but I knew better. I tried to tell myself “only one chapter” but who was I kidding, I knew that was NOT going to happen.

At 4:37 am on January 1st, 2013 I felt my world crumble as I closed the orange cover. It felt as though Harry Potter might be gone forever (I know, totally non-melodramatic, right?)

I was determined to prevail during my grief. I tried becoming interested in other book (didn’t work), I tried getting my friends to read the books (also didn’t work), I tried getting my sister to read the books (still, to this day, didn’t work), and then I had an epiphany:

Why don’t I just read them again?

* Poof, Mind=blown*

I read them myself, and then at night, I would read them to my brother. But let’s be honest, I wasn’t doing it to nurture my 8 year old brother, I was doing it for myself.

Although I have completed the books, Harry Potter is still very much alive for me, today only re-established that.

Seeing the Making of Harry Potter gave me a new outlet to review the series. I can now go back and watch all the movies and point out to everyone around me the special effects, the props, the behind the scenes action! (thanks Warner Bros Studio for entertaining me for at least another 19 hours and 39 minutes!)

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My  fascination with London started long before I ever opened the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I think that Harry Potter might even be a little more intriguing than other series simply because of its British aspects.

However, the world and I did not fall in love with Britain when we read Harry Potter, we fell in love with a story, a character, a plot, an author, a place, and a home. I think anyone reading the books, whether they have been stuck under their aunt and uncle’s staircase all their lives or not, can find a home at Hogwarts. Anyone can find their place there, anyone can come home to Hogwarts, and the best thing is, we don’t have to have out acceptance letter, we can be a part of Hogwarts by reading the books, watching the movies, touring the set, or going to an amusement park.

Having been through the tour of the making of Harry Potter, I feel even closer to Hogwarts than I ever have before. I can say that I boarded the Hogwarts Express, I walked across Hogwarts Bridge, I looked around Dumbledore’s office, and I drank Butterbeer. In the least, this has strengthened my parasocial relationship with the story to encourage me to re-read (again) the books, watch the movies, and fall even deeper into the world of Harry Potter.

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I don’t have the books with me, and because of that, I again feel the ebb of grieving on yet another New Year’s Eve. But I will get over it as I again try and persuade everyone to visit the Making of Harry Potter if they really want to experience the love and comfort of Hogwarts and all the making of Harry Potter.

My trip to London has been very successful so far, including to day which brought me home to Hogwarts, brought the magical world of Harry Potter to life, brought the real world a little bit of magic, and brought Ashely to tears.

Well done London, well done.

Today’s Hilights

December 30, 2015

Since today was a really (and I mean REALLY) good day, I just thought I would share with you all the wonderful things that happened to Bailey today in London!

  1. “I saw a dog today.”
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Yes, I know it looks like a cotton ball from a distance, but those are dogs.
plot twist, they are actually sheep.
2. I ate at Nandos today
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It was delicious (basically like a British version of Chic-fil-a)
3. I showed off my crown in front of Victoria
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4. Ashely spoke to squirrelsIMG_1511
“They call her ‘Acorn'”
5. I tried to “Peter Pan” near Kensington Palace

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But I ended up just looking like this…
6. I took a picture of the London eye with pretty lights
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And because we went to the London Eye….
7. …we walked back to the tube station in the most sketchiest way.
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#creepybutawesomegrafititunnel
And 17,234 steps, 7.45 miles, and 26 flights later, Goodnight London.

V & Bailey & A

Having briefly visited the British Museum yesterday, I can’t exactly say what I expected to get out of the Victoria and Albert Museum today.

I may have woke up this morning with hopes for a busy corridor with tourist (like myself) cramming around one case, pushing and squirming to the front, right up against the glass just to realize there’s a glare when they try and take a picture. I may have woke up this morning with aspiration to see everything in the museum, even if that was entirely impossible. I may have even woke up with disappointment at the fact that today was a “museum day.”

I can honestly say that I don’t remember what I expected out of the V & A museum today when I woke up because whatever I was expecting didn’t happen. All I can remember is wishing I could have absorbed a little more of the museum.

As soon as we walked in through the tunnel entrance (which, aside from the incredibly long walk, was awesome), I headed straight for the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit on the third floor.

I don’t know the entire process of developing a picture, (my mom just uses the Walmart photo center) so I didn’t expect to be able to fully grasp who Cameron was or her significance in British photography.

I read and heard before I went to the museum today that Cameron was a break-through in photography for the United Kingdom, but coming from America, where you can go to galleries from photographers all the time, from armatures to professionals, I didn’t really see the significance.

However, as I walked through the exhibit, I was transported back in time to 150 years ago when Cameron’s work first went on exhibit. The curators cleverly and successfully collected Cameron’s photographs and diaries to tell the story of her career.

Back in 1865, when Cameron’s work was first shown in the old V & A (The South Kensington Museum) photography wasn’t that big of a deal. And when it was, it was a big deal for its realistic characteristics. But Cameron challenged those trends. The significance of the curators at that time to exhibit her photos might not have seemed smart then, but because they did, anyone can now see what Cameron challenged herself with: altering the photo to make photography even more of an art.

In many of her more “professional” pictures, it is clear to see her immense talent, however she was not satisfied with that. In one picture, she scratches in something for the background, in another she purposefully makes the picture or part of the picture out of focus to draw attention to different aspects of the picture.

The saddest thing is that she was not appreciated at her time by the masses like a lot of American artists are for challenging the standards.

I didn’t just spend all my time at the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit (although I probably could have), I also visited sculptures, a great hall with HUGE paintings (including the Retable of St. George, which I may have puzzled over for well over 20 minutes), and an entire display titled “Shoes.”

I would never have thought to make an entire exhibit about Indian Fabric and put it next to a Sculpture exhibit, or put a Jewelry exhibit right next to the National Art Library.

Overall, the V & A museum is unique with its arrangement and extraordinary with its exhibits. I was immediately drawn to the “Shoes” exhibit by my curiosity (and maybe even a little bit because I’m a girl). And that is truly what sets the V & A museum apart from others.

If you’re ever in London, be sure to stop by and say “hi” to Victoria and Albert.