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Harry Potter Adventures at Gloucester

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, I'm reporting now from Farah's laptop, because if I live any longer in the computer lab, I'm going to miss living this experience in Oxford! The St. Hugh's computer lab is not Oxford.

So I ended up sleeping over at Andrea's with the rest of the girls. Andrea is the mistress of her domain. When we all wouldn't wake up on time, she declared, "By the time I count to twenty, y'all will suffer pillow-violence... except for Hayley, who cheats by hugging me." Though, actually, it was more of a snuggle.

Back to my own room, I am faced with questions: breakfast or shower? Priorities...

Actually made it just in time to not miss the bus for today's excursion. The streets were all wet. I remarked to Noonie, "I do not recall rain." Must have been sleeping hard last night.

The bus ride was fairly uneventful. I sat in the back with Noonie and Wally, helping Noonie with a crossword, which, of course, I suck at. Two people on the bus are reading The Portrait of Dorian Grey, which I find odd. I didn't know Wilde was so popular these days with teenage girls. Since I forgot reading material, I read Maira's essay on the children's crusades, and the teachers gushed about the importance of peer critique. Her essay just made me feel stupid. The children's crusades, or Alice's identity issues? Yeah, which has more weight? Also, her essay made me sleepy.

I slept badly the rest of the way to Gloucester, dreaming of Richard III and staircases. Can explain the former in that Richard III was the Duke of Gloucester before he was Richard III, but the staircases? No idea. The symbolism escapes me there.

First stop in Gloucester? The waterways museum, because... Gloucester has lots of waterways. Boats and things. Seagulls. Water sloshing sounds. I recall that there was a sign on the way to the museum in front of a locked shed that said, "DANGER: RISK OF DEATH" and there was a picture of a little stick figure man getting hit by lightning. Hilarious.

The Gloucester waterways museum consisted mostly of wax figures, a game of buying stocks in shipping companies (don't by the Oxford stock; you'll go bankrupt), and a gift shop where I spent way too much money on things I don't need.

Including an adorable sailor hat! Navy blue with a little black visor. All the girls got the navy blue sailor hats while all the boys got the white captain hats. We will probably never wear these hats again after this day, but it made for an adorable photo: five captains surrounded by sailor girls. Ha!

Though, in taking another picture of the girls in our hats, we failed to realize that the building we were standing next to-- ...well... let's just say the quote for that picture was "Uh, guys... Wet paint." Programme Notebook Entry:

Gloucester, with all its canals and even a waterways museum, was not what I had expected. I must confess that this aspect of British history was indeed unknown to me, and even in visiting this museum, I can't rightfully say that I am much more enlightened on the topic. I know now that there were canals, in fact whole waterways; they had boats on these waterways to carry things. Now I'm just being irreverent. Gloucester still means Shakespeare's Richard III to me, but I would like to make another commentary on British tourism. How long were we in that museum? An hour? Maybe? Taking history at a run is no way to take in history, not if it's to mean anything to you.

We stopped at the museum's cafe for lunch, the teachers buying coffee and the girls buying chocolate "death bars." They've discovered these things in the vending machines in Italian territory, by the computer labs, and apparently they're the best things ever -- good enough to be late to Gloucester Cathedral.

Ahh, Gloucester Cathedral. Speck met us outside and informed us that this cathedral was used as settings in the Harry Potter films. To make this "fun," he suggested that we search for the Harry Potter sites within the cathedral, and the first person to report back to him with the correct number of sites would win some sort of lovely prize. Brian and I took one look at each other and together decided: partners. We were going to win this.

We ran into the cathedral before anyone else to make sure no one could follow us and steal our findings, though that didn't stop us from being incredibly sneaky and stealing away to the gift shop to buy the Harry Potter Guide to Gloucester Cathedral (not our idea! We went to a tour guide to ask where we should start, and she said the gift shop to buy the guide -- brilliant). So we bought our giant pamphlets and ran around the cathedral to gush in our Harry Potter fanaticism. ("OHMYGOD! It's where Ginny wrote the message in blood on the wall! OHMYGOD! It's the corridor the troll walked down on Halloween! OHMYGOD! It's the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room!") It was basically like that for an hour or so, frantically taking pictures and having strangers take pictures of us with pieces of architecture. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

I think I'll take away forever the memory of Brian, in his white captain hat, leaning over the Harry Potter Guide to Gloucester and reading to me the information for site six as we huddled together in a corner of one of the cloisters. And after that, getting coffee in an outdoor cafe with Noonie and watching Brian read the menu with that stupid, adorable white captain hat. I hope I got a picture of that. Programme Notebook Entry:

As an alternative to my experience at the Gloucester waterways museum, I offer you my visit to the Gloucester cathedral. As soon as Henry Speck offered his challenge, Brian and I were off like a shot to go experience this cathedral. Why? Because there are Harry Potter connections to the cathedral. Do I know anything about the history of Gloucester cathedral? No, but this excursion has perhaps been the most gratifying and engaging so far. Why? Because we were offered an experience and told to do with it what we please. We were allowed to create our own experience, our own meaningful experience, with history. I was able to make this into something that I love. By the way, Henry Speck? It's ten Harry Potter movie sites within the cathedral.

This is probably the highlight of this entire trip so far. I even put a little heart and exclamation point in my notes next to "HP Adventure with Brian at cathedral!" Exclamation points are more eloquent with me; I use them sparingly.

After the cathedral adventure and the cafe, we were three minutes late back to the bus. Oops. Speck was not happy. Oh well.

So I have a philosophical question regarding this blog. Why am I keeping this blog? To remember or to report? Isn't what goes off the record what I want to remember? Anyway.

So Speck had a Talk with Noonie after our Three-Minutes-Late Arrival back at the bus, and hinted that we might be banned from the Saturday excursion for this lateness. The three of us were absolutely stunned, and then horrified. I believe Noonie's exact quote was, "...am I being... grounded?" I think this is the beginning of something bad.

Next excursion: Wales! Tintern Abbey, to be exact. I remember my stepdad telling me how jealous he was that I was getting to go with Tintern Abbey, but I had no idea what Tintern Abbey was. Now I do! I know all about Tintern Abbey and its Henry VIII-related history. ...Except we treated this historic site like a playground, climbing all over the ruins and taking our pictures sitting in the windows. We even made sure to get a picture of all the Robinson kids together for the yearbook. "Robinson Kids Conquer Wales!"

It was funny, though, when Noonie was trying to jump down from the window by herself in the shoes that she wears, and Ryan shouted up at her, "Just because you're a teacher doesn't mean that you're God!" As a matter of fact, she's not. She fell badly and hurt her ankle. Ryan definitely had a "I told you so" sort of look.

Not that there's much in Wales. There's the ruins of an abbey. There's some livestock. There's a gift shop where you can buy your medieval-themed useless stuff, like foam swords and shields and princess dolls. There's some livestock grazing around the abbey. There's a cat sleeping in the grass by a tiny little house. There's a candy shop where you can buy ice cream and excellent fudge. Yum. Programme Notebook Entry:

I have been to Wales! That in itself is exciting. My stepfather kept telling me of his envy that I was getting to visit the great historic site of Tintern Abbey, and while I now know and understand that history, the site itself has become little more than a photo-op. There's a little gift shop where you can buy your Medieval lord-and-lady-type toys (which has nothing to do with the history), an ice-cream stand, and a bunch of rocks you can take pictures of -- they were once an abbey. Never mind that this is the work of Henry VIII to solidify his religious power. Climb into the windows that may have once held beautiful stained glass. Climb across the tops of the walls and the pillars. Show no respect for the destruction -- clearly Henry VIII didn't. Show no reverence. Desecrate the history, take your pictures, get back on your bus and go home with nothing real.

In other news, Fred is a dick. Just generally. I can't even remember what he said; it was just obnoxious; he's just obnoxious. Also, Speck is a dick. He complains about our three minutes late, and he's always late, even had us leave the abbey later than planned because of his running around... Argh.

On the way back, did more crosswords with Noonan. And probably slept. I don't remember.

Upon our return, breaking news! Nikki found a pool! I think she can finally breathe properly again. She's planning to go every morning before breakfast, now.

Nikki: Who else wants to go with me?

Smattering of Programmers: Yeah, sure, I'll go.

Noonie: [Scoffing] Getting up at five to get in cold water? Yeah right. None of them are going to go to that pool.

I must admit, I agree with Noonie.

So I've decided that I'm not going to be productive today; I'm too annoyed with Speck to be productive. "Lower the decibels!" he's always saying. Stupid decibels. I want to make loud noises just to annoy him, but I'm not in to loud noises, so I built a little castle made out of two benches outside under the trees and listened to my iPod and wrote poetry. Maira wandered over eventually and we talked about the day. She determined that "Hidden in a Dark Cloister" would be a good title, and also told me how she cries to Chopin.

She danced to my iPod. When she didn't recognize some of the music, she remarked, "Maira, Maira, on the wall, who's the dumbest of them all?" She recognized almost all the piano/classical music on my iPod, though. Apparently she's played every classical piece there is. I just listen to them on my iPod.

Noonie came over and joined us later. We watched a guy through a window in the house across the way from the Maplethrope building. He kept going up and down the stairs. Up and down, up and down. We discussed theories about what he might actually be doing. Satanist rituals were one. Cooking, but forgetting the ingredients in the doorway was another. I like the Devil-worshipping one better. More interesting.

Then I had teacher-y talk with Noonie (mostly about my fears of becoming a high school English teacher) until the boys chased her away. Ew, boys. Oh well. It was too dark to write anymore.

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Hayley Elizabeth Rushing

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