And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

torsdag 31. mars 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Do you hear that, Annie? That's the sound of STDs screaming "No! Stop being so aware of us!"
- Dean Craig Pelton, Community S1E11

Yes, I know today is not Valentine's day, but some friends and I were talking about this incident on the way to the railway station last Sunday and I realised I hadn't put this on here, so now I intend to. What I'm talking about is a charming e-mail that was issued to all students of the Wentworth College at York University four days before Valentine's Day. Below you'll find the text almost in its entirety, I have only omitted an e-mail address since this is now obsolete.

Dear Wentworth,

Valentine's Day is coming! Want to show your love for your body and your


Wednesday, 16th February,  7-10pm

A trained nurse and volunteer from Yorscreen will visit your flat and
offer you the test. The test is fast, easy, anonymous and free! You can
say no if you don't want to take it.

Everyone who takes a test will get a free gift. Also, if you get tested
you will be entered in a drawing to win a dinner for two in York. Go
with your sweetheart, or your best friend!

If it is very important to you to avoid this event, please email
(...) with your name and room number by 12pm on
February 16. Yorscreen will still visit your flat, but they won't knock
on your door.

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause
infertility. Most people don't know they have it, but it is easy to
cure. If you have ever had sex, you should get tested.

For lots of useful information about Chlamydia,

To read information about Chlamydia in mandarin Chinese,

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

It is of course an important cause, but a couple of things are nonetheless quite remarkable. First of all I doubt if anyone would get in the mood for romance on Valentine's Day with this message hovering in the background. Secondly I find it puzzling that despite the focus on showing your partner love by checking yourself for two kinds of STDs, the actual testing does not take place until two days after Valentine's Day. I guess the message is: wear a condom.


søndag 27. mars 2011

Leaving York - a love letter

Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    "Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

- A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, John Donne

Yet shall the end be so glorious that angels durst not hope for so great a one till they had seen it.
-Centuries of Meditation, Thomas Traherne

It's easier to leave than to be left behind
Leaving was never my proud
- Leaving New York, R.E.M.

This is my last day in York and I'm looking back at almost three wonderful months of learning, travel, meeting new friends and interesting people and of course the English spring. As so often is the case, however, I did not get around to do all the things I had hoped to do prior to my stay, but I have also experienced many things I had not planned, things which have expanded my horizon and hopefully made me a better human in one way or another. Mostly I owe this to my flatmates of Constantine House who have welcomed me very warmly and included me in some of their delightful shenanigans; who have taught me things that are invaluable and also things that are slightly less so. I will sorely miss their company. 

Endings are seldom easy although they can go smoothly and be void of trouble, maybe even to such an extent one secretly wishes for some delay to occur that will lengthen the stay. Having spent most of my afternoon packing, unpacking and repacking, vacuuming and tidying up, the gravity of the situation has not yet dawned on me as the day flew past in a blur of dust, accumulated goods and emotional farewells. As I waved goodbye to some of my friends - who for the occasion kindly served as my baggage carriers - I gradually started to realise what I was leaving behind, what transition it will be once I'm back on Norwegian soil. 

This is therefore a love letter to all my wonderful friends whom I have been fortunate to call my flatmates for the past three months, who have made my stay such a pleasant experience and who will always remain in some of my fondest memories. For all you have given me I am truly grateful. 

I'm writing this at a hotel in Manchester and Monday morning will be my last day on British soil for at least quite some time. However, there are still numerous experiences from my stay I would like to share with all my two readers, so I will continue to update this blog throughout the spring. 

Dragged half-unnerved out of this worldly place,
Crying to the end "I have not finished". 
- Funeral Music, Geoffrey Hill

onsdag 23. mars 2011

Durham Diaries - Dene of the Dun Cow, part II

My heart beats for my streets and alleys,
Longs to dwell in the borderlands
- Fare Thee Well Northumberland, Mark Knopfler

And the too-fashionable North.
- Fantasia on "Horbury", Geoffrey Hill

Durham is quite a small town and having seen its major attractions I went for a walk along the river and later strolled around the city centre to find a place to eat. Although I was rather hungry I was also rather picky, and ended up at a French restaurant where they served chicken and a delicious apple juice. Since the city is located in a dene the streets can be quite steep, but this just adds to the smalltown charm and from time to time you come across these very narrow alleys which can bring you to unexpected places (no, not Narnia).

However, since Durham is a placid little town there did not happen anything exciting after evensong. Consequently I shall not strive to find something very clever to say, but rather present a selection of pictures that will chronicle some of the interesting or amusing little details in Durham.

We cannot hope to live so long in our names as some have done in their persons, one face of Janus holds no proportion unto the other. 'Tis too late to be ambitious. The great mutations of the worlds are acted, our time may be too short for our designes.
- Urne Buriall, Sir Thomas Browne

This is the Dun Cow Lane, honouring the city's legendary founder.

Durham's coat of arms.

you bring the dusk with you
and all the limestone twilights
- The Cormorant, Robert Minhinnick

 Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
- On Shakespeare, John Milton

This old moon wanes!
- A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare

 The Shakespeare is a pleasant establishment, but since they had stopped serving food by the time I got there I didn't stay. However, I shall have to come back next time around.

 I don't know whether this establishment takes its name from the Harry Potter wizards or the faction of the Republican Party. Either way it is a very nice name.

tirsdag 22. mars 2011

Durham Diaries - Palace of the Prince-Bishops

He [Lewis de Beaumont, Bishop of Durham, 1316-33] was chaste but illiterate. He did not understand Latin and had trouble pronouncing it. Thus, during his episcopal consecration when he was obliged to make his profession, he was unable to read it aloud even though he had previously been coached for many days.
- Historiae Dunelmensis Scriptores Tres, Robert Graystanes

I seigh a tour on a toft trieliche ymaked,
A deep dale bynethe,
- The Vision of Piers Plowman, William Langland

So long they traueiled with litle ease,
Till at last they to a Castle came,
Built on a rocke adioyning to the seas:
It was an auncient worke of antique fame,
And wondrous strong by nature, and by skilfull frame.
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

Whenas they spide a goodly castle, plast
Foreby a riuer in a pleasant dale
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

As can be read from the description of Lewis de Beaumont, Medieval bishops could be rather wordly specimens, and Durham was more than most dioceses prone to produce or attract such bishops due to its proximity to the Scottish border and thence the necessity of the people of Durham to occasionally engage in warfare. Lewis, however, appears to have been more mundanely orientated than most, since the chronicler describes him as greedy and greatly preoccupied with his household and "his lavish excesses". He did not, as the quote informs us, master Latin and when struggling with the phrase "in aenigmate" from Corinthians 13:12 during his episcopal consecration, he invoked St. Louis, a French royal saint, and complained to those near him. How Lewis managed to become concecrated as bishop of Durham is beyond my knowledge, but perhaps it was precisely due to his mundane qualities, or maybe due to his blood-relationship with the kings of France and Sicily.

In later ages the bishops of Durham have been referred to as Prince-Bishops. The phrase is understandable both from characters such as Lewis de Beaumont and from Durham Castle, situated adjacent to the cathedral on the site of an older fortress. Durham Castle used to be the residence of the Bishop since William the Conqueror ordered it built in 1072 following a campaign in Scotland, probably both to serve as a stronghold against Scottish invasions and in the case of civil revolt. Later bishops have added to the structure and the current complex has elements from most - if not all - epochs succeeding the Norman invasion.

This is a prime example of 19th century medievalism.

A Norman chapel is still extant in the lower parts of the castle. It is a small room, faintly lit by a couple of weak lightbulbs in order to preserve the stone, and its pillars have some magnificent carvings in Anglo-Saxon style. Personally I was most attracted to a hunting scene depicting hunters chasing a stag on the capital in an eternal, never-ending pursuit. The chapel is still in use and occasionally plays have been performed there, among them - if I remember correctly - Samuel Beckett's Endgame. 

Following the castle's conversion into a university complex in the 1800s numerous alterations were made. The above building, the keep, is now housing accommodation for about 60 students.

The keep functioned as a watchtower and the ultimate line of defence. The first keep was made of wood.

Approximately underneath the clocktower lies the Norman chapel, which was rediscovered in the 1900s, if I remember correctly.

The castle is only open to students and tourists on guided tours, since this is a functioning university college. Consequently we were not allowed to take pictures, nor allowed to roam about ourselves. However, the tour includes (unless my memory fails me) a 15th century kitchen and a 17th century chapel, both still in use, and it is well worth the time and money.