Hello and Happy Monday, everyone!
My weekend was rather full. Thursday evening, I went to Guildford Town Centre to see the Christmas lights get turned on. There was also a killer fireworks show afterward, and some of the fireworks actually exploded into shapes (hearts and smiley faces). I don’t have pics of the fireworks — I just wanted to enjoy them with my eyeballs 😀
Friday, I attended an event that was part of the Richmond Upon Thames Literature Festival. It was a sit-down with two contemporary authors of Victorian Gothic Fiction, Essie Fox and Lynn Shepherd, called “A Feast of Blood: The English Obsession with Vampires.” Chilling, eh? To set the mood, the talk was held in a blood-red room inside Strawberry Hill House, home of the author Horace Walpole, who published the story recognized as the very first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, in 1764. Incidentally, today we are actually one month shy of the 250 year anniversary of the Gothic genre (Castle of Otranto was published on December 24, 1764)! This wonderful anniversary is already being commemorated by the British Library with their current exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (which I spent nearly three hours happily getting my mind blown by). The exhibition is on until January 20, 2015, so take a look if you’re at all interested in the Gothic and how it has evolved over the centuries.
Strawberry Hill House is in the midst of renovations, but what little I saw of it was lovely and the perfect setting for a horror film. At one point, my friend and I wandered down a hallway that, no joke, made me feel like I had fallen through a space-time hole into the movie Suspiria. Yeesh.
The talk itself was actually less about “the English obsession with vampires” and more about the work and processes of the two authors present, as well as about the Gothic in general. I did enjoy the event overall (though I found myself getting a bit bored by the end as we kept circling back to the same topics). The bit I most looked forward to was when Fox and Shepherd each read excerpts from their latest novels. I walked away with a copy of The Goddess and the Thief (Fox) and A Treacherous Likeness (Shepherd), though Shepherd’s latest is actually The Pierced Heart, a novel in dialogue with and inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Shepherd uses classic English literature as a jumping off point for her own works. The novel I purchased that evening actually chronicles much of the Shelley family’s history and the creation of the story Frankenstein. Fox works a bit more traditionally in that she does extensive research to supplement an original story idea. Not that Shepherd’s stories aren’t original works, but Fox’s work isn’t specifically meant to be linked with any existing literature (like Shepherd’s is). Here are some more snaps of Strawberry Hill House. I hope to see more of it some day!
After the talk, my friend and I stayed out for some food, drink, and good conversation. I can’t remember the name of where we went, but I do remember how to get there from the Strawberry Hill train station and will probably go back. I wanted to get home at a reasonable hour because I was told to be at the bus stop for my trip to Cardiff the next morning by 6:30AM. So of course I ended up missing the last train to Guildford, panicking about what to do, and taking an expensive taxi that dropped me off home at about 1:40AM. Ugh. I managed to get a few hours of sleep and to get to the bus stop on time… only for the bus to be late. In the end, we made it to Cardiff and actually had a bit too much time on our hands there.
The people from the company in charge of the trip (Outgoing) basically walked us to the city centre, pointed in various directions while telling us what was currently on in the immediate vicinity, and left us to our own devices. It was not a well-organized trip. My friends and I mostly walked around a small area and spent waaaaay too much money on souvenirs for people and ourselves. We went to Bill’s (my current fav UK restaurant chain — haven’t been disappointed yet!), the local mall and surrounding shops, checked out the Christmas market, and had a peek at Cardiff’s “Winter Wonderland” (which included giant slides, ice skating, a funhouse, and some cool looking rides). I’d like to return to Wales with someone who knows the country and can teach me some things about it. One really cool coincidence though was that we were in Cardiff on the same day the Wales rugby team played New Zealand. The streets were PACKED and everyone was in a great mood 🙂 I’ve never seen so many sheep-shaped hats in my entire life.
Sorry this post is kind of all over the place. My routine’s been a bit jumbled lately. I’ll hopefully get myself together soon. Before I forget, let me introduce you to my new boyfriend: