Theatres, universities and exhibitions: a busy week

Are you sure a week is only seven days long? This past week must have included at least ten or eleven days… I am completely exhausted, even though there have been quite a few pleasurable activities.

It all started off with a trip to the theatre. The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham is located in the converted local library (which I hope still exists somewhere, but has merely moved to another building). I saw a hugely energetic and entertaining production of Othello set in contemporary London. Not all ‘modernising of Shakespeare’ works well, but this one certainly did for me. You can find my review here.

The following day my older son and I set off for a mother/son road trip to visit universities in the north of England. He is planning to study Law and it certainly helps that Law Schools seem to be housed in spanking new, purpose-built shiny buildings, rather than the poky cellars or attics to which Anthropology or Modern Languages departments seem to be relegated. (She said not at all enviously). Leeds was vibrant and lively, but perhaps a little too much of a big city for my boy. At first, York was not a big hit with him: the original West Campus with the brutalist architecture of the 1960s disappointed him. However, then we went to the newer East Campus, where the Law School is located.

University of York’s sustainable, edible and wildlife friendly campus utterly charmed me
In the foreground you can see the floating meeting room pods, where I could quite happily sit and write for hours…

Of course we spent some time in York itself, and I foolishly agreed to race my son up to the top of the tower of the York Minster. I’m still living with the breathless consequences of that!

Even half-dead, I could still admire the glorious view from the top!
And the view towards the Minster from the City Walls is just unforgettable – and so green!
This bird-like structure is Durham Law School. This was my son’s favourite from this trip.
Another beautiful city, another magnificent cathedral, but this time I was wise enough not to go up to the top of the tower.

Durham was the only proper Open Day that we attended – us and a few tens of thousands of other prospective students and pupils. It was busy and sunny and hot, but then quietened down considerably in the evening. I was somewhat annoyed that my son ‘chose’ his college by name alone (ironically, a prime example of 60s/70s architecture that he had pooh-pooed in York).

Last but not least, we stopped in Nottingham on the way back. Another beautifully green and calm campus, it went straight up into third place on my son’s wishlist of universities.

The famous Tower which is part of the University of Nottingham’s logo.

What about the mother/son bonding on the road trip? In terms of intellectual pursuits and rational questions, I really enjoyed discussing things with him. However, even though I’ve tried hard to emphasise heart as well as head, create a safe space to discuss and display emotions, there is not much going on in that department. Is it a boy thing? Is it a teenage thing? Is it a ‘boring old out of touch mother’ thing?

Back in the office, I not only encountered the deluge of emails and tasks to complete, but also one enjoyable appointment: the launch of the latest exhibition at Senate House Library. Writing in times of conflict will be open from the 15th of July to the 14th of December at the library (entrance is free). Small but perfectly formed for piquing your interest to explore further, it is divided into four main themes: Writing for Peace, Writing in Wartime, Writing from Exile and Writing in Protest. There is something for everyone here: starting from the League of Nations through to pacifists, a letter from Virginia Woolf describing the bombing of Sussex, pictures of bomb damage to Senate House itself (which was notoriously the Ministry of Information during the Second World War and inspire Orwell’s 1984), a short film about Anne Frank, the Greenham Common protesters, right up to the present day, including Extinction Rebellion flyers.

The Nazi Black Book for England includes over 3000 names of people deemed ‘dangerous’ by the Nazis, whom they would have imprisoned or exterminated at once if they’d invaded.
More recent protests such as the Occupy Movement or anti-Brexit and anti-Trump campaigns by the Left Unity group.

16 thoughts on “Theatres, universities and exhibitions: a busy week”

  1. I had to chuckle at your description of the the difference between buildings that house Modern Languages/Literature/etc.. departments and those that house Law departments (Business, too). It was the exact same thing where I went to uni. It sounds as though you and your son had a good trip. And, whether he was emotionally open or not, I’m sure it meant a lot to him. Your other excursions sound terrific, too; I’m glad you’ve had the chance to do some of those things.

  2. Wow, what a week and what lovely Universities! Your son is spoiled for choice – I hope he ends up getting the one he wants!

    And that Nazi book is scary – I’ve seen inside it as the page mentioning Leonard and Virginia Woolf was on display at a VW exhibition I saw some years back. It’s chilling, and it puts her eventual fate into context. It’s easy to forget what it must have felt like to live through those days – although maybe not, as we tumble further into our modern madness… 😦

    1. Want to know how I chose my college? Closed my eyes and stuck a pin in the UCAS book …. seriously true. Ended up at the lovely ivy-clad Bedford College in the middle of Regent’s Park, London. (In those days it was part of London University.) Never regretted it for a moment.

      1. I was living abroad, so I never saw what my UK universities looked like before moving here. So, it can be all a bit hit and miss. Was also reading in the papers how these Open Days disadvantage poorer students (or those whose parents don’t sacrifice so much money to take them there – as I don’t feel particularly wealthy at the moment).

  3. Law buildings have come a long way since I was doing the rounds to decide on a university. Leicester was about the worst – looked like a converted old school and had the same smell…. Needless to say I never accepted their offer…… My sister and niece went to York and both loved it . The collegiate system seemed to work well …

  4. What a great trip and memory created for you both, with your different perceptions of the places you visited. I’m sure your emphasis on heart not head has been absorbed. I’ve tried to do this too and recently discovered that my son does talk about things from this perspective, just elsewhere. I’m ok with that, realising our role is to do our best to help equip them with the inner resources, and then let go (of all expectations). 🙂

    1. As you say, I’m happy to let go as long as I know that he has others with whom he can discuss his emotions and as long as he doesn’t look down on emotions and feelings as ’embarrassing’ or ‘wimpish’ or (like his father does) ‘unscientific’. He has one cruel, non-compassionate parent to take after, so that is my greatest fear.

  5. A busy week indeed, and a worthwhile one, I’m sure, from your son’t point of view. In years to come he may surprise you at having stored away these memories 🙂

    1. I really hope you are right! I don’t expect eternal gratitude etc., but I hope that there is a glimmer of humanity and compassion seeping through in there… although if he becomes a lawyer, there might not be!

  6. Had a giggle at your son’s choosing his favorite university by its architecture, rather than its professors or curriculum offerings. He may not be chatty, but he is certainly his mother’s son!

  7. What a fascinating trip. Feelings are “unscientific!” I’ve never heard that before. Human beings act on feelings all day long, aggravated at train or road travel making them late, sad about losses and disappointments, anger at unfairness or disagreements, etc. I think your influence will make a big different with your son.
    A question: In the U.S., one goes to college for four years, then to law school. People usually go to two different schools, and their schools are listed on their resumes and online in biographies about people.
    How does that work in England? And are there government-sponsored schools? Here there are city colleges and state universities. They are much less expensive than private colleges and universities.

    1. The government allowed all universities to charge tuition fees about a decade ago and established an upper limit of roughly £9500 per year. So guess what each and every one of them are charging? To be fair, they are trying to make up for the shortfall from the hugely reduced government funding for universities.
      The UK is perhaps the only country I know where you can study Law right away as an 18 year old for 3 years at university. However, that doesn’t qualify you to practice as a lawyer (solicitor or barrister) – you need to study a further two years on average on top of that and pass your qualifying exams. What is also quite popular is to study another subject as an undergraduate (for example, History) for 3 years, and then do a law conversion course plus the two additional years. So it is a long and expensive process – aren’t I a lucky Mama to have to help him out with that? This is the reason I am fighting the financial settlement with my ex tooth and nail. He wants me to sell the house and give him all the money now, I want to buy out his share, continue to live in the house and sell it later, so I can afford to help the kids out with their university costs (not even the fees- they can get a loan for that – but the additional costs for accommodation, food, books etc., which can all add up to at least £12,000 a year).

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