CHUCK'S TRIP TO THE UNITED KINGDOM JUNE 30 - JULY 21, 2001
In July of 2001 I attended international psychology conferences in London and Winchester, then explored other areas of the UK. The UK is the United Kingdom, which is Great Britain and Northern Ireland, while Great Britain is England and Scotland and Wales. I will describe my adventures in a series of emails that I had sent home.
15 SECONDS OF FAME
On July 3 I was quoted on the front page of the London Times! I was in London attending the European Congress of Psychology July 1-6, and presented a paper based on a 25-year follow-up of the Boston Couples Study. The paper talked about things that predicted satisfaction with life at mid-life. The conference staff had sent out a press release about the study, and as a result I was interviewed by reporters from 6 newspapers and 2 wire services. I was also interviewed live on BBC radio, and CNN International wants to interview me on TV September 2. I have received emails from a good friend in Thailand and strangers in the Netherlands and Canada who had seen an article in their countries.
Since I had been in London twice before, I had previously seen the monuments and museums. So this time I explored various neighborhoods after the conference sessions. I wandered around Soho, Portobello, Notting Hill, Camden Town, and East End. In the latter area, I observed a prayer service at a mosque, and a young man asked if he could answer any questions. We ended up talking about ethnic and religious identities for two hours!
At the conference, I met professors and graduate students from England, Hong Kong, Italy, Greece, India, and Mexico. I learned a great deal about research in all of those countries. What was amazing was that all of the presentations were in English, whereas in the past several languages would have been used.
Late at night I checked out the dance clubs. The first night I went to The Edge near Tottenham Court Road which is a small place with famous DJs. The second night I went to the Equinox, a huge place in Leicester Square which attracts tourists and Brits from out of town. I enjoyed it so much that I went back to the Equinox again the third night. The fourth night I went to another big club in Leicester Square called the Hippodrome, but I didn't like the music as much. The fifth night I went to Cafe de Paris, which initially had live signers performing boring lounge music, but then DJs played some good dance music.!
I was surprised to see men wearing suits at the Cafe de Paris, since I saw very few suits anywhere I went in London. Of course, bohemian Soho is very different from the financial district! Most men were wearing jeans or khakis and some were even wearing cargo pants which are now very popular in LA. You couldn't tell the Brits from the Americans from their appearance, but only by their accents! This is very different from the first time I was in London back in 1967, when no one except Americans wore jeans and tailored suits were the norm.
The first four nights in London I stayed at the St. Giles Hotel. The next two nights I stayed at the Oxford St. youth hostel. Youth hostels are much cheaper than hotels and are a good place to meet other travelers. They are now open to any age and most no longer have evening curfews. You just need to make sure that the hostel is located near where you want to be, since some are miles from downtown! Both St. Giles Hotel and the Oxford St. hostel are in Soho, near many of the most popular dance clubs. Since the tube (subway) stops at midnight, I wanted to be close enough to walk back at 2 AM
I felt totally at home in London. But then I had felt at home when I was in Inner Mongolia three years ago! London has become even more multi-ethnic than it was before, and American movies, television programs, and fast food are everywhere just as there are British movies and music in the US, resulting in a greater merging of the two cultures. The sixth night I went to watch a dance performance called "Dance in the House" set to rap music at the Baylis Theatre, then went to bed so I could catch a train in the morning.
GHOSTS AND IMMIGRANTS
When I left London I took the train to Winchester about an hour southwest of London. I went there to attend the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology July 7-11. I presented a paper on a new measure of ethnic identity which is part of the Multiple Identities Questionnaire I developed. Instead of asking people to check one ethnicity, I ask them "To what extent do you consider yourself a member of each of the following categories?" Next to each category is a scale from 0=not at all to 8=completely). This allows people to say that they are one-half this, or one-quarter that, or one-eighth something else. When I gave this measure to my Introductory Psychology students, I found that half of them marked more than one category!
There were about 150 psychologists at the conference from 37 countries. I met professors and graduate students from England, Scotland, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Finland, Turkey, Nigeria, and Guam. I had met a few of them three years ago at an IACCP conference in Bellingham, Washington, and one was from the university where I taught summer school last year in Turkey! Many of the papers they presented dealt with the acculturation of immigrants - how people from one culture adjust to living in another culture. We stayed in dormitories on campus, and ate all meals together in a cafeteria, so there were many opportunities to chat between conference sessions.
The first evening we walked down the hill to the center of town for an opening reception. Afterward some of us went on a Ghost Tour of the town. A tour guide in monk's clothing took us around the cathedral and told us about a monk who had killed another monk 400 years ago due to jealousy of the other's popularity. He said that the latter's ghost often walks where he was killed, and sure enough the "ghost" appeared. As we toured around the town we heard of other ghosts and they too appeared. After the tour I went to a pub with the tour guide and the "ghosts" for a beer, and learned that they were alumni of the college who had returned to town on certain nights to provide this tour. Similar tours are now offered in several cities in the UK
One of the organizers of the conference likes to dance, so he arranged for evening entertainment. The second night a jazz band played in the student union, and after awhile some of us started dancing. The third night there were salsa lessons and then a student DJ played disco music and half of the conference participants were there dancing! It was great to see other professors dancing along with the graduate students, since I'm usually the only one over 30 at the dance clubs I attend! The fourth night there was a party in an old country estate in Avington Park. A band with a fiddler played old English, Irish, and American music, and a caller taught us some steps for square dancing and contradancing. The latter is done in a large circle or long line in which couples change partners. My daughter often goes to contradances in LA to study the music and she has taken my wife and me to the dances too.
The next morning one of the organizers of the conference asked me if I had liked the party the night before. I said that I had had a great time. He then said "Do you ever not have a great time?" I thought a second and said "No." He said that I had enlivened the conference by participating actively in the discussions and the social events. I then said goodbye to some of the people I had met, and walked down the hill to town.
I spent the afternoon sightseeing since I hadn't had a chance to see the town in the daytime. I went inside the cathedral, which is the longest medieval building in Europe, and saw Jane Austen's tomb (she wrote Pride & Prejudice, one of my wife's favorite novels). Nearby is the house in which Jane Austen died (she lived and wrote in a town nearby until she became ill). I also visited the Great Hall built by Henry III on the ruins of a fortress built by William the Conqueror, and saw the Round Table modeled after that of the legendary King Arthur. After looking at other sights, I took a train to my next adventure.
SHAKESPEARE AND MORE CLUBS
From Winchester, I went to Oxford and checked into the Oxford Backpacker's Hotel on July 11. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the many residential colleges that comprise Oxford University. The few that allowed tours by the public from 12-2 had already closed. But I saw a sign at Merton College indicating that there was a choir concert that evening.
When I passed The Questors pub I noticed that it was very lively so I stopped for a beer and met a group of students from Toronto. I had a quick sandwich from a French pastry shop, then went back to Merton for the concert. The choir was from Sweden, and their singing was beautiful. After that I went to the Park End dance club, which was recommended by a student I had met in Winchester who was from the town of Oxford. I had a great time dancing and I met a group of students from Saudi Arabia.
The next morning when I woke up at the hostel, I discovered that my roommates were members of the Swedish choir! They also recognized me since I had been sitting in the front row! I told them how much I had enjoyed their concert.
I took the train to Stratford on Avon, and checked into the Stratford Backpacker's Hotel on July 12. I spent the rest of the day visiting Shakespeare's birthplace, his grave in Holy Trinity Church, his daughter's house (which had an interesting exhibit on the history of medicine since her husband was an MD), the home of his granddaughter, and the ruins of the home where Shakespeare lived. I also wandered around the Royal Shakespeare Theater and the Swan Theater (built like the original Globe theatre). I also stopped at the home of the mother of John Harvard, the clergyman who went to Massachusetts and willed his library to the first college in America which was then named after him. I signed the guestbook of visiting Harvard alumni since I earned my PhD at Harvard.
Mid-day when I had lunch at an Indian restaurant, I chatted with a professor of English from Connecticut who had recognized me from the train that morning! In the evening I went back to the Swan theater to see a play. On the way there I spotted a barge in the river called The Depot which was a youth center; I chatted with the staff and learned that this was an outreach program for teenagers to provide internet access, games, social support, and information about drug abuse, safe sex, etc.
The play was the premier performance of a musical called Jubilee. There was no Shakespeare play that evening. The musical was about the first Shakespeare Jubilee to revive Shakespeare's plays and promote the town of Stratford after his death. The first act was a scream. The second act dragged in spots but was still good.
After the play, I went to the M Bar dance club. When I started dancing my fast hand movements attracted a lot of attention from the locals (as happened before in other places such as Shanghai, China; Kusadasi, Turkey; and my current favorite club in LA, LaMirage). One local told me that my dancing inspired him, and another said with admiration that he had never seen anyone dance like me. I also chatted with some students from North Carolina and a local who is a student at the college I stayed at in Winchester!
My roommates that night in the youth hostel were two students from Australia who were spending six months travelling all over Europe. In the morning I took a long train ride to Edinburgh, Scotland. The train passed by miles and miles of farm land. There were sheep and then dairy cows and then sheep again. When we got to Scotland, it became mountainous and the scenery was very beautiful.
GABBA MUSIC AND EATING HAGGIS
It was evening when I arrived in Edinburgh. I checked into the High Street Hostel, then had dinner in one of the many pubs on Grassmarket. I then went to The Venue dance club, which was top-rated in "The List" publication of what was happening in town. The first floor had great techno music, but almost no one was dancing there. The crowd was upstairs where the DJ was playing gabba music, which had a loud dance beat but not much musicality. I joined in the jumping and frantic dancing and immediately had rapport with the locals. I met a couple of DJs and the manager of the club.
The next day I explored the Castle and learned about the history of Scotland's battles to remain independent of England. In St. Giles cathedral I saw beautiful stained glass windows. In Tron Kirk (Church) there was an archeology exhibit of the ruins of tenement housing underneath the church. The People's Story Museum told about the history of worker exploitation and the rise of the union movement. The Palace of Holyroodhouse was less interesting but had picturesque ruins of a cathedral attached. Nearby was the construction of the new building for the Scottish Parliament which provides some degree of independence after union with England in 1603.
I walked up to New Town and had dinner in one of the many pubs on Rose St. I ate the traditional Scottish food haggis, which is made of oatmeal and sheep stomach and other internal organs. It wasn't as flavorful as the shredded lamb innards I had in Inner Mongolia, since it was mostly oatmeal, but it was okay.
I then went to the "It" club at the Honeycombs nightclub, which had underground vaulted ceilings. The DJ played some great progressive house music and I again had instant rapport with the locals. I went to bed at 2 AM, and when I got up at 7:30 AM, two roommates were just returning from the clubs! I had to catch a train to meet some friends in northern England.
CIPRO AND GIRL GUIDES
Somewhere along the way I picked up a bug which upset my digestive system, so I took one tablet of a powerful antibiotic called CIPRO and was immediately better. I recommend taking along CIPRO whenever you travel!
I also recommend taking two cameras. This is the first trip I've done that, and it has been very useful. One camera has 100 speed film, which I prefer since it isn't grainy when you have enlargements made. The other has 800 speed film, which I can use when flash is not allowed, such as in museums, or when flash is not useful, such as when the object is more than 15 feet away or is backlit like stained-glass windows in cathedrals. Both cameras are Olympus Stylus zoom which are weatherproof and small enough to fit into my pocket -- which is handy for taking photos in discos!
When I was on an exchange program in Denmark ten years ago, my wife and daughter went to a Girl Scout world center in Switzerland. There they met two Girl Guide leaders from England. That lead to Girl Guides from England visiting Whittier, and Girl Scouts from Whittier visiting England, plus additional trips back and forth by my wife and those leaders.
On July 15 I took the train from Edinburgh to York in order to meet one of these leaders and her husband. We spent the afternoon sightseeing in York, home of the largest gothic cathedral in England. Underneath the medieval cathedral you can seen the ruins of a Norman cathedral and beneath those the ruins of a Roman building.
England has been inhabited by humans since the Stone Age. After the Celts invaded, the Romans came. Next were the germanic Angles and Saxons (the name England comes from Angle-land), who pushed the Celts into Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Then the Vikings invaded, leaving behind town names ending in "by" which is the Danish word for town. In 1066 was the Norman invasion, from Normandy on the coast of what is now France. The latter brought French words to mix with the Germanic and Danish words. Since the Normans were the aristocracy, many formal words in English are from French while many common words are Germanic. For example, food names are often French-derived (like beef) while names of animals (like cow) are Anglo-Saxon.
The York cathedral was where Constantine was hailed as Roman Emperor in 306; his conversion to Christianity changed the course of world history. We also visited the York castle museum which depicted everyday life in Victorian times.
That evening I went to visit the other Girl Guide leader and her husband in Louth. I stayed four nights. On July 16 she took me to Lincoln. We explored the cathedral and the castle. In the latter is one of four surviving original copies of the Magna Charta; copies were sent to every county. Nobles forced King John to sign this document limiting his absolute power and guaranteeing certain rights. However, a few months later King John convinced the Pope to nullify the document and a year later John died. The nobles forced later kings to sign similar documents, but the documents had little effect until 400 years later when king Charles I was executed and Cromwell set up a parliamentary government. They used the Magna Charta as justification for their actions, denying the principle of the Divine Right of Kings (that God gave them the right to rule). When Charles II was crowned king, it was with the understanding that his right to rule came from the people (through parliament) and not from God.
Incidentally, when I was in St. Petersburg years ago I learned that the Russian nobles also tried to force the Czar to sign such a document, but the nobles were ambushed and the czar retained absolute power until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Similarly, the emperor of China had absolute power until he was deposed in the early 20th century.
On July 17 we visited Boston. We again saw the cathedral, and the Guild Hall where a group of Pilgrims were tried. They were captured while trying to flee to Holland to escape religious persecution. But the local people had sympathy for them and they were released. They went to Holland for a year, and began to face persecution there, so they set sail for America on the Mayflower along with others seeking a new life. (When I was a graduate student in Boston, I visited Plymouth, Massachusetts, where I boarded a replica of the Mayflower and explored Plymouth Plantation which recreates life of the Pilgrims in the 1620s).
We also visited a sea resort called Skegness. It has a small amusement park as used to be common in many US seaside towns. It has a reputation for "bracing" weather, but that day it was exceptionally windy. I decided not to have an ice cream cone to avoid having it blasted with sand!
July 18 we explored the town of Louth. It was market day, but it was raining so hard that few farmers had set up their stalls. But I did get to see a flower auction. Usually they auction fruits and vegetables too. I saw a flyer advertising a concert at the cathedral that evening, so I went to that. It was a chamber symphony from Cologne playing familiar pieces by Bach, Mozart, Tchaikowski, and others. Included was a beautiful concerto for oboe by Marcello, a contemporary of Bach.
DNA AND MUSICALS
July 19 I took the train from Lincoln to Cambridge and checked into the Cambridge YMCA. It had inexpensive single rooms in a more convenient location than the youth hostels. I spent the rest of the day and all evening walking around the various colleges comprising Cambridge University. The first colleges were started by renegade scholars from Oxford.
I saw the beautiful chapel at King's College and the Great Hall in Trinity College, as well as the Bridge of Sighs across the Cam river at St. John's College. I saw a statue of Isaac Newton in the chapel at Trinity College, but there was no monument to Charles Darwin at Christ's College! I had dinner at the oldest pub in Cambridge, The Eagle, where Watson and Crick rushed in to exclaim that they had discovered the helical structure of DNA! I also went to a couple of other pubs, the Mill and the Rattle and Hum, for people-watching. Finally, I went to a dance club, The Planet, at Soph Becks, where techno music was played live on a synthesizer.
July 20 I took the train back to London, and checked into the Oxford St. hostel where I had stayed before. I spent a couple of hours exploring the outdoor market at Brixton, the African area of London. Then I visited the London Transport Museum which traces the expansion of the city along with the history of horse drawn buses, internal combustion buses, electric trams, and the development of the first subway system in the world in the 1890s, financed in part by an American investor.
After watching street musicians around Covent Garden, I went to see the musical Chicago. It was a revival of a 1975 musical originally choreographed by Bob Fosse who had choreographed Cabaret and who emphasized dancing along with singing. The performance was energetic and very enjoyable. When I was in London two weeks previously I saw another musical, Blood Brothers, which was more melancholy.
It was raining hard when the play was over, so I decided to catch the last subway back to the hostel at midnight instead of going to a club and walking back at 2 AM. In the subway there was a notice saying that the Brixton Station (which I had visited 12 hours earlier) was now closed due to rioting. I haven't see the newspapers today, but I imagine that it was in reaction to the recent police shooting of a Black man who had been holding what turned about to be a toy gun.
On July 21 I took a train to Gatwick Airport to catch my flight back to Los Angeles. I was back in Whittier late in the evening.