The internet is awash with articles about Bruce Chatwin, mainly about his singular brilliance and his influence on budding travel writers at a time when the genre had one foot in the grave. Continue reading
Studying a master’s degree in English Literature means it’s safe to say that I’m not short of reading material; however, one book in particular, Andrea Levy’s 2010 neo-slave narrative The Long Song, struck a chord long after I’d turned the last page.
The novel is set before and during the abolition of slavery on a sugarcane plantation in nineteenth-century Jamaica. It is in the style of a memoir written by Miss July, an elderly Jamaican woman who was once a slave on the Amity plantation. July insists that her book will portray the harsh realities of slavery under British colonial rule in Jamaica, and will not be like all other books she has read which are ‘full of the twaddle of some white lady’s mind,’ much to the dismay of her publisher son Thomas.
The novel manages to cover a vast array of significant issues within its 400 pages, such as British colonialism, the physical and emotional abuse of slaves and the ensuing slave uprisings in the 1830s, and the struggles of being an immigrant in Jamaica. The story details how July’s mother Kitty was raped by the plantation overseer and the infant July was then taken away by the plantation’s mistress, Caroline Mortimer, to become a ‘house slave’ named Marguerite. Caroline’s sheer ignorance to the realities of slavery comes to a head during the official abolition of slavery on 31st July 1838 when, at midnight, July asks whether she may leave. Caroline is bewildered and incredulously asks “but you would not leave me, would you, Marguerite?” What follows is a symbolic funeral and burial for enslavement, where a coffin marked ‘Slavery’ is lowered into the ground. However, the abolition of slavery was not so simple for The Long Song’s characters, as they are left with little freedom despite legally being slaves no longer.
Tang dynasty China has been described as the high point, the golden age of Chinese civilization. The poetry and literature produced between 618 and 907 AD is still regarded as some of the best ever produced, and the famous Tang horse sculptures command high prices at auction.
But as we will see, in many ways the world of the Tang wasn’t so much the culmination of an entrenched set of customs and ideas as a crossroads, geographically and culturally. The Tang were going places.
What did I expect when I planned to travel to Hanoi? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I predicted the predictable: temples, Vietnamese food and a moped or two. Now several months later, I look back on a place I can’t wait to get back to. Based in the Old Quarter, I only managed to get a glimpse of Hanoi in the couple of days I stayed, but it is a city that makes you miss it even before you’ve left. There are temples, delicious foods, and in fact several thousand mopeds, but it’s not predictable. It’s exciting. If you’re short for time and in a similar predicament, don’t be afraid to squeeze as much out of Hanoi as possible, and here are some ideas to help you do just that.
MADE IN GREENWICH: GREENWICH, LONDON
This art gallery nestling in the heart of Greenwich is perfect for anyone who has ever felt stifled, threatened or intimidated by the larger art gallery experience. Wandering in silence around vast, looming vacuums of space punctuated by some of the world’s finest art can be a rewarding and somewhat otherworldly experience, so I couldn’t possibly advise you to avoid the big names like the Guggenheim, the Tate, and the Louvre. Equally though, the snobbery and pretentiousness of it all can sometimes get a bit too much. But Made in Greenwich is different: all the work shown in the gallery is produced by local artists. Fish crafted from glass swim along the walls, iridescent beaded necklaces twinkle from the glass cabinets. You’ll be met with a smile and the sound of a radio, photospheres of local and far-flung landscapes beaming down at you from the ceiling and exquisite silk scarves draped delicately over one another. The gallery has a true community feel and is involved in a project called ‘Keep the Green’ for the green a few yards away on Creek Road. Edward Hill has recently designed and fitted a canvas of the Tree of Life and planted saplings in a bid to deter developers from building yet another grey, dreary block of flats. Edward owns and runs the gallery with his wife Irena, and he is also the creator of the mystical photospheres, which show a landscape from an above or below perspective in a circular motion. From greetings cards to pottery and glass work to fabric, the gallery has a little slice of everything. It’s free entry and is a pleasant haven away from the incessant, blurry madness of the city – give it a try.
LINCOLN CASTLE: LINCOLN, LINCOLNSHIRE
Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and still standing today, Lincoln Castle is certainly getting on a bit. It’s lively for an old dog though, and hosts activities and events all year round. Fancy a taster session in silversmithing? Perchance a good read of Lincoln’s Magna Carta? If not, you can serve some time in the Georgian and Victorian prisons which offer an insight into age-old crime and punishment. For a breath of fresh air afterwards, climb the observatory tower which gives visitors unparalleled views across the city. The Magna Carta is currently ‘on tour’ due to an extensive restoration project at the castle, so whilst it’s getting its jollies on holiday before its 800th anniversary next year, a team of workers is fighting a battle to get everything finished for the big day. A warning to visitors though, climbing Lincoln’s Steep Hill to the castle isn’t an easy task for the unfit, but the cobbled streets lead you past endless boutiques, coffee shops and traditional delis on the way. Arrive at the top and you’ll see Lincoln Cathedral on your right and the castle on your left. Although the Magna Carta pub on the corner is sadly average, this area of Lincoln has some great restaurants and bistros – but the ascent up the hill also sees drinks, clothes and food prices ascend dramatically, so don’t expect to be able to dine on a budget. Come Christmas, the market runs through the Bailgate area and into the castle grounds, whilst in summer you’re likely to find rock group Status Quo belting out their classics as their fans enjoy booze and a picnic on the grass. For £2 per adult and £1.20 for children aged 5-18 standard entry, it’s a cheap afternoon out but is perhaps best seen in full swing when it’s hosting a music gig or a war re-enactment event, in which case ticket prices obviously vary. Historically interesting and aesthetically impressive, Lincoln Castle is a great experience.