Viva Highlights

Here's a somewhat scattered collection of photos from that existential week back in England.  At first, we felt like we were in the strangest twilight zone on the planet, as strangers in a familiar land.  We were freaked out.

Gloucester Cathedral - familiar to Harry Potter fans?
Then, when that feeling wore off, we felt so at home that it truly felt like we'd never left, and when we finally arrived in Kenilworth near the end of the week, I was quite prepared to open the door to our flat, dump our bags, and pick up right where we'd left off.  It was like America never happened.  So that was weird, too.

We spent the week cruising around England visiting the last few sites that were on our list but we'd never gotten around to seeing.  It was a salutary tour, and it succeeded in giving us a real sense of closure.

Mother Shipton's Hanging Well
 famous since the Middle Ages, this magic dripping well turns things to stone.  For real. 
My viva was on the final day of our trip, so everything was sort of leading up to that pivotal moment.  I wondered if that would turn out to be a bad plan, and that I'd just simmer in nervousness the whole time. But it was good.  I felt serene.  Probably because we were wandering around places like this:
Chatsworth House Garden (it's the house in Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess)
One of the places on our list was Whitby Abbey, a ruined abbey perched dramatically on cliffs overlooking the sea.  It's quite far up north, but we made the pilgrimage, and oh man am I glad we did.  Because as fate would have it, there was a peculiar convention going on that very day.

Whitby Abbey
It was the annual World Goth Convention.  They convene at Whitby every year because the abbey is the setting of Bram Stoker's Dracula.  And there are no words to describe the spectacle that was the unofficial Goth-photo shoot in the cemetery near the abbey.

Whitby from the cemetery near the abbey
The spectacle began with a trickle and grew up around us, as we were innocently wandering the cemetery.  First there were two or three people in odd gothic victorian clothes, and I was trying to sneakily take pictures of them.  Then came more, and more, and then photographers came out of nowhere.  More and more hordes of both Goths and photographers flooded in to the church yard, and suddenly we found ourselves smack in the center of the most amazing impromptu costume party I've ever seen.

um.....what's...happening?  more and more people arrive
My favorite part was that people in elaborate outfits would just set up shop somewhere and start posing... for nobody.  It was fantastic.  But then photographers would somehow materialize out of nowhere and snap photo after photo as the crowd grew and grew.  I wish I'd joined in the fray and taken more pictures.  But I was too busy continuously retrieving my jaw from the ground and staring all around me in awe.  

Here's a typical scene: 

This woman got up on the tomb, and started posing dramatically.  I think she was trying to look like she was flying.  Suddenly a photographer or two noticed her, and the crowd grew and grew as she shifted from pose to pose.  I must have caught her between poses in this shot, because usually her arms were outstretched, or reaching threateningly toward the cameras.

I also love that the above photo has an orb in the left corner.  Because during this amazing event, I  overheard one awesomely costumed couple passionately discussing the capturing of ghost orbs on camera.  yesssss.



I have no words.

But, I would like to take this opportunity to say that on this particular day I happened to wear almost all white/khaki.  So that was great.

I am kicking myself that I didn't get more, better pictures.  But you can use your imagination. When we left, the event was still going strong, and it was hard to tear ourselves away.  The whole church yard was crawling with incredibly costumed Goths of all ages, from kids to seniors.   I'll be forever delighted to have witnessed it.

tearing ourselves away, as the crowds of Goths kept streaming in
The next morning was my viva.  To ensure I didn't get too comfortable on the way there, we were this close to being in a car accident, and then barely escaped running over a big old bird.  So my heart was pumping.  Marc was snapping photos as we approached the very moment.  Here's one from the elevator up to the meeting room, where I was making sure my fly wasn't open and my shirt wasn't tucked into my underwear -- and that I had, indeed, remembered to wear pants.  

I think he captured my "nervited" state 
And afterwards, one more walk on our beloved footpaths around the castle.  With some celebratory leaping here and there...

Bidding farewell to our dear Kenilworth was sad and surreal, and complicated by the fact that we felt like we'd never left, and that America didn't really exist.  

A sign at the airport on our way home seemed to capture something about the past four years.  It was a rich and wonderful time for us, being stretched in so many new directions.   

A chapter has closed, a new one has somehow already begun, and my stunned disbelief persists.

No comments: