Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is a collaboration of present day thoughts and something I had written after arriving in England...

        I would like to begin this documentation by graciously thanking my friends and family, those categories which often skew into one another. Where would I be without them? Well most likely at Brock living comfortably, spending too may Thursdays at Isaac's and regretting a missed opportunity for many years to come.I am aware that this all seems quite self-reflective but the reception I have received from others would suggest otherwise:

“Tell me all about it Jason! You know I live vicariously through you!”

I'll do my best. 

        Starting back in November of 2008, this journey of nearly 12 months holds with it highs and lows, stops and starts but especially frustration and joy. I am glad I am here, this already seems very important. The closer I came to the date of my departure the more I felt I needed to do this. I needed to be thrown on that plane…

        After my ordeal with checked luggage I thought of how one can only expect a decent amount of the 'unexpected' when it comes to travel; it is definitely a learning process. Sitting in the terminal I watched a bit of the Leaf game, had a coffee and listened to my iPod as I waited for my plane to board. Seated in A23 I took a rest beside an elderly couple who had been married for nearly 64 years! A truly charming pair from Manchester. Most of their children and grandchildren were scattered all over the world but all that travel seems to have made them even more youthful and adventurous. So as we sat beside one another, and when they were not peacefully asleep, the old gent told me stories of how he flew for the British during the Second World War, delivering supplies to the French resistance. I was so interested to here him speak of how his squad never used maps but rather the light of the moon off of the rivers and streams of the French country side. They asked me what I was doing in England and where I would be staying. After a long chat about my education he gave me a bit of advice if I was to ever find myself in a pub near Stoke (the main city around Keele University). Apparently I was supposed to mention a very famous football player from the area, if I brought this name up (as you can tell I don’t remember the name) I would make a few friends.Unfortunately I never made it to this specific pub but was never at a loss of friends after the first few weeks.

        I didn’t sleep very much on the plane, just rested my head for some brief moments while I awaited our touch down in the United Kingdom.  Looking out through my cabin window I saw my first encounter with this truly beautiful country. It reminded me of a patterned quilt, each block a different shade of green or yellow or brown.  Each piece of land was bordered off with a hedge or wall and it was imperfect, unlike back home. The roads here are at the mercy of the land which may explain their less than manageable width and character.

        After a brief stay in Manchester I just barely caught my bus one morning and heading west towards the Irish Sea I barely had time to hold a conversation as I could not turn my eyes from the green pastures of the English countryside. The view from the plane had done the land a fair justice but to actually absorb the scenery, interact with it, is a treat unto itself. It's truly a wonder how such a place has managed to capture and maintain such a pastoral image for each time you blink it seems you pass another small town or village; each with its' own Pub and just maybe a postal office if your town was big enough. Now, the Pub is a very unique concept which had planted it roots deep within British culture away from the monarchy, bureaucracy and well-to-do high society prudes which had only furthered the separation between the classes. Being found in every hamlet, village, town and city the original purpose of the, as North American's have dubbed it, 'Pub ' was to be a Public House of rest. I suppose we all feel quite at ease in our local pubs most nights but they were never truly meant to become our beloved watering holes, rather, it would be as though you were popping by a friend's cottage for engaging conversation and a small meal - could have fooled me! 

        On most nights you were more likely to find me mingling with the locals, bantering with fellow students and football mates, or joking with the occasional drunk. Whether it be down at our very own residence, hole-in-the-ground, bar or well onto campus at the Union Station - a place you could truly get lost in be it from a hazy disposition of merely the bar's enormity - we would begin our drinking early in the evening and well into the early hours of the morning. The service was always friendly at such places but never rushed as they are in most Canadian institutions so it would be ergonomically wrong not to get multiple drinks at once, and triples at that! Stumbling home became an art but merely unlocking your door require god-given coordination at 4 or 5 in the morning. I remember being awoken after one hellish evening by Jane, a fellow international student from Germany, as I lay spread eagle, grass stains covered my attire, outside my room with key in hand and a,as I can only assume, frustrated look upon my face Jane guided me to bed. God love 'er, she was one hell of a girl. We would bickered and fight until the sun came up but for those 5 months I would never meet anyone else like her.She got quite the attitude on her when she drank, she was loud, demanded attention and was loved by all. It was only once I had left Britain that I finally figured out why I could never stand her and why I was drawn to her, she was just like me!

        When I was of a better frame of mind I would attend classes, read my books and take in whatever parts of the country I could. Rob Artinian, Jay Rankin and I, all Canadian music lovers, had made a point of heading north for Scotland one week to see the Tragically Hip. Beers in hand we were nearly 5 feet from Gord and the boys as they pumped out all the classics 'til they were finally forced to call it an evening. That morning in Glasgow we were walking about town taking in the sites when Rob thought he caught a glimpse of Rob Baker, the lead guitarist of The Hip. Wearing bright purple pants and shockingly silver boots this beast of a man, hair down near his ass, walked along the sidewalk. 'There's no way it's him' I said, 'Rob is not that big!'. Sure enough, that night those purple pants had made one hell of an appearance, Rob had gained a bit of weight too. 

        Touring around Edinburgh and the Scottish country side was also a treat. Jay had left so he could join a touring heading toward Lincoln and some Christmas market as Rob and I climbed up to Arthur's seat to enjoy a full view of the city. Rob was not nearly as impressed with me as he was with himself; more often than not  I would hear from 20 feet behind me 'I hate you Pooley'. But the view was worth it just as the entire trip was. I would have an equally lovely time in Spain with a good friend from Australia named Elise. In Barcelona we would hit up the local bars on the beach for sangria and tapas then make our way through the Gothic centre of town hitting nearly all the artisan markets we could. Our accommodation was no more than a block from the Gaudi Museum so at night we would sit up on the rooftop, drink in hand, and watch the tourists walk about the exhibits which had be delicately lit up at night, giving them all an entirely new perspective.

        Europe, as it can sometimes do to a traveler, treated me very well as I was no more worst for wear when I had arrived home. Britannia had left with me a true image of her beauty; it had truly scared me, truly! That's another story, one better told face-to-face. But aren't all stories like that, told 'round a camp fire with a few good friends? I try, with much effort and patience with myself, to paint a bit of a picture with my vocabulary but one thing you must always realize is that a photo, a journal entry and dare I say even a video, will never truly give justice to an experience abroad. I have been to New York City a few times in my life so far and maybe it was because I was an even poorer student at the time but I never once brought my camera. Places you go will always affect and infect you in some way or another and you will never truly grasp such experiences from sitting by a computer or rummaging through old shoe boxes filled with photos. Of course, you must one day sort such photos but be weary, you must always detach yourself from the material versions of your perspectives and experiences. The views will always be better kept in your memory and the stories will always be better played out on your little stage back home, drink in hand, as per usual.


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