The general election was held back in May. It was interesting to see a different democratic system at work. There were some similarities. The TV coverage reminded me of election night in America - large panels of pundits and journalists in the studio with correspondents across the country. There was a focus on key swing districts just as there is on key states and congressional seats in the US. There was also a move in recent years to examining the personalities and appearance of the candidates in the American style.
Most students weren't too pleased with the result as the Conservative party gained the most seats in Parliament, taking over in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats after over 10 years of Labour government. A Conservative government could be the favorable outcome for Atlantic relations, however.
At any rate, it was a good excuse to get together in the common room with a few drinks to watch the results come in county-by-county. I got to compare notes with other foreign students; Ben talked about Norway's system and Andreas told me about German electoral politics. It seems that most students over here are pretty well informed and care enough to vote. Given that my only general election experience in the US had the highest turnout in around 40 years, it's hard to compare.
Last Saturday, we had Grey Day - a big college festival in Durham. The biggest part of the day was the alcohol, but other attractions included live music (big band, jazz, rock, pop, etc), an arts and crafts area, a bouncy castle, and sumo wrestling. Far too early for most, the drinking started at breakfast (it was lunchtime somewhere). The interesting thing was that the breakfast booze wasn't BYOB, it was provided by the college. It's not something you would see back in the US with 21 as the strict drinking age. The British really do drink more than Americans. I don't bother trying to keep up.
I'm pretty sure these two would be in frats if they were students in the US (photo taken around 10 AM):
Photo credit to Alice Tudor:
Ben and George taking it to the mat to see who gets the best room in the house next year:
After everyone recovered from Grey Day, we dressed up and piled into buses for the Phoenix Ball, our end-of-year formal. The theme was 'Casino Royale' - identical to my senior prom back home. The scale of this one was much more impressive. There were at least twice the number of guests, giving them room in the budget for live music and entertainment, a Sean Connery impersonator and table magician, bumper cars (called "dodge 'ems" over here), ice sculpture, a 'silent disco' and casino tables.
I really liked the idea of the 'silent disco'. Wireless headphones with a choice of two channels and a volume control. It meant you could pick your music and how loud you wanted it. Ironically, the best part about it was taking the headphones off. When a popular song came on, people would sing along (often very loudly and out of key or with the wrong words - myself included). With no loud speakers to drown it out, we were left with a loud 300-400 member chorus belting out the tunes.
Having events like this which are directly comparable to high school (even down to the theme) just goes to show how much better college is. Living with people for 9 months makes a big difference. You're not just seeing each other on school days for 9 months out of the year. It's a completely different experience.
Mr. Connery performing some magic tricks during dinner:
Becky and Becky
There's also been stuff going on in the world of sport (not 'sports' as Americans would say). We went to check out a cricket match, had a farewell dinner for the basketball team, and watched the first matches of the World Cup (more to come after the USA v. England match).
The match at Durham County Cricket Grounds was a 20-Twenty match - the shorter, more exciting form of cricket which lasts about as long as a baseball game. The longer form takes five days of of 9 to 5 play. Similar to Grey Day, there was plenty of drunken student atmosphere at the cricket match on 'student day'. I imagine that the same would happen at Memorial Stadium if beer were allowed. It might not be typical of cricket matches, but it was an entertaining sideshow for my first live match.
A student being thrown out to thunderous applause from the student section:
Alistair was my cricket tutor for the afternoon. He was the only one in our group who was a big cricket fan. Luckily for him, he got to see his home team from Lancashire get a win over Durham:
A couple photos from the Basketball dinner: