Halloween is observed over here with some families taking children around but the adults also get into the costumed parties. They also do family fireworks for Halloween, and then for Guy Fawkes Day, and then more fireworks just for the sake of fireworks. Every evening we hear fireworks for several hours. Guy Fawkes is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November beginning in 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot (Catholic trying to assassinate the Protestant King), was arrested while guarding explosives they had placed beneath the House of Lords. To celebrate that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. Nowadays bonfires and fireworks are very popular on this day.
Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday in November nearest to 11 November, the anniversary of the end of WWI at 11:00 AM in 1918. Note the date and time as 11-11-11:00. A national ceremony is held in London at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, where wreaths of remembrance poppies are laid and two minutes of silence is observed at 11 AM. Church bells are rung “half-muffled” creating a somber effect. We watched the festival (similar to our Veterans Day shows) with the queen presiding. It was very nicely done and a honoring ceremony for all who have or are serving in the armed forces of the United Kingdom. The Royal Marines band performed several times and had a really nice drum line section.
City of Oxford
This week we were able to visit Oxford. I was excited to see Oxford University, but like most people I thought it was a campus university. Actually it is 23 different campuses, each called a “college” which specializes in some field. Students apply to a college and if accepted live and study on that campus. Each campus has a library, kitchen, etc. However there are no classes, just tutorials. Students attend tutorials where they are given certain things to study and write about. A typical program takes three years to complete, and they only take final exams at the end of the third year.
Christchurch University dining hall
Oxford itself is a very old town, and as our guide told us, the whole town looks like Harry Potter. It was raining the whole time we were there, but it wasn’t too bad. We walked around the city, then visited Christchurch College. We were able to see the gardens, the buildings, tour the library and the kitchens. The library has books that are 300 years old, and some very fine collections of originals. The kitchen is the oldest existing Tudor kitchen in England, and serves three meals a day for the 600 students. We were able to take “high tea” in the dining room (famous for Harry Potter) and have hot chocolate, tarts and eclairs.