24.10.14 – 26.10.14
Last weekend I went on a UK Host trip to Rugby. My mum thought it was a risky idea for me to take the evening train all alone to Rugby to meet and stay with my host – someone whom I have never seen before. But for me, I prefer trusting people to doubting them and indeed, my host Madeleine was waiting for me at the train station in Rugby. We had some good times together that I will certainly remember. I remember visiting Charlecote Park without paying; I remember getting locked inside Rugby Wharf; I remember looking through a book on sculptures at her friend’s place. It was definitely nice to live with an English for a few days and learn more about the culture. Being in London, sometimes I find myself surrounded by people from everywhere except England. I find the tea culture here particularly interesting – English people like to drink tea in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and that is a part of their culture. The funny thing is tea is not native to England and it makes me wonder what kind of lifestyle people used to have here before trading happened. Another thing that I find pretty interesting is that English are very proud of the famous English people who have made an impact on the world at some point in the history. It is for this reason that many small English towns, most notably Stratford-upon-Avon (birthplace of William Shakespeare), present themselves as the birthplace of famous people. Rugby has a pretty famous son too – Rupert Brooke who wrote a few popular poems, particularly “The Soldier”. “If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.”
I took the 1 h 30 min train from London Euston station to Rugby. Honestly, I find the train stations in London (so far, I have taken trains from Euston and Liverpool Street) pretty confusing because the passengers only know which platform they have to go to take their train 10 – 15 min before the train departs. Because of this, there is always a funny sight of a big group of people standing around before the live departure boards.
Rugby is a small residential town with more mega supermarkets and schools than tourist attractions. It used to be an industrial town and apparently the first jet engine was invented in Rugby. Today Rugby is still pretty industrial as it is heavily involved in making cement for the rest of England. Apart from making cement, Rugby is quite important in England because it has one of the top (and most expensive) independent schools in England – Rugby School. It is a boarding school for children between the age of 11 to 18 and apparently, most of the students in this school will go on to study in Oxbridge. This comes at a price as well because the school fees are ~ 20, 000 pounds a year! While this school mainly serves the needs and aspirations of the very rich in England, it also gives out some scholarships to bright children who live in Rugby. The campus is quite big as well and the game rugby was actually first played on the school field. It is amazing to think how a new game played in a small English town in 1823 can become a global sport that many people are acquainted with today.
In the afternoon, we took the car and visited Charlecote Park which is under the National Trust. The National Trust in the UK has been acquiring old historic houses and beautiful green spaces for many years. Currently, there are over 300 historical buildings under its protection. Apparently, the Trust prefers to “protect” green spaces to old houses these days because they don’t need to use resources to maintain the green spaces. I remember we drove through the Roman roads that went up and down the hills, it is amazing to imagine that many generations of people have come before us and used these very same roads. Charlecote has been the home to the Lucy family since the 12th century. Sadly, we arrived too late and we did not have enough time to explore the house. We took a walk around the house, saw a beautiful pond and saw the grazing Jacob sheep and deer. The story goes that the young William Shakespeare poached a deer on this field!
On Sunday, we went to visit the Rugby Wharf and see the North Oxford Canal. In the past, before the times of railway, people in England transported coal and other objects using the canals. In those days, horses were used to draw canal boats. In fact, those days were not too long ago. Horse drawn narrow boats in the Midlands lasted into the 1950s whilst horses pulling big barges, with their bigger payloads, were still at work on the Regents Canal in London until the 1960s! Today, the canal boats are either used as houses or for recreational purposes. I think it will be quite an amazing holiday to rent a canal boat and travel to different parts of England with a group of friends. 🙂