5 April 2012

Jolly Old

Last week I was in England.  I went for the Leeds International Jazz Educators Conference (where else?) in Leeds.  However, due to logistics and costs, I ended up flying in and out of London, and taking the four+ hour bus ride to Leeds.

In the almost 2 days I spent in London, I had a chance to catch up with some old friends.  Gregg Brennan* has been living in London for the last 3 years and we got together on both of the days that I was in London (sandwiching the 3 days in Leeds).  And since Gregg is a loyal reader of the blog, Hey Gregg!  It was good seeing you!

Impressions of London:

- Crowded
- Lots of Construction
- Do NOT want to go back until after the Olympics are over.

But I've been to London before (you should check out the original Adventures in Klezmer blog if you want to read up on that), so I didn't feel the imperative to do the whole sight-seeing thing.

I will make special mention of the hostel I stayed at: the White Ferry.  In addition to being located very close to the Victoria Coach Station (where I caught the bus to Leeds), the staff was very friendly.  When i couldn't find a locker to stash my stuff at the end of my trip, they were kind enough to allow me to leave my stuff in their luggage room, from which I could pick it up at 3am before getting my bus out to Stansted Airport for my early morning flight back to Berlin.

As a side-note.  Apparently London is so paranoid of being blown up by bombs left in lockers by terrorists, there are no lockers to leave bags in while you go about your business around town.  There are "left luggage" kiosks at bus and train stations, but they close at midnight, thus making things inconvenient for anyone who needs to pick up their bags any later. 

The conference in Leeds was interesting.  There were some great jazz performances (particularly by the Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu), and interesting papers, although, coming from the field of ethnomusicology, some of the papers on jazz pedagogy and theory were a little outside of my interest zone. 

The real benefit of going to these conferences is to meet the interesting people who show up.  Not only were there cool British people, but I met musicians and academics from Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Austria, and several other Canadians and Americans.

As for Leeds itself, I was expecting a lot worse.  It seems to be a university town, so the nightlife is skewed to the young, and there's a cool pedestrian shopping area in town.  The main problem with Leeds is that there isn't much in terms of sights to see.  The town hall is nice (although dirty), but we weren't around there in time to go inside and see it.  I've been told that York is the city to go to in the north for the sights.

The last thing I'll say about England is that the whole "driving on the left" thing messes you up. 

I've decided that the side of the road that people drive on not only influences the flow of traffic (and the direction that you look when crossing the road), but there's a whole cultural paradigm that surrounds it.  It's quite disorienting.  So, my message to the Brits is: conform to the rest of the world!  Or else!

Oh.  I took a grand total of 2 pictures in England -- both on my phone, and I can't be arsed to transfer them to my computer.  Imagine away!

* You may remember Gregg as the original drummer in KlezFactor.  You can hear him on our first album, The Golem of Bathurst Manor.  Available on iTunes, Spotify, Last.fm, CD Baby, and many other fine vendors.

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