Blenheim Battle Prom

July 29, 2007

I just returned from the Annual Blenheim Battle Prom. Battle Proms (short for “promenades”) are a tradition in England, and they happen at various famous sites throughout the year. SMU-in-Oxford goes to this particular prom every year. It is basically a huge patriotic concert and fireworks show with lots of cannons going off and flag-waving. Your basic July 4th celebration at any major park in the U.S. minus the dirtiness and the national holiday.

Overall, it was pretty great. As I said in a much earlier post, Blenheim Palace is one of my favorite places in the world. We visited it within the first week of arriving here and I was literally speechless- it is a beautiful, beautiful place. The property is seven acres, and the prom took place on what was essentially a very large field surrounded by forest and within view of the palace itself. Another giant field nearby was designated for parking. A huge stage with speakers were set up, and to the left there was a large area roped off with probably two dozens cannons set up, ready to fire. Between the parking lot and the prom area were just a few booths. One sold hamburgers, another ale, another Free Trade and handmade goods, and yet another sold prom supplies: rugs (blankets), lanterns, hats, lawn chairs, England and UK flags, and glow-in-the-dark lightsabers and such for the kids.

It was a very neat and tidy affair. Prom goers brought tables and chairs, portable gazebos and tents, and lanterns. The tables were covered in table clothes, and real wine glasses and cutlery we packed into real wicker picnic baskets. Of course, there was threat of rain, so everyone had umbrellas. When it did begin sprinkling, all the British picnickers calmly opened their umbrellas and continued sipping wine and eating their dinners. A funny contrast from the smelly, drunken, and rather un-classy crowds at your usual American patriotic public gathering. The tickets were expensive at 32L ($64), but our British PA, Jamie, insisted that the crowd was working class. “Not middle class at all!”, he exclaimed when I protested that a working class crowd at such an event in the U.S. would not normally bring decorative candles and table centerpieces to a picnic in a wet field.

It was so heart-warming to see this big crowd get so into the old and wonderful patriotic hymns that were performed by the full orchestra on stage. I absolutely love songs like “Jerusalem” and “Land of Hope and Glory”. Wonderful sound, too! They had the most amazing soprano performing, and all the Brits around us knew all the words to all the verses and sang along quite wholeheartedly. Lots of flag waving and swaying back and forth. It was so great! I love it when people are excited about their country and know the words.

Though there was food and ale at Blenheim, a lot of people brought their own liqueur. And by brought their own I mean the liqueur store down the street from Univ was out of plastic cups and cold beer by the time that we pulled out of Oxford. It was really quite ridiculous how much people brought with them. If there is one thing that has consistently bothered me during this trip it is the drinking. Without exaggeration, it is as if drinking is though of as an essential and integral part of the SMU-in-Oxford experience. Very annoying and low-minded, if you ask me. I felt like kind of a snob tonight because I wasn’t drinking and was getting very, very irritated with the silly behavior of my friends who were. Those who know me know that I have little patience as is, and that isn’t a good trait to have when surrounded by trying behavior.

Anyway, I just hate that judgmental, superior feeling that I get when I am in these situations. But I do feel somewhat justified. Man, I just wish that it wasn’t such an acceptable thing, to get drunk and act embarrassingly.

We left for Blenheim at 5pm, so before that I went on some fun little errands with Christina. We went to a few shops that we have been meaning to go to, including a wonderful, hidden little bookstore specializing in rare and antique theology books. Right up my alley! It was wonderful, but expensive. Being there reminded me that there is so much left in the world for me to read- a wonderful sort of realization.

Funny, in this short post I have mistyped probably a dozen words by spelling them the British way. Gah!

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One Response to “Blenheim Battle Prom”

  1. Adam said

    hey thats cool, congrats, ur leet, ok. actually, i hope you remember where all this stuff is so that you can show me later.

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