Texan in Norwich


It’s the RODEO, y’all!

Since James and I met, he’s been subjected to a lot of stereotypical Texan things. Nearly all of them really. He owns a cowboy hat, been on a working ranch, eaten a ton of TexMex, driven across the whole state to a West Texas ghost town (scene of our yearly family reunions), got married in the Hill Country, and even had the reception in a barn! He owns about 3 “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper stickers, and 2 “Don’t Mess with Texas Women” bumper stickers. There’s a Texas flag pillow on our couch, a “Welcome Y’all” sign in our hallway, and a thrown horseshoe over our front door. He has tamales for Christmas, drinks from a Texan mug at work, and understands all my family’s slang. But he’s never been to the Alamo, and, before our most recent trip to Texas, a rodeo.

My grandma had the idea that we should take James to the rodeo. I hadn’t been to one since I was small, when I had a cousin who rode bulls, so I didn’t really remember what it was like and agreed that it would be a fun experience for us all. So on a Saturday night we went to Chuy’s in Fort Worth (delicious Mexican food), then popped over to the rodeo!

Chuy's Fort Worth

Now before we even get to the rodeo, let’s talk about Chuy’s. It was a magical experience. The day before we went, I had been given by my doctor a bottle of what I like to call “Magic Pills.” This pill stops, to some extent, my body’s reaction to certain allergies. Similar to how benedryl stops seasonal allergies, when I take this pill it stops my body from creating histimine to combat certain foods it thinks I shouldn’t have. This pill doesn’t help me get over my allergies, and to some extent might be a bit counter-productive in my quest to eventually completely eliminate them, but it does let me cheat every once and a while without the consequences. So at Chuy’s, I REALLY cheated. I ate whatever I wanted. Chips, salsa, creamy jalapeno dip, a strawberry margarita, cheese enchiladas with hatch chili sauce. It was absolutely glorious. Then, feeling oh so stuffed but not at all ill, we made our way to the rodeo.

Cowtown Coliseum

It turned out to be the finals at the Cowtown Coliseum in the Fort Worth Stockyards, where all the competitors from the past year were trying to win all sorts of cash and prizes. Rodeos give away some great prizes. I have a cousin who won a scholarship, a truck, a horse, and a bunch of saddles from barrel riding in high school. What was at stake though wasn’t really evident in the excitement levels. It was a pretty slow affair. The whole thing was a little boring, if I’m being honest. There were about 5min of set up for about 10 seconds of action, sometimes less, then another 5min for the next competitor to get in place. We saw bull riding (which was scary), calf roping (which made me feel bad for the calves), broncos, and barrel racing.

Cowtown Coliseum

We were there for about three hours, and there was still so many people waiting to compete. I wouldn’t be surprised it if went on until about 3am.

Barrel Racing

Without a doubt my favorite part of the show was the one I wasn’t expecting. Twice while we were there, they called children (first 5-8 year olds, then under 5s) into the arena to chase a calf then a sheep and try to grab a ribbon taped to it. It was hilarious. The first time, with the older kids chasing the calf, was funny because the calf was bigger than the kids and just kept knocking them down and running them over. The second time, with the younger kids, was amazing because some of the kids weren’t concerned with the sheep, and just liked playing in the dirt. It was really good fun.

Calf chasing

Although the actual rodeo was a bit boring, it was a really fun evening. My parents, my grandma, James and I all had a good time, and now James can add “going to the rodeo” to the list of Texan things he’s experienced!



Grapevine Main Street and Texas Tenors

Every Christmas when I come home, we have a Christmas outing with my parents, sister, and James. Until this year, we’ve gone to ICE, which is basically a huge warehouse with holiday themed ice sculptures. It was pretty neat for a few years, but last year no one really enjoyed it. Once the novelty wears off, it’s just a really cold, sparkly room. So this year, we decided to go see the Texas Tenors at an historic theater on the Main Street of our town. No one really knew what it was or who they were, but it sounded musical and Texan-y, so why not. Also Main Street Grapevine is really lovely this time of year. We arrived early to walk around in the lights and explore the little Christmasy shops.

Main Street GrapevineMain Street GrapevineMain Street Grapevine

After wandering around for a while, we went into the Palace for the show.

Palace Theater

Boy, were we in for it. The Texas Tenors, we learned, were three hat wearing Texas singers who had come 4th on America’s Got Talent a few years ago. They told us about being on America’s Got Talent a few times, but just in case we didn’t understand words, they brought a screen down in the middle of the concert so we could see clips from when they were on the TV show. They weren’t big on subtlety.

During the show, in addition to the America’s Got Talent video, the following things happened: an obscene amount of winking, about 6 costume changes, the audience stood for the singing of Proud to Be an American, a guitar played while one of them read from the Bible, not one but TWO plugs for two unrelated charities, picking older women out of the audience to fawn over them, and a lot of rehearsed fakey banter. It was obnoxious, sanctimonious, and phony, but this also made it hilarious and fun. My family had a great time, but probably not in the way the “tenors” intended.

At Texas Tenors

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most of the things they did aren’t actually bad. Reading from the Bible, supporting charities, being patriotic, all fine and good things. But it’s absolutely offensive when it’s done specifically to manipulate and elicit an emotional response fromĀ  your audience. The whole thing was shameless and exemplified one of my least favorite aspects of American culture. The music was actually really good, so if they had just stopped talking and sang, I would have no complaints!

Also, if you’re going to have a cowboy hat, you’d better wear it, not hold it over your heart for 90min. And real Texas men don’t wear sparkly vests.

I think we’re gonna have to come up with a new family outing next Christmas.

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Christmas, part II

One of the biggest regrets I had from UEA two years ago was not getting to take part in any of the Christmas events in Norwich. I saw advertisements for the Christmas Lights Switch-On and knew I wouldn’t make it standing in the cold in the evening, however much I wanted to. This year I was determined to go. With promises of fireworks, carolers, night markets, and entertainers, how could it not be a fun? It was all very sweet and silly, and I loved it. Norwich is beautiful at Christmas time.


Carols at City Hall


Lifesize Snowglobe!

Night market

Night Market– everything smelled soooo good


When the lights came on!




Fireworks from the top of Jarrolds


Lights on at the Market


Jarrolds looking beautiful


Seize the David O’Doherty! (Carpe D.O’Diem)

Two years ago, in my tiny room at the University of East Anglia, on freeview software downloaded to my computer, I saw an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks hosted by David O’Doherty. I’d never heard of him before, but he was doing the show like Shakira was supposed to be the host and he’d filled in for her at the last minute. The whole thing was very, very silly and I loved it. After it ended, I checked out his website (http://www.davidodoherty.com/) and loved that too. Here was an Irish man in a shark costume, writing books about panda facts, and a quick glance at youtube told me he is rarely found on stage without a tiny plastic children’s keyboard. What is there not to love?!

Today I am the proud owner of not only his book of panda facts, but also the newer one of shark facts. I recently bought his two most recent cds (paid for them and everything), and last night as the last part of my birthday present, James took me to see him at the Norwich Playhouse.

By the way, this is my favorite panda fact:

The Norwich Playhouse is a lovely little theater on the charming St George’s Street. It’s a small, quirky place and the attached bar is my favorite beer garden I’ve been to in this city yet. It’s right on the river and decorated in a way that would make Austinites feel at home. This bar will be the subject of another post, so I’ll move along.

I’ve only been to one other comedy gig before. My sister took me to see Craig Ferguson last spring and that night is etched in my mind for a lot of reasons. For one, I love Craig Ferguson and he was hilarious. For another, it was in Bass Hall in Fort Worth, which is more suited to seeing symphonies while dressed in fancy clothes than a foul-mouthed Scotsman and a dancing leprechaun. The fanciness of the location and the height of our seats in the balcony added an extra layer of surreality to my memory of the evening that is entirely unnecessary. It was always going to be a surreal memory because the afternoon of the show I had returned from Norwich. I was very jet lagged and tired and suddenly was sitting in a seat where a steep drop to my death was just a wobbly step away. Another layer of intrigue was added when I got home late after the show, completely unaware of what time it was or even where I was. It was one of those times when I was too tired to even go to bed, so I dropped onto the sofa, turned the tv on, and was greeted by 45min of news stations going nuts about something the president was going to announce. In a daze I watched Obama announce that bin Laden was dead. When I did go to bed late that night, the whole day felt like an elaborate dream. The long obnoxious flight from England, jet lag, a fancy theater, the altitude sickness-inducing seats, Craig dancing, leprechauns, someone dressed as a pirate with a chest full of gold, and bin Laden’s dead. The show was a hilarious and fun time with my sister, but I was hoping David O’Doherty’s would be slightly less confusing.

As James and I were walking down sleepy Colegate to the theater, we again were struck by how lucky we are to be living here. A five minute walk through a lovely village street takes us from our flat to a wonderful theater to see one of our favorite comedians. It felt like David O’Doherty was doing a show in our backyard.

Norwich Playhouse

We took our seats and waited for the comedy onslaught.

Norwich PlayhouseNorwich Playhouse

He didn’t disappoint. David O’Doherty describes his comedy style as “very low energy musical whimsy” and that’s exactly what it was. The show was gentle, silly comedy performed in a charming, musical and whimsical way. Much of the night was about topics that are quite depressing, like a breakup, the recession, and mice infestations, but he managed to turn them into hilarious, sweet, and light-hearted comedy. He’s immensely likeable and seemed to be enjoying himself, never trying too hard or taking himself too seriously. Feeding off of that, the whole theater was filled with warm, lovely, positive feelings. One of the best moments came when he got out a tiny Cosmopolitan magazine insert about Women’s 1000 all time best sex tips and began to read/sing its contents. It contained tips like “Eat raw mushrooms because they smell like sex” and other similar ridiculous things that Cosmo is known for printing.

The show ended with the crowd-pleasing My Beefs 2012 and then David hung out in the lobby taking pictures with the audience for a while. He was a lot of fun and very friendly, proposing different amusing scenarios for each picture. I had him sign my panda book, then we took a couple of photos.

Being presented 100 Facts About Pandas

Yay! We are celebrating something!

I was impressed that he not only took pictures and talked with everyone, but that he seemed to be enjoying taking pictures and talking to everyone. The show was sold out so he’s coming back to the Playhouse on October 29th. If you’re in Norwich, you better go see it!