British Studies Web Pages




‘Holi-day’, sang Madonna, ‘we all need to get away’. Whether they are a real need or not, holidays in modern industrial societies are now regarded as a right of all rather than the privilege of the few. Indeed, it has even been suggested by an Archbishop of Canterbury, (Dr. Robert Runcie in 1988), that tourism is the new religion. This issue of the web pages looks at some aspects of Holidays, with materials which are either ready-made for the classroom, or which can be adapted for it.

In our review of J. Urry’s Consuming Places, the argument is put forward that in this age of global tourism, holiday destinations are ‘consumed’ like any other commodity, with landscapes and townscapes carefully prepared and packaged for the ‘tourist gaze’. If this is so, then what is consumed changes over time and societies, as is shown with the changing trends in UK holidays in the British and Holidays section of Facts and Figures.

Change, similarity, and difference are three themes which emerge from the ‘Articles and Issues’ section. Our cross-cultural questionnaire revealed significant differences among the British and Polish people we interviewed concerning holiday destinations, activities, souvenirs, and ‘dream holidays’. The Archetypal British Holiday is now largely a thing of the past, having changed in the same way as the traditional Polish seaside holiday we feature in Mielno – Now and Then. And yet Andrew Dalton’s polemical essay on the British Abroad argues that in the mass invasion of Mediterranean beaches the British are trying to recreate something from that same past. Poles Abroad also looks at change over time, and shows that holidays are not always defined in opposition to work. The UK is privileged in this respect, as being both a venue for working and studying holidays, with the added advantage of possessing a valuable lingua franca which can be learned while at work or play. Links for Holidays, Exchanges, and Visits will help those considering a visit to the UK.

Language learning was one of the motivations behind the visit to the UK of the prize-winners from our Identity competition in 2001, who had all won courses there. Their Postcards From Britain display all the characteristics of a good holiday experience: anticipation; travel; break with routine; encounter with difference; and surprise and discovery. Ewa Ullman’s Postcard from Bournemouth set the tone: My first day was a great surprise. Everyone seems so friendly and open, quite different from the English “stiff-upper-lip” stereotype. This was echoed by Ewa Groszek in Exeter (some people say that the British are a nation of rather reserved people - I found them open and friendly), and Aleksandra Gelner in Chester, (forget what they say about the English reserve, I’ve never had such a good laugh in my life!). In other respects their responses to the very different parts of the UK they visited illustrated the uniqueness of their individual experiences and perspectives, from Tomasz Siuta’s musings in Nottingham on whether difference is strange, to Marzena  Puto’s attempts to stay dry, punting in Cambridge. And while language learning may have been one of their reasons for going, they came back with much more: This has not only been an excellent lesson of English, but, what is most important, a lesson for life. I have got to know so many incredible people, experienced so many different cultures, encountered so many new customs. (Ewa Ullman)

Language learning also features in Mrs A’s Diary, where idioms connected with time (a key anti-concept on holiday!) are featured, and in two interactive quizzes, one based on the diary, and one on Holidays. And there is a prize-competition in the A-Z of Holidays, if you manage to make it to Z.

Our main photograph illustrating this issue contains some of the classic ingredients of what is considered by many to be a good holiday: sand, sea, and sun. The idea of the ‘beach’ has entered popular consciousness, with a whole genre of ‘island’ literature to support it. The cult novel, The Beach, is part of this genre, and puts the tourist in opposition to the traveller, against the backdrop of global beach tourism. Or, as our academic article on the novel suggests, Seeking Eden on a Lonely Planet. However in The Beach it is not Eden, but rather dystopia, which these modern pilgrims on a crowded planet create. Little wonder, perhaps, cocooned in their private world with each other. As Tomasz Siuta could have told them:

Why else would we want to travel the world if not to find out how other nations live?

As ever, we look forward to your comments and suggestions for our web pages.

Postcard poems

Below you will find two postcard poems – the first The Loch Ness Monster's Song, by Edwin Morgan. The second, Sopot by Craig Raine. (Click a picture to enlarge).

Edwin Morgan was born in Glasgow in 1920, where he also studied and taught at the university. He was a prolific poet, critic, author of libretti and translator, publishing translations from French, Italian and Russian, as well as Anglo-Saxon. His best known collections include: The Second Life (1968); From Glasgow to Saturn (1973); Poems of Thirty Years (1982); Sonnets from Scotland (1984); Collected Poems (1990). Edwin Morgan died recently.

Craig Raine was born in Shildon (County Durham) in 1944. He graduated from Oxford University and worked as Poetry Editor at the publishing house of Faber and Faber. At present he is editor of the arts magazine Arete and a member of the English Faculty at New College, Oxford. His books of poetry include: The Onion, Memory (1977); A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1978); Rich (1984); History: the Home Movie (1994); Clay. Whereabouts Unknown (1996). An interview with the poet (presented in Polish) as well as a few Polish translations from the two earliest collections can be found in: Zapisy rozmów. Wywiady z poetami brytyjskimi by Piotr Sommer, published in 1985 by Czytelnik; a larger selection in Polish is available in Piotr Sommer’s Antologia nowej poezji brytyjskiej (Czytelnik 1983). In 1997 Rebis in association with the British Council published Craig Raine’s Lista obecności. Szkice o dwudziestowięcznej prozie brytyjskiej i irlandzkiej (Roll Call: Essays on th Twentieth Century Fiction from Britain and Ireland). Craig Raine visited Poland in 1997 and 1999, reading his poems in Łódź, Warsaw and Kraków.

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