Summer Study Holidays in Britain
After reading Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy I became interested in the English war poet, Siegfried Sassoon. I wanted to find a one-week summer study program that gave more insight into such heroic British writers and the culture that created them.
The Univ. of Kent's Summer Academy organizes a wide range of residential courses-in art, literature, history, architecture, and geology-at 11 British universities (see below). Included in the fee are tuition, full board, accommodations, and related field trips. There is no single supplement. The participants in my course ranged in age from 40 to 70.
Writing in Wartime covered Kent authors like Noel Coward, Winston Churchill, and H.G. Wells, as well as Sassoon. The nine British students in the class had their own horrific war stories to tell. Our course director and lecturer, herself a "war baby," was knowledgeable, conscientious, and eager to please.
Days and evenings were jammed with visits, lectures, quizzes, and social events. One evening there was even a hilarious "ration fashion" show that paraded high fashion from the '30s.
In-depth classroom lectures were supplemented by minibus visits to Chartwell, Dover Castle, and St. Margaret's Bay. Though we visited the scenic rolling countryside of the Weald, which had been very much a part of Sassoon's world, Matfield, the village of his birthplace, was somewhat off our route.
The highlight of my trip was a visit to Winston Churchill's home, Chartwell, a 1 1/2-hour drive from Canterbury." Nestled in a tranquil setting, this imposing brick house is surrounded by huge trees, lakes, and gardens. Inside, the, furnishings reveal the extraordinary life the Churchills lived.
Churchill was only one of Kent's many famous writers. I sought out King's School, the oldest in Britain, and the alma mater of Christopher Marlowe and of Somerset Maugham three centuries later. While gazing up at the towers of Canterbury Cathedral, I thought of the pilgrims immortalized in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,who came to visit the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket, the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury.
I will come back again, this time to find Sassoon's birthplace.