Dr Shin Hattori in Durham University, UK (Part II)


About two months have passed since I had started studying mathematics in Durham. I heard that Japan is now in the middle of a hot summer. Here in Durham, We also had a few summerlike sunny days at the end of July and I found some people walked in the street and sunbathed on the grass with their tops off. But in this August temperatures have gone down to around 15 degrees centigrade and I have to wear a lot of clothes when I sleep at night. It rained almost everyday, same as always. Many people told me that they were planning to travel abroad for their summer vacations to escape from such a climate.

[On my research]

Professor Abrashkin and I kept having weekly meetings also in this month. Thanks to these discussions, I could improve an estimate of ramification in my previous works. We also discussed about an application of such a ramification estimate to algebraic varieties over a number field. To do this, we still have a lot of things to prove, and our discussion on this topic concentrated on the first key step of the proof. I also have started thinking about a problem on how to obtain a stronger estimate in a better situation. Professor Abrashkin gives me many advices and encouragements on this problem and these help me a lot. Now most of staffs in the mathematical department go on vacations and we had no seminars on number theory. I am going to give some talks when the seminar resumes in September or October.

[The city center of Durham]

In this month, the canteen of the college is closed and I have to cook every meals by myself. In the city center of Durham, there are shop streets, large shopping malls and an old market place and we can buy most of daily essentials cheap there. One of the supermarkets sold even Japanese rice, soy sauce, soybean paste, sweet sake and pickled gingers to be served with sushi, but these Japanese foods were expensive and small in amount. Unfortunately, though I often went shopping at this large and clean supermarket, it was closed due to continued losses. On the other hand, they sell most of vegetables which we usually eat in Japan, or their variations at least. Potatoes, onions and carrots are very cheap. There are no pumpkins and Japanese radishes, but we can use squashes and mooli as their substitutions to make Japanese cuisines.

There are many Asian, mostly Chinese, students in Durham university, and probably for this reason we can buy a lot of ingredients in Asian cooking in many shops in the town, such as Chinese chili pastes and nam pla of Thailand. In fact, I was often confused with Chinese and spoken to about the Beijing Olympics. But the Japanese culture also seems to have some presence in this town. I often saw scroll pictures apparently with zen aphorisms. Some people tattooed strange katakana words on their arms. I even found a smart lady boutique selling a T-shirt with the name of a shellfish, abalone, printed in kanji. In a bookstore, they sell dozens of juvenile Japanese comics. Japanese comics seem to be very popular in UK, for I also found many comics in the city library and all of these are Japanese.

I often went shopping also at the market place and its indoor markets dating back to one hundred years ago. On Saturday, a fair is held there and we can see branch houses selling clothes, vegetables, meats, chips(French fries), hamburgers, ice creams and "fudges". A fudge is one of the popular sweets in this country and is some sort of mixture of a caramel and nougat. It is displayed in the form of bar and sold by measure. There is also a small carousel at the center of the fair. Though there are many supermarkets in the city center, the indoor markets still seem to have a lot of spark and are swarmed with local residents.

We can also buy several kinds of root beers there, such as a ginger beer and "dandelion and burdock". Root beers were invented hundreds years ago and have been traditional soft drinks in this country. In the era of the Industrial Revolution, factory workers gathering in urban areas went to pubs after their daily works and often drank too much, thereby temperance movements occurred. Root beers were mainly considered as substitutions of alcoholic beverages at that time. I have read that they had been still very popular among kids before the post-World War II period when Coca Cola flowed in. Now root beers seem to regain their former popularity, for we can find them in many shops and some people told me that they love these root beers the most. A dandelion and burdock is plainer and easier to drink than root beers we can buy in Japan. A ginger beer is like a coke, but has a very strong ginger flavor.

The fair at the market place

An entrance of the indoor markets

Peppermint chocolate fudges

A dandelion and burdock drink

[Summer festivals]

Now we are in the summer-vacation period and many tourists are visiting Durham. Probably for this, events and festivals were held almost every weekend in these two months. Among these festivals, the biggest one was Miner's Gala, a festival for coal miners. Once there were large coal mines near this town and miners held the gala to make a display of solidarity of their trade unions. Nowadays these mines are closed, but even so miners from all over UK gather in the gala and march to the cathedral with their own flags and brass bands. Because of its socialistic nature, these flags often contain images of famous socialists as Marx and Lenin. On the day of the gala, this calm town was unusually filled with rough and sturdy guys.

Miner's Gala, a socialistic festival in Durham

(Ex-)miners parade with their flags and brass bands in Miner's Gala

We also had dance festivals, a folk music festival and busker's festival in this month. Many performers such as dance teams, folk bands and jugglers came to this town and played at the corner of the street. In a weekend, I enjoyed watching traditional dances of England with their own national costumes. They told me that those dances are called Morris dances, which are typically accompanied with sticks or handkerchiefs. They use sticks as mock swords and make sounds by vigorously crossing them with another dancer. A dance team surprised me with their black painted faces and queer costumes. They said that they were from a border area between England and Wales, and such a painting is traditional in this area.

In the busker's festival, several street performers competed with one another at squares around the market place. One of the performers did tightrope stunts at the center of the crowded market place. Japanese duo of a funny female clown and a skilled unicyclist cracked the audiences with their comical performances. Even when there is no such a special event, we can find some street musicians with folk guitars on the Elvet bridge at dusk, apparently singing pathetic love songs with few audiences.

A dance team from a border area between England and Wales

A folk band. They told me that the use of a bagpipe is typical for this area as in Scotland

Another folk band

A juggler in the busker's festival

Japanese performers in the busker's festival

Clowns in the busker's festival. They looks extremely tall because of their very long boots