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England 2017, Visiting the Cathedral Cities

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - Flight to Dublin, Edinburgh, Lindisfarne

Jason, our son, and Ashley, his girlfriend, are staying at our house (and moving from the guest room to our bed!) while we’re gone. We didn’t want to tempt them with driving our car so I put my green truck in the carport and left its keys hidden in the beer stein on our dresser. We drove our car over to our daughter Jenny’s house, left it there, and she gave us a ride to the airport at 9 A.M. The weather is glorious though it’s supposed to storm this afternoon. Hope we’re on our way across the Atlantic before that happens.

In mid-July the sight in my right eye crapped out. There has been a serious “bulge” in the “sweet spot” of my left eye for some time but my right eye was O.K. Then six months ago a “bulge” developed in the vision of my right eye too. Interestingly, it was the mirror image of the one in my left eye. My V.A. doctor scheduled me for eye test after eye test. They never found anything so she sent me to a neurologist to see if there was nerve damage. MRI and Cat scan showed no problem. During the interview with her she said there was no sign of dementia. Nice bonus diagnosis but not helpful with regard to the failing eyesight.

Then mid-July the “bulge” in the vision of my right eye became a vortex. The center of my visual field disappeared. If I tried to looked directly at a candle the flame would disappear. Weird effect. If I looked slightly away, the flame popped back into view. My own private magic trick, and I was also the only member of the audience.

Another trip back to the optometrist and this time they found a “macular hole.” They sent me to the ophthalmologist who said I need an operation after we get back from this trip. They’ll inject my right eye with gas then have me lie face down so the resulting bubble pushes the “volcano” on the retina back into place and with luck close the hole as well.

All that to provide an excuse for the terrible handwriting in this trip journal. My left eye has been distorted for years and I depended on my right eye. Now it’s worse than the left.

I’ve not been much use in the studio. I’ve struggled to take care of the paperwork and my glass-cutting and lead work is a joke. Drawing with any kind of “realism” is impossible. Thank God for Sam and her daughter Carrera. Sam has always been crucial to the studio. Now she’s indispensable.

As a deacon it’s become difficult to read the gospels or my homilies. The surgeon said there was a 95% success rate for this surgery though “success” doesn’t mean 20/20. It just means being able to read again. If it doesn’t get better I’ll switch my art work to abstracts focusing on color! That would be sort of fun.

Jason said that something is wrong with the ice maker in the kitchen. “It makes noises late at night that you can’t hear during the day.” And “Is it O.K. if I change the lights each night so that people will think someone is home?” I said, “but someone IS home: you and Ashley.” “Yeah, I know, but I mean someone else!”

Ashley is so sad that we are leaving Sissy, our “grand-dog,” with Jenny.

On the flight to Detroit the stewardess didn’t have change so my scotch was free! So now my handwriting is getting even worse!

On the flight from JFK to Dublin the stewardess said, “The captain has said that our flight will take 5 hours and 60 minutes…” And then there was this pregnant pause as she thought about what she had just said. You can’t make this stuff up.

We watched lots of TV episodes (Big Bang, one of my favorites, West World, which I’d not seen). Anthony Hopkins is the God figure who created this world where the “hosts” are automatons and the “new arrivals” are very rich tourists who can do anything they want to their “hosts.” Things go wrong (surprise, surprise) but it makes for an interesting take on the origin of evil.

I had shepherds’ pie for supper: hamburger in a light tomato sauce with mashed potatoes and cheese baked on top. Hummus and vegetable sticks, and (ho, ho) keylime pie in a cup. And I didn’t have to cook it!

We were seated in the center section: in the middle of four seats. Agony! Really the most uncomfortable seats ever! But the flight to Dublin was quick – much faster than flying to Rome or Paris. The jumbo jet was packed.

Arriving in Dublin we had a long line snaking through customs, then down through an underground maze to gate 337 for our flight to Edinburgh.

Wednesday, August 23, Lindisfarne

From the Edinburgh airport we caught the tram to the train station and the train to Berwick (pronounced Berick) the northernmost town in England. We had an hour to kill in Berwick-upon-Tweed so we went looking for a snack. We ate at a little pastry shop where we split a toasted tuna-fish and corn sandwich on a skinny Italian roll – like a mini baguette. I’ve never had corn in my tuna fish salad before but served with lettuce, tomato and cucumber, it was very tasty. We had a lemon and apple tart for dessert. I went walking along the castle battlements. They’d crumbled a century ago (or been bombed?) and now were just a raised grassy berm overlooking the city.

We caught the bus for Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, about 12:30 and arrived at our hotel about 1 – dead on our feet. The innkeeper, Sean, was so cheerful and gabby. I felt like my head was stuffed with cotton wool. We arranged to have our supper at 6, and because our room wasn’t ready yet we headed out (more like stumbled out) to look-around for a while.

We visited the ruined abbey, and St. Mary’s church (Anglican), then saw where the Catholic church was and that there was Mass tomorrow. We found a lovely lookout at the “Heugh” above the town, watched 2 black labs playing fetch in the water, took lots of pictures, got some ice cream, then a double Jamesons and had a nice visit with two couples in the pub.

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We met another nice couple at supper (Margaret and Stan). Everyone we meet is interested in where we’re from and what we think of Mr. Trump, and we ask them about Brexit and that seems to produce sighs as well. Governments seem to exist only to provide amusement and / or embarrassment for its citizenry. After supper we went to the beach near St Mary’s Church at St Cuthbert’s Island. You could see the remains of his hut and they had erected an 8 foot wooden cross beside it. There were several benches set up above the high water mark and we sat at one to watch the sun die over the now water-filled flats to the west of the island. The sky grew orange as the sun went below the purple clouds on the horizon. The only sounds were the birds in the long grass twittering goodnight to each other and the seals out over the water moaning about having to go to bed so early.


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But for us, 8:30 felt like midnight, especially after visiting the local pub. It was worse for Georgia than for me – I, at least, had managed to grab an hour’s sleep before supper. As we walked back to Lindisfarne Hotel, the sky grew more and more orange. In Lexington it seems the sky goes dark after sunset. Here it got more and more red after the sun had made its exit!

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We were both stumbling after the marathon “day” that began in Lexington then to Detroit, then to JFK, then to Dublin, then to Edinburgh, then to Berwick, then to Lindisfarne and finally up the stairs to room 2 and the “King size” bed that was actually the size of our queen size bed at home. I think I can remember lying down.

Thursday, August 24, Lindisfarne and the train to Durham

We went for an early morning walk – Georgia, toward the Castle garden and me toward the north beaches over the sand dunes. The dunes are completely covered with knee-deep grass – very different from the dunes we have in Georgia, Florida and the Gulf Coast. Walkers had made paths over and around them and signs warned dog owners of the danger posed by the various burrs and beggar’s lice in the area. The landscape of pastel greens and golds and slate grey water was lovely.

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When I got back to the hotel Georgia was already tucking into a plate of bacon and eggs with mushrooms and brown toast. I ordered sausage, (it tasted like a mild bratwurst) poached eggs, mushrooms and beans. The English are supposed to especially enjoy beans and toast for breakfast. I wanted to see what that was about. They tasted exactly like a can of “pork and beans” warmed up. What a disappointment.

We spoke to Stan and Margaret, then went out to visit the Holy Island museum. I thought Mass was at 11. As we walked back toward the hotel we saw a horde of day-trippers coming down the sidewalk from the day car park. It looked just like a huge cruise ship had just disgorged its passengers up the street. The peace of the little St. Cuthbert Catholic Church was most welcome – but then I realized Mass wasn’t until 11:30, so we went back outside to sit in the sun and watch the tourists.

The church was the size of a small chapel with nice stained glass moved here from another church that had closed. There were 10 – 15 pews that could hold maybe 3 adults on each. I wondered why there were folding chairs set up in the aisle and another series of pews and folding chairs in the narthex.

The sister in charge asked if we minded sitting in the narthex so “the boys” could sit in the “church proper.” She said some people get huffy when she asked but she wanted “the boys” to feel especially welcome. I told her we didn’t mind and saw a handful of “locals” also sitting out here – and Stan and Margaret! You meet the nicest people in Catholic Churches.

And then in trooped “the boys”: 65 boys between the ages of 9 and 15, all wearing optic green or red “safety” vests with 15 or 20 adult counselors from the St. Vincent de Paul Society. They were all so well behaved. Another lovely Mass and seeing Stan and Margaret and all these lovely children reminded me again of the feeling that belonging to the Catholic Church is like belonging to a secret society entirely bent on doing good.

After Mass we went looking for coffee. A place called “Pilgrim Coffee” had a good reputation so we went there. The line snaking its way outside was a good sign, but when, after 10 minutes, the line hadn’t moved, I heard the lady in front of me say to the woman in front of her ”Have you moved?” “No, I haven’t. Nothing is happening.” I suggested that those weren’t real people ahead of us. ”They’re actually statues – part of an artist’s installation.” That drew a laugh and shortly after the line moved. We’d arrived in line at 12:15 and our bus to the train station in Berwick was to leave from the car park at 13:05. It took so long to get our scones with jam and clotted cream and café latte that we only made it to the bus with 5 minutes to spare. But the scones and coffee were amazing. No wonder the line was so long.

To be continued.
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Thursday, August 24, Durham

Back in Berwick we bought train tickets for Durham. It involved a train change in Newcastle but being old hands – that is, having braved the wilds of Italian and French trains – English trains plus a basically recognizable language presented a piece of cake. Our telephone still wasn’t working, (we found out later that contrary to what we’d been told, it was not cleared for making overseas calls) but we were able, on the second try, to call our Air B & B hostess in Shincliffe and she came to pick us up at the train station. That was terrific as it had begun to rain, quite hard in fact, at some moments.

Her house was ½ of a very large duplex. I counted 3 or 4 bedrooms upstairs. Her university son, a very talented artist had lots of paintings on the walls. She said his output was prodigious and the paintings gravitated from room to room to room until they ended up in the back bathroom prior to being buried in the back closet.

We decided to visit the Cathedral so we walked into town along the river Wear. It was a very pleasant 45 minute walk through trees lining the river winding its way through Durham University past the athletic fields and a prison (!). Then onto the campus proper and up a hill and over another high bridge to the hill where the Cathedral was located.

In the Cathedral the first window I saw was the gloriously vibrant “Our Daily Bread” by Mark Angus, 1984 – a view of the Last Supper from above, looking down on the heads of Jesus and the disciples. Purples and reds and vibrant green. Judas’ head is brown and shrivelled and the bread in front of him is scorched. The docent said people either love it or detest it. I told her I was one of the former and that each generation should have the opportunity to find their own religious vision. The church can’t survive if it only clings to the art of our grandparents. Speaking of which, there were several circa WWII windows by Hugh Easton. I have to think he must have gotten tired of making the “dead pilot” windows he became known for.

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Crossing the High Bridge we overtook an emaciated old man on crutches. He’s had polio in both legs. We’d noticed him speaking to everyone he passed. We said, “Good evening” as we went by. He smiled an enormous smile and said with gusto, “It’s a daily existence for me!” which we took to mean that every morning and evening was good in his eyes.

Walking back we took the sidewalk along the road. It was much shorter and we stopped at the “Rose Tree Pub.” Anne, our hostess, had recommended it for supper and it was less than a block away. It was a nice, friendly pub and restaurant. We sat at the next table over from a pair of school teachers fretting over the start of another term. Outside the town center the economy was terribly depressed. The collapse of the mines devastated the blue-collar workers and their children faced a bleak future. We commiserated – they had even traveled to the United States to see what charter schools were about and decided that “teaching for a test” was not going to help them help their children. They too were fascinated by what was happening in Finland. Could it really be as simple as fewer tests and more outdoors to absolutely turn a school system around?

They had insights to offer on Brexit – suggesting that the government seemed to be “slow walking” in hopes that someone would think of some way to get out of the mess. I suggested that seemed to be our governments approach as well. We drank in silence – just shaking our heads. Georgia had steak and ale pie and I had rump steak, medium rare, with onion rings and mushrooms. The steak was supposed to have a blue cheese sauce and the plate was originally scheduled to have “hand-cut chips.” When I’d asked for onion rings instead, our waitress said she’d have to check with the chef. I told her “Nevermind, just give me a side order of rings and pitch the chips.” “I’ll still have to check with the chef,” she said. I thought he must be a tyrant and she must be in training. But no, she’d been there for years!

I did get the onion rings, though, and they were delicious! But never got the blue cheese sauce. I asked for it and she said that wasn’t possible – you had to do the blue cheese sauce as you were preparing the steak. I asked her to please try. She brought me back a gravy boat of brown something. I tasted it and said it certainly didn’t look like blue cheese. Our table mates laughed and said it was “cracked-pepper” sauce. The waitress, of course, had scuttled away.

We ordered dessert of sticky pudding with ice cream. I didn’t have the nerve to ask for a side order of blue cheese.

And so home to our Airbnb and our very comfortable guest room. Our host family invited us to watch Great British Bake Off with them. It was fun to get a preview of a season not available in the States yet.

Friday, August 25

We were up early and went downstairs to a table-setting of granola (with lots of nuts), yogurt, orange juice, toast, pain au chocolat, milk, French-pressed coffee and fresh fruit salad. “Very nice, Very tasty,” as Anthony Hopkins said in “64 Charing Cross” – a very different movie from the “Silence of the Lambs.”

We walked along the road back to the Cathedral for another look and a visit to the Cathedral Museum to see St Cuthbert’s relics. His pectoral cross was lovely – made of fine gold wire and garnets (with one piece of red glass). The brochure said the original garnet had been lost – I think it more likely that the piece of glass was a reminder of our share of divinity: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in your divinity as you humbled yourself to share in our humanity,” the deacon says during the Mass as a drop of water is added to the wine.

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Georgia loved the ivory comb that the monks used to comb his incorrupt hair and beard.

I had another scone with jam and clotted cream in the coffee shop. I’m addicted! After the Cathedral we set off looking for the glass shop “Crushed Pepper” that Anne and Richard, our hostess, had recommended. We first sat in the main square of Durham listening to the various buskers sing or play a trumpet. We visited with a tourist from Australia who had to take our picture. People are so very interested in talking with us about the comings and goings in the US right now.

Janet Rogers was the owner of the glass shop and she was teaching 5 students glass fusing when we got there. She was very generous in sharing her “secrets.” Most of her income comes from classes or small fused pieces. They either stand alone or get leaded into doors and small windows. She also makes glass coasters, silk screening or stenciling designs and logos. “Thermofox” makes her screens and she cuts the stencils out of acetate with a “hot knife,” then dusts on a fusing powder made by a German company called “Float.” The stencils would probably work for our Sisters of Charity glasses.

On the way back to Shincliffe we stopped at St. Nicholas where we saw two lovely windows by Leonard Evetts. There had also been one at the Cathedral. Similar in style to Patrick Reyntiens with washes of paint applied crudely(?) around design elements. The overall effect is very pleasing, similar to my Peter and Paul window in Danville, KY.

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We spent a long time waiting for the bus in downtown Durham – longer in fact, than the 20 minute walk would have been, but our feet were hurting. We walked past the house to the “other” pub in Shincliffe owned by the same people who owned the Rose Tree. The menu was very similar so I finally got my bleu cheese – but on a “cheeseburger.” I wasn’t really impressed, but the onion rings were wonderfully greasy so that made up for it. And they were able to find some “Talisker” to go with our “pint,” so it was a very pleasant and leisurely meal.

Back at the house we watched an episode of the Great British Bake Off and sipped a glass of amoretto that Anne brought us. Very sweet! We went to bed at 8:30 – much to the surprise of our hosts. But we were both knackered.

Saturday, August 26, train to Keswick in the Lake District

We were up at 8 for another tasty breakfast. Richard offered to carry us to the train station. They’ve been so kind.

There were lots of trains we could catch from each stop so even the fact that our train from New Castle to Carlisle was delayed didn’t cause a problem.

The countryside was all agricultural – full of sheep, cattle, fields of grain, and little fruit trees. We shadowed a rock-strewn river bordered by solid little stone houses with gray slate roofs surrounded by extravagant flower gardens and green picket or stone fences. And everywhere there were spikes of pink-purple foxglove. Just the kind of place Thomas Kincaide would set up an easel.

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We saw fishermen getting off the train in Hexham and the next station before Bardon Mill with fly rods in their bags. Perfect location, Northumberland National Park, between Hexham and Haltwhistle.

Clouds were rolling in. Looks like rain. It’s interesting how some groups engage in raucous, slightly forced laughter for 30 minutes or more. Much laughter, little mirth, but doesn’t really sound “happy.” I think it’s more of a bonding ritual. After all, it can get awkward sitting together in a group for a long time with nothing to say. Lord Haw Haw?

I talked with a nice older lady from Carlisle worn out from helping her husband celebrate his 90th birthday. She was sweet and sharp – again comparing Brexit to Trump.

“The English speaking world is losing its mind,” she said. “London is not England anymore.”

In Penrith we saw our first McDonalds and Burger King. We caught a bus from there to Keswick. On the bus there was a lovely white lab lying on his blind master’s foot. We passed stone houses made of greens black and brown stones. The builders must select stone with care.

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To be continued
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Saturday, August 26 - Keswick in the Lake District

The Keswick pedestrian mall was a bedlam of artist’s booths, people and dogs. Lots of dogs! All shapes and sizes – with a surprising number of whippets, many terriers and bulldogs plus the occasional Newfoundland and even one Chihuahua. Keswick is on a lake called Derwentwater and the river Greta, a babbling happy-brook of a river tripping over stones through the valley.

The surrounding hills are lovely with the highest at about 3000 feet (Latrigg Fell was at 1200). Parts of the hillside have been clear-cut of the fir trees and native hardwoods have been replanted.

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Our B & B, called Cumbria House is a warm stone cottage across from St. John’s Parish Church.

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James and Ruth are our young hosts.

James is short, thin and dark haired. Ruth is red haired, freckled and bonnie. They show us to our garret room built under the eaves. (Georgia wanted the room with the best view) It had a king-sized bed, new carpet and an ensuite bathroom. It was very comfortable (once you’d made the ascent). There was a small TV and an enormous wood beam diagonally bisecting the room. Georgia warned me not to hit my head, then promptly tripped on the low rise and bumped her head twice! We draped a scarf over the beam to remind us of its presence. No more problem.

Our hosts recommended a restaurant called Felpack where we got nice sandwiches and orange squash prosecco cocktails. We went back for supper that evening. I had spaghetti and meatballs with mozzarella (meh) and Georgia had a hummus plate.

We had some ice cream at a stand and a nice walk to Derwentwater. The area was full of people, dogs, and children. There were parklands and playgrounds and putt-putt. Our hosts said the crowds are here because Monday is a bank holiday. But if you avoid the pedestrian market during the day it’s not bad.

And so off to bed.

Sunday, August 27

We had breakfast at 8:30, then looked for Mass times online and could not find them. We tried calling the church and kept getting the “cannot complete as dialed.” I remembered that the T-mobile guy said use “+” so I tried all sorts of permutations. Still nothing. I looked back over the log and found one local number that HAD gone through. It was “+”, “country code”, number without “0” in front. Bingo – it went through. Mass starts at 9. Toast and juice for breakfast off the counter then scoot out the door.

It was a lovely Mass as usual. The priest talked of the things that get in the way of our life with God. Restlessness, tiredness, anger and obsessions. He quoted Augustine: “You were with me always but I was not with you,” and then quoted a woman who’d been impressed by Pinochet, “God is no more present to us in a church than in a bar, but we are generally more present to God in a church.”

At tea in the church hall afterwards I asked for advice on how to get on the path to the local lookout, Latrigg Fell. Such friendly people. “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes,” one lady said. A gruff old woman chimed in, “That’s nonsense! If you’re not careful you’ll get drenched on the Fells!”

The walk up was a pleasant woodland path for the first 2 miles. I asked everyone I met what the tall pink/purple plants were (not the foxglove!). No one knew. But one man said as boys they used to strip off all the leaves and chuck them at each other like spears. I said I’d call them spear-plants in that case. He said they grew all around like weeds.

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Dogs are everywhere. I enjoyed watching the border collies “herding” their human families up the mountain – and then back down. I’d get nervous with such an antsy big dog staring at me.

I took lots of pictures of the lake and the surrounding villages and fields. And lots of sheep once I’d crested the summit at 1200 feet. It all looked like a model landscape set out on a wrinkled green rug. The way back was more torturous because some flood in 2015 had washed out the path and some bridges. It meant a lot of twists and turns and rougher paths as well as some guesses on which way to go.

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I came back into town at the “Leisure Pool” and walked through Fitz Park which was quite nice. I spent 3 hours and 20 minutes all told. Georgia was on a boat tour on the lake all this time which she said was very scenic. I fell asleep back at the room for a 30 minute nap, then we went out again to a pub: “George’s.” Georgia had lamb and I had fish and chips with mushy peas. Georgia loved her lamb. The fish was “meh” again. So far English cooking is filling but under-whelming. The ale is good though. The scotch is wonderful, of course.

We walked on down to Fitz Park and watched lawn bowling and cricket. I’m not sure the rules of either make much sense but the players seemed to understand what was going on – and the white uniforms were quite picturesque. Then we stopped for gelato and to see the windows in the St John’s Parish Church on the way back to our room. The first ones I saw definitely betrayed a pre-Raphaelite influence. The foliage at the figures’ feet look like it had been painted by William Morris. Other windows seemed to be in a similar style and were designed by Henry Holliday. And there was one window from Veronica Whall. It was very colorful, especially the orange angel wings – but I thought the painting crude. Henry Holiday’s wife, it turns out, worked with William Morris, and Holiday was a friend of Ruskin and Burne-Jones. No wonder the windows had a pre-Raphaelite look.

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Back at the B & B we watched a bit of the first “Superman” where Christopher Reeves turned back time by making the earth spin backwards for a few turns. All to save Lois Lane.

Monday, August 28 – bus and train to York

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of shaved smoked salmon on a scrambled egg on rocket-covered wheat toast, French pressed coffee, juice, marmite (ugh – “wake up your taste buds”), butter, honey and organic crunchy peanut butter. I complimented her photographs, which decorated the walls — especially the ones with the short focal plane. I’d seen such photos of close-up flowers and such, but never a picture of a faraway village with that same look. She said it was a special function on her camera. She liked how it made villages in the mountains look so tiny. So “twee” she said. Third time I’ve heard her use that word. It’s so much more common here than in the U.S.A. But the pictures certainly reinforced my impression of “model villages spread out on the rug.”

We walked to the bus stop and caught an unscheduled bus for Penrith. We sat up front in the double-decker and watched the glorious Northern Lake District glide past, so green, with warm gray stone walls making individual sheep pens. The mountains watched over the smooth sided valleys with their various shades of green and olive. It all seemed friendlier and less threatening than some mountain valleys in the U.S.A.

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And there were no billboards. None at all! Zip. Nada. Imagine beautiful scenery enjoyed for its own sake and not as a means to sell you soap or a lawyer. What missed opportunities, NOT.

We drove down into a “travelers’ rest” full of cars and people, but perfectly integrated with the surrounding farm land. It was down in a natural hollow and they’d built a roof of pastureland over the gas pumps, restrooms and vending machines. Except for the sign on the highway it was virtually invisible. And still NO billboards! None at all. And none along the train tracks either from Penrith to York.

The first train from Penrith to Manchester had aisles packed full of people. I had to stand the first hour from Penrith to Preston, then secured a seat next to Georgia for the rest of the trip.

From Manchester to York we traveled along an industrialized river valley, one rust-belt town after another with lots of old brick and new “functional” buildings. We also saw evidence of canals and canal boats. That might be a fun way to travel.

Four or five twenty-somethings, men and women, boarded the train at Huddleston outside Manchester. They were all dressed completely in black. There was a young man covered with tattoos, one of which was a larger than life-size rosary wrapped around his right arm. They were boisterous and bragging that they were going to have to make new friends because they weren’t able to sit together. He looked at Georgia and smirked, “Here’s my new friend.” The others laughed. I asked him about the rosary. “Are you Catholic?” “No man, I’m what you call an ‘a-theist.’ Religion just causes wars and misery. The younger generation is finished with it.” I told him he should visit a Catholic Church sometime. He might be surprised. One of his friends started teasing him about going to chapel.

They got up to leave at Leeds. As they were standing in the carriage way I walked up behind him and tapped him on the arm. He turned around and I took off my cross and handed it to him. “Someone gave this to me; let me give it to you. I used to be an atheist too.” “Ah, Thanks.” He said, and smiled; a happy smile even. I’m hoping that unexpected gift from one person to another might really be the start of his making a new friend, Jesus.

The cross I gave him came from San Juan de Ortega on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. I lost it in Madrid, I think, on a very busy sidewalk near the Sorolla Museum. I felt so bad I went back again looking for it – and I saved the cord in a superstitious hope that somehow the cross would come back to me. But then I found an “American Friends of the Camino” Facebook page and posted a notice that I had lost my cross and wondered if someone currently in Spain could get one from the Monastery for me and mail it to me. Meg, a woman I didn’t know, wrote to say that she had brought hers back to the States but has never worn it. She told me to send her my address and she’d mail it to me. A week later I was holding it in my hand. She said that after the Camino she had resolved “to shed excess baggage in my life and give more away.”

I wore it every day and loved it. You really can come to love inanimate objects, can’t you?

And then recently, one of our morning meditations told a story about a hermit who had a precious diamond in his backpack. A pilgrim asked to see it and when the hermit took it out he asked if the pilgrim would like to hold it, then asked if he’d like to have it and gave it to him. Delighted the pilgrim took the diamond home. A couple of weeks later the pilgrim returned the diamond to the hermit and said, “Could you give me, instead, whatever you have that made it so easy for you to give the diamond away?”

The story made me think again of Meg and her generosity. That was on August 21st. We left for England on August 22nd.

As we approached York the land became much flatter, with fewer fences, and larger fields plowed and ready for a fall planting. I could easily imagine Nora Batty, from “Last of the Summer Wine,” standing on the steps of her little flat in the villages we passed.

To be continued
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday, August 28 - York

The walk from the train station was pleasantly downhill to our “Queen Hotel” at the river’s edge. “When all at once I saw a crowd . . .” of thousands of people we needed to make our way through. There was some sort of street festival going on. We saw a man-made hillside lined with hay bales. It was a soap-box derby! There were tons of children and parents with carnival rides and lots of activity booths.

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We pushed our way through the happy crowds to our hotel and checked in easily. Our room, lucky number 9 wasn’t even 50 feet from the front desk. I couldn’t get the air conditioner to work and asked the front desk. “That’s because it’s not on.” she said. “Is it O.K. if I open the window?” She looked at me as though I were simple. “Oh, aye,” she said.

We made our way across the bridge and toward the center of the old city, the towers of York Minster standing out high over everything else. Walking the medieval streets we found glorious views round each bend. And more pubs than people.

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I’d hoped there would be some modern windows as in Durham but was disappointed. That is, until I saw the “five sisters” in the transept. How could you be disappointed in the face of such an iconic masterpiece?

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Much of the glass in the other windows was in the process of being cleaned. As I looked at the results I thought of the early reviews I read about the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel: “It was cleaned within an inch of its life.” The glass looked naked and scarred, and I couldn’t find any tabernacle lamp, which meant no reserved host, which meant no living Jesus. It all just made me sad and upset. So many of the “repaired” windows had been smashed by the minions of Henry VIII, who in rejecting the Pope undercut the Real Presence and ultimately turned this once living gigantic stone receptacle for the body of Christ into something lifeless, echoey, and empty. A museum, perhaps, a dead symbol of something that had once been alive. I couldn’t wait to get out. At least in Durham with the new windows there was something alive. A spark of something to offer today’s world.

We ate hamburgers at a little caravan in the Shambles area. It was an area of York where the butchers sold their meat off wooden benches, called shambles. It’s a lively part of York, full of small food, flowers and knick-knack stalls. Then we found a pub to whet our whistles. Then walked back toward the Hotel stopping in churches to look at the glass and visiting the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey to look at more of the desecration wrought in the 1500s.

I went to bed feeling more down-beat and full of dark thought than on any of our other trips. But the Great British Bake Off inaugural program is to be on TV tomorrow night – with the new cast – so “Tomorrow is another day.”

Tuesday, August 29

We woke up leisurely then strolled into the old city looking for breakfast. We made the hungry person’s mistake of stopping at the first acceptable place we found. The scones were cold – They’d been refrigerated and the cream was more congealed than clotted. The café latte was good though, and we set out for more “church watching.” “Holy Trinity” wasn’t open so we headed back to St. Winfred Roman Catholic Church. The stained glass was mediocre, but the church was alive. Mass began at 12:10 and the Priest was assisted by a red-haired gangling acolyte cum lector who looked like Sterling Holloway, but didn’t have that high, squeaky voice. The liturgy was impeccable and the sign out front boasted that the church was “open every day, all day.”

The priest, in his soft voice, spoke about John the Baptist and speaking the truth – even to power. The Mass lifted my sagging spirits.

Then we visited St. Helen’s Church where the glass painters of York are buried. The York Art Museum had a show featuring the Moores – Especially Albert and his beautiful ladies. But there was also Henry with his “Crossing the Bar” and two other brothers as well: Edwin and Edward. A talented family of painters, like the Wyethes I suppose.

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We visited the Minster again where a young docent told me that the Sanctuary lamp is in the St. John the Baptist’s chapel and kept lit because occasional pilgrimage groups had a Mass said there. That improved my spirits even more.

We paid 5 pounds each to climb the 275 steps to the rooftop walk. The circular stairs were so narrow you had one-way traffic. They posted times when a group would be going up. There was no turning back either, once you had begun. Round and round in a tight circle that got even tighter as we climbed. But the view from up top was quite nice, all the slate roofs from on high.

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Going back down was even easier, of course.

And then we set off to find the Monk bar – thinking it was a pub where we could get a drink. Actually it was one of the medieval gates into the city and a way up onto the wall. What a lovely walk, looking out over the walls on the modern city and looking inside the wall at the back gardens of the posh houses behind the Cathedral. We saw one especially lovely flower garden with the house’s back door standing open. “Oh look,” I said, “They’ve left the door open for us.” A little further on we came to a stairway going down into the garden and a mounted placard advertising cream teas for 9.50. “Order at the bar” it said, so we went down and did! We sat in a charming little alcove on wing chairs and had the BEST cream scone with jam and a pot of tea.

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It really turned out to be the high point of our stay in York. There were gorgeous black and white framed photographs on the walls. A waiter said to look in the stairwell. It then became clear that this was a hotel or B&B with lots of photos of famous people like John Hurt and Peter Salis. There was also a photo exhibit from Afghanistan.

Back up on the wall I wrote down the name of the place: “Grays Court.” If we come back to York again maybe we can stay there.

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We continued on a nice walk along the wall to some stairs down at another medieval gate. Walking back to the Cathedral from a different direction we stopped at a little church with a plaque beside it that said, “Guy Fawkes was baptized here.” It seemed like a strange thing to advertise so I had to stop and question the very excitable docent who offered to tell us all about it. I told him it seemed an odd thing to advertise – sort of like a church in the USA advertising where the unabomber or Timothy McVeigh were baptized. “Oh, but this was a Catholic Church then!” he exclaimed, “His name was not Guy – it was Guido Fawkes,” The antipathy between Catholics and Protestants here runs very deep. As does the resentment towards the Germans. We’ve seen German tourists in every country we’ve visited except England. In the museum they had a map showing all the places in York that had been bombed. The worst raid was called the Baedeker raid in 1942. Baedeker was a German guidebook popular in the middle part of the 20th Century. It was said that Hitler took a Baedeker guide and said he wanted every three-star city in England bombed. York was hit hard. The English have long memories.

For an early supper we stopped at a tapas restaurant, Ambiente. I was eating a cup of ice cream so they asked me to finish it outside, but otherwise it was terrific. We had a seafood sampler platter for two, with anchovies, steamed shrimp, cod, fish pate, bread, chutney and a little bowl of Gordal brand, unpitted, queen olives that were very tender with a hint of lemon. Spectacular! Georgia also ordered roasted peppers. They were delicious too, reminding us of small poblanos. Georgia had wine and I had cider. It was a thoroughly satisfactory meal.

We got slightly lost on the walk back to the hotel, but that’s O.K. It’s all an adventure, isn’t it?

Wednesday, August 30

We went back to the Shambles first thing this morning. (I wonder if the verb “to shamble” is somehow related.)

Right in the middle of the district we found a small oratory that had been the home of St. Margaret Clitherow, martyred in the generation after St Thomas Moore and John Fisher for sheltering priests. Evidently it wasn’t illegal to be Catholic, but it was illegal to be a Catholic priest or hide them. This was the time of the priest holes – special places and secret escape tunnels from houses – and the time of the smashing of statues and stained glass. The many pastiche windows assembled from the broken shards attest to the fury as well as the later rethinking of that fury. But there are still so many empty niches and plain quarry windows.

We went to Mass at noon and learned that this was St. Margaret’s feast (memorial) day. The priest warned us that there might well be a new “sifting” coming, where being an orthodox Catholic will lead to having to break the nation’s “laws.” “May she intercede for us that we receive her same grace.”

An elderly Anglican priest was standing in York Minster smiling beatifically at all the tourists. I asked him if it was true that there were occasional Catholic Masses in the Chapel. “Oh yes,” he said, “and I hope someday there will be high Masses said on the high altar.” He felt the separation was a scandal. I said I hoped it wouldn’t offend him but without the real presence, a church, even a Cathedral felt lifeless. He said that he agreed and he was very glad there was reserved host in the John the Baptist Chapel. I said “It sounds like you’ve run up to the shore of the Tiber – Why not plunge in and swim across?” He just smiled.

As we “shambled” along we found a long queue outside a peculiar little shop called “The shop that must not be named” full of Harry Potter paraphernalia. A muggle outside would only let a handful in at a time then wait for them to leave before admitting more.

Tomorrow we’ve decided to head to Lincoln. Stan & Margaret had recommended it as having a REAL Cathedral unlike the puny one at Durham.

To be continued
 

Georgia & Zig

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Contest 2019 Winner!
Thursday, August 31 - Lincoln

The train ride from York to Lincoln was slow – with several delays. A train track was found with a crack in it. It had been repaired but all trains were required to travel over the repaired break at 20 mph. That slow-down cascaded through the line and then a freight train crossing the main line broke down and had to be moved out of the way. It only meant that we arrived 30 minutes late in Lincoln, but some evidently were now going to miss some Euro-rail connections and were eligible for some sort of compensation.

We stopped at a pastry shop and asked the way to the Cathedral. It was virtually a straight shot up the High Street to the Steep Street. “It’s a STEEP street,” she emphasized. Georgia said that the lady at the hotel said we need a taxi. “How bad can it be?” I said. “We walked up 275 steps.” And so we set off. It was a piece of cake. We both hiked along at a good pace up the High Street. Then we started to slow down a bit as the road began to lift off. Georgia started to puff and fall back but still wouldn’t let me take her rolling suitcase. Another 50 yards and we left “High Street” and entered “Steep Street.” Georgia was definitely fading and the cobble stones were definitely hard to walk on and navigate with rolling suitcases. The tiny shops along the way would have been charming if only I could have seen them through the little light-flashes in my eyes.

I took Georgia’s bag and got no refusal from her this time. It looked like we were going to be lucky if I didn’t have to carry her and the rolling bags.

And then we came to the part for which “Steep Street” got its name. “That’s not Steep,” someone told me later, “that’s vertical!”

At the summit tourists were heard to exclaim, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Locals gather at the pub just to watch the tourists emerge, gasping, into the light. We headed for our hotel first. Big public buildings really don’t like you bringing in wheely suitcases anymore.

The Lincoln Hotel, was a nice modern hotel and our room was on the first floor overlooking a walled garden out back. We’ve had great luck with our accommodations and with our bank cards this time. There are generally some hiccups trying to get cash or use the charge card but not this time.

Our hotel was located right across the street from the altar end of the Cathedral so we started our walk from that end. Huge steel supports for the gigantic altar and rose windows were embedded in the flying buttresses supporting the roof. The whole thing is an engineering marvel. I’d have a hard time even trying to estimate how much the window weighed. Lincoln is the tallest Cathedral in England and I don’t doubt it. Standing in front we looked at each other and said “Lincoln is a REAL cathedral!” and laughed. Stan and Margaret would be pleased with our agreement.

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Inside, though, we had a major disappointment. We had to buy tickets to come in, but that’s not all that unusual anymore; but what was unusual were bleachers set up just inside the door in the Narthex, leading down to rows of chairs set up in front of a stage with large back drops behind it. The sign advertised a long-running performance of “Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” I was dumb struck. I know Cathedrals need enormous sums of money for repairs and such, but “Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde?”

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We bought our tickets to view the Cathedral from a supercilious young man. I asked him if there were ever any Catholic Masses at the Cathedral. He sniffed, as though speaking to a dimwit. “Certainly not! This is, after all, an Anglican Cathedral!”

I couldn’t help it, I got more and more angry as I walked around the stolen Cathedral, the empty niches, the broken windows and looted tabernacles. I had to go back and say something. So I told him I needed to check my “Irony Meter.” Did he see the irony in considering it ridiculous to use the Cathedral for its intended purpose, celebrating Mass, and using it instead to present a secular play, “Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?”

He said, “There was a lot of discussion about whether or not to allow the Cathedral to be used for the play, but,” and then a long pause, “it has worked out fine.” Meaning, I guess, it’s making a lot of money. Sigh.

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Friday, September 1 – train to Oxford

But on the way to the train we stopped for some cold medication (I can’t shake my cough) and I accidentally handed her two twenties stuck together. I didn’t notice. When she handed me my receipt she also handed me back my twenty. I have been so impressed with all the people I’ve met!

We were going to need to change trains twice before catching our final train to Oxford.

The first leg of the journey was not reserved seating but the last two were. But we never did find our reserved seats. The train coming into Nottingham was running late and had 4 cars. We were supposed to be in “Carriage C” but the train was really crowded. Rather than try to pull the bags through the train I asked Georgia to get on and see which car was C, then come back to the platform and tell me.

Well, she got into the middle of the crush in the train and couldn’t find “C” either, then couldn’t even get back to the platform.

Meanwhile I’m standing there all by my lonesome, hear the conductor blow his whistle and decide I’d better not wait for Georgia, so I stopped the closing door and got on. Standing in the little space between cars as the train started to move I looked out on the platform afraid I was now going to see Georgia out there looking for me.

A man saw my distress and said “You can push this button and talk directly with the Engineer.” Just then Georgia pushed through the crush and we told him everything was fine. We headed for the last car determined to take any seats we could find. I sat in someone else’s reserved seat next to a man who was also poaching a seat. We grumbled at how hard it was to find reserved seats when the signs for each carriage were so small.

And then the man who was supposed to have my seat came and I had to look for another. With the thoughtfulness of my new seat mate, Georgia and I managed to ride the rest of the way to Oxford sitting together.

To be continued
 

Georgia & Zig

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Contest 2019 Winner!
Friday, September 1 - Oxford

We easily caught the bus at the train station and got off on Queen’s Lane to walk to the porter’s office at Magdalen (pronounced “Maudlin”) College. He gave us directions to our room in the Waynflete Building, just over Magdaglen Bridge.

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I have never seen a town with so many buses. I’m sure there were more buses than cars and there were quite a few cars! Traffic was horrid and the sidewalks are tiny. With the curb jumping taking place in London, it’s nerve wracking walking along the main roads – especially with rolling suitcases. There were lots of buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians all trying to share the same space. Not as well organized as Zurich was. Maybe there is something to national characters.

We had a nice supper of a vegetarian “bread board” at the Cape of Good Hope pub near our rooms and took a leisurely stroll along the canal behind the Botanic Gardens watching the Japanese tourists trying not to dump each other out of the “punts.”

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We saw the sunset behind Christ Church’s amazing architecture and fell soundly asleep in our adjoining dorm rooms.

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Saturday, September 2

I had a strange dream. I had a new boss (king?) who wasn’t very bright and wanted me to explain how the theory of something applied to the actual day by day running of the government.

I was driving at the time and looking for a parking place. As I came around the corner to park there was a light dusting of snow on the downward facing parking space and I was concerned that I’d get stuck trying to back out. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a dump truck topple over on a steep hill behind us and start crushing people at an outdoor café. I told my boss that people were dying and we needed to help. He was unconcerned and just wanted to know if I would still give him the extra lawn mower that I had (!)

I also dreamed that I had some sort of examination I’d not studied for and I didn’t know where the room was. A classic anxiety dream.

I thought it odd to have such dreams while staying in a dorm room at Magdalen College, Oxford.

But then I also had a low-grade fever from a cold.

We ate breakfast at the Tick Tock Café and asked for the light breakfast. It turned out to be enough for 2 or 3 people. (eggs, hash browns, toast, olives!) I asked the waitress what the “heavy” breakfast would have looked like. “Lots and lots of meat,” she laughed.

Then we walked through the Oxford Botanical Gardens across the street. It was lovely with plantings of color-coordinated flowers, ancient trees and bushes.

We visited Merton College Chapel and Christ Church Chapel. There was a memorial service going on. It took place every two weeks in remembrance of those killed in the first world war. It was a lovely service, complete with a bugler. We saw special stained glass: Bourne Jones and a small John Piper window, 1903-1992.

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We had lunch at the Asmolean Museum, then went to Mass at Blackfriars where the homily concerned Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians and his talk about civic vs Sacred duties. The Priest said for him there was no difference. We are not taken out of the world. But we should live quietly except when it would be evil to remain silent. But more often love speaks quietly and with humility.

We picked up groceries for a picnic in our room. The girl working at the grocery store wanted to know where we were from. Her “ex” was from Pikeville, Kentucky; and she was so excited to meet someone from Kentucky. It was hilarious to hear her try to imitate her ex Mother-in-law’s accent!

We picnicked in one of our rooms.

Sunday, September 3

We had breakfast at Taylor’s Sandwich shop, then took a trip to the Rail Station for tomorrow’s tickets to London. Then we visited Greek Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity. Then to the Ashmolean again with a wonderful tea in the basement café. Then met a group at the tourist office for our “Morse Tour,” where I loved looking at all the places featured in the Insepctor Morse and Inspector Lewis mysteries on PBS, but was embarrassed for us “tourists” who didn’t know the episodes nearly well enough to actually appreciate what we were seeing. But it was fun to be able to visit some of the colleges not normally open to the general public and get a guided walking tour though some of the back passages around the town of St. Giles Fair.

We had lunch at the “Bird and the Baby” pub where C.S. Lewis and the “Inklings” had their meetings to share current writings. Georgia was starting to feel poorly and it was gray and rainy, so she decided to head back to the room for a nap. I wanted to visit Lewis’ grave to pay my respects. Since I really had no idea where I was going, she knew that meant a lot of time walking around in circles. That drives her crazy. We’ve had some of our worst arguments during those “lost” explorations. It would be better for marital harmony if I went alone.

I knew he was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry somewhere outside Oxford. Found the right bus but didn’t know which stop to get off at. A wonderful lady on the bus made sure I got off at the right stop. But, then which way to go? That’s where the couple on the street came in—pointed me in the right direction.

It was definitely a residential area. So I stopped at the Six Bells pub to get out of the drizzle, locate my bearings, and whet my whistle. The lady working at the bar gave me perfect directions: “You go to the right, then to the left, then go straight. You can’t miss it!” Right. She doesn’t know me. When I left the pub I pulled my hood up over my head and started circling, looking for the church.

Fifteen minutes later, hopelessly lost, I flagged down a boy on a bicycle. I told him what I was looking for. He was from Kent, but knew where the church was. “It’s hard to find,” he reassured me. When he saw the look on my face, he said “Follow me,” and walked with me pushing his bicycle. A little fork in the road lead off into some woods. He was right, I would have missed it. Looked more like a driveway. But there it was: Holy Trinity Church.

The churchyard cemetery was large. I hoped there was a map somewhere showing me where C.S. Lewis’ grave was located. Luckily the church was open and I was able to see the etched glass Narnia window dedicated to Lewis. But I couldn’t find any cemetery map. I went outside and started my “circling” strategy again looking for his tombstone. Surely it would be big and prominent. No luck. Having come so far I certainly wasn’t going to give up but it wasn’t looking good for finding the stone anytime soon. Then I saw two men taking a shortcut through the cemetery and asked them for help. I outlined the troubles I’d had even getting this far, but also bragged about all the help I’d received. They knew right where the grave was and lead me there. “Well of course you got help – This is Narnia, after all. Trouble is, you’ll not see us again.” He pointed toward the tombstone. I took a couple steps in that direction, saw it, then turned around to thank them. I swear. They were gone.

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Odd, but knowing Lewis, it wasn’t so odd after all. The world is full of the sparkle of good magic. I stood at his grave and told him about my life and how much he had meant in it. I thanked him for all the help he’d sent my way—both today and over the years. I saw his brother Warren’s epitaph on the same stone and told him how much I appreciated how he’d helped “Jack.”

The trip back to the dorm rooms was uneventful. Piece of cake. We had our supper at the Cape of Good Hope.

To be continued
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday, September 4 - London

We left Oxford after breakfasting at a little coffee shop near the dorm. Walked to Oxford station and arrived at London’s Paddington Station in the early afternoon. Had lunch at a little nearby diner. The portions were so huge there was enough left for our supper. We traveled to our Airbnb place in the Wandsworth (Putney) area of SW London by tube from Paddington. The bedroom was small, but with a small TV and our host, Niki, was a very nice young man and helped us call Michelle, my friend from the Camino, to arrange a meeting for tomorrow. I’m terrible at phones in foreign countries—even if I can speak the language.

Our first London trip was to Kew Royal Botanic Gardens: It has the largest botanical and mycological collection in the world. The statuary and gardens were beyond expectation. We’ve seen lots of gardens all over the world but for size and beauty Kew takes the cake. We must have walked 10 miles in and around Kew. Exhausted (ho ho) we needed to stop for some refreshment at the snack bar: a lemon tart, a miniature pecan pie, and a bottle of white wine to wash them down.

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Refreshed, we headed back to the room, but needed to stop at a store for Cava and bread to eat for supper with our leftover lunch. And invited Niki to join us. He told us about his year in South America.

Tuesday, September 5

Had a breakfast of cornflakes.

Today we visit the National Gallery and Westminster Abbey. The tube ride was easy, and it was such a joy walking past all the famous London sites. We saw Big Ben getting his sleeve of scaffolding in preparation for being completely refurbished. The scaffolding now only goes up about half way. Paid our respects to Sir Winston in his huge greatcoat. And to the British Lions. Then stopped to take some photos of Lord Nelson on top of his column. Even gray and overcast, how could you not be impressed?

In the Abbey we made our way to the famous “Lady Chapel” to see Hughie O’Donoughue’s 2013 blue and gold window, commissioned in honor of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coro-nation. The chapel itself is the final resting place for both Elizabeth I, and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. I wonder if this will also become the final resting place for the current Queen Elizabeth as well.

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The Abbey didn’t allow our taking pictures. What a disappointment. (I had to smuggle some off the web for this report.) The graves of the famous authors and soldiers were impressive but it suggested that the saints of the Anglican Church do not need to be religious. They just need to be a credit to the country.

Visiting the National Gallery I was stupefied by the sheer volume of treasures to see. Rather like our trip to Spain’s Prado, or Florence’s Uffizi. Such concentrated spectacular excellence leaves me frozen—unable to decide what to see first. VanGogh? Rembrandt? Chardin? Monet? Poussin? You couldn’t see everything in a day, or even a week. You would need to live in London and visit everyday—somehow finding the self-control to just focus on one small slice of such a rich dessert each day.

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Today I tried to concentrate on Monet. And I noticed for the first time how frequently he under-painted his glorious greens with red. It really makes them “pop.”

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And Poussin was evidently a party animal. He sure liked painting the nekkid ladies in compromising situations and in groups.

Chardin painted small, but oh my!

Damian Hirst – new artist, is supposedly the most wealthy current British artist. It will be interesting to see if his work has “legs.” Some Au Courant artists fade, and some currently despised artists (like Van Gogh) turn out to be harbingers of the future.

Appearance vs. reality. In art it becomes crucial. Which artist captures the “reality” and which foments “illusion?” For religious people the issue is somewhat simpler—whatever points us toward God is real. Without the real presence our relationship with each other and with God is based on feeling – not fact. And “feelings” are necessarily temporary and fleeting. Jesus as immanent perfection in the Eucharist wipes away the transitory-ness of the things in this world. Art approximates this immanent relationship. The real inhabiting the transitory. Very Platonic.

Wednesday, September 6

Went to St. Paul’s. More “Saints” for the Anglican Church, this time focusing on the British war dead. Evidently in national churches one’s own war-dead (but not the other guy’s) are especially to be admired. I guess that’s to be expected. I’m glad to belong to a universal church. The other guys can be brave and self-sacrificing too.

I’ve decided that Subways are just giant, horizontal elevators.

We met my friend, Michele with her charming little baby boy at the Tate Modern. When we met on the Camino in 2015 she said she hoped they were going to have a baby. I told her I bet the next time we met she’d introduce me to one. Voila! We reminisced about the walk and shared some photos, but mainly we just admired her beautiful little happy boy.

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The Tate is an amazing building. Not much like a museum. More like a reconfigured power plant. Surprise! Surprise! It seems to specialize in oversize art. There was an especially large Tower of Babel by Cildo Meieles made of hundreds of radios each tuned to a different station. What a cacophony. A potent symbol of our current world. All these voices vying for attention with the attendant noise meaning you can’t really pay attention to anyone. How does God do it?

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On the way back to the room we stopped at what would be our neighborhood pub, “The Prince of Wales.” We had to hoist a few in honor of the college drinking game we used to play of the same name.

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Thursday, September 7

Went to Westminster Station and the London Eye. The line at the “Eye” was long but moved quickly. Each of the 30 “cars” could hold as many as 10-15 people. At 25 Euros a piece it’s some serious tourist money. Can’t be cynical though. The view was spectacular, even on such a gray day. But I suppose that’s the default position for English weather.

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We stopped at Fullers Ale & Pie and drank an Admiralty London Pride Ale. Like liquid gold. Afterwards we started walking toward Her Majesty’s Theatre to see the “Phantom of the Opera.” We passed Harrod’s department store and had to stop in for a look. First time I’ve ever seen mannequins modeling risqué lingerie. Saw that there was a tribute to Princess Diana, (“wishing I could be with you again.”) It seemed kind of kitchie and maudlin to me.

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Further along we stopped briefly in the National Portrait Gallery and took a picture of John Henry, Cardinal Newman. It’s the original of the copy I used to paint his portrait for the Newman Center at Kentucky. Back out on the street I overheard two men talking about a third: “He won’t go away, rather like an un-flushable stool.” Gotta love the English way with words.

Thought we had plenty of time for a bite of something at a sidewalk bistro called the Spaghetti House, near the theatre but the service was so slow we had to leave before eating our dessert. Made it to our seats just as the curtain was going up. The music was great (as you would expect) and the chandelier swinging out over the audience brought the requisite gasps from the audience!

Friday, September 8

Georgia was under the weather this morning. I headed for Buckingham Palace to see the Queen. She was evidently busy, however, and I had to settle for seeing her Horse Guard on parade. After that I went back to gather up Georgia and we headed back to Kensington gardens/Hyde Park/Long Water to see the Princess Diana memorial fountain. It was more beautiful and peaceful than the Harrod’s “exhibit.” There were a slew of public school kids playing and horsing around in the spiral path of water that emanated from the fountain. I think she would have been pleased with that. We then walked all the way to the Peter Pan statue for a photo op. And then we saw we were crashing someone else’s photo. We continued our meander through the park past more memorial statuary and arrived at Buckingham Palace again.

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By now it was getting late, and though we wanted to see the Victoria and Albert museum we had to content ourselves with just walking past it and headed for home. Stopped again at the Prince of Wales, our local pub, for supper then off to bed.

Saturday, September 9

Up and out again. This time to see if we could get tickets for “The book of Mormon.” No luck. So decided to “settle” for the Queen’s Gallery and the British Museum! Seeing the Elgin Marbles “in the flesh” so to speak gave me goose bumps. We’d seen the copies now resident at the Acropolis but the real things were special. Greece is still trying to get them repatriated, but England argues that they are “safer” (and more profitable?) where they are. Egypt is not particularly happy that the Rosetta Stone also still graces the British Museum. I guess being a colonial power has some perks. It took us a while to get close enough for a look. Quite a crowd.

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And then more paintings and statuary. All marvellous. All tremendously famous. Pre Raphaelites very prominent.

As if we hadn’t had enough art we toddled over to the Queen’s gallery back at Buckingham Palace. They were limiting the number of people allowed in at one time so we needed to wait, but an hour spent waiting in London under partly cloudy blue skies is still an hour spent under partly cloudy blue skies in London! The wait was actually more interesting to me than the paintings. They were all monumental paintings from the 17th-19th century “Grand Tour.” Big paintings of Venice, Rome, Paris, etc. intended to impress the people who hadn’t actually visited those places. They weren’t quite so impressive if you’ve actually seen the actual places.

Leaving the Queen’s we decided to just walk around and came across yet another art museum as well as a giant indoor galleria mall full of expensive stores and monumental glass art. In case you didn’t know it, London is a very big place full of lots of very interesting places that aren’t even listed on visitor’s maps. You could spend more than a day just looking around.

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To be continued.
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sunday, September 10 - Canterbury

Day trip to Canterbury: At the Cathedral the docent said that on the 29th of December, each year, there is a service for Thomas Beckett on his feast day. It’s very crowded and there is some reserved host located in the Dean’s Chapel. And in a somewhat disgusted voice said, “The church is always packed for that service. It’s virtually impossible to get in.”

Unspoken was the complaint that they were all these “catholics” traipsing in. Continuing, he said “Our services are very high, very high indeed, lots of bells and smells – You’d have a hard time telling it from a Catholic service, especially now that the Catholics have English services.” I couldn’t tell if he thought this new situation was a good thing or an appalling one for the Church of England.

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In 1982 for John Paul II’s visit there were armed guards and in an ecumenical move he brought a relic of St Thomas Becket back to the Cathedral he’d been murdered in along with the reserved host. I guess that’s why this lovely building felt much more alive to me than the other purely “Anglican” buildings.

We saw and sat in Teresa May’s pew. There was an exhibit showing how Grace Ayson is restoring the stained glass.

We had supper at Polippi’s. The Pizza del Mare and Panini Cotto and Prosecco were all delicioso.

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The Canterbury Cathedral courtyard’s “Garden of Britain” was an amazing botanical garden. But we saw some bored girls walking around. I guess it’s possible for angels to get bored with heaven.

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After our supper we went to “Evensong,” which was magical. The balance and blend of the new choristers was perfect as the Cathedral welcomed its newest members at the start of the choir season. (A red-haired, gap-toothed woman with 2 daughters let us into the choir stalls to sit with the families of the new choristers. What a kindness.) We had to buy one of their CDs to enjoy back home.

To be continued.
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday, September 11 - London

Georgia wanted a shopping trip to buy souvenirs today. I wanted to see the famous Chagall windows at All Saints’ Church (Tudley). She didn’t want to accompany me because she was pretty sure I’d get terribly lost and she absolutely hates that. (She was right, of course.) We had breakfast of 2 eggs, toast and café latte at Rosey’s restaurant. The girls’ here wear ubiquitous black tights under skirts or shorts. Saw flipflops on one odd-wad with blue toenails. I thought it was paint or toenail polish, but it may have been the cold.

On the subway I overheard a boy talking with his mother: “I think we need a trampoline.” Mother: “I think so too, but your father is against it.” Boy: “Shall we vote on it—Three kids and Mother vote yes?” Mother: “Then you bring it up with your father…….” Son: “Have a debate?” Mother: “Yes, you give your reasons…” An example of introducing the British form of legislation, I guess.

The subway/train to Clapton Junction was packed shoulder to shoulder and almost everyone was staring at their phones, except for me and a blond girl with a Prado hand bag and stylish black dress, who was free-standing on the rocking train while putting on makeup – foundation, blush, and eyeliner. Amazing concentration and balance.

Somehow I caught the right train for Dover Priory, but stepped off too soon at Seven Oaks, and had to wait 5 minutes to get back on the next train. It was a 12 carriage train with the first 4 dividing. I concentrated so hard on getting in the right part that I got in the wrong train. Mine was for Dover Priory and I actually needed Hastings.

O.K. it got worse & worse. I needed to get off at Turnbridge to catch bus #205 for Tudley, but got off at Turnbridge Wells. So they had no bus 205, but they did have a bus that did go to Paddock Wood. The driver was grumpy but the passengers were friendly, one of whom, with a cancerous dog, was going to Paddock Wood and dropped me off. In Paddock Wood a florist shop owner told me I wanted the bus to Tudely and to get tickets at the train station. The ticket lady sold me a ticket to Turnbridge where I would need to start all over again.

After a few minutes I thought it rather silly to keep trying to direct my own path so I went back to the ticket booth and told her where I wanted to go. She said “Right. You want the bus, not the train. Bus 205! And you catch it right out there by the café.” Somehow, me trying to direct my own paths reminds me of my spiritual life. I bet there’s a homily here.

When the bus (205) came, I told the driver where I wanted to go and he warned me when to get off. It was a lovely bucolic area. There was quite a story of how these lovely windows came to be here. It’s the only church in the world that has all its windows in stained glass designed by Marc Chagall and fabricated by his collaborator Charles Marq.

From Wikipedia:
On 19 September 1963, Sarah the daughter of Sir Henry and Lady D'Avigdor-Goldsmid who owned nearby Somerhill House,[6][7] was drowned in a sailing accident off Rye, East Sussex.[8][9] In her memory, the couple commissioned Russian-French artist Marc Chagall to design a stained glass window for the church, which was installed in 1967. When Chagall arrived for the dedication of the east window in 1967, and saw the church for the first time, he exclaimed "C'est magnifique! Je les ferai tous!" ("It's magnificent! I will do them all!") Over the next ten years Chagall designed the remaining eleven windows, made again in collaboration with the glassworker Charles Marq in his workshop at Reims in northern France. The last windows were installed in 1985, just before Chagall's death.

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The art of the windows was exquisite, as you would expect, but this time I also paid particular attention to the craftsmanship of Monsieur Marq. It too was impeccable with wonderful details such as the spiral pieces of lead holding the windows to the rebar. All in all these windows are lovely little jewels in a 12th and 13th century setting, in honor of a much-loved daughter.

Getting back to London was much easier than getting to Tudley. The only nerve-wracking part was standing out on the little country road not really knowing when or from which direction the bus was going to come. I just had to be ready to flag any of them. Turned out to be the same driver and he took the poor wayfarer, me, in hand.

We needed to get ready for “King Lear” at Shakespeare’s Globe at 19:30. Walked across the Millennium Bridge again and made it with no problem. First things first: headed for the bar to get a little snackeral and a drink—or a little drinkeral and a snack. Can’t possibly enjoy a Shakespearean play completely sober.

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The sky was threatening rain, but we were going to be inside after all. Who cares whether or not it rains! But this was a facsimile of the original globe, complete with the open roof! And it did start to rain in Act 2. Real rain, not “stage rain.” Georgia, not really noticing the open roof, told me she didn’t know how they did that – to make the rain look so real! The poor patrons in the gallery got soaked if they didn’t have rain capes. We were actually stage right up 6 or 7 rows under the horseshoe shaped roof—just as snug as two bugs in a rug. Lear’s fool was perfect, acting as if the rain (coming an act early) was part of the plan. Everyone got wonderful ovations. You can see that Shakespeare was a master of writing for an immediate audience—with little or no distance between them and the actors.

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Tuesday, September 12

Remembering the troubles we’ve had on some of our trips getting to the airport on time we ordered a cab to pick us up. Smart. Flight home was much the same as always. Time to watch movies we’d never otherwise see. Arrived in Lexington at 11:45 P.M. Took a Taxi home. It was twice what we usually paid. The driver said they’d all had to raise their rates because of the competition from Uber and Lyft. It may be time to find some other way to and from the airport. I don’t think even “long-term” parking would cost as much as the cab did.

Thus ended our European Trip #8. In losing my job in 2003 who could have ever predicted our being able to travel to Europe 8 times? Another one of those daily joyful miracles.
 

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