Friday, August 27, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 31

Thursday, August 26

Bit of a sad time of year for me just now.  My father wuold have been 90 on the 21st of this month, and sister Barbara would have been 52 this coming Monday, the 30th.  Also, the second anniversary of my father's death is September 1.  And I can't even schedule a memorial for him, as he wasn't Orthodox. 

Daniel, my brother-in-law, came with his daughters to take Mom out to dinner on Dad's birthday.  That was very thoughtful of him, but then what what else would you expect from such a great guy?  I feel guilty being away from him and his girls this long.

On Tuesday night we said goodbye to the people in the Anglican discussion group.  I didn't even think they would realize it was our last meeting with them until (God willing) next year, so I was truly surprised when they presented us with a beautiful glass cross, which will now adorn our living room lounge.  We will truly miss Stuart and Angela, as well as Kirsty and Paul.

We have a gift for them, too, St. Dorotheos' wonderful book, but it has just arrived at the bookstore and we can't pick it up until Friday.

Wednesday, we had Stuart and Angela for dinner and I don't know what to say about it except that we had a wonderful evening.  They are very good people and very willing to serve the Lord, and we admire that.  We also admire their humility, really touching.

This afternoon we are going to have tea with Sister Goodwill, a nurse with whom Demetrios worked all those years ago, in 1964.  We are going to host her and one or two other nurses from those days at a pub on Saturday night.

Tonight we are to be the guests of one of Demetrios' medical colleagues.  This is a doctor who was in training back then, but since has specialized in Reproductive Gynecology.  Does that mean he has done abortions?  That makes me uneasy.  But I remember that Christ ate with certain scandalous people and was criticized criticised for it.  Also, as Demetrios pointed out, who are we to snub anybody at all?  How do we contrive to imagine their sins worse than ours? 

St. Paul teaches us not to keep company with certain people, 'Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world... since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.' (I Corinthians 5:9-11, emphasis mine.) This physician is not a Christian even culturally.

I still never feel I know how to act in such situations.  How do you love greatly, without seeming to approve?  I've never found the answer, although in the actual working out of it, I seem to manage fine.  If this man really is an abortionist, it will not be the first time I've been challenged to love with all my heart someone who has committed murder legally.

Not that I myself haven't, in my heart.

Kyrie, eleison!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Get Out of the Box!

Here's another treasure from Father Stephen.  Of course, all his posts are treasures, but this one is particularly striking to me.  It's about the Christian witness.

And while you're at it, check out this post by my dear godson, Ben Harju, a former Lutheran pastor.


In a recent post, I wrote that the service in Church is not for us, but for God.  I should have worded that more carefully.  Obviously the sermon, for one example, is for us. 

Perhaps a better way to say what I meant is that the services are not about us.  They are all about God.  They aren't to make us feel happy or inspired or excited or blessed, but to offer our love to God, to sacrifice our lives to God, to thank Him and to praise Him. 

Nevertheless, the Divine Liturgy is a form of being in communion with God, in Christ, and that communion, in turn, is our very salvation.  The Divine Liturgy is 'a sacrifice of praise,' but is is also 'a mercy of peace.'   

To clarify (maybe!  I hope!):  the purpose of the Divine Liturgy is not to do anything for us other than deepen our connection to - and much more than that, our participation in - the living of Christ's own, eternal Life.  But of course that communion in Him does heal us, does sanctify us, does bring us joy and comfort and hope, and in short, is our Lifeline, because it is His Life, shared with us.

(Hey, Pastor Weedon, I'm surprised you didn't call me out on this!)

On Atheism

We have been watching Richard Dawkins on television expounding his atheism. We are not impressed. He isn't a very deep thinker at all.

If there is no Truth (and I suppose an atheist would have to say there is no Truth with a capital 'T'), then there can be no logic. Because logic pre-supposes that there is some Truth about which to reason. And if there is no logic, there can be no 'evidence', which is his themesong: 'Evidence! Show me some evidence of God!'

Show me the evidence that all this creation came about by pure chance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 30

Tuesday, August 24

Yesterday and the day before were glorious days, the only days I would actually call 'warm' since we've been here.  But today is full of gloom and rain and a ferocious wind.  September, aka winter, is coming, and it's time for us to decamp to Greece.  We will be leaving here on Sunday for London, and flying Greece on Monday. 

Last week all went by so fast, and I became so hopelessly behind in writing about it, that I can only summarize it here.

Tuesday, we hosted the Doctors Underwood for dinner.  They are both GPs, retired now, who had separate practices in separate towns.  Mrs. Doctor Underwood is very active in the Ormskirk Parish Church (Sts. Peter and Paul); she cleans the church and gardens and does all sorts of other things.  She told me the Anglican Church taught her that sex was always wrong, in any and all circumstances, 'and how are you supposed to live with a guilt like that?'  I rather think she may have acquired a mistaken impression of the Anglican teaching, but as she is an intelligent and educated lady and still has that impression, so must quite a few others, I suppose. 

She said she has a Catholic friend, with whom she has gone to church, and their mass is exactly the same as the Anglican, leading her to the opinion that there is no difference between Anglicanism and Catholicism.

'Well, how would you feel about having a pope?' I asked.

'Oh, no.  Never!  Absolutely not.'

So there is at least one big difference, isn't there?

Mr. Doctor Underwood is 'a committed atheist.'   He didn't say much about it except the usual, how can there be a good and all-powerful god who nevertheless allows volcanos and earthquakes and such.

I didn't make any reply, as the answer to that is rather long and complex; first, for example, we have to define what 'evil' really is.  And then agree whether death is the end for anybody.  And so on and so forth.

Demetrios contented himself with pointing out that while some forms of knowledge come from outside us, entering via our senses, other forms of knowledge proceed from within us.  Zero, for example.  Nobody ever saw a zero.  Our knowledge of what that is comes from inside us.  Or infinity.  Nobody has ever seen infinity, but we all know what it is, what we mean by it.  The knowledge of God is something like that; it comes from within.

Wednesday, our new loveseat ('two-seater') arrived, unexpectedly early.  We were dismayed.  It dwarfed all the other furniture in the room.  Never mind we had measured and re-measured and measured yet again; never mind it was the smallest one we could find.  It crowded and dominated the living area.  We couldn't return it and couldn't exchange it.  We couldn't come up with anywhere to put it that would look right. 

Finally, we phoned David and Julia, because we know them to be people of excellent taste, to request them to come give us advice.  So they came for supper, and before it was served, David had come up with a miraculous new room arrangement that looked quite acceptable.

But by the next morning, we were unhappy again.  It was acceptable, but only barely, and this flat is too darling to mess up with what is barely acceptable. 

It took us the agonizing better part of the day, but we finally came up with a new arrangement we actually love!  And amazingly enough, it involves keeping all three two-seaters!  We would never have dreamed that could be possible, in a room that small, but the room actually looks more spacious and better proportioned than it used to.  The compromise is that it means opening the drop-leaf dining table whenever we have company for dinner and that will make things a bit tight.  But that's not all that often.

Saturday we went to Southport, just to walk around and enjoy the holiday atmosphere there.  We missed the annual Southport Flower Show, which we had intended to see, but as it was rainy Thursday and Friday, and we were too late Saturday and busy Sunday, we didn't get to go.

Sunday Yannis took us out for a meal after church, something he has been wanting to do for a couple of weeks.  We went to a huge Chinese buffet.  He dropped us off and said, 'I'll just go park.'

Climbing out of the car, I said, 'See you in a minute.'

Well, the minute stretched into ten, and Demetrios said the parking must be quite far away; and then, into fifteen, and Demetrios said he was beginning to worry.

When 25 minutes had gone by, we went through the buffet line, but we couldn't enjoy our meal.  (It was terrible in any case, even had we not been so upset.)  We didn't have Yanni's cell phone mobile number and we simply did not know what to do. 

We had finished dessert when Yanni walked in, 45 minutes after we had arrived.  That's how much trouble he'd had parking!  By then, he had to eat alone, which wasn't the best arrangement, and we were in a bit of a hurry to catch the train back to Ormskirk, because Julia and David were to pick us up and take us to their house.

Anyway, from there it went well.  We caught our train, had 20 minutes to relax until the Bates came to collect us, and spent a lovely evening with them, and with James and Kim as well.  David roasted some lamb, my favorite meat, and there a fabulous bought cheesecake for dessert, that tasted like candy more than cheesecake. 

I am struggling, hard, to keep make my meals regular, reasonably healthy, and small.

This week is going to be quite a whirl of teas and dinners and goodbyes, and it may be a week from now, or more, before I can post again, although I'll try.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Beauty

My dear husband has come up with a wonderful, simple, concise definition of Beauty.  It's where Truth and Goodness coincide.  Whatever is both true and good is beautiful.

I've thought a lot about it recently, and tried on some examples to see if the formula fits, and it seems to me it does. 

Truth can be beautiful, as in discovering someone loves you.  Or truth can be ugly, as in the solution to a murder mystery novel.  What makes the difference between beautiful truth or ugly truth?  Goodness. 

On the other hand, something that on the face of it is good, may not to be beautiful.  I once knew a woman who was heavily involved in church and social work.  She was chairwoman of half a dozen do-good committees, serving the poor and the outcast and the victims of injustice.  She was highly admired.  All that is good, isn't it?  One day she confided to me that she was mercilessly driven to keep active, so as to keep her mind off her miserable marriage, and the woes of having a secret lover and not knowing what to do.  So her good works were no longer true; i.e., not proceeding from compassion or love or kindness, but from a pathetic lie.  The lie made her good deeds not actually beautiful at all, only apparently so. 

So goodness can be beautiful or not, depending upon whether it coincides with truth.

The one and only beautiful God is the Christian God, 'in Whom there is no darkness at all.'  He is the Truth, and the whole secret of the universe - the Truth -  is summarized in His mighty Love. 

And I still know of nowhere outside the Orthodox Christian Church where this God is consistently preached.  (By 'consistently' I mean without any logical/theological contradictions.)  Virtually everyone else either has a namby-pamby god who is too laid back to care much about 'sin' (with the curious exception of sins involving social injustice) or else, at the other end of this spectrum, a god who must punish every misdeed but, in his alleged kindness, punishes and kills Jesus in our place because otherwise he would have had to kill you and me.  That is not a beautiful god.  That is not a god who is good through and through, with no darkness at all.  Fortunately, that is not really the Christian God, either.

The Christian God is love; the Christian God God forgives sin.  His justice - not fully apparent until the end of time - consists of setting all things in order again, making everything right and good, putting things back to the way they should be, as if sin had never happened - in which plan, forgiveness plays a huge and essential part.  Our God is thoroughly beautiful.  In fact, our God is Beauty itself.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Church Services

A few days ago I wrote:

I think I've understood now the thinking of many Anglicans (and of course, others here and in America and elsewhere) about their new church services. It seems to be: As I must go to church, or most certainly should, at least it ought to be made into an enjoyable experience for me.

Can you spot the flaw(s) in that line of reasoning?

Here are some.

1.)  Worship is not for us.  It is not entertainment; it isn't to make us feel good or 'blessed' or stronger or whatever.  Worship isn't even the same as evangelizing, but is instead an offering to God.  All that matters is that He be pleased.   Self-seeking is the very opposite of worship.

2.)  Many, many people, especially in our Western culture, confuse 'fun' with real joy.  It isn't, any more than relaxation is true peace or sex is true love.  We have, on the one hand, the spiritual reality, and on the other, its physical counterpart.  Many of us seem only to notice the latter, the physical, the things of the flesh.  Romans 8:13a: 'For if you live after the flesh, you shall die...'  You will miss everything truly worth living for, miss your calling, your glorious destiny.

3.)  Providing Christ is truly in our midst, then to the degree we are aware of Him and to the degree we love Him, we will never find worship services tedious.   Corollary:  The Gospel, pure and straight and properly preached (there's the rub; see below), already draws in the people and feeds them.  There is no need to dress it up with skits or clowns, live donkeys or dance or water pistols, no need to mount the precious diamond* in plastic on the theory that plastic is more attractive to the people.

The major part of the problem, of course, is that people find they don't really love God all that much, and in our culture, the main reason for that is the way He is preached, namely with hellfire and damnation, obey or roast in hell.  And going right along with that, this monstrous, heterodox theory that God needs to punish us, or else punish His own Son in our stead.  That's the main thing that, no matter how much one may love Jesus, keeps one stand-offish concerning His Father, and disconnected from the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 50/51:17
A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit:

a broken and a contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise.

Forget the soap bubbles and the clown costumes and all the other cheap gimmicks.

*This metaphor assumes the Anglicans have 'the precious diamond,' which assumption, I realize, may or may not be warranted.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

English, Please

A Blognote:

Two or three people have regularly been leaving comments to posts in what looks to me like Chinese.  I thought for a while I should let this pass, but the more I think about it, the more uneasy I grow.  I have no idea whether these are genuine comments or whether they say something like, 'Buy Your Viagra Here' or worse. 

Conclusion:  If you can read this blog in English, you can reply in English. 

Request:  Please do so, or else use some other language I can decipher (German, French, Greek, and possibly Spanish). 

Otherwise I am going to to put the comments on moderated status, something I have greatly desired to avoid.

Thank you very much.

Learning to Live in England, Part 29: Amish Teens

We have been watching a fascinating and educational mini-series here entitled World's Squarest Teenagers about 5 Amish teens on Rumspringa in England.  That's Pennsylvania Dutch, doubtless a variant of the German herumspringen, literally, jumping around.  It's when Amish young people, before deciding whether to be baptized Amish, are allowed to go out into the rest of the world and explore, and experience other cultures and do pretty much as they like.

The first thing to which these teens were exposed was rock music.  One of the girls very astutely observed, 'It does something to my body I don't like.'  Right!  It stimulates the body, and if that stimulation is either unaccustomed or unwelcome, it can be annoying or even maddening. 

Then they were taken to a beach and saw bikinis for the first time.  One of the girls said she couldn't understand why girls would dress that way; surely it must cause unnecessary struggling for the boys.  I thought, 'Oh, you poor dear.  These boys don't struggle!  They don't even give in.  They go out in active search of it!'

The next thing they encountered was dancing, considered by the Amish the work of the devil; and of course it must be admitted that much dancing is.  An Amish girl asked her hostess why people did it, and the reply was, 'To make us feel good!'  this was totally incomprehensible to the Amish girl.  She gave an answer equally incomprehensible to her hostess:  'When I want to feel good, I go pray.'

You can watch the episodes at the like above, and I highly recommend doing it.  They illustrate, very graphically, the difference between a hedonistic, shallow, even meaningless life and a strict but meaningful one.  They illustrate the difference between true joy and 'fun' and how easy it is to be seduced away from the one in order to give oneself to the other.  They show what true beauty is; for these girls, covered up and innocent of any make-up, are nevertheless truly beautiful, true precious gems. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 28

Saturday, August 14

Today we went to lunch with Claudia and David Williams, who sold us our flat. They took us to the Ramada Inn in Southport, where the glassed-in dining room overlooks Marine Lake. As the day was beautiful, it all seemed very holiday-like.

Both before and after the meal, they took us on little local tours. The afterward tour was especially meaningful, as they showed us their church in Halsall, which is quite ancient. We couldn't go inside, as it has to be kept locked, but even the outside was fascinating.

Claudia's mother, who lived in our flat before us, is also buried there, so we stopped to pay our respects at her grave. We also got to see the nursing home care home where she live for 18 months after she moved out of the flat.

Something else David pointed out is the ditches between and sometimes around all the fields.  These ditches look about 3 or 4 feet deep, but David says they are deeper than they look.  They are drainage ditches, a whole network of them, and that is how the land is reclaimed from marshland. 

We also saw, in Southport, three art deco buildings we much admired, including one built by a shipper, with a glass dome, from which he could watch to see his ships coming in. 

Claudia and David are such nice people, it would have been a pleasure to spend many more hours with them, but  in a misguided attempt to avoid meat, at least, because of the fast, I ate cheese and it disagreed with me, putting me into quite some physical distress before the day was over.  Serves me right, but ended our together time prematurely.

Sunday, August 15
Feast of the Dormition

We went to church in Liverpool again.  This time, there were more people to talk to afterwards, as we had met two or three more last week.  Our new acquaintances include Galina, who is half Russian and half Norwegian, but prefers to think of herself as the latter, and Aaggi, a Mongolian woman who is Galina's business partner.  Aaggi is the manager of their restaurant, K Gourmet in Southport, and Galina is the chef.  They serve full English breakfasts, and for lunch and dinner, Chinese.  We met one or two more people this week.

After the coffee hour, Elias took us, together with Zisis, to his house for a little feast in honor of the Theotokos.  Another of his friends, an orthopedic surgeon, came down from Newcastle to join us.  He is Greek, but has red hair and blue eyes. 

I had brought an apple crumble.  It had come out of the oven smelling wonderful and looking perfect.  When I laid it on Eleni's counter, however, and removed the foil, a very curious thing had happened:  the crust, or rather the crumble, had entirely disappeared!  I suppose the jiggling around on the train and in the car caused the juices to slosh around and dissolve the crumble.  So it looked a lot less appetizing, although it tasted the same.  Eleni had two other desserts, so no big deal.

Their eldest daughter, Maria, joined us at the table, to make six, while her younger brothers ate separately.  There was no sign of Stella; she was upstairs in her room with a migraine. 
After the meal, Eleni having shooed me out of the kitchen, I went upstairs; and seeing me, Stella called my name, so I went in to talk to her.  Her little brother, Alex, 12, was already there, doing his best to cheer her up.  What a brother!  Sotirios, 16, came in later, too, while I was still there.  How sweet is that?

Stella told me all about it, and afterward asked, 'Do you understand?'  So I told her how it looked to me and she said yes, exactly.   Good.  Anyway, let us hope the best for her, whatever that may be.

As usual, the men drifted into their own conversation, politics, of which I am sick and take no further interest, leaving Eleni and Maria and I to our own socializing.  No problem; they are both lovely people, with whom it is a joy to share an afternoon!  I was especially impressed that Maria, only 21, has the manners and poise and insights of someone much older.  Eleni I feel as if I had known all my life.  I love this whole family !!

Maria took us home, a 10-minute drive, stopping first at the train station, where Zisis just barely caught his train back to Liverpool.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Learning to live in England, Part 27

Tuesday, August 11

I'm continuing well, although there is some adjustment to my new heart medicine, or more specifically, there are actual withdrawal symptioms from being off the old!  Apparently, my body really was habituated to it, which is why it was no longer effective.  One nice adjustment is that I feel much more alive, alert.  The previous medication was a sedative, which fact I had not properly appreciated until now.  I wake up earlier in the mornings now, too, being less sedated.  Another thing is that the new medicine allows my heart to speed up normally with exertion, whereas the other did not.  This takes some getting used to.  It means I can do more, but at a greater 'price'.  I tire more easily.

We attended, as usual, the Tuesday night discussion group in our neighborhood, of Anglicans discussing the previous Sunday's sermon.

Having, like most parishes, discarded the Lectionary as being too fragmented (and perhaps the Anglican one really is, but I doubt that, if one knew the scheme behind it) this parish is doing a whole series on Parables.  last week it was the Prodigal Son and this week, the Good Samaritan.  The vicar had suggested, in his sermon, that the man beaten and left to die could be taken to represent us.  So that was the first question that came up:  is this a valid interpretation?  There was a long silence.  Finally, I said, 'Certainly; that's the classical, ancient interpretation.  The victim is us, and we cannot be rescued by religion (the priest who passed by) nor by education (the Levite), but christ comes to save us and brings us to the inn, the Church, and pays the cost.'

They all looked very uncomfortable, and were quite unsure.  For one thing, they wanted to avoid giving the Church a role in all this and keep it between me and God.  I'm not sure why, but will try to find out another time.  For another, they preferred to make it less a spiritual than a social issue:  how can we love our neighbor better, and come to his rescue when he is down and out, and not be like those who passed by the victim? 

Stuart, the leader, newly made a deacon, eventually cited 'The Miracle on the Hudson,' and commented that the captain of that plane had spent long years studying how to be a good pilot, and what to do in an emergency, and perfecting his skills.  So when the emergency came, the captain almost instinctively knew how to react, which was a good thing because he had no time to mull it all over.  So I agreed that's how it is in the Christian life, as well, and pointed out that this example quite nicely resolves any polarity or conflict between the inner life and the social responsibility.  We have to cultivate our hearts and minds, not only for our own sakes, but for everyone's. 

It was a good discussion, and I think we all feel more bonded that we did in the beginning.  After the formal part of the meeting, some of them began talking about next week's Parable, the House Built on a Rock.  Stuart was going to represent the house built on the sand.  We left them discussing how they were going to clean up the mess after everybody had soaked Stuart with their water guns, 'to draw the people in to the Parable'.  Some of the kids had bought Super-soakers for the occasion.

I think I've understood now the thinking of many Anglicans (and of course, others here and in America and elsewhere) about their new church services.  It seems to be:  As I must go to church, or most certainly should, at least it ought to be made into an enjoyable experience for me.

Can you spot the flaw(s) in that line of reasoning?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Learning to live in England, Part 26: A Day in the Lake District

Saturday, August 7

David and Julia collected us rather early in the morning, and we set off, inauspiciously through rain and clouds, for the Lake District.  The drive itself is beautiful, long before you get there, with the unique green of England spread out over rolling hills. 

We stopped first in the village of Hawkshead.  It's one of those places tourist books complain of being 'intolerably dolled-up', specializing in charm, and we loved it.  It has the grey stone houses with flowers in windowboxes, and narrow, winding streets.  There are numerous Beatrix Potter shops there , and all sorts of other charming shops. 

Hawakshead is where Wordsworth grew up and went to school.  The old schoolhouse is still open as a museum.  It was founded in the 1500's by a letter patent from Queen Elizabeth.  (Why a school needed to be chartered by the sovereign I have not yet discovered.)  That letter is still on display, all in Latin.

You can also see where young William Wordsworth sat, because he carved his name into his desk.  Boys back then wrote with quill pens, which had periodically to be sharpened with ones penknife.  And as the guide says, combine boys, penknives, and wood, and what can you expect?  The official policy of the school was neither to encourage nor prohibit carving up the desks. 

Wordsworth would have started school at the age of 7 and have continued until he was 18.  But that was six days a week, eleven hours a day. 

The subjects were:  mathematics, Greek, and Latin.  Period.  Period?  Yes, because all the learned books were in Greek or Latin, so those were prerequisites.  But with these tools, you could learn anything further you might like to, in future.  

There was a shop selling lavender, so I sniffed it and liked it, and bought a bottle.

In the Hawkshead Relish Shop you can sample half a dozen relishes; they also sell jams and candies and other condiments.  I bought a birthday gift for Katherine, my daughter-in-law.  It's 'Kendal Mintcakes', mints from the town of Kendal.  Her husband's and children's ancestors were originally from there.  So I hope she enjoys the mints and keeps the labelled jar.

From Hawkshead, we progressed through Ambleside, another picturesque place, to the town of Windermere, on Lake Windermere.  There we came to the Langdale Chase Hotel, where James once worked (Demetrios' godson, David and Julia's son).  The hotel is gorgeous, and its view over the Lake to the distant hills beyond has been voted (by I do not know whom), the best view of all hotels in England.  We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch in a conservatory-like room, in company with several other people , one Schnauzer and one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Yes, well-behaved dogs are welcome in many English eateries. 

As by now the weather had become glorious, and even above lukewarm, we also strolled through the lush gardens before continuing on our way.

The Lake District, I perceive, is best viewed on foot.  Hiking is the best way to take in all the beauty through which we could only drive.  Biking would be a good option, too, but bicycles are a nuisance on the roads, which in summer already tend to be clogged.  (And strict regulations about maintaining the quaintness of the area keep roads from becoming highways.)  The roads wind around lakes, between hills, over what looks to me like moors, but how would I know, through forested land and darling villages.

We ended in Eden, where there is a big estate called Eden Hall, where David used to shoot and fish.  We had tea in the nearby pub and then, as it was already toward early evening, we headed home, having had a good slice of the Lake District, right through the heart of it in a way.  There's much more to see, and another time I'd love to make a long weekend of it.

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

A Quote I Love

..from St. Theophan the Recluse, no further reference supplied:

The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor is it in man, but in God.  By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a piece of His Divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 25: A Visit to York

Friday, August 6

James and Kim collected us at 9:00, Kim bearing part of a cake she had baked (which I've since eaten, and it was delicious!) and off we went to York. James told me we crossed the Pennines, but I never saw, coming or going, anything that reminded me even vaguely of a mountain. Kim, at one point, said we were in Saddleback Moor, infamous for the Moors Murders, in which 5 children were slain and buried here.  Another point of interest is a farm, complete with house, barn, fields, pastures, and sheep, sitting right between the lanes carriageways of the M62!  (M is for Motorway, the British equivalent of American interstate highways.)  The owner at the time of the highway's construction refused to sell his property, so the motorway was built right around it.

York is a fascinating city for its scenery and its history.  It was settled by stone age people sometime between 8000 and 7000 B.C.  It was founded as an actual city in A.D. 71 by the Romans.  Vikings captured the city in 866 and called it Jorvik.  Roman emperors came to York; in fact, the son of St. Constantine the Great died while he was in York.

So the city has those fascinating narrow streets all in a jumble, with buildings dating back several centuries, plus the remains of the stone wall with its fortifications, dating from Roman times, plus, of course, the Cathedral.

We left the car in the parking lot car park near the Tower and the Castle Museum, including the dungeon.  But as both places charged a hefty admission, it was decided not to go inside either of them.   The decision might have been different if we had realized that each ticket is good for an entire year, but as we didn't know this, we walked along the streets instead.  These were full of holiday-makers, and it was like a giant, city-wide festival, with face painting, artificial rock-wall climbing, living statues, street musicians - and, of course, tons of interesting and unusual shops. 

Demetrios literally got lost in one that sold beautiful china and the most unusual and gorgeous art glass you could ever imagine.  By getting lost, I don't mean he couldn't find his way out, but that the rest of us couldn't find him for a while.  The least expensive items were probably the charming glass frogs in the front window, the smallest of which cost £200.

Demetrios was also enamored of the armor shop.  Yes, armor.  He has always fancied himself in a suit of it.  My knight in shining armor.

James commented that we needed to buy a 'child rein' for Demetrios, as he kept disappearing every few minutes. 

I found a place (Crabtree and Evelyn, a store we no longer have in Richmond) to buy my favorite scent, lavender.  This time I loved the 'recipe,' and bought 2 bottles for an unconscionable sum. 

Kim, meanwhile, bought me a very naughty souvenir, a Golliwog.  We'd had a discussion the night before about Political Correctness, and how tyrannical it is.  So that, and not racism, was the context in which she bought it. 

We ate in a carvery Demetrios like the look of, and the food was good. 

Then came the crown of our visit, York Minster.

............... A Strange-looking Window in the Minster.

It wasn't like the cathedral in Chester. It wasn't creepy. I said I couldn't remember being in a cathedral that large; and indeed, it does purport to be the largest in Northern Europe. But then, so does Liverpool.

Anyway, instead of being made of red sandstone, it was built from something white, so it looks light and bright inside. (You can take a virtual tour of it here.)

There are painted Medieval carvings on some of the tombs; fascinating!

There's a wonderful mechanical clock, too; on the hour, two knights strike gongs with their lances. 

And here is the ceiling of the Chapter House.

Although Kim and James didn't particularly want to see the Cathedral at the price of 8 pounds each, we did, at the senior rate of seven pounds, so they waited in a coffee shop while Demetrios and I spent nearly an hour inside the Minster.  And we didn't even see it all, either; there was no time for the Undercroft.  Never mind; we may hope for another visit to York some day, as there is so much more to see.

Then home we went, back over the 'mountains', back over the moor, past the house in the middle of the motorway, back to our flat.  James and Kim stayed for supper, with more telling of stories and more jokes and more laughter.  These people are so much fun!  The whole family.

We were in bed within 45 minutes of their departure, as tomorrow we are going with James' parents to the Lake District, another longish day trip.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 24

Thursday, August 5, Transfiguration

Elias phoned this morning, and arranged with Demetrios to come to our house around 1:00. So Demetrios said he'd just nip over to the supermarket to pick up some groceries he wanted, and he would be back by 12:45. I, my wet hair in rollers, did the dishes and had vacuumed hoovered most of the flat when the phone rang again, and it was Elias saying he had arrived.

I had to ask him to wait 5 minutes while I got dressed and tied a scarf over my head. (We have a lot of 'robe days' here, in which we do brush our teeth and wash our faces, but Demetrios doesn't shave and I don't put on makeup and we wear our bathrobes.)

Elias hadn't had lunch, and I didn't have much in the house, which is why Demetrios had gone for groceries, but I found some veggies, some salad makings, and some bread and cheese, which I prepared while he sat in a chair in the kitchen and we chatted.

He brought it up; I didn't - the unfriendliness of St. Nicholas Church. He is acutely embarrassed by it, does all he can to ameliorate it, being friendly with absolutely everyone, whether they like it or not. He says he goes there because (as is the custom) they pay him to sing and he needs the money. I think the real reason he goes there is to be a godsend to us and to everyone else in the parish. Literally, God has surely sent him there, when he would rather be anywhere else. Elias says the situation isn't going to change. I asked what about waiting for the younger generation, and he said the younger generation doesn't care about religion at all. Massive loss of Tradition - it isn't only among Anglicans!

Demetrios came home more or less when he had planned to, and the two of them went off to a nearby pub to have coffee and chat some more.

In the evening, we had James, Demetrios' godson, and Kim for dinner. We had Shrimp Newburg. Well, they say 'prawns' over here; 'shrimp' are so small you could imagine yourself eating earthworms. It was good, but not as delicious as usual, for some reason. Fresh raspberries with cream for dessert pudding.

We told stories I promised not to repeat here, and laughed a lot and had a wonderful time; James and Kim are so much fun to be with!

About halfway through the meal, they asked what we were doing the next day, Friday. As we hadn't any plans, and as they were taking that day off from work, they suggested we should all go to York. Of course we agreed, enthusiastically.

We can't get over these young people seeming to enjoy spending time with us oldsters! So delightful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 23

Or, But This Tour wasn't on Our Itinerary!

I'm perfectly well now, but have had an unexpected stay in an English hospital. It began on the midnight that separates Monday from Sunday; right about then, my heart just skipped right out of rhythm. The irregular beating, with breathlessness, kept me awake all night.

We waited until it was 8:00 a.m. in Richmond (1:00 p.m. here) and telephoned our cardiologist, who said to go get treatment right away. So we walked from our flat two blocks to the bus stop and hopped on the bus for Southport, because the Ormskirk Hospital is just for children nowadays.

The same bus stops right outside the hospital, so twenty minutes later we arrived at the emergency room, which here is called the A&E Department (Accidents and Emergency).

We were a bit concerned because we aren't a part of the English NHS (National Health System) and our only insurance is, of course, American. But when we asked the lady in Reception, she raised her eyebrows and said, 'It isn't like America. Emergency care is for everyone.' Then she added, icily, 'We are civilized here.'

I was seen right away, within ten minutes. Within the first half hour, I'd had all my vital signs taken and an electrocardiogram and was in a hospital gown and a bed.

After that, I lost track of time, but there was a very nice young doctor from Pakistan and a very nice Philippino nurse, male, but I was in no position to be picky about gender. 'Turn you back to me,' he instructed, so I did and he slipped off the hospital gown. 'Now turn back around,' he said, 'and slip your arms in.' He was holding the gown between himself and me, to obscure his view. I had put it on the wrong way and he had put it right with extreme tact.

They hooked me up to an IV and dripped a medicine into me for a longish time, in hopes it would cause the heart to reset.

It didn't.

By now a consultant had arrived (senior doctor; Consultant being the highest rank). He was consulted and was firmly against 'interfering' with my own caridologist's treatment.


He directed that I be sent home.

Demetrios, however, objected, pointing out that the irregular heartbeat posed an immanent danger of bloodclot (and death, of course). So the young Pakistani doctor apparently refused to do as directed and kept me. I also heard a beautiful young doctor from India seemingly interceding on my behalf. She said, twice or three time, 'But it's unfair, isn't it? It's unfair!'

At any rate, they decided to keep me overnight for observation. I urged Demetrios to go home, and he also thought he should, to telephone our cardiologist again while it was still office hours in Richmond.

I remember having a chest x-ray, 'Because of the chest pains,' they said. The chest pains were so mild I had forgotten them. On a scale of 1-10, I rated them one-half.

Then my bed was wheeled through some more corridors and I asked, 'Am I being taken to my room now?'

'To your ward,' the male nurse from the Philippines corrected.

Oh. Okay. They have wards here rather than rooms. Demetrios says every hospital has a handful of private rooms, saved for infectious patients or those who for any other reason require isolation.

The ward contained 5 other women, all of whom appeared to be older than I. One of them grinned at me and nodded her head; it took about two minutes to realize she was quite demented.

I was quite sleepy by then and do not remember much, but I do remember being offered tea several times. Finally, not having eaten all day, and having missed both lunch and supper while in the emergency room, I asked for, and was given, a snack box, containing a ham sandwich, a delicious apple, some cookies (digestives), some cheese, and I've forgotten what else; I couldn't eat it all.

I had brought with me a prayer book, a book of Sudoku, and the book about the ancient Greeks, which I haven't yet finished. So I alternated among those, and was saying the evening prayers when one of the patients, a sweet-faced old lady with short, curly, white hair, wearing pink plaid pajamas, got out of her bed and began going around to each of the other 5 beds to chat with her fellow patients and wish each one a good night.

When she came to my bed and we had chatted a few moments, I asked her name, and she said, 'Margaret. Sister Margaret, actually; I'm a nun.'

So I asked which order, and she told me, but I've forgotten, and then she asked me my order!

I had brought earplugs with me, luckily, but just as lights out time came, I was put on a trolley and transferred to a ward in the Cardiac Care Unit, still with only six beds, but much larger.

The night nurse was a beautiful woman from Ireland named Hughna. She was as sweet and kind as she was gorgeous.

At some point in the night she repeated the IV drip, during which I fell asleep, more or less. (It's hard for me to sleep flat on my back, and all the things into which I was plugged prevented my turning over.) I remember Hughna telling me, 'You're fine now,' as she unplugged the drip, but I didn't know whether to beleive it. I could see the monitor and I could see the wild fluctuations every time I moved. I should have known she was telling the truth, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to sleep at all, from the palpitations and breathlessness.

It wasn't until morning I was sure I was fine. I could feel that my heart was steady and strong.

For breakfast, the choice was cereal or toast; I had the toast and some tea.

Demetrios came as I was still finishing my shower, so he got the good news from someone else instead of from me. They gave him photocopies of all the cardiographs, including the latest one, showing normal heart rhythm.

I've got rhythm,
I've got rhythm!

Then it was a matter of waiting two hours for the pharmacy to bring up my new medicine; apparently my body was no longer responding to the old, having become too used to it.

Total cost to us: Zero. I can't think when I've ever been so grateful.

As it was a beautiful day, we took the bus the rest of the way into Southport and strolled along Chapel Street, a pedestrian shopping area. Then we ate at Mamma Mia, best tiramisu in the world. Then we came home.

And I napped three hours, until it was time to go to Stuart's house, for that Anglican discussion group we attend.

I'll write about last week later; we did have some fun adventures to tell you about!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Meanwhile, Back in Richmond...

A big storm has come through, leaving this gift in our back yard.

We shall be in touch with the young man who is caring for our yard in our absence and have him remove it.

Learning to Live in England, Part 22

August, and finally the weather has warmed up a little, with temperatures in the middle of the day reaching the low 70s, Fahrenheit. The inhabitants of Ormskirk are complaining; they can't sleep in such warmth.

We took advantage of a pretty day on Saturday to visit the nearby Lavender Farm with Julia and Sue, one of her best friends, who had arrived from out of town to spend the night.

Nothing all that much to see at the Lavender Farm, but we had gone there because I adore lavender scent. The fields of lavender were pretty, though, and Demetrios was quite taken with some of the chickens, specifically the Guinea Fowl. He'd never seen one before.

We poked around the gift shop, which is stocked with all kinds of wonderful scents in a whole line range of products, from candles to soaps to shower gel and other things. Unfortunately, I didn't particularly care for any of the 'recipes' they used in concocting them; the lavender scent lacked any sweetness. So although I had come determined to buy something lavender-scented, I didn't.

We had tea in the farm's little cafe, including a lavender scone. It was quite good but we had to struggle against the association with soap, to avoid the impression that this was what we were eating. I told everyone about Elizabeth@the Garden Window's recipe for lavender shortbread, and maybe one or two of us will yet try it. Lavender is in bloom right now.

From the farm, we went to David and Julia's house for another fabulous one of David's meals. Then we watched a DVD, then home, tired.

I couldn't sleep; I never can when my feet are cold, and I couldn't get them to warm up, even under the duvet. It was nearly 3:00 when I finally dozed off. Slept more than 8 hours, so missed church, and among all its other benefits and blessings, the chance of two hour's practice in trying not to be judgmental.

My most recent reading is a book on the history of Ormskirk. There isn't all that much of it! What there is consists mostly of the history of England and of our local lord of the manor, the Earl of Derby (pronounced 'DAH-bee') and his family. There are interesting tidbits culled from court records and the like.

One interesting thing I read was about the establishment of the Workhouse. That's sort of a combination of homeless shelter with the chance for the residents to work and thereby contribute toward their support. Conditions were deliberately made harsh, to prevent people from going there except as a last resort.

"Listen to this!" I said to Demetrios. "That Workhouse was built on the site where the hospital stands now."

Demetrios smiled. "Yes, it's the building I showed you, where my room was, when I worked there!"

Then he told me about how his mentor, Dr. Sanderson, as a small boy used to be told by his grandmother, "Unless you correct your behavior, you'll end up in the Workhouse!" Then the Workhouse was converted into a part of the hospital and Dr. Sanderson worked there. So he did indeed end up in the Workhouse!