Monday, September 5, 2011

Last Days in England, Part 01

29 August

Our last days in England have been so full I can’t write about everything. At least I’ll tell you about the visit of Nick and Sharyn, though, and one or two other highlights.

We kept Nick and Sharyn up until normal bedtime in England on their first day here, and we walked around outside a lot. Those two things are supposed to be the best treatment for jet lag.

The first thing Nick said the next morning was, we had to break up our staying all together in the tiny flat; we must go for two overnight trips in the hired car.

So we gauged ourselves according to the weather. The first trip, Wednesday morning, we went north to the Lakes District. The scenery there is gorgeous, with mountains and glacial lakes and green hills covered with sheep, enclosed by stone fences made without mortar, hundreds of miles of them. The houses and shops are all what the English call “chocolate box”, very picturesque, very old, all of the same gray stone as the fences.

We spent the night with Arthur and Helen at the Anchorage, a small bed and breakfast in Ambleside. The other guests were from Australia, Israel, and Italy, so breakfast the next morning was interesting. Elishavet (Elizabeth), from Israel, is a sculptress. She gave us a brochure showing some of her work, and it’s quite good. Some of her statues have her husband, Avraam, as the model, and they do look just like him.

Next morning we wandered around Ambleside for a while, the rain having cleared away leaving a bright, perfect day. Then we headed up to the Scottish border for Hadrian’s Wall. The stretch we came to is the one near Carlisle. We walked along a bit of it. Only afterward did we see the sign asking us not to, and saying walking upon the wall might cause it to collapse! I don’t believe that for a moment, but I’d hate to be responsible if it did.

The Wall is only half its original height of 15 feet, so not all that impressive; in fact, it doesn’t look so very different from all the other stone walls about, except for being thicker. And, of course, longer, stretching 73 miles across the narrowest part of the neck of England.

We were reminded of our host’s quip (Arthur, the proprietor of the bed and breakfast). When we mentioned we were on our way to Hadrian’s Wall, he was so unimpressed Nick asked him whether going there was worth it. “It depends on what you expect,” said Arthur.

Nick shrugged. “A stone wall.”

Arthur laughed, nodding. “You will not be disappointed!”

We came home very late, and quite exhausted.

Our second trip, Saturday and Sunday, was south, to Oxford and to Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Spencer Churchill. He was a cousin of the then Duke, sharing the same last names.

Oxford has a good many medieval buildings, including the various colleges. We saw a few, but time was short and we didn’t see as much as I would have liked to.

At Blenheim Palace, our admittance charge bought us a pass good for an entire year, so we went twice. The second time, the Duke and Duchess were away, so there were tours of the private apartments. Sharyn and I took one. Moderately interesting. You didn’t, of course, see anything more private than the family living room and the Duchess’ sitting room.

The state rooms were obviously the most ornate, most impressive ones, filled with valuable paintings and containing fancy, gilded plasterwork in the cornices and ceilings.

The gardens are considered fabulous, and as much of them as we saw really were, full of fountains and pools and precisely laid-out, labyrinthine hedges and flower gardens. We only saw a small fraction of all the fabled gardens, however. It wasn’t just that we ran out of time; what we ran out of was stamina. We just keep forgetting we aren’t as young as we feel, and need to allot more time to everything than we used to.

Again we came home very late (11:00) and exhausted. We slept very well every night all week.

I will say that we have become much better drivers by now, and Nick also had enough practice to have become adept, so we awarded him official bragging rights, which presumably he is by now exercising back in the U.S. We did, however, spend a lot of time, as in a total of two or three hours, lost.

Hints from Jane:

A map is utterly useless unless

you read it accurately

you are willing to follow it

you take the time, each and every time, before you actually begin driving, to orient yourself. It’s too late to figure out where on the map you are after you’re lost.

Nick drove us halfway home while I navigated; then I drove the rest of the way while he navigated. And the good news is, that was a winning team! We never got lost once, never even made a single wrong turn.


Anam Cara said...

So sorry to have not commented on this sooner. I was on holiday to the deep woods of New Hampshire where there is no internet or cell phone coverage. Yes, there are places like that in the US even today!

Your comments about the map remind me of a youth retreat I went on in Greece. American high school students living with the military in Europe take a spring break trip every year with Cadence a Protestant ministry to military and their families. I worked with the youth as an adult volunteer. In 2002, we went to Tolos Greece.

Our topic was "The Journey Home" because we were on on Odyssey.

The first night our speaker talked about how we are all on a journey, even if we don't realize it. As an infant you were put in a car seat and taken places. As you grew older, you found you liked some paces more than others. Some times people travel together. Everyone is on a journey. Where are you going?

The second day had to do with maps. Everything you said was part of his talk. But earlier in the day we had put on an exercise. We had the kids broken down in to groups of 6-8 and given them directions to follow all over Tolos. Every path was different, but they all ended near the marina. At the marina there were 3 possible endings. One was playing ring-a-ring-a-rosey. One was doing public service, picking up litter or dusting the benches. The last, set off a bit, was getting free ice cream from a cart off to the side. Each group had a different "fate" at the marina. The lesson was that you must have a good map to get you where you want to go (the ice cream) and you must follow it (one group that had directions to the ice cream, ended up playing ring-a-ring-a-rosey). If you want to go to heaven, what map are you using? Are you following it or are you listening to directions from others?

Other days talked about reactions when caught in a storm - storms WILL come!

There was more. It was a great week and the kids learned a lot about faith, Church (those we are traveling with), and the Bible as our map.