Saturday, September 29, 2012

Greek Seers

From the current issue of a periodical here called Young People, we learned a most interesting thing: that the ancient Hebrews were not the only ones expecting the coming of Messiah. The ancient Greeks also believed He would come and expressed this belief in their philosophy and poetry.

Indeed, Sibylla said that Christ* would be born of a virgin bride; and Pythagoras, that He would have the form of a man. Plato said that this God-man would be hanged high, which implies He would be crucified. The words of Archytas, from the city of Tarant in Sicily, astonish us: “There is one God with three Hypostases: Father, Son and Spirit Holy.” Apollonius also spoke similarly. In ancient Greece they often asked the question, “When will He come?”, that is, the Christ. The reply Aeschylus gave was, “After 13 generations, He will come.” How did he know this? God was revealing all these things to them.

Theodoropoulos, Ioannis, “Poetry Today and in Other Times” in Young People Athens, July-August 2012, p. 22



The Greek “Christos” translates the Hebrew “Moshiach’, or Messiah. They both mean “the Anointed One.”

A Slow Coup

Two members of the Greek Parliament admitted openly on TV last night that there is no democracy left in Greece.

The coup was accomplished over years and even decades, and every means the people might have used to defend their freedom has been quietly removed. You can't even prosecute politician criminals, because one of them (Venizelos) slipped an article into the Constitution making that illegal. Only they can investigate themselves.

There is also a Director of Information, a government clearing-house for television news, so we don't even know what is being censored.

The populace are in the mood for revolution. But nobody knows what to do, or how.

What Greece needs is a miracle.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Embarrassing Memories

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

The rain was making it hard to see out the car windows as we arrived in my parents’ neighborhood for a long-overdue visit. We crawled along in the downpour, looking for the house, until I cried, “There it is!”

Mom had told us that if we arrived after 11:00, she and Dad would have gone to bed already, and she would leave the key under the doormat. So while the rest of the family was seeing to the luggage, I retrieved the key from under the mat and unlocked the door.

Even in the dark hallway, I could see the furniture was unfamiliar. “Odd,” I thought. “They didn’t mention they’d gotten all new furniture.” Later, I would have a closer look; just now there was no need to bother turning on the lights; I knew my way around.

In the family room, I could hear the television, so that’s where I headed. On the sofa (new sofa, too!) lay a young woman under a blanket, watching a news special about the latest string of murders in the area. Barbara was home from college; what a wonderful surprise!

I ran toward her and had my arms outspread to give her a big hug when she screamed.

Not Barbara. Not even my parents’ house. They lived in one of those developments (estates, if you’re British) where all the houses are built to one of only about 5 or 6 plans. This was a look-alike to our house.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, hastily. “I was looking for the Joneses.” Joneses, sure. A person would say that, or else Smiths.

“There are some Joneses two blocks down,” she squeaked through trembling lips.

“I know. I’m their daughter…”

I could hear her parents getting out of bed upstairs, and my family noisily arriving at the front door, with luggage.

I fled, shouting, “Sorry!” over my shoulder as I hustled my family back into the car. We pulled away just about, by my calculations, when the parents must have gotten downstairs.

Ten minutes after we had arrived at the right house, my parents were awakened by the phone. “It’s the Murphys,” called Mom. “They want to know, do I have a daughter with long, blonde hair and was she there just now?”

Unexpected Visitors

Another embarrassing memory I have of my parents’ house is the night Demetrios and I, exhausted from a long journey and driving back toward Richmond, decided we could go no further. So around midnight, we stopped at their house. My parents were away in Florida for the week, so it wouldn’t inconvenience them, and this time we had a key.

We were awakened around two o’clock in the morning by somebody coming in the front door – which we had locked. There were footsteps on the stairs, and then, in the dark, someone came into our room.

You can imagine the kerfuffle and fright all around before everything became clear. It turned out to be our friend Charlotte and her daughter, passing through from out of town. They had been given a key and (unlike us) permission to spend that night at the house.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I dreamed Fr. Christodoulos was telling me my baptism/chrismation was not valid, because it had not been public enough. I protested that it had indeed been public, but he said a few invited guests and a few people from the parish who had come of their own accord did not make it public enough.

I was devastated. It meant I could no longer receive Holy Communion or have Confession. Worse still, I had never legitimately received those Mysteries at all. The dilemma was either to accept his pronouncement or to decide my beloved Fr. Christodoulos was some sort of fanatic, a nut case.

The next night I dreamed Demetrios was trying to decide whether he could any longer be Orthodox. After all, he said, “When it comes right down to it, can you actually prove there is a god?”

“No,” I said, “I cannot prove there is ‘a god’. But I can take you to Holy Apostles Church in Leyland where, unless your heart is completely closed, you will run headlong into the Holy Spirit, Who will make you aware of the living Presence there of Jesus Christ, and Christ will make known to you His Father, the God.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Winds of September

September is usually a very windy month in Greece. This year, a good, cracking thunderstorm ushered in the wind, a storm even someone from Kansas would have admired. The storm passed, but the wind is still thrashing the tops of the platonos trees in an arc I estimate to be at least 24 feet wide, giving the birds quite a ride. They prefer to perch near the trunk and further down, in this wind. It makes everyone’s awnings roar and renders it impossible for anyone to hang out her laundry. It blows away the wet sops of granary bread I set out on the balcony for the birds and even blows away the sparrows, too, if they are standing flat-footed on the balcony rail. I’m sure the gusts are occasionally near hurricane strength.

Our windows are not screened, nor need to be normally, so even if we only leave them open a few inches, the 10-foot-long curtains blow out of the windows and you have to haul them back in and secure them; or, in the other direction, the curtains blow all over the room, knocking over things. (We really do love to keep our windows open, but they’re only partly open right now.) The inside doors slam; we keep ours in place with several large, pretty paper weights I once bought to use as doorstops.

When you go outside, the wind whips through your hair, moans past your ears so it’s sometimes hard to hear anything else, and blasts right through a cardigan or pullover.

They say the mistral in France affects people’s disposition, making them short-tempered and feeling out of sorts. Our wind isn’t as relentless as that; I find it all quite exhilarating and a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Company and Communion: A Gathering of Friends

Thursday night, we met with some of our innermost circle of friends at Mena’s house. It appeared, rather to my surprise, to be the first time Mena had been with all the friends since the death of Kostas on 04 July. I suppose she has not felt like socializing.

Mena served us all cheese crepes, which we ate in silence. Then, spontaneously, we all stood up. Manolis led us in the hymn, “Lord, grant rest to the soul of Your servant with the saints, where there is neither pain nor sorrow nor worry, but endless life.” Then we just sort of stood there, not knowing what to say or do next. Finally, I said, “May his memory be eternal!” and we all sat down.

Then Manolis began sharing some of his reflections, recalling some of the good times they’d all had together in their youth (for all these people have been best friends from childhood; Mena has known Kostas literally since her infancy). Manolis spoke of “Galaxy,” an organization they had formed at the Church of Ascension near here, which promoted culture, plays, athletics. “And ping-pong,” added Vasilea, making everyone smile. Manolis waxed theological. Mena began to sniffle and then to cry. Demetrios wept silently, and what was most touching of all was when Maria began daubing at her reddened eyes with tissue. Maria has Alzheimer’s and cannot even remember how to eat without prompting; there was no way she could possibly have understood why anyone was crying. She simply has a heart so tender that when people cry, she cries with them.

Ioannis the theologian came next, sharing his memories and his faith and giving a sort of eulogy. Then Maria’s husband Demetrios gave his monologue and then my husband Demetrios.

Mena spoke, too, and I was thrilled to see that the faith to which she had been unable to turn immediately after Kostas died is back in full force, radiant.

And I must tell you, nobody was tempted to say anything during any of these testimonials (for lack of a better word), nor did any mind wander even though I didn’t understand some of it; everybody listened with full attention to every word. Each speaker seemed to be expressing every heart.

Gradually the conversation ceased to be specifically about Kostas and death, turning to other matters concerning the Christian life.

Someone spoke about God’s love sustaining us, and I thought, “Not just God’s love, either, but also the deep, solid, abiding love of these friends,” which of course is all the same thing.

Vasilios was there, Mena and Kostas’ son. I first met him when he was 12 and by my reckoning, he must be about 37 now. He keeps his mother company in the lonely evenings and is helping her work through Kostas’ belongings, including boxes and boxes and boxes of religious magazines, newspapers, books, tapes and CDs. He wasn’t a hoarder in the general sense, but he did (neatly!) hoard certain things.

Anyway, Vasilios’ friend Eleutherios dropped by to see him, and after about 5 minutes of listening to the conversation, he said, “You all ought to get together more often!” not realizing we do. But his comment prompted us to set a time for the next get-together and I can hardly wait.

We no longer have Kostas’ company, but we do, most definitely, still have deep, sweet communion with him. We are very aware of him, and aware that he is very much aware of our being aware of his being aware…

He Who is mightier than death accomplishes this, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Our bathroom is to be demolished starting the middle of this week! We have spent years trying to figure out how to improve this tiny, unpleasant room and we were just going to redecorate. But in the end, Petros came and told us in a few minutes exactly what needed doing, we agreed, and the job turned into a complete re-make, starting with knocking out the very low ceiling to expose the empty space above it. With the possible exception of the toilet, nothing currently in the room will survive, not even the existing door.

We spent a couple of hours in the bath and kitchen shop every morning from Monday through Wednesday, and Thursday we spent three more hours (well into siesta time), making final choices of tiles, sink, cabinetry, shower stall, faucets, fixtures and lighting. Georgia, with firm hand and loud voice, refused to let us make wrong choices and guided us into beautiful and stylish picks. Thank you, Georgia!

The actual work is going to be a week-long (if not longer) ordeal, but at the end of it all, we should have a sleek, modern little gem of a room where the embarrassing one is now. It will still be tiny, but with more clever and efficient use of the available space.

Expertise is a beautiful thing! Whether you’re on a guided tour led by an expert thrilled with his subject or you’re hearing a violin in the hands of a master or are being taught by a teacher fluent in his field and in love with it or you are getting your bathroom overhauled, expertise is always awesome. We are clearly in the hands of experts.

Why I Love This Machine!

The vacuum cleaner we inherited with this flat virtually doesn’t work, so yesterday Demetrios and I were going to go out and get another. Something else came up for me and Demetrios went by himself. And all by himself he chose by far my favorite of any vacuum cleaner I’ve ever owned. I have very seldom done product reviews in this blog, but I just love this machine, and here are the reasons:

• Its handle adjusts a full 18” in height, making it the only vacuum cleaner I ever had that was tall enough for me to use without paining my back. It’s of course also short enough for small people.

• Its suction is adjustable, so you can turn the dial low if you want to hoover your curtains. (You DO that?) Or you can vacuum the fringe of a rug without the machine eating it up.

• It has the strongest suction I’ve ever encountered. Three-quarters strength, the highest I’ve dared try so far, looks almost ready to lift the cushions off the sofa.

• This vacuum cleaner is quiet! Of course, the noise level does vary with the strength of the suction, but even so, it’s much quieter than I’ve ever seen before.

• It has a re-usable (cloth) bag.

• Its three attachments are all in one clever piece.

• I was able to assemble it without recourse to the instructions, a very good thing as there weren't any in English (although there were instructions in every Balkan language plus Russian).

• The whole thing quickly disassembles for easy storage in small spaces.

It’s a Samsung SC6170. The only reservation I’d have in recommending it to you is that it is meant for a quite small dwelling; the bag is only half the size of most. You might need to check for a model suitable for your own house.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Afool and the Wonders of the Internet

A very, very cool thing has happened. It has to do with my mother’s true story of once having been courted by a Persian prince, a story I put on my blog, together with photos, here.

Well, someone wrote me, giving his name and e-mail address and said let’s trade stories about Afool. That was the Prince’s nickname. I wrote back and asked, Afool as in my mother’s friend? And he wrote back and said yes, that Afool, who also just happens to be my father.


My correspondent said that on my blog he had found photos he had never seen before and he hadn’t known the stories I related, either, “although they all sound true!”

I was so thrilled I immediately forwarded our correspondence to my mother. When I told her this man lives in Los Angeles, she said, “Well, Afool did eventually marry the daughter of one of the governors of California.”

So nice for this story to have a sequel, and after 70 years! It reminds me, just a little, of the end of that movie, The Secondhand Lion.

The Problem of Relevance

It’s been three years now I’ve been trying to understand the problem the Anglicans are experiencing. And I’m not entirely sure, but I think I can articulate it now. It’s that they don’t know how to respond to someone who doesn’t find Christ particularly relevant to his life. Such a person – and they are legion in the UK as elsewhere – may well believe in God and perhaps in Jesus as well, but thinks, so what? Such a person has tried to read the New Testament, or has listened to it being read, and just can’t see any meaning in it that applies to his own life. Okay, so for example the Good Samaritan was a good guy; bravo to him. And?

Sure, says our hypothetical person to himself, Jesus had some nice ideas, but what have they to do with me? I already live a pretty good life, try to be nice to people, don’t do anything illegal, immoral, or fattening. (Well, fattening, maybe…) And I certainly don’t need to go to any boring church service to pray to Him if I want to, supposing I would know what to say.

The Anglicans don’t know how to address this issue. They think the problem is that their more traditional church services were boring and, running scared, they are trying every way they can imagine, however outlandish, to cure that. They have puppets and balloons and clowns and they even have what they call “Messy Church” where you can do all sorts of crafts.

I'm sorry, but this is pathetic!

Yet the people who promote all this sor of thing aren’t enemies of Christ, as I once supposed; they are in fact believers with strong emotional attachments to Christ, which they strive to pass on to others. They call it, “Getting excited about Jesus”.

Dear Anglicans, forgive me, but it seems to this observer you are addressing the wrong problem. And in the process, not only are you not attracting the younger generation; you’re inadvertently driving away even more people. The problem is not that your services were boring, but why they were: because the Christ those services presented was simply irrelevant. And your newer services, to be frank, are equally banal because they present the same basically irrelevant version of Christ. Putting make-up on Him doesn’t solve the problem. Presenting His real significance for every human life does.

So what is that significance? Well, Jesus is the Perfect Man, and only in emulating Him do we express and live and fulfill our own human nature. Jesus is not merely relevant but indispensible because it is only by following Him that we recover our full humanity. Obedience to Him is for our freedom and growth and fulfillment as men, as families, as societies. That is the very reason He has given us His commandments. He revealed His precepts for our sake, not His, because He loves us. And indeed, the path He has marked out for us eventually renders us not only complete, finished men, but even more than mere mortals; ultimately it is the path to becoming deified, as our participation in Christ deepens into a sharing with Him in the very inner workings of the Life of God, the Holy Trinity.

In a word, Christ IS your life and mine, and everyone else’s. He is the difference between really living and merely surviving. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

Anglicans (along with so many others) seem to see following Christ simply in moral terms. It’s a desirable but largely optional by-product of salvation. And/or, the Christian Life is seen as something nice for those few who can do it, but “I couldn’t live that way.” Thus, the sober business of “Take up your cross and follow Me”, the very thing in which we discover Christ’s indispensible relevance, is also the very thing many Anglicans appear reluctant to preach – for fear of turning people off. Terrible irony!

But, beloved Anglicans, if you remember the proper understanding about following Christ – and it has as little to do with upholding a moral code as with getting excited about Jesus – and if you both preach and demonstrate (mainly in the saints you’ll produce) who we can beome when we follow the way of the Cross, then the Church of England will become again what she once was and what the Church is always meant to be: our lifeline to heaven, the umbilical cord conveying my life and yours to God’s Life, and His Life to us.

And then people will come, in droves, because this is the Life for which we were all made, to which our whole being is geared. This supernatural life, the life in Christ, is actually what is most natural for a human being, every human being, at his deepest level. Following Christ doesn’t so much result in salvation as it already IS salvation beginning here and now.

And then, if you preach and manifest this, such lesser issues as the style of worship and the genre of the music will all sort themselves out.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Meeting Anglicans in Greece

John and Ella Coventry arrived here in Thessaloniki two days after we did. They are on a tour, or as they call it, a pilgrimage, with other Anglicans led by the Rev. Canon John Roberts. They are following the steps of St. Paul, who of course preached in this city. They spent 3 days in this vicinity and called us on Sunday night to come meet them at their hotel the following night.

“So what time are we meeting them?” I asked Demetrios, who had been asked to give the group a 10-15 minute rundown on the history of Thessaloniki.


“And how will we get there?”

“By bus.”

“Which bus?”

“The one that says, IKEA, because that’s where we change buses.”

“Where do we catch it?

“At the bus stop in front of our church, I think.”

“But you don’t know for sure?”


“When do we catch it?”

“Don’t know. It’ll come.”

“About how long will it take us to get there?”

“I don’t know. Why are you making all this so difficult?”

[Can you say, “Culture Clash”? I’m my father’s daughter, who once drew Demetrios a full-color, detailed, to-scale map of how to get to the subway station less than a mile away. And that was after having already gone over it with him carefully on a printed map. Maybe I’m not as extreme as my father was, but still the influence is strong and I’ve had too many bad experiences with the Greek approach.]

“I think, my sweet, I’ll stay home,” I said. “I’m just not up for this being dragged hither and yon, not knowing where to go or how to get there or when to start, hoping to find our way eventually, somehow, and probably arriving very late, if at all. I’m sorry, but as you know that sort of thing makes me very cross, and staying home will be much better than getting into a quarrel with you.”

“Oh, no, you must come. You must!”

“Then you must at least ring Thomai [our downstairs neighbor] and ask her where we catch the first bus. She will know.”

So he did and armed only with the knowledge that the stop in front of the church was indeed the correct starting point, we set out; found the bus that said IKEA, and by asking our way from there and by pure good luck, we managed the journey more or less painlessly. “You see, my precious?” said Demetrios. “No problem.”

At Ikea, where we had to change buses, I heard Demetrios and two ladies discussing which bus stopped at the Sand Bitch Hotel.


I decided I must have misheard; it must be “Sandwich”, a very odd name for a hotel. Anyway, we boarded the bus for the second leg of the journey. I insisted upon double-checking by asking the driver, who assured us that the Sand Bitch (not Sandwich) Hotel was in fact a stop on his route. (Sandwich! What a laughable name!) At quarter till eight, a miraculous half-hour early, we arrived. The sign in front of the building read, “Sun Beach Hotel”.

It was of course wonderful to see John and Ella Coventry again, and again to lift our glasses and say, “Good troughing!” John introduced us to the Rev. Canon So-and-so, who wanted to be called simply, “John”. Besides being quite personable, he is obviously very devout and very knowledgeable, too.

The reason I haven’t told you his full name is, he has made friends with several Muslims who have since converted to Christianity. I told him I thought that was the single biggest contribution one could make toward world peace.

So we chatted with him for a while before going to the conference room where the rest of the pilgrims were assembled.

I have only one word for Demetrios’ presentation: superb! He didn’t bore us with many dates and details; he just gave us an idea of what this city has experienced through the centuries, and under whom, and what life was like, with a good story or two thrown in for illustration. He came to a good stopping point at just about 15 minutes, when the good Canon interposed a question. And when that had been answered, he invited the audience to ask more questions, which a lot of them did.

They had been to Saint Sophia, downtown, that morning, arriving near the end of Divine Liturgy; and what had especially impressed and moved them, and what they most wanted to know about, was the bread they had been given. The priest had literally motioned them forward to receive it. What was it? Was it proper for them to have taken it?

So Demetrios explained all about the antidoron and the more he said, the more they wanted to know. Forget the History of Thessaloniki; they wanted to know about Orthodox Christianity. And as Demetrios was able to express it all very, very well, they were all quite charmed. Even about icons. They also wanted to know if we had the same anxiety they have about decreasing membership. He told them no, and this difference, next morning, became the topic we hashed through over breakfast; see my next post.

Ten o’clock was time for Compline and after that people shook our hands and thanked Demetrios and went to bed, to get ready for an early start the next morning. We said we hoped to see them again in England, as most of them were from right around Ormskirk. I hope we do meet again.

John went with us to the bus stop. The bus came within about 15 minutes or less, and we arrived back at our flat a scant hour and 20 minutes later, a much shorter time than we had taken getting to the hotel.

I’m so very glad I went.

I even said so.

Monday, September 17, 2012

We've Moved on to Greece

We arrived in Greece on Wednesday, and I found myself more tired than I can ever remember being in my whole life - and that was before the tiring trip!

I can't recommend EasyJet. Yes, it's very cheap. But we didn't save any money. We had a choice of flying from London, which would have meant train fare and hotel, plus meals, but would have gotten us straight to Thessaloniki, or else flying from Manchester but only as far as Athens, and finding the flight from there to Thessaloniki eating up all we had saved by flying the budget airline.

So we didn't save anything, and meanwhile the seats were hard and cramped and there was no onboard entertainment, not that we usually care for that, but I missed the map that shows you your route and where you are at the moment. We didn't get a jetway, either. So both at our departure and our arrival, we had to negotiate the stairs carrying hand luggage. (Remember those 19 books Demetrios always takes with him wherever he goes?)

Also, there are no assigned seats, so the early birds get the best choice. For the price of arriving that much earlier. We didn't know this, so by the time we boarded, we had to take whatever seats we could find, and they weren't together. A nice woman across the aisle from me said she didn't care where she sat, and was kind enough to trade seats with Demetrios, so he ended up across from me.

Fifteen minutes or so after take-off, the man sitting next to him turned red and stiff and was having convulsions. Funny thing about being a doctor on an airplane. A doctor in an emergency is accustomed to taking charge, but on an airplane, the crew is always in charge, especially in an emergency. Not that it mattered; everyone worked together.

Fortunately, the man was only having an epileptic seizure. When he had recovered enough, he confirmed that this had happened before, albeit only on an airplane. Seats were again juggled so his wife could sit between him and Demetrios for the rest of the flight. I'm glad to report that it was uneventful, and the man seemed fine.

Wisdom from Fr. Christodoulos

Whenever you point the finger at anyone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Saturday, September 08

The crowded days have flown by and so has our stay in England.  The days nights lengthen more precipitously here than they do in the more southern climes to which we are accustomed and to which we soon return.  This time next week we shall be in Greece. 

For me, the biggest joy of the last several days was attending the Church of the Holy Apostles in Leyland.  It really was a piece of heaven on earth.  I was reduced to tears almost immediately. 

A radiant, smiling angel approached me to embrace me; I blinked and it was Presbytera.  A woman to my left also turned to greet me and introduce herself; at the coffee hour afterwards, I learned she was the other Presbytera.  A man named David was chrismated after 22 years.  (!) 

At last, at last, a parish that feeds me.  I'm no shepherd, to feed the sheep.  I'm more like the sheep that needs feeding.  Truth to tell, I'm the goat who needs re-fashioning into a sheep.  But yes,  the goats are most welcome here!  Here is where the unfathomable reality becomes concrete:  that Christ loves me - unconditionally!  (That, for me, is the hard part to comprehend.)  Here is embodied the mystery that Christ died for me, lives for me, even counts me one of His flock.  Here, all this is as obvious as the daylight.

The best part of all, perhaps, is that Demetrios agrees with me that this is the church we ought to attend while we are in England.  We've even learned the way to get there, driving, although the way back home is still a puzzle.

Another great joy this week was our reunion with John Coventry, and meeting his wife Ella.  We raised our wine glasses and Demetrios said what he has been waiting 50 years to say:  "Good troughing!"  (That story here.)

I mentioned that Demetrios still speaks of Dr. and Mrs. Coventry (John's parents) in reverential tones and John said yes, his mother loved him, often said how sad he looked (because he was), and always called Demetrios her "other son". 

Obviously there was a great deal of reminiscing, but for blog purposes, probably the most interesting item was John's recounting of his father's World War II log.  His father was a prisoner of war and kept a journal.  In fact, he was a prisoner of war in Sagen, where the Great Escape took place.  And yes, he was very much involved with the Great Escape.  As he had already passed his A-level exams in chemistry, he was put to work producing the dye for the escape clothing.  The men's uniforms, in RAF blue, had to be altered and dyed, and John's dad made the dyes. 

John, who only discovered all this after his father's death, has been working for over a year now, typing the war journals on his computer. 

A true friendship is one you can pick right up where it left off, long ago, and nothing between the friends has changed.

Demetrios found it sad to see John, whom he had known in his twenties, now an old man.  I told him John probably feels the same, looking at Demetrios.  Never mind; they still more or less still have their health.  And Ella, his wife, is delightful.  So it was a wonderful evening.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Matlock Bath

Tuesday, August 28

We spent most of the day getting home from Cambridge via the scenic route (deliberately, this time).

Scenic is putting it mildly.  We went right across the Peak District, meaning the peaks of the Pennine Mountains.  The peaks are still green, so together with the blue sky they are gorgeous.  The highlight of our trip was our serendipitous discovery of the storybook village of Matlock Bath.  It's a collection of old stone buildings tucked away in the high folds of the mountains.  It was full of holiday-makers.  Next year we shall try diligently to be among them for a couple of days!

I wanted to post some pictures, but am having a great deal of trouble posting, when I am able at all.  (Using my own computer, I can sometimes get to my blog, and sometimes not.  Using the library's computers, I can almost always get to it, but several features, including inserting photos, are missing.) 

So here's a link with literally hundreds of snapshots of the village.  I hope you enjoy a few of them!

27 August, Monday

This was our last day in Cambridge, and we spent it walking around the town center again, picking up some sights we had missed earlier. Of special note was The Eagle. That’s a pub where Crick and Watson, the scientists who discovered DNA, first announced their big breakthrough.

We also found the Church of St. Edward, King and Martyr.  It is mostly famous as “the cradle of the Reformation”. Well, in a way. They say the first openly Evangelical sermon was preached there. Hugh Latimer, the English Reformer put to death for his beliefs, preached in this church often. The same pulpit is still there, so we went to see it.  The Reformers had such courage.

We revisited the breath-taking King’s College Chapel  and did a fairly thorough tour of St. John’s College. The chapel there is more Enlightenment than Gothic. In the nave of the chapel are statues of famous alumni of the College. Here are three of them.  Click on any you may like to enlarge.

Sir Francis Bacon

Isaac Newton, in front of WWII Memorial

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In the nave, the same theme is carried through; the stained glass windows show scholars rather than saints of biblical events.

The worst disappointment about St. John’s College is what happens after you have walked through several courtyards of magnificent Medieval/Renaissance buildings with all their ornate splendor: you arrive, finally, at a modern group of buildings, the most drab, plain, utilitarian and ugliest buildings you can imagine. It’s almost like sacrilege.

I said we ought to have supper at the restaurant owned by the Chinese man who had helped us a couple of days ago when we were lost, so we went there. Without a map, yet! And fairly easily.

It turns out the man is Japanese, not Chinese, and his establishment is a sushi bar.  Unfortunately, we do not eat sushi. However, there were other items on the menu as well, so we tried a couple of those and were well pleased.

We went back to Demetrios’ old house in Gilbert Road. Turns out it’s now (23 years later) worth more than a half million dollars. Such a shame he had to sell it. We’d have loved living here in Cambridge!

I did ask Demetrios about his method of navigation. Well, he says, “I have a very good sense of direction.” That’s true, during the daytime. So his method, he explained, is to head out in the general direction of his destination and to look for signs. No wonder this method so consistently fails; there are no signs in Cambridge!

Well, there are of course some, but literally, you can travel the whole length of a major street and never be able to spot a street sign telling you its name. Where there are signs, they tend to be inconspicuous and there is no uniform method of displaying them, so you do not always know where to look or what to look for. Signs also tend to be confusing. Still worse, they come at you with no warning. Too often you see the sign seemingly (probably) to point left just as you’ve arrived at the intersection and by the time you’ve (maybe) deciphered the sign, it’s too late.

Nor can you correct your mistake by going around the block, as we’ve amply proven. This is because the streets in Cambridge, as in any old city in Europe, are not laid out in grids; they are a helter-skelter web.

All of this means that my method, using the map, is also far from foolproof.

GPS! Or sat-nav as they call it here. That’s the only solution. We have one in the US, but now I’m determined to get us one in the UK as well. Before the next trip. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

thoughts at Lunchtime

Who says British food is always bad?

It isn’t true. There are foods here that are better than in America or Greece, and there are certain foods only the English know how to do properly, such as porridge and clotted cream.

The English countryside containing more sheep than people, the Brits often do lamb very, very well; and their strong mint sauce is unique and wonderful. So is their rosemary and red wine sauce for pouring over lamb. Roast pork is another meat they usually cook very well.

English milk tastes better than US milk, so clotted cream isn’t the only dairy product in which the Brits excel; their regular cream is also outstanding, and they are the only ones I know who make “double cream”, twice as thick as regular. Many English cheeses are also yummy.

From India, the English have learned to make a variety of curries and chutneys, all delicious, as well as other exotic dishes.

For dessert, you can’t beat sticky toffee pudding. For that matter, toffee anything is wonderful here. And who doesn’t love Scottish shortbread?

Berries here are very good; the strawberries especially are sweeter and juicier, by far, than I’ve found elsewhere. Anything to do with strawberries, therefore, is going to taste wonderful. The English know how to cook and to appreciate rhubarb, too..

And then of course there’s that old stand-by, fish ‘n’ chips. If you don’t know what else to order, you can’t go far wrong with that. Have them put some malt vinegar on it, and on the chips (fries). And that reminds me, Lancashire potatoes, in particular, beat Idaho potatoes any day. Best potatoes in the world.

In an emergency, nowadays there are always Chinese, French and Italian restaurants.