Dang! I just wrote a beautiful, poetic, inspiring piece about our last two days and then I (actually, Blogger) lost it! I’m sure it won’t be as beautiful, poetic, and inspiring the second time around, but, here goes…
Can you hear me speaking in a British accent as you read this? I’ve gotten pretty good at it. We’ve been steeped like a tea-bag in history and culture for the last two days. We got up early yesterday and caught a bus that took us to Leeds Castle, Dover, and Canterbury. The castle is out in the middle of a lake and the land around the lake is gorgeous. It was a home until the 1950’s and the décor in it now is what it was like then. It was also owned by an American. It actually looked quite warm and comfortable, but of course, we weren’t seeing the whole thing. They were busy putting up Christmas decorations and they were working on some of the stone work. Scaffolding was set up in the moat and the workers were boating around the scaffolding and climbing in and out of the boat to work on the walls. Interesting juxtaposition of old world and new.
We just made a quick stop at Dover but the cliffs are beautiful. There is an ancient castle there, too, but it is in ruin. There were sheep grazing up around it. I’ve decided my photos of it are allowed to go into my collection of photos of deserted houses. House, castle, very little difference.
We then went on to Canterbury. I think it would be a nice place to stay a couple days. The area around the cathedral has quaint little local shops.
Then Canterbury Cathedral! There was a memorial service happening in the crypt so the music was wafting up to us as we looked around. It was pretty surreal. They were also putting up Christmas decorations and changing light bulbs. That has been surprising to me. These grand churches I’ve heard of all my life, are also actual, working congregations. A member dies and they have a memorial for them. The lights go out and they change the bulbs. The seasons change and they put up decorations. A service has more people than expected and they pull out the rack of chairs stored in the transept. They aren’t museums to a dead religion, they are real church families of local townspeople, just like Arlington Heights, UMC in Fort Worth.
We had lunch at a little café that served us from beautiful little tea cups and plates. When school let out, the town was flooded with teenagers in ties and blazers heading home on bicycles and on the train. After we got back to the flat, we began to hear a choir. We looked out the window and a choir was caroling, carrying candles, with their priest dressed in his robes. The whole day was so very British!
Today we rode a tour bus around the city and got a feel for where everything is. We ended the day at Westminster Abby. Again, there were worship services going on and every hour the priest asked everyone to stop where they were and say a prayer. The most powerful thing there, to me, was that Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Queen Elizabeth I, half- sisters and sworn enemies in life, are buried in the same tomb. On the floor beside the tomb is a marker commemorating those who have given their lives for their faith, regardless of their faith. Moral of the story: love wins. Or at least: hate loses. The queens’ hatred of “the other” gave them no different final resting place. I also found the office I want to work in. In one of the hallways of Westminster Abby, I saw an office with a sign that said, “LIBRARIAN AND KEEPER OF THE MUNIMENTS” I’m not sure what muniments are, but I want to keep them.
Tomorrow will start with the British Library. If I see any books that need to be shelved, I’m doing it!