“I love Paris in the fall…”

PARIS, September 28

Some days this traveling thing is a bit of a test. Velcro son Mike (my designated guardian for the week) met us at Charles de Gaulle airport, having arrived an hour earlier Then we headed to the taxi stand for our separate rides into town, Joy’s to the loft and residency for her class, ours to our B&B. Turns out Joy didn’t have enough of an address, something she discovered (she’d suspected it earlier) when asking for assistance from someone before we left the terminal. Neither that somebody nor anyone else recognized the information she had; there was no such address in Paris. Our helper sent over her supervisor. After some time I found the address she’d given me when she first signed up for the class. That satisfied the supervisor, and he sent us to the taxi stand, confident (that is, he was confident) Joy was safely on her way

But while Mike and I were loading luggage into our taxi she ran over to tell us that her driver had no idea where she was going–the address was incomplete. We returned with her to see what we could do (what could we do?). Her driver consulted with our driver and then with another. We didn’t understand a word of their animated conversation. Together, though, after appearing at a loss for some time, they decided they knew enough for her driver to leave with her.

And off they went.

My family thinks I’m a bit of a fretter. That evening I earned the reputation, unable to think of much else. Maybe you can understand. I had just watched a driver who communicates only in French leave with my wife who communicates only in English and has an uncertain address for a destination in Paris she has never been to before and limited means of connecting with me if anything goes wrong.  Wasn’t a little concern, shall we say, warranted?

Much later in the evening she Skyped—but I wasn’t in WiFi range, so I missed the call. She left a message. The cab drove her straight to the address I gave her, she was happily settled in, and there was nothing to worry about. OK?

Here’s the maddening part of my story. Joy is a fearless, resourceful, experienced traveler. We’ve had several such incidences like this one over the years–and she always, always comes out on top. So why this worrying?

I think this is what husbands do.   At least this one does.

french-quarter

One delightful moment occurred in the boys’ taxi. Mike had been studying the architecture as we drove deeper and deeper into the heart of Paris. After awhile he confessed that he had been thinking, “Wow, this looks a lot like the French Quarter.”

I didn’t laugh. Not for a full nanosecond.

Anything that looks this much like the French Quarter bears a closer look. With Joy safely ensconced in her painting class, Mike and I have been exploring. obeliskThe highlights on Monday were a look around the Place de la Concorde, with its 75-foot high Egyptian obelisk (the oldest monument in Paris; it stood before the Luxor temple in Egypt over 3000 years ago), Tuileries Gardens (a little late in the season, I’m afraid), and then the walk along the Champs-Elysees Boulevard, Paris’ most famous street. We stopped off at the King George V outdoor restaurant for an exceptional boeuf bourguignon (ranks right up there with a Whopper). Then, sated on superb cuisine, we walked off this indulgence by carrying on along the boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe -- romantic Paris. Look closely at the bottom of the picture.
Arc de Triomphe — romantic Paris. Look closely at the bottom of the picture.

Until now I didn’t realize you could walk around on top of it and get a stunning view of Paris at night. Well, you can. And we did.

Tuesday we were even more devoted tourists. Our major attraction was the Musee d’Orsay, Trip Advisor’s Number One Paris attraction. I’d been there over forty years ago. I shouldn’t have waited so long to return. My favorite period of painting, I have to confess, features the French Impressionists. This museum can boast the world’s finest collection of works by Cezanne, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Sisley, Pissarro and others, as well as the post-impressionists, with an excellent selection of Van Goghs, whose artistic daring is simply breathtaking. (I love all this name-dropping.) The museum deserves a full day; we gave it two or three hours.

rose-at-musee-dorsay

Then followed a delightful lunch. What made it so was not the food, which was just OK, but getting acquainted with a woman at the next table from San Francisco who has been traveling on her own, meeting up with her friends in various places in Europe. She looks so much like my oldest friend Rosa (we met in the nursery at church). This lady’s name is Rose. Mike took our picture to send to Rosa. As we were paying our bill she discovered the café wouldn’t accept her American Express card and she didn’t have enough euros to pay her bill. The always gallant Mike took care of it. See why I like traveling with him? He’s been picking up my bills regularly.

eiffel-towerThen the real tourists in us came out.

We boarded an on-and-off tourist bus to get a feel for the city as a whole. So we drove around passing by such important places as the Opera, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Montmarte, the Moulin Rouge, the Grand Palace and the Petit Palace, and so on. In the next couple of days we’ll select some for a closer look. If Joy had been with us we’d still be checking them all out. I’m glad she’s painting. I can’t keep up with her these days.

I realize I haven’t told you anything about our Airbnb apartment. Not room here for much, but you might be interested in a couple of things. First, the entrance. What you don’t see is the graffiti-covered street door behind us in this shot. Here ispassageway-to-paris-home what greeted us as we stepped through the door. No, that’s not quite right. This picture was taken our second day. We were greeted by fine dust and dirt without the piles on the left side of the picture; the old had been dug up and carried off, the new hadn’t been added. The door to our apartment house is the first opening you can barely see on the right.

We almost couldn’t get in. The key pad works only sporadically. One time we punched in the formula about a dozen times before the door lock released. The next time we got it on the first try. A little disconcerting, this unpredictability. Especially since our contact for the apartment doesn’t return my calls.

staircaseThis is our stairway. Mike shot the picture from the first floor (one floor above ground level). We’re grateful not to be at the top.

Finally, I just have to let you see what I saw while eating breakfast in a nearby coffee shop. This is amazing graffiti on the end of a nearby building.   How do you suppose they did this?

graffiti-2graffiti-1Well, this has been too long a preliminary report from Paris. I’ll quit now. I suspect you have other things to do today.

A Too, Too Brief Visit to Edinburgh, September 22 and 23

This is a travesty.

Sunshine Finds Edinburgh
Sunshine Finds Edinburgh

Just two days in Edinburgh, one of the northern hemisphere’s most beautiful cities? And one of them a sunny day.   Yes, that’s all our rapidly diminishing time in the UK allowed.

Tomorrow we leave for Paris, so this is it.

Two days. How could we make the most of them? Actually, we did pretty well. Andrew Owens met us at the train station. He’s a friend not only good but strong. He picked up our suitcases and headed up the long exit staircases. Then a quick bite of lunch and we were off to Roots, our reason for this trip, to say hello to his  campus ministry teammates.

ROOTS Campus Ministry Team
ROOTS Campus Ministry Team

We were interrupting their work day, so after kibitzing awhile we were ready when Andrew invited us to see something of his town. He turned out to be an accomplished tour guide, providing informed commentary as he led us through

castle-of-edinburgh

Edinburgh’s famed castle (which dates back to the 12th century) atop the city

Castle View of the Kingdom Below
Castle View of the Kingdom Below
St Giles Cathedral
St. Giles, the City’s Cathedral

 

 

followed by a restful visit to St Giles Cathedral.

 

 

 

and back to Roots to pick up our luggage on our way to our B&B. By now we’d walked enough. Andrew recommended a taxi. He got no argument from us.

The B&B host apologized when he saw how old his newest guests are, because all the rooms were already taken except a small one up the stairs to the second (in America, the third) floor. But it was clean, well furnished (a bed, a desk and not one but two chairs), and best of all, our very own bathroom complete with a sparkling clean shower.

Everything you could desire. Just one minor problem. In the morning the water was missing. Not just in our room, nor just in the B&B, but in this whole section of Edinburgh. A city crew was working on the municipal water supply, it seems. Without warning they shut the main.  Fortunately our host had a good supply of bottled water in store. And he had the right priorities. No showers, maybe, but breakfast as usual. I agreed with his values.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last night Andrew and Kate (and toddler son Ozzie) invited us to their flat (also several flights up) for an excellent takeaway Thai dinner. Teammates Meredith McKinney and Dee Humphreys joined us. The evening passed quickly. Ozzie provided the entertainment. He has mastered about 20 animal sounds. I can’t do an acceptable bark. Impressive.

We met with the whole team (Tim Campbell and Amanda Sills joining us) after breakfast for a brief discussion. They asked for some words from me, (note how polite these young people are!) so I shared the same thoughts I had presented at Canvas in Birmingham (I’ll type them out as a post to be filed in the Sermons category of this blog. I didn’t notice anyone taking notes as a way of hanging on to my every word, so I’m accommodating them. They didn’t ask for the notes, but I’m sure that was an oversight).

Again we left so the Roots team could get to work and we could spend a few hours as regular tourists.

Spires & Starbucks
Spires & Starbucks

 

We boarded an intra-city tourist bus  to get a feel for the whole town.

 

 

 

harry-potter-story-was-written-here

Yoda Visits Edinburgh
Yoda Visits Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special treat was the guide, a bona fide Scotsman. Three clues convinced us he was genuine: 1) He said so. 2) His Scottish brogue was thick enough we could have used an interpreter.

traditionl-brogues-worn-with-kilts3)He wore a kilt and accented it with the shoes befitting the uniform. He wanted us to know they were genuine and not like those execrable hush puppies some ignorant men might pair with their kilts.

We learned a lot from his monologue, but our real enjoyment came from his wit and his enthusiasm about his beloved city and its history.

We weren’t far into the one-hour tour of the city when Joy began lobbying for a Lawson return for a longer (“at least a month”) stay “next time.” Here’s the problem with bucket lists. I think I’ve mentioned this before. No sooner do you check off a place you have long wanted to visit than you put it right back on the list for “next time.” At this rate we’ll have to keep traveling until we’re 105 years—and still we won’t have exhausted the list.

After the tour we had time for just one more substantial visit (and then a quick look at another).

The Queen’s Entrance
The Queen’s Entrance

Joy chose the Holyrood Palace, one of Queen Elizabeth’s four palaces. She comes here for a day or so once a year and holds a lawn tea party for 8000 or so of her closest friends. She was out of town today, so we got a pretty thorough look-see in the buildings and grounds.

The King’s Bedroom
The King’s Bedroom
“The Hat” in the abbey ruins of Holyrook Palace.
“The Hat” in the abbey ruins of Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood has served as a royal residency since the 1500s, most famously the home of Mary, Queen of Scots (whose residency was abbreviated when Queen Elizabeth I had her beheaded).

View of the Scotland’s Cliffs From the Palace Gardens
View of the cliffs 
from the Palace Gardens

Then on to a quick visit to the national museum, just a couple of blocks from Roots. Joy and I went different ways. My highlight was visiting the wildlife gallery, housing some of the finest big animal taxidermy and skeletal reconstructions I’ve seen anywhere, including an elephant, giraffe, giant deer, etc. Joy won the bragging rights, though. In addition to visiting the fashion gallery and looking in on the finalist pictures in the annual Wildlife photography competition, she went to the technology section where she peered on the permanently stuffed sheep Dolly, of cloning fame. How can you top that?

After we joined the Roots team for dinner at Mum’s, their favorite local eatery, Amanda guided us to the train station for our two-hour ride back to Kendal for our last night and day in the Lake District.

We weren’t ready to say goodbye to the UK after just a month here, but we had to. The Lake District, Birmingham and Edinburgh won’t be forgotten. They are, as I said, back on the bucket list.

Traveling to Birmingham

[This is our second attempt to publish “Traveling to Birmingham.” If you received the first one, you’ll notice some differences. The first one came to you because of a premature touch on the “Publish” button. I told you we’re just learning how to do this blog thing!   –the editors]

We didn’t get off to an auspicious beginning. We shouldn’t have had a problem. In preparing for this trip to Birmingham to visit Campus, Globalscope’s campus ministry at the University of Birmingham, I did everything right. I ordered our train tickets on-line. The instructions were clear: I need to pick up our tickets at the Oxenholme train station. Not to worry. Last night I carefully copied down the confirmation number. Always prepared.

When we arrived I went immediately to the little machine that spits out tickets in exchange for another look at your credit card and your keying in the confirmation number. I was confident. As I said, I had prepared. Just one minor problem: I had miscopied the confirmation number. I was only off by one letter, just one. There’s precious little forgiveness in the world today.  The little machine withstood all of my protestations that I had in fact purchased the ticket, that I had most of the confirmation number, and that I am a generally honest person not trying to rip off Transpennine Railways. Unmoved. So I turned, looking pitiful and desperate, to the nice man behind the window on the opposite wall. He sold tickets; it was his business to assist travelers.  But he didn’t resolve issues. He seemed remarkably unmoved. Typical British stoicism, I suppose. I was missing just one letter, but it was the crucial one.

I had to buy two more tickets. Expensive ones, though they were the cheapest available. I temporarily toyed with the idea of skipping the trip altogether. It would serve Transpennine Railways right. But we really did want to see our friends at Canvas.

Derek & Abbie Sanders-Team Leaders
Derek & Abby Sanders-Team Leaders

Abby and Derek Sanders, who lead the Canvas team, had reserved a room for us at the nearby Awentsbury Hotel, and we didn’t want to disappoint–ourselves even more than them.

Awentsbury Hotel is a stately old house that has been carved up into more tiny bedrooms than you would suppose it could hold (the better to yield the maximum return on the owner’s investment, undoubtedly. He must be doing very well.)

A Quaint and Basic Hotel
A Quaint and Basic Hotel

It’s fitting, though. We’re here to visit a ministry that works with university students. This is their kind of housing.  We shouldn’t be residing in five-star splendor while trying to offer a bit of encouragement to these young people who are subsisting on a missionary’s stipend. And of course we did not expect to be living in the relative luxury we enjoyed in San Miguel, where rents are very cheap and the dollar strong against the peso. Here the currency is the British pound, and although the exchange rate is in our favor—about $1.30 to the pound, the best we can remember), Birmingham is a large city with large city costs.

Actually, we’re grateful the Sanders found this hotel for us. It’s just five minutes from the university and equally close to Canvas, the campus house. And it offers internet connectivity which, after an intermittent start, settled into reliability the next day. It’s been a little disconcerting to learn how tethered we are to the internet. We went through withdrawal that first evening. We couldn’t do email, which meant missing the replies our lawsonsontheloose.net blog has been yielding. It’s fun staying in touch with our friends and family even at this distance.

OH MY! Only a Sink- The Rest is Down the Hall
OH MY! Only a Sink-
The rest is down the Hall

My biggest concern when I first scoped out our lodging? The toilet is down the hall. That’s not unusual in hotels like this one, but it’s been awhile since this was the norm in our travel and in the meantime I’ve grown more accustomed to a certain nocturnal habit. A trek in the dark in a strange place requires more alertness than I can usually summon in the middle of the night.

In addition to our time with Sanders and crew, we wanted to run one errand in the city. As reported earlier, Joy’s camera died and now her iPhone is wheezing. The trip proved futile. The new iPhone 7 might be available in the next month or so!

But we enjoyed looking around. A couple of observations:

  • “The Hat” at St Martins Parish
    “The Hat” at St Martins Parish

    New Street Station and the Parish Church of St. Martin bring together in dramatic fashion old Birmingham (the present Victorian church was constructed in 1873 on the site that has hosted a church since 1263. It adds a certain gravitas to the city’s busy-ness, a quiet retreat for thinking on things of the spirit.

    St Martins Now Lives Surrounded by the Bullring Shopping Center
    St Martins Now Lives Surrounded by the Bullring Shopping Center
  • The New Street station is as modern as 2016, a new facility that has replaced the familiar one we knew so much better. In our opinion the changes have all been in the right direction.
  • The juxtaposing of the old and new symbolizes the dynamic of this city.
  • As does the amazing ethnic diversity so apparent in the people we met in the station and on the sidewalks. Never in the brief time we were in town did we see people with white skin outnumber those of other hues. In a never-ending human parade we could identify Africans and Hispanics and Asians and Europeans of various nationalities; we could also identify Christians and Muslims and Jews and Sikhs and Hindus and Buddhists and others we couldn’t label but were equally expressive of the diversity. It gave me a little clearer insight into Brexit, England’s recent decision to leave the European Union and the fear and resentment of immigration that is fueling so much debate in England and other member nations of the Union. It takes a moral courage not to reject others who are not “our kind.”
Birmingham “Canvas" Campus House
Birmingham “Canvas” Campus House

We didn’t have enough time with the young people in the Canvas ministry, but we really liked what we saw. The ministry’s home is a humble building at the end of an alley. It wouldn’t appeal to the Wall Street set, but “uni” students can feel right at home here, and it’s just minutes from the university.

One feature we really liked in the main room was a display of maps showing other Globalscope ministries in the world: Thailand, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Chile, (newer ones are being planted in Nottingham (England), Uruguay, Scotland and Australia and a second university in Spain), with others on the drawing board. University of Birmingham students involved in Canvas realize they are part of something much bigger than this one gathering.

%22the-hat%22-at-canvas-birmingham

As I said, we were only with them briefly, but we were there long enough to be impressed. We met with the newest interns Tuesday morning. I had been asked to bring a word of encouragement and challenge to them. Actually, they challenge and encourage me. At some personal sacrifice four young people (from Yorkshire, England; Arkansas; Alabama and Tennessee) have interrupted their own studies to spend some months assisting in this ministry (and learning whether they want to be campus ministers themselves). We wanted to hang out longer with them, but they had a full agenda to prepare for the return of university students for autumn term—and we had a train to catch to return to the Lake District.

And this time we had no trouble catching the train. The little machine gave us no trouble at all.

About Our New Hometown

First, let me locate Kendal for you. It’s on the southeastern edge of the UK’s famous Lake District (in Northwest England), 19 miles north of Lancaster, 8 miles southeast of Windermere, in the

Early Morning on the Kent River
Early Morning on the River Kent

 

 

valley of the      River Kent.

 

 

 

I give you these distances as a reality check for me, because as we venture out on

Our Driver for the Lake District
Our Driver for the Lake District

 

 

Bus 555

 

 

 

they seem so much greater. For example, a few days ago we went to Lancaster for lunch. That 19-mile journey took 75 minutes. Of course, we didn’t go directly, having to make stops in little hamlets in this direction and that direction off Highway A591. But still, 75 minutes to cover 19 miles! (It’s fun to mention oh so casually that we once moved from Oregon to Tennessee, putting nearly 3,000 miles on the odometer. These folks have very expressive eyes.)

The population is 28,586. The town seems much bigger—but that may be because we walk everywhere, even when grocery shopping and having to return home toting heavy bags. Then the town seems quite big. Kendal is, truth to tell, the third largest town in Cumbria. I pay careful attention to see if I can detect the distinctive Kendal accent, but I can’t; many people here are from elsewhere in England, and one thing England has in abundance is accents. I listen first, then try to guess where the person I just met is from. Then I ask. I’m always wrong.

Kendal is our favorite of the Lake District towns. It doesn’t have a lake, but it can boast of its Kent River.

The Lake District Loves It’s Paths & Dogs
The Lake District Loves Its Paths & Dogs

 

 

Almost every morning I have walked the footpaths along its banks,

 

 

 

shaking my head that this quietly flowing water could have wreaked such havoc here in December, when the great flood drove thousands from their homes, some of whom haven’t yet been able to return. The resilience of the residents is evident, though. Almost everything seems back to normal. If we hadn’t been told of the flood we wouldn’t have guessed there had been one, although the knowing resident’s eye can pick out the unfinished home. “Insurance,” is how they explain the delays.

We live at 50 Stramongate Street, Yard 44

Joseph Cottage Gate 44
Joseph Cottage
Gate 44

.We haven’t seen such numbered Yards before. I’ve seen such numbers up to the 150s; there are probably others even higher. Ours is typical, with the iron gates to keep out the unwanted. Centuries ago the natives could hide in them from raiding parties from the north and south (Scotland and England). That’s back when the major industry was textiles, woolen goods specifically, referred to as Kendal Green from their distinctive color. Sheep could be hidden in these yards. Now the Yards are alleys with shops in them, access to parking areas, or like ours lined with small flats (apartments).

Joseph Cottage as viewed from Bus Stop
Joseph Cottage as viewed from the Bus Stop

 

 

Speaking of our flat.

 

 

 

We are comfortable here. It’s like new inside. We were told this building used to be a pub, but now it houses several newly-remodeled apartments like ours. We wondered one evening whether it was haunted, though. We heard talking and music coming from my bedroom (we have two; seemed a shame to waste one). I trained my one good ear on every nook and cranny but couldn’t locate the source. Then I summoned Joy. (I do this often. I’m terrible at finding things.) She couldn’t locate it, either. Then, almost accidentally, I spotted light coming out of a crack in the bed’s footboard. And sound. Then I looked under the bed and found electrical stuff. Aha! Turns out that the unusually thick footboard houses a TV. A TV? Then I checked the unused remote controls on the stand beside the bed. Pushed a button.

Watching TV at the Foot of the Bed
Watching TV at the Foot of the Bed

 

Voila!

A TV ascended from the foot of the bed.

 

 

You’ll notice in the picture that Joy immediately laid claim to it. So much for thinking of ourselves as sophisticated travelers. We’ve never seen a hidden telly before.

Oh, we thought you’d like to see the view of the Majestic Wine Warehouse from our kitchen window.

View From Our Kitchen Window
View From Our Kitchen Window

 

 

The flat is conveniently located, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Back to the Yards. A cab driver said he thought they served “back when” as sheepfolds. That makes sense in an area where the sheep are so valuable. But there are probably as many explanations as there are taxi drivers.

We also have our own castle, Kendal Castle. It’s just a pile of rocks now, though. Built in the late 1100s, rumor has it that the Parr family inherited it and that Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife, was born here.  There’s no evidence that this happened but it’s a great tourist tidbit. (The truth is that when she was born the castle had already fallen into disrepair and her family didn’t live in the area.)

We have lots and lots of churches. I had every intention of getting better acquainted with them until we got waylaid by St. George’s hospitality. Their buildings are old but there’s lots of life in them, we’re told.

Speaking of old: We see an abundance of old people in town. The population here is older than the national average—and I think the national average of England is pretty high. One chart I saw says almost a quarter of the people in Kendal are over 65. As I’ve said before, we feel right at home here.

Today (Wednesday) we visited the town’s excellent Museum where we experienced another first:

Torch Light Photo of Pretty Bird in Kendal Museum
Torchlight Photo of “Pretty Bird” in Kendal Museum

 

 

we toured the wildlife section by torch

 

 

 

(that’s a flashlight with a British accent). Art students sat in the darkness before various windows, sketching the birds and beasts and butterflies on exhibit. Who’d have thought? I strained to see the displays, wondering what was so special about the experience. My artistic wife was disappointed when the lights came on; what before had seemed mysterious and intriguing now seemed like any other array of stuffed animals.

One final comment about the town and the museum. We saw the sign for Kendall Grammar School with its founding date: 1525. What a contrast between this culture with its gray stone row houses and

Steeple with a River View
Steeple with a River View

 

 

ancient spired churches,

 

 

 

and our American throw-away society, where old is bad and should be torn down and only the new is to be desired. Here deteriorating

St George Catholic Church, Kendal
St George Catholic Church, Kendal

 

 

buildings are propped up and refurbished.

 

 

 

In America valued properties are torn down to make way for new condos or a parking lot.

On my morning walk I discovered a previously overlook un-spired church. The building is relatively new by the standards here, but the congregation of the

Stricklandgate Methodist Church
Stricklandgate Methodist Church

 

 

Stricklandgate Methodist Church has been meeting since the 16th century.

 

 

 

strickland-methodist-history

The plaque is a testimony to the abiding influence of John Wesley–who preached in Kendal once on a Monday (not even Sunday!) in 1753.

 

I’ve preached in lots of places, with nary even any scribbled graffiti to commemorate the occasion. Sigh!

Okay. I must quit. The point of this post is to assure you we like our new old home.

We Return for Another Anglican Experience

Although we had such a positive experience with the congregation at St. George’s last Sunday, I thought we should visit an evangelical church this weekend. I discovered one on my morning walk. When we retired Saturday night, our plan was to visit this new church. But when we prepared for worship Sunday morning, there was no wavering. We would return to St. George’s for our last Sunday in Kendal.  It was one of our best Lake District decisions.

It was “All Age Worship” day. It could have been called Children’s Worship day. Midway through the hour

Symbols Enliven Anglican Service
Symbols Enliven Anglican Service

 

 

I whispered to Joy, “I have been   grinning this whole time.”

 

 

 

And I had. Eleven or twelve Brownies were with us; everything had been prepared with them in mind. Jesus’ stories of the Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 provided the structure for the Lost and Found theme. Dramatic readings, children’s songs (which the adults also sang), brief homily that didn’t feel like one, prayers, even poppers (party favors) and chocolate coins—

Brownie Sunday at Anglican Church
Brownie Sunday at Anglican Church

everything was on theme. It was as far from a staid formal worship service as it could be. And it was fun!

At the coffee reception following the service we chatted with

One of Roy’s favorite people. Can you see why?
One of Roy’s favorite people. Can you see why?

 

 

Associate Priest Jean Radley,

 

 

 

a woman as impressive in quiet conversation as she is as the leader of this warm fellowship. She surprised with an invitation to dinner at her home one evening this week. We probably surprised her with our quick acceptance. We want to know her better.

This follows our meal with Andrew and Diane Knowles on Saturday. They picked us up and drove us to their favorite country pub, then followed that act of hospitality with tea in their home.

Having Tea at the Delightful Knowles Home
Having Tea at the delightful Knowles home

 

 

A more gracious couple we have never met.

 

 

Joy and Diane sometimes talked so enthusiastically about their mutual interests that Andrew and I had to have a separate conversation or simply go mute. We, also, had no trouble discovering many areas of shared enthusiasm. It was as if two long-separated brothers had just found each other. Which, theologically speaking, is was happened!

As we planned this Next Phase we are now in, Joy’s goal was to stay in one place long enough to get a taste of the local culture. We are doing that here, in the best possible way,

Retired Priest & Wife Diane & Andrew Knowles
Retired Priest & Wife
Diane & Andrew Knowles

 

 

being taught by those who live and work in a community they love. We could not feel more at home.

Windermere and Grasmere

The weather forecast was foreboding, but in the Lake District if you wait for sunny weather you never venture out. So we ventured. Yesterday we rode the 555 bus to Windermere, a town I remembered from a visit here in the ‘80s or ‘90s, since it bears the same name as the lake. Frankly, we were underwhelmed. After living in Kendal and visiting Keswick, a visit to Windermere was anticlimactic. Perhaps because the day was so wet and the sky so gray, this town seemed to lack the sparkle of the others. We did, however,

“The Hat” Approaching the Lake in Grasmere
“The Hat” Approaching the Lake Windermere

 

 

finds fine pathway to lake,

 

 

 

 

 

which went through the poshest part of town. We marveled at the mansions we saw.

Then at the lake Joy took some good pictures

Moss at Water’s Edge of Lake Grasmere
Moss at Water’s Edge  Lake Windermere
 "The Hat" Meditating at Lake Windermere
“The Hat”
Meditating at Lake Windermere
A Windy Day at Lake Grasmere
A Windy Day at Lake Windermere

and I had a stimulating conversation with a couple from Yorkshire who were on holiday here. Their dog, a golden retriever, thoroughly enjoyed playing catch of the “you throw and I retrieve” variety” in the lake. The path to the lake was downhill all the way, so the path back into town was uphill and it seemed interminable to Joy . I know I amazed her with my unerring sense of direction as

Fall is Coming to Grasmere
Fall is Coming

 

 

I led us back to the bus stop. Along the way we drank in the examples of what we think of (probably erroneously) as “typical architecture,” now adorned in their fall clothes.

 

On Friday we took the 555 again, this time to Grasmere, to visit the home in which William Wordsworth did some of his most important writing,

“The Hat” Visiting Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage
“The Hat”
Visiting Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage

 

 

 

Dove Cottage.

 

 

 

 

It was my second time here. I was a little disheartened to learn how much I’d forgotten from the first visit. Things fade after 40 years or so. Our docent was a no-nonsense woman who appeared to be about 90. She was delightful, combining an appreciation of the great poet’s accomplishments with

Wordsworth’s Favorite Door to Get Away From Children
Wordsworth’s Favorite Door to Get Away From the Children

 

 

tales of his very human, not altogether admirable, side.

 

 

 

We had planned for a longer stay in Grasmere, but it turned out to be more a village than a town. We quickly covered the territory, then caught the bus back home—a very long ride,

Another Traffic Jam in the Lake District
Another Traffic Jam in the Lake District

 

 

with even heavier traffic

 

 

 

than we encountered before. That’s Joy’s report. I can’t swear to it myself. I slept through most of the ride. This is really good weather for the naturally indolent.

Tonight we were entertained by Kendal’s Torchlight Festival parade, which we watched from the bedroom window.

Waiting for Parade From Our Cottage Window
Waiting for Parade From Our Cottage Window

 

 

 

Fun. The rain showed no mercy and the paraders, from the elderly to the

 

Torchlight Parade Mascot
Torchlight Parade Mascot

 

 

very young children, showed no fear.

 

 

 

 

Torchlight Prade
Torchlight Parade

 

 

Most of the floats were covered flatbed trucks

 

with the sides rolled up to display musical bands, club members, and just plain—no, decorated—people in carnival mood. And then there were the many pedestrian paraders carrying banners, playing instruments, riding bicycles, and having a thoroughly good time of it. Joy said it reminded her of my hometown Tillamook’s annual diary parade, only at night. I agreed.

The Lake District by Coach September 7

Today we bought a couple of “Gold” bus tickets that are good for seven days of travel in the Lake District. Then we left on our first sight-seeing tour of this incredibly green and gorgeous country.

Beautiful Drive to Keswick
Beautiful Drive to Keswick

We rode from our home in Kendal north to Keswick, an advertised 90-minute ride that took 120 minutes because of the traffic.

 

 

 

Many people must have seen the same weather forecast we saw, promising sun today and rain for the next five days.

Traffic Jam on the Lake District Motorway
Traffic Jam on the Lake District Motorway

 

So the road was crowded

 

 

 

and so was Keswick, with people dressed for the sun and obviously enjoying this “unusual weather for this time of year.” The usual is rain. This is just the place for Oregon kids.

I particularly wanted to see Keswick because of its fame among evangelical Christians as the site of the annual convention, an international gathering in an event that was described clear back in 1925 as “the last stronghold of British Puritanism” (I’m quoting Wikipedia here), one that promotes “biblical teaching and pious lifestyles.” The event, which started as a one-week gathering, now has expanded to three weeks. We just missed it. We also missed the annual beer festival just ahead of it in June.

I also wanted to see Keswick because of the area’s association with some of Britain’s most famous literary figures:

Solitude on Derwent Water
Solitude on Derwent Water

William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas de Quincey, William Hazlitt, Hugh Walpole and Sir Walter Scott. I spent some time with these notables in my doctoral studies, so I was

Wordsworth’s Lake District
Wordsworth’s Lake District

 

 

eager to see their “haunts.”

 

 

 

We’ll return to the area. We have six more days left on our Stagecoach Bus tickets. We’ll carry our umbrellas.

Joy wants me to tell you that the bus stop is just across the street from our flat. It matters to her that you know that, since she rented the flat. When we were in Mexico I mentioned, apparently too often for her liking, that we’d be living much more humbly in England, where the prices are higher, and that Kendal was not an easy place to get to and that transportation would probably be a problem, since we aren’t driving. The bus stop, I repeat, is right across the street. Transportation is no problem at all. The flat is fine. All is good. Joy wants you to know that.

 

Disaster averted! Marriage saved!

Sorry. The headline might be a little too dramatic. What I am reporting is that Joy’s computer has been returned.

Almost Home! OOOPPPS! Where is the Gray Bag with the Pink Flower? Roy wants you to note the difference in size between the bright blue bag and my gray and orange bag.
Almost Home!
OOOPPPS! Where is the Gray Bag with the Pink Flower?
.

 

A source of potential tension has been erased.

** Roy wants you to note the       difference in size between his bright blue bag and my gray and orange bag. Tension returns!

 

 

We are entertaining very good thoughts about Brit Rail right now. And about our marriage as well. The good news came by email. An employee at the Oxenholme RR station searched through Joy’s bag and found her email address. The return train from Edinburgh had dropped it off. Sharp-eyed workers on the train remembered Joy and as soon as they spotted

 “The Lost Bag” Thanks Julie for giving me such a cute distinctive Bag
“The Lost Bag”
Thanks Julie for giving me such a cute distinctive Bag

 

 

the abandoned bag (gray, with a big bright pink flower on it)

 

 

 

they mentally tied it to her and to Oxenholme, where they had helped us disembark. They turned it over to the station attendants there, and one of them, a the nice man David, wrote Joy with the good news. We quickly hailed a taxi, retrieved the bag, thanked the kind people, and happily returned to our little flat.

What does this have to do with our marriage? Nothing, really. I was just expressing my jubilation in having my own laptop computer to myself again without having to extend a generosity that doesn’t come naturally to me. When Joy was using my very own computer I couldn’t, which caused no little consternation on my part, because when she was typing I couldn’t be. My work was neglected. My deadlines were missed. Consternation. What the retrieved computer means, then, is that now Joy can process the pictures for this blog at the same time I am writing the post. We don’t have to take turns. We don’t have to be mature. It’s much easier this way.

Free-church Americans trying to worship Anglican-style

SUNDAY MORNING September 4, 2016

Worshipping at St. George’s Church of England in Kendal.

A walk along the river in Kendal, England
A walk along the river in Kendal, England
St George Anglican Church beside the Kent River
Unique play area at St George Anglican Church
Unique play area at St George Anglican Church

 

What really impressed us, though, was the area of  missing pews in the back left-hand side of the nave.

 

 

The place has been dedicated to children: carpeted floor, toys, other welcoming signs telling  little ones, “You belong here.” We’ve never seen such a concern for children in a formal worship setting like this before.

I should note that when we looked over St. George’s on Saturday, no one was around, but the building was unlocked–as were the other ones we visited on weekdays in Mexico and now in England. This would not have been our experience in most of America, where they are locked tight except during services. Sad.

Convinced this church was alive, we decided to return on Sunday. We weren’t disappointed. Greeters warmly met us at the door and helped us make our way in to join the other 60-70 worshippers, mostly elderly. We fit right in.

Associate Priest Jean Radley, with whom I immediately fell in love, led the service. She reminded me of my grandmother: very short (less than 5′), lively, with a sincere smile, a gentle demeanor, and reassuring confidence. She is at home in her role and with her people. She led us through the liturgy with a surefootedness I envied. (For many years I joked that I might have been an Episcopalian minister if I could learn to get through the liturgy without messing it up somehow. I remembered that line this morning as I stumbled and mumbled my way along , often on the wrong page and grateful nobody but Joy could hear me. She’s accustomed to my miscues, so it was OK.)

The congregational singing was not exactly robust. Years ago, when I was coming to England annually, I concluded the Brits deliberately choose unsingable tunes–which of course means they aren’t what I’m used to in American churches. The natives don’t complain, though.  I tried to sing this morning but simply couldn’t find the right pitch for any of the five or six stanzas in the several hymns we attempted. Still, the words were meaningful, especially of the one song I knew:

.    All I once held dear, built my life upon, all this world reveres and wars to own; all I once thought gain I have counted loss–spent and worthless now compared to this: knowing you, Jesus, knowing You…

As you can tell from this contemporary song, the morning focused on the cost and value of commitment.  Jean Radley’s sermon was memorable. She blended all the scripture readings into a gentle but firm homily on the choices we must make and the challenges we will face as Christians. She treated the scriptures with respect and knowledge, she delivered her well-chosen words with authority, and she did not speak over 15 minutes.

After the formal service and the eucharist, she invited us to sit down again for a presentation from the children. There were five preschool and elementary boys and girls, assisted by three adults. They dramatized the  story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus. They didn’t do very well; the adult leader pretty much answered her own questions, but you could sense the pleasure that these older members took in having youngsters to dote upon, and the children knew they belonged here.

Then there was yet another postscript. A woman gave us a brief Power Point talk about the work this and sister churches have been doing since a devastating flood hit Kendal in December. The project is called Winter Shelter. She appealed to the church to continue the good work they have been doing since that disaster, providing shelter, meals, and encouragement for the homeless. I have carelessly told people “we’re homeless” as I describe our Next Phase, how

All Our Possessions--Joy’s EncausticSupplies Plus Roy’s Two Filing Cabinets not shown
All Our Possessions–Joy’s EncausticSupplies
Plus Roy’s Two Filing Cabinets not shown

 

we divested ourselves of house and furnishings and took to the road,

 

 

 

but of course I’ve been playing on that word. This morning the word wasn’t used carelessly. These people are dedicated to serving the real homeless in their community.

So how do I summarize the morning? We want to go back. There is no doubt that St. George’s takes seriously the charge to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul and strength—and to love your neighbor as yourself. The mutual love shown in the way the communion elements were taken to parishioners who couldn’t walk to the front to partake and in the smiles on the faces of server and served alike.

After the service we signed up to join the group of elderly taking an outing by coach to Keswick on the 15th. We will fit right in.

One more word. For years as a minister I tried to encourage hospitality, suggesting our members invite visitors home for Sunday meal. A friend of ours always prepares more than enough food for her family, hoping to invite church visitors to join them after church. Today it happened to us, and I realized again what a difference  this simple gesture makes.  Here we are, strangers in the land, knowing nobody in this town, feeling awkward and unsure of ourselves, and a kind man who has known us all of five minutes invites us to join him and his wife for lunch or supper this week. (She doesn’t know about this invitation yet, but this is obviously a well-practiced routine at their house.) We accepted on the spot.

 

On Not Traveling Naked

That was the worry Jeff expressed in an email. Seems when we left Terrill’s house one of us (who shall remain anonymous) had left behind a baseball cap and ear buds. Knowing something of our propensity to forget things—which has nothing to do with old age—he wrote something like, “I hope you won’t end up traveling naked.”

His tender thought came back to us yesterday.

After congratulating ourselves that our trip from Mexico City to Manchester UK was so trouble-free, we ran into trouble.

Waiting for our first train in Manchester, England.
Waiting for train in Manchester   Note the gray bag on red suitcase.

Our train from Manchester into Oxenholme-Lake District, where we connected with another train for the four-minute ride into Kendal, arrived late. As a result there was a rush of passengers from our Edinburgh-bound Brit Rail to the Lake Windermere spur. We made it to our new train, which was being held for these late arrivals, in time—only to discover Joy had left her gray felt bag (in which she carried her computer) in the train we just left. She dashed back while I stood looking pitiful with our luggage, hoping the conductor wouldn’t leave without us.

She practically ran back—empty handed. She missed the train’s departure by seconds. Our next challenge was to force our computerless way onto the solidly stuffed train. We tried each door; people blocked every entrance. Then the conductor urged those in the aisle in the forward car to shove further in. That made just enough room in the doorway for us and our luggage. We had a similar experience many years ago in India, only in that instance there simply was no way to compact the passengers any closer.We had to take a taxi instead. We were grateful this time for Standing Room Only.

As I write this Joy is contacting Brit Rail. Turns out that we are not the first persons ever to leave something behind, so there are possible procedures to retrieve her bag and computer.

This trip has been a little less than perfect. The day before Joy’s camera died. (There may be a temporary shortage of pictures in Lawsons on the Loose for awhile.)

Footnote. Joy just asked me whether I’d like some popcorn before we turn in for the night. I don’t need any but will accept some, as a show of solidarity. Not to worry—turns out the popcorn was in the bag we left on the train. Forgetfulness can be good for the waistline.