Taking a Bath

20 July 2012

OK, it was a day trip to Bath.We decided to take a day off from work and have a lovely time in a beautiful place. Indeed, Bath is lovely. The Abbey, the Georgian architecture and stone, in surroundings of natural beauty, give it all a special look and feel. Add the intriguing history of the Roman baths, along with the abundance of cream tea, and the sum is a beautiful day.

I had heard that the Roman baths were really neat, but no one told me why, and I was skeptical. I mean really, how much fuss can on make about a bath??? A lot, it turns out. For one thing, natural hot springs were considered sacred, so the Romans set up temples and altars as well as the remarkable baths. They named it for both a Celtic goddess, Sulis, as well as their own, Minerva. Because of its religious and healing qualities, people traveled there from all over the Roman empire. The architecture and engineering were terrific. And the whole endeavor created a fascinating local economy and what they left behind is revealing. Combs, coins, household goods, all bring it home and make the inhabitants real, and human.

The Brits do a fine job of exhibiting art and history. There was an actor playing a stone mason. He kept in character despite our taunts. And we learned stuff. He had a cool tablet and stylus, not quite an iPad, though of course I teased him about it. The tablet was made of beeswax and one could write on it. When done, you can “erase” it by smoothing it out with the back of the stylus. Ingenious! Or as they say here, brilliant! Or just, bril! It does make me wonder if Steve Jobs ever came here…

One interesting feature of the religious bit was that people would inscribe curses on people who have done them wrong. Basically a “whoever stole my cloak, may you die 1000 horrible deaths” kind of thing. The inscriptions, on little pieces of thin lead, I think, were taken to the priest for hokus pokus and thrown into the waters in one of the pools. There were also offerings of thanksgiving.

In this picture, note the water in the pool. It stays there because the Romans lined it with sheets of lead and sealed the seams. And it’s lasted nearly 2000 years!

Here are some of the items excavated there.

Keys – they look a bit like the key to our flat!

We also went to the lovely Abbey. But nothing beats a yummy cream tea.

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Johnby Hall – A Really Old House

We’ve come to love England and feel very comfortable here. We revel in the joke that Americans and Brits are “two people separated by a common language” as we come to learn more about British English and cultural habits. Note that in the picture of me here, I’m wearing a jumper, certainly not a sweater.


But sometimes we do have encounters where it is really clear that “we’re not in Kansas anymore,” or Colorado, or Chicago, or Virginia, or anywhere else that we’ve lived in the USA. On Saturday, we had one of those experiences when we were invited to a lovely lunch at Johnby Hall, the home of Henry and Anna Howard.  The history of Johnby Hall predates 1350, but that’s about when they built the stone tower. The stone tower was to ward off Scottish invaders, a real threat, as it was replacing a wooden one that had been burned down by the Scots. 1350 is not a date that I easily grapple with. (Rebecca adds: Machaut was alive then. Really.) In the abstract it’s fine, intellectually too, it was built just after the Black Death. But I was in a real house, lived in by real people. In fact, you can stay there, as Henry and Anna run a B&B there. http://www.johnbyhall.co.uk/johnby/Johnbyhall%20index.html

Henry’s family has owned the property since 1783. Of course, the house has had various updates, during Tudor times and Victorian times (by Henry’s great aunt Maud, who carved the magnificent oak mantlepiece). Henry kindly gave us the tour. The tower still exists and has a window for shooting arrows. The architectural features are really interesting, as are the spears, coat-of-arms, and family portraits from centuries past. So interesting that Henry has a very long record of his ancestors, where they lived, and what they did. On my father’s side, I can’t go further back than my grandparents. The American experience. And it contrasts mightily with this wonderful British family.

It was so interesting to be there, meet Henry and Anna and their young children, and see this historic home. Most of all, we’re grateful for the hospitality, the lunch, the stories, and time together.

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Lake District – Pooley Bridge

This weekend’s adventure was visiting our dear friends, the Hornby’s, in Pooley Bridge. I’ve blogged about visiting before. Still, I can’t quite find the words for how sublime it is to walk in the beautiful Lake District with friends. Fortunately, the Lake Poets have devoted much of their inspiration to just this.

I can say that the landscape is beautiful, and constantly changes moods with the weather. Also, the company, the food, and the conversation…

I’ll use the slideshow feature. Yes, when we’re there it does feel a bit like being in a Jane Austen novel or PBS special.

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Life in Bristol

I’ve blogged about our flat in a lovely Victorian home in Bristol. We get organic produce delivered on Friday, costing about the same as our Farmer’s Market would back home. Food tastes really good here. It makes me ecstatic to be on the same continent as Le Tour de France, where I can watch live coverage everyday for 3 weeks! I like to practice my violin during the race.

It’s also going to be neat to be in the same time zone as the Olympics! I’ll get even more practice in!

Some may recall that last year we had a family of 5 foxes living in the garden. This year, we have another family, a bit more shy. And apparently, there are 3 generations, as our three foxes come in small, medium, and large. The little one runs away, but I’ve got pics of the two.

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WordPress won’t let me post a video of one of the foxes playing. It’s adorable. But I’d have to do a paid upgrade to share it. Maybe I can post it to Facebook.

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Iona Abbey

30 June 2012

After our return from North Cornwall, I had to do a quick turn around to get to Iona. It’s pretty far, by UK standards. At 4 am I took a taxi to Bristol Airport, EasyJet to Edinburgh, Airlink bus to the Edinburgh Waverly Rail Station, Train to Glasgow, Change train to Oban, Ferry to Mull, bus across the Ross of Mull (some may remember that I biked it last year), ferry to Iona, walk to Iona Abbey in abysmal weather, arriving at 6:30pm. The welcome was wonderfully warm. I stayed at the Abbey itself (last year I camped and then stayed at the hostel), I had 3 terrific roommates.

At the Abbey, one lives in community, that means that we do chores and worship together. I was an “otter,” on the breakfast crew. So the rhythm for me was: 7:45 am gather to set up for breakfast, 8:15 serve and eat, 8:45ish wash up as fast as possible, 9 Worship, 9:30ish back to the Refectory to finish washing up and chop vegetables for supper, finishing about 10 am, when our programme would start. Lunch, varied afternoon offerings, Supper, and 9 pm Worship rounded out the day. The programme was a “Circle of Trust” programme, run wonderfully by Jean Richardson of the Kirkridge Retreat Center. It is based on Parker Palmer’s work, for which he’s written books like A Hidden Wholeness. Very well done by Jean. Being that it involved trust, I won’t say much, except that part of it involves deep listening. I found it sacramental and feel blessed by the presence of my fellow travelers. Tuesday is pilgrimage day. A 6-7 hour tromp around the island with 60 people, going to various sites, including the marble quarry, St. Columba’s Beach, the Machair, the Hermit’s Cell and other points. Here are a few pics.

I participated a lot in the worship. On the first day, Sunday, I was a chalice minister. Something I do at St. Andrew’s and find it sacred. On Monday, I ended up playing violin on some hymns. On Tuesday night I was asked to read. Tuesday night is always the Healing Service. I took this really seriously, because last year at the Healing Service, I had a life changing moment. I read Psalm 30. I participated in a lot of other activities. I went to the Ceilidh on one night. It involves folk dancing and I seriously kicked up my heals! Much of it with Jean. There were a couple nights at the Martyr’s Bay Pub, where gin and tonics (with Botanist gin, a local brew) flowed generously, as did the tales… Some idiot kept yelling “oopa!!!” Oops, I think that was me, the only Greek… On Wednesday, I played in the talent show, the Adagio from the G Minor Unaccompanied Sonata of JS Bach and the Ashokan Farewell. I believe it was Thursday when Jean got the crazy idea that she really wanted to swim, so of course I went with. The waters surrounding Iona are beautiful, so much like the Aegean. However, the temperatures are quite different!!!!

Despite having a cold, I think I absorbed much. Living in community, listening deeply, and worshipping. On Thursday night, they do a beautiful Farewell Communion. They put a very long table running the length of the Quire. Everyone is welcome to the table, absolutely everyone. And that meant so much to me. I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures this year, since I have so many from last year. But here are a few.

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Europe 2012 – Tintagel

I’m not thrilled, yet, about the new blog… I used to use iWeb and my MobileMe account, but Apple has discontinued it. So I’m learning WordPress. We’ll see how it goes.

So this is our third summer in Bristol. We came right after I finished conducting the Colorado Music Festival in Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage. It was a wonderful program for children of all ages. The CMF Festival Orchestra is terrific, and it was nice to see some old friends.

Upon arrival, 26 June 2012, we took the coach to Bristol. The next day, we rented a car, a Fiat 500 (spiffy!) and headed to Tintagel in North Cornwall, to get some lovely transition time. Here’s the view from the window of our B&B:

Tintagel is said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, yes, of the Round Table. But first, Rebecca and hiked up to check out the Norman Church, St. Materiana. Cool church, with lovely views, and a long seafaring history.

Then we went to the faint ruins of the castle on the crag jutting out dramatically into the water. Whoever lived there in the 6th Century was really something. He traded with folks in the Mediterranean! Wow! The castle had a room for poetry and music.

I’m using WordPress’s slideshow feature, so maybe this new format is A-OK after all.

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