Travels of Emily

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May 20, 2005

Visiting here in Llandudno, Wales at the Lindens B&B, one of the locations for Restless Soul. Yesterday I had two press interviews and presented a copy of my novel to the Llandudno library. Enjoyed a salmon dinner at the Queen Victoria Pub and attended a concert by a male chorus on my first night. A Celtic harp was featured as part of the program and he was exceptional. Saw the wild kashmir goats grazing on the side of the Great Orme last evening.

After my full Welch breakfast I'm going to ride the tram up the Great Orme mountain and hike to St. Tudno's Church. Looks like a clear day so the view will be spectacular. I'll post photo's when I return.

On to St. Deiniol's this afternoon. It's the residential library of William Gladstone in Harwarden, the location of Beth's home.

May 22, 2005 - Trinity Sunday - St. Deiniol's Residential Library

Yesterday in Llandudno my ride on the tram up the Great Orme was spectacular. A few fluffy clouds danced in the air. I sat in the front seat, as Beth and her grandfather did in the novel. The Victorian homes below appeared as doll houses lined up side by side facing the ocean. The Small Orme to the west hugged the gentle water below.

I got off at the half way point and walked the road to St. Tudno's Church. Took several shots of some unusual tombstones and met a big black dog named Mag. The time in the silent church was a blessing.

At the summit, as I enjoyed a scone with fresh cream and strawberries, I witnessed a wedding on the mountain top. For my return ride (no time to walk down this time) I was joined by the wedding party. I loaned my sweater to a bridesmaid who had goosebumps on her goosebumps. The guests had come from Canada, Sweeden and the UK. If I didn't need to catch a train, I could have gone to the reception.

Today I attended morning services at St. John's. The cover for Restless Soul was taken on the grounds of this ancient church. Attended an impressive Civic Sunday Evensong at Chester Cathedral. There were a large number of reserved seats. The organ started playing regal music. The first in the processional was The Lord Mayor dressed in a long black velvet robe with gold trimmings and an impressive medalion. The Lady Mayoress with wide brim hat walked beside him. The Sheriff of Chester followed. (no boots or six-shooters)

The members of the councel wore red velvet robes trimed in fur. Military personel were also in the "line up." We were instructed to sit while the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus. (I always do when I play my violin in a performance.)

That's all for now. If the weather behaves tomorrow, I'll walk on the Gladstone Estate grounds.

May 25, 2005

I spent most of my last day in the north of England with friends from the states who have a home in the Chester area near St. Deiniol’s. After a delightful lunch at a country inn overlooking the Cheshire hills, we investigated villages in the area. Of course our tour included a church. Next on the agenda, charming tea time in their home.

When Wendy, my friend, set a tray with china and retrieved a biscuit tin (cookies) I had to take a photo. Reminded me of Hyacinth on BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances.

I was sorry to leave St. Deiniol’s the next morning. As usual there were a variety of women and men staying there – learned theologians intent on their research, clergy and spouses on holiday, a woman priest visiting hospice homes in the area, a deacon from the states on vacation, etc. A lovely young woman, a professor at the University of Manchester, was doing research for a commissioned book on the history of virginity.

The morning of my departure I attended the daily Eucharist. The woman priest used Rite 3 in the Welsh Prayer Book and included some Celtic prayers. Tears of thanksgiving clouded my eyes. On to Tutbury to visit Pip, my priest friend, who I met at St. Deiniold’s several years ago.

Pip’s charming home boasts an interesting décor and unusual household ‘helps.’ The lush green growth of an English garden surrounds the ascending pathway from the back of the house to the garage. Small pools and waterfalls are intertwined within. The garage at the top of the garden opens to the upper street. A short distance up the hill is the parish church. The first evening I watched as Pip conducted a wedding rehearsal. The evening concluded with an ample meal at a local pub. The next day, after prayers at Derby Cathedral, we headed north for a lavish picnic overlooking the Derbyshire hills. The views were spectacular.

I arrived in the Cotswolds by train this morning to meet with a tour group from Trinity Church in Fort Worth. I’ll be here for the week and stay in a parish home. More to follow.

May 27, 2005

So begins my fourth day in the gracious home of John and Ann Sutcliffe of Winchcombe. As I sit in the observatory (sun room) the open windows invite the early morning music of a variety of birds. One large blackbird is almost tame. His song is similar to our robin. The glistening black feathers create quite a contrast to his bright yellow beak.

John and Ann’s garden is spectacular. I wish I could transport you here for a few moments to view this array of colours and textures of plants. The Cotswold hills frame the background. Horses occasionally wander past in an open field that stretches up to the tree line. Daisy the cat, a fluffy calico, has accepted my presence.

The front of the cottage on the main street of this village was originally two small hovels occupied by the poor in the 1600’s. The floor was dirt. A ladder reached to a loft for sleeping. In 1805 more was added and improved. The Sutcliffe’s have added additional room to provide a quite comfortable dwelling.

England has walking paths that crisscross the countryside on privately owned land. Gates and stiles provide easy access. On my first afternoon, before the others arrived, Ann provided me with a walking map of the area. I walked a few hundred yards to the end of the village and crossed a bridge over the Isbourne River. Passing several locals with their dogs, I trudged along on the well marked paths, dodging sheep, horses and cattle. One lady invited me to join her. We climbed higher and walked longer than I had planned, but it felt good to stretch out after the train ride and rich food. Her two energetic sheep dogs posed for my camera. To my surprise, the dogs had never been trained and are afraid of sheep.

On the first evening following dinner, John drove us up above the village and parked the car. We walked across a field to Belas Knap Long Barrow, a site of burial and ritual used by Stone Age people sometime between 3000 and 2000 B.C. We walked down part of the way through Humblebee Wood. We heard noise, but saw no sign of life. I wonder…?

May 29, 2005

This Sunday morning I attended The Parish Church of St. Peter, Winchcombe. After the procession, an announcement stated that the vicar was delayed because of a service at another church. During the reading of the epistle I noticed a young man walking down a side aisle wearing a motorcycle helmet. He took off the helmet as he continued on his way. In a few minutes he reappeared in his priestly vestments.

The church was completed in about 1468. Forty gargoyles carved from stone are displayed around the outside of the Church. Each face is said to represent a local figure from the community in the 1460’s. An Abbey was founded in 798AD and many of the Winchcombe buildings are made of the original stone.

This evening I attended Evensong at St. Peter’s with several others from Fort Worth. The sermon was given by my host, The Revd. Dr. John Sutcliffe. The scripture, Luke 8:4-15, the parable of the Sower, included some thought provoking insights. John concluded the sermon by reminding us of how Jesus had sown his seeds by daily living in word and in deed, truly a challenge for us all.

June 3, 2005

Our tour group spent a busy and delightful week on day excursions. We visited The Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, climbed up and down castle stairs, and had scrumptious lunches and dinners at typical English restaurants and pubs, including the ‘Old Dining Room’ of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. I expected to see Harry Potter walk through the door any minute. After a walking tour of Oxford, we enjoyed a cruise on the River Thames. A performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Stratford-upon-Avon was the highlight of one day.

The most unforgettable day of the week for me was spent at Coventry Cathedral. On the night of November 14, 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral was hit by several incendiary devices and burned to the ground. After removing the debris, the people left the stone walls reaching heavenward, the sky for a roof and the altar empty. When we first arrived, I walked around the ruins alone in the light mist. I had seen similar places, such as destroyed and abandoned monasteries, but this place had a different feel. Perhaps it was the stone floor I walked on, a reminder of the centuries of saints and sinners who had gone before. Or perhaps I thought of the people who came out of their hiding place after the attack in 1940 to discover the causalities and ruin of their church.

I took a brief look into the new cathedral and then returned to the shell that had once welcomed the uplifting prayers and songs of the faithful. Behind the altar stood a replica of two charred medieval roof timbers that had fallen in the shape of a cross on that fateful night in 1940. I stood close to the altar and said prayers for family and friends back home. I was not a visitor, but a pilgrim. Our guide gathered our group together for a talk about the devastated structure. As the rain increased, he shortened his discussion and led us toward the modern church. A covering connects the stairs and space that leads to the new structure.

“To move from the bombed ruins into the new cathedral building is to walk from Good Friday to Easter, from death to new life, from the jagged reminder of Man’s inhumanity to the soaring architecture that lifts the heart.” The Provost of Coventry Cathedral

We were led into a side chapel, The Chapel of Unity. This sacred space is shared by all Christian denominations and the circular shape represents the unity we are seeking, but perhaps do not recognize. The mosaic floor embraces the five continents of our world with symbols of the four gospels. Inscribed in the floor at the entrance to the worship space are the words: THAT THEY MAY ALL BE ONE.

Chairs encircled the altar. I entered last and chose a place next to the wall beside a woman from Winchcombe who had accompanied us. She encouraged me to sit with the others, but I wanted to stay with her for some reason.

I listened as the guide told us of the mission of this chapel, the ministry of international reconciliation. Shortly after the 1940 attack another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails to become the symbol of Coventry’s international ministry of peace and reconciliation. The Community of the Cross of Nails, founded as a practical expression, sprung up all over the world. The organization works for reconciliation, justice and peace. At noon on every continent of our world, members pray for peace and unity.

Our guide told of some women priests in England who were ordained in Coventry Cathedral. In 1994, before the service, they gathered in the outside bombed out cathedral and processed in. They traveled an immense distance on that day. In the space of a few minutes these women walked through centuries of pain, struggle and discrimination. As it turned out, the woman next to me was one of those women. The chance meeting left me misty eyed.

June 4, 2005

On our way to Scotland. Our coach (bus) departed at 7:45a.m., leaving behind the hospitality of the warm and welcoming people of Winchcombe. At present we are on the six lane highway leading north to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The road leads us between the Lake District (Wordsworth) on the left and The Yorkshire Dales (James Herriott) on the right. Clouds hug the rising hills in the distance and railroad tracks snake over flowing streams. The tracks seem to beckon me another way-another day.

In Edinburgh the Radisson Hotel on the Royal Mile was quite nice and I looked forward to a peaceful night’s sleep. But alas, Scotland won a soccer game and the pub across the way spilled out into the street until 2:00a.m. The next day we attended a Sunday service at St. Giles Cathedral. The choir and organist were inspiring. We gathered in a circle to receive communion. I looked past the altar and saw familiar and unfamiliar communicants receiving the body and blood of Christ.

That afternoon we had lunch overlooking the 18th green at St. Andrew’s. Since it was a Sunday, visitors were allowed to walk part of the course. I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to have a friend take some silly photos for Mike, but I also got him a golf hat.

June 7, 2005

Oban, Scotland. This picturesque seacoast town reminds me of Llandudno. I awake early, stroll down along the ocean front and find a bench. Gulls, ducks and swans gather close together as the high tide approaches the small area of beach remaining. Today is a dream come true. Iona. First the ferry to Mull, a bus ride across the island and then a short boat ride to the island of Iona. I’ve read about Iona and the words written by Celtic saints such as St. Columba.

The birds draw my attention. Five swans venture into the water. All the gulls take flight, circle the bay and then return. I’ll return to this place at the end of the day. I have no expectations, for I have discovered in my so called ‘mature years’, it’s better to go with the flow, like the gulls I’ve been watching this Scottish morning.

An old lady walking down the cement boat launch leading to the beach area carries a large sack. The birds crowd together as she tosses bread crumbs. She throws the food like a young child throwing a ball in all directions. With her cane she directs some of the fowl to move, giving a chance for others to have their breakfast. A large golden red dog runs to the sand and the birds flock to the water.

Iona calls. Help me, Lord, to be open to your presence on the island as I walk on the sacred soil that once bore the feet of men and women who left the security of home and family to follow Jesus, to trust, to be open to your path and not theirs.

Our group boards the ferry. The bell rings. Smoke from the smoke stack fills the air. I stand on top, as close to the front of the ship as I am allowed. It’s cold, but I’m determined to stay out. The air fills my nostrils as I think of the monks venturing across the water in their small crude boats, not knowing if they would reach solid ground.

After the long bus ride we have only two hours on Iona. Others hurry off to lunch as Janet and I walk up the road leading to the church. A lovely lass gives us a tour and we attend a brief service in the abbey. We have just enough time to grab a sandwich before the ferry departs. Perhaps one day I’ll return and stay for several days.

On our return trip to Edinburgh, I was immersed in the countryside. I visualized the monks and nuns and their journeys through the thick forests, fording cascading rivers; their chance meetings with strangers. How many struggled along this way as they attempted to bring Christianity to a pagan world? Yes, our world has changed, but have our struggles?