While Pastor and Louise toured Hampton Court, John $ and I saw the lock on the River Thames and walked along the tow path. We found a park; $ tried out every piece of equipment and had a wonderful time. That day John was in London and the girls relaxing at home, seeing to Mr. Clewes’ (the gardener) lunch.
John insisted he could hold the fort with all three children while the Koepchens and I went to London. I had a good time and came home to find them happier than usual; must have done them good to be away from me! In town we saw the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Cathedral. I was so glad to see the beat-up coronation chair with the Stone of Scone underneath it and the tombs of Mary, Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, several Edwards and several Henrys.
Besides the above, we happened by the race track just in time to see a race at Epsom Downs, went through Canterbury Cathedral, saw the white cliffs of Dover, and rode the little trains in New Romney. The photos show our looking at the engine, boarding the train, and watching the midget who was the train driver. I’m not sure the man was technically a midget, but he was about as tall as the engine. In the last picture he is ready to move the train.
The Koepchens hired a car and kept first one and then the other of our girls on the way to the Lake District in the northwest corner of England. Stopping for church on the way, we landed in a founder’s day dry sermon in Magdalene College, Oxford. I didn’t feel guilty at being bored when Pastor began looking for something more interesting by leafing through the prayer book! After lunch from a pub, eaten outside by a nice stream, we drove hard to put the miles behind us. We stayed that night in a pleasant, expensive little hotel in the resort of Bowness on Windermere.
Part of the joy of being in this area is to admire God’s creation of soft mountains, muted colours, blue waters of small lakes, and rushing streams. The other is surely the pleasure of seeing this beauty with dear friends, as did Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and Coleridge. In reflection, I want to burst forth in poetry myself. If only I could transmit to you the smell of the air, damp with mist, from a waterfall!
Or paint a grey slate house settled into its hill with smoke showing signs of life within! When the light was gone, dinner eaten, and children tucked in bed, we adults could laugh and talk freely over leisurely pots of coffee as only friends can do.
Seeing the house where Beatrix Potter wrote Peter Rabbit makes it come alive. Her original drawings exhibited there are so lively and fresh.
We reached out to touch Wordsworth, seeing the lakes he saw and the homes he lived in at Ambleside and Grasmere. Keswick was lovely beside her lake, and red sandstone Carlisle Castle seemed to brood over the memory of Mary, Queen of Scots.
We walked on Hadrian’s Wall late in the day when the light was fading, the wind rising, and thoughts of busy Romans hurrying about their business came unbidden to mind.
One last dinner and cozy evening together passed quickly; breakfast brought shouts of laughter amid somber Englishmen when Lisa relayed a funny dream and Pastor said, “With John, it’s England on $3,000 a day!”
The girls waved goodbye for five miles, and we turned toward the grand topiary garden of Levens Hall designed in the 1600’s. Walking among those fantastically shaped hedges made me feel like Alice in Wonderland. Meanwhile, the Koepchens continued north to Scotland.
Sitting in the car seven hours can cramp the feet and curl the mind, but we made it home safely. The next day I said I wouldn’t plan to go further than 10 miles in any one direction for a whole month!
You know when someone gets out a ruler to measure a bloom, they’ve been bitten by the growing bug. My prize pansy measures three inches! Most things I try to grow just keel over and die, but these plants I started from seed last summer, transplanted outside last autumn (Fall doesn’t exist here) and have to pick daily. Each one has a personality of its own, but I don’t have time to get to know them before they get pitched to make room for more. I could wish there is a pansy heaven.
Surely you all know that the split-up of our family at the present time was not our first choice. It’s a bit late for John to go running back to his parents! However, I do wonder what the effect will be. John might come to prefer the paper me – the one whose disasters can re-emerge as jokes after a week – to the real me who shrieks at spiders and wants people ready to sit for a meal before they’re called. Sweet comfort; it’s “for better, for worse” instead of “for better THEN worse!”
A big hit with English adults and children was a taste of jelly beans sent by the Mehrlings via the Koepchens. Lisa talked about the treat next door, and the grown-ups knew it from Reagan Presidential fame but had never tasted one. The closest things here are jelly babies – a softer and more Jello-like.
I even surprised myself today when I got the children and breakfast organized in time to get to Guildford Cathedral for the sung Eucharist. Philippa had spent the night with us and went with us to church. The three girls sat forward while I supervised John $’s playing with the hymn books and prayer books three rows from the get-away door. He seems to have learned from all the Sundays John has had him that he is not to talk aloud, so we made it through the whole service. I thought he was going to act up when Lisa took advantage of the general exodus just before communion, to move to the back of the church where I made the three of them sit. The people were just going to fetch their children from Sunday School to go forward for a blessing. Soon I joined the queue with $, and he was very patient waiting for our turn. He stood very quietly while I had communion; wonder what went through his head when the minister put his hand on him and blessed him??
At times I feel like an explorer charting unknown seas when I drive. Yesterday I made one wrong turn after leaving John at Heathrow, made a large circle through the countryside, and came back to the airport to have another go. I tried a different exit on the roundabout and discovered the sign that should have been before the circle was after it. Phew! You’d think I’d have learned my lesson and taken a map to Guildford the day before. I got to the cathedral with just one u-turn and scared Lisa by striking out in the general direction I thought we should go after church. We were able to figure that one out without making a turn. It keeps life exciting!