Saturday, June 09, 2007

England With My Sister: The Entire Trip

Note: the number at the end of each title refers to the date in May, 2007.

England With My Sister: Oxford 15

We landed in late morning, slightly ahead of schedule, at Heathrow Airport, and passed though passport control, baggage claim and customs surprisingly easily. The Oxford bus was waiting, and we climbed on. England is always green, but it seemed especially so on this damp, spring day. Choosing to disembark at Queen's Lane, we rolled our suitcases down The High to the Covered Market where we stocked up on enough food for our first meal: fresh baps from Nash's bakery, Caerphilly cheese and ash-cured goat cheese, oak-leaf lettuce, bananas and a pint of milk. We asked about English strawberries, but the produce vendor told us there had been too much rain --- maybe by the weekend.

Down St. Aldate's Street to Thames Street, in the door of Stephenson House and up the stairs to North Light. It looked very good; everything was clean and in order. We unpacked food, had a quick lunch, made up the second bed and collapsed for a nap. I'd slept though most of the overnight flight, but it feels so much better to lay down and stretch out in a real bed.

We awoke in time to shop for more food, but first we stopped at the library in the West Gate shopping center, and pickup up a directory for the Oxford Art Weeks. At Sainsbury's we added tangerines, butter, black current jam, cheese biscuits (crackers), puffed wheat cereal, oat cakes, Korma sauce and turnip-apple soup to our stock of food. The soup with bread and butter, and hard-boiled eggs brought for the trip from Ohio, made our supper. We did a little unpacking, read the first part of the Art Weeks directory, plotted some visits for the next day, and managed to stay awake until 9:00 pm. As we dozed, we heard the bell in Tom Tower strike 101 times at 9:05.

England With My Sister: Oxford 16

Although it seemed like we'd only dozed though the night, it wasn't too hard to get up at a reasonable hour, shower, dress, breakfast and get ready for a day of visiting art studios and galleries and geo-caching.

We headed immediately for the open market which we'd anticipated would be a farmer's market where we could buy local produce. It was a bit disappointing to find mostly merchandise for sale; it's a bit too early in the spring for local produce, so we only bought assorted olives and stuffed vine leaves.

A quick look at Anna Belinda, the Oxford coturier for university matrons. Piping as trim seems to be her signature this spring. There was a sign in the window, "Experienced dress-makers urgently wanted." I'd talked with Anna Belinda a couple of years ago about her dresses and she mentioned that she used to feature a lot of hand embroidery. But then it had become almost impossible to find embroiderers. Now it seems that even dress-making is a skill that is disappearing.

We strolled down George Street toward Broadway where we stopped at a Sainsbury Local for more milk (a quart this time) and chicken, and checked out the schedule at St. Mary Magdalen. We picked up an A to Z book map of Oxford at the Tourist Information Center, then headed back down the hill and up the stairs to North Light to put away the food and eat a quick lunch. (Cheese sandwich for me, stuffed vine leaves for my sister, olives for both of us.)

The 1:10 pm organ concert at Queen's College started right on time and we heard Oliver Hancock of Jesus College play an eclectic concert, which (strangely) included "Lo How a Rose is Blooming", an Advent piece, and a Noel. While listening we also watched the people sitting on the other side of the aisle. My sister was fascinated by a woman of late middle-age who looked like a subject from a pre-Raphaelite painting, and a white-haired man who looked like Ben Franklin.

The altar was draped in cloth of gold for the Easter season, and the stained glass window across from us was a picture of the Last Supper. We could not understand why there seemed to be a small dog on a platter in the middle of the table. During a brief discussion with a couple of English women after the concert, we surmised that it might really be a lamb, symbolizing the sacrificial lamb, or a cat, which sometimes symbolizes Judas.

From Queens, we continued east on The High to Magdalen, where I picked up a chapel schedule. Then we attempted to find our first English geo-cache, probably secreted in one of the holes in the stone wall on Longwall Street. We didn't have the probe or hook we needed and will have to go back later, preferably when there isn't so much traffic.

I picked up another chapel schedule at New College, then we darted down Bath Place, past the Bath Hotel and through the Turf Tavern to Queen's Lane, for another geo-cache. This time we were successful in locating it under the dolphin.

Back-tracking to the Bodleian, we stopped in the gift shop, then located our second geo-cache in a tiny magnetic container under the metal railing surrounding the Radcliffe Camera. Brasenose chapel was one of the Art Weeks venues, so we got into the college, and I could point out my son-in-law's old office. We were more interested in the fan vaulting of the chapel than in the art work.

By this time we were ready for a rest. But organ music coming from St. Mary the Virgin, the University Church, drew us into the sanctuary where John Wesley, John Newman and many other famous theologians have preached. I was touched to see the pillar where a platform had been constructed in 1555 for the trials of Bishops Lattimer and Radley and Archbishop Cranmer. They were all condemned to burn at the stake for adhering to their Protestant beliefs during the reign of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. A cross in the pavement on Broadway marks the spot where they were immolated.

We sought sanctuary in the vault where there's a cafe, and we shared a pot of tea and a piece of coconut cake. The rest rooms for the cafe are tucked into small and convoluted spaces. Of course, the church itself was built long before indoor toilets, and it must be a nightmare to install and maintain plumbing in the thick stone walls.

The rest and food revived us enough to find out third geo-cache, on The High across from the Boyle observatory. We had just enough energy to check out one more gallery, and stop for a brief inspection of Exeter College. Wandering down Ship Street, we stopped at St.Michael's at North Gate. There we had a fortunate meeting with the verger who told us about Beating the Bounds which will take place tomorrow. We vowed to participate.

Then we headed for home, supper of chicken cooked in Korma sauce over rice and bed.

England With My Sister: Oxford 17

Mark! Mark! Mark!

As we shouted, we hit the boundary stone with a stick. This was the ancient ceremony, Beating the Bounds.

In the old days, each church parish was a geographical entity, and there were matters of jurisdiction and taxation connected with each parish. For example, if an indigent person needed help, he or she was the responsibility of the parish. It was important to establish and maintain the parish boundaries and in a time when few people could read and write and there were few maps, the parish boundaries were "marked" every year by this ceremony. It was a way to teach the children where the boundary stones were located so they would remember when they grew up. It was also an occasion for blessing the land so the crops would grow.

St. Michael at the North Gate has been Beating the Bounds since at least 1428, and probably much longer, possibly since Saxon times. Now days, there is no agricultural land within the parish, so prayers are said for the prosperity of the businesses, shops, pubs and colleges within the bounds.

Two adjacent parishes, St. Martin (where only the tower remains at Carfax) and All Saints (now the Lincoln College Library) have merged with St. Michael at the North Gate, so there are 28 points to be marked.

We started at 9:00 am with a communion service at St. Michaels. Then we exited the church, led by the verger, Jo Reid, who was carrying the processional cross. She was followed by The Reverend Hugh Lee in black cassock and white surplice, two ushers carrying staffs, a fellow of St. Peter's college in academic regalia, and about 100 of us carrying long sticks.

The first stone was down the street on the wall outside Boots, the Chemist. The priest said a brief prayer for pharmacists, then marked the wall in chalk with a cross, the initials, SMNG (Saint Michael North Gate) and the year, 2007. As the rest of us passed by the stone, we each hit it three times with our stick while shouting, "Mark, mark, mark!"

This routine followed for 27 more points as we walked at a brisk pace through central Oxford. Some of the stones were set in walls or in the pavement, some were unmarked except by the priest, some were inside businesses, colleges and the city hall. One was in the storeroom of a store, several were in back alleys and rubbish areas, one was in the floor of Marks and Spencer department store. We criss-crossed main streets, the traffic held up by the crucifer. We were met by security people in the businesses and by heads of colleges and chaplains in the colleges. We passed though doors and gates ordinarily locked and saw much of Oxford we would not otherwise have seen.

We stopped at two non-Anglican churches within the parish, Wesley Memorial Methodist Church and St. Columba's United Reformed Church. At each church, the minister met us and said a prayer.

And we were frequently fed: orange juice and cookies at St. Peter's College, (Where I said hello to the head, Bernard Silverman whom I'd met in California), coffee and sweets in Hall at Brasenose College, (where my son-in-law was once a fellow), more coffee and cookies in the staff lunch room at Marks and Spencer, beer at The City Tavern in back of the covered market, and finally a lunch in Hall at Lincoln College: pork pie and ivy beer accompanied by salad vegetables, cheese, and jam donuts. As we left each place of refreshment, we shouted our thanks with a three-fold Hip-Hip-Hooray!

The final ceremony was the penny scramble. Students at Lincoln College save the pennies from the college bar, and from the top of the tower over the gate to the college, throw handfuls to the lawn in the quad below. Students from Combe School (I'd guess they were fourth-graders) scrambled for the pennies in the grass. We were told that in the past, the pennies were heated just before they were thrown --- a rather cruel amusement to watch the children juggle the hot coppers.

After the exercise, excitement and food, my sister and I retired for an afternoon nap. We walked out after supper to St. Mary Magdalen church for an Ascension service. St. Mary Mags is an Anglo-Catholic church with a very formal style of worship, the church of "bells and smells." Most traditional Anglican churches are long and narrow. But although St. Mary Mags retains the traditional orientation of the altar on the east, it is located on a long sliver of land that runs north and south, so the church is short and wide. We sat in the second pew, which was one-third of the way to the back.

Three priests in gold brocade, and a verger, two acolytes and a thurifer in black cassocks and white surplices moved in a complex choreography of bowing, kneeling, turning and bowing again. The thurifer kept the incense burning and by the end of the service the sanctuary was cloudy with smoke.

The gentle spring evening grew gradually darker as we strolled back down St. Aldates, watching Tom Tower as it reflected the setting sun.

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We've been longing to sleep in, and this was the first day when we didn't have something to do first thing in the morning. But I slept soundly for the first time and awoke early, finally adjusting to the five hour time change.

This time, we took the bus down Iffly Road into East Oxford. Here, away from academia, we experienced a completely different part of Oxford: lower rent neighborhoods, a mixed ethnic population, and restaurants and food markets from many eastern countries. I showed my sister the flat I had almost purchased on Stanley Street.

We continued on along Magadalen Street to Sylvestre's, a tiny hardware store squeezed into a long-narrow space at the very edge of a building. It was once run by a little old man and a little old lady, and I recalled buying a shelf bracket there. The little old man, tottering and frail, climbed a step stool to reach an upper shelf where what I wanted was in a box on the bottom of a tall pile of boxes. It was agony to watch him and not leap forward to help. But he managed. I hardly expected to see him on this visit, since it had been two or three years since I'd visited the shop. But there he was, not much more tottery, though a little less sharp mentally. We poked around in the dusty collection of miscellaney; some of the stock seemed decades old. We bought an orange candle for 45 pence.

Nearing Cowley Road, we encountered the church of Saints Mary and John. The large cemetery is now overgrown, (deliberately to provide habitat) and we strolled among the old cross-shaped headstones. There's a small laberynth in the front of the church.

Our destination on Cowley Road was Restore, which turned out to be a mental health facility. Therapies for the clients include a charming ecological garden, a woodworking shop where some well-designed wooden items are for sale, and a few classrooms for art therapy and other classes. We were particularly interested in the newly constructed straw bale house. It was built mostly by volunteers, directed by an Australian architect who specializes in such structures. The walls, built of bales, rest on a foundation of rubber tires rammed with mud, straw and stone rubble. The whole thing is then plastered to seal the straw from dampness and vermin. Paul, who showed us around, was proud of the building and told us how it had been constructed. The woodworking shop will be moved here, freeing up space for a cafe.

There are several small, interesting shops along Cowley Road: a stationary store with the lowest prices in Oxford and an amazing array of small, interesting things; a costume and vintage clothing store with a different array of small, interesting things; and three boutiques with original clothing and jewelry. My sister and I each made a purchase in the Oxfam thrift store: a glass pitcher for North Light and a velvet scarf.

By this time, we were past being hungry. Joe's, near The Plain, provided a nice place to sit and relax. I ordered a pate plate with toast, carmelized onions and a salad. My sister had the pasta special, Carbonara.

Somewhat revived by the chance to sit and by the food, we walked up St. Clements to the Port Mahon pub, the starting point for a multi-stage geocache. I'd tried to locate this one nearly a year ago, but found myself in a patch of nettles a short time before the park was scheduled to be locked, and I left without finding the cache. This time, there were still nettles, but we had plenty of time. I was glad to note that our course took us across the Angel and Greyhound meadow to the bank of one strand of the Cherwell. This verified that we were headed for the same spot I had calculated a year ago.

The cache was supposed to be in the hole of a tree near the water. We came upon a large, old willow, full of holes, that had recently crashed apart and fallen. We wondered if the cache had been there and was now gone. But after poking around for awhile, we found the actual cache near the bottom of a smaller tree, in plain sight.

By this time we were really tired, so took a bus back to the center of town, and returned to North Light for a nap. Out again in time for a brief visit to one of the artists who is participating in Artweeks; a photographer who lives on a houseboat along the towpath, east of Folly Bridge. He was a real middle-aged hippie, who was displaying photos taken about ten years ago in various countries in south-east Asia and India. He wanted to explain each one to us and offered us a cup of tea, but we were headed for Choral Evensong at New College.

A segment of the old city wall, complete with battlements, stands inside the outer buildings of the college. We passed though a gate in the wall, into a vaulted corridor, out into another quadrangle, and finally into the great chapel. We found seats in the choir stalls, just in time to stand again for the entrance of the choir and the clergy. This is one of three colleges in Oxford that performs evening prayer nightly with a choir of men and boys. Here, the boys wear black cassocks, white surplices with white ruffs around their necks. They look and sound angelic. The service was mostly sung by the choir and the presiding priest, The Rev. Cannon Susan Shaw.

After the benediction we spent a few minutes looking at the El Greco painting on the wall, the great east wall with tiers of stone saints, and in the narthex, the Eckstein sculpture of Lazarus freeing himself from his grave bindings. We walked slowly home though another soft, spring evening, lingering for a few minutes on Folly Bridge to watch the geese and swans on the river.

England With My Sister: Oxford 19

Our destination was Wolvercote, a village north of Oxford, and we decided to buy a day pass on the bus. But we found ourselves on the wrong bus, traveling north on the Banbury Road instead of the Woodstock Road. This was not as serious an error as might have been, since the two roads branch off from each other north of St. Mary Madgalen, and diverge only slightly from each other. It gave us a chance to see more of North Oxford, the home of many university and professional people. The detached houses with large gardens were a contrast to the small row houses we'd seen the day before in East Oxford. Just before reaching the Northern By-Pass, we disembarked and walked to the Woodbury Road and on east into Wolvercote. The view of Port Meadow was breathtaking, all yellow and green and stretching for what seemed like miles. In the background were the spires of Oxford.

Wolvercote is the home of the Trout Restaurant, a famous eating place by the river at the western edge of the village. But our destination was a house in the village itself, one of the venues of Artweeks, the Oxfordshire Artists' Festival. We'd scheduled our visit to Oxford especially to see the work of a few of the more than 400 artists, all over the county. As interesting as the art itself, were the open studios and homes of the artists.

Mr and Mrs David Hyams had remodeled an existing house, changing the floor plan, and adding an extension using sustainable material. Most interesting was the roof of the extension, planted with sedum. From the second floor bedroom, we had a panoramic view of Port Meadow, with the green roof just beneath us.

From the Hyams' house, we hiked further west, by-passing The Trout which was fully booked for lunch, and on to the ruins of Godstow Abby. Only fragments of stone walls and a roofless chapel remain. Buttercups now look up with cheerful faces in the grass within the walls. A geocache was supposedly hidden beside the wall, and we found the likely place, but no cache. Later, we learned it had been muggled.

A short walk back into the village brought us to the Red Lion pub for lunch where we had jacket potatoes with cheddar cheese, and shared a large blackberry crumble smothered with hot custard sauce.

This time, we got on the right bus at the end of the line, a block from the pub and rode back into town in order to catch the Banbury bus again (this time it was the one we really wanted.) Once again in North Oxford, we visited the home of Hugh Pryor, a young computer nerd who makes drawings with his GPS. Starting with a satellite image, he finds patterns in the natural landscape, sketches them in, then uses the sketch as a map for walking or biking with his GPS receiver. The GPS receiver traces the path he takes, and this information is then downloaded into his computer, and a print is made of the pattern. He has also experimented with video images superimposed upon GPS trails. The results resemble contour drawings done without looking at the paper. Now my sister wants to upgrade her GPS receiver to one she can download.

On our way back to the bus stop, we took a brief walk through the Wolvercote cemetery where there are sections for Jewish, Russian, Roman Catholic and other faiths, as well as Protestants.

England With My Sister: Oxford 20

This trip is turning out to have several connections with John Wesley. We heard a sermon about him in Ohio before departing for Oxford. Since we've been here, we've had lunch at Lincoln College where he was a fellow from 1726 to 1751, and where his portrait hangs on the wall behind the high table in Hall.

This morning, we attended Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, known for short as "Wes Mem". Although the present building was erected in 1877, it is on the site of an earlier Methodist Meeting House, and the first Methodist Meeting House in Oxford was located across the street on property owned by Brasenose College. A plaque marks the spot, and Wesley himself preached there several times. He also preached occasionally at St. Mary the Virgin, the University Church on The High.

John and his brother, Charles, were undergraduates at Christ Church in Oxford, and John was ordained there. Putting their faith in action, the Wesley brothers and their "methodist" friends visited prisoners in the jail, now Castle Mound, and in the Bocardo, the city jail at St. Martin in the North Gate.

This morning, at Wesley Memorial, we commemorated Aldersgate Sunday, the Sunday nearest John Wesley's spiritual conversion on May 24, 1738. There will be further commemorations on Thursday, the actual date.

Since Reverend Cooper, the minister at Wesley Memorial, is just finishing a sabbatical leave, the service this morning was led by Mr. Simon Mitchell, a young man who spoke about faith and freedom. We sang a couple of hymns with texts by Charles Wesley, but neither of the tunes was familiar to us.

After church, we walked north though the open market, and were surprised to discover stalls selling produce, cheese, cured meats, nuts, preserved fruit, and sweets. All the vendors were from France! Not wanting to carry purchases, we continued north to Jericho where we ate lunch in the Cafe Rouge, a French restaurant. I had chevre on toast with salad, and my sister had roasted vegetable tarte.

We stopped in a few shops and made our way north, taking a small detour though St. Sulpulchre Victorian cemetery. The entrance is unobtrusive, but after passing though the gates, the overgrown graveyard opens up into a spacious area. Many of the flat tombstones have been carefully laid on the ground and we learned that a local government agency has been checking the stability of old grave stones, and either bracing or laying down those that are loose. Lucy's Iron Works, which formerly adjoined this cemetery, is no longer there, and the area is being redeveloped with what seems to be high-rise housing.

Our ultimate destination was the home of sculptor, Colleen McLoughlin Barlow, who makes life-size, cast glass sculptures of human bones. We recognized her North American accent immediately, and learned she is from Vancouver where her husband is a math professor at the University of British Columbia. They are in Oxford on sabbatical. Unfortunately, none of her glass sculptures were on display --- they're in other exhibit venues in other cities and countries. But we saw her sketches and drawings, and learned that a couple of her pieces will be exhibited in San Francisco next year, apparently at a conference for orthopedists.

A slow walk back to North Light allowed us to buy a small ham, strawberries and Belgian chocolate from the French vendors. There is still much we want to do in Oxford, but our bodies are telling us that they need a day of rest.

England With My Sister: Oxford 21

A domestic day in preparation for supper guests. We shopped at the Covered Market in the morning for fresh produce, barley and salmon. I was pleased to find ginger, mangoes, and limes for mango-tomato salsa to go with barley-salmon salad. Later in the day, we walked to the center of town again to Marks and Spencer for wine and chocolate desserts. We also wanted cider vinegar, but they don't have something as standard as that.

The rest of the day we cleaned house and napped. It's satisfying to be able to clean the whole "house" in an hour, one of the benefits of living in a small space. We're also realizing that living in a small space limits how much you can buy, as does having to carry purchases home from the store. So any effort to restrain the consumer culture in the U.S. will also depend upon limiting housing and the use of automobiles.

Gene, Anne and Nick arrived about 6:30. Gene is living in North Oxford, but even though he has purchased a used car, he hasn't driven and he doesn't seem to have learned to use the bus. So he depends upon friends and students to take him places.

We had a pleasant evening, just talking. Emma and Jacob are thinking about attending university in the U.S., but their mother is not in favor of the idea. Anne explained more about her job as the director of the eScience institute at Oxford. The do research for and give support to any department in the university that uses computers and digital techniques. The institute moved into a new building a few months ago, next to the Com Lab, and that has been a big job with some glitches. She'd spent three hours earlier in the day in an unscheduled meeting with an accountant, and she's resolved to hire an administrator to help with this kind of issue.

England With My Sister: Wales 22

Today, somewhat impulsively, we decided to rent a car and drive to Wales. By using the Internet, we were able to reserve a car from Enterprise and it was ready by noon. On our way to pick it up, we walked along the Thames and through the Osney Cemetery. At the Waterman's Arms in Osney, we checked the location of a geocache. The pub sign was a clue to the actual coordinates which turned out to be back toward North Light. We'll look for it another day.

The batteries in my sister's GPS receiver died, so we took a bus out the Botley Road past the Enterprise office to a small shopping center where we could buy new batteries, a large chicken-mango sandwich to share and bottled water.

Although I've driven in England before, driving on the wrong side of the road always takes some getting used to, as does sitting on the right side of the car and shifting with the left hand. Thankfully the clutch, brake and accelerator are in the same position as a left-hand drive car. We headed toward Eynsham on a secondary road, and soon found ourselves on a one-lane road with tall hedges on either side. This is a typical situation in England, and there are frequent places to pull off the road to park or to let an on-coming car pass. We stopped at one, and ate a picnic lunch on the grass overlooking a field. There were small wildflowers in the grass and birds flying overhead. It was an idyllic scene except for the occasional roar of a military jet from a nearby RAF base. The strangest event was paying a ten pence toll to cross a small bridge. I wondered if it was really worth hiring a toll-taker for such a small amount, but I suppose if the road is heavily traveled, the 10p pieces add up.

The A-40 goes west from Oxford to Carmarthen, our destination. But we didn't stay on it all the way, preferring sometimes to take the by-ways. Each village is a calendar picture with cottages of golden Cotswold stone. The gardens now are profuse with iris, roses, pansies, poppies, daisies, and many other kinds of flowers. The peonies are just opening, while the rhododendrons are in full, glorious bloom.

We made a stop in Cirencester, an old Roman town. I'd remembered visiting an excavated Roman Villa there, but we discovered it is outside the town a few miles. We stayed in the center of town instead, and visited St. John the Baptist church, a very large, historic parish church. An elderly lady in the book shop told us the story of an old embroidered cope displayed there. The clergy in such churches must have a complex job, balancing respect for the history and the maintenance of an old structure (always in need of repair, and not really suited to modern activities), with the present-day needs of a congregation.

Driving north to Gloucester, we crossed the Severn River before it broadens into the great estuary that slashes into the southwest corner of England. We left the Cotswold stone behind and saw houses built of dark brown stone and brick. The land became more hilly, but was still a brilliant spring green. Crossing into Wales, we passed though Monmouth, and made a stop in Raglan. It would have been interesting to tour the castle there, but we were tired and hungry, and stopped instead at a "Fryer" for take-away fish and chips. We sat on a ledge outside the shop and enjoyed moist and tasty cod. I tried a canned soda of dandelion and burdock --- it tasted like mild root-beer.

The Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons are the mountains of Britain. We'd think of them as rolling hills, massive, but rounded and not very high. The individual fields are outlined with hedgerows, and the green velvet hillsides are dotted with sheep. Some of the animals were still wooly with their winter coats, but others looked naked, having just been shorn. Here and there, we saw abandoned and roofless stone houses and barns.

We knew were were in Wales when we saw grey stone cottages (though not slate) and passed though towns like Llandovery and Llandeilo and finally arrived in Carmarthen. Although the town names I've just listed sound Welsh, they also have real Welsh names: Llanymddyfri and Caerfyrddin. Just across the border into Wales the bi-lingual signs displayed English first and Welsh second. Further into Wales, Welsh was the first language. In Carmarthen, some signs were only in Welsh, and we heard Welsh spoken on the street although usually mixed with English.

Some of our ancestors came from Carmarthen over 200 years ago, and my sister and I had been there before, But it had been a long time ago, and it took a few circuits around the town to become reoriented. We'd thought about staying in a Bed and Breakfast outside of town, but none looked right and we found rooms in the old Spilman Hotel on Spilman Street, across from the historic Ivy Bush Hotel. It was a little bit of a challenge to drive "around the block" and into very narrow King Street (fortunately one-way) then make a sharp turn, avoiding several iron bollards, into the narrow passageway that led to the parking yard behind the hotel. Fortunately we were driving a small car; my sister watched a larger car drive into the yard and they had to fold back the side-view mirrors.

The hotel is a series of small, connected buildings, probably constructed at different times. Our room was a large one on the ground floor, accessible from the parking yard, and recently outfitted for handicapped access. We slept long and well.

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Breakfast at the Spilman Hotel was our first chance at a full English breakfast (even though we were in Wales!): egg, bacon (like Canadian bacon), sausages, grilled tomato, mushrooms, and toast. We checked out of our room, but were allowed to leave the car in the hotel parking yard --- a big advantage.

Before leaving the U.S., we'd printed out a geocache that took us on a tour of Carmarthen. Even though it's the county seat of Carmarthenshire, the town is small, with a population of about 15,000. It's situated on a cliff above the Afon Tyfi or River Towy, and laid out like a narrow horseshoe with the curved part above the river. The geocache tour took us from one arm of the horseshoe through the center of town, to the other end of the horseshoe. Most of the clues were found in historic markers and monuments along the way, including the fragments of Carmarthen castle, and all were easy to find. This is the historic center of religious non-conformity, and we passed by many Baptist, Methodist, Anabaptist and Presbyterian chapels; only the Anglican places of worship are called churches.

The final clue to the geocache took us into what looked like an abandoned dump. This was so unlikely, that we surmised the cache was actually in the Roman amphitheater half a block away. While my sister poked around in the bushes, I tried to see where we'd gone wrong in our calculations and figured that if we'd change the third-to-last number in the coordinates, it might lead us to the right spot. But before I could test my theory, my sister found the cache under a pile of stones hidden by bushes --- just where I'd theorized it might be.

As we strolled back into town, we stopped in a few shops and had lunch at the Curiosity Shop: cheese and pineapple toasties and bara brith, Welsh for "speckled bread", a kind of fruit cake with raisins.

We headed south out of Carmarthen to the coastal village of Ferryside where we found a parking spot by the beach and spent nearly an hour walking on the sands of the Tyfi Estuary. There were many small shells and it was difficult to resist picking up one after another since there was such a variety of coloration. It was apparently shortly after low tide, and it didn't look like it would be hard to cross the estuary to the other side; but apparently the tide comes in rapidly and there are shifting sand bars.

Following the coast on narrow roads, we came into Kidwelly and saw the magnificent ruins of the Kidwelly castle. It was fun to explore all the rooms, towers, tunnels and walkways, though first-hand experience with the dark and treacherous winding stone staircases made us realize how uncomfortable medieval life in a castle would be; cold, damp, inconvenient, and probably short and brutal. Except for the smooth, green lawns in both the inner and outer yards, the castle has been left mostly as it was and any monument of this sort in the U.S. would be deemed too dangerous for tourists.

From Kidwelly, we meandered though many small villages, slowing to allow one-way traffic when the narrow street was partially blocked with parked cars. We passed through the Brecon Beacons again, somewhat by accident. But they are so beautiful, we were glad to have had the experience. We stopped at the White Hart in Crickhowell, where we had a nice dinner in a very old inn: pork in plum sauce for my sister and deep-fried y Fenny cheese over rice with a sauce of tomatoes and leeks, for me. Then it was onward along the A40 back to Oxford. We knew we'd arrive well after dark, but it was later than we'd estimated after we were "diverted" north of Cirencester. The alternate road was narrow and led though more villages that would have been picturesque had it been light enough to see them. One or two big trucks, which had probably been mistakenly rerouted on this road, left a trail of broken branches behind them.

It was too late to return the rental car, so after dropping my sister at North Light, I parked in the Westgate parking lot, walked back to the flat and fell into bed.

England With My Sister: Oxford 24

I was up early to remove the car from the Westgate parking lot before day-time rates took effect. All was well when I returned it to Enterprise, and David, the agent gave me a ride back to North Light. But before leaving home, I realized that I had lost the wallet that contained not only the money in our "kitty", but also my passport and driver's license! Fortunately, I was able to remember where I had probably left it: in the restroom at The White Hart in Crickhowell, where we had eaten supper. I found a listing with phone number for the inn on the Internet, and reached them by phone where they verified that they'd found the wallet. They agreed to mail it to Oxford.

My sister and I both felt tired, but a shower and clean clothes helped, and we walked to Carfax to withdraw more cash. The battery to my sister's camera was discharged, and on the third try, we found a camera store that could recharge it for her. We also checked out the Open Market; Thursday is the day for stuff, rather than food, and there are a few real antiques, but mostly the kinds of things you might find at a rummage sale (or jumble sale, as it would be called here.)

Lunch and a nap at home. Then we walked back to Jessup's, the camera store on George Street, where my sister picked up her battery --- no charge for the charge. We stopped at the coffee shop at George and New Hall Inn Street where an iced drink tasted good to me. The day was warm, and the lower floor of the coffee shop was air conditioned. The upstairs, however, was hot until we opened a window.

From the coffee shop we walked over the Lincoln College for a lecture about Charles Wesley. This is the day in 1738 when John Wesley "felt his heart warmed" in the church on Aldersgate Street in London. My sister and I had both been confirmed in the Methodist church many years ago, but I had never learned more than a rudimentary history of the early Methodist movement. We knew about John Wesley, of course, and we knew that his brother, Charles, wrote hymn texts. But we learned a lot more than that. The speaker, Gary Best, is just now retiring after 20 years as the headmaster of Kingswood School in Bath. Kingswood, a co-educational boarding and day school, was founded in 1748 by John Wesley. Gary Best has felt that Charles Wesley, John Wesley's brother, has been neglected by historians, and last year published a biography of Charles, the first in over 150 years.

Charles Wesley, younger than John by four years, greatly admired and loved his older brother and was strongly influenced by him. Nonetheless, speaker Best pointed out that even when the two brothers disagreed, and when when there were differences among other leaders in the Methodist movement, it was Charles' warm personality that was able to prevent splits. Contemporary accounts of his preaching note that he was a more moving preacher than his brother who tended to be rigid and dogmatic. Best's main point was that the two brothers complemented each other, and neither would have achieved as much alone.

The talk was well presented and well attended and we recognized a few of the people in the audience from Beating the Bounds. There was a wine reception afterward, and we bought Best's book, "Charles Wesley, a Biography."

England With My Sister: Oxford 25

Though we were still feeling tired, we decided to visit the Ashmolean Museum this morning. When got there, we learned that they're involved in a large construction project that will more than double the space of the museum and provide more classrooms and a roof-top cafe. Because of the construction, the second and third floors are closed. But the "treasures" of the collection have been gathered into one room: The Alfred Jewel, Powhatan's Mantle, Guy Fawke's lantern, Anglo-Saxon artifacts from Oxfordshire and many other unique objects present the Ashmolean in a nutshell. We ate lunch in the Ashmolean cafe --- tuna sandwich and pear-ginger cake, then stopped in the Covered Market for a few food items.

We both napped, then prepared for a dinner at the home of Marie-Louise in Botley. Marie-Louise and her partner, Vito, have been living in Oxford since the end of last year. Vito is doing research at the university, and Marie-Louise, a physician, is doing research into mindful meditation in Northhampton. I've known Marie-Louise's parents for 30 years and had last seen them in California at the birthday celebration of Gene. This time, Walter and Heidi arrived from Zurich to visit their daughter, and since several other mutual friends from California (including Gene) were also in Oxford, Marie-Louise organized a party to celebrate her father's 63rd birthday.

My sister and I discovered that a City 4 bus would take us to within a block of Marie-Louise's house, and we arrived with salad, melon and ham in hand. Other guests brought other salads and desserts, and Walter grilled sausages for sandwiches. The weather was cool, but not cold and not rainy, so we ate in the back garden. I knew some of the guests, and met others for the first time. It was a pleasant evening.

England With My Sister: Oxford 26

The doorbell rang at 8:30 this morning. It was the postman with a special delivery packet containing my wallet with money, passport and driver's license intact. It was a great relief.

My sister and I decided to stay home today. We're both still tired, so it felt good to nap, read, and catch up with tasks around the flat like bringing this blog up to date.

England With My Sister: Oxford 27

Rain! We've been having nearly perfect weather with sun and warm temperatures --- it was even too hot to wear a sweater on Friday. But the rains have come, and instead of seeing a cloudy sky with patches of blue, the sky is now unrelieved gray.

We walked past the back Christ Church to St. Mary the Virgin, the University Church on the High. This is the parish church that encompasses much of the university: Radcliffe Camera and surrounds. The clerical staff is trying hard to make it into a family church and there were several parents with small children there. Liturgically, the service was middle-of-the-road Anglican.

The lady sitting next to me asked if we were visitors, and in the following conversation, we learned that she is a retired historian who taught at Somerville. When I mentioned where I was from, she remarked that she's working on a festschrift with a man whom we know.

We partook of tea and sherry after the service (their version of Coffee Hour). It was noticeable to us that people didn't mind leaning on and leaving their cups atop the sarcophagus of Adam de Brome. My sister lit a candle and left a prayer request for healing for Sara.

Approaching Tom Tavern on the way home, we decided to eat Sunday dinner there. This pub, across from Christ Church, has a no-smoking section and good food. We each ordered the Sunday Roast: beef for me and lamb for my sister with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and three veg (sauteed potatoes, broccoli and carrots cooked tender-crisp.)

There was time for a brief nap at home before taking the bus along Botley Road to Binsey Lane. We'd arranged to meet Walter, Heidi and Marie-Louise there. It was raining quite heavily by this time, so we stood under a tree for partial shelter. They finally drove around the corner, apologizing profusely for being late; they'd encountered very heavy traffic. We gladly climbed into the car and guided them down the narrow, hedge-lined lane to the village of Binsey where we saw the charred thatched roof of the Perch Pub which burned a few weeks ago. That was the only business in this village of a few houses. The church of St. Margaret, our destination, was further along at the end of the road.

St. Margaret of Binsey was at one time a large abbey. Legend says it had been established by St. Friedswide, the patron saint of Oxford, after she prayed for healing for her spurned and blinded suitor. A holy well sprang up and the water restored his sight. Many pilgrims visited the well for it's healing properties. King Henry VIII thought that drinking the water might enable him to father a male heir. The well is still there, in the church yard, surrounded by a curb, and down a few steps into a kind of grotto. It's just a hole in the ground, filled with murky-looking water. It may have existed since Saxon times.

The small stone church of St. Margaret is all that's left of what was once a large ecclesiastical establishment. The vestibule and entry door, a round, Roman arch with a zig-zag decoration, is the oldest part of the building --- probably 12th century. The interior has pointed gothic arches. There is no electricity in the church, so when we arrived, one of the members was placing candles on the windowsills and in holders attached to the ends of the pews. The pews themselves are clearly built for smaller people from a former time. Since there's no heat in the building, we four women squeezed into one pew, party to keep warm.

The bell ringer stood up front and pulled at the two bell ropes, ringing the bells for a minute or two. Then the service started, led by a very young-looking but assured priest, and accompanied by a few members of the Christ Church Choir. The choir director also played the old pump reed organ and managed to keep it going in spite of obvious problems with the bellows. After the service of Evening Prayer with a sermon for Pentecost, we were once again offered small glasses of sherry: dark or light. While sipping, we explored the church and I pointed out the Eric Gill carving on the inside of the pulpit. We admired the simple bouquets of roses, clearly from someone's garden.

Outside in the rain, my sister took photos of some of the gravestones. There are many people with the family name of Prickett buried here. One of them was the governess for Alice Liddell and her sisters. Alice is better known as Alice in Wonderland, and Charles Dodgeson (also known as Lewis Carroll) described the holy well at Binsey as the treacle well in his story. There is some confusion about the meaning of this word. It means what we in America call molasses; the heavy, dark, sticky syrup that's left over after sugar cane is refined. But an early English word with a similar pronunciation meant an antidote for poison, and the word, "treacle" has also come to mean "healing". Lewis Carroll used this double meaning in the story told by the Dormouse.

There's also a geocache in the church yard, and we finally found it in the crotch of a large yew tree. It had fallen down, but I was able to finger it out. Marie-Louise was fascinated by this game, new to her.

We were all wet and cold by this time, so we drove back into town, and everyone had tea at North Light.

England With My Sister: Oxfordshire 28

About 10:00 am, Marie-Louise, along with Heidi and Walter, picked us up in her orange VW camper. It was raining rather heavily, and while we were driving toward the Com Lab to drop Walter off, Gene phoned and asked for a ride to the Com Lab, too. So we got to see his digs on the Woodstock Road: a large living room with a gas fireplace, overlooking a green lawn with flower borders, a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.

We four women then headed for the tithe barn in Greater Coxwell. I'd seen it once before, but this magnificent stone barn with a vast timber roof was a new sight for the other three. It was hard to imagine how the huge timbers had been cut and dressed, let alone raised and secured. William Morris, the artist, took his friends there and felt it was the most beautiful building in England. The virtual geocache there calls it an Agricultural Cathedral. Tithe barns were used to store the grain, hay and other farm products that were given to the local church as tithes in the days when cash was scarce. There are only a few left in England, and this one dates from about the 15th century. We were reminded of the Old Testament story of Joseph advising the Pharoh to store up grain during the seven years of plenty, so there would be food during the seven years of famine.

There was a small display of art in the near-by dairy barn, part of Oxfordshire's Arts Weeks. Walking across the short grass was like walking on a sponge; the ground was completely saturated with the rain.

A narrow country road took us into the village of Greater Coxwell where we parked and walked up to the church of St. Giles. Some of the church women had made flower arrangements for Arts Weeks. Back on the main street, we stopped at the Reading Room, a kind of Victorian Culture Center. We had intended only to have a cup of tea, but after seeing the attractive display of salads and desserts, we decided to eat lunch there. The food was all home-made, and none of us could resist the scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam for desert.

Next, we headed for Avebury, the site of a significant collection of prehistoric standing stones which are spread over a large area. There are at least two small circles and one large circle, surrounded by a ditch and bank. The megaliths were probably erected about 6000 years ago. Heidi wondered about the word "henge" which is used to describe the monument; the word is more familier in "Stone Henge". I surmised that pronouncing "henge" in the Germanic way as "heng-eh" probably relates it to "hang" and that proved to be true. So while we call such monuments "standing stones" earlier people called them "hanging stones". We spent a hour or more just walking among the stones near the village. There are many other stones, barrows and mounds in the surrounding countryside, and a person could spend many days exploring them all.

Our last stop was the Uffington White Horse, the abstract figure of a horse carved into the top of a high ridge. Prehistoric people scraped away the thin topsoil to reveal the white chalk underneath. Grass will not easily grow in the chalk, though the figure needs some maintenance. This horse is more than 300 feet long and can be seen from several miles away. No one knows why the horse was made. Other white horses have also been carved into hillsides in more recent times, and we saw another that had been carved in honor of Queen Victoria.

The rain had gradually let up as the day advanced, but as we returned to Oxford, it started again.

England With My Sister: Oxford 29

My sister had read "The Dead of Jericho", an Inspector Morse mystery by Colin Dexter. She thought she knew a street similar to one described in the story, the one where the murder took place.

We walked to Jericho the back way, along the towpath of the Oxford Canal. There were many more houseboats tied up along the bank than I had previously remembered. A few looked ship-shape, but many were in need of repair and a good paint job. We supposed that low-income people would find living on a houseboat affordable. There was a geocache on the footbridge over the canal into Jericho. We got a good reading of the coordinates, but the cache was a micro, a tiny steel pill box, and there were too many nooks and crannies in the bridge to make it easy to find. The internet description of the cache warned about poking info any hidden recesses because there might be drug paraphernalia. So we looked superficially, but didn't find the cache.

After crossing the bridge, we found Canal Street. The Inspector Morse story was supposed to have taken pace on Canal Reach, but in the epilogue to the story, Colin Dexter reported that Canal Reach had been obliterated by a new apartment complex. However, the old street next to the apartment complex matched the description of the street in the story, even down to the house numbers. Part of the story related how the suspect (who turned out to be victim number two) spied with binoculars into the bedroom window of victim number one. I hadn't realized how narrow the street was and how close the bedroom window of one house would be to the bedroom window of the house across the street. The location was further confirmed by the boat yard at the end of the street. This was the place where my sister and her son had rented a canal houseboat a few years ago. Dexter often describes real neighborhoods in accurate detail, but usually the house and street of the victim and the suspect are fictitous.

We walked down the block to St. Barnabas church, built in the mid-19th century in a Spanish or Italian style. Its square tower is distinctly different from the Gothic steeples on most of the churches in Oxford. The church was locked, but from the vestibule, we could see into the sanctuary. It's a very large church with much rich mosaic decoration. I could hardly believe it wasn't a Roman Catholic church until a read that the church, though part of the Anglican Communion, follows the Anglo-Catholic traditions of the Oxford Movement.

We had a ploughman lunch at the Harcourt Arms. Except for the smell of cigarette smoke, it was very clean and we had the place almost to ourselves. A ploughman is basically bread and cheese, but each pub adds their own extras. This time our plate included a mound of "pickle", a pickled onion (very sour --- it made me cough), a hard boiled egg, a bit of lettuce, and an apple. We took home the apples and half of the thickly sliced bread.

A walk north on Walton Street took us to the location of another geocache. The coordinates did not seem very accurate, but the clues were clear and we were sure we'd found the right place, but no cache. Later we learned it had been muggled. By this time I was tired (partly from the Bitter I'd drunk with lunch) so we took a bus along the Woodstock Road back into the center of town where we stopped at the Sainsbury Local and the Covered market for a few groceries.

A long nap, supper (with the apples from the pub made into very good applesauce) and an evening at home, completed the day.

England With My Sister: Oxford 30

The bathroom sink faucet had become hard to turn off, and we thought it probably needed a new washer. But it took us awhile to find the place to turn off the water --- it was under the kitchen sink.Then we were unable to figure out how to remove the faucet.

So we took a break from plumbing and started out in the rain to take the paid tour of Christ Church, but we were too late to see the Hall. So we went to the Oxford City Museum instead. The exhibits there are arranged chronologically, starting with prehistoric remains found in the Oxford area. There was no Roman town at the site of Oxford; the Saxons established the first market town and the colleges were originally monastic foundations for teaching. I was particularly fascinated by the maps from different periods. We know enough about the city now to locate various points; the old city wall, the Civil War bulwarks, the parish boundaries. A short video summarized the history of the city.

From the City Museum, it was a short walk to Gill, the Iron Monger. We wanted to ask how to fix the dripping faucet. I'd made a drawing of the faucet, and for 63 pence for washers, the clerk gave us good step-by-step instructions.

The Reginald Davies Silver Shop was further down The High. I'd previously purchased a sterling silver chalice for church here, and I wanted to look for another, larger chalice, and a large paten or plate. They had a chalice of the right size and of simple design, but the proportions seemed a little awkward. But I was interested in a plate, not intended especially for church use, but decorated with a "pricked" floral pattern.

It was past lunch time when we headed back to the flat, so we stopped at the West Cornwall Pasty shop. My sister chose a small traditional pastry while I got the onion and cheese pasty. They were hot and fresh and smelled very good. We ate them at the flat with a can of Guiness that I picked up in the small shop by the bridge across from North Light.

After a nap, we attended Evensong at Christ Church. We had a little time to look around at the Friedswide shrine and the Edward Burne-Jones window behind it. A choir of men and women from the congregation sang the service, and two middle-aged female priests presided --- quite a departure from the traditional all-male crew.

Back home for supper, we made crepes and ate them with fresh strawberries and clotted cream. Then we attempted to fix the bathroom faucet. We turned off the water, removed the plastic cap (that said "COLD") from the top of the faucet to reveal a screw. When that was removed we could take off the handle and unscrew a chrome collar. But at that point, we were stymied. We knew we wanted to unscrew the brass valve, but we couldn't get it to budge. I was afraid to apply a great deal of force lest I snap off the whole faucet. With only one turn-off valve in the whole flat, a disaster in the bathroom sink would mean we'd have no water anywhere. Once reassembled, the faucet didn't seem to drip so much. Maybe just cleaning it out made it seal better.

But that was not the end of our plumbing adventure for the day. As we were going to bed, the toilet started running continuously. We looked into the tank at a mechanism rather different from what we're used to. Finally, we just tried turning a plastic screw (because it was there and was obviously meant to be turned) and that adjusted the float enough to stop the flow.

Oxford With My Sister: 31

The Hall, Chapter House and Cathedral at Christ Church were all open this morning, so we seized the opportunity and took the paid tour. It's a self-guided tour, which was nice because we could go at our own pace, reading the tour booklet as we went along.

St. Freidswide, the patron saint of Oxford, founded a Priory here in the eighth century. Nothing of that remains, but parts of the 12th century priory are still visible. The Priory was secularized during the reign of King Henry VIII, and the college, founded first in 1525 by Cardinal Woolsey, was refounded by King Henry in 1546. King Charles I lived here 1643--1646 during the English Civil War.

I haven't seen any of the Harry Potter movies, but parts of them were filmed in Christ Church dining hall, which I think is Oxford's largest and grandest Hall. The long tables were set for lunch with Christ Church china and several pieces of silver at each place. The head table was also set with silver salt shakers, or sugar castors, and other small pieces of silver. The ceiling is very high and ornate and the walls are hung with a double row of painted portraits, including King Henry VIII and Cardinal Woolsey, Queen Elizabeth I, several prime ministers, and next to the back door, John Wesley, who with his brother, Charles, were undergraduates at Christ Church. My sister said that the paintings must have been removed for the Harry Potter films, a big job since most of them are life-size or bigger and have heavy, ornate frames.

Having the privilege to dine in this hall is the epitome of living in an ivory tower. Students and fellows who are single live in college, eat in hall, study in the library and worship in the chapel. They are taken care of and never need go out into the real world. Few members of college are this isolated today, but in the past, many a confirmed bachelor spent his life in this rarefied atmosphere.

We had plenty of time to take pictures and to wander in the cathedral. We examined the Jonah painted glass window, painted in 1630 by Abraham Van Linge, and the Edward Burne-Jones windows from the late 19th century. He made the one behind the St. Freidswide shrine when he was in his twenties. It's vibrant, colorful, full of detail and painted in a spontaneous style. His other windows in the cathedral are from a time later in his life, and while graceful, they are more studied and stylized. The Beckett window, from 1320, is also famous because the face of the saint was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII, and replaced with a plain piece of glass with no facial features.

A short video about Christ Church emphasized its dual function as the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford and as a college chapel.

We ate lunch at Queen's Lane Coffee Shop, dating from the 1600s when coffee was first introduced into Europe and became a favorite beverage. (Starbucks is nothing new!) My sister had a cheese and tomato panini while I enjoyed mushroom soup and an almond shortbread. Of course, we also had coffee; it was foamy and very strong.

The students are taking exams this week. They report to the University Examination Schools building dressed in their short, black scholars' gowns. The men wear black suits with white shirts and white pique bow ties. The women dress in black skirts, stockings and shoes with white shirts and black ribbon ties. They all wear red or pink carnations.

After the stress of the exams, many celebrate with balloons, confetti, champaign, and the weird tradition of "flouring". Friends crack a raw egg over the head of the student, then throw handfulls of four over the sticky egg. We saw remnants of raw hamburger and baked beans which apparently were also used to "decorate" the students. This tradition has become too rowdy, and there are now signs forbidding it in restaurants and pubs, especially the student pub, Turf Tavern.

I bought the silver plate I'd previously looked at. We had a nice chat with the owner of the shop, and my sister marveled at the huge stock of silver items on display. If it was ever made in silver, there's probably an example here in this three-generation business.

I made scones for supper, using up the last of the butter, and we ate some with cheese and some with clotted cream and jam. There were enough left over for my sister to fix scone and clotted cream "sandwiches" to take on the plane.

We cleaned house, then walked to Magdalen for Evening Prayer, our farewell to Oxford.

Oxford With My Sister: Summary

My sister and I were in Oxford for 15 days and in Wales for two days.

We visited eight colleges, nine churches, and found nine geocaches.

We heard an organ concert and a lecture, walked along the canal, the Thames, and the beach, climbed a church tower, a castle and a Roman amphitheater, participated in a medieval ritual and ate lunch in a college. We strolled among prehistoric standing stones, were awed inside a tithe barn, touched the water in a holy well, and accessed the Internet every day.

We sampled ivy beer, pork pie, clotted cream, baps, oat cakes, blackberry crumble and bara brith. We experienced soft sunlight and beautiful English spring weather as well as heat, cold, rain, fog and wind.

We worshiped in several different liturgical styles, visited with friends, drove on the "wrong" side of the road, learned a lot of history, drank a lot of tea, and walked and walked and walked.


Blogger BTB said...

Well, it's taken over six months for anybody to comment on this post... but thank you! This is a very moving account of a pilgrimage through some of my favourite places. (I'm an Englishman.)

I have written an article referring to Binsey at my own blog, which you might be interested in seeing. It's not finished just yet, but feel free to drop me a line at should you be interested in reading it.

I have a particular interest in the Alice mythos, in Dodgson himself, and in the esoteric significance of Oxford- which you also seem to have sensed. This, in spite of the fact that I was proudly educated at Oxford's great rival- an even more prestigious seat of learning, in fact: Cambridge.

Thanks again for this post,


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