Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trip to the United Kingdom and SOSc Meeting

Although there's a lot of putting away to be done, I've finally got all my belongings (except for my cross country skis and snowshoes) into the apartment.  It was quite an undertaking and just barely accomplished the transfer before I left for a trip to the UK and the annual gathering of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

My first stop was York.  This is one of the most charming cities in England.  I love the old streets and ability to see so much by walking.  Although very tired from my flight I walked over to the minister and wandered around, guidebook in hand. I realized I had left my camera at home, so I took no pictures of the place.  They were getting ready for a concert that evening, but I was way too tired to even contemplate buying a ticket.  I went back to my hotel, ordered tea (sandwiches and sweets) around 6 pm, took a bath and crawled into bed.  I know I was asleep by 8 pm and slept until 8 the next morning.

After breakfast I bought a camera, all the while listening to the York town pipers practically outside the door of the camera shop.  So, of course, that was the first picture I took.

York Pipers
After that I walked through the city park and then along the city walls.

You can walk on top of the wall in York.
The hosts at The Willows B&B in Whitby, suggested that I take the bus rather than the train from York.  It was fascinating going over the moors and through little villages.  It was a long ride though.  They made me a pot of tea when I arrived and I sat and watched a steam-powered bus go by, shooting flames as it came to a stop.  Took a walk through the town to orient myself, but saved going up to the abbey and its 198 steps until Sunday, the next day. The ruins are not of Hild's original abbey, but much later.

Ruins of Whitby Abbey
It was blowing gale force winds on the headlands, but it was sunny and warm enough.  I went to church at St. Mary the Virgin which is just outside the abbey grounds.  It was Morning Prayer, led by a lay person since the clergy, we were told, were off at Oberammergau.  The church itself is very strange.  The arch into the choir and sanctuary is cut off by white-painted pews which form a sort of balcony around the church.  It is very difficult to see the altar.  There is one of those three-tiered pulpits in the center of the church, with the clerk's desk on the lowest level.  Reminded me of colonial-era churches in the US where preaching rather than communion was considered to be most important.  The people, however, were very pleasant and the coffee hour nice.  The view of the town on the way down from the abbey is quite impressive.

Old Town of Whitby from Abbey Steps
After a rest I walked over to the West Cliffs (the abbey is on the East Cliffs), another headland and peered down on the bathing beach below.  The brightly painted cabins are quite a treat to view.  Since it was fairly late in the day on a Sunday there weren't many people left enjoying the sunshine (and wind).  Off in the distance was a replica of Cook's sailing ship.
Whitby, West Cliffs Bathing Cabins
The next day it was supposed to rain, and it did.  I had decided I wanted to take the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Train.  It was lots of fun and the scenery fascinating, especially going through deep valleys in the moors.  The line is run entirely by volunteers and I was told they have no problem getting them. 

Steam Train from Whitby to Pickering
The next day I met some colleagues at the bus station and we were taken to Sneaton Castle (a former school) where our gathering and retreat of the Society of Ordained Scientists was held.  I didn't take any pictures there.  Whitby Abbey was visible at a distance when the fog and rain didn't hide it.  Walking the grounds of the Castle was pleasant.  The place is run by sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, who are basically a teaching order.  There is no longer a school, but a lot of their work in done in Africa.  What was a school is now a conference center, and quite well run.  The chaplain, new to the place, was originally a scientist and decided to join us for our meditations and at the admittance Eucharist, became a member along with four others.  One of the new members is Moira, from Scotland.  She and I both studied chemistry and math.  Since she offered me a lift to Edinburgh, I accepted. That was my next stop, where I spent the night with Fiona, a friend from long-ago time in Vienna.  Her condo overlooks the Firth of Forth and this is the view I woke up to in the morning.  I sat and watched the fog lift a bit while I sipped coffee.

Firth of Forth
It was then off to Oban and Iona.  I booked a tour across the Isle of Mull.  The bus driver gave us a great history of the place as we went along.  It was about a two-hour ride. The scenery was beautiful—high, green, rounded mountains with waterfalls coming down from great heights; shaggy highland cattle and of course, lots of sheep of all sorts.  The little ferry to Iona runs every 15 minutes, but the big one to Oban, not so often.  Because the weather had been so bad, the last ferry of the day had been canceled and we needed to be sure we caught the three o'clock one off Iona.  It was raining when we arrived, but the sun was out when we left.
Oban to Mull Ferry
St. Colomba's Shrine
You can read the words.
Iona Abbey Buildings

Nave of Church
There were a cellist and pianist rehearsing in the nave crossing for a concert to be held in a couple of days.  I sat down and basked in the beauty of the music and the place.  Next pictures are from the cloisters.
The Cloisters at Iona
Abbey Bell
I was getting hungry so I decided to go have lunch when it decided to rain quite hard.  The sheep in the next picture looked like it was trying to get a bit of shelter from the rain.
After lunch I went for a walk along the shore in the opposite direction of the abbey.  The sky went from grey to blue over the course of my walk.  Here are a few of the things I saw.

As you can see the sky has begun to turn blue by the last picture.  I then started to walk back to the ferry terminal.  Both the sky and water are much bluer.  People were sitting on the rocks eating their lunches and waiting for the ferry to come.  I am even more amazed now that I've seen the place that St. Colomba and his 12 companions safely made the trip from Ireland to Iona and that this lovely little island became such a place of learning an pilgrimage.
The next morning I went to church at the Episcopal Church of Scotland cathedral in Oban.  They're in the process of searching for a new bishop, so the bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness celebrated and preached.  He had just spent some time camping on Mull (lots of rain) and said he probably didn't look much like a bishop that morning.  The people really like him.  One woman told me she hoped they could find someone like him to be their bishop.  The sermon basically said we need to be both Martha and Mary, not one or the other.  The bishop asked what would a church be like if everyone were Marys?  Interesting thought.  I got a really warm welcome and am glad I went.  I then grabbed my suitcase and took the noon train to Glasgow, then Edinburgh and finally to my destination, Durham.

I really did get steeped in the early saints of Ireland and Britain.  First Colomba, then in Durham, Cuthbert and Bede.  I loved the Norman towers of Durham and the history is fascinating.
Durham Cathedral
Too short a time in Durham, just like it was too short a time in York. The train was not nearly so interesting from Durham to London as it was between Edinburgh and Durham.  I loved the vistas out to the North Sea.  Got to my hotel near Victoria Station just in time to meet Doug's train from Bristol.  We had about 2 hours for dinner and talking.  Not nearly enough time.  The next morning I went for a walk to St. James Park and took a stroll.  The duck and the flowers were little treasures, but most of the treasures were in my mind.  The first time I went to London for the IAEA I stayed on the other side of the park and went for a stroll through it.  The memories were of all the wonderful scientists I got to meet and work with:  Mike Bewers, Bill Templeton, John Shepherd, George Needler, Geoff Webb, Dennis Whitehead, Jan Pentreath, Chris Garrett, Gunnar Kullenberg and so many others whose names escape me at this time like Marion's last name.
Duck in St. James' Park
Flowers, St. James' Park


Grandmère Mimi said...

Welcome home, Amelia! What a splendid post and pictures! You make me nostalgic for Whitby, York, and St. James Park. I'd love to ride the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Train sometime. Unfortunately, I did not make it to Durham last year. So near and yet so far.

The pictures of Scotland are lovely. They makes me want to go. Thank you for allowing us to accompany you virtually on your journey.

Brian R said...

Yes, welcome home. You have given me some ideas for a journey next year (if I have any funds left) I have a friend in Bradford who says I can stay as long as I like and any steam train trip is attractive to me

Leonardo Ricardo said...

WELCOME always, always, charm me with your interests...outside of the Scientific ¨part¨ I think we both are fascinated by history...especially the kind that unfolds before us...loved the pictures and the narration.

Happy everything,

Leonardo Ricardo

motheramelia said...

Thank you all. I feel so bad about taking more than a month off from blogging, so it's nice to know you still take a peek. Mimi, enjoy Scotland. It's beautiful. Brian it seems that there are a number of steam trains in the UK. Leo, thank you.

Wade said...

Welcome home! Glad you had a nice trip.