While the whole country was on tenterhooks about the impending World Cup quarter final, I decided to go sight-seeing, something I’m really bad at doing. The spirit is there but the flesh is weak or however the saying goes. Being a Saturday and stinking hot, the streets would normally be crowded but I knew that the ‘big game’ would keep lots of people indoors. Perfect timing for a spot of tourism.
I caught the train at 1.30 and was in Lincoln an hour later.
It was a slow train but, for once, suited me perfectly as it ambled through beautiful countryside. Many of the stations along the way were solitary Victorian buildings surrounded by farmland, the sort of places you think no longer exist. And, as you approach Lincoln, you’re immediately aware of how it’s dominated by the cathedral. The surrounding countryside is very flat and its imposing structure would have dominated the city even had the city, really just a small town, been entirely flat. But the cathedral (and castle) are located on a hill, the only one for miles around, in the centre of the city. It’s quite spectacular!
Lincoln isn’t a city with a cathedral but a cathedral with a city.
As I’d expected, there weren’t that many people in the streets but most of the flag-bedecked bars along my walk up to the cathedral were already heaving with people at 2.30 even though the game started at 4. Being very much a tourist trap of a town, the route was liberally supplied with shops selling nick-nacks and antiques. It also had lots of enticing second-hand bookshops that I’d have spent all afternoon in had I had the time. Next time!
One of the first things you see on entering the cathedral is a large poster all about the Da Vinci Code with a picture of Tom Hanks’s slappable face. It didn’t trouble me for long as nothing could have detracted from the awesome grandeur of the building. I’d arrived in time for a tower tour and booked myself on it.
338 stairs later I was at the top of the tower. Cough, splutter! I really must stop smoking!
The guide was pleasant enough and very informative even if his jokes made me cringe. His fellow guide was an excruciating Anglican sort with a constant smile and a very Christian beard who had a predilection for intellectual jokes that fell horribly flat. The impending football match was mentioned all the time. Informative guide wanted to be down in time to watch the match, bearded guide kept making his point that football was no longer the gentleman’s amateur game of old and, as a result, of no interest to him.
The bell was ringing four o clock when we were half way down. I spent another half an hour there exploring the place. One of my most surprising finds was the Russel Chantry with its Duncan Grant murals. He used his lover, the youthful, blond, physically beautiful Paul Roche, as the model for the face and body of Christ.
I was back in Nottingham just after 6.30 and immediately knew that the game has just been lost to Portugal. Insults were flying thick and fast in the streets. St George’s flags already looked sad and dishevelled. Quite unintentionally, I stopped at a wine merchants on the way home and bought a bottle of Portuguese red.
‘Are you sure you want to buy that?’ he asked.
His question dumfounded me at first before I realised what he was going on about.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I didn’t think of the connection.’
‘I suppose you’ll be ok as long as no one sees you with it,’ he said while wrapping the bottle in brown paper.
Some Arbitrary Facts:
- I took lots of pictures which I was going to post but I can’t find the cable to connect my phone camera to my computer. I’ll post them once I’ve found it.
- Boston, a town in Lincolnshire, not far from Lincoln, has the biggest Portuguese population in England outside of London. There were riots in the streets there after England lost to Portugal in the European cup of 2004.
- Lincoln Cathedral holds one of the four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta. Of the four remaining copies, one is held by Lincoln Cathedral, one by Salisbury Cathedral and two by the British Library.
Dating from the Middle Ages, Magna Carta is the most important document conferring democracy and civil rights. It is embedded in English Common Law and has been quoted and drawn on throughout the ages, from the US Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) through to the UN Charter.
- After Saturday’s defeat by Portugal, English tourists seem to be shunning Portugal.
- Part of the filming of the Da Vinci Code was filmed at Lincoln Cathedral which was used as a double for Westminster Abbey in London. Officials from the Abbey refused to allow filming to take place inside, claiming that the book is "theologically unsound".
- Lincoln City's arms look very much like the St George's flag, the civic flag even more so. There have been serious moves in recent times to replace St George with St Alban as the patron saint of England. Amongst the reasons given are that he really existed (St George may not have), he lived in England (St George didn't) and he wouldn't be offensive to Muslims.