Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Lincoln Cathedral

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 cathedral
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!

lincoln cathedral interiorOne 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. After Saturday’s defeat by Portugal, English tourists seem to be shunning Portugal.
  5. 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".
  6. 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.

18 Comments:

Blogger Moncrief Speaks said...

I love reading bloggers' travelogues, and this one was especially good. I felt as if I was there! It must have felt as if you were the only person in England not watching the football.

8:35 pm  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Delightful travels, Nomad.

A cathedral with a city. And what an amazing cathedral!

I enjoy being amongst people, but I prefer sightseeing when there isn't a crowd, then I don't have to rush.

How was the red wine?

9:55 pm  
Blogger andrea said...

Nice way to shake the weary day off. Thanks.

I was just talking to my brother on the phone. He lives in the heart of Vancouver's Italian neighbourhood and as the volume outside his window increased I realised that Italy must have just beaten Germany. The noise became too deafening to talk!

12:05 am  
Blogger kyknoord said...

"Lincoln isn’t a city with a cathedral but a cathedral with a city" is one of the best lines I've read.

6:56 am  
Blogger xmichra said...

beautiful post. you certainly have a flair for taking us on the journey!! I had to read up on this St.Alban, so thanks for the link as I had never heard of him. Very strange that he did not indeed become the patron saint given the alternative was a mythical dragon slaying christian.

1:32 pm  
Blogger Dawn said...

What a great read! Having lived in Europe and now almost 5 years in the USA, you start craving some real history and really old buildings. Here 100 years is considered old and seriously historical. The Red Wine part is hilarious - I can just picture the attitude you were received with.

1:44 pm  
Blogger nyasha said...

being portuguese i can't help but comment on the footie section of your post. i am always amazed why people decide to "boycott" produce or exports and in this case even the tourism industry, because of a single unrelated incident. It happened with the French fries when the French were not backing the US in terms of the Iraq war when discussions were held at the UN, it happened with Danish exports in regards to the release of the Mohammed cartoons and now because of a single football match Portugal has decreased in the ranking in terms of holiday destination.
Thank goodness the majority of the fans are not fanatic hooligans. If Portugal loses to France today, then long live Frog and the French! :)
Btw, gorgeous cathedral!!! :)

1:54 pm  
Blogger Terri said...

Ditto Kyknoord - Great line! Thanks for the history lesson, Nomad.

6:25 pm  
Blogger Rocco said...

I can't believe you love History!!! I love this man!!

Thanks

Have you gotten my email now??

8:01 pm  
Blogger CTG said...

Very cool read, Nomad. Sometimes a spot of tourism does the soul wonders, hehe. I find myself doing that here with the Bf. Take care, CTG.

8:07 am  
Blogger Rob7534 said...

That sounds like a nice way to spend a day off. Too bad you couldn't post the pics though!

Did the Magna Carta confer democracy and civil rights? I don't know that I would call shifting power from a Monarch to an Oligarch democracy at it's finest. =)

8:11 am  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Moncrief Speaks : Glad you liked my travelogue! You’re right, it did feel very much like that.

Guyana-Gyal : It’s an incredible cathedral!! Doing sight-seeing like that makes me realise what a lazy bastard I am and how many things I miss out on by not making the effort. The red wine was great, thanks!!!

andrea : Although I’ve not followed the World Cup that much, I wish Germany had won that game. As for the England Portugal game, that was difficult knowing who I wanted to win. England probably, simply because I’m here but, in heart of hearts, I’d have gone for Portugal. Pity they lost against France.

kyknoord : Good of you to think that. It’s very descriptive and totally accurate.

xmichra : Blush!! St Albans does sound like a much better bet but I doubt it will ever happen.

Dawn : You being another South African, you’ll know that the same applies there. You only get ‘real’ history in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The ancient stuff in Africa and the US is too prehistoric to resonate. The guy smiled when he asked me that question but he also meant it.

nyasha : You’re right about being amazed. People can be SO bloody stupid!! I doubt, however, that the dip in English people going to Portugal will last long. What a shame that Portugal lost to France, don’t you think?

Terri : Just call me professor in future.

Rocco : You like history too then? I got the email, now I just need to reply to it. Sorry for my slackness. Not only have I been slack about answering emails but I’ve read no blogs for about two weeks….I need the fix, man!

CTG : It’s too easy to forget about our souls. They also need attention, just like our tummies and willies. :-)

Rob7534 : The pics have been posted now. Don’t be picky about the Magna Carta now, you pedantic yankie poof!!!! :-)

4:54 pm  
Blogger nyasha said...

nomad, you scared the living day lights out of me today! BoooooH to you too. btw, shhhhhh, we should not talk about the Portugal-France game or Frog might get all cocky on us! :)

9:52 pm  
Blogger Ancient Clown said...

I just recently got a hit from Lincoln,(shows up by city on NEO-Earth...I'm beta-testing for them, come see if you haven't already), was this you?
Cool pics by the way. I'm with Guyana Gyal on sightseeing though, I'm off the beaten path and turtle slow about it.
your humble servant,
Ancient Clown

1:44 am  
Blogger straighttalker05 said...

We should so go sightseeing together, as I'm also a second hand bookshop and cathedral nerd. I guess it comes from my choral background.

Not so sure about red wine though!

10:45 am  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Very good idea, so pop over the ocean and let's do it unless you think I should do the popping over.

Second-hand bookshops are my favourite and Nottingham is rather short of decent ones.

You will learn to grow to like red wine as you mature! *DUCK* :-)

1:38 pm  
Blogger Rob said...

My favourite thing about Lincoln Cathedral is the roof vaulting in St Hugh's Choir. If you google it you find a description of its "syncopated asymmetry", but personally I think they must have been growing magic mushrooms in the 13th century. Pure Gonzo architecture.

1:16 pm  
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