Friday, July 21, 2006

The silence continues....

I know that I’ve been very quiet of late. Not good, I know, especially from my perspective as my regular readers will move on to somewhere more interesting. Or, at least, somewhere that is updated more consistently.

I also know that it’s unforgivable to have left such a cliff-hanger in my previous post and not to have got on with the rest of the story as yet. Sorry, but I’ll get there eventually.

There’s no real reason for my silence apart from a general malaise, too much work at the office, the weather being too hot, etc, etc.

Normal services will resume soon. I hope.

Enjoy your respective weekends.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A black eye - don't ask how he got it

Isn't it funny how people don't know how to react to a black eye?

I remember the funny, suspicious looks I used to get while wheeling my son around the supermarket on a shopping trolley when he had a black eye that he'd got from falling against something. It probably screamed child-abuse to everyone.

As an adult, especially, if you're a woman, a black eye attracts a lot of speculation but I know that South African work colleagues, even if they don't know you that well, would ask how you'd got a black eye.

The English, however, are different.

Despite everyone noticing it and being unable to not look at it, not one of them asked why I had a black eye on Monday. Apart from one, but she's Australian, an entirely different species from the English.

Well, it wasn't from a fight and it wasn't from falling down from too much red wine.

I had another bit of skin carved out on Thursday, this time just under my right eye. Ironically, however, I was attacked with a hammer on Tuesday but that didn't give me a black eye, nor, for that matter, any bruises visible outside of my clothes.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lincoln - camera phone pics

steep hillsteep hill inforeader's restjew's courtjew's court info
imperial teascathedral quarterfront entrancecathedral spirescathedral info
Cathedral naverose windowrose windowstained glassview from tower
altarrussell chantry
The pics aren't the best but they give you a good idea of the walk up Steep Hill and what you can expect from the cathedral. Jew's Court is still the centre for Jewish worship in Lincoln but is also a great bookshop. Reader's Rest, another bookshop, was closed but advertises itself as a good half-way rest stop while trudging up Steep Hill. The cathedral has two beautiful rose windows, the Dean's Eye and the Bishop's Eye. You can read about them here but the link doesn't work well in Firefox.

Walking to the cathedral, most of the football supporters were already knocking back their pints in numerous pubs along the way but posses of them were roaming the streets. Walking back to the station, the streets were deserted apart from a bunch of goths on a street corner. They didn't look medieval but they have the period right for living in Lincoln.

When I got to the station I was fascinated by an eccentric old woman crippled with osteoporosis and too many shopping bags. With her platinum hair piled high on her head and big, black sunglasses, she reminded me of a shrivelled Jackie O. She was accompanied by her daughter, tall and upright with masses of long blonde hair that tumbled down her back. At over 50 she really should get it cut. The little old woman was fanatically feeding all the pigeons she could see. I kept taking pictures of them as surreptitiously as I could. As a result, none of them came out very well. They caught the same train as I did. The last I saw of them was them climbing into a taxi at Nottingham station.

I wonder what made them go all the way to Lincoln to go shopping?

football supporterslocal gothsmanky swan
chasing pigeonswalking into stationlooking for pigeon foodwaiting for train

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.