Monday, October 08, 2018

Week of 20 August – Mottingham

Upon our return, we found that Lilly, the Gerrard’s cat, had been quite sick while we were in Glasgow.  So, Monday afternoon, Amy and I took her to the vet via bus.  She wasn’t seriously ill, but got a shot and a couple of prescriptions.  One of the neighbors picked us up and brought us back home.   Most of this week was just sitting back and enjoying each other's company, and doing for chores around the house.  We also did some extra relaxing - especially Amy and the pets!

(I think Amy has Chelsea's favorite spot.)
(Lilly is ready for Amy to wake up.)
We had  some visitors, cooked some interesting meals, took some walks, etc.  It was a really nice week, so far.  Then, on Wednesday, I proposed that we take a trip up to Norfolk to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.  Katarina had never been there, and I hadn't been back since 2010.

I had considered before starting this vacation that I might want to go there, and maybe even rent a car - which is definitely the best way to get there, especially with a wheelchair!  It was recommended that I find a car with an automatic transmission - one less thing to think about while driving on the other side of the road, etc.!  It turns  out that most Brits drive manual transmissions, and the rental companies only stock mid-size cars with automatics.  We're talking over £120!  It was time to get back to driving a "stick"!

I spent Thursday morning finding a car to hire.  It turned out that this was just before a "bank holiday" weekend, and cars were in short supply!  None of the lots near us on the south side of the Thames had any cars.  The closest was at Waterloo Station!  Katarina, Steven, and I took the train to Waterloo and found the Alamo/Enterprise lot.  There was a waiting line.

We checked if the wheelchair would fit in the boot, and it did.  We got a Renault Captur ...

↑ internet photos ↓ )

... a 4-cylinder diesel with a 6-speed transmission!  And a built in SatNav!  All we needed to do was head south - back to Mottingham.  Oops!  I made a right turn instead of a left - and headed right across the Westminster Bridge, at 6:00pm, in rush-hour traffic!

Yep.  That's the one.  I did manage to get in the right turn lane before getting to Big Ben, turning onto Victoria Embankment (A3211) to get to another bridge to head back south.  Needless to say, it was an interesting first hour of me driving the England!

It took a while to get used to, but I really enjoyed it.  It's been years since I drove a stick.  I miss it.

I think we're ready for the 3-hour trip to Walsingham tomorrow!

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Weekend, 16-19 August – Glasgow, World Pipe Band Championship

Our adventure began with the #124 bus from Katarina’s house to the Mottingham station where we caught the next train to downtown London.  We chose to take a taxi from Charing Cross Station to Euston Station, as there were no convenient Tube stations with lifts to the street.  Our late morning train was the high-speed catenary wire express train to Glasgow Central station.

Then it was just a short taxi ride to the Holiday Inn Express which is on the Clyde River, just two blocks from The Green.  There was at least one American pipe band staying there.  We got settled into our room, and had dinner at Al Dente, a very nice Italian restaurant right there in the hotel building.

Friday morning, we toured downtown Glasgow, including some shopping for clothes at Primark, and then spending quite a bit of time in Heritage of Scotland buying gifts – including a mini-kilt for Amy and a regular (economy, not wool) kilt for Katarina!  They look so beautiful in them!

(Yes, Amy really likes my hats.
Maybe she looks better in them than I do!)

We had a really nice dinner with Joshua Friday evening at Mharsanta restaurant, and wished Joshua the best in the next day’s competition.

The City of Dunedin Pipe Band was the first to take the field shortly after 10:00am Saturday morning.  We got there early to check everything out.  It's quite like a US "Highland Games" with vendors of both food and Scottish gifts.

 (Amy is taking the photo.)

(I think Amy has an admirer!) 

(Can you blame him?)

This was Heat 1 (12 bands) of the Grade 2 MSR event (March/Strathspey/Reel).  Their main US competition, St. Thomas Alumni Pipe Band, was much later on in Heat 2.  Both bands played very well, and both advanced to the Final “Medley” event in the afternoon. 

We returned to hear all of the bands perform their Final round, then decided to watch the closing “march past” and announcement of the winners online from our room. Joshua’s band won! And St. Thomas Alumni came in 2nd! Last year the Houston band came in 3rd, and Dunedin 4th. This year both bands advanced well.

Here is the video of the winning performance.  This event was the "Medley" which includes a variety of meters and rhythms, more than just three pieces.  They also have a bit more time for this performance.  (I don't know how long it will be at this URL.)

But here’s “the rest of the story”:

20 years ago the St. Thomas Episcopal Pipe Band won the World Juvenile Championship.  Joshua's teacher and band director was Michael Cusack.  Mike is now the Pipe Sergeant in the St. Thomas Alumni Band.  Joshua and Mike had dinner earlier in the week on the actual date of the 20th anniversary of the win.  And now, the student’s band has beat the teacher’s band!  It was a great day for all, and everyone was both happy and proud, including one father!  I congratulated Joshua in a FaceBook message, and wished him a good trip home. 

Then we went back to the Al Dente restaurant for our last dinner in Glasgow.

The Holiday Inn provided a good breakfast buffet every morning, so we had a good Sunday morning meal before taking a taxi to the Queen Street Station for our return trip (sort of high speed diesel electric) via Edinburgh to King’s Cross Station, London.  The ride was not quite as comfortable as the rail lines are older.  Also, the coaches were not as roomy.  But it was still a great adventure!

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Early week of 13 August – Mottingham

Katarina and I met online (FaceBook) about three years, ago.  We met in person in July of 2016, only spending a few hours together, but I did get to meet her son, Joe, and her daughter Amy.  Then in June of 2017, after my week in Milan, Italy, we spent a couple of days together.

It took me a while to get from Notting Hill to Mottingham dragging all my luggage.  Since Amy usually sleeps downstairs with Katarina, she let me use her bedroom upstairs.  It has a pretty good view of East End of London about 6 miles north.  I was looking for the experience of just living as a Londoner rather than a tourist – cooking, cleaning, shopping at the market, etc.  My expectations were fulfilled, and I found that I quite like it!

Also, in getting to know Katarina better, I wanted to take her out in her wheelchair, and learn about her medications, and even help her when she has occasional seizures.  The paralysis is a new development since last summer’s visit, but the seizures are ongoing.  She lives her life to the fullest, and prays a lot.  It is unfortunate that she can’t get out to church regularly.

Tuesday afternoon, we went shopping and met friends for lunch in Catford.

(Amy likes my hats!)

Then, in the evening, we went bowling in Lewisham with a group of Katarina’s friends.  I hadn’t bowled in 20 years, and it was a fun evening!


Wednesday was to be special day! I had an appointment at 4:00pm with Monsignor Keith Newton of the UK Anglican Ordinariate, after which we would attend the Ordinariate High Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary.  This was all in Soho, at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, the Central London mission of the Ordinariate with the offices of the entire UK Ordinariate.  These photos were taken in the park at Golden Circle, across from the Ordinariate's offices.

It had been some time since my last Ordinariate Mass, and this would be the first for Katarina, Steven, and their friend Daniella.  There was also a reception afterwards where we got to meet some of the London Ordinariate folks.  Then we took the train and bus home to Mottingham.

(Katarina likes my hats too!)
When we got home, we started packing for our trip up to Glasgow!

Thursday, October 04, 2018

A Personal Bell Ringing Update

You may have just read that I showed up for Sunday ringing at a London church where no ringers showed up.  I have nothing, whatsoever, against them - I'm sure they simply took a Sunday off since it was August, the time many people in the UK take holiday.  I've rung there before, and probably will again.  It could have been the first tower of the morning followed by at least two other towers - if I chose not to attend morning Mass at the Oratory.  It was an easy decision to make - going to multiple Masses in one of the most beautiful churches with exemplary Catholic music rather than ringing bells.

The previous Tuesday, I had attended a 12-bell practice night in London.  I truly appreciate those ringers, some of the most experienced and capable ringers in the world, letting me have yet another go at ringing Stedman Cinques.  I realize that they took time out from their Surprise Maximus ringing for me.  They even gave me two attempts at Stedman, since I messed up in the first.  I got through the second, even though I slipped up near the end.  It was recommended to me that I attend more practices on fewer bells on Stedman and learn other methods - and then come back to them again and show what I could ring.  I totally agree.

The type of bell ringing practices that I need in order to progress in the art are not happening here in the Charleston area.  Recommendations that a group of method ringers from all the towers have special ringing practices specifically for methods doesn't work for me either.  These would be occasional, and quite possibly include extended driving to other cities.  At this point in my life, I do not have time for that.  And, while traffic in Charleston is nothing like traffic in Houston, it is difficult enough during rush hour that I really don't drive to downtown Charleston from my apartment in Mount Pleasant unless I really need to.  No.  What I need is multiple practice night every week!

When I got married back during my Houston years, I had reached a plateau in bell ringing, one where I stayed for quite a few years.  I only occasionally joined my ringing friends at St. Thomas, usually on a Saturday when they needed help ringing for a wedding.  I was busy on Sunday mornings playing the organ at my church and being with my family.  When I first moved to the Charleston area, I was able to get back into regular practicing, and expanding my skills.  Then my Sundays went back to playing the organ, leaving only practice nights, with the accompanying rush hour traffic to get there.

The result of all this is to say that:  I am at yet another bell ringing plateau.  I can ring what I can ring, and will look for occasions to do so.  Until and unless I move to England, I will remain at this plateau.  Once in England, I know that I will have many, many towers to practice at, and oh so many people to ring with, many of whom will help me advance.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

London: Weekend, 11-12 August

London Art Gallery, Brompton Oratory
Joshua and I didn’t get to everything we wanted to, but it was a great week together.  We decided to visit the London Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

This museum contains some of the most important artwork in the world.  We spent more than two hours taking in pretty much all of it, maybe glossing over the “modernists”!  I noticed that the colors of the walls in each room provided very nice complements to the artwork on the walls.  Having visited my friends at Watt's of London, vestment makers, I enjoyed taking some close-ups of the fabrics in paintings.

We thought we would try out Churchill’s pub on Kensington Church Street, but discovered their food menu was all Pad-Thai!

Instead, we went to our local favorite pub again, The Old Swan.

Joshua’s train was early Sunday, so we called it a night.

Sunday morning, I thought I would ring at St. Mary Abbot’s as I have on previous visits, then walk down to the London Oratory for Mass.  It being August, I guess the ringers were all on holiday as none showed up around 9:00.  So I continued on to Mass.

I arrived at the EF Low Mass Sermon – a good one about our response to the news stories of clerical abuse.  Then I stayed for the OF Mass – also only spoken since the choir school was on holiday.  I also stayed for the Solemn OF Mass with the choir, which was really wonderful!

I tried to catch up on my blogging while I was packing Sunday afternoon.  Since Joshua had gone up to Glasgow, I was going over to Katarina’s house for the rest of my stay – a visit I was really looking forward to!