A soggy London day

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I suppose it would be fitting for Jeanne to see London in the traditional way – under an umbrella. I had planned all along to give her one last day touring central London and seeing such famous attractions as Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Truth be told, the most exciting place of the day might have turned out to be the Sherlock Holmes Pub where we got warm and enjoyed a good lunch though the man seated next to us was an annoying atheist who presented a string of well-worn phrases in support of his position.

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UK 09-06 to )9-25 687Because it was raining like crazy, I decided to buy her a ride on one of the famous double-decker buses that lets you on and off as you please. It sounds like a good idea if one could sit outside on the top deck under bright skies and over-arching trees full of summer shade. What we got instead was a huddle inside with a bunch of Russians who could see no better than we could. The windows were covered with fog and attempts at taking photographs bordered on nil to useless. Even the Japanese had put their cameras back in their cases.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 703At one point I got the idea that we should try the getting-off-and-on option and take in the Tate Gallery. After UK 09-06 to )9-25 707slogging through four blocks of ankle deep water we entered the Tate, a most disappointing experience. I am well aware that museum curators and art gallery owners turn art into art even though it be crap by any standard. We lasted about twenty minutes and though it took some doing, went back to where we started, boarded the bus and made our way back to Victoria Station and then to Eltham, more than hour away.

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The rest of the evening was spent at John and Jana’s eating a wonderful supper prepared for the whole team. We returned to our room to pack up for an early departure on the next morning. Jeanne was going back to America and the rest of us were headed for Milano and Parma, Italy.

Dinner at VIKALINKA

UK 09-06 to )9-25 678One of our missionaries, Julia Frey, is an amazing cook! You can read her food blog at www.vikalinka.com.  She likes to serve me new dishes when I come for a visit but this night she indulged me by serving something I’d had before… and loved.  Jeanne and I showed up for dinner and enjoyed her unforgettable French chicken dish.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 681Brad and Julia have cute kids, Mitchell and Vika (Brad is Canadian and Julia is Russian). I do, however, think they are slightly spoiled to good cooking; they paid little attention to her creations until dessert was served. Her fruit tarts were pretty amazing, though.

During the evening we enjoyed catching up on their lives and praying together for their ministry future.

North Street Band arrives in England

Arriving at Gatwick

Arriving at Gatwick

If you’ve kept up with my blogs you will have, by now, heard of North Street Band from Perth, Ontario and my plans to bring them over for concerts in England, Italy and Slovenia. Planning and fund-raising for this took the better part of a year, so we were excited to see how things might unfold after all of the dreaming and preparation.

Pastor John and Daniel showed up at Gatwick to meet us while we waited together for the five to show up. We carefully watched people come and go until after an hour, out of the doors they came. For the young guys, this was their first international trip so they were “eyes wide open.”

After greeting and loading the mini-bus, off we went to Eltham where we would be serving Eltham Green Community Church for the next week.

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They took a day or so to bounce back from jet lag and then it was concert time. They performed three times. First, they performed in the open air on High Street with many of us handing out invitations to the concert on Friday night and Worship Party at the church on Sunday morning.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 460Eltham is tough ground. The community is riddled with social dysfunction. Many children come from broken, abusive homes. Some leave home early so there are many teenage mothers and girls living on social assistance. Public drunkenness is rampant.  Drop out rates are high and large numbers of young people are involved in delinquent activities. It is within the context of this chaos that Eltham Community Church tries to make a difference.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 541North Street went ahead as best they could and though attendance at the events were not as high as we had hoped, the band was well received everywhere they played.

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A performance hall was rented for Friday night . It was cold and raining when the band finally took the stage. This turned out to be a good event seeing that so many in the church had no idea of who the band was or the music they played.

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UK 09-06 to )9-25 673The church on Sunday morning was packed where the band played a worship concert and I preached the gospel.

Trip to Cotswold gets cut short

On the way to Burford

The next morning, after another “Full English Breakfast” in Banbury, Jeanne and I packed for an exciting trip in to the Peaks District and Cotswold Country,  a region with old English, Beatrix Potter charm.  For a time, for a few hours in the morning, this was what we enjoyed.  We went by lovely private estates lined by thatched roofed, immaculately tailored, beige stone homes. Once we came to the village of Burford, near other towns with names like Chipping Norton and Shipston on Stour, we got out to take in the picture-book beauty.

The Cotswold Arms

We enjoyed a cup of tea and sweet rolls, then Jeanne went to the car while I took about half an hour to snap a few pictures. This is when the bad news came. A fellow came walking down the hill, looked suspiciously at our car, and then gained Jeanne’s attention to tell her that it appeared that we had a bubble on our tire, a potential for a blow-out. He gravely suggested that we should have it looked at, since a member of his own family had recently suffered a blow out on the highway from the same thing. When I returned to the car, Jeanne relayed the message. I shrugged my shoulders, nonchalantly pulled on out to go to the next village, and then I began to think that it would be best to have this attended to in a more populated area.  I coasted into a safe spot at an intersection along a narrow road and took a look for myself. “Yep, I have a problem,” I decided, so I called Avis. This was where the real problem began. The plans for this day had to be shelved while we attended to this automotive distraction. After a rather annoying series of  calls to the Avis Roadside Assistance Team, I was told that if they came to help I would be charged about two-hundred thirty pounds or more than $350. So I decided to drive to the Avis location in Oxford, some thirty minutes to the southeast, and hopefully visit Cotswold on some other day.

The Pride and Prejudice Chatsworth House

With little time to spare and lots of distance to cover, we  were in a spin. I had no idea where to get off of the A/(M)-1, so at some point I just left the highway with the hope of finding some road that would overpass the M-1 and take us west. As I committed myself to this task it wasn’t but minutes before I realized we could drive hours in a south-easterly direction without ever finding a way to head west. We were sunk more, especially because we began seeing signs for Doncaster and Lincoln cities I knew to be in the exact opposite direction.

Finally, I just grasped the first road that went the opposite way and eventually we put the M-1 under us. Though we were still on small, unmarked roads with little villages (Wellow would have been worth a stop) we did occasionally see the name Chesterfield, which provided some encouragement to ignore the speed limits.

After quite a few necessary miles, eventually, we did pick our way into the almost picture- book grounds of Chatsworth, which went on for about five miles through herds of fat Shorthorn cattle and Oxford or Hampshire flocks of sheep. Every tree and shrub seemed tailored to perfection. If one has ever visited Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina and were awed by the wealth and decadence, “you ain’t seen nuthun yet.” I’m fairly certain that only Versaille in France could top this decadent, over-the-top, opulence. A real Duke and Duchess still live there.

We reached the parking lot with less than an hour to spare. In the drizzle Jeanne got out to get our tickets while I parked and rushed back to meet her. In we went. Whew!

I will just show you rather than tell you. Here are some of the photos we took of the university-sized house and grounds.

Dark was encroaching as we went on to our hard-to-find room in Banbury. This was the first occasion when I came close to killing us with a head on collision. In my hurry to turn around and get back to our B & B, I turned the corner on the right and into the path of a oncoming vehicle. Its driver did not mind blaring his horn.  All the time he was doing this, I was saying aloud, “Sorry, I’m a foreigner, I’m a foreigner.”  We did get our room where, once the windows were opened, we got to listen to trucks, cars and motorcycles all the night long.

Note: In this town I had my first inedible food item when I ordered a pizza at Pizza Express. They advertise themselves as authentic Italian pizza put used what came very close to barbecue sauce or ketchup for their base. I could actually feel the sugar granular between my teeth. For those who don’t know better, it would be the closest they will ever come to Italy.

York and the Cathedral

York Cathedral

We had a great sleep and another English “Full” Breakfast. By 10:30 we were on our way to York and into the heart of the city. It was Sunday morning, but still impossible to find a spot on the street so we found a convenient parking lot near Marygate then hiked through the York Museum Gardens toward the cathedral. By now the fog had lifted and the morning was beginning to clear and sparkle in the crisp early autumn morning. The leaves were beginning to turn and fall, giving us rather memorable moments as we passed through light to shadow under the enormous trees that bordered the Ouse River along the Dame Judy Dench Walk. It was what one might  hope for the morning you make a visit to historical York.

As we pressed through the crowds already filling the sidewalks we kept our eyes fixed on the massive tower and steeple of the York Cathedral, world famous for its Gothic design. Then there it was! Suddenly at the intersection of three streets there it stood glistening in the sunlight. We walked around it trying to get a good photograph (as everyone does) and then noticed well-dressed, college-aged young adults, both men and women, at the doors handing out what appeared to be bulletins. We walked up to see if there might be a church service or perhaps we might go inside to take a look. We were told that this was, “The Battle for Britain Sunday.” It was then that we noticed well-decorated military personnel milling about in small groups  in front of the church. It was apparent that something important was taking place and that we were just a little “tacky” for the occasion. We could come back at one o’clock if we’d like to see it.

St. Michael le Belfrey

The Family in York

Soon Jeanne was discouraged enough with the reception that she went on her own toward another small building standing in the shadows of The York Cathedral. I was distracted taking photographs when she, frantically hailing me in her direction,  caught my eye. When I reached her at the steps of St. Michael le Belfrey I could hear what she was hearing, choruses that we were familiar with and robust singing coming from inside. We were graciously invited to come in and entered a pew two-thirds of the way back amid a group of about one hundred other worshipers. We enjoyed about forty-five minutes of singing and preaching before they broke for fellowship time.

“Elevenzies” at Betty’s Tea

Leaving the church we walked the crowded and narrow streets of York and eventually came across Betty’s Tea, a rather notable experience with tea and crumpets served up in grand style by girls dressed in crisp dresses and aprons. The light streaming in through the tall windows made the room dazzle and the occasion splendid. While having our tea a well-appointed, older gentleman at the next table heard our accents and introduced himself as a guide for the York Cathedral and in but a minute was bad talking the Puritans for knocking the stained glass windows out of the church in the mid-1550s. Although we wish they had never done such a thing, the fact remains one never knows who they are talking to, now does one? After visiting York Cathedral on Sunday morning, it occurs to me that most of the people who are attending church in this impressive edifice are really worshiping culture and art rather than the God of culture and art.

The shops were magnificent, especially along the street that was once essentially an outdoor slaughter house. The streets had names like “Swinegate” and “The Shambles.” These are “must see” visits. There are lots of characters so I asked one if I might snap his picture and he heartily agreed, striking for me his best pose.

So much for saying we had been to York. Now on to Chatsworth House, where the movie Pride and Prejudice was filmed.

Kendal (sort of) and Kirkby-Lonsdale in The Lake District

Ruskin’s most beautiful view. What do you think?

After driving into Kendal and then driving out again, I wanted to show Jeanne something a little more quaint. About seven or eight years ago I came up this way  and friends drove me around to the prettiest villages. I remember one little hamlet with a beautiful, wide stream, a small castle turret and gate on the other side with this old stone arching bridge surrounded by massive trees on both sides. This is what I had hoped to find.

The authentic Lonsdale Bakery

We back-tracked and eventually wound up at lovely Kirkby Lonsdale. Though it was spitting rain and threatening more to come, we took a long walk first around the village. We were told by S. that we needed to see and experience several things. The first, he said, you must have lunch at the Lonsdale Bakery and he was right. Then, he advised us to take a walk through the St. Mary’s church yard and behind the church on a pathway, you will overlook what Ruskin called “The most beautiful view in all of England.” No doubt about it, it’s a good one but, in our opinion, there are many contenders for this title. I took the picture above pictures so I’ll let you decide.

The Ellerwaite

At about four, we drove on to Windermere  where we took a room at the Ellerwaite Lodge. The truth is, we didn’t shop very hard. Being off-season, if we would have just driven a little farther we would have found plenty of vacancies closer to the lake. We advise the reader to do this. Stopping at almost the first hotel that came into view, we looked at the room (perhaps one of the three nicest we had) and took it.

Jeanne likes our room

Unfortunately, in so doing we had somehow landed on another planet. The hostess was the oddest person we have ever encountered. Most of the service people working in the UK are from India or eastern Europe, but here was an authentic English or Scottish person with the strangest demeanor in the world. First, she began with, “May I please have your passport?” This always happens in Italy but never once in the UK, so I inquired, “Why would you want my passport?  It’s in the car, no one else has asked for it.” She countered with a stern, “It is the law. It is the law in England that I must see your passport.” Well, I have nothing to hide so with my eyebrows raised and eyeballs rolling, I went out to the car and got my suitcase and dug out my passport. So I gave it to her. She seemed satisfied for the moment, that is, until we stepped toward the door. That was when she said in rather wooden diction, “Most people want to know.” I turned to ask, “Most people want to know what?” She responded with a steely eyed, “Most people want to know what time breakfast will be served.” I was relieved that it wasn’t something more threatening. “Oh, what time is breakfast served?” I asked and once we had the answer, we were out of the door, shaking our collective heads and looking at one another in disbelief.

In spite of this journey into the middle kingdom of Never-Never Land, the room turned out to be a good one, though more flights up than I would have liked.

Jeanne took a bath and relaxed while I walked the streets, going into a pub to experience the village life.

From Colwyn Bay to Preston and on to The Lake District

Before we made to beautiful Kirby-Lonsdale,  we experienced another miracle. We had no GPS (too expensive) so we relied on prayer and luck. We can’t be sure which played the bigger part but by “hook or crook” we wound up in the lap of where we needed to be. Over email and  the phone I had connected with old friend, S.V. His security requirements will not allow me to mention his name or where he works. I can say, however, that he is a chaplain in a prison. S came into our lives thirty years ago when he took an interest in our son Sky during a very difficult period of Sky’s life (and subsequently our lives as well).

S met Sky when he was about fourteen years of age. S was a counselor at hockey camp. When Sky returned home he continued to talk about S and what a neat guy he was. S stayed up with Sky by calling and writing notes of encouragement. Even though Sky went through a very dark time he never forgot S.  Later, after Sky came to the Lord, he found S on Facebook and reconnected, finding out he was now situated in England. We owed him a big thank you and wanted to stop around to see him in the Liverpool area.

Finding the Starbucks in the center of Preston was no easy task, but we didn’t miss it by far first time around. Racing through the mall to meet him at one o’clock, we looked through the window to see his big frame straddling a small chair next to a little round table. He looked up and immediately flashed his big smile. S is one of the cheeriest guys I have ever met. He always has praise for God upon his lips. With hugs we gathered around the table telling our life stories. Jeanne ordered up a little pastry called “Eccles Cake” (recommended by the son-in-law). After a visit that was entirely too brief, we (without a GPS) made our way back on to the highway on the way to Kendal. After a brief look at Kendal  we went on to one of the most beautiful villages in The Lake District, Kirby-Lonsdale.

Once you get around Liverpool and if you drive in the proper lane at the proper speed you will finally make it to “The Lake District” without the sound of horns honking and people giving you dirty gestures. I finally figured out the rules and you will too.

Our first day on the “round abouts”

Though it was Saturday, my anxiety caused us to rise early and get on the road.

I let her rest up for a day before subjecting her to mind boggling signage we were about to encounter. Now it’s all quite different in America. Everything is so far apart that “Mapquest” makes some sense. I turned down the offer of a GPS at 140 pounds for the twelve days! So, in lieu of “Virtual Margaret”  (the British female GPS must be Margaret… the American female voice is more likely a Roxy) telling me every move to make, I foolishly choose to print off the “Mapquest” directions.

The pictures will get better

Jeanne had done a great job deciding how to go to get to where we were going. But you know how it goes… “the best laid plans of mice and men often go array.” In ten minutes I was fed up with “Mapquest.” I ask, “how can anyone follow something that has five instructions within a mile?” Worse yet, how does a person turn right on to Victoria Road when there is no sign for Victoria Road or most other roads, for that matter? Right away, we knew we needed to be praying. The other maps we had with us, the one in the back of the twenty-four dollar book, “Touring England” and the other given to me by the people at Avis were sufficiently vague enough to be useless. Within an hour we had gone past Petworth, one of our planned stops and were rushing headlong at breakneck speed toward Portsmouth. Portsmouth is not on Jeanne’s first day agenda.

It was still early when we pulled off of the road at Arundel and took in our first -howbeit unplanned – English village. It was charming with a beautiful cathedral and castle, neither of which we went into. We walked up the hills and along the streets taking in the newness of it all. At the main cross streets we found a tea room where, in honor of our son-in-law, Jeremy, Jeanne ordered her first steak Cornish pastie. After an hour or so we were on the road again with my fair share of being honked at.

In the end, it is our hope to make to a town called Totnes where we will meet up with a former Bethany College of Missions student, now married, Susan L. Part of my work is what we call “Opportunity Development” so this allows me to mix some pleasure with my work. I never know where we will connect in the expansion of ACCI’s ministry.

Right hand driving and freaked out

From Portofino Emile rushed me to  Rapallo where I caught a train. I would like to express my thanks to the very public conscious Trenitalia who failed me once more and then I had to pay the penalty for their ineptitude. I arrived behind three people at the biglietteria but no matter. What should have taken a matter of three minutes –uno biglietto di solo andata a Milano – took thirty minutes as the single ticket master dealt with two older people who were attempting to exchange their tickets. People would come, express exasperation and go but I stayed at my post thinking it couldn’t be more than another few minutes. In so doing, I missed my train and had to finally take the next. I managed to buy a ticket, board the train and then was penalized eight Euro for being on a non local train. Anyhow, I finally got into Milano at about eight found my two-star hotel, got something to eat up on Strada Buenos Aires, went to bed, awoke early and grabbed the shuttle to Linate and a flight to London Gatwick arriving at eleven in the morning.

Now the scary part…

VW Sharan… a lovely automobile for Montana

 All along, for about three weeks, I had been dreading the moment when I would finally get behind the wheel of an English automobile. I had promised Jeanne that regardless of the terror involved, I would give her the convenience of driving right to the doors of our friends and hotels. Trains would’t take us where we need to go so this was the most economical and frankly, the most sensible way for two people to travel when having to cover the full length and width of England in twelve days.

I had been to England several times before so I knew something of what to expect.  With this in mind, I was clear in reserving a small Peugeot . My son once did a similar thing only to be given the only car available, a Jaguar XF. Well, guess what? My worst nightmare came true. I went to the counter as nervous as a rabbit to have the girl fumble through her bulging envelopes to finally pull out one with my name on it at the same time apologizing, “Mister Hedrick, I’m sorry but we are in short supply of the car you requested but we do have something available, quite nice and at the same price. Would you be willing to drive a Volkswagen Sharan Van?” What could I do? I finally had myself braced for this. I made a face of displeasure and discouragement . I put up a weak complaint telling the young lady that I didn’t really want to drive some BIG car all over England.  At this point, a young man interrupted suggesting that he would find someone to track me down and change cars with me when one became available. I thought, “What a nuisance this would turn out to be” so against my better judgement, I gritted my teeth, took the key, signed the papers, got the instructions and went to the car like a man approaching the galley.  I located it, got in, turned the key and roared out of the lot  repeating to myself, “Remember, keep yourself on the center line and you’ll be alright.”

The safety of my room

I drove like a madman toward the M-23 in the direction of Crawley. Praying all of the time, I managed to land (completely surprised!) on the right round about spitting me out toward Crawley. After some instructions from several people, none of whom I could understand, I followed the pointing of their fingers and eventually, four frightening round-abouts later, wound up in the parking lot of my hotel, “The George.” I parked and secured the Leviathan, checked in, went to my room and with a sigh of relief fell on the bed. Fortunately, the story improves – at least for a while.

Jeanne at “The George”

I had a splendid, well thought out strategy. I would just park the car and leave it until after I had picked up Jeanne at the airport only two train stops and two pounds eighty pence away. I would collect her and her things then train her back to the hotel. I would give her a day getting rid of jet lag and then we would venture out on the roads together. So this is what we did.