Monday, 29 June 2009
Bits and Pieces
I have a problem, but not the usual problem I have with blog posts. Usually I am scrabbling around trying to come up with something to write about. Today I am so overwhelmed with topics, I can't quite decide what to leave out. It's now our last week in England, and looking back at the three months or so since we left Dunedin, I suppose I have put 5 or 10 % of the things that have happened to us onto Available Light. There are some fairly minor but still remarkable things I might have commented on: in Spain for example, on the Camino there are drinking fountains all over the place. One of them has two taps. One dispenses water, the other wine: good, rich, fruity, deep red, Spanish wine in unlimited quantities and absolutely free. In Hong Kong there is a pet shop where I saw for sale a toucan and large trays of wriggling live maggots. There are some other things of more significance.
On our last day on Iona I was privileged to help scatter the ashes of Clemency's Aunt Joan and Uncle Mervyn. These were people I had met in Wellington many years ago and who had a deep love of Scotland in general and Iona in particular. They had died some 12 years ago, and now, their daughter, Sue, had brought their ashes to Iona for this last act of love and commitment. At about 5 in the afternoon we climbed to the cairn which marks the top of Dun I, the highest point on the island. There was a rainstorm which cleared as we began our ascent but squalls revisited as we climbed. At the top, the rain finally lifted and the brightest, most distinct rainbow I have seen in my life appeared. I said the Church of England service of commitment of ashes and opened the urns. A strong wind pulled the ashes out and they drifted out over the land so beloved of Mervyn and Joan. The rainbow faded just as we finished and began our descent. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
A few days later we visited Swainsley, the country home of Clemency's ancestors, the Wardles. The house had long ago left the family, but on the off chance we called in anyway and were warmly and generously greeted by Sharon and Peter, the present owners. Swainsley is not a stately home but rather a large Victorian gentleman's residence; at about 35 rooms it is roughly the size of Olveston or Larnach's castle. Sir Thomas Wardle who once owned it was an intriguing man: an industrialist but also an engineer and a friend of many of the Pre Raphaelites, he was something of a rennaisance man. His country house showed this. It was built not as a demonstration of wealth and prestige but as a comfortable family base in his much beloved Manifold Valley. The present owners love Swainsley and "get it". They have restored and developed the place with a great deal of taste and tact. Once it had 2000 acres of grounds but now has a more manageable 22, which demonstrate just the right balance of wilderness and domestication. We spent a very enjoyable 3 hours there.
I could speak of the Norfolk coast, or Butterton in Staffordshire, or the Victoria and Albert Museum or the morning service at Holy Trinity Brompton, or the Buddhist take on mindfulness, or a somewhat perplexing experience of deja vu I had in Newcastle Upon Tyne, but I wont. What I want to think about rather, is something more general. Over the past three months I have made three journeys: an outer pilgrimage in Spain and England, Italy and France; a journey into the Anglican church; and a journey into myself. The outer journey I have already alluded to here, so won't bore you any further with the details. The other two.... well... I will write of over the next few days, as computer time and and the limits of personal reserve allow.