Old and New


Days have been full. I've made a good contact with the World Centre for Christian Meditation, been to a wide range of London churches, had lunch in CS Lewis' favourite Oxford pub and managed to see some of the sights. This morning we went to Reading, expressly to see a bit of embroidery. Clemency's great grandmother, Lady Elizabeth Wardle was the founder of the Leeke Embroidery Guild, and in 1886, along with 34 other embroiderers had constructed a faithful copy of the Bayeux tapestry. This object had been the stuff of family stories for as long as anybody can remember, well, back until 1886 at least. For reasons I won't bore you with, the tapestry was no longer in Leeke but in Reading, and seeing as we were more or less in the neighbourhood, we thought we might just as well go and take a look. We found the Reading museum, easy enough, there's not a lot else in the town, and Clemency introduced herself at the front desk. They were quite pleased to see us. Delighted, in fact. Thrilled, even. We went upstairs and there it was, wrapped around the walls of the whole wing it had all to itself: the museum's major attraction. We walked slowly around, taking in the detail which the ladies of the Leeke Embroidery Guild had copied with a great deal of exactness from life sized photographic patterns, and word spread amongst the staff that lady Elizabeth's great granddaughter was in the building, and the curator, named (what else?) Rupert was hastily summoned from some other part of the city to rush over and discuss the finer points needlework and invading England. World famous in Reading! For an hour, anyway.

Then it was back to London, and down to the docklands where a whole other city exists. Where Dickens' notorious dockland slums once festered is now a huge chrome and glass 21st century city with underground shopping malls and great post modern buildings and a high tech no need for a driver light railway system called the DLR. It was a world away from the guys in red coats and tin helmets waving swords at each other, or from the Leeke Embroidery Guild. Somehow it seemed to have nothing at all to do with that other, famous London, but there it is, filled with people in suits yakking on cell phones and getting my people to talk to your people and do lunch.

And it was all a world away from the British Maritime museum and the Royal Observatory where we went next. In a park where someone has got the proportions exactly right is a huge complex of buildings containing old boats and various bits and pieces which were once attached to them. Admiral Nelson's uniform is there, complete with bullet holes, and a 1930s aluminium speedboat with an aircraft engine which can do 118 mph, and more swords than you can shake a stick at, unless you happened to be particularly good at stick shaking. There's a straight line on the ground to show you where 0 degrees of longitude is, and a laser which shines the line straight up into the sky just in case you wanted to know and it was too dark to see the ground. Then came the best bit of the day.

Instead of taking the tube back to the city we caught a boat down the Thames to Waterloo Station. A big fast boat that looked like the only thing stopping it doing 118 mph was the fear that if it did, someone would hang it from the roof of the maritime museum. There was a coffee stall, and comfy seats and hardly anybody on board so you could wander round and ooh and ahh to your heart's content.

Tomorrow it's Norwich and some very serious discussion on life the universe and everything with my brother. We'll go by train if I can't find a boat going in that direction.

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