Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Canterbury Tales and family connected

The morning sunshine heralds a beautiful day ahead - well, at least for the next two hours. We amble downstairs for breakfast where we are greeted by Tim...ah, he is the relief Chef. Austin has today off and after the incredible dinners he has prepared for us, we forgive his absence. However, Tim prepares our hot breakfasts, presenting me with two gloriously poached eggs and Michael a hearty 'full English'!

With breakfast out of the way, we make our way onto the main street to watch the scheduled Rememberence Day March prior to the service. And I stress here the march and service were scheduled. It's 10:35 so I make my way to the church, while Michael heads down to the High Street in readiness for the march. I wait and wait at the church, 10:40 has passed when the march was to commence - but, there are no sounds of a band or presence of the local Constabulary. Anyhow, Michael returns just as perplexed stating that "there's nobody around for the parade?". It is somewhat of a mystery as Michael had asked at the post office earlier about details of the parade, and was told the ceremony was to commence at 10:40.... Anyhow, we entered the church and paid our respects to the fallen in our own quiet way.

We admire the church's architecture and fixtures. It is indeed a wonder at the history of many of Englands' houses of worship, and here at St Mary the Virgin is no exception. There is a list of all the Vicars, Rectors and Provosts who have ministered at this church from 1228 to the present. Within the churchs' eastern transept is a monument commemorating a family of note - the Oxinden's - the monument was erected in 1682! And in the true spirit of christianity, the Anglican Parish shares its church with the local Catholics who celebrate Mass here each Sunday.

Time is marching on so we return to the Dog Inn to get the car and head for Canterbury. Now, the Dog Inn is one of two once identical buildings that stand side by side on the road from Wingham to Canterbury - and they date back to 1286! By this time the clear skies become shrouded by clouds, and no sooner are we on our way it is evident that rain is imminent. Canterbury is only seven miles (11 kms) from Wingham and we travel along the narrow roads which ribbon through the countryside.

Arriving at Canterbury our first stop is at the ruins of Canterbury Castle, and although the rain has begun to drizzle, this does not stop us from exploring this celebrated monument. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror marched hastily through Kent to Canterbury. In October 1066, Canterbury was the first town to submit without resistence. To consolidate his power, William ordered the construction of royal castles at Dover, Canterbury and Rochester. These castles were initially built from timber upon the 'motte-and-bailey' configuration and only much later the castles were rebuilt in stone.

All that remains of the castle today is a section of the perimeter wall and the keep. However, in the 'minds-eye', one can visualise the enormity of the structure. Eventually rebuilt with three storeys and enclosed within a bastion wall, the importance of the castle diminished by becoming overshadowed by Henry II's larger fortification at Dover. Regrettably, Canterbury Castle was relegated as the a prison for the County of Kent administered by the Sheriff and in the most recent times lost a lot of its mystique when it was used as a coal store and gas works.

The rain has begun to fall in earnest, I return to the car and leave Michael to continue drooling for a while longer. Want to kow more? Click here.

When Michael finally returns, we leave the castle to find a carpark closer to the Canterbury Cathedral. After wanting me to drive through restricted areas, and us having to continually turn back, Kate and Frances eventually guide us to an available parking bay at the city walls, which is not far from the Cathedral. Feeding the ticket dispenser gives us a maximum stay of three hours and so we set off to see what we can see. Walking through the streets of Canterbury is like entering a time portal, with buildings dating from the 13th century occupied by artists, artisans and bakers displaying their wares in shop windows. Michael is enjoying the ambience as he is swept along by the imagery of his beloved Canterbury Tales.

Finally we arrive at the Cathedral precinct, and enter the precint's main portal at a cost of $13AUD each. However, the entry fee is worth every cent as the Cathedral is indeed a magnificent structure. I'll let Michael take over from here, so he can enlighten you...or put you to sleep?

I am just passionate over medieval architecture, in particular places of worship - moreso if the style is Gothic, Perpendicular Gothic or Gothic/Renaissance. At the danger of me rambling, may I recommend this link for the Canterbury Cathedral.

As with most of these monuments built before the Reformation, one has to remember that the pioneering architects/engineers designed the buildings on parchment and only aided by quadrants, line-of-sight and plum bobs! The work of the masons, sculptors, scriveners and carpenters who contributed to the Cathedrals' construction is truly mind-blowing.

The Cathedral was filled by visitors and a small company of proud volunteer guides who were most eager to answer, with enthusiasm, any question pertinent to their Cathedral. I soon discovered the knowledge which these guides possess, when I made enquiry as to one of the stained glass windows. Only several of these windows are original from the 12th century, which somehow were spared from the destructive force of the Reformation!

Fortunately, photography was permitted ( except when visiting the crypt) so the camera worked overtime snapping images of the exterior and interior. The Cathedral also boasts its own 'Compass Rose' installed into the floor of the central nave in 1988. As with most Cathedrals, at intervals throughout the day a benediction is given by a member of the clergy. Today was no exception, as a Friar (with the aid of a PA system) requested everyone to stop and listen to the benediction - a time for reflection whatever ones persuasion...yes, even for us non-believers.

We could have spent further hours here - it is such a fascinating place. It was here that Thomas Beckett was murdered, and that the first French Hugenot service was held here hundreds of years ago and continues to this day! There are amazing stained glass windows, a beautiful cloister and chapter house, a peaceful crypt where you can see the remaining pillars and wall of the Norman church that once stood on this site and dates back to 579 AD. There are tanglible links with Australia too in the form of stitched kneelers int he front row and a memorial to Lt. Col Sir George Gipps, Governor in Chief of New South Wales. And today, on Rememberence Day when we were reading in The Times this morning about the release of the records of the British Flying Aces including Major Edward Mannock VC, here we are standing in front of his memorial! Its a small, small world.

Gosh, and there was so much more - you had better check the link before I too carried away! From here you exit through the souvenir shop where we stop to buy a few small reminders - we have to be careful because we are getting very very close to our weight limits for the air trip home!

Michael wants a quick look at the City Walls so I return to the car while he makes a dash for the stairs. The walls are surprisingly intact, and yet are now a part of the modern city. Traffic enters through a number of the original gates, the Dane John gardens dating back to the 12th century and has existed in their present form since 1790 and have recently been updated to include a thematic chidren's maze. A monument now stands atop a Roman burial ground that existed before the construction of the city walls in the 3rd century and now serves as a vantage point for views across the city.

I pack away the souvenirs we bought and get some little treasures out for Anna and Gary then get in the car and programme Kate. And that is when I see a traffic warden making his way towards our car, checking wether parking tickets have expired - and in response Michael is running full pelt from the other direction. Michael manages to get here first. Just! Mind you, we still had 1 minute left on our ticket!

Its 4 pm and fast heading for dark when we leave Canterbury for Bracknell to have one last visit with Anna and Garry, Curtis and Nathan. Its a two hour drive on the M26 - one of the major ring roads around London. Traffic is heavy as we are just coming in to rush hour, but for the most part we are able to do a respectable 70 miles per hour. I have reset Kate to measure in miles - can't be bothered with all the constant calculations from km to miles and back again. Feels odd though and my perception of distance is not so good - luckily for me, 100 yards is close enough to 100 metres and I can judge that pretty well!

We arrive at their house in Binfield just after 6:15. There is great excitement all round - Anna has kept her job (when all 6000 were given notices re planned redundencies for 1500 and no assurances), they have sold their house to a cash buyer and their offer on the house of their dreams just up the road has been accepted - all in the space of about 3 days! We took the champers!! Gary has picked up McDonalds for the boys and once they are settled upstairs, we order Chinese and spend a couple of hours sharing it and the stories of our respective highs since we last saw them in June. It has been lovely sharing a bit of time with them this year. Its heading for 10 pm when we finally say our goodbyes for the year and head off.

Our trip back to Wingham is much quieter than the trip over. We are able to travel at a constant speed and make the trip in about an hour and a half - even if it is in and out of light rain!

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