Archive | November 2014

Friends, Romans, and……..York!

image

York Minster

Writing about my weekend in Cambridge has inspired me to write about our day in York with friends from London. They had never visited Yorkshire before, so Paul (my husband) and I were looking forward to ‘showing off’ one of our favourite cities!

The day dawned fine and sunny. It was a good sign, and a reflection of the excitement I was feeling at the prospect of meeting up with our friends. Brian, an old schoolfriend of Paul’s, and Michele, his wife, who we hadn’t yet met. We had met Brian a few months before at a school reunion in London. As I wrote in my last blog, we had friended Brian and Michele on Facebook and we were very much looking forward to spending the day with them.

We set off for the hour’s drive to York, filled with expectation of a lovely day ahead. I love meeting up with friends, and York being one of my favourite cities, the two combined was an exciting prospect!

Paul and I arrived early, so we spent a pleasant hour or two wandering around the delightful cobbled streets steeped in history, stopping for a drink en route.

image

The Shambles, York

We had arranged to meet our friends outside the Minster. With only a small section currently covered by scaffolding, it looked very impressive, with its sandstone walls gleaming in the sunlight. Paul and I wandered around the gardens at the back of the Minster, pausing at a wall of arches with wreaths commemorating the men who died in WW1, it being the Centenary this year of the start of that war.

image

By the South door of the Minster is a statue of Constantine the Great, who was proclaimed Emperor of Rome in York in AD306.

image

Statue of Constantine the Great

Across the road there is a Roman column, dating from the same period. Paul and I were amazed at being able to see and touch something from that period, and the fact that it was so well preserved.

image

Roman Column, York

As we were walking back to the main entrance of the Minster, I suddenly spotted a couple a few yards in front of us and I said to Paul, “It’s them!” They turned round as I got to them, and there were smiles, hugs and greetings all round!

We made our way to the entrance. It has been years since I saw the inside of this impressive building, and my first impression was of grandeur and colour, as I gazed at the huge stained glass windows all around me. I was awestruck throughout our tour at the craftsmanship and work that had gone into creating this piece of our history.

image

One of York Minster's impressive windows.

image

The above photos of these amazing windows were taken by Brian, used with his permission.

I was amazed to discover, as we continued our tour, that the stonemasons currently working on the Minster still use the same kind of tools and traditional craft skills to maintain the building as would have been used in medieval times. As I felt the stones displayed, and the different textures, it was incredible to think of the painstaking work that goes into carving each one. They are, at the moment, conserving and replacing nearly 3,500 stones on the Minster’s East End and are working to restore the medieval masterpiece, the Great East Window, along with York’s Glaziers Trust.

image

The Great East Window

Walking through the Crypt, we discovered a quiet little corner, a single candle stood on a stone table, with a  backdrop of a beautiful stone wall, such lovely pastel colours, very calming and peaceful. I took a photo of this simple, but lovely scene.

image

The Chapter House was particularly interesting, built in the second half of the 13th Century and octagonally shaped. Lots of geometric patterns, beautiful stained glass and floor tiles. Though I didn’t particularly like the stone ‘heads’ that were carved into the pillars along the walls, I did notice that every face was different, and I marvelled as I thought of the painstaking work and skill that had gone into creating each one.

image

The fantastic ceiling in the Chapter House

But the part that impressed me most was the spectacular ceiling, the brilliant photo here taken by Brian who, thankfully, wasn’t laying on his back in the middle of the room at the time, unlike an obviously professional photographer who was laid on his back while we were there, pointing an enormous camera lens at the ceiling! Brian did threaten to join him, but Michele and I told him we would promptly leave if he did!

After leaving the Minster, we went for a coffee. Sitting in a coffee shop with friends has to be one of my favourite pastimes, and we had a lovely time chatting and getting to know each other better, Paul and Brian reminiscing about their school days.

image

From left to right, Brian, Michele and Paul

After walking round the shops for a while, as dusk began to settle, we had a walk along the wall, climbing up the steep steps from Monk Bar. I have to say, this was my favourite part of the day and the perfect time to see the Minster lit up from this great vantage point.

image

No visit to this beautiful city is complete without a walk along its ancient wall, beneath the medieval stonework lie the remains of earlier walls, dating as far back as the Roman period.

We sat on a bench in an alcove for a photo while admiring the wonderful scenery.

image

From left to right, me, Brian and Michele

It was very peaceful and quiet, and we would like to have stayed longer, but were anxious not to get trapped on the wall if the gates closed!

After leaving the wall, we spent a lovely couple of hours chatting over a pub meal, sitting in a courtyard lit by fairy lights.

image

image

It was the perfect end to a lovely day.

Blessed of Friends

image

I arrived home yesterday evening after a most memorable two days away, journeying to and from the beautiful city of Cambridge. The weekend started at 5.00 am on Saturday morning and a reviving cuppa. At 7.15, my husband drove me to Scarborough railway station where I boarded a train to York, arriving with plenty of time on my hands to grab a takeaway coffee and ‘people watch’, while waiting for my coach that was to take me to Milton Keynes, where I was to change coaches for Cambridge.

The day was grey, threatening rain, but inside I was excited at the prospect of a day of travel. I love sitting on coaches or trains, gazing out of the window at the passing world, and daydreaming. I was often told off by my teacher at school for doing just that during lessons!

I decided, as it was rather cold at the bus stop opposite the railway station, that I would wait inside for my coach, so I settled myself on a bench, situated next to a policeman, who was standing watching the folk in the station, some chatting together, coffee in hand, others rushing to catch trains. I imagined he was hoping there wouldn’t be any trouble, though he looked rather important standing there looking like a Sentry at Buckingham Palace! He didn’t look worried! After a while, a lady came up to him and started chatting amiably. I had no idea whether they actually knew each other, but she sounded as though she had known him for years! He was politely answering her questions and nodding in the right places! After a couple of minutes, her friend came up to them and animatedly informed the policeman that  “My friend will flirt with anyone in uniform!”

image

York Railway Station

I boarded the coach and settled down for a few hours of blissful peace and rest, with the knowledge that at the end of my journey would be a delightful evening with friends. I was on my way to a house concert by two great musicians Peter Banks (from After The Fire, my favourite band!), and James Weaver, who called themselves Cafe Musica. I knew there would be friends there who I usually only communicated with on Facebook, and it was so exciting to be meeting them again for real. We only really met up at music gigs, so I sat on my coach with great anticipation of a wonderful evening to come.

Several hours later, I arrived at Milton Keynes Coachway, which at first I thought was a very large greenhouse! It was pouring with rain and I was glad I could walk off the coach straight into the warmth of the coach station. It had rained for the whole journey. Above the driver, and behind him, was a screen facing the passengers, which showed the road ahead from the windscreen. I had never seen a film before of ‘A Coach Driver’s View of the Road Ahead’! But all I could see were the windscreen wipers flying across the screen!

At one point in the journey I needed the loo, and wondered whether I could possibly wait until I got to Milton Keynes, as I didn’t particularly relish the idea of using the loo on the coach. But when you have to go………it was literally a moving experience! I actually slid from one end of the cubicle to the other, landing on the wall behind the toilet and hoping fervently that the passengers sitting outside hadn’t heard! I managed to hold on to a conveniently placed rail to avoid landing in the toilet, and was very thankful when I got out and no-one looked oddly at me!

From Milton Keynes, I boarded the coach for Cambridge, knowing my hosts would be meeting me at the other end. At the coach stop on Parkside in Cambridge (the photo at the top was my view!), I was met by car, and we drove to the venue, a beautiful house which was a converted barn,  with high, vaulted ceilings, lovely beams, and was lit with coloured fairy lights. On arrival, I was greeted with music, as Cafe Musica were rehearsing. Some friends had already arrived and there were hugs all round!

I gazed at my surroundings. There were doors leading off to…..where? Some led to stairways, some to more rooms. It was such a lovely quirky house, and in the lounge where the concert was due to take place, there was a balcony around the room under the huge ceiling. On the right there was a massive fireplace with a huge log burner. The band were playing right in front of it, and thankfully, it wasn’t lit!

How lovely it was, after the rehearsal, to share a meal around the table before the concert, and such a world away from simply communicating online with comments on Facebook. To be face to face with such lovely friends, chatting, laughing, and eating together in such a beautiful setting, was wonderful, though it was through Facebook, and a mutual love of music, especially the band After The Fire, that we had met.

The concert was brilliant, great music, banter, chatting together in the interval over drinks and cake! Delightful!

image

It was hard saying goodbye to everyone at the end, but after a day of travelling, I was glad to get to bed! I slept in a lovely little room with a low, beamed, sloping ceiling. My friend, who hosted the concert, told me as she showed me my room, “Don’t worry if you hear scuttling during the night, it’s only the mice in the roof!” And she reassured me that they wouldn’t come into the room! Fortunately I didn’t hear any scuttling, the mice must have been wearing slippers! Maybe it was my ‘coach lag’, but as I fell asleep, I thought of making tiny mice slippers out of the tops of cotton buds………
image

The following morning dawned bright, with the sun making a brave effort to shine through the clouds. After a delightful breakfast, my friends drove me to the centre of Cambridge, where I had an hour of meandering before catching my coach…..a delightful prospect! How uplifting it was to walk the graceful streets of this beautiful city, gazing upwards at the lovely buildings, with the backdrop of the Sunday morning chimes of the church bells creating a welcoming atmosphere.

image

My heart felt so full of joy and gratitude! I grabbed a takeaway coffee and wandered past the market, and a curious round church.

image

I also couldn’t help noticing how many bikes there were in this city, parked against every railing! I thought to myself that the citizens of Cambridge must be very fit!

image

image

I strolled through some lovely streets filled with delightful shops, and determined that one day I would return and explore them properly.

image

image

image

As it got close to the time when I had to catch my coach, I started to panic slightly that I couldn’t find the right road. I had a map on my phone, but couldn’t work out where I was! After a while I asked a lady how to get to Parkside and this lovely woman (who I decided was an angel!), guided me in the right direction. (I had been headed in the wrong direction!). I made it with time to spare.

I had another nine hours of coach travel before arriving home, and during the journey I couldn’t help thinking “All there ever was, and all there ever will be is this coach……!” I felt I could have slept for a week! Towards the end of the journey, with an hour or two to go, a young man sitting opposite me started whistling very cheerfully. I was just about to hit him with my handbag, when, luckily for him, he stopped!

But during the journey I also had plenty of time to think about the lovely evening i’d had and how wonderful it was to spend time with friends, eating, listening to music, hugging, chatting, just enjoying being together.

Facebook can be such a blessing, a way of meeting people, keeping in touch with family and friends, and I have had reason to be very grateful for this social media, but how much more delightful it is to meet friends face to face!

God’s Great Love

image

Above the canopy of space
Where light does have its home
God’s love is there, the Source of light
In its celestial home.
Down on the earth, a silent tear
By God’s great heart is seen
Each detail of our lives He knows
And where our hearts have been.
Each human heart that’s touched by God
Is filled with His great love
The Creator of the universe
He reaches from above
To wipe each tear from our eyes
To lift us when we fall
In gratitude, our voices raised
To praise our All in all.

Only one thing is needed…..

image

Do you sometimes wish that life were simpler? My parents have often looked back at how life was when they were young, and the world seems hardly recognisable from how it was then. With the progression from TV, to a computer in every home, to mobile phones, and now the internet available in our pocket, the fast pace of life, stressful jobs, financial pressure, constant noise, often due to our fear of silence, it’s little wonder that the number of stress related illnesses have soared in recent years.

How hard it can be to take time out to ‘be still’, and yet, it is the greatest need of our lives. The Bible says that in God’s presence is peace, fulness of joy, hope, and a deep knowing that we are loved, as God is Love, yet, in the busyness of our lives, we forget that all our needs, all our desires, are met in Him.

In Luke 10 verses 38 to 42, Jesus visits the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy preparing the house and the meal, wanting it to be just right for Jesus, but Mary just sits at His feet and listens to what He has to say. Martha was working for Jesus, though He hadn’t asked her to do anything for Him. Was Jesus ungrateful to Martha when she complained about the lack of help she was getting from Mary? No, of course not, but He just told the truth. “Only one thing is needed”, He said, and “Mary has chosen the right thing.” In her frantic activity, Martha was stressed, worried and upset. In Jesus’ presence, where she could just ‘be’, Mary was at peace.

In order to hear the ‘still small voice’ of God we need to be quiet and still. In order to be quiet and still we need to stop, take time out, learn to say ‘no’ sometimes, and sit at the feet of Jesus. Jesus had not asked Martha to be frantically busy for Him. When God asks us to do something and we obey, He gives us the strength to do it, and He fills us with His joy and peace, no matter what the circumstances.

Only one thing is needed……be still, and may you be filled with the peace of God that passes all understanding, and the joy of the Lord, which is your strength.

God bless x