Happy new year!
Sorry if I haven't visited you lately - we've all picked up a bug which started by plaguing the twins. They then passed it on as their noses dripped over everyone. You mix 'n' match runny nose, eye infection, ear ache, sinus problem, severe headache, cough, diarrhoea - just try each of them for a day or two - and are we having fun yet?? It's not so very terrible, but you feel tired and ill all the time. It seems to run for a couple of weeks so we're probably near the end of it by now.
Just before Christmas I travelled up to York with T and young S. to research a travel article. It is one of my favourite cities and I was glad it also suited S, who is now well into teenagerhood. I'd planned to do a post about it before Christmas but just after we got back, York was flooded. So I'll write the article - and do another post - a little bit later.
Still, I'll share a few images of our time at York Minster, which as far as I can tell, has not been flooded. We climbed to the top of the tower via a narrow spiral staircase, with wind booming around us in the most dramatic way. There was, as you can see above, a fine view of the old city lit up by sunshine, spread around us. I do find huge medieval cathedrals amazing. S. thought so too, and wanted to spend hours looking around the Minster, including the crypt exhibition of how the tower nearly fell down 50 years ago, And, of course, we could not miss the chance to climb to the top
It's astonishing what skill and dedication it took to create these huge cathedrals. Imagine those who built it, people who lived in thatched mud cottages, and used ox-drawn carts and hand tools, looking around the cathedral with satisfaction sometime between 1361 and 1405 when the choir below was built. Imagine designing, building and erecting that towering stonework beyond...
Or making and fitting the stained glass...
It's great. And more about York later.
This bug didn't hit us till Boxing Day, and if I was a bit tired at Christmas itself, it didn't matter since G did all the cooking and K hosted everyone at her place. On the 29th December, we went to St. Pauls Cathedral to see a vintage fire-engine drive-by. It was commemorating those who died in the huge blitz that devastated the area 75 years ago, but famously left St Pauls standing. A few old people I've spoken with actually remember this event. One of our relatives went there the next day because her dad worked nearby and he was checking to see if his office had been destroyed (it had). Another old guy recalls how freezing cold it was, with everything rimed with ice....
The rebuilding around it includes the old Temple Bar gate (below). This had stood near the cathedral for many years when but when it started causing traffic jams in the 1870s, Henry Meux, a wealthy brewer, took it to his country estate and rebuilt it as an ornament. There, it mouldered for over 100 years until it was brought back to London and re-erected in 2004. It is now a pedestrian arch only.
We waited about an hour in the freezing cold to see the fire appliances. They eventually trundled along, bells clanging, brass and bumpers glittering, all staffed by firemen in vintage uniforms. It was strangely touching to see how small they were. Those who fought the bombs so bravely with such inadequate equipment deserve to be remembered, too. So thanks to the volunteers who keep these old engines going.
So - two very different cathedrals in one week. I really like to be reminded about the fortitude and inspiration that caused them to be built in the first place - a good thought for the New Year.