Friday, 20 January 2017

Havens of Peace and Hope.

I try not to write too much that's negative here. So I haven't felt like describing how I've been unwillingly dragged into a frustrating and bizarre legal case that reminds me somehow of the trial scene in "Alice in Wonderland."


Can't say any more about it, but really it's nothing compared with the general madness that seems to be swirling around all of us in the world at the moment.   So instead of tearing my hair out (which I confess I often feel like doing) I'm concentrating on how lucky I am in the big scheme of things, and I've been supporting charities like UnitedRescues and War Child, 
which help the millions who have it very rough indeed.

And I've shaken off the flu, so I've been taking the chance to look around lots of old London churches lately - all of them havens of peace and hope. I'm not particularly religious, but I appreciate sitting within these old walls where for centuries people have taken refuge from the sad stupidity and evil conflicts of the world, said goodbye to hate and frustration and lifted their minds to higher things.    


The picture above shows the inside of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, overlooking Trafalgar Square.  This very famous church is only the latest building on this ancient church site, and it dates from the elegant 1720s. When I dropped in, the organist happened to be practising, which added an inspiring soundtrack to that glittering interior.  St Martin's also does a lot of work with homeless people and runs all kinds of events and concerts, and has a very good cafe in its crypt, all in the cause of raising money for its work. 

A few days later, I went into St Leonard's Shoreditch.  Although it's about the same age as St Martins, it's a frankly shabby old church, but it is full of interesting local curiosities and I found it had a laid back, comfortable atmosphere, like going into some rather messy friend's cosy house.  The cat below certainly felt at home there, even though, like T.S. Eliot's Rum Tum Tugger, it was "always on the wrong side of every door."   I let him in, I let him out, I let him in again... and then.... 


One of the first things visitors see in St Leonard's is a large sign high up on the wall in the porch, recording how the church ringers did a complete peal of "Treble Bob Royal" in nine hours and five minutes. 


I've never quite got my head around change ringing but I gather it's about sounding lots of bells in slightly different sequences, according to mathematical rules. If I listen hard to church-bells ringing I do notice the sound seems to change over time. Perhaps you can detect this by listening to this part of Oxford Treble Bob Royal (and no, the video is not nine hours long.....).  


St Leonards Shoreditch features in the old English nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons."  Most people know this song, but if you don't, then my favourite version is this 1930s one, which was on a CD compilation that we used to sing along with in the car with S and Young A.  Like so many old English rhymes, the tune is so jolly that you don't always notice the slightly sinister words!  


Anyway, to get back to animals.... St. Stephens, Kensington, has a dog, but not as far as I know a cat. The dog didn't tell me its name, but it's a charmer, very gentle and very friendly as you can see from the wagging tail.  The church is a brightly coloured example of High Victoriana, and T and I spent ages looking around.....


and in fact found a corner devoted to T.S. Eliot... who turned out to have been a churchwarden here.



My most recent little pilgrimage was to London's financial district, the City.  First I dropped in at St Margaret Pattens in Eastcheap, where the kindly blessing below is offered to the stressed city workers whose warren-like offices tower all around.   


The church is supported by two livery guilds -  the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers and the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers.   Pattens are overshoes which were used for walking in the muddy, dung-littered streets of old, but now the guild has moved into making orthopaedic and medical footwear.  

I got chatting to the vicar there, who said that in the olden days, foundling children of the parish were always given the surname "Patten" when they were christened in the church.  So if that is your name, you might be able to guess where at least one of your ancestors came from.  

King Charles I's coat of arms hangs on the wall, and every year, the vicar said, there's a Choral Eucharist to commemorate the death, in 1649, of the "King and Martyr."  (This year, the service is on 26 January at 1 PM.)  As it happens, King Charles was beheaded, but I don't think it's anything to do with "Oranges and Lemons"   

And almost opposite St. Margaret Pattens, here are the doors of St. Mary-at-Hill, which stands in one of the ancient lanes which still survive in the City. It dates from the 12th century but was mostly rebuilt after being burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Then it got through the Blitz unscathed - only to have another serious fire in the 1980s. Luckily, it survived again.


After visiting these two churches, I returned home across London Bridge and saw a striking sunset, a great bank of purple and red clouds rising into a pale blue sky.  I realised how much I love living in London, because it always seems to offer something that matches my mood.    



75 comments :

  1. I never realized Elliot hailed from Missouri originally...and what a unique collection of churches! Glad you are feeling better!

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    1. Yes, Eliot seemed to embrace the English way of life so much somehow.

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  2. I guess St Marti-in-the fields was once in a London field instead of crowded Trafalgar Square?

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    1. I believe so, up to about 300 years ago there was plenty of open space around the area!

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  3. How fun to imagine those streets 500 years ago, and hear the clatter of pattens.

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    1. Or the squelching more like - I think streets were pretty foul in those days ! :)

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  4. I love to visit old churches and picture what they were like when they were in full use and wonder how they serve their communities now.

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    1. Some of them are so huge that when they are full it is a wonderful experience. Far fewer people live in London's centre now than used to when many of them were built.

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  5. What a great tour!
    I've only been in one of those and never seen cats or dogs inside. Seen one or two rogues mind.
    London churches are always worth looking into, God, history and pets!

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    1. I think animals humanise a church, if that does not sound a bit of a weird thing to say. Yes, I suppose it does sound rather a weird thing to say....

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  6. I thank you for sharing these havens of hope and peace. We need them now so much.

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    1. Yes, as well to bear it in mind, I support them all I can although I am not religious, but I give them money and visit them.

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  7. Hope the whole legal thing gets settled fast and easily. Visiting churches can be very soothing.

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    1. Very definitely. It's nice to know that there are places when the material world comes second.

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  8. Lovely post. I love the churches in London, and there are so many!
    I somehow know the rhyme about the church bells in London, Richard must have said it to me over the years!

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    1. You might have heard it sung, it is very well known in England.

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  9. I'm so sorry that you are embroiled in the toils of the law...it can be soul destroying - so as well that you went hunting for churches!
    I did enjoy your tour, too: Leo knew the last two from his time in the City - well before the fire of 1980, though.

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    1. Yes, St Ethelberga's is one he might have known before it was destroyed by an IRA bomb, very sad. They've turned it into a peace centre now and it is still interesting but in a different way of course.

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  10. I know what you mean about finding peace in churches when the rest of the world seems mad. Hope you are ok.

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    1. Hope all is going well in Malawi, Jo! I must check your blog for latest updates.

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  11. Jenny, thank you so much for this wonderful post! I am sorry to hear you are involved in a lawsuit. That must be so unpleasant and draining a lot of time and energy from your life.
    Looking around such different, but all beautiful, churches in London seems a great cure indeed! I love the idea of the cat walking around the place, and the dog you met at another church.
    What interesting details, too; I didn't know this about the surname Patten. I wonder whether "Patton" is just a different spelling but has the same origin? One part of my hometown is called Pattonville, named after US-General Patton.

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    1. I didn't know about the surname Patten either. Chris Patten is the only person I know with that surname - I don't know him personally of course. Legal cases are really frightful but people never seem to learn that it is a bad idea to get tangled with the law.

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  12. Old churches fascinate me, modern ones don't. Unfortunately new style churches have no atmosphere. Reading this post though reminds me that I have not heard church bells for years. Where have they all disappeared to,I wonder, or is it the ringers who have disappeared?

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    1. I think much of the charm of old churches is simply because they are the only truly old buildings many of us enter these days. So many old houses have had the insides ripped out of them by people who want something exactly like a new build ... I suppose today's new churches will eventually become interesting once they have fallen down and been partly rebuilt a few times! I think parish churches are the ones who generally have the bells, but it is quite a commitment to be a bellringer, I believe.

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  13. Oh Jenny I was quite excited to see your photo of St Martin-in-the-Fields, because we dropped in there too on our recent visit to London. They were rehearsing that day too, such fun. I loved the white ceiling, isn't it gorgeous? You have found some interesting other churches, always with a point of interest and often somebody famous in association. And I hope you extricate from the legal thing, which sounds curiouser and curiouser...

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    1. The legal case definitely could have been created by Lewis Carroll :) I'm glad you saw St Martin's, it has a lot to offer. Did you get to eat in the crypt cafe when you were there? A nice place to stop off for a snack, home made food. Southwark cathedral also has a nice refectory.

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  14. Beautiful post
    I'm sorry you're having troubles. I send many well wishes for body and soul.

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    1. Thank you very much! Lucky to have restorative places to go, even in the middle of the city.

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  15. I'm not a great fan of old churches with pews and organs etc. Our church was originally like that but it's been modernised and I think it makes it much more welcoming and less scary to new visitors. In fact I'm on the design team, and we are in the process of redecorating, and we are choosing new carpets, wall paint and lighting etc.

    That last photo is beautiful.

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    1. I think churches are all about the people in them, nothing sadder than a beautiful church with no heart to it. The nice thing is that in most of these churches they DO have a feeling of being alive, not just a historical monument. It sounds like your church is very much alive, and great to participate in making it more the way you want it to be.

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  16. Hello Jenny, my heart goes out to you with being dragged into a legal case - most especially a frustrating one... good that you can distance yourself as you've done here.
    A lovely wander through the churches all with such atmosphere of things past. St Stephens with its colourful Victoriana looked most interesting.
    I played the bell ringers video (thank you) - it was great to see a whole mix of ages amongst them. Most definitely an art and a proud one from the memorial sign.
    What a magnificent sunset! I love it when the sky goes all pink and blue.
    Sending hugs from across the way to you Jenny, and may life treat you well. Cheers :D)xx

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    1. Thank you so much, yes, I loved the bellringers plaque too I could imagine them being so pleased that they got it made, and then when it was lettered and put up they must have been so delighted!

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  17. Old churches are fascinating arent they? They always seem to throw up some little secret or hidden gem.

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  18. ...havens of peace and hope... I think a lot of people are looking for those right now!

    Wonderful sunset!

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    1. I should say so, so thank goodness for places that cater for this. I am sad to see that some churches have been taken over by hate and disapproval of people in distress, but it is good that most have not been.

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  19. The past photo is beautiful.

    I thought the bells sounded rather chaotic, although I believe they were in some sort of order. I listened to the kids one and couldn't understand enough of what they were singing to hear anything sinister.

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    1. I know what you mean about them sounding chaotic, I suppose it is because they keep moving and sounding for some time after the ropes are pulled, the trick is to take a step back and listen to the bigger patterns. The sinister aspect of Oranges and Lemons is the execution bit at the end, which I always wonder about, perhaps it was tagged on at a later date.

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  20. The organ in St Martin in the Fields is amazingly beautiful. I seldom see organ pipes that are so thin and delicate looking. Yes, the last lines of Oranges and Lemons are oddly violent. Where on earth is the chopping off your head all about? I came across pattens recently in the Jessie Burton books, and had to look it up. I suppose they went out of fashion once streets got cleaner and shoes were more reliably waterproof.

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    1. I wonder if the chopping your head bit is to do with something else. It seems a bit excessive punishment for just owing someone five farthings!

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  21. I enjoyed this virtual tour round the churches - and I loved that you saw a cat and a dog. We used to play a game to Oranges and Lemons when I was a child at parties - always a favourite. Listening to the song brought it all back.

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  22. Wonderful read this early morning here in the U.S. Visiting the churches seems like a very peaceful thing to do - even if I only visited through your words and pictures. Thanks for starting my day in a peaceful way

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  23. Lovely post. Is St Leonard's Shore ditch the one where there is a little cafe area outside. We went not long ago and it was looking very sad and unloved...

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  24. Hello Jenny,
    Thank you for this delightful post. They are all beautiful and fascinating churches. I have been to a service at St Martin in the Fields several times. It is a beautiful church and we have fond memories of the memorial services in honour of the VC's and GC's. The Queen Mother was in attendance when we were there. Hope you have a wonderful week. Helen xx

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    1. I am going to a concert in St Martins soon and looking forward to it. I once heard "Messiah" there, by candlelight.

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  25. I'm so sorry to hear that you've been unwillingly dragged into an unpleasant legal case - I truly hope things go well. It takes a long time to recover from the flu - glad you're feeling better.

    I never realized how much effort and synchronization goes into bell ringing. It really is an art.

    The nursery rhyme song "Oranges and Lemons" is the same tune that was used in a popular TV commercial for Chef Boyardee Italian food here in the U.S. loooong ago (I'm probably the only one who remembers it).

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    1. Makes me smile at the idea of it being used for Italian foods. I wonder why when it is one of the most London-ish songs ever. Other than "London's Burning" I suppose!

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  26. When one looks at the wonderful old buildings with their unique, intricate detailed design outside and interior, one wonders if humans are still capable of creating such beauty nowadays. I'm not a particularly religious person, either, but like you, am able to recognise and appreciate, the beauty...and the skill.

    It upsets me greatly in ways I've not enough words to describe when I read the destruction being recklessly and wantonly caused to ancient buildings - monuments to our world's history - by the hands of ISIS and the like. I do not understand the reasons why....

    Great photos and accompanying words, as usual, Jenny - thank you. :)

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    1. I agree, Lee. These buildings might only be inanimate stone and brick and yet they signify so much more than this. It makes me furious too.

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  27. Thanks for your comment to my latest post. We would find many similar folkways around the world. As you said, it's quite difficult to catch the origin and reason, because people have been "mixing memories and desires" in their days.

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    1. Very true, as I kind of suggested to Yoko too. Certain great religions have a good deal in common. By the way I will look forward to more of your posts, they are always interesting!

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  28. I feel the same way, enjoying the tranquility of old churches.

    Your photos are lovely. Love the cat one most of all.

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  29. P s..I hope your legal battle is over soon.

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  30. So sorry you feel the need to seek peace, Jenny, but your photos, show you chose some lovely places to find it. I too am not religious but love old chirches. The cat and dog add that extra warm glow the interiors of these churches exude. Beautiful!

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    1. It was so nice to see animals were also welcome.

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  31. Trump has me greatly concerned, and our Heavenly Father has not given me any assurances that he will not start WWW3 against the Chinese. No, that would not be good for anyone's business--certainly not American, but his mouth runneth over.

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    1. Like that phrase! Not to mention his "ego" also....

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  32. Glad you've shaken off the flu, sorry about the other stuff.

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  33. Jenny, thanks for including the two links. The bells are so full of joy and the song, with its chop, chop, chop made me smile. I can think of a few heads I'd like to chop about right now.

    I, too, am so deeply disturbed at what is happening in our world. Yesterday, holocaust remembrance day, our government, with the Statue of Liberty reminding us to "Give us your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to be free..." refused admittance to the US of a large group of refugees, already vetted, already with sponsors in the U.S., and already in the air when the order was signed. Some have worked for the government as interpreters, others have families here. It's tragic. I am so embarrassed to be part of this country right now. And more than that, so very sad...

    I'm not big on organized religion but I am a woman of faith and spirit and the seeking the sanctuary of churches is something I feel need for. Not the services. Just to sit, be still. Except for those magnificent bells...

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    1. Thank you for this interesting comment, Jeanie. Whenever I go into a big London church, I find that there is at least one person sitting quietly, sometimes there are several. I am so glad that they stay open. I find organised religion hard but I do relate to the idea of "where two or three are gathered in my name...."

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  34. Dear Jenny - I think I know how you felt seeing that wonderful sunset scene. In spite of disgusting things going around in the world, that sunset is the moment when we are reminded that this world is not bad at all. Your travelling on that famous London Bridge on daily basis made me feel special about your real life in London. Visiting two different churches would be like visiting temples in my city for me. I’m not interested in organized religion but church in my heart influenced by mainly Buddhism and Christianity. When visiting temples or churches, I’m so attracted by the historical and cultural artifacts and architecture created by human beings with creative minds.

    For some reasons (not flu), I’ve been reluctant to blogging, but I’m slowly speeding up to it. I hope your footsteps be light and rhythmical when travelling around this year.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you Yoko! I also find that both Buddhist and Christian ideas speak to me. It is strange as on the surface they appear so different. I think there is an idea of basic harmony there which strikes me as true. I hope you will continue to blog, as I always enjoy your posts, but I know the feeling of strange reluctance too. Sometimes we look inwards more than outwards, I don't know why...

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  35. Nice post, Jenny, great shots too. London's churches are absolutely fascinating, many tucked away, dwarfed by the buildings around them, and little havens amidst the bustle of the place. I have friends who are keen campanologists and I tried bell-ringing, once - it's not easy! Sorry to hear there is trouble of a legal nature - can be so frustrating, time-consuming and downright irritating. Nil illegitimus carborandum! Or something... :-)

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    1. :) I tried bell ringing once and it seemed there was a fairly serious risk of being whisked up into the belfry at times!

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  36. Thank you for your comment, Jenny. “Waterlogue” is iPhone app. You can purchase it at App Store.

    Yoko

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    1. Thanks, Yoko. I'll see if I can find it for Android, I changed my phone to an Android a few months ago.

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  37. I agree with you so much re London. I have found the same, it's the sort of city that always manages to find something to suit my mood.

    Have a nice weekend.

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  38. Dear Jenny,
    So Glad to know that you love to live in your city, London. I like to see the beautiful sunset, making a imagination that you across the London bridge! Those your historical Churches must be soothing places for visitors. It seems to be same as visiting temples and shrines in japan.When I was a little kid I went a Sunday church in Akasaka. As you know the city is an exciting place, but very crowded.The church was also closed like my elementary school.Although I am not a particular religion,visiting Sunday church was one of my fond memories.
    Thank you for your mail today. That was a great inspiration, because I was just thinking of you. Sadly, the outlook on my PC does not work these days. I have found that I can receive emails but can not send with my PC. My Japanese friend Keiko told me the other day and I realized that. My PC will need to fix.
    Have a lovely new month, Jenny.

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    1. Thank you Tomoko. How glad I am that there is the chance to reply on my blog, and I hope that your PC will soon be fixed. I know what you mean about the temple and shrines in Japan. In Kyoto I was feeling very tired with all the people and a lot of walking about while feeling rather ill because of the allergy. We found a beautiful little temple and it made such a difference, it is quite restorative. Even if you cannot reply I will send you a photo sometimes Tomoko. I was just thinking yesterday about your photo tip, of how to photograph a person from the most suitable and natural angle.

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    2. Thank you for your kind reply. You see me smiling ? Have a good day!

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  39. That St. Martin-in-the-Fields church is really pretty! There's a Catholic church near where I used to have an internship. I used to park near there and always wondered if it was as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside. Someone once told me it's even more so. The two times I tried to go in though, the doors were locked.

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    1. I prefer it when churches are open for all comers, you never know when you might need one, but so often they are locked. I know they need to bother about vandalism and thieving but I still regret it.

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  40. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I'm sorry about the legal issue. I hope it all works out in your favor.

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  41. Great photos, Jenny. You have had interesting visits to interesting churches. I've been to St. Martin in the fields, that day there was not music but the master class was held for children, every kid could make a toy from materials of workshop. That has been happy day for many of them.
    have a nice week!

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  42. There was quite a difference between these two churches. I recall seeing bell ringers in several English mysteries and it looks like rather a tough task.

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