Thursday, September 18, 2014

England, Day Three B: St Paul's Cathedral!

There can be nothing more beautiful, more spectacular than the sound of a boy's choir in a great and echoing dome. Especially the dome of St Paul's Cathedral. Perhaps the first time I ever saw it from the outside was in the 60's while experiencing Mary Poppins for the first time - it was unforgettable. Seeing that dome as an adult, outside and in, adds dimension and meaning I had no clue about as a child. But even then, I knew there was something awe-inspiring about that place.

At 4:45pm yesterday I walked inside the great cathedral, and ventured forward toward the dome. Chairs were set up in circular rows just beneath it, and I was gently ushered to a seat at the front in full view of where the boys choir would sing. More worshippers filed in, quietly. No one would ever dream of arriving in a rush, or be talking, or (heaven forbid) laughing out loud. It isn't like that, there. 

Another thing no one would ever dream of doing is take a photo of the order of service card we were handed. I was about to draw my phone out to click a quick one, when I read at the top (in red) 'The use of cameras or mobile phones is prohibited in the Cathedral'. I dropped the phone back in, and was all the better for it.

Soon there was a rustling sound at the side, and from the door a long line of choir boys came walking around the dome, 2 by 2. My hand was itching to delve once again into the purse, for my phone. What an opportunity, lost! But again I was obedient, remembering 
that this was not going to be about photo ops. 

St Paul's Cathedral 2013

The men's choir followed, and then the officiating minister clustered about by other robed figures. There followed a pause, after which everyone forgot about cameras or phones or last night's dinner. For the boys began to sing. The purity of their tones surrounded us in 
sheer echo, the words of praise seeming angelic although sung by mortals. Suddenly we there were not mere observers, but participants. Worshippers. Together in one accord.

It was Evensong, therefore much of the service was sung. The congregation was prompted to stand at certain points, during which a song or a reading might be given. I am sorry to report that at one point, overcome with jet lag, the SconeLady fell asleep and did not stand for one of the songs! How awful! I will say nothing more about THAT, except that I dearly hope it wasn't too distracting (being in the front row, and all..).

I have mentioned before that St Paul's is more than just another pretty building. I hope you will be able to visit there, one day. I hope you see that in this busy mid-London, one can find Sanctuary from all imperfections; rest for all weary souls. Jesus, the Crucified and Risen.

It's all there.

See you along the Way!
the SconeLady

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

England, Day Three: The Dorchester!

I considered it a business expense, but that may be stretching it just a bit. It doesn't really matter, though, because it was all so delicious. 

I had heard about the afternoon tea at the Dorchester Hotel from listening to Rick Steves on NPR. His British guest, Jillian something, had said it was THE place to be. Since then I have wanted to try it. In the past I have visited The Savoy for an afternoon tea. But this has grown in expense, so I decided to listen to Jillian and try the Dorchester.

Even before the tea was served, the ambience proved it would be worth the expense (did I just say that?). There was an expense, I can't deny it (a mere 45 pounds..), but the taste and the amount of  food surpassed all expectations. The following is what I was served:

  • Assam tea (the best! You have to have some)
  • Finger sandwiches - cucumber/cream cheese, egg and cress, smoked salmon, chicken salad, and turkey with English mustard
  • Three fresh, warm scones with jam and clotted cream
  • French pastries

The waiter was very kind, and hoveringly attentive. There was not one thing I wanted that was not thought of and provided. All the while, a pianist played the most gorgeous and appropriate songs - and I was seated right next to him! That was the icing on the cake.

I did notice that there were quite a few women there, today. There were mothers and daughters, grandmothers and young relatives, ladies in a group, and a married couple. But I happen to know lots of men who would have liked and appreciated every bite of this lovely tea, if only I could have gotten them over here somehow!

Later in the day, I had the privilege of attending St Paul's Cathedral for their sung Evensong. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about it! Simply lovely.

All in all it was a day of spectacular events. But I think I might press 'pause' on the scones, just for a bit. If I don't, I shall be big as a Barn.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

England, Day Two: Scones at Selfridges!

I am shocked, dear Readers, for it is not cold (yet) in England. How lovely if this turns out to be a pattern!

At the end of the long day, I sit in front of a TV while thinking about the loveliness of it - the day, not the TV. The program in front of me is dealing with British high school behaviors (er, behaviours), which are apparently just as challenging as those in California. It isn't pretty, but everything else about this day is.

It began with a full English breakfast - which I tried at first to resist, but in the end was talked into. In hostels here, they do it up right with bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, toast, fried bread (not what you're thinking), granola, corn flakes, coffee and juice. The man behind the counter thought I was joking when I said no, thank you to about half of this fare. He just laughed and kept on dishing out. 

Such a breakfast was actually a great idea, because I had a lot of walking to do. Miles and miles. One must not flag at a time like that!

  • There was the visit to a mobile phone shop, where they helped me to know more about how to go broke while using mobile phones in a foreign land
  • There was the Beatles walking tour where I learned very little about the Beatles, but did pass by the spot where the Great London Fire started. Ok, well I've been there about 20 times. (But did you know that 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' meant LSD? Nope, neither did I).
  • There was the walk to Selfridges on Oxford Street where I had my first London scone! I hope I can get the photo onto this page but don't hold your breath (oh! There it is)

  • There was a grand conversation via FaceTime with friend Rosie. We were so excited that our voices rang right through the YHA and garnered a lot of attention. But I couldn't help it.
  • There was the tube ride up to see friend Rosie's two daughters where I was fed royally, and treated generously. Gorgeous, brilliant. A perfect description!
And so here we are, at the end of this lovely gift of a day. As I sit here writing, I hear on and off the lovely bells of St Paul's Cathedral bonging away, just over the road in my direction...the bells calling out to any who will listen. I'm listening. I need their message. Perhaps tomorrow I will be able again to sit in that quiet place, and listen some more.

If I do, well then you will be the first to know!

 (BTW, have you been watching Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece? I haven't but will start right away because it is the Selfridges that I had the lovely scones in today! It is all the Talk over here and we must NOT miss out)... (but I'd better wait and stream it back in the States..I don't want to go broke).

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Monday, September 15, 2014

England Day One: Arrival!

They are all so super nice! Our conversation began with a spirited discussion of where we would all plug in our numerous devices - so typical when staying in a place that was also designed well before the devices. This seemed a familiar conversation!

Six women, all travelers, all eager to be connected with home while away. We represent six different countries: Australia. England (Cornwall!). Portugal. The United States. Denmark. And I don't remember the last one. How we all ended up at the same hostel in the same room is anybody's guess, but one thing is for certain- they are all so super nice!

The electronic device situation is hilarious. I came walking rather shyly through the door with an iPhone, iPad, and juice box that needed charging. I stood in the doorway with my hands full, seeing no outlets. The girl from Australia noticed my searching glance and said, "There is only one spot to do it," and she began plugging in my array in a business like manner. She took one of hers out to accommodate mine and said, "I was only topping it off anyway," 

The rather large cluster of devices at one outlet reminded me of something out of the 1940s. Perhaps a horror show, ending in billowing smoke, with a fire. There were at least 3 different adapters (we were, after all from 6 different countries), and one power strip. Mine alone could handle 4 devices so by the time it was all over, everyone was plugged in.

Outside we can hear the bells ringing at St Paul's Cathedral. This room is just across the lane from it.

And now, it's me here in a dark room blogging away because I can't sleep. The Tylenol PM should kick in eventually, but I am reminded that my family is having dinner together and I am missing it. The kiddies are probably climbing all over Grandpa by now. But they are super hot, and I am super comfortable. So there are advantages both ways. 

What fun we will all have, on both sides of the world. I will see Abbey Road, have afternoon tea, and see a most adorable young family friend who will be wonderfully entertaining. I can hardly wait.

But first, there must be sleep. I may need to take Bing Crosby's advice on that one.

And I'll fall asleep, counting my blessings.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Any Girl Who Isn't Me

At last sitting in a chair at the Gate, I am ready. There have been the usual goodbyes (involving hugs from arms I will terribly miss), the key questions ("Do you have your passport? Ticketing info? Battery chargers?", a checklist we always review, to avoid the dreaded showstoppers), and last minute purchases. This is all part of the pinball machine which gets me safely to the airport, through the door and into the unavoidable queues. 

Somewhere a baby is crying.

 Passengers are wandering about, searching for electrical outlets. Clearly this airport was designed before there was such a plethora of phones, smartphones, listening devices, DVD players, iPads and juice boxes because it's getting ridiculous in here. I feel sorry for these outlet seekers. Luckily I arrived early enough to bag one before the hoards. It's the parents who really need them, and I'm sure you can imagine why. Just consider the next several hours without extraneous entertainment, and then there's the could get interesting.

But I am feeling unusually happy and unburdened and satisfied, here in this chair at the Gate. Once in a while I am struck by how blessed I really am to be in this spot, heading toward a place I love and long for, and with such a wonderful family to miss. There is hardly a thing left now to do except wait to be herded onto the plane. I am wondering what the first meal will be? Eventually, I am sure there will be a scone, with a nice cup of tea and perhaps even a warm wet towel.. the small pleasures. 

The words to a song flit through my mind, from West Side Story...

                                     "And I pity any girl who isn't me today!"

The baby is now laughing, and so am I. The crowds are crowdier, the hour is later, and my eyes are even sleepier. But my conclusion? It's a red letter day, where I can sit calmly listening to people chatting, babies crying/laughing, and kindly agents hovering. It could hardly get better.

It is just oh-so-much fun being the SconeLady!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bewilderment In The Digital Age (2)

Previously, part 1

"What do you mean, I need to delete some photos?" I felt a surge of panic.

"Well, you don't have to delete them, I'm just suggesting that you do delete them. If something is not deleted, you won't be able to take photos while you are in England. It's up to you."

We (he) hooked the iPhone up to the laptop and brought up a diagram that showed how much memory the iPhone had left. We stared at the graph until he said, " Wow. There's no space. It's a miracle your programs work at all."

      Big Ben awaits the SconeLady
He then kindly backed up my iPhone, and the panic subsided a bit. We (he) discovered some videos that were multipl-ly backed up, and deleted them. Space reappeared. A disaster had been averted! After all, something had to be done, it was the night before The Trip. Deleting photos has never come easily for the SconeLady even though all of the photos in my phone are also in my laptop; and in our desktop computer; and backed up into a Cloud - still I hang on to them in a fear that I won't be able to show something to friend Rosie. Besides, who has the time to sit and sift and delete? (I ask you).

But then I remembered that I am also taking the iPad, within which are stored more photos than any lady could ever reasonably need. That's the trouble with my digitals: it's just too much of a good thing.

Managing one's digital supplies is a wearisome chore, I am thinking. The long-suffering husband does his best to render assistance. He did bring it up on that earlier occasion (on many earlier occasions), in the hopes of helping me be ready for the English countryside. He knew I was searching for the perfect scone. He knew that the shores of Cornwall would be a thing of rare beauty worthy of photos. What a terrible thing it would be if the SconeLady was left haplessly bombarded by disc space errors.

I am now reasonably reassured that I, my iPhone, iPad, battery chargers, spare battery pack, juice box, and appropriate cables will be able to do the job. It's almost like having an entourage, only I don't need to feed them. I always wondered what it would be like to travel with an entourage. I probably never will, now. But this is just about as good.

Today is Saturday - I fly away on Sunday! Stay with me, dear Readers. It's much more fun with you along the way.

the SconeLady

photo credit: <a href="">Harshil.Shah</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, September 12, 2014

Toward the Land of Downton Abbey

Once again, a flurry of excitement and activity has descended upon this, the SconeLady's home. 

Perhaps I can say that the details are now decided upon! Perhaps the first scone of discovery is on the horizon and I can almost smell it! Either way, the Countdown's getting closer. With a final touch here, and a tweak of timing there, beloved England is within reach, and won't she be beautiful.

Just, for a moment, look at my contrasts. See how HOT we have all been here, and think of how COOL I will now be. A dream come true! I do love to be cool. Remember all the days I walked along, surrounded by piles of snow? So cloudy with a chance of 57 sounds pretty good, to me.

And don't forget to check back with me, here. Come by every day, and if I haven't shown up yet, you'll know that the SconeLady is doing her level best to make an appearance. Delays may come, they always seem to at the beginning. But don't give up on me!

Tell me if you have ever been to the Land of Downton Abbey? Have you visited Highclere Castle, where the 'real' Downton Abbey is/was/seems to have come from? Tell us about it! I have never yet been, but keep hearing that it is a must do. Maybe I can fit it in along with that Beatles Tour I have been wanting to experience; and then there is the visit to the BBC; along with the British Museum and the Mildenhall Treasure; and I can'tt miss the lovely ride up and up to the top of the London Eye...

Today is Friday. I fly away on Sunday!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

photo credit: <a href="">mrkathika</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>