Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cornwall, Day 3: The Digey Wins the Day!

It ended the way it began - beautifully. This day held not only the loveliest of walks and the tastiest of scones, it held enchanting moonlight and the discovery of a chocolatey sorbet. Yes! Did you know that there was such a sorbet as chocolate? I didn't, being more familiar with the fruity kind (this is dangerous, and may present itself as a temptation I can not promise to resist).

The loveliest of walks took me toward the cliffs surrounding the town, passing beaches and empty tea shops (it was early) and quirky little cobbled streets. I was mostly alone as I walked, but after a while I came upon a young father pushing his baby in a pram. It was fun to overhear his conversation with the baby because he was very sweet with her. He spoke as if she could understand, and his face beamed out each time she smiled. Which was a lot. They were a mutual admiration society.

This was the sweetest thing. But then they disappointingly turned left and I continued, wending my way home to the fisherman's cottage. For we two had plans. We:

  • made a picnic
  • took it on a bus to Penzance
  • grabbed a bus from Penzance to Marazion
  • walked across to St Michael's Mount
  • toured the castle at the top
  • grabbed the next bus back
  • ate at the local pub, which turned out to be fabulous
  • and fell into exhausted heaps at the end.

Oh -  and I'd better not leave out the scones we had this afternoon! THE best so far, my dear Readers. And they were last year, too.

Hip-hip-hooray! for the Digey Food Room! Once again they have done it. They have fulfilled the promise of a good scone: warm, substantial (without being horrid and thick), sweet, tasty, and textured-to-perfection. We shall watch, and wait, and see if a better one comes along. But it is doubtful, my friends; seriously doubtful. 

The triumph at the end of this superior day was the lovely walk along the harbor, crowds thinning, weather still warm enough for comfort, and the moon smiling down upon us. We sat eating our chocolate treats, and considered the day a success.  

I kept thinking of that young father, and of the bright future he is ensuring. Such gifts weave a strength into this world of ours, that's what. One smile at a time.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cornwall, Day 2: The Search Is On

Not exactly bright-eyed, we climbed out of bed to gaze upon our first full day in St Ives. It was breathtaking.

For sea lovers, a glimpse of the shoreline of St Ives is the ultimate high - a high of highs that no one needs chemicals to produce. And the shore was so very close! We became suddenly energized and ready to get out into it.

But then one of us suggested a 'toast party'. Terrific! We had everything we needed for a toast party from the nearby cooperative, along with the delicious coffee provided for us by the owners (bless them). Next up: church. 

We chose to attend the local parish Church of England, just steps down the lane. As we approached, their bells began to ring along with the bells of the several other ancient churches nestled around. Enchanting!

We found our seats just as the music, and the processional began. White robed men and women walked in their formation from the side, the cross being carried as we all kept watch. From somewhere there was the aroma of incense. So this would be 'high church' - well enough. It would also be a sung Eucharist, something I find irresistible: the age-old words, spoken and sung, began their work and together the people followed and joined in.

I loved the organist! Are you shocked, dear reading Americans, that there even WAS an ORGANIST?! There was, and he was splendid (forgive me for not missing the presence of a worship band). White haired, superior posture, expressive in the way he moved toward and around his keys. It was exciting to watch! What's more, he didn't miss a note, not one note. And this is coming from the SconeLady whose father could not bear a missed note to reveal itself in his presence.

And next, the sermon was excellent. Worthy! Both of us learned, and appreciated, and needed Matthew 21.

In the afternoon we two walked up to the Castle for a cream tea. The search for a perfect scone is well and truly on, and this was our first Cornish sampling. Alas! The scone was cold (even though I requested twice - somewhat embarrassed - that it be delivered warm). The presence of jam and clotted cream did not noticeably help, and so it was probably not a scone worthy of the great chase. But the wait staff was cheerful, and that is a thing not to be scorned.

But really. If a tea room goes to all the trouble of producing and advertising cream scones, wouldn't you think they would want to serve them WARM? (I ask you).

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cornwall, Day 1: Playing Houses

We landed on our feet, but it was an uncertain start. The SconeLady left something important in the taxi!

Alright, now that I have confessed this near miss, I can joyfully tell you that we reached the taxi man's boss, who through a crackling dispatch reached him, who through the crackling dispatch said yes he had the important item and would have it there in short shrift. Danger averted! Frightened thoughts calmed and (almost) forgotten. Adventure back on track!

And so, we were at last turning the key to our fisherman's cottage near the shore. The sweetness of the place enchanted the SconeLady, and surely her husband as well. We dumped all our belongings in a haphazard way, then locked up and went to scope out our new town. The darling harbor village was out in full force, showing off its charms left and right. Lights were bright, couples were out for a Saturday evening stroll, children were in their prams, fast asleep. It was a time for fun.

We wanted to find the most British looking pub we could. You might ask how a British pub could not look British, but it has happened before. We wanted a pub that was warm and friendly, with the occasional shout out and perhaps darts flying somewhere. A lit fireplace would also be nice. We really just wanted to be reminded of when we lived this side of the Pond. 

We found a pub, cozy and boisterous and jolly, all in one. We squeezed into a tiny booth at the top, edging our way by unspoken agreement up to the furthest spot from the music below. I am not saying, really, that the music was bad. I am just saying that it was loud. That is all. As a musician myself, I try to steer clear of these judgments (I remember once looking toward the back of an audience and seeing a woman sitting with her hands pressed over her ears. Oops).

So we sat, he with his pint, me with my Pepsi, and talked. We still hadn't caught up on all of each other's news...or, at least we tried to talk. Soon it became apparent that the music would preclude this effort. And so we drank our glasses empty, and left.


Groceries were carried back, and soon the welcome feeling of playing 'houses' settled in. Placing each item in its own rightful spot. Thinking of what I might make with it, tomorrow. Planning as I worked. All the fun of a fun holiday, in advance. Still at the early stages. Still wide-eyed.

And getting sleepier by the minute! But I must describe to you first the quirkiness of the cottage we are in: a cottage with FOUR FLOORS in it. That's right, a room at the very bottom (kitchen), with a room above it (sitting room), with a bedroom above the sitting room, and another bedroom above that. FOUR! Hmm. This bears some thinking. But it is so darn cute that I can almost forgive its many steps.

In the meantime, here's to adventures! Here's to beaches! Here's to cream scones!

I'm diving right in.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/markdodds/4322857175/">J Mark Dodds [a shadow of my future self]</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Saturday, September 27, 2014

England, Day 13: a Bend in the Road

Paddington Station stretches below me as I write, people dashing from one end to the next with great purpose. I am happy for them and their purpose - no one looks particularly distressed or fragmented as they blur from place to place. But I am especially glad for my own small self, because I am not alone as I sit here. Next to me is my companion of years, the firmly loyal and cheerful man who may have the beginnings of jet lag. In short, the SconeLady's husband!

We sit waiting on a comfortable leather couch overlooking this most famous of places. Before us is the detritus of a pot of tea, a coffee, and sandwiches which (unexpectedly) were superb. Fresh. Soft. Generous. From above us drifts the careful and cultured voice of the lady announcer, reminding of departures and abandoned baggage. There is an hour before train time, and we await our own departure for all points South. 

London transport is a study all its own, and one day I would like to study it. Yesterday, a Friday, it was a little bit overwhelming as I found myself surrounded and borne swiftly off. This was especially so in the morning (forgive me for not remembering it would be rush hour), noon (not quite sure what) and late afternoon - the other rush hour. In the morning I was on the Underground between stops when I was suddenly caught up in a sea of black suits - everyone walking fast, everyone apparently late for work. Black really was the favored color, if it is a color, and it was all terribly professional and business-like. And then there was me in my traveler's clothes and sneakers.

And so we say goodbye to London and all its charms, for a time. We will exchange it for the sweeter attractions of a harbor, and green grassy cliffs, and eager seagulls. Perhaps a wood burner to ward off the chill. And I am thinking - scones! We will be in a cottage with a kitchen, so who knows? Maybe the SconeLady will turn her hand to baking.

Whatever. With or without a rolling pin, it will all be good, my dear Readers. There will be scone opportunities galore, for it will be Cornwall - the land of limitlessly exquisite Cream Teas. Join me here as I seek them and find them along the way. One in particular calls..the cream scone from the Digey Room. The gracious host who loves to discuss his methods and his history. With no strict agenda laid out, we have time. We have interest.

We have each other.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Thursday, September 25, 2014

England, Day 11: Miss Saigon and Le Beaujolais

I will fall asleep tonight thinking again about Vietnam. And why, you might ask, would the SconeLady be thinking of such? Hasn't it been a very long time, and weren't we all just glad to be clear of it? Maybe, but I can't help it right now because we just saw the London production of Miss Saigon. No one who experiences that can just fall asleep willy-nilly. 

I am one of the lucky ones who got to see the original production, starring Lea Solanga in the early 1990s. It was so powerful that I thought of it for ages afterward. Friend Rosie went to it with me then, and we went together again today. If you don't know the story, it helps a bit to know that it follows along the themes of Madam Butterfly, and is just as touching. 

To see a London production of anything is to see excellence. The matinee lasted 3 hours including the Interval, and it all was so intense as to be certainly exhausting for the cast. They then had to go almost straight back and do it all over again. That is dedication. And it felt to us as though they did it all especially just for us. That is originality.

We wandered the London streets afterward, discussing this, until it was time to meet the family at Le Beaujolais Club. Le Beaujolais Club, dear Readers, is a Club of all clubs - with a superb menu and a welcoming, hugging, laughing proprieter. A truly superior human being! From the appetizers to the cheeses at the end, there was nothing we needed that did not make its way to our table.

And now - sleep. I will be thinking of

  • a young Vietnamese girl who fell in love with a GI
  • a loud and amazing helicopter that seemed to fly straight over us and onto the stage
  • an audience that was as amazed and shocked by it all as we were
  • the wonderful people I then shared a meal with
  • their wonderful young people
  • the imminent arrival of the SconeLady's husband (!)
This last will be the sweetest of all the exciting things that are going to happen on this beauty of a trip! It A massive privilege.

So here's to wonderful trips filled with interest, and kindness, and generosity. And best of all, here's to the advent of the SconeLady's husband!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

England, Day 10: The Ferry

I was searching for the ferry when I saw him. We were both stepping along a narrow lane in our search, and I could hear him thinking out loud as he went. It was something about expenditures. I caught up, passed, and then went on ahead toward the edge of a river.

I knew there would be a ferry boat landing, because friend Rosie had told me about one. I wanted to see it, and to ride on it. There would be a superior view of the historic quayside of King's Lynn, and I was ready. The usual daily 10 miles had already been walked, and so some sight seeing seemed in order. Soon I came to the river's edge, and the ferry.

The elder gentleman then came along, in deep conversation with a kindly lady carrying numerous packages of shopping. "It was the best 25 pounds I ever did spend," the man exclaimed. "Never a better."

I was wondering what he had spent it on when he continued, "Oh yes, 49 years ago next November I laid it all out at the registry and bought myself the National Trust."

"How did you buy the National Trust! I asked.

"25 pounds it was, laid it all out at the registry, and got meself and the wife a membership. We never go anywhere unless they have a National Trust property,"

This was interesting news. Every time I had wanted to visit a National Trust property it was hugely expensive. For two, it was more than this man's 25 pounds, I can tell you that right now. "You mean you have a pass that is for a long period of time?" I asked.

He became animated. "Oh yes, oh yes, this pass I now have (and he began to dig for it) "is pure GOLD. It is an original Life Time Pass!"

The lady with whom he had been chatting now joined back in. "Ooh, that's lovely! A Lifetime Pass. I wish we had one of those. They're far too dear, now for me..." This excited our narrator even more. "No! No one can get them now, not for 25 pounds! Not even for a thousand pounds! That was the best 25 pounds I ever spent."

At this interesting juncture the ferry made its approach and we began to board. The ferryman maneuvered us all safely on, then away we went for the five minute journey.

More conversation took place (mostly surrounding the expenditure of pounds), until we reached the other side of the river. We had about 20 minutes to walk down a path to view the lovely cluster of ancient buildings that formed Old Lynn. This I did, and as I walked back toward the ferry, the elder gentleman came along and paused next to me. 

"Are you going to visit any National Trust buildings?" he asked. 

"Ah, well I would certainly like to," I acknowledged. "Is Hampton Court one of them? I've always fancied going to Hampton Court."

It turned out that Hampton Court was exactly the ticket, in his opinion. "Oh YES!! I have been there. It is the highest of quality, that one is."

"Is it perfectly huge? I've heard that it might be."

"Immense! You had better be ready for a lot of walking, and a lot of steps. And, it's DARK, Miss, very dark."

I asked about this. He explained that too much light tends to fade the furniture and the wall hangings, so the light is muted.*

"A lot of National Trust buildings are dark, you will find. They keep them all dark like that. Be careful or you might just trip and fall."

I made to walk onward, as the ferryman was ready to start. "Well it was nice meeting you," I said.

"And you!" he said cheerfully. "I hope to see you some day at a National Trust. I'm 78 years old now, and 49 years ago next November I scraped together enough money to join. Maybe you will join..."

He began to walk on, his final words fading as he went ... "It was the best 25 pounds I ever spent..."

I looked back at him, reflecting upon the one pound fifty cost of the ferry. It was actually the best one pound fifty I ever spent.

See you along they!
the SconeLady

*it is also true that those ancient buildings had fewer and smaller windows, due to the 'window tax'.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

England, Day 9: Tea, Cake, and the 'Donk'

A pot of tea and a bit of cake really does hit the spot after a round of shopping. I know, it should have been a scone. But Debenhams didn't have cream just at that moment, so what would be the point? There actually was a scone, ready made with jam and cream already spread in between the split layers. It looked beautiful! But those of you who have followed this space realize already what the trouble would be: there can be no way to warm up a scone when the cream is already in it. Do you feel I am being picky? Perhaps I, the SconeLady, should lower her standards a bit, and eat a cold scone?

I could have, and almost did. In fact, the standards had dropped quite dangerously and the tea lady had actually placed the creamy scone upon a white porcelain plate. That was when I spied this bit of cake, and remembered that there is nothing wrong with some cake in a time of cold scones. She kindly changed my order and arranged a slice of lemon cake just for me.

It was delicious.

I really liked that tea lady because I overheard her in the kitchen, enquiring as to whether there might be some fresh cream about? For the American lady? Trying to go that second mile for me. The gracious Brits - there's just nothing like them.

I am sitting now in a jeep with the iPad, typing away with two fingers as Rosie feeds and grooms the donkey. The 'Donk', along with two pretty horses, saw us pull up and immediately began making their way towards us (her). Rosie is their favorite person just now, because they know something good always happens whenever she appears. I believe we might call this love a 'cupboard' love: "food and warmth, hands that caressed, voices that reassured.." Cupboard loves such as the one felt by the bear Mr. Bultitude for Mrs. Maggs (That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis, 1945), who gave him a tin of golden syrup every Friday. 

It is lovely to have people like Mrs. Maggs nearby. Or the tea lady, going that second mile in order to make the day of a stranger. 

Or like Rosie, who seems to find people and animals gathered about her on a frequent basis. I am one of them, who feels that something good always happens whenever she appears. These three women have at least one thing in common, I have noticed. They are all Englishwomen. 

Those gracious Brits - there's just nothing like them.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

England, Day 8: Norfolk

You really don't need earbuds. Not here. At home, you won't see the SconeLady on long walks without them. But today as I rummaged for something else, I saw the earbuds looking rather abandoned and lonely, floating around in the bottom of the bag. 

There is just too much to take in, to notice, here. It would be all too distracting, having something plugged in and burbling away at me. Therefore it is peaceful, and I am loving it.

Friend Rosie recommended a lovely walk for me this morning, which began with a sweet farm store just filled with deliciousness. I bought some apples, and started out. It was meant to be a 7 mile trek, but about halfway through I realized that in spite of two GPS's,  detailed directions, and a map, I was off. The directions were, "Cross a stile by a wooden footbridge and continue along the riverbank then follow the path round to the right and cross another stile before turning left along a wide field-edge track..."

It was all fine and lovely except I could find no stile by a wooden footbridge, and no other stile before turning left. After some turning around, and confused retracing of steps, I 
climbed over two fences and sort of made my own plan. It could have been a bad idea but suddenly I found myself almost back at the beginning, two miles shorter in length.

Don't ask. I don't know how it happened. 

But the walk was fabulous, and with a Pink Lady apple or two I was completely satisfied. There was another five miler in the afternoon, and partway through Rosie came riding up to me on her bike. She looked like a high school girl just riding along without a care in the world. We walked companionably back to the farmhouse, chatting, laughing, planning. Riches, that absolutely cost nothing! 

That's the way so many riches tend to be. We really don't need to go to a store or a bank for them. Most times they are just across the table from us, or riding on a bike toward us, or - wearing a wedding ring we picked out together decades ago. 

Those riches run deep, and are not easily lost.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Above, you can see where I actually walked. Below was the map. Somehow between the stile and the river and the field, it all went funny. Can you figure it out? :-)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

England, Day 7: St Ebbes, and Rosie

I am once again ensconsed in my old room, a room so comfortable and familiar that it's almost home. 

Although many weary wanderers have stayed in this room, been fed beautifully and given numerous pots of tea, I still call this my room. That is the gracious way friend Rosie is toward all who come. 

Shall I describe it for you? As I do, my husband, daughter, sister and others will all remember the details, for they know it well. The walls and bedspreads are of a pale, buttery yellow which is carried into the soft thick draperies. There is a pale green wainscoting, repeated in the crown molding and the carpet. A beautiful wardrobe rests in the right hand corner, reminiscent of beloved Narnia, although a bit more petite. 

Oh wait - am I sounding like the Home & Garden channel? I can't help it! All of it is beautiful and comfortable and welcoming.

England's day 7 began at St Ebbes Church, Oxford. St Ebbes is a lively Church of England filled with joy and faith, whatever the age or race. No one really thinks of age, or race very much, except where it could be helpful to those in need (all of us). The Center of the place is Christ, plain and simple.

So it was lovely to be there! But the SconeLady had to leave early, feeling somewhat poorly, and needing to catch a train. The train ride was not very pleasant! Have you ever been poorly in public? On trains? Along the Underground? With the heat up and windows closed? Well. I shall draw a veil. The experience made the appearance of Rosie and Ted at the station near their home so much the sweeter.

And now it's as if I were royalty or something:

  • A lovely pot of tea upon arrival
  • A fire in the fireplace
  • Sharing memories and catching up on the past year
  • A scalding hot bath in a white claw foot tub
  • Crackers and a caraf of water should any need arise.

Much better than any Home & Garden channel could ever be. 

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Saturday, September 20, 2014

England, Day 6: Kelmscott Manor

No scary fire alarms were hideously set off, and no youthful feet came stomping the hallways. The SconeLady is deeply grateful for this small favor. She had a night's sleep of utter peace. And as such, ready for an adventurous day of finding, and visiting, Kelmscott Manor.

I had heard of this interesting spot during a satisfying FaceTime call with friend Rosie, who is always eager to help when help is needed. She highly recommended the Manor because she knew that I, her American friend, love seeing Manors just as much as she does. I knew it would be smashing.

Kelmscott Manor

But I had to get there, and this was the challenge. Kindly bus drivers had tried to help, and a tourist information clerk had rattled something off about going to Faringdon but not being sure there would even be a bus to Lechlade-on-Thames, a village 4 miles from the Manor. Well. Some of this was helpful, up to a point. I walked last night down to the bus station to get it all sorted. The agent said he thought I should go to Swindon instead of Faringdon because...oh, just because. It's too complicated to type it all out on an iPad using only two fingers.

Pastures green

But I can briefly report that I did indeed find the Manor, and did indeed love it. Besides the bus, my travel included an hour and a half of walking, each way. This was fabulous because I was once again on the familiar ground of a walking tour in England! This walk was right along the River Thames, and therefore beautiful. Everything you love about the English countryside was out there today - people fishing from the river side, families walking together on a Saturday, friendly bovines who couldn't care less, and green, green grass as far as the eye could see.

Carrot and Coriander soup!

When I arrived, a beautiful lady approached and explained about Kelmscott Manor, which 
was the Cotswold retreat of William Morris. He first saw the Manor in 1871 and said he was 'delighted by this loveliest haunt of ancient peace'. He lived there until his death 25 years later.

To fully appreciate this place, you really do need to know something of the man. I spent 
the day thinking he was the famous industrialist who created the Morris motor car in the 
mid 20th century. I searched around the house for car sketches, or photographs of a Mini. Instead, I found things like textiles, and beautiful wall hangings, and sketches of his wife Jane, who was gorgeous. 

Both William Morrises were from Oxfordshire, so the confusion is not surprising. Kelmscott Manor reflects the qualities of a successful textile designer, with not a single hint of any car. My favorite spot was the attic. I would love to hide out in an attic like this one:

And - I had a lovely bowl of carrot with coriander soup in their tea rooms! No scones, though. They didn't look as nice as the soup did and I can never resist a good soup.

As I walked back along the River Thames, among the swans, the ducks, and the lazy cattle along the way, not a drop of rain drifted down. Not a cross word was heard from any person I saw or heard. It truly was the 'loveliest haunt of ancient peace', just as the man himself would have wished for.

A perfect English day.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Friday, September 19, 2014

England, Days Four/Five: Dizzying Heights/Depths

I knew the moment I saw them that it was going to be an interesting night. Lots and lots of youth pouring into the youth hostel.  Makes sense, doesn't it? They were full of energy,  gorgeous, and noticing of one another. Under the authority of an authoritative personage, I hoped she would have a taming affect. I went to sleep with that hope.

It was shattered in the night by the shrieking of a fire alarm. The fire alarm had an audio connection to every room in the place to make sure no one slept through it. They didn't. While it shrieked, exuberant voices were heard shouting and laughing and stomping by.  Doors were banged on. Hideous noises were made. I was just dragging myself out of bed when the alarm stopped and the 'all clear' was given. A voice ordered everyone to their rooms. Things settled, became quiet. I slept.

None of these shenanigans made for happy thoughts. Still, the second day in Oxford had to be a good one. I had taken the time and trouble to be here and was determined. So I scoped out the city from the top of a double decker. I saw the rains begin. I watched carefully for the Ashmolean Museum to appear, and then hopped off to make a dash for it. A very satisfying place to be during a rain shower! The antiquities were astounding and I was surprised to find that admission was free:

Next, I visited the Church of St Mary the Virgin, where Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of  Canterbury and writer of the Book of Common Prayer, had been tried and condemned to death for heresy:

The massive column next to which he had stood to deliver his final sermon, is hung with a portrait of him, and the description of his death. On a street nearby a cross is superimposed into the pavement where he, Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake. It is a very moving story, one far too detailed to share here. I encourage any dear Reader who would like to find out more.

After this, I climbed the 120 steps to the top of the Tower of the church, up to a dizzying height:

The Radcliffe Camera from the top:

Another view:

View of the steps going down: Yikes!

Christ's Church Cathedral for their sung Evensong:

Attending Evensong was the pinnacle of this beauty of a day: Attendees eager and waiting to enter; small choir boys solemnly filing in, ready to sing (one slightly naughty looking one! blond hair rather mussed, eyes bright and dancing across at someone (I didn't see who); the voices of the young men supporting and surrounding the sweet child voices they themselves once had; the cultured voice of the white-robed woman who read the lessons. Candlelight. All beautiful, all such a sweet privilege to be near. 


See you along the way!
the SconeLady

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 flight..it 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

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/angeloangelo/7637723588/">angeloangelo</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>