Magna Carta

Today marks the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.  

We visited Runnymede in April.  The funny thing is that my strongest memory, a ditty which occasionally flutters unbidden through my thoughts, is a sign by the road as we entered town: Please Don’t Speed In Runnymede. 

Also noteworthy: it was Americans (the American Bar Association) who put up a monument to the Magna Carta.

the walk to the monument


Let Us Not Grow Weary

A modern monument in the Shere Church Graveyard
(Does this remind you of Timothy Botts’ calligraphy?)

Here is the “translation.”

I think Wesley’s quote is missing something.
Don’t mistake me, I love it.
But, it could become a recipe for grim frustration.
Maybe I’m still a bit tired…

I think it needs a bit about “with faith” or “in God’s strength”.

What do you think?

When we entered short doorways in the UK,
there were signs which said, “Mind your head.”

I need that sign this Monday,
as the tasks of the next two weeks loom large.

Mind your head.

Blessings on your day (or evening).

P.S. Did you check out the Botts link?
You are in for a real treat.
He’s been a favorite artist for decades.

Fine Art Friday – Painted Chapel Ceiling

A picture of death and the Last Judgement

The painted wooden ceiling of St. Mary’s Church of Grandtully was another of the serendipitous gifts of our trip.  This small ancient church, hidden on a private farm a few miles from our home base, was endowed in 1533.  Its  glory is its decorated ceiling which features this scene of death and the last judgment.  This church was in none of the guide books I had read.

There is one sign marking this church.  After driving on a narrow – even by Scottish standards – farm lane, walking behind a house and barn, you arrive at this little building surrounded by a rock wall.  A motion-sensor turns the light on when you enter.  The floor is primitive, there are no seats, you only look up and …wonder.

The building was used as a byre for hundreds of years.  A byre, I was told by a Scottish woman, is the home for cows.  Oh, I replied, we call that a barn.  With a pitying look, she clarified, A barn is a place to store hay, a byre is a place where cows live .  Aha.  I see.  The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes ran through my mind as I stood in this former byre.

There were panels for different virtues: this is Humility.

The Four Evangelists

“Matthew is portrayed in several ways.  He is shown with a cherub, in human likeness, where he is pictured as recording the human ancestry of Christ.  He appears with a winged man in reference to his detailed account of the Incarnation of Christ.”


“In his [Mark’s] character of Evangelist and secretary to St. Peter, he is given a pen and the book of his Gospel.”


“His most frequent attributes are the winged ox, presumably because in his Gospel he emphasizes the priesthood of Christ, and the ox is a symbol of sacrifice;”


“His principal attributes are the eagle, symbol of the highest inspirations, and the book.”

All the quotes are from the book Signs & Symbols in Christian Art by George Ferguson.  I wish that we had taken small book packed with information with us on the trip.  If you are interested in Christian art, this book from Oxford University Press is a great help. 

Please click on the pictures to see more detail.

Tea Intersection

Coffee shops are multiplying in Great Britain (yep, they have Starbucks, but Curt’s favorite was Costa – and they had free wifi, so it was my favorite rest stop), but Tea is still King.  The first question after we entered a house was, “Would you like a cup of tea?”  In a world where ritual has been replaced by randomness, there is a peculiar comfort to the ritual of making a perfect pot of tea.

On a day-long excursion to Canterbury, our friends came prepared to make tea en route.  We savored the steaming mugs of tea, huddled together in the van, when Lucy (a daughter) said, “There’s something very civilized about drinking tea in an uncivilized situation.”

I’ve never met a Lucy I didn’t love…

Customs and Duties

It is my custom to search second-hand bookstores when I visit a new location. 
I believe it is my duty to share my success.

There are a plethora of charity shops in the UK.  Initially this confused us; I truly wondered what one bought in a store called British Heart Association or Help The Aged.  We found the best deals at Oxfam Bookshops where books sold for £1 – £3.

The tankard on the right, in need of cleaning, was 50 pence!
We found it in Lutterworth, the final home of John Wycliffe.

After visiting the Edinburgh Castle, we hit our saturation point with castles and palaces.  We ditched plans for the Holyrood Palace and hit the bookstore district. We walked down five flights of stairs and several blocks where six independent second-hand bookshops huddled together under the castle’s shadow.  

Some shops were elegant, with a tweed-wearing, trim-bearded proprietor.  Their prices, alas, were also elegant. One shop was shabby, shelves sagging with the weight of books.  I have never seen such a vast collection of first edition Henty books in my life.  I say, there is nothing quite so seductive as a shelf full of good-condition, Victorian hardbound books for boys. 

More of our 50 pence ($1 to us) brass, found in a box in front of a store.
(Cleaning them up is on my list of stuff to do.)

The best finds were all from Curt’s patient, methodical search through the shelves.  Oh the glorious books he found! If I were a rustic oafish man, talking about my wife, I’d say something cheesy like, “I think I’ll keep her.”  Still, he is a keeper, and I’m so glad that wonderful book-finding man is my keeper. 

All edited by “Q”, Arthur Quiller-Couch.
If you are not drooling, you ought to be!

Curt found this early in our trip and read about half during the trip.
 John Ploughman is a generic name like John Doe.
My favorite quote from Spurgeon’s preface,
“There is no particular virtue in being seriously unreadable.”

This Scottish Psalter and Church Hymnary was given to me
on our final day in Scotland by a lovely Glaswegian family.
The split in the page allows you to mix and match tunes with the metrical psalms.

If you were writing this post, I  would want to see, in its entirety, a list of the books you got.  Following the Golden Rule, here’s the whole enchilada:

John Ploughmans’ Talk,  C.H. Spurgeon I believe this is the best find.  Quotes to come!
In Search of Scotland,  (1929) H. V. Morton, a travel writer
In Search of England,  (1927) H. V. Morton
In the Steps of The Master,  (1934) H. V. Morton, on Palestine
A Child’s Book of Prayer in Art, (1995) Sister Wendy Beckett
The Laughing Christ, (1933) Pearson Choate, an intriguing look at how Christ in portrayed in art; we couldn’t pass it up
The Herb of Grace, (1948) Elizabeth Goudge

 “It was wonderful what high-faluting theories about suffering one could formulate when one did not happen to be suffering oneself.”

Trains and Buttered Toast, (2006) John Betjeman, Radio talks for the BBC in 1932-1952
The Nature Notes of An Edwardian Lady, (1989) Edith Holden,  lush watercolors, a jewel of a book
Scotland, Food and Drink, (1982) John Fisher
Collected Poems of G.K. Chesteron (1941) wickedly clever, a mix of light and heavy verse
Cautionary Verses Omnibus Edition, (1993) Hilaire Belloc I think adults like these more than children!
Stories Essays and Poems, (1963) Hilaire Belloc
The Path to Rome, (1902) Hilaire Belloc ‘The only book I ever wrote for love.’ 
Places, (1942) Hilaire Belloc 

“And yet one can’t help wishing, at least I can’t help wishing, that people in this country knew more about other people.”

Wild Wales, (1905) George Borrow my friend highly recommended this author
Lavengro, (1851) George Borrow
That House That Is Our Own, (1940) O. Douglas
Eliza for Common, (1930) O. Douglas
The Day of Small Things (1933) O. Douglas

“O. Douglas never forgets that kindness knocks cleverness to the back of beyond.”

My World of Islands, (1983) Leslie Thomas a book I was looking for
A Hole Is To Dig, (1952) Ruth Krauss, if you have a child in your life, you must have this book
The Mortification of Sin, John Owen
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, (1939) T.S. Eliot priceless fun
Locations, (1992) Jan Morris – Zinsser recommended this author
The Kitchen Congregation, (2000) Nora Seton, I couldn’t resist the title
Bunyan Characters (1894) Alexander Whyte a lovely hardbound to hold in your hands
Fathers of the Kirk (1960) ed. Ronald Selby Wright short vignettes, including one on Chalmers
The Child That Books Built, (2002) Francis Spufford the cover drew me in
Country Bunch, (1963) Miss Read

“In it Miss Read shares her astonishing breadth of reading with us…”

The Warden, (1855) The Last Chronicle of Barset (1967), An Autobiography (1883) Anthony Trollope

Not in the Guide Books, Part 1

Our friend Tracy told us about “the Preaching Oak” in Addlestone.
There are no signs marking this spot, other than the name of the street.

This oak tree was a gathering spot.
At least three preachers used this oak as a gathering place to preach.

John Wycliffe
John Knox
Charles Spurgeon

Did you catch those names?
John Wycliffe, John Knox and Charles Spurgeon?
I still get tingly thinking about it.
Surely there were many other preachers
at the Preaching Oak.

The post on the left is supporting this ancient tree.
In between taking photos and dodging cars
which were zipping by, we imagined a meeting by the oak.
By this oak, in the fourteenth century!

Curt found square nails in two separate places on the tree.
He thinks the nails held a platform,
and the preacher stood on the platform above the people.

The Crouch Oak.
Another great memory.


A high point of the trip was our time with Audrey, my childhood friend, and her husband Brian.  I think it is only because of my friend Mel, aka LimboLady (you know her if you read the comments), that I am in touch with Audrey at all. Mel knew both of us in different seasons and has been faithful to stay connected with both of us.

The last time Audrey and I saw
each other was in 1974, but years before that, really, we had gone separate
ways.  We have known each other since we were three years old. Both of our fathers were Bible teachers and preachers, hers a pretty famous one.  We went to the chapel together, went to Awana together, went to young peoples together, etc.  Audrey was a rebel.  I was pretty much goody-two-shoes.  But, the differences probably had much less to do with any righteousness on my part than the fact that I was a coward and a people-pleaser, flat out scared to try some of the stuff she got away with. 

The last time I saw Audrey she was running from God.  Her countenance was stiff and hard.  My first impression of Audrey when we met on Friday was how soft and
sweet she was.  Not a sentimental softness, but a patina of grace

We sat down
with mugs of steaming tea and quilted a conversation with a hundred pieces
of news.  Tell me about your kids.  How are your sisters and brothers?  Is your
dad still living?  Who (from our group of grade school friends) have you stayed
in touch with? Tell me about your church. Not only do we have our growing up
years in Lombard in common, but we both went to the same Bible school (CCBS),
but in different years.  Thus there was an entire community which Curt, Audrey and
I all had in common. 

We both had dads who were gone preaching a lot, and
could speak of the difficulties we both had experienced because of
absentee fathers with the objectivity which only time can bring. We didn’t
linger on the bad stuff, but acknowledged it and went forward. The stories kept
coming, one priming the pump for many more. 

I had forgotten that Audrey and I were fierce
competitors in Awana prizes and Sunday School games.  She told Brian
that I was the one who won the sleeping bag for
memorizing the most verses, when Mrs. Brown had refused to listen to her verses. 
We laughed, happy to be comrades now instead of competitors. As I went to sleep,
more stories surfaced, more reasons to laugh together.  
When I came to Danny in the recitation of my
family’s news, Audrey stunned me by saying, “Danny is one reason why my brother
John is a Christian.”  John had run away from home, had been robbed of all his
money, and was sitting disconsolate at the train station in Lombard.  Danny got
off a train (later Dan had said it was unusual that he had been at the station then) saw John, and spoke with him.  He asked what was up,
heard his story, and then asked him,  “Is this what you really want?”  John
decided to go back home, but that question burned in John and was the
turning point for him.  I haven’t spoken to you, Dan, but I wonder if you
remember that.  We never know how a little word will be used.
I was astonished to hear that
my Johnny, my brother !, had written to Brian and Audrey
for years when they were in Spain.  Wow, Audrey, I only have one letter from
him!  It was neat to see the connections between our families.  Meanwhile,
Curt and Brian got on well and enjoyed getting to
know one another.  Audrey and Brian spend a lot of time in Albania and have been in Croatia a
lot, so our Croatian connection through Curt’s sister’s husband helped us ask
intelligent questions.  Brian is interested in Zimbabwe, as we are; we talked about our connections with Zimbabweans and the challenges there.

I want to reward those of you who have waded through my personal recollections with a superb cooking tip I learned from Audrey.  She made wiener schnitzel (with chicken breast, yum yum) and it came out beautifully.  As we cleaned up together I saw a strange finger of food in the cooking pan.  It was a carrot.  She said an old man in Vienna taught her that anytime you fry something breaded put a carrot in the pan.  The carrot mysteriously keeps the breaded part from burning. 

Here is a picture of us together.

Here is a picture of us in Sunday School so many years ago.

There was so much ancient and historical to see in Great Britain.  Our friendship sort of fit into that category. 

But I left Audrey feeling like I have found a true friend.  All the infrastructure has been in place all these years. The Lord has breathed life into these old bones.

Such a gift.  Such a gift.

Back in the USA

We’re back!  We’re not home yet, but we’re in the States.  And our luggage made it, even though our flight had been canceled. 

We’ve been up 24+ hours.  Weary and thankful.




What a trip.  Good to the last drop.

There are so many things to share.  I hope I don’t bore you.

Do you have any questions? 

Thanks to everyone for your comments and interest.  I loved reading them.


We’ll talk soon.


The Prettiest Village in England

A Major Change of Plans
Today we had planned to take the train up to London.  I was unsettled about it, convinced that London is worth a trip in itself, three or four days at least to see the sights.  I imagined one hour at the British Museum would be more frustrating than satisfying.  In order to see what we wanted to see, I envisioned an exhausting day ahead. 

A few nights ago I was reading in the book I brought with me, How the Heather Looks, A Joyous Journey to the Sources of British Books by Joan Bodger.  I came across this quote from the Horn Book magazine May 1941.

Shere is sometimes described as the prettiest village in England, which it certainly isn’t now…but in the 80’s and 90’s many Americans went down to Surrey to see it.

Bodger continues with her commentary

Having no earlier standards by which to judge, we found Shere Village delightful.

I asked Tracy about Shere and Albury, its close neighbor.  I was quickly convinced to spend this day in the prettiest village in England instead of the metropolitan London.  It was a lovely ambling sort of day, between two more scheduled “trip” sort of days. 


Curt and I picked up a sandwich at the Eagle and Child, fondly referred to by C.S. Lewis as The Bird and the Baby.  They have some nice displays about Lewis and Tolkien on the wall.  And they make a mean chicken club sandwich! 

Oxford is difficult to write about because seeing it involves more images than experiences.  It is a bustling academic town with many buildings not open to the public.  One evidence of its academic atmosphere is the plethora of bikes seen everywhere.

Another of the many gifts received on this trip:  a “wow” exhibit on John Milton at the Bodlien Library.  It had first editions of Paradise Lost, books owned  by Milton with his handwritten notations in the margins; the exhibit was chock full of Milton stuff.  Very interesting.

The gift shop at the Bodlien Library is the best gift shop in the world.  For those of you who join me in being described as bookish, it has the best bookish gifts in the world.  Thanks to my sister in-law Kathie who turned me on to the gift shop by sending me its products.

For those of you that are married: Don’t you love people who love your spouse?  The kids of the family we are staying with love my husband.  The boys pepper him with questions about hunting, and the younger ones continually ask him to play games with them.  I loved this picture of some of the younger ones with Curt.


Architectural glories abound.

Bridge of Sighs