Canterbury Cathedral

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Cold stone, wet daylight, Look to Heaven spires out of reach, Earth crumbles to dust

Changing Format

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I have been rather busy with school recently and have not found the time or energy or motivation to do as much blogging as I intended to. So in order to rectify this, I am changing over to a somewhat more…experimental(lazy) method of posting. This will literally just be me posting a picture or two and a haiku. My intention is to post twice a week. Most mediocre-laid plans of mice and men…

Gothic Novel

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Suddenly, I began to understand what inspired the British Gothic Novel, just by walking along the English Channel on these massive cliffs on a dark and dreary day. The wind was whipping around me and trying to force me to move along with it. There was a certain dark wildness about Dover, at least in the rain.  All I could think of as I travelled far past the other sightseers,  this whole time I was certain that I had somehow stepped into a Bronte Novel. The wind, the colours, the entire aesthetic was dark and wild. If I looked in the far distance I could just scarcely make out the distant shores of France.  

I had about two hours to travel along the pathway of the cliffs. There were several different paths. One of the paths led right by the ocean which would have been a rather sheer drop in the case of falling off.  Though the path was not extremely narrow the mud made it seem like more of a danger. But it was beautiful. 

Other paths lead down the face of the cliff, of which I only went down part ways because the railing appeared to short. Even though I made it fairly far I would have been glad to have been able to spend a longer period at Dover.

Although if you ever desire to visit the cliffs of Dover be careful because the paths especially when they are muddy are easy to slip and fall on. I have not heard of anyone going off the edge of the cliff and fortunately, I was not one of those possibly nonexistent numbers. The cliffs are made of a white sediment that eventually turned to chalk in prehistoric times. I fell several times along the path and the sides of the cliffs and the white prehistoric clay would crumble and stain my hands like a soft wet chalk. I felt just a little bad for crumbling a small part of a prehistoric relic with extreme historical significance. Though I suppose the entire world is something like a prehistoric relic and has some kind of historical significance. 

It is hard to tell but in the bottom picture, but there is an image of a castle in the distance. I was deeply regretful that we did not get to explore some of the lands closer to the Dover Castle. Dover Castle is apparently the largest castle in England and it has had extreme military significance as a defensive stronghold. This land apparently is believed to have been a significant stronghold back to the Anglo Saxon times although it would not have taken this recognizable shape until the time of Henry the second. I believe in is the first English Castle that I have ever seen in person. It is a rather distant view of it. Although I did get a better view of it when the bus drove by it, not a great view but still I saw a castle. 

Beyond the River Cam

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So Saturday was another interesting day. I visited The Cambridge Folk Museum and then I went to St. Giles Church, then Kettle’s Yard and finally I visited St. Peter’s Church. All of these places are just past the bridge that covers the river Cam.

Firstly, I went to the Folk Museum of Cambridge was admittedly pretty small since it was once a pub called White Horse Inn in 1600. There was a little information on its being a bar, however, most of the small museum was devoted to daily life, such as the kitchen, guest rooms or the children’s playroom. Outside there was a small teahouse attached. Alongside the tea house, there was a series of statues that looked as if they were part of a church’s building at one point.

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Next, I went across the roads, there also was a lovely church called St. Giles. The first recorded mention of St. Giles was in 1091 one Hugolina(I shall name my first daughter Hugolina), wife of Picot gave money to start the church or endowed the church with money. She did this in thanksgiving for her getting better from an illness. Which is amazing. We really ought to start doing that kind of thing, yes all of us wealthy landowners. “Look I got over my consumption. Go ahead and build a church outside the walls of Cambridge in gratitude for my return in health.

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Later in 1217, to put that in perspective would have been 2 years after the Magna Carta was signed, the church was valued at four pounds, six shillings and 8 pence. I spend more on groceries every week, now I learn that I could have bought a church at one point for that much. Not that my modern legal tender now would have been accepted then. Although I looked up the purchasing power of that much money in the 1270’s and found that it would have had the purchasing power of four horses or nine cows or 333 days of labour.

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Next, I went to Kettle’s Yard which was a modern art museum. The museum itself was closed but there was an art house that one was allowed to explore.  I went on one of the free tours and admittedly found myself bored out of my mind.  Don’t get me wrong some of the artwork was quite pleasant and the guy had good taste. Also, he had a serious obsession with arranging rocks. Still, I was not particularly interested. Also, I had no idea who the artist whose house it had been at one time and I am ashamed to say I took no pictures.

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Right next to Kettle’s yard was an old dishevelled Church. St. Peter’s is a tiny church that was built in the 11th century and is no longer being used for mass or any religious celebrations. I can not imagine more than a handful of people fitting int the chapel. Although it was rebuilt in the 18th century some of its Anglo-Saxon architecture remained in its doorway which is decorated with mermen who are connected to St. Peter due to his being the patron saint of sailors.

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The Isle of Ely

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Actually, at this point, Ely is a city and not an isle, but that was not always the case. Still, Isle sounds prettier the city. That being said Ely needs no help in being pretty with the many cramped and ancient stone houses with a massive and complicated cathedral looming over the entire town.

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According to Bede, the Isle of Ely may have gotten its name from the eels that would have come from the Fenland(marsh) surrounding the Isle. It was an isle until the 17th century until the land was drained by Scottish prisoner of war and Danish Engineering.

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The Cathedral of Ely has a long history dating back to the Anglo Saxon period. Originally it was an abbey in 672 and later it was refounded as a Benedictine Abbey in 970 after all the records and even the exact foundations of the structure was lost due possibly to Viking raids. When the Normans came they rebuilt it again this time into a grand cathedral, although there were numerous additions and changes in the following centuries. One of these changes was started because in the year 1322 the central Norman tower collapsed. Alan of Walsingham, the sacristan at that time oversaw the rebuilding of what is now one of its more celebrated features. The rebuilt that tower larger and grander in an octagonal shape.

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I went on a tour of the Octagonal Tower while I was there. It is the only way to visit the tower now.  The group was lead towards a normal sized door and up a pair of stairs. We were then lead up several passages with the doors becoming increasingly smaller and smaller towards the top. The stairways themselves get quite cramped and small again the higher up one gets. But the tour guide brought us to the top of the building and allowed us to see inside the octagon tower and then finally we did get to stand on the roof.

Apparently, how they managed to bring the wooden support beams up to the top of the church when they weigh what is estimated to be ten tons, is like many things, unknown. It was absolutely fascinating, but it might not be the best tour if you are nervous around heights or claustrophobic or unable to climb five flights of stars.

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The Tower was not the only impressive thing about the Cathedral. Actually, it was quite pretty and massive considering how small the City of Ely is. Apparently, it was a large enough cathedral to warrant a number of influential dead men being buried there. At some  Up and down the sides of the church and in rather fascinating spots one could find tombs. I have nearly a dozen photos of the different tombstones. Although my favourite is this one.

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Other then the Cathedral I went around saw a few shops, I would have gotten lost if the place was not so small. Funny that. Also, I get lost less walking than in a car or on a bus. Although, researching about Fens has now made me want to visit some of these.

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Also, the Isle of Ely is so posh that it puts the city crest on all of the trash cans. It is things like that make me regret being an abrasive American. I do not mind the abrasive part, nor the American part, but we do need to start putting crests on our litter cans. I also do covet their literary tradition, all we have is Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor and T.S.Eliot. Wait, can we count Eliot as an American poet or not? The English have Chaucer and Shakespeare we can keep T.S. Eliot.

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Churches And Chapels

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So on Saturday, I visited Gonville and Caius College, then Kings College, then the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, and finally I stumbled on to St. Benet’s Church. Then on Sunday I accidentally went to the Botanical Garden.  Sigh… my impulse control is negligible.

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It was a rather wet and rainy day, not a phenomenon to uncommon in Cambridge.  The college to Gonville and Caius College was one of the largest and oldest colleges in Cambridge. Also apparently they have a rather fabulous choir that sings every Tuesday evening and is open to the public.

The chapel itself which looks like a massive hallway with a sanctuary upfront framed around with stained glass windows. The chapel was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1348, sometime later in 1393 Pope Boniface IX (we need another Pope Boniface he was the last one of that name). Apparently, people could not stop adding things like tombs in the 15th century and actually rebuilt the entire apse(front half circle area where the altar would be) in 1870.

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By this point, my shoes were already completely soaked so naturally when I came across Kings College and realized that now was the perfect time to do more exploring. Whereas the Gonville and Caius chapel was in comparison quite small this Chapel is 289 feet long, 40 feet in width and 80 feet tall. The Chapel was started by King Henry VI in 1441 and the title of the chapel was the singularly more religious and much longer “The King’s College of Our Lady and St. Nicholas”.

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By the time I finished looking over the grounds my hair was wet enough that I figured I would be able to skip taking a shower. I found a craft fair with few crafts and nothing I found interesting. Then I found the farmers market, but I already knew where it was so I did not particularly care, although they sell fantastic and inexpensive produce and books(This is me trying to add human interest to this blog post). So I wandered further afield and was surprised to find an old church I had not noticed before.

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St. Bene’t’s Church, in contrast to both of the chapels mentioned, is quite simple and significantly older. Parts of the church apparently predate the year 1066. The foundation is believed to be from when Canute was King of England and was dedicated to St. Benedict. Most of the church is not nearly so old, much of the church was reconstructed in the 19th century but the tower, the cornerstones are Anglo-Saxon and the walls in the arcade are from the 13th Century. The name of the church itself is the Anglo-Norman version of Benedict, more or less.

The River Cam

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Today I walked along part of the River Cam, not a large part of the river, to be sure but part of it. A person of singular personality requested that I do a post or two on the bridges of Cambridge. I feel like there is a pun somewhere in the last sentence. I looked it up, and apparently, there are at least twenty five bridges over just the river Cam. This is not counting any of the bridges on the tributaries or other bodies of water.
Anyway, I did try to find the mathematical bridge. There is a legend that Newton first built this bridge without using bolts or nails but instead just fitted it together presumably in the same way traditional Japanese carpenters would have. Afterwards, his students took it apart and rebuilt at Queen’s University but botched the job (typical) and had to use bolts to keep it together. Anyway, this legend has largely been disproved since scientist tell us it is impossible, the weight of the bridge or something needs metal as a sacrifice. What is more, the bridge was actually built in 1749, which is twenty-two years after Newton died. Which really seems to me like the stronger of the two arguments.

In reality, this bridge was designed by William Ethridge, who might have gone by the name of Willy and was constructed by James Essex, who most likely did not go by the name of Willy. The amazing thing about this bridge is although it is made using only straight pieces of timber it appears to be an arch. From what I read it is a brilliant feat of engineering and thus it has been dubbed the Mathematical bridge because as we all know math and engineering are interchangeable disciplines. Although calling it the ‘Engineered bridge’ might sound stupid and a trifle redundant.

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The one below is called the Clare College Bridge and it is the oldest of the bridges. It was built in 1640, by Tomas Grubald and made out of stone. Along the sides of the bridge, there are 14 stone balls decorating it. One of these has a small slice taken out of it. One legend claims that the Maker of this bridge was not fully paid so he took a slice of the stone to settle the debt. I rather have to wonder how expensive this stone is that it would be enough to settle a debt, and let us all be grateful he did not decide to take one of the stones from the middle to collect his due(It’s called the survival of the fittest, oops there goes another freshman).

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This next Bridge is called Trinity Bridge, it was built in 1765 by James Essex. There are sadly not any stories I can find attached to this particular bridge. But There is the legend about Byron going to school at Trinity University and keeping a pet bear. I have looked it up, apparently, it is not a myth that Byron went to school so I can only assume that it was the bear being his pet, that was the myth.

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I did not exactly manage to get a full shot of the Silver Street Bridge due to my own forgetfulness, but I do have a sideways view. The original bridge here would have been made out of cast iron. However, due to increased traffic, the bridge was finally remade out of Portland Stone, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1932 and built by 1959.

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These other three do not span the Cam and I do not know if they are if there is a bridge rating system. Because if there was a bridge rating system I am sure that these would not count officially.

Finally and lastly these pictures are the inside of a Baptist church I found on my way back. I can not exactly remember the name. I was happy to find a book by Rafael Sabatini that was over one hundred years old. Strange to find such old books so randomly. Even stranger was that it was for sale for a single pound.

 

Fitzwilliam Museum

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So I made it to Cambridge England. Although considering everything I am just grateful that I did not get lost on the way here. I cannot say how I would have done that, but I have every faith that I could have managed somehow. My utter incompetence with directions and details is truly laudable.

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The interior entrance of the Fitzwilliam Museum is stupendously classy.

This Saturday I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum which, according to the pamphlet that I am reading, it has over 500,000 paintings, statues, and objects d’art(I just looked up that word so I could use it, talk about pretentious). There was a wide variety of artwork from different cultures and different time periods. I particularly enjoyed the Medieval and the Renaissance paintings.  Although it was also interesting to see the Greek and Egyptian artefacts.

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“The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Brueghel depicts an army of skeletons setting the world to ruin.

It is amazing how interesting the number and variety of images that religious art can contain. I mean death, heaven, hell, people in torment in the desert, people with heads on serving plates and numerous paintings of the similar and different ilk. You have a range of paintings from pious to morbid to almost voluptuous(especially the ones telling of Greek myths). It all served to make me feel quite small in this castle of human endeavour. I felt almost overwhelmed, looking at it all can almost give a person a runner’s high (or drugs, I suppose). But then it is peaceful at the least.

 

Part of me understands why modernist art is so dull looking. What can they do that has not been done before? Never mind the invention of the camera which makes it so realism is not solely the product of the painters and other similar artists.  Your old have paintings larger than life (often literally) and other paintings focusing on the smallest aspect of life, reflecting real life. Whereas where else is there to go but smaller than life?  Well, no doubt it also has to do with the popular modern philosophies influencing our thoughts like nihilism and relativism (logically I am not certain there is any difference between the two of them).

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Busy Weekend

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Well I had a rather busy weekend, with Mother’s day, my sisters graduation and my father’s birthday, we’ve been non-stop partying.

Yes, I know such a trial. Although to be fair,partying now and again is fun, but it would get tiresome after awhile. Also the sugar rush the younger trio experience would get tiring rather quickly.

RAMEN!

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Generally in the US we make the most lame form of ramen. Throw in the hot water, instant noodles and a packet of msg and voila. You are done. However, in Japan and some other nearby countries they have resteraunts devoted to ramen. ramen2

Well I can not quite do that. But it is not hard to make instant ramen better. Use a different broth, add vegetables and meat or a egg, then it is actually good. I used a broth made of bonito flakes and soy sauce.

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