Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hexham Abbey

Another repost of a classic church in England!

In the north near Hadrian's Wall is the town of Hexham, with its abbey and town square. We stopped off here on our way home and managed to catch the last hour the church was open and some dinner on the way home.

Hexham Abbey was originally built as a Benedictine Abbey in the 670s by St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York. He had been granted the lands by Queen Etheldreda in 672. The crypt of this early church still remains, though it can only been seen on a tour. We didn't get to see it since we arrived late.

In 1113 the abbey became an Augustinian priory, when the most striking feature was added. The abbey has a Night Stair, which was used by the canons to go from their sleeping quarters to worship. Nowadays, the choir comes down to sing in services. This staircase was easily Jacob's second favorite feature.

The stairs date back from the 1100s and are still in good condition!

Jacob admires the view from the top.

Jacob's favorite feature was a rope hanging from the ceiling of the church. A man was in the church and started pulling the rope about 16:50 to summon people to evening prayer. Yes, it was the bell rope. The guy rang it for five or ten minutes. Jacob sat and watched, mostly staring up at the ceiling in amazement.

That was the longest rope we had seen in a long time

Luckily, Jacob can't read or he'd want to go through and check out the bells.

The nave was rebuilt in the early twentieth century. Many niches in the walls were filled not with statues, but with stones from the various buildings and rebuildings of the Abbey.

The Celts must have been here at one point!

Other stones from earlier times.
The nave with a niche in the arch on the right; the left wall is from 15th century

It's also interesting to note that the church was not plundered during the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in the 1530s. Since it also served as parish church of Hexham, the abbey was restricted to only that function and was not shut down.

As in Ripon Cathedral, a plaque with the list of bishops and other significant clergy can be found in the church. Nearby to the list is the cross-shaft from the grave of St. Acca, one of the early bishops of Hexham, who died around 740 AD.

Over a thousand years old!

Afterward, we went to a pub for dinner. The meal was so-so, but the dessert was an excellent sticky toffee pudding, so we left with a favorable impression. Jacob didn't like the potty at the pub because of the extra-loud hand dryer. We walked back to our car through the main gate from town, which Jacob liked because it echoed. The visit to Hexham was definitely worth it.

Echoing arches are awesome!

The church viewed across the market square from the arch above.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fall Festival at St. Anthony's Shrine

The Shrine of St. Anthony had a Fall festival that was basically a "prelude to Christmas" event. The monastery had several things going on, including music and treats in one room (where we were too busy listening and eating to take pictures), a gingerbread house room, a wreath making room, a popcorn stand, and hay rides.

Lucy and Jacob gladly joined in making gingerbread houses, though technically they were graham cracker houses. They still worked quite well. Icing was used for glue and a variety of candies (including M&Ms, gum drops, and even Chex cereal as windows or doors) for decorations. It was hard to just decorate and not eat.

Graham cracker houses

Lucy does a quality check on the materials

We enjoyed fresh-popped popcorn from the hall cart several times. Luckily, each time we got a fresh bag there was a fresh monk working the machine, so we didn't have any awkward questions about just how much popcorn we did eat.

Jacob and Lucy collaborated on making a wreath, partially encouraged by us parents who were encouraged by the $20 donation asked for the wreath-making supplies. The supplies included candles, a metal ring with candle holders, and a nice gold-colored plate to hold the wreath. Boxes lining the room had evergreen limbs, pine cones, holly twigs, and ribbons for decorating. We were also given some garden clippers to make the foliage the proper length. Working on the wreath was tricky but rewarding.

Working on their wreath

Jacob adds some finishing touches

The most impressive part to me was the library of the monastery, which is two floors tall with a walkway around the upper floor. I'm not so sure about the advisability of having a fireplace in your library but it makes for a cozy reading atmosphere. I want one in our next home!

Library with fire place and comfy seating

More of the library

We went outside for the hay ride but the line was rather long and the temperature was rather low, so we decided to take our wreath and houses home. A great time was had by all!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga Volume 1 written by Brian K. Vaughan and art by Fiona Staples

A couple having a baby on their own is a bit traumatic, more so if they are from different sides of an on-going war. Alana and Marko are on the run from the authorities on both sides of the Landfall/Wreath war. Landfall is the largest planet in the galaxy, Wreath its moon. The war has spread across the galaxy and our star-crossed lovers met on Cleave, one of the many battlegrounds of the war. The story opens with the delivery of their daughter. They argue over her name when the Landfall forces break in and try to capture them. Luckily, the Wreath forces show up and the new family are the only survivors of the firefight. They go on the run with no particular destination in mind other than away from the war. Meanwhile, both sides hire Freelancers (basically bounty hunters) to hunt the couple and their "unnatural" offspring.

The plot is engaging enough but it's not clear to me where the story is going. The story is partially narrated by the child, who talks about these past events and drops vague hints about the future--not enough to predict where the story is going (other than the child survives).

The science fiction world is quite elaborate. The moon people have horns (mostly curved like goats or branched like deer) and long ears. The Landfall people are more diverse. Some have wings and normal heads (Alana is one of these), others have no wings and TV monitors for heads. The later are often referred to as "robots" but they definitely engaging in biological activities like sex and dying. Maybe they are cyborgs but definitely they are the ruling class on the planet. As a first issue, I suppose a lot of world-building has to be done before the story gets too deep.

I found the story intriguing enough to keep going.

Parental Advisory: there's a lot of full-on bad language; a couple of sex scenes; a lot of naked people (both in sex scenes and out); peril to the child (naturally); some violence with gore (people getting chopped in half or their heads in half or their entrails hanging out, etc.). Teens and up is my recommendation, though you know your child the best.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Random Bits of York Walls

The medieval walls of York are a favorite of mine. I walked them every chance I had, especially the north route from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar. On one trip, I traveled past Monk Bar and saw some of the more dramatic bits of the wall, including the toilet they used to use!
Walls beyond Monk Bar

Toilet not available for visitors

The walls angle back and forth in part to provide protection for the towers and also to force invaders into a crossfire position (as if attacking a wall wasn't bad enough).

Tower with walls coming out of it at a most inconvenient angle for attackers
View from the other side

Defenses in the tower

The walls give interesting views into town. Back in the Victorian times (when the walls were rebuilt) people walked the walls as much to see as to be seen. For me, it's mostly to see the fascinating stuff of the city.

Odd architectural mixture inside the walls

Looking into a garden

Pretty flowers

Okay, I can't resist throwing in a picture with the Minster in it!

For a change of pace, on another day I walked the walls south of the River Ouse on my way to Micklegate Bar. A few items of note are on the way.

First is a massive hotel, the Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa. Sounds like a pretty nice place to stay.

Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa

Further down the street from the hotel is the Railway War Memorial.

Railway War Memorial

The walls after the memorial look over some uninteresting buildings and follow the general European pattern of being not entirely safe. A long stretch had no railing on the inside, with a grassy slope leading down to a drop into parking lots!

Wall walking without a safety rail

Just outside the walls is the Railway Station, which I blogged about here.

Railway station seen from the walls

After turning a corner on the wall I found some new rails to keep me safe on my way to Micklegate Bar.

A safer stretch

The path to the bar

The view back into town was nice. The yellow bikes over the shop door were decorations for the Tour de France.

Inside town seen from the bar

I walked outside town one block to see Bar Convent and had a nice view from there back to the medieval gate.

Just outside town looking at Micklegate Bar

Just inside the medieval gate is Holy Trinity, Micklegate. The church was part of a priory, so naturally a nearby pub is named The Priory. Around the corner from the church is a medieval building that they use as a parish hall, which wasn't open when I visited.

The Priory

Parish hall

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Random Bits of York on the River Ouse

Right on the River Ouse is the Spurriergate Centre, formerly known as St. Michael's Spurriergate. The unusual name refers back to the tradesmen who worked on that street, the spur makers. Parts of the building date back to the 12th century, though the most recent remodeling has turned it into a large, family friendly cafe and gift shop with a pastoral team who can provide counseling to visitors.

The Spurriergate Centre

The River Ouse as seen from the bridge by Spurriergate Centre

Further west on the Ouse is the Lendal Bridge, which has two towers on either bank of the river. Back in the day, the locals would tax river traffic that went through York. When people tried to sneak through, they put a chain across the river from one tower to the other! The bridge itself was clearly redone in Victorian times, thus the V and A motifs.

Lendal Tower

The other tower

Decoration on the bridge


Decor on the span of the bridge (golden V and A on the right)

View out of town from Lendal Bridge

Ousebridge down the river from Lendal Bridge

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Random Bits of York

Mansion House is on St. Helen's Square. It is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York. The house also has tours showing off the art collection. Nearby is the old Guild Hall (built in the 1400s and rebuilt after WWII bombing in the 1940s) which is now a civic building.

Mansion House

Guild Hall

The streets of the town are narrow and twisty, some with great names and graphic representations of those names. Remember the Viking word for road was "gate" so many different streets are just called gates.

Typical narrow street

Swinegate Gate

In the middle of town is a pedestrian area called Newgate Market where York's outdoor market is held. Plenty of restaurants line the square providing a variety of food to go with the shopping experience.

Newgate Market

More of the market on a sunny June day

Bikes are a popular form of transportation

More of the market

On one visit we went to lunch at the Blue Boar, a pub dating back to 1733. Supposedly the basement is haunted by the ghost of Dick Turpin whose body was put on display in the cellar after his execution in 1739. Lucy and Jacob were brave enough to go downstairs, though the scariest thing we saw was a pinball machine.

One pint but three beers, an image of the Trinity!

Basement of The Blue Boar

Another pub I liked (at least from the outside) is the Black Swan, a fine example of Tudor styling.

Black Swan Pub

The War Memorial Gardens by the train station has a simple memorial to those who defended Britain.

War Memorial Gardens

Just outside the Gardens is a statue of George Leeman. The statue was originally of someone else but when it was put on the spot the head was recarved to commemorate the lawyer, railwayman, and MP from York in the 1800s.

George Leeman statue

Some of the street corners have very fancy decorations.

Near St. Helen's Square

17th century shiphead

Another view of the shiphead

Minerva on High Petergate