Last Saturday we had a great gathering to celebrate my mum’s 80th birthday. Here are some of the best pics.
Mum with my cousin Angela and her husband Jim.
My brother Mike, his wife Jeanette, and their children Stephen and Ellie:
Mum and her school friend Marg Smalley (they’ve basically been friends for 75 years!).
Mike and I with our Auntie Carole:
Marg Smalley, Mum, Auntie Carole, Jeanette, Uncle Alan
Marci and me with Carole and Alan
And here’s the birthday girl on the day of her actual birthday (Sept. 16th):
Finally, a pic of Marci and me on the train as we began our journey home.
There is a nice bird watching centre (Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre) about half an hour’s walk from Mum’s place, on the shores of Rutland Water. Sadly I didn’t take my really good camera to England this year so couldn’t get close enough for really good pictures of the Rutland ospreys or indeed much else, but we saw over thirty species on our visit on Sept. 4th. These pics will give you a flavour of the place.
Gatherings of family and friends were of course a big part of our trip. My cousins Dave, Andy and Annie came to have supper with us on Sept 6th but we forgot to take a photograph. The next day we had lunch at Gates’ Garden Centre with some of my Mum’s cousins. Here are a couple of pictures of that occasion.
The next day we had a gathering of long-time friends – Steve and Alicia Palmer, Jan and Mark Barnes, and Marci and me. Steve, Jan and I were in high school together. Here’s the group pic:
On September 10th and 11th we had a visit in Leicester with my Auntie Carole and Uncle Alan. While there, we had a nice walk in Bradgate Park, which contains the ruins of the home where Lady Jane Grey lived in the 16th century. Here are some pics:
We also got to visit Leicester Cathedral, where my dad was ordained deacon in 1965 and priest in 1966. Unfortunately it has now rather been taken over by the tomb of King Richard III, whose body was discovered a few years ago and was interred in a rather dominant position in the cathedral, between the high altar and the celebration altar. Still, the place has sentimental attachments for me and I was glad to see it again. We were met there by our friend Lee Francis-Dehqani and had a very enjoyable coffee with him afterwards.
Next up: my mum’s 80th birthday party weekend!
So we just got back from a three week visit to England, helping my mum celebrate her 80th birthday and also seeing lots of family and friends. I’ve posted a lot of photos on Facebook and Instagram but none here, so am going to post a few highlights over the next few days.
This first picture was taken from the plane as we were approaching Calgary on the afternoon of August 27th. A good example of why I love prairie scenery even though I rarely get to view it from this angle!
We got to fly on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Calgary to Heathrow – and a very comfortable ride it was too.
Here’s a pic of Marci and my mum out for coffee on our first morning in Oakham (where my mum lives). My mum rarely goes out for coffee by herself so we gave her lots of opportunities!
For the last eleven years, on my visits to Oakham, I’ve made a habit of attending daily Morning Prayer at All Saints’ Church. Here it is.
And usually, after Morning Prayer, comes coffee at Caffé Nero!
For our first week or so the weather was very warm. Here are a couple of pictures from a country walk we took.
On Sept. 3rd we went to visit John Clare’s cottage in Helpston, the village where this great poet was born and lived for the first forty years of his life. It was a great day for me as I am a big fan of his. Here are a couple of pics:
Marci and me sitting in the garden at John Clare’s cottage.
Next up – bird watching at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.
On our second Sunday in the UK (18th) my brother Mike and my sister in law Jeanette came down to spend a few hours with us. We went to church with Mum at St. Mary’s, Ketton…
…and then we went out for Sunday dinner, followed by coffee and a nice visit at Mum’s place. My mum took this picture of the four of us:
There is a very old hall in Oakham which goes by the name of ‘Oakham Castle‘. At one time it was the great hall of a much bigger castle, which is now in ruins. This picture was taken from the north side of the old castle wall, looking down on the hall and the old castle grounds, with All Saints’ Church in the background.
There is a tradition that when members of the aristocracy visit Oakham in an official capacity they present a ceremonial horseshoe to Oakham Castle. This has been going on since the 1400s (the oldest surviving horseshoe was presented by King Edward IV in 1470), so there are now quite a few of them hanging up on the inside walls:
On Wednesday 21st we left Oakham and travelled down to Cardiff, Wales to visit with Marci’s 2nd cousin once removed, Jane Williams, and her family. Here’s a selfie we took with my Mum at Oakham Station just before the train left.
This trip was the first time we have ever met Jane Williams, who we had connected with through our family tree research on Ancestry. This is us with Jane and her husband Tony, and also her daughter Rachel, daughter in law Vicky, and grandson Thomas, plus Sky the cat.
On Thursday 22nd Jane took us into Cardiff where we found the house where Marci’s grandfather, William Searles, was born in 1888. Here it is, and the street where it is located.
When the Searles family ran this shop in the late 1800s it was a greengrocer’s; now it’s something different, but it’s the right location so we knew it was the right shop.
Later that day Jane took us sightseeing; we got to have a wander around St. Fagan’s Castle and the outdoor museum, which is a bit like our Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Alberta – lots of old houses moved to a new location to give an idea of the past. Here are a couple of the pictures.
Late that afternoon we also went to visit Cardiff Castle which was quite spectacular.
That’s it for today; come back in the next day or two for the final gripping instalment!
On Sunday June 9th we went with Mum to St. Mary’s, Ketton, the church she normally attends (Ketton is a small village a few miles from Oakham). I didn’t get a photo of the church that week, but Marci got one of Mum and me as we were walking up the sidewalk toward it.
After the service we had a nice lunch with some of Mum’s friends, and then in the afternoon went to the nearby village of Greetham where they had an ‘open garden’ event. Gardens are not normally my thing, but this was rather beautiful. Here’s a picture I took of the group walking between houses; Marci seems to be conducting an invisible orchestra…
These are rather nice, don’t you think?
On the Tuesday and Wednesday Marci and I went into Leicester to stay with my Auntie Carole and Uncle Alan (Carole is my mum’s sister). They like getting out and about and we had a couple of nice trips, one to Watermead and the other to Bradgate Park. At Watermead I took what I think is one of the best bird pictures I’ve ever snapped, of a grey heron; here it is:
Bradgate was once the estate of the Grey family (famous for Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days after the death of Henry VIII, until the pro-Mary forces won and LJG was beheaded). Here’s the ruins off the old Grey pad:
I always knew Bradgate was historic but recently there have been some interesting discoveries of 15,000 year old artifacts and the University of Leicester is now running a four year project there (see here for more details).
Marci and I climbed Old John, for old times’ sake:
You get a pretty good view of the county of Leicestershire from up there.
Here’s a nice picture of Marci and me with Carole and Alan, taken in their back yard (or ‘back garden’ as the English say).
Back in Oakham, on the Thursday of that week we enjoyed a nice evening with my cousins Dave and Andy, and Andy’s wife Annie. I don’t very often get cousin snaps, so I rather like this one of Andy, Dave and me.
A couple of days later my cousin Angela took us over to Loughborough to visit my Auntie Mary and Uncle Peter (Mary is my dad’s sister). Here we are along with Angela’s son Zack; the reason the camera is looking up our noses is that Marci had set it on a table and used the timer with a ten-second delay so she could get in the picture (she’s pretty good at doing that!).
And that’s the end of this gripping instalment; stay tuned…
Last night Marci and I got back from three weeks in the UK. I’m going to write a few photo-diary posts sharing some of our experiences.
We decided to travel light for this trip – apart from my guitar, we took only hand luggage. Here’s the luggage, ready to go on Sunday afternoon.
And here’s Marci ready to catch the bus from near our place down to the airport.
Our journey consisted of (a) bus to Edmonton International Airport, (b) short hop down to Calgary by little Air Canada hedge hopper, (c) long hop to Heathrow by big Air Canada wide bodied jet, (d) London Underground to King’s Cross Station, (e) train to Peterborough, and (f) train to Oakham, Rutland (the town in central England where my Mum lives). We left our house about 3.15 p.m. Sunday 4th and arrived in Oakham about 4.30 p.m. (9.30 a.m. Edmonton time) on Monday 5th. Mum met us at the station with a taxi, and before long we were drinking tea!
Every time I’ve visited Oakham in the past ten years I’ve enjoyed joining the small group of praying folks who meet every day for Morning Prayer at All Saints’ Church. The group has changed over the years (people have left, others have been added), but I still enjoy the nice anchor it gives to my holiday prayer life. Here’s All Saints:
And here’s the interior of the church, although we actually prayed Morning Prayer in one of the small side chapels..
Most days, after morning Prayer I went to one of the local coffee shops to write for a bit until Marci and my mum joined me. Here they are at Costa on our first morning.
Later on, this very nice establishment became my preferred coffee shop. It’s in the market square, a two minute walk from All Saints’ Church.
Oakham on market day:
My mum lives in a seniors’ apartment building, and on Wednesday evening a few of the folks gathered in the common room for a little gig with the visiting Canadian folk singer. I think there were maybe fifteen people and they gave me a very warm welcome. Here’s the only decent picture of the evening.
On Friday 9th Marci and I made a train trip to Cambridge – not for sightseeing, but to visit with my old friend Jan and her husband Mark. Jan and I met in our first year of high school so we’ve known each other since September of 1970! They live within easy driving distance of Cambridge, so we met at the station and basically spent most of the next few hours in the café at the Botanical Gardens, catching up! Here we are:
And finally, to cap off this first gripping instalment, here are a couple of photos of Oakham that I took from Brooke Hill, looking down on the town and then out toward Oakham Water.
Stay tuned for the next gripping instalment!
Build me a bridge over the stream
to my neighbour’s house
where he is standing in dungarees
in the fresh morning.
O ring of snowdrops
spread wherever you want
and you also blackbird
sing across the fences.
My neighbour, if the rain falls on you,
let it fall on me also
from the same black cloud
that does not recognise gates.
This picture was taken a day or two after Kai was born, back in the summer. I’m putting it up here now so that folks who receive our Christmas e-letter can visit this post and nab it, if they so desire!
Kirby Muxloe is a village west of Leicester; we lived there 1965-67. I took this photo on a trip to England in 2011.