UK trip 12 May 2005: Edinburgh to Stockton-on-Tees
We spent the night with Val’s cousins John and Maxine Wincott at Fairmilehead, Edinburgh. John went to work at 7:15 am, and Maxine, who had the day off, took us on a tour to Arthur’s Seat, where there was a view over the town.
We drove back through a different part of town, and left Edinburgh about 10:00 am.
Stopped at Eyemouth, near the English border, to change money to English money, and bought some more postcards to send to the kids.
Our next stop was Holy Island, where we explored the ruins of the abbey at Lindisfarne. It was a remarkably peaceful place, and we were lucky to arrive when the tide was out and it was safe to cross the causeway.
The Holy Island, Lindisfarne, was one of the first mission stations in England. St Aidan came from a monastery at Iona, also an island, on the west coast, and made his base at Lindisfarne because it was strategically close to the royal palace at Yeavering and even closer to the royal fortress at Bamburgh.
St Aidan then began his task of evangelising the Kingdom of Northumbia. He travelled everywhere on foot, so as to meet people on equal terms. He set up churches in royal townships and established monasteries for men and women.
Soon the church in Northumbria was strong enough to branch out into evangelising the neighbouring English kingdoms. As a missiologist I had studied this as part of Christian mission history, but it was interesting to see the place with my own eyes. We wandered round the ruins of the abbey, and looked in the museum, and got some ice creams to lick as we walked back to the car park a little way out of the village. The car park was quite enormous, and was only about a quarter full.
Continuing south we passed the outskirts of Morpeth, where Ted and Margaret Worsley lived, or had lived. Margaret was sister to Norah Pearson’s husband John, and aunt to Maxine Wincott. When Norah had first begun writing to us, about 30 years ago, she had said that their daughter Caroline was a silver waitress at a hotel in Morpeth. I’d pictured something dark and romantic and mountainous and Wuthering Heightsish, with brown stone back-to-back houses and wild moors all around, but instead it was remarkably flat and unremarkably ordinary. We did not stop or try to look for the Worsleys, as we did not have an address for them. Their daughter Caroline, who must now be well into her 40s and single, was somewhere in Scotland.
We went on to Durham, where we parked in a new parking garage near the bypass bridge, and went first to Barclays Bank where I enquired about my account, but found that it had been closed, though they hadn’t seen fit to tell me that.
We went up to the cathedral, and venerated the relics of the Venerable Bede in the Galilee Chapel, and went to the museum of St Cuthbert’s treasures. It did not seem appropriate to venerate St Cuthbert’s relics, as they were in far too much of an exhibition, and not as I remembered them, when they had been on a more human scale rather than in special cabinets. I remembered seeing his pectoral cross and an old coffin in which they’d found it, but now the cross was stuck in the middle of a blob of transparent plastic, with spotlights on it. I wondered what would happen if the plastic got discoloured or something — it would probably damage it horribly if they had to chip it out.
We went out into College Green, where the chapter houses were, and that seemed unchanged from nearly 40 years ago.
We went through the gates into the Bailey, and walked down to St Chad’s College, where I had been a student 1966-68. We went to pay our respects to the principal, Fr Joseph Cassidy, who took us on a tour of the college. They were still using the old wooden chapel, where a new altar of light wood had been installed, in place of the old wedding-cake one. That was a bit surprising, as 40 years before there had been plans to take over the nearby Church of St Mary-le-Bow, and to use that as the college chapel. They had built new places in the courtyards, and the college now had women in it, but much was little changed. We went up to see my old room on Cape Horne, but probably no one called it that any more, or if they did, no one would know why it was called that. It had been named after another South African student, Bryan Horne, who had preceded me at the college, so I had never met him. His room had been in that part of the college. Bow Cottage, where I had lived in my first year at St Chad’s, was still at the end of Bow Lane, though looking somewhat posher than when I had lived in it, and apparently no longer belonged to St Chad’s.
We walked across Kingsgate Bridge, taking photos up and down the river. Dunelm House, the people’s gin palace, looked much the same, except that the concrete had gained some dark streaks.
We walked back down New Elvet, and over Elvet Bridge, now pedestrianised since the by-pass had been built.When I had been a student, it was a busy main road, taking not merely town traffic, but much of the north-south passing traffic as well. The traffic was controlled from a police box in the Market Square, allowing it to pass from each of the bridges on to the peninsula one at a time.
There were still boats for hire under the bridge, but it seemed that the punts had gone. We bought a couple of sandwiches to eat on our way, down to Stockton-on-Tees to see Chris and Nina Gwilliam, arriving there about 5:30. Chris had been a fellow student with me at St Chad’s College in 1966-67, and Nina had been a student at one of the other Durham colleges.
We had a magnificent supper of chicken Madras cooked by Chris, and chatted until 11:30, mainly about the new house they had bought in France, and were planning to move to. They said there was too much crime in Britain. They said their present house was one they did not feel at home in, and I was rather surprised at that — I thought it was a rather nice one. On my first visit to Britain nearly 40 years ago, I had been horrified by the terrace houses, now I did not mind them at all, and thought I would be quite happy to live in their house.
Both Chris and Nina had become Quakers, and Nina had done it first. I would not have recognised Chris if I had passed him in the street, as he had changed a great deal. He was still in his business of painting model railway carriages, which seemed to bring him in some income, but was planning to retire from that when he moved to France.
Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005