Last Friday night I braved Friday evening peak hour and took the train into London then out again to St Albans. Now I know what it feels like to be a cow on a semi-trailer, although I was going somewhere much nicer than an abattoir! I arrived at about 7pm after a 2 hour journey, having reassessed my values regarding inappropriate body contact with strangers… I can’t believe how close commuters are prepared to get!
My friends Beth and Vish and their small son Sebastian live in a small terrace house in St Albans. Beth and I were friends during our uni days. They have been living in England for about 6 years.
On Friday night Vish offered to stay at home with Sebastian, allowing Beth and I to go to the local cinema to see Ocean’s Twelve, a mildly entertaining, very indulgent film! Ah well, at least I got to see Brad Pitt in a very nicely fitted shirt! The next morning after a bit of a sleep-in (or a lie-in as they say here), Beth and I walked into town to see the sights. We walked into the market place which was full (but not seething, as it sometimes can be) of people selling and buying fish, vegetables, and clothes of indifferent quality. A battle during the War of the Roses was supposed to have occured near here, but it was hard to imagine it… From there we walked past a medieval clock tower and a Tudor inn that some dead queen’s body stayed at over night on her way to be buried in London!
Of course, the feature of St Albans is its cathedral. The church dates from 1077, but a Benedictine abbey was founded on the site in the 8th century. It is named for Alban, a Roman soldier, who was martyred for sheltering a priest in 209. The cathedral grew over time, and you can see each stage clearly as different building materials (including Roman bricks) were used. An interesting feature were the murals from the 13th century painted on the columns. They had been whitewashed during the Reformation and were not rediscovered until 1862 when they were very nearly cleaned right off! The choir ceiling was amazing; it was decorated with the red and white roses of the houses of Lancaster and York. Just beautiful. Could have almost lain right down on the (beautifully) tiled floors and stared for hours… if it hadn’t been so cold! I did take loads of photos, until my batteries ran out, but hope to get back to take more.
From there Beth and I walked past a lake, where there was a section of a Roman wall, and on to a small cosy cafe where we ate waffles. I have to say, I love waffles! Very tasty. We also wandered past reputedly the oldest pub in England, although it is not the only one to claim to be so. It also claims that Oliver Cromwell once spent the night!
Beth and Vish graciously drove me home. It only took about 45 minutes (a far cry from my 120 minute train trip) so now that I have done it once in day light I will drive next time!
I am in the middle of planning for my half term holiday which begins in a week. I am planning to go to Winchester, Lyme Regis, Bath (all of which are a part of my Jane Austen pilgrimage), Hay-on-Wye (which is apparently full of second hand book stores – can I resist?), and then on to Liverpool, mainly to see a performance of Dr Faustus starring an obscure British actor I quite fancy! I am really looking forward to my first trip away.
This weekend, I will spend most of the time going through the coursework folders of my Year 11 GCSE English class. The poor darlings have been a little neglected through many changes of teachers, so I am hoping to help them out and improve their grades. I am beginning to feel like I am connecting with them which is nice. It makes life so much easier. So it will be a quiet weekend, probably with not much to write about next weekend!