|Cambridge & King's Lynn|
Breakfast & Trains
Someone today knew how to work the toaster and so there was a positive stream of people making toast. It did catch on fire once, but bread really doesn't burn for very long.
I got up extra early in order to get my share of orange juice and also so that I could catch an early train to Cambridge. They don't reserve seats on the train, you just have to show up the day you are going and hope for the best. Unfortunately, although I got to the station a bit before nine, the 9:15 train was already sold out. So I had to wait for the 9:45.
King's Cross Station is a Tube station as well as a Train station, so it's a bit of a zoo. Lots of shops and blinking signs and people. The trains are pretty easy to figure out, so there wasn't too much stress getting on and getting a seat.
The surprise was that when the train went through a long tunnel, everyone's ears on the train would pop several times. Since mine are always a little sticky about popping, I got nervous and got out a stick of gum. (I have no idea why that happens. Do any of you?)
I got to see some of the English Countryside to the north and east of London. Looks a bit like Oklahoma farm land, except they irrigate quite a bit. They have already cut their hay and it was standing in the fields as round bales.
We passed through Ely station and I remembered there is a splendid Norman Cathedral there that was built by William the Conqueror. (You remember, 1066? He also goes by a less polite name.) I could see the cathedral from the train, so I took a photo of it.
Well, I seem to have had the usual Cambridge experience. I got off the train, decided to walk the half mile into the town and it took me over an hour to realize just how bad the map is that they give you for free at the train station. Of course, none of the roads are marked. (About one in ten roads is marked in London. About one in twenty is marked in Cambridge.) That's understandable, because some of the roads that had names on the map were actually driveways, deer trails and fairy roads that are invisible to the eye except on moonlit nights. I encountered many lost souls who would stop their cars or cross the road to ask me, "Can you tell me where such and such is?" Obviously I need to work on looking more helpless, since I was as lost as they were.
English Department and Library
I did make it to what is their equivalent of a Graduate office. They gave me a map, tried to give me the prospectus book that I already had, and sent me on my way. That was pretty much the tenor for the rest of my day. While wandering, I accidentally trapped myself inside of Downing College while trying to find Downing street. (The colleges are walled off from the rest of the city and each other. They have various gates, but most of them stay locked.) An elderly gardner, who for all the world could have been Sam Gamgee's gaffer, found me and took me to one of the unlocked gates.
Alarmingly, I took only one photo because I thought I would be stopping back by Cambridge later in the day. That one photo is of the very large, very modern looking library that is in "The Backs" (read that as "Boonies"). The English building, also very modern looking and orange is across the road (and a field) from the university library. (Each of the Colleges maintains its own library as well.)
I arrived at the English building around lunch time and was told to come back at one. So I sat on a bench in the shade and ate my black currant and cheese sandwich which I had cleverly made for myself early that morning. At one, I went back to talk to the person who is kind of like their graduate coordinator. But she really couldn't tell me much about the program, or really even anything positive about Cambridge or the English program. However, the one piece of information that I couldn't have gotten any other way than to go there in person is that Dr. Page (the cool medieval literature/music professor) does not use email and is desperately hard to get a hold of. Feeling that she was not being any help at all, she broke and gave me all his contact information, including when he's most likely to be at any of those numbers. She also said that although he travels quite a bit, he will be around in 2006 because he's made commitments in England.
I scurried back to the train station as fast as I could, sprinting for parts of the way, successfully navigating my way back to the station. I arrived five minutes after the train pulled out. Sigh. So I had to wait another hour in a train station for the next one.
What a fabulous little town. I'm so glad Jim convinced me that we should go there. Even though I ended up doing the trip by myself. We were supposed to meet at the King's Lynn station between 2 and 3. Unfortunately, I missed the only train that fit that time window. So we were probably in King's Lynn at the same time, we just never met up with each other.
It's a little port town with lovely parks and churches. A lot of old houses from the 1800s and older. Everyone was friendly and the town merchants have put up road signs to guide visitors from the train station to the "Tuesday market" in their downtown. Various vendors and stores had their goods on the street. I bought an ice cream and followed the church tower that I could see to St. Margaret's a 12th century church that was Margery Kempe's parish church. A break here for a Margery Kempe update:
Margery Kempe was a well to do middle class townswoman born in Bishop's Lynn, (called King's Lynn now), England in 1373. The daughter of John Brunham, sometime mayor of Lynn, she married John Kempe at around age twenty. Her first pregnancy was difficult and after the birth she "went out of her mind and was wonderfully vexed and labored with spirits for half a year eight weeks and some odd days" (In Margery's words). At the end of this time, she was cured by a visitation from Christ. Feeling that she was called of God to a special relationship, she nonetheless fell into pride and covetousness. After two failed business ventures, she repented and began a life dedicated to the spiritual. She desired and eventually obtained freedom from marital relations with her husband. Styling her life on several female saints, she lived chaste while yet still married, fasted, mortified her body, had visions of Christ and the saints, went on pilgrimages, prophesied, took communion every week, confessed daily, wore all white clothing, and manifested the holy spirit through "plenteous" weeping. Suspected and jailed for Lollardy at different points in her life, she was nonetheless regarded by many as a holy woman. While in her sixties she dictated her life story to two scribes, over a period of four years. (For those of you that would like to read some snippets about her life in King's Lynn, I've modernized some passages myself as well as posting some that I found on the web .)
The church was splendid and the verger said I could take pictures, so I did. They have some of the largest brasses I've ever seen. And the wood beams of the roof are still visible and still holding up the vaulted ceiling. St. Margaret's was silent unfortunately. Her medieval bells were taken down last year and have been sent for cleaning, repair, and retuning. (One of them is just going to have to be recast.) They will be coming home in 2006. However, a newer church (probably from the 16th century?) St. John's was ringing the hours.
Across from the church is the Guild Hall that was rebuilt in Margery's lifetime after the old one burnt. (Read Margery's description of the fire in the snippets.) It's the same building, although it's been renovated multiple times.
I also saw dogs all over King's Lynn. A little boy and his terrier kept running back and forth along the platform at the train station. A woman and her dog were sitting in the park today. And I was passed in the market by a somewhat scruffy looking Jack Russell. Hmm. I think there was also a Cairn terrier (a grey blue color?)
In an attempt to meet back up with Jim to dinner in Cambridge on our way back, I went back to the station for several departures. He must have left on an earlier one. On the way home I contemplated breaking up the trip at Cambridge, but my feet protested the mile round-trip walk. And I also thought about stopping at Ely, but it had begun looking like rain. And indeed, the last block, walking back from the train station in London it started pouring rain. I looked like a drowned rat by the time I made it into the dorm.
All in all a good day. The train coming home was a milk run and stopped in every small town. So I got to see all the little farm towns and then the bedroom communities around London. Cambridge is set in the bow of a river, so there are willows and cypress draping gracefully out over the Cam river. They rent little punts that you can pole up and down the river. A thing to do another time. King's Lynn was just a lovely little town. I wish I'd walked all the way to the wharfs. (Although they are modern wharfs.) The tower from the old Franciscan monastery in Lynn is still used by fisherman to guide them into harbor, since it is the tallest structure in town, even though it is a ruin.
Tomorrow I need to figure out how to get across town with all my luggage, check my luggage at the Marriott, make sure Ox and Maggie can get into the room when they arrive, and then scurry back to the library for more research.