Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Poppies, della Robbia, and fish and chips

I just got back from nine days in England and Scotland, a trip that was mostly business with a little free time thrown in. Time spent connecting and re-connecting with missioner colleagues in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion is always a joyful learning experience for me. And despite news stories to the contrary, there is much affection and respect for The Episcopal Church. Though most of my days were scheduled to the hilt, I did find a little time to mooch around London, visit with friends, and relax on a couple of long-distance train trips.

The Victoria and Albert Museum held me captive for the better part of a rainy Halloween Sunday. It's been decades since I've wandered around the place, usually opting for the National Gallery or the British Museum, so I'd forgotten what a lovely place the V&A is. There's so much to see there that it can be over-whelming (as with most museums), but the glazed terracotta della Robbia pieces caught my attention, in particular. The colors stood out among the duller pieces of the age. As I was taking a picture of one of them, a man was sketching and noticed that though the flowers were lilies and daisies, the leaves were birch. Ah, well, call it artistic license.

Poppies - little paper ones in remembrance of World War I - are everywhere this time of year in the UK as Armistice Day approaches. I proudly wore one on my coat in honor of my old friend Walter Wildgoose. Remembering Walter lead me from the V&A toward Chelsea and a stroll through the grounds of the Royal Hospital where Walter spent his last years. The grounds, as always, were beautiful - green, green grass and fall colors ablaze outside the barracks and in Ranelagh Gardens. The Royal Hospital and all the poppies remind me of how fortunate I was to get to know Walter and his story.

Food. Yes, always important wherever one travels, and in the UK I demand a full English breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, tomatoes - the works), good Indian food, and fish and chips. It goes without saying that gin and tonic or a cold cider is part of the mix, as well. It's hard to find a slap-up English breakfast anymore, but my little hotel in Earls Park did a decent job.

As for Indian food, I met up with blog pal Jo and her son Thomas for a really fine meal down in Addleston. We took our time, savored the spices, and talked our heads off. (Poor Thomas!) My Lamb Ceylon was hot and yummy, just the way I like it. I managed one other Indian meal while I was in London - nice food, but cramped quarters, and not nearly as companionable an atmosphere as the meal with the Moores.

And fish and chips? In nine days I woofed down four f&c meals - all delicious, though the prize has to go to the two I had in Stonehaven, a little fishing village on the North Sea near Aberdeen. The fish was fresh and cooked to perfection. I also discovered cullen skink, a smoked fish soup made with double cream and thinly sliced potatoes. Must find a recipe and try to whip some up.

Any trip that combines strengthening business connections as well as personal friendships is hard to beat. My visit with the Moores and my few days in Scotland with dear friend Jean give life a needed spark. I'm still trying to recover from the time-zone change, as well as two - yes, two - daylight savings time switches (UK on Oct. 30 and US on Nov. 6), but it's all in a traveler's stride.

Perhaps a gin and tonic or a cold cider would help?

1 comment:

Charlie Wildgoose said...

How are things going with your Walter Wildgoose book?