22 July 2007

Sunday in Canterbury

It was an amazing day in Canterbury today. Sunday worship at the cathedral sort of took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to be so moved and so inspired and so proud to be here and a part of the Anglican tradition where it all began in 597AD. The guest choir from Pusey House Oxford sang mass settings by Palestrina. Just as they launched into the final 'Hosanna in Excelsis' of the Sanctus, a flock of gulls criss-crossed the translucent windows of the nave looking like the shadows of a flock of angels circling the cathedral. As the choir finished, the noon day bells began to ring. Just then, the Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Venerable Sheila Watson, the presider for the day, continued reciting the Eucharistic Prayer, "Accept our praises, heavenly Father, through your son our saviour Jesus Christ..." (Sheila has a great voice, a resonate alto with plummy vowels and sibilant S'es -- she was born to intone the Anglican liturgy!) It was an amazing confluence of music, bells, voices and a flock of seagulls to mark the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, for perhaps the 1,600th time in this place...

Another face of Canterbury was met at the reception for the Canterbury Scholars at 'coffee hour' which here is wine and juice hour, really. All the kids in the Sunday Club (aka Sunday School) made cards for each of the Canterbury Scholars, mine featured a lot of glitter (hmmmm, wonder why???) and was inscribed, "To Mark Collins, with love, Plum XOX." I think Plum is what you call 'cheeky' here. Also included in the card was a Dubble 'fair trade' chocolate bar which is on reserve for later this evening.

I also met a lovely woman named Kate who was telling me about her nearby neighborhood. I mentioned that I was looking to do some sightseeing by bicycle around the area if I could ever find a bike to rent. She said, "Oh, my husband has loads of bikes. He can loan you one."

I met her husband Nick and he loaned me a mountain bike (above left), helmet, gloves, pump, spare tube and tools! Unbelievably generous, especially given the cost of renting here ($24/day, $100/week). So, I have wheels!!! I'm so glad and was able to tool about the town in the afternoon in the same fashion I do in NYC. Very, very glad about that!

This is truly the place where, as Bono sang, 'the streets have no name' so I was having trouble following the cycling map of the city, when I turned a corner off a city street and found this amazing field to cycle through (above). Amazingly beautiful and just around the corner from Canterbury proper. I finally managed to make it around the city on the bike path, so I now have a good 1/2 hour ride I can do on breaks in our schedule. And you see so much of the people and places that make up this place. Haven't cycled through many Norman castles before, but it appears I'll be able to quite often here. I also hope to get out on the roads around Canterbury and cycle up to Whitstable, which is 7 miles away, and maybe even to the beach at Sandwich, which is 15 miles away. A bit ambitious perhaps, but we'll see what the schedule allows.

It's now time for 'Clapham Junction', a Channel 4 drama celebrating the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK. Then to bed -- the real course work here starts tomorrow.

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