1. St Albans - After a good run, and a better breakfast, I headed off the St Albans to visit the Cathedral there, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. The city and cathedral are named for England's first martyr, beheaded by the Romans, his shrine and reliquary now within the Cathedral. Please note that this martyrdom took place in the second century, long before Augustine of Canterbury (not to be confused with St Augustine of Hippo) was sent by Gregory the Great to convert the Angles. The Celtic Church had been there for centuries already, and was subjugated to Rome by Augustine, and not without great threats of violence against them by the Papal emissary, a surrender finally made official at the Synod of Whitby. The Cathedral itself, once a parish church, has a remarkable history, including being the home of Benedictines for many centuries, and consequently witnessing the abolition of that order and the stripping of the Church's material wealth prior to and during the Reformation (Prior to by Cardinal Wolsey and during by the agents of Henry VIII, especially operating under the orders of Thomas Cromwell). Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury who presided over the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, an ABC I remember well, was once Bishop of St Albans and is buried in her churchyard. England's only Pope - Adrain IV - was also from St Albans.
The city center offered a terrific Market Day - wonderful fare, with entertaining fishmongers and butchers gathering crowds to whom they could flog their goods. After searching numerous shops in futility, I managed to buy the right plug converter for my computer at one of the market stalls, and that for a couple of pounds. No souvenirs though - not even a salt and pepper shaker, but I bet I can find that in Cambridge. Sweet. OK, pictures tomorrow.
2. Food - What the British do exceedingly well should always be enjoyed: port; meat pies; sausage rolls; tea with scones and clotted cream; fresh, crisp vegetables, and breakfast. What the British cannot do, no matter how hard they try, should be avoided, and this is especially true when it comes to steak. I learned thirty years ago that getting a steak in Britain is always an astronomical gastronomical error. It still is. Proved that tonight. I finished the piece of meat out of sympathy for the cow that had the misfortune through no fault of its own to be raised, slaughtered, and prepared for a meal here rather than in Texas - or, say, France. I kept smothering the thing with sauce in hopes of improvement, but to no avail. Even the knife didn't want to cut it. The port was good though!
A) Finished the little Churchill biography on the trip over. Nothing new, but a good intro and summary for those unfamiliar with the greatest man of the twentieth century - and maybe any other century as well, save the Apostles Peter and Paul. But as is the case with all of Paul Johnson's books, the prose is superior and the book un-put-downable.
B) Hard to find sufficient superlatives for Alan Jacob's little book on reading. Pages 46-53 alone are worth the price of admission. If you are a reader, this book should not be missed. Jacobs HELPS! His notion of 'whim' is superb and a great tonic to the soul burdened by the thought of reading that is undeniably not to one's (at least current) liking, not to mention those reading in a never-ending race to finish the 'top 100' so as to have something intelligent to say at dinner parties. It is filled with admirable - and often hysterical - quotations, many of which are going straight into my little note book for future deployment. Only Austen scholars would make the connection between the great novelist and the philosopher David Hume; only a scholar of Jacob's acumen would make that connection so memorable and compelling. And then there's that bit about reading, culture, and being a better person - and Machiavelli and the Nazis. Yes, worth reading.
* And what is it with Wheaton??? They not only have Jacobs teaching English Lit, but Kevin Vanhoozer on theology! That's an embarrassment of riches.
4. Weather - Perfect. Yes, perfect. Partly cloudy, high of about 72 with 50 or 55 at night, light winds, occasional gentle shower. Its heaven compared to 147 degrees and a drought in the Hill Country. Yes, I'm rubbing it in a little. Actually, no, I'm just incredibly grateful.
Run tomorrow again, worship, and then on to Cambridge.