Monday, May 31, 2010

in chilly subdepth railways the weathered concrete stairways provide me with a means of getting home - if i ever leave

[My photos wouldn't all update before, so here's the picture of the Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear porridge. I'd already put brown sugar in mine before I remembered that I wanted a picture.]

Despite having missed things from home the night before, when I woke up on Sunday morning I was really sad that I was leaving.

I got up and got ready and we went to church. Jack had told me that Clive (the pastor) wanted me to say something in front of the church since it was my last day, so I made a list of the things I had thought of and hoped that I could make sense when I was actually up there.

Well, it went fine, and I didn’t forget what I wanted to say. Jan and Jack said afterwards that it was very good, so that was a relief.

We left fairly quickly after church, and there was just enough time to gather up my stuff and put it in the car and leave for the bus station.

Goodbye, bed. (This was only my bed for the last week, after Eleanor took her queen size bed, which I had been sleeping in, to her apartment.)

Goodbye, keys I always use.

Jan dropped us off close to the bus station and then parked the car and came back and found Jack and I. We waited in line to get on the bus for a long time, but finally it came, and then Jack put my luggage in the back of the bus. And I said goodbye to them, and I got on the bus. There were no window seats open, so I sat by a late-highschool age boy with glasses who looked friendly.

I got all my things I was still carrying stowed up above the seat and sat down. At first we didn’t talk, but after we got going we started chatting. It turned out that he was studying American politics, so he had lots of questions for me. We talked about our nations’ perceptions of each other, and the differences in words and customs. The time went by pretty quickly, and I gathered up my things and went on a search for the loo and the left luggage place. I found both without too much trouble – although the fact that there were a series of single-stall toilets and then a bunch of sinks, which both men and women shared, was kind of weird.

I had to leave my luggage and then go back to find a cash machine and then go pay, because the luggage place only took cash.

After that, since it was about five o’clock, and the concert doors opened at seven, I walked to the bus station and figured out which bus I needed to take to Shepherd’s Bush for the concert.

When I got there, I had to walk a little ways to find the place where the concert was because I went the wrong way and had to ask for directions. There was no mistaking it once I found it, though, since there was a long line and big letters that said, “OWL CITY” on the building.

I got in line, and felt silly because I was carrying a plastic bag with my food in it. But I found friends – a girl with pink hair and her boyfriend, in front of me, and a twelve-year-old girl with her mom behind me. We all five talked together and had a lovely time – until an employee of the concert place came to tell us that this line was only for people who were standing and the seats line was on the other side. So the girl and her mom and me left the pink hair girl (who, incidentally, reminded me very much of Carol) and her boyfriend and went over to the other side.

Then we waited for another long time, and I worried because the luggage place was going to close at 10:45 and that meant I’d probably have to leave the concert early. I realized that I could take the tube, though, instead of the bus, and that would save me some time.

After what seemed like a very long time, we finally were let into the building. Fortunately, the merch table was already open, so I could buy a t-shirt and not have to worry about missing out because of leaving early. I also asked the man at the door when the concert would get over, and he said about 10:30. Rats. I’d definitely have to leave early.

I found a good seat – my ticket was for the lower balcony – that was close to the front and on an aisle so I could leave quickly when I needed to. I chatted with a couple of guys behind me, and asked them about the time to get back to Victoria. They reckoned 20-30 minutes at this time of night, so I decided I should leave at 10:10.

The first act was a rather geeky young man with a guitar, singing all by himself. The music was rather nice but hard to get into.

The second act was a band called A Fair Frenzy, and I liked them. The lead singer was a red-haired girl who reminded me of Leah Hoffman (the girl who played Puck and Anne, if you saw any CU shows this year), and not just because of her red hair. It was also her spunky attitude and the way she moved. I liked their music a lot but I wished that I could hear more of the words.

After that it was finally time for Owl City. It was so wonderful. During ‘on the wing’ I felt like I was really up in the stars because of being on the balcony. And he did some new songs that I really liked, as far as I could understand the words. (Even with owl city, it’s hard to hear the words if you don’t know them already.)

Happily, I got to hear all of my favorite songs as I had to leave. 10:10 came in the middle of Vanilla Twilight, and I tore myself away and made a dash for the tube station.

Running down a two-story escalator is really fun. It’s like a combination of feeling like you’re flying and feeling like you’re plunging to your death. I had already figured out which lines to take, and everything was going swimmingly until I got off to transfer to a different tube line.

I ran up an escalator, right behind two guys who were also running up. We all got to the top, ran toward the hall where the Circle line was – and simultaneously stopped short with looks of horror upon seeing that the line was closed.

“How do we get to Paddington?” the other guys demanded desperately of the tube worker who stood nearby. He gave them directions to a different line, and they took off.

“My turn,” I said. “How do I get to Victoria?”

“Take the Central line to Oxford Circus and then take the Victoria line.”

“Okay.” And I ran down the two-story escalator and had to wait to get back on the line I had just been on.

By the time I had gotten to Oxford Circus, gotten on the Victoria line tube, and gotten off it, the clock above the line said 22:49. Oh help. I ran the three blocks between the tube station and the coach station like a maniac. Why oh why had I left my luggage at the coach station when I would be leaving from the rail station anyway? I could only run as fast as I could – choking on cigarette smoke all the way – and hope that the person working at the left luggage would still be there.

I dashed into the station and to the left luggage – no, no! I could see the closed gate! – but no, it was only closed half-way, and there was light coming out from under it! I dove underneath and popped my head up above the counter. The man working there looked at me with mild surprise.

“I – need – my – luggage,” I gasped out.

“Do you see it?” he asked.

“Yes – it’s – right – there,” I said, pointing.

“You do know we close at this time,” he said, pointing to the sign that said they closed at 22:45.

“Yes! – why – do you think – I nearly – killed myself – running?”

He just gave me my luggage after that, and I thanked him very much, and went out. And then had to walk all the way back to the rail station, where I could get the train to Gatwick airport.

Victoria Rail Station was ridiculously crowded with people walking in all directions very quickly, which seems to be usual for it. You can’t stand still unless you stand against something stationary or you’ll get run over.

I was going to buy a ticket at the computer kiosk, but I wasn’t certain which train I was supposed to be getting, so I went to the normal ticket counter instead.

The man there said that there were two different trains to Gatwick, the express and the normal one. The normal one took 20 minutes longer and was about £7 cheaper, so I decided to take that one since there was one leaving in ten minutes. So I got my ticket and walked quickly – well, as quickly as I could with all my luggage – to the platform.

The train doors hadn’t opened yet, so I waited in line with the others until they finally did. There weren’t any window seats left, so I sat next to a young man who had that modern-day hippie look. I had no energy to make conversation, and he didn’t say anything, except “excuse me, this is my stop” when he had to get off. And then I sat in the seat by myself. And was greatly entertained by two English men having a spirited argument about cricket.

When we arrived at the airport, I followed a lot of signs and arrows and went down a long ramp and finally arrived, at what felt like a very late hour, at the stop for the hotel shuttle. And waited in the dim depths of the bottom of a parking garage for it to come. Fortunately, it came after about fifteen minutes. A man who was also getting on helped me load my suitcase, and I crashed into a seat.

It wasn’t a very long ride to the hotel, which was good because I might have fallen asleep.

The hotel was quite posh. I checked in and went up the elevator to my room, and with great relief set down my stuff. It was past midnight, and I was hungry. I looked at the room service menu. Eeesh. Too expensive. So I went on a quest for a vending machine. It said that there was a soda machine on the second floor, so I went there in hopes of finding a snack machine as well. When I was waiting for the elevator I heard a voice that made me jump – but it was just the elevator saying “doors opening” before the doors opened.

There was no snack machine with the soda machine, so I went down to the lobby and walked up to where a middle-aged grey haired man was at a window. When I got up to the window I realized that the sign said something about rental cars and things like that, but I decided to ask him anyway.

“Hello. Do you know whether there’s a snack machine somewhere in this building?” He said that there wasn’t, but there was a gas station right across the street.

Walking to a gas station alone, past midnight, just didn’t seem like the best idea to me…

Then he asked me what I wanted. I told him a snicker’s or milky way or something. I needed something with some nutritional value, but that was easy to describe…

“What if they don’t have snickers or milky way? Then what do you want?”

“Anything with nuts in it.”

“Okay.” And I gave him £1.50, and he vanished, and reappeared a short time later – I think he must have gone to the gas station! – with a candy bar and my change.

“Here, they didn’t have snickers or milky way – is this all right?” I took it and examined it – it was a “Picnic” candy bar – chocolate with raisins and peanuts!

“It’s perfect,” I said happily. “Thank you so much!” We bid each other good night, and I went back up the lift – reminding myself not to be scared silly by it talking – to my room.

I ate my candy bar, took a shower, and went to bed, setting my phone alarm for 5:30am the next morning. I planned to catch the 6:05 (or 6:25 if I missed that) shuttle to the airport. My flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

home is a boxcar so far out of reach

On Friday, Jack and I went to Peterborough so that Jack could get the windscreen of the car fixed – a rock hit it – and I could buy presents. He dropped me off at the roundabout a couple blocks from Queensgate (a mall that also has a strip mall outside it, so there’s about a million stores) and continued off in a different direction to the car place. He would call me when the car was done and I’d meet him at the Peterborough rail station.

It was nice and bright and sunny. I got to the market and found W H Smith right away – it’s a books and office supplies store, which also has movies. I was hoping to find Hero of the Rails for Bram, and maybe something for Josh or Zach as well.

I found the movie spot and looked through it – and found Hero of the Rails for £5! Hurray! So I bought it – after a lot of rigamarole about my credit card not being signed – I always mean to write SEE ID on it and never remember – and then went on back out into the street. I looked in a couple toy stores for diecast trains but didn’t find any, and around the market-y stalls that were set up for other presents, but didn’t have any luck. There was a candy floss stand, so I thought I might come back and get some before I left if I had time. I went on into the mall.

I walked through the mall looking for a toy store where I might find diecast engines for Bram, and also looking for a store index sign that would tell me where toy stores were. I didn’t find either of those, but I found a mall worker so I asked him. He directed me to the information desk, so since it wasn’t too far away, I walked over there. The girl at the desk told me two different places that might have toys – Argos and John Lewis and one other place that I don’t remember now because she told me it wasn’t very likely and I didn’t end up going there.

I went to Argos, but when I looked in I didn’t see any stuff – just computer portals with people at them. So I didn’t understand. I thought perhaps you had to order things and they mailed them to you, and there certainly wasn’t time for that. So I went on to John Lewis. I found some Thomas things, but they were only wooden and not diecast. I asked a sales associate about diecast trains but she said that was all the Thomas things they had. So I took what I did buy – I don’t remember what it was now… oh yeah! Jae reminded me! It was a pirate captain playmobil for Jae.

So then I wandered around a bit to a couple other stores to see if I was struck by any inspiration for a present for Josh or Zach, who I didn’t have presents for yet. I didn’t have any luck, though, and after I’d wandered about for a while, Jack called to say that the car was done and how soon could I be at the railroad station.

“Well, I’m right outside Waitrose now [a store that’s near to the walkway to the railway station], so however long it takes me to get down there is how soon.”

“Oh, okay! Good. See you down there.”

It ended up taking me a bit longer that it would have to get there because I had trouble finding the walkway and had to stop at the loo and was lost in the car park for a bit. But eventually I found the way, and made it to the rail station where Jack was just starting to call me.

We went to the tip after that because Jack had a bunch of weeds and branches and things from the yard. And we also stopped at Thorney Abbey! And I got to go inside this time and take some pictures.

I want our church to have a pipe organ...

And then we went to Wisbech. It was past lunch time by then, and we went to the bakery to get buns. He asked what I wanted, so I looked all around, and came back to the register, and there was a plate of smiley-face doughnuts that looked very delicious. I was just about to say that that was what I wanted, when Jack ordered one for himself.

“That’s what I was just going to say I wanted!” I said. So we both got hot chocolate and a smiley face doughnut and sat at a table to eat it.

Jack had a medical appointment in Wisbech, so when it was time for him to go he left me at the table, and after I finished the last of my doughnut, I went off to WHS (there’s one in Wisbech as well as in Peterborough) to find presents for Josh and Zach, and also look for the toy store that Jack had said was there that might possibly have diecast engines.

I went to the toystore first. It was a splendid place, and had playmobil and lots of diecast engines. But the diecast engines were the wrong brand, and none of the playmobil was quite right. So after I looked around the store, and knocked playmobil off shelves and took pictures of engines and in general made a fool of myself, I left without buying anything. I hope that they do not hate me now.

Then I went to look around the 99p store and Poundland to see if I found anything, but I didn’t.

But I had better luck at WHS. They had given me a £5 off if I bought £12 of stuff coupon at the other store, so that meant I could buy slightly more expensive things for them without spending any more money.

I also looked for a book about the tram line that the lady at the toy store said that the Rev. W. Audrey was inspired by. But they didn’t have it at WHS, and said they would probably have it at the tourist office. So I went there.

The book was quite expensive and only had one paragraph in it about the Island of Sodor, so I didn’t buy it. But it was cool because it told about how the tram from Wisbech to Upwell was the inspiration for Toby the tram engine. The man there helped me find postcards that had pictures of the tram on them for Bram.

Then I went back to WHS. After a long process of deliberation, I figured out which things I wanted to buy for Josh and Zach – only to find out that the coupon didn’t work until next week. Sigh. All that deliberating spoiled. And Jack had already called to say that he was at the parking lot, so I needed to hurry up. I decided what to put back, and then ran out to Jack. Oh yeah, and it was raining this whole time...

I don’t recall anymore what we did that night, or what we had for tea. I know that Jack went to his artist club, and that the theme was “sport” and he wasn’t that thrilled (except they say ‘chuffed’ instead of ‘thrilled’; and then ‘dischuffed’ is like ‘annoyed’ – isn’t that interesting?) about it. Oh! Whatever we had, we had custard tart afterward. Unless that was a different day. One of the days of this week we had hummus and naan bread for lunch. It’s kind of jumbled in my brain now…

On Saturday morning, Jan made porridge, and we could be papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear one more time. I have found out why mama bear’s bowl was colder than baby bear’s, because Jan puts lots of milk in her porridge.

After breakfast, Jack took me to go to WHS again to get something for Josh since I still didn’t have anything. It took me forever to decide, but I eventually figured out what I wanted to get, and then I spent all afternoon packing. I kept having to unpack and repack to fit everything in, and when I did get everything in it was too heavy and I had to put my books in my backpack.

Saturday night was a very nice last night, especially since I completed my packing at around 4 or 5 and had the rest of the evening free, except for sometimes wanting to cry because it was the last night.

We had a big dinner with all the things I liked best of England – a roast with roast potatoes and parsnips, brussel sprouts, and Yorkshire puddings. And watched Doctor Who and the last two Lark Rises that we hadn’t seen yet, completing the season. And had strawberries and cream, and chocolates. When Jack offered me chocolate it made me sad because he did that almost every night and tonight would be the last night.

That night before I went to sleep, for some reason I missed Geoffrey Ford a lot – I kept remembering him saying “I don’t want you to go away” – and I was glad that I was going home.

oh what a lovely seaside holiday

I forgot to post this picture when I wrote about mowing the lawn...

On Sunday, Jan and Jack and I went to Hillsong. It was big and loud. But I don’t mind big and loud. I like it when I can feel the music vibrating inside me. The message was excellent, although I still don’t think I approve of women preaching to men. I got a lot out of it, though.

After church, we drove for a long time and I fell asleep and then we stopped at a service plaza for lunch and went to Pizza Hut. They sold french fries with the pizza, and called them french fries, which I thought was strange. Jack’s theory is that chips are thicker than fries, which seems reasonable, although he said that he just made it up on the spot.

We were all dead tired when we got home, especially since Jan and I had both gone from a week of non-stop activity into the conference. So when we got home we pretty much crashed.

I spent pretty much all of Monday and most of Tuesday blogging.

On Monday night, Jack went to a meeting, and Jan and I watched three episodes of Doctor Who in a row – all the ones I’d missed while I was gone. We were only going to watch two, but the second one ended with a cliff-hanger…

I could never watch actual scary movies. After Doctor Who I had to work really really hard to not think about it so that I wouldn’t be too terrified to sleep. I just barely succeeded.

On Tuesday I endeavored to help Jack with the ironing, but upon finding that if the iron was too hot it melted Jan’s blouses and if it was too cold it dripped mineral deposits, I surrendered after doing the pillow cases and Jack’s shirts and left the delicate task of ironing Jan’s blouses to Jack. I was bound to ruin at least one of them if I tried it.

That afternoon, I went for a very nice bicycle ride up to Sutton St. James. It was nice and sunny and a good temperature for cycling. Everything felt odd and dreamy and unreal, probably because I had spent most of two days on the computer after spending a week going non-stop and never getting enough sleep, but the world was very pretty. There was one little road that forked off from the main road and went between two pink-blossomed trees and then off into blue sky and greenness, and sort of seemed as though it wandered off into dreamland, so I went that way. And I came back via Tydd St. Giles which was very nice because there is a little bit of woods there, and I love cycling under the greenness of trees.

I went by the daffodil field but it is all done now, which is too bad.

When I got back Jack was just finishing up making supper, so it worked out very well. It was chicken and noodles and vegetables all mixed up together. I like shallots very much, but I can’t decide if my siblings would like them or not.

Wednesday was a nice peaceful sort of day. In the morning Jack sent me up to buy a pork pie for lunch, and that was a nice walk to the butcher’s as it was bright and sunny. On the way back the primary school children were out for recess, and I said hello to a couple of them who were near the fence. After that they followed me all along the fence, saying “Hello! Hello!” every time they appeared from behind the bushes.

“Let us out of he’e! We’re in jail!” pleaded one mischievous boy dramatically. I just grinned at him.

That afternoon I cycled to Wisbech to buy postcards and presents.

I didn’t have much luck. They didn’t have any London postcards, and the Wisbech ones were all black and white and old pictures and not of what I see here now. I did manage to buy stamps, though, after I convinced the post office lady to swipe my credit card in her machine. UK credit cards have this little chip that makes it so you insert one end in the machine to make it work, but of course mine doesn’t have that and has to be swiped, but there wasn’t a swiping spot on the machine that faces the customer.

I wandered about the shops looking for presents, and found two, so that was good. I talked myself out of buying shoes. They didn’t quite fit me properly anyhow.

On the way back I took some pictures. There's a place where the path branches off from the road and goes along the river for a little while, so I went down there. It's pretty.

And this place was soooo pretty...

This is the "rabbit roundabout" in Wisbech.

That night they talked incessantly on the news about the election, and we figured out how to send me to the seaside.

On Thursday I went to the seaside. Jan gave me money for a coast-hopper ticket from King’s Lynn, and Jack took me to Wisbech to catch the bus to King’s Lynn.

When I got there, there was a bus with a bunch of 9th-grade-ish girls standing about outside it, and everyone was saying the bus was broken and there wouldn’t be another one until “half nine” (nine-thirty). It was about 8:15 at the time.

“Is this the bus for King’s Lynn?” I asked the driver. He said yes it was. Rats. I texted Jack and Jan to tell them, and then suddenly there was Jack, come to get me to take me to King’s Lynn. (We realized today that the bus that was broken wasn’t actually the King’s Lynn bus that I was supposed to take… but oh well.)

As we were driving, we could see a line far off where the cloud cover ended, with sunshine beyond it.

I arrived at King’s Lynn a good while before the coasthopper bus was due to arrive, so I went into the Sainsbury’s that was right there and wandered around so that I wouldn’t be cold. I also bought a little container of yogurt to have with the cereal I’d packed, since I’d woken up late and didn’t have time for breakfast.

I was glad when the bus came and I could settle in. I ate my yogurt and cereal and looked at the schedule of stops to figure out where I should go. Jack had mentioned a place that had a good trail to walk along the coast, so I texted him to ask where that was, which was Holkam, about a third of the way through the route.

The land was just lovely, and it was so exciting to watch the edge of the could get closer and closer until we finally shot out into the brilliant sunshine. About that time my camera suddenly decided to stop working again, which was very unfortunate, because I don’t have any pictures of the rest of the lovely day.

When we got there to Holkam, I got off and figured out how to walk to the beach. It was down a sunny dirt road with a row of trees on either side, and past the trees on the right was a field, and past the trees on the left was marsh. It was windy, and I was almost too cold but not quite.

At the end of the road it turned to a sandy path that went up a hill and through a wood. It reminded me very much of Hoffmaster.

The path came out on a perfectly enormous stretch of sand, with the ocean a long way off. My shoes were long since off, but I put them on again – sockless – for part of the beach where the sand was gicky.

The beach was huge and wild-ish and almost empty. There were about five other people there, but I could never see more than two or three at a time, and they were mostly a long way off. The sand was perfectly lovely, and the tide was coming in and washing up pretty shells. I waded into the water and it felt so, so wonderful. Every year I forget how much I love the feeling of cool water around my feet and ankles. I walked up and down a little stretch of beach, looking for nice shells. At one point the waves came up and got my stuff wet because I didn’t realize how fast the tide was coming in… no damage done, though.

I stayed until time to catch the hour later bus (the coasthoppers run every half-hour) and then continued on, because although that beach was very nice, I wanted a beach with some place to eat. I made it back to the stop just in time.

I looked around at every place, but nothing seemed quite right – Wells-next-the-sea sounded pretty, but the beach was a very long way from the bus stop. I asked a man about a good place that had a nice beach with a place to eat near it, and he seemed a bit cranky about answering but recommended Sherringham. Another lady told me that if I went on to Cromer, there was a restaurant right on the beach. Jack had said that Cromer was a pretty typical English seaside resort town, so I decided to continue on to there. When we went through Sherringham, it did look very pretty – very seaside-like, and it had a railway station which made me think of the Thomas episode where an engine takes people to the seaside.

I got off at Cromer, and walked down to the pier. But the beach didn’t look very nice – the sand looked gicky and there was lots of washed up stuff. So I went back to the bus stop to take it the other way to Sherringham.

I had a while to wait, but not really long enough to bother going around the town. There was a little café at that stop, but the food seemed to cost more than it was worth, and I wanted to eat at the beach. So I just sat at a picnic table. The road was on a steep slant, but where the café was it was built up to be level, so that the sidewalk by the bus stop was right below the table where I sat.

A lady was wondering about the coasthopper bus, and I startled several people by suddenly saying from above,

“The next one comes at 2:08, in about fifteen minutes.”

A man asked if I was the tour guide and said I’d forgotten my hat. I didn’t have any reply to that. I never do have replies to that sort of thing. I wish I could be cleverer on the spot. But it was nice to be the knowledgeable voice from the sky.

I was greatly encouraged in my resolution to go to Sherringham, because a lady waiting for the bus was from there, and told me about how nice it was. She said the beach was very nice when it was low tide but when it was high tide it was all rocks.

So I took the bus back the other way to Sherringham.

Sherringham is, indeed, a nice little town. Loads of little shops selling anything and everything, and cafes and ice cream places. I walked down to the shore, and found that it was high tide, but there were some nice big boulders with flat tops that would make a nice place to sit and eat. So I walked along until I found a café with suitably cheap prices, and bought a pork and applesauce sandwich – all the sandwiches were labeled “baps”, which was awkward because I didn’t know how to say it or if people really call it that, so I just pointed to the sign that told about the special...

I took my sandwich down to the edge of the water and found a good rock to sit on, and got out little women, and had a very pleasant lunch. I was cold until I remembered my leg warmers and took them out and put them on. They are a little too big on me and fall down when I walk, but they work when I am sitting still. They’re currently in the dryer and I am hoping they will have shrunk. Which reminds me, I need to get my clothes out of the dryer… be right back.

Okay, they’re fluffing. Remind me to get them in fifteen minutes, okay?

Now, then, where was I? Ah yes, lunch. As soon as I took out my sandwich, birds surrounded me. There were several gulls flying about, which was just annoying, but there was also an adorable sandpiper who hopped up quite close to me, cocking his head and jumping about interestedly. I would have liked to have given him something, but as the seagulls would certainly attack if the slightest morsel of food left my possession, I had to forbear. Much to my relief, by the time I was halfway through my sandwich all the birds but two or three had given up, and the ones that remained just sat on the rocks a little way away and didn’t keep flying over my head.

After I finished my sandwich, I sat there for along time and talked aloud and got my thoughts unmuddled. Sitting by water is good for that for me, I find.

Then I waded in the water, which was really cold, and the rocks kept eating my feet because they were so round and marble-sized and smooth and they slide over each other and my feet go into them. Despite this, however, I enjoyed the water – all the more because I suddenly noticed that a young couple who were about thirty yards from me, and had been standing by the edge for some time, now also had their shoes and socks off and were wading in the water with shrieks at the cold.

After a little bit of wading, I put my shoes and socks back on – as much nicer as sand is, marble-sized rocks do have an advantage in that they don’t stick to your feet – and walked back up into the town. I was on a quest for ice cream. There were ice cream shops with many types of ice cream cones, but for some reason I was in the mood for boughten ice cream – probably because I’d been planning on getting one at some point since I first arrived in England. So I bought myself a Magnum ice cream bar, and enjoyed it thoroughly as I made my way back to the bus stop.

I had caught the 5:40 bus, which would get me back to King’s Lynn at 7:55. But when I looked at the schedule, it turned out that the bus to Wisbech left at 7:50 and 8:50! Well, there was no point in waiting around King’s Lynn for an hour when I could spend the time at one of the seaside stops, since getting off and then getting the next bus would put me back at King’s Lynn at 8:42.

I decided to get off at Wells-next-the-sea, since it was a pretty name for a place. I wanted to find a shore with sand because I had a shovel I bought at Sherringham that I couldn’t use in the rocks.

Unfortunately, the beach at Wells-next-the-sea was a very long walk from the bus stop. And it was really cold, and my phone was out of batteries so I didn’t know the time. So I played a bit at a playground that was there. They had a cool boat play structure with lots of ropes to climb, and an obstacle course sort of thing. There were other people on the swings the whole time.

After a while when I asked a boy passing by who had a watch what time it was – it was about fifteen minutes before the bus was supposed to come, so I went to the picnic tables that were next to the bus stop and sat and read until the bus came.

There was one disappointment, which was that when the bus passed Hunstanton, I saw a lovely beach laid out, sand and beauty and a little food stand – just like I pictured when I first imagined the seaside. So I wished that I’d gotten off there instead of at Wells. But I didn’t know because when we went by the first time, it was high tide and it just looked like a pier and water and no beach.

I hate things where I have to make decisions because I never make them right… ah well.

I arrived back in Wisbech and re-turned on the phone and fortunately it stayed alive long enough to text Jack that I was there, so he came and got me. And I was glad when he came because I was freezing and exhausted and starving.

And he brought me home, and we were going to stop for fish and chips, but then the place was closing, and I didn’t really want fish and chips because I had gotten a little car sick on the bus. So when we got home he made me toast and fried eggs and it was just exactly the thing, and we watched the election results happening very slowly and all the politicians saying the same things and nobody answering the questions that anyone else asked, and eventually we gave up and went to bed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

city fog and brave dialogue converge on the frontier

The first day of the Colour conference (Hillsong’s women’s conference) began with me meeting Jan and Jack in the hallway of the hotel at a quarter to eight to go down to breakfast. It was a cooked breakfast, so that was nice, although the sausages weren’t as nice as other sausages I’d had in England. But the bacon was quite nice and so was the toast.

When we got to the Royal Albert Hall where the conference was, we had to wait outside the doors in the cold for a long time, but I got to meet several of Eleanor’s friends.

We finally got inside, and went up to where we were sitting, in the upper balcony. The view was grand – the place is huge and very ornate. They were playing big triumphant music, which added to the feeling of grandeur.

I am not going to narrate the conference event by event, because it would be rather dull, but I’m going to give some general impressions and then whatever specific memories come to mind – rather like I do when I tell about an event in person.

The conference was amazing. Every speaker had something wise and real and life-applicable to say. I filled pages of my notebook with notes.

The greatest thing I took away from the conference, I think, is that light is greater than darkness, hope is greater than despair, God is greater than the world and the flesh and the devil. There were women who had seen the reality of the most horrible things that happen in this world – yet they were overflowing with joy and absolute faith in the power of God and a passion to do whatever they could to make a difference, and believed without a shadow of doubt that God would work to make a real difference.

Always, before, when someone presented a cause or a need, I would not have the combination of “can”, “should”, and “want to”, that is needed to actually do something. I would hear about various causes, but simply become overwhelmed by how many different issues had real needs – I couldn’t possibly give enough money to make a difference to them all – I could hardly give enough money to make a difference to one. I felt inadequate to do anything that needed doing. If I couldn’t make a real difference, I had no drive to do anything. The few times that I’d given money to something, I never saw anything come from it… and I just felt like my money was going off into space. I didn’t regret the giving, but I didn’t have much desire to give to other things, especially when I had so little to start out with. And I felt that whatever I did, and really, whatever anyone else did, the world was so full of awfulness that we were never really going to get anywhere. Even if I was pulled by a certain cause, the “what can I do” never seemed to amount to anything more than “send money”, and I had no confidence that my sending money was actually going to make any difference. And I had heard people so often devalue “throwing money at a cause” and “praying without really doing anything” that my desire to do either of those things was very low. I felt powerless to do anything, and at the same time guilty for not doing anything.

This time was different. This was real people talking about real differences. There were things offered that we could do that didn’t require money. And, best of all, these were women who had seen the power of prayer and believed in it with their whole hearts. The theme was sisterhood – all women everywhere, focusing on our commonalities and not our differences; Christ’s daughters united to reach out to all the hurting women in the world, from our lonely neighbors to the women in Africa.

And because they believed it, believed with their whole hearts that we could and would make a real difference – because they were not some idealistic college students but women who had spent years among horrors – because they were lit up with fire and passion and joy – I believed it too. And am believing it now. So watch out, world…

The evening of the first day, Eleanor gave us grand news – a friend of hers had reserved a box, but the friends who were supposed to share it with her hadn’t been able to come, and she was inviting us to sit in it! So we got to sit in the box for the rest of the conference, quite close to the stage, and not crowded, and not having to worry about finding seats, and not being climbed over or climbing over other people… it was extremely nice. I felt like rich people – our own box in the Royal Albert Hall!

For lunch we ate sandwiches from the café, sitting on the steps of the Albert Monument. It was rather nice – all the other women all around on the steps and in the grass, like a giant picnic.

The first day I really wanted to go to the extra session that Dr. Robi was doing on anxiety and depression, so we didn’t have as much time for supper and had to have sandwiches again. But the session was really really good and I was very glad that I went as it gave me some good tools for dealing with panic attacks.

The next night the extra session was on parenting, so we didn’t go to it, so we got to walk to Wagamama, which is a Japanese restaurant. It’s on the second floor of a building up a lot of steps. Jan said we’d have taken the elevator if she’d realized how many steps there were.

Wagamama was bright, and the seating was rows of tables and benches, like a school cafeteria. It was full of Colour people and very loud, but cheerful. The food was very excellent. I had noodles with chicken and mushrooms and peppers and shrimp and shallots. I like shallots a lot. I wonder if my siblings would like them.

What else shall I say about my days at Colour? Well, the morning of the second day, the hotel called to say that I had to move out of my room because a double room had been booked and the room I was in was a family room and they needed it for someone else, in reply to which Jan told them that they had put us in that room knowing we needed three nights, we were at a conference and wouldn’t be back until nine at night, and they would have to solve their problem themselves. Fortunately Jack didn’t have any trouble getting the keys re-activated and I didn’t have to move, which was a great relief because my stuff was all over the room and I really didn’t want Jack to have to pack it up and move it.

Did you know that all UK hotel rooms are equipped with a tea kettle and stuff for making tea and instant coffee? It’s very nice.