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Introduction to Lichfield
What a great opportunity while in Berlin, to pop across the Channel and visit my friend C. who has been my 'pen-pal' for over fifty years now. We began writing to each other when we were both 11 years old.
This is the 5th time we've met up over the fifty years, with two visits to NZ by C. and three to the U.K. / Europe by me.
The first thing we did after I arrived at the Birmingham airport, was some grocery shopping followed by a cup of tea.
I wallowed in the welcoming atmosphere. The cafe bubbled with comfortable chatter, friendly laughter and a general sense of goodwill and consideration.
Then it was on to C's home in Lichfield (and most likely another cup of tea). I met Barney their dog who is rather adorable. (He looks just like a giant teddy bear).
That afternoon, a walk around the historic centre of Lichfield was first on the agenda. Not really on the tourist map (apart from the medieval cathedral which is notable for being the only medieval U.K. cathedral with three domes, or towers) Lichfield city is nevertheless a charming, deeply historical place with links to Roman history and to the history of Britain's monarchy. Another claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of the writer, Samuel Johnson.
C. had many outings and walks planned for my five-day stay, with a balance of both activity and rest built into the timetable. I was impressed with her planning abilities. She should hire herself out as an event planner, she would be very good at it.
Lichfield is full of quaint squares and byways, alleyways, cobblestoned streets and ancient buildings bowed with age and time, with the cathedral towers forming a faithful backdrop.
A Day Trip To London
On my second day in the U.K., C. & I caught the fast train to London ...
It was raining. I rather enjoyed experiencing another rainy day in London after nearly forty years since I'd last spent any time there.
Visiting the Dickens' House was a treat ...
St Pancras railway station was our next destination becasue we had a very important appointment to keep ...
St Pancras is right next door to Kings Cross railway station where Robert and I used to catch the train out to Welwyn Garden City, Herts. when we worked near there in 1977 ... The then 'perpetually grubby-looking', draughty old station, its brick smoke-blackened by steam trains - has since been refurbished, with a glorious, eye-catching new ceiling.
Kings Cross is also famous for something else, of course. Harry Potter's Platform 9 1/2, an idea which the British Rail has adopted with good humour, employing staff to manage the long queue of people wanting their photo taken by the luggage trolley disappearing into the brick wall.
St Pancras, right next door, has also been refurbished. While C. and I wandered about, someone was playing a grand piano, the music beautifully filling the space. You forget you're in a railway station.
Leading to the poet's statue, are plaques with lines from John Betjeman's poetry. A British poet laureate, Betjeman was also one the most notable protagonists for saving this old railway station formerly destined for destruction).
Then it was time for our Very Important Date. A meet-up with C's two daughters. Because of C's many letters and emails over the years, I felt like I already knew her daughters and had to keep reminding myself that this was the first time we'd actually met.
What a gorgeous afternoon tea (a high tea at the Renaissance Hotel) with both a sandwich course and a cakes course. Our teacups were kept topped up with steaming hot tea by attentive waiting staff.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the 'girls' and to London (for me) - for the time being anyway).
A Day's Outing To Cambridge
Before we headed into Cambridge, we stopped off at Grantchester - made famous by the poet Rupert Brooks in a poem called, 'The Old Vicarage'. There now is an apple orchard (where Rupert Brook worked) and where you can sit at outdoor tables eating yummy scones with jam and cream, along with a cup of tea (what else?)
Cambridge is chocka-block full of history; every stone has a story.
We took a boat ride down the Cam River which looks on the the backs of the colleges and churches, and heard a lot about the history dating back to the middle ages - most of which I've forgotten.
Barney wasn't too sure about this leisurely boat ride we were taking him on, especially when other punters bumped into us ...
A Walk Around Blithfield Water Reservoir
Very nice to walk a snippet of England's green and pleasant land.
Barney was encouraged to walk a ways with me with a bacon snack in my pocket as incentive ... all for the photo
After Blithfield we stopped off at a place for a cuppa (and cake). A cottage on a farm has been turned into a cafe, the cakes baked right there.
Time to Say Good-Bye
Outside Dr. Samuel Johnson's birthplace in Lichfield
On my way back from a lone excursion into the town of Lichfield on my last day there, I got a little lost. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised by that statement. I eventually found my way back to C. after asking three people the way - each one pointing me along in the right direction, until I finally 'got it'.
On the way, I happened upon a little ceremony for an oak tree that had been planted in memory of a World War One battle, one hundred years ago. The Town Crier was reading out a poem that had been written for this tree. Stumbling upon this little event (with the Mayor and only three other people attending) is what I call serendipitous. And very English.
Lichfield Cathedral three towers are called 'The Ladies of the Vale'.
A farewell toast of champagne, plates set to be laden with a scrummy pasta dish C. had prepared.
Thank you C. and P. for a sweet time in England - all too short, but totally memorable.
Until next time.