“If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” – Michael Crichton
This week, my greatest challenge was choosing a quote. My biggest adventure in November was in continuing to connect with my large network of extended family from and still living in England. There are so many beautiful quotes about family, and history, and the importance of connecting to where we have come from. My Dad is the first Canadian in his family, so most of our relatives on that side are in England. I was lucky enough to meet many of my Aunts and Uncles, and a couple of my cousins, when they came to visit Canada. Now that I live in here, I get to see more of the tree. ❤
November had already been action-packed and fun, but the highlight was our mid-November trip up to Lincolnshire. On Friday, we were met at the train by my cousin Clare and her husband John. They brought us back to their home where a fantastic home cooked meal was waiting. Chicken, mushrooms, and potatoes.. served with wine. Let’s just say I was feeling at home already! That evening, we got to meet one of their three daughters. They are Millie, Hattie, and Floss. We got to meet Millie the previous weekend when she and Dan came down for Guy Fawkes fireworks, we met Floss that evening when she got home from babysitting, and then we met Hattie at the train station the next day as she was coming home from uni for the weekend.
Saturday began with breakfast in Sturton by Stow! I finally got to visit the village I’ve heard of all of my life,and where some of my relatives live. We ate at the restaurant where my cousin Floss works, which is just across the street from this adorable sign 🙂
Cousin Clare, daughter Hattie, plus T and I were out adventuring. The 4 of us went to Lincoln. We glimpsed the stunning Lincoln Cathedral but did not visit it on this day. Something to look forward to on our next visit!
There is so much to see in this beautiful place; we had our eyes on Lincoln Castle. Built by William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings, Lincoln Castle has an impressive history. The castle has been under siege several times – once when King John refused to honour the Magna Carta, resulting in a civil war against which the castle was defended. King Henry II and King Henry VIII were both visitors there, and the castle is still home to a working courthouse. Built in 1826, the Gothic Revival Courthouse is where criminal trials are heard by the Lincoln Crown Court today.
Lincoln Castle houses a fascinating Victorian Prison, which was built in pursuit of a “separate system” practice of incarceration wherein prisoners were meant to be kept from one another in order to prevent corruption so that inmates had a chance at moral redemption. There is evidence of this in the Prison Chapel. It is the only remaining chapel of its style, and was designed with individual compartments: the doors swung such that prisoners could be loaded in and out one at a time so that they could attend church services during their incarceration and still not be in contact with other prisoners (can you spot me in a private pew? I blend in with the mannequins but I think I look happier to be there). Because of the high costs of staffing and running such a facility, it only remained open for 30 years.
Being in the prison was like being on the set of Green Mile. We saw videos that shared the stories of some past inmates, including heartbreaking stories of young children. It’s hard now to imagine a time when children as young as 7 and 8 could be imprisoned in these conditions. On a lighter note: a highlight of the prison was dressing up and then trying to look very serious in the photos. We managed to get a couple convincing ones, but there were lots of giggles in between! It was foggy so we skipped the wall walk on this visit but now we have just one more reason to go back and visit again. Hopefully soon.
On the grounds of the castle, we also saw the Magna Carta. Produced in 1215, it is one of only 4 remaining original copies and has been in Lincoln since it was first delivered there more than 800 years ago. Pictures are unsurprisingly forbidden. The castle has recently undergone a $20 million+ renovation, and much of that money was spent on a new display and information centre focused on the Magna Carta. It was surprisingly small and intact, and is just one of those things that you need to see in person.
Outside the castle, we explored the top bit of Steep Hill (shops were beginning to close), popped into a few shops, wandered past the cathedral, and then got ourselves a sweet treat before heading back to the house. Steep Hill is actually a thing, by the way. In fact, it’s the 3rd most popular attraction in Lincoln, only after the castle and cathedral, and it has been named The Best Street in Britain.
That evening, we had dinner with Auntie Angie and Uncle Bill. I hadn’t seen Auntie Angie in person since I was a girl but have always remained close and keep in touch via facebook and she was a tremendous source of emotional support during Jessica’s illness. I hadn’t seen Uncle Bill since he came to Canada when Grandpa Rowley was very ill, so getting to see them both was incredibly special. Thank you to Clare for arranging this dinner to help be sure we’d get a visit in. It meant so much to me.
My back went out and I was sniffly and sick so I spent most of the day in bed being a rubbish guest. Millie went out to get me lemonade and meds.. Heated fizzy lemonade is amazing, by the way. Why don’t we do this in Canada?? Meanwhile, we were fed a fantastic breakfast of bacon baps, enjoyed some downtime, and went for an afternoon walk in the forested area at the end of their street where we met dogs that looked big enough to saddle up for small children to ride!
Dinner was the reason for the trip: a birthday dinner at award-winning Cross Keyes restaurant to celebrate my Great Aunt Muriel’s 95th birthday. She is my Grandpa’s sister, and I had never met her until that night. She looks so like my Grandpa (and my Uncle Bill), and not only did I get to meet her and feel another connection to my Grandpa and my family history, there were also 35 relatives there to celebrate! They were Aunt Muriel’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, along with their partners and spouses. It was both overwhelming and incredible to meet this huge contingent of my family, many of whom I had never even known of, and who greeted T and I with such warmth. Beside me sat one of her great grandkids, and I was stunned to find that here was this person I’d never met, but we share the same colouring and features. It was indescribable, really. I got to sit across from Aunt Muriel at dinner and she told me stories about herself, about Grandpa, about their childhood and places they lived, and many things I never knew. I won’t share them here as my Grandpa was such a private person, I think he’d be horrified enough to have anyone’s names listed! But needless to say, it was a really special evening.
One of my more distant cousins (I believe she’s a great-granddaughter to Aunt Muriel) sat beside me. We come down from different parts of the family tree with other parents contributing DNA in between, but we totally share the Rowley genes. I wouldn’t say we look alike, but we have the exact same colouring in terms of our complexion, our hair and our eyes; we both have the brown freckles and the button nose. It was a bit surreal but so cool. Here’s this awesome kid I’ve never met but we are connected by DNA and we’re family and it’s just all so amazing to me.
After dinner, it was time for goodbyes, and then John and Clare took us to the train station. I rode home in peace with this guy, feeling grateful for such a great weekend.
The rest of the month was a blur of work as I was still sick and spent most downtime home and resting when possible. But the beauty of the first half of November more than made up for it. To any and all of my Rowley/Douce/Forrest/whatever last name you married into family who may read this: I am so thankful to have met each of you, and hope we meet again!