April: Lincoln & London

On Friday afternoon, T and I arrived in Retford where we were met by my cousin Clare.  Once again, we were made to feel completely at home (and a bit like celebrities as our bedroom even had our names on a marquee!).  For the benefit of my British readers who define a marquee as a tent, allow me to introduce another definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster: “a sign usually over the entrance of a theatre or arena that displays the names of featured attractions and principal performers The brightly lighted marquee displayed the title of the movie currently featured.”  


On Saturday, we enjoyed a slow start to the day and a late breakfast before heading to Gainsborough, where we visited the Old Hall.  Once again, it was Clare, Hattie, T and I heading out together, and if you recall our visit in November, you might guess that we dressed up at some point… and you’d be right. But we’ll get to that.

The Old Hall is an extraordinarily preserved medieval manor house that was built between the mid and late 1400s (the West Range was built later than the East Range).  The central hall links the East and West ranges of the house, and the kitchen is incredible!  It has an impressive list of visitors, including Richard III (believe to have stayed there in 1483 on his way to London), Henry VIII (believed to have visited with his 5th wife Katherine Howard in 1541- the year before he had her executed), and later, when the Puritan Hickman’s owned the home: the Mayflower Pilgrims.  Check out the link for more fun facts, including how Cadbury Roses got their name!


Gorgeous main hall and ceiling (one of the only remaining original tudor arch ceilings). Isn’t it incredible?

Oh yes, and of course the dressing up!  It started with the dress up totes downstairs.. and then we found helmets in the hall, and then behind the curtains we found tunics and swords, and then upstairs more dress up chests in the master bedroom. The fun was ongoing!


We never miss an opportunity to dress up…


Ready to fight!


Taking a turn at being royal

In the afternoon, we left T to try to sleep off a headache while Clare took me to visit my cousin (her brother) David and his wife Geri.  They live on the family farm where my Grandpa once lived as a child.  The house, of course, has changed a lot, but just being in a space that he had inhabited was special, and Geri shared the absolute heaps of work she has done on our family history, following our paternal lineage up to 8 generations! She even had an article discussing one of my great-aunts having run off to elope (she was returned home and properly married later on) and a picture of my Great Uncle in front of the farm house with his brother-in-law and niece.


That evening, we had family dinner at the pub where we had gathered for Aunt Muriel’s 95th in November.  Except this time I knew who everyone was! Woot!  Just a small family dinner of 19 😛  T and I were joined by my Dad and Grandma; Uncle Bill and Auntie Angie; Clare, John, the twins and Oliver; David, Geri, Damien, Emma and their girls; and cousin Vince with his partner Deana. I think that’s everyone!  It was lovely to have everyone together.

Sunday was full of excitement and laughs.  In the morning, we went to pick up my 97-year-old Great Aunt Joan for lunch.  She had forgotten we were coming (bless her, I think she’s entitled to forget social outings) and so we ended up next door, meeting her son and daughter-in-law (my dad’s generations of cousins).  We eventually collected her from church, where she was happily enjoying tea and cake.  When Grandma asked if she was ready for lunch, she replied “well no, I’ve just had cake.”  Happily, she still came with us, where she gave a tremendous showing of her still-sharp wit and dry sense of humour. Comments included things like “are you enjoying that food? If not, that’s a lot to eat! Oh well, as long as I never have to hear about it again,” and “You ate that dessert quickly.  If you get indigestion, I won’t feel sorry for you.”  In text- sounds abrasive, but in person it was just hilarious. Dad, Troy and I were in stitches with ear-to-ear grins throughout lunch.  After lunch, it was back to her house to see some of her beautiful paintings and meet more cousins. There, I also learned that Great Aunt Joan still knits, so we were comparing projects 🙂  It was so lovely to meet her, it was a really special day. And that was only the first half!


Dad, Uncle Bill, Auntie Joan, myself, and Grandma


Sharing knitting stories, and listening to Auntie Joan’s story about building and moving into the house (they used to live in the farmhouse next door, where her son and his family now live).

Our evening had us over at my Uncle Bill and Auntie Angie’s house (Uncle Bill and Auntie Joan are two of my Grandpa’s siblings).  We had a massive Easter tea with my cousins and it was amazing.  3 of the 4 cousins were there (Caz, Jamie, and Vincent). I finally got to meet Jamie’s wife and their 2 kids after years of seeing pictures, which was really special.  And I met Vince and Deana when I was a kid but don’t remember it so I loved getting to properly visit with them and the anticipation of future plans together.  Auntie Angie was so thoughtful too- she had special gluten free dessert for me, and gluten free bread plus egg salad (one of my absolute faves) set aside so I could make a safe sandwich.  Unfortunately, we were having so much fun that I didn’t think to take any photos!

Monday morning, T and I got up and went for a walk/jog. What an energizing way to start the day!  We went for one more outing before heading home, to Lincoln Cathedral.  I have no words for the intricacies of it; the architecture, the stained glass, the engraved wood… it’s all so beautiful.  We paused for lunch and made the most of the sunshine, eating at an outdoor table in the inner courtyard.


View from the courtyard as we ate a light lunch

The rose window and other stained glass throughout were stunning. This picture shows only the South Trasept; a tiny part of the cathedral.  If you look at the cathedral floorplan, you can begin to get a sense of its size.  You can also click on each number for additional information.


The crossing, about midway up the nave, is made even more special by the Choir Screen. Built in the 1330s, the Lincoln Cathedral website tells us that “the Choir was reserved for the clergy, their assistants and the choir. The congregation stood in the Nave, separated from the Choir by the stone screen which was originally painted in bright colours.”


A close up of the right side of the choir screen arch to show the detail, and remnants of paint, as it was originally brightly painted.


St. Hugh’s Choir is one of the oldest parts of the building, and it is believed that St. Hugh may have actually prayed here.  It is a church within the church and features exquisitely carved dark wood.  It’s dark, somber feel stands in stark contrast to much of the cathedral, which as you’ve seen is light and bright.


Just past the angel choir, high up (and here, lit up) is the famous Lincoln Imp.  My first memory of this little imp is from my Grandmother’s house, so it was quite neat to see it in person. My cousin Clare had offered T and I 5 pounds if we could spot it in a minute or so but it is SO tiny! It’s handy that you can pop in a coin and light him up for a moment (he’s number 11 on the cathedral map if you’re checking it out).


The entire building is impressive, but thanks to my cousin and her boyfriend, we learned  that there is also a library there, which we visited.  If you only look at one link in this post- let it be this one.  You’re not meant to take photos so the link is the one place you can go to see the library itself.  There, I got to sit on one of the original 1422 benches, sitting before a dark-stained oak reading desk (one of 4 remaining that were designed for the original library). I’m so glad Troy took a few pictures before we learned they weren’t allowed! Oops, but yay!  The book collection there is mind-blowing but there was a major disappointment… maybe some lovers of antique books can tell me why their catalogue system would include putting STICKERS on the beautiful, hundreds-of-years-old bindings?! I was stunned!


Just reading some digitized versions of centuries old texts, whilst sitting on an almost 600-year-old bench. No big deal 😉

After a wonderful afternoon at the cathedral and a quick walk through town, it was time to head to the train station, a little tougher a goodbye this time not knowing if I’ll be back but I’m hopeful that this visit won’t have been our last.  Thank you, John and Clare for having us and keeping us so well fed once again!

And then…. my Dad came to visit us in London!

After just a few days back in the city to do laundry and tidy up, I could hardly wait for Friday morning when I went to meet my Dad at King’s Cross station.  The day evolved as we went which made for some fantastic surprises.  First, we made an unexpected visit to the British Museum where we took in the rosetta stone and impressive collections of African and Assyrian pieces. The Assyrian Balawat Gates are worth seeing.  The museum also had a feature on Canada as we’re coming up to our 150th birthday, and as Dad hilariously noted, he’d travelled to another continent to see Canadian totem poles!  The exhibit also included gorgeous beadwork, which caught my eye as I continue to research for the project I mentioned a while back.  The multicoloured floral pattern is uniquely Métis, and yet echoes the colours and style of the Edwardian purses I’ve been looking at; unsurprising given the European heritage of the Métis people.

Next, we had an early lunch at Borough market.  I was so excited to bring Dad to our favourite local market. It’s where we shop for olives, bread, cheese and produce and where we often come for lunch.  Borough Olives is probably my favourite food stop in all of London.  It was fun to show Dad how T and I wander, getting bits and bobs from a few places to get a range of flavours. It’s an adventure for the taste buds, and I’m happy to report that Dad seemed to enjoy it as much as we do!

Well-fed, we were ready to go east.  We walked through town a bit before hopping on a bus to Greenwich.  Remember the Painted Hall? Well, it had been closed the last few times we had visitors so I’d planned a visit to the Maritime museum, but we were in for another surprise!  The scaffolding for the restoration work had been put up, and ceiling tours were available!  We climbed the 60 feet of stairs and were treated to a close up look at Britain’s largest painted ceiling.  It was interesting to see up close the damage to the paint over time, the effects of poor restoration techniques in the past, and the brazen move of one past restorer who painted his name in black across the queen’s chest! (Of course, this is not visible from below, so it was a rare treat to see these details).



We could reach up and almost touch the ceiling!

This picture illustrates my one regret: I wish I’d brought my camera! I wasn’t expecting this experience, and Dad’s camera is not great in such low light.  But, though it’s faint, and a bit fuzzy, you can see the faint signature so I’m sharing the photo anyway!



We still had plenty of time to check out the Maritime Museum and to stand astride the Meridian line!

In the evening, we met T back at our flat and went for dinner at our local- The Blacksmiths Arms.  It’s where T had his first meal in our neighbourhood, and where I had my very first meal when I moved to London.  The family who owns and runs the pub is just lovely and the food never disappoints.  Dad and I had the ribs (yes, I cleared my plate! The guys were impressed. lol) and T had a burger- all tasty as always.  Then it was home and to bed after a long and awesome day.

Saturday morning came quickly.  We had breakfast at home, dad put himself to work clearing the ivy in our garden (thanks Dad! It looks SO much better!) then we had some more father-daughter time at the Imperial War Museum.  Dad had visited as a teenager, so needless to say it had changed a lot.  It was interesting for me to view it through his eyes as he’s such a war history buff and noticed the absence of some things that I hadn’t.   From there, we walked to Westminster bridge, then along Southbank and back into London where we said our goodbyes.  It wasn’t too difficult as I knew we’d be seeing each other soon.   Besides, it was time for me to head home and pack… only a few hours later, T and I would be off to the airport and bound for Greece! 


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