England

I am just back from a wonderful few days seeing my in-laws down in England. Marrying Lily has been such an incredible, moving on-going event that has brought so much to my life. Amongst the myriad of new things have been two fantastic and vibrant sisters (I get to move from being a youngest to an older sibling) and an utterly lovely and fascinating mother and father in law.

It ended up being a rather English time of it. I sang God Save The Queen and Jerusalem (my father in law’s sermon managing to find a way for me to appreciate that hymn), I drank Dandelion and Burdock, ate Eccles Cake and Parkin, I saw a snatch of Countryfile, I visited iconic cathedrals (Liverpool – I love both) and I took a Jack Russel for a walk through a sleepy village.

We also ate delicious stew, tucked into a smashin Chinese takeaway, had a lunch to make a deli owner weep with profound contentment, baked cakes for a fundraiser, had our own firework show, went to church, sorted several Christmas Shoeboxes for charity and designed a few of our own, discussed theology, personality, writing and education. It was an excellent, engaging, English few days.

My in-laws have helped me to discover and appreciate a new country.

No not England. I was already living and working in England when I met my wife.

No these wonderful people have given me many gifts – one of the most notable being

Wales!

Before last year I had never been to Wales and now I have been four times! The first time was only for 45 seconds but was a euphoric experience all the same. My lovely mother-in-law took me on a detour back to the train station to take in a glimpse of Wales from a roundabout so I could officially say I had been to Wales. That was Spring Wales.

Summer Wales was a trip to the beach where we built a sandcastle. A Welsh Sandcastle made out of Welsh sand and everything.

Winter Wales was a trip to the charming Llangollen complete with heritage railway (with steam trains n that). Bundled up in our coats and scarves we tucked into strange and wacky ice cream. I had Mince Pie Ice Cream. It was lovely. Sadly since that day I’ve had to concede that ice cream and I can’t make it work. It doesn’t agree with me. Ah well, as I think back to the trains pulling out, the piles of leather suitcases and the tear stained onlookers waving, ‘We’ll always have Llangollen.’

And today was Autumn Wales with a trip to Hawarden where the Victorian Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone at the age of 85 donated a considerable amount of money and his personal book collection to establish a library (now Britain’s largest residential library – a residential library, more than just a sleeping bag cannily tucked away behind the audiobooks…).

Incredibly as my Father in law told me and it says on Wikipedia “Despite his advanced age, he himself hauled most of his 32,000 books a quarter of a mile to their new home using his wheelbarrow.”

Picture the sight of an 85 year old man repeatedly filling a wheelbarrow full of books and carting them across the village. A beautiful little vignette of generosity and stubbornness, of grand ideas and humble instruments. I greatly appreciated the glimpse I got of the library with carved wooden beams leading up to the printed canopy above (especially discovering the theology/humanities focus and the laid back area with soft inviting arm chairs that encourage in turn silent study and stimulating conversation). It is a place I would dearly like to go back to.

There are so many wonderful, incredible, amazing reasons to be married to Lily. She fills my life with such expectancy, humour and warmth. I have great new family members.

And

I have got a new country!

Thanks England for giving me Lily, and thanks Lily for giving me Wales.

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3 comments

  1. Dave · · Reply

    Incidentally, there’s a small Church of Scotland congregation that meets in a room within (one of the) Liverpool Cathedral(s)!

  2. I”d be interested to hear what Lily’s Dad said about the hymn. I love it, and not because I like rugby because I don’t that much. It’s the rhetoric! It’s wonderful. Most people only laugh at it because they haven’t read it as a poem.

    1. The tune is lovely and the words are poetic but the potentially jingoistic vibes have stuck with me in the past. The point Stephen made was that Blake was essentially lamenting the urban living crisis of the poor forced to work long hours dangerously and was saying – we can do better! We should be doing better, we shouldn’t be settling for less than Jerusalem for these people.

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