Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Little Car That Could

Map picture

Our trip last evening from Cherbourg, France to Southampton, UK was an interesting experience. To my surprise, about two hours before our scheduled departure, the wind and rain started a slow improvement, and as scheduled, our ship departed port at 7pm. The Captain warned that our crossing of the channel would be rough, but that for much of the evening, he would keep the ship at an angle that minimized the effects of the storm. And so, true to his word, while it was choppy, it was bearable, until 1am that is. Apparently once all the venues were closed, the Captain turned towards Southampton, and to put it bluntly, all hell broke loose. Things in our cabin that were not well secured ended up on the floor, doors opened and then slammed shut, and walking was out of the question. We were so tired, that after making sure everything was buttoned up, we both fell asleep rocking back and forth feeling like babies in our cribs. When we awoke, the ship was docking, and outside there was just a small amount of sun peeking about the clouds.

Our day here in England has been an absolute joy, thanks in no small part to our good friends, Bill and Jayne Davison. We met them several years ago on a cruise to Egypt, and in the intervening years, we have had the pleasure of their company in our home on two occasions. This was their first opportunity to return the favor, and return they did. Learning of our plans, they both took a week’s “holiday” and moved down to this area in their motor home so that they could be close by when we arrived. They showed up this morning bright and early dockside to greet us, prepared to show us the nearby city of Salisbury and its magnificent Cathedral. There was only one little problem, and I do mean little. Actually I mean tiny, really, really tiny. Bill and Jayne tow a Toyota IQ behind their RV, and when Bill pulled up curbside, I took one looked and gasped!

Southampton, UK I was reminded of the great Ringling Bros. circus act where a small car would enter the ring and then an impossible number of clowns would somehow magically squeeze in and drive off. That was the situation we faced. Slowly we contorted our bodies, all the while laughing with great fun, and after a modest amount of grunts and groans we pulled away while the surrounding onlookers either laughed or looked outright flabbergasted and thus “the little car that could, did.”

Our visit to the Cathedral was a highlight of our trip. I took way too many photographs, but it was a building of superlatives.

Salisbury, UKThe Close was first laid out in 1197, and the actual foundation stones laid in 1220. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1258. It boasts the tallest spire in England, 404 ft. It houses one of only 4 copies of the Magna Carta from 1215, has the oldest mechanical working clock from 1386, and is home to the largest medieval Cloisters in the world. More impressive to me was the “feel” that I got in the building. I have certainly seen my share of impressive Cathedrals, but somehow this building was different. It seemed alive and very much loved by its people. The lights were on, and it was clear that the church plays an important role in the life of the city even today. Whereas most old Cathedrals seem cold and dark, quite the opposite was the effect here. Anyway, this is one case in which I need to let the photographs speak for themselves.

Salisbury, UK

After spending a large amount of time enjoying the Cathedral, we prepared to leave when a sign directed us down a long walkway to see the Magna Carta. We were so tired. I stated that certainly it could not be the original document but just a copy anyway, so why not let’s move on. A man doing construction work on the Cathedral overhead me, and to my surprise came over and kindly set me straight – there is not one, but four actual documents, all originals. One of those originals is indeed housed in the Cathedral of Salisbury.

When the document was executed in 1215, the way that the official “word” could be spread across the land was by having several copies that went to the far reaches of the Kingdom; hence this document was sent to the Cathedral. The 1215 Charter was issued by King John of England under pressure from his Lords and covers many issues. By far the most important meaning of the document was that in it the King grants certain “liberties” to his people and agrees that no “freeman” could be punished except through the law of the land. This law is still in existence today. Considering that the document is over 800 years old, it is an amazing state of preservation, and I consider it a real highlight of our trip to have actually seen it.

Anyway, as with all good things, the day finally had to come to an end. We “squeezed” back in the tiny car, and set off back to Southampton, where to the amused witness of the security guards, we all tried to gracefully find our way out of the vehicle.


So, my hat is off to Bill and Jayne for a wonderful day and a really fun time.


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