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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

To Be Young Was Very Heaven—Part VII: My Kingdom for a Yorkshire Moor

Friday, July 30

How we squeezed everybody and the luggage in the van I’m not sure. Professor Rich had gone down to Woolworth’s and bought a couple of little plastic chairs to fit in the van for the extra passengers. The chairs were little enough that only the short and thin among us could sit in them. That meant me, Sari, Claudia, Nancy, and Gina had to take turns.

We stopped in the town of Market Bosworth all because Sean wanted to see it for some obscure reason. There was nothing to see, so the reason remained obscure. Nearby was Bosworth Field, where King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, was killed by Henry Tudor’s men, ending the Wars of the Roses in August 1485. This is where Shakespeare has Richard call, “A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” But all we saw was a field of grass, a few trees, and some fences. Claudia and I were going to stage a joust, but a sign on a fence said, “No Games In The Field” so we desisted.

Back in the van we kept playing Name that Quote, despite nobody wanting to guess because if they won, then they had to think of a quote nobody would know. And nobody could think of any more good quotes, so the game slowed to a stop. Sari and I began singing again, teaching people old songs. Sari taught me the harmony part of a folk song. She is a really good singer and can sing any part. I can only sing melody, unless the harmony part is so strong that I can hear it in my head.

Fairfax House, University of York
We arrived in York and stopped at the University of York, where we were to stay the night in the dormitories. Since there was no term in session, the dormitories were empty, and we were each given our own room, large, clean, comfortable, with big windows with sashes you could raise to sit on the wide sills and look out at the lovely views, feet dangling down ivy-covered brick walls.

Several of us walked into town. We walked through the Shambles, once the meat market area in medieval times, and now a fashionable shopping street, very narrow with overhanging buildings on both sides. I bought a birthday card for my grandpa who was turning 92 in a few days. I found the one with the most James Herriott-looking picture of countryside so he would see what things look like around here. It is all green hills, quite rough and steep in places, divided by stone walls and filled mainly with sheep, but some cattle too. The roads are quite narrow and bumpy, even the main highway, although they seemed to be easy to travel quite fast on. Anyway Professor Rich drove quite fast. Somebody said there are no real speed limits, just a suggestion that 70 mph is the limit when conditions require a limit.

York Minster choir screen
We walked into the York Minster, the great church. I took some pictures (we always asked if we needed a photograph permit, and sometimes the answer was yes, but not here). The church contains a Gothic tower, a structure unsupported by columns. Instead it has an intertwining network of beams—I wish I had known the architectural terms to describe it. There were beautiful windows of stained glass, including a rose window on the south and five tall lancet windows called the Five Sisters on the north. It is a huge place, very beautiful inside.

York Minster from the city wall (postcard)
I sat writing a bit of rhymed verse, trying to make a hymn, but it was not very good. I was simply no good at avoiding forced rhymes and trite constructions. But since I had fun, I didn’t care.
Thou central spiring conduit rising,
conduct me to Jesus I pray;
in thy great height uplift my sight,
carry me Glory’s way.

Thou rounding dome so like our home:
the world, but made more fair,
until He comes to make us one,
thy shape doth soothe my care.

Thou windows reaching, heavenly teaching,
in colors of all light,
bathe me in glory of reflected story,
illumine the dusky night.

Inspiring sound now blend around
those organ harmonies;
come trilling forth, a filling chorus
of blessing—swell the breeze.

I sit on cold stone all alone
and contemplate my God,
Who does receive when I believe,
whatever path I trod.

He lives, celestial worlds to give,
in truths to all, and free
are we with eyes upcast to rise
toward heaven on bended knee.

When I was done writing, Sari and I went in search of food. We found individual quiches in a pastry shop. We ate while we walked, intending to return to Fairfax House. Ha.

View from Fairfax House
We walked through back alleys, down narrow pathways through lots of greenery, past a couple guys who’s just had a motorcycle accident—they were all right, they said—and on and on, stopping to take pictures in a park and then to ask a lady trimming her roses where we were and which way we ought to go. We could not understand a single word she said, although we knew very well that she was speaking English. But such an accent! We thanked her and finally found a petrol station where a man we could understand told us we had gone clear beyond the University and would have to double back. We got back in about two hours!

I sat in my window talking to Sari, who was sitting in her window next door. Along came Nancy and Sven, ready for us to enact a Romeo and Juliet balcony scene, or Rapunzel, or some such romantic scenario. I was not in the mood for romance. I proposed diving from my window into a wet washcloth if someone would kindly put one on the slatted bench below. But supposing the breeze blew away the washcloth? Sven said he’d catch me in that case, and Romance threatened again. I replied that it was too risky. Suppose he missed the catch? Never, he declared, but I politely declined jumping, diving, or any other exit from the window of my room.

We did go down and run barefoot in the meadows after the moon rose later, but that was as far as our wildness took us. The grass was cold and we ran back upstairs to be warm.

Saturday, July 31

We were on our way early, in the rain and mist. This was the first wet day we had in England. The weather was perfect for our visit to the moors and to Haworth, the home of the Brontës. You would not expect Lowood School of Jane Eyre, or the house in Wuthering Heights to be sitting amidst sunlit green fields. It had to be rainy and misty or the atmosphere just wouldn’t be right.

A ghost in Haworth churchyard
The Haworth house and museum were dark; almost the only light came from the small windows. There were few lamps, dimly shining. It was just the way I had imagined the Rivers’ home in Jane Eyre to be. One could easily imagine Anne, Emily, Branwell, and Charlotte at work, writing for each other’s amusement or sketching each other.

Gina and I poked around the graveyard, taking photographs of that eerie-looking place. It was all overgrown—the grasses and shrubbery above my head, though Gina could see over a little. When the church bells began tolling noon, we raced to get back to the van, but we didn’t make it before the magic last stroke. Nothing happened, except we found ourselves there first and had to wait for everybody else who had stopped to find a lunch somewhere. We went hungry.

On our way in the van we varied the way we had been playing our quotes game. This time we went around in turn, each person having to name a song with a girl’s name in it, in alphabetical order. Then we would all join in singing whatever snatches we knew of the song. We went through the alphabet seven times before we ran out of songs with girls’ names. We tried to do boy’s names, but we gave up quickly. Besides, we were becoming sidetracked by the gorgeous scenes as the Yorkshire moors gave way to the Lake District. It was necessary to ooh and ahh a lot out of the windows from then on.

To be continued . . .

Next Episode: Part VIII: Thrown in at the Deep End
York Minster interior (postcard)
River Ouse, York
A park in York
The heather on the hill
Misty Yorkshire moors
The moor where we got the heather
Yorkshire moors (postcard)
Yorkshire moors (postcard)
Charlotte Brontë
Heathcliff meets Lockwood (postcard)
Yorkshire moors (postcard)

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