An old chap goes west … in Eng­land… (and the sun shone)

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Skin­ner

Last week, I wrote of a mag­nif­i­cent build­ing erected by man to the glory of God – the Great Mosque of Da­m­as­cus. This week, Mary and I have been in an­other mag­nif­i­cent struc­ture erected in His praise, the Chris­tian Cathe­dral in the English Mid­lands city of Peter­bor­ough.

As we en­tered, the first thing we noted was that all the seats for wor­ship­pers had been re­moved and in their place were about fifty round ta­bles, each with ten chairs and set­tings for a ban­quet.

“It’s the 900th an­niver­sary of the Cathe­dral this year”, a guide told us, “and we are hav­ing a fund-rais­ing din­ner. The guest speaker is Lord Archer”.

He would not es­ti­mate how much this “Blue Plate” would raise, but with the great and good of the area at­tend­ing it would be many thou­sands of pounds.

“Lord Archer”, of course, is Jef­frey Archer, the Bri­tish Con­ser­va­tive politi­cian who was in­volved in a sor­did re­la­tion­ship with a pros­ti­tute and lied about it in court. He was im­pris­oned for some months for per­jury. Be­fore that, he had writ­ten a num­ber of best-sell­ing ac­tion packed nov­els, and con­tin­ued to do so dur­ing and af­ter his incarceration.

I think my pic­ture shows what a beau­ti­ful build­ing it is. I hope it was a good din­ner.

A long-time res­i­dent of Cyprus vis­it­ing Bri­tain would be im­pressed by our his­tory and our many fine old build­ings. How­ever, un­less he or she had a great deal of money, I think amaze­ment would be their re­ac­tion to our ev­ery day food. Menus in “pubs”, and restau­rants fre­quently are iden­ti­cal or very sim­i­lar and so is the food be­cause it is “ready made” and comes in packets, sim­ply to be heated and served. It is dif­fi­cult to find lo­cal food and a chef pre­par­ing it. At one fine coun­try house, open to the public, we did.

Near Telford in Shrop­shire, not far from the bor­der with Wales, is We­ston House and Park, the for­mer an­ces­tral seat of the Earls of Brad­ford, no­table for a won­der­ful art col­lec­tion and one thou­sand acres of land sculpted by the 17th cen­tury land­scape designer “Ca­pa­bil­ity” Brown. As well as su­perb walks, there is a minia­ture rail­way, chil­dren’s play­grounds, and some ex­cel­lent food in a Deli/Café and a restau­rant.

Close to our ho­tel is the lit­tle town of Iron­bridge, a con­sid­er­able tourist at­trac­tion be­cause of its “Iron Bridge”. The first struc­ture in the world to be made of cast iron (smelted in the town) which was opened in 1779.

Last Sun­day evening, we strolled the streets empty of tourists, look­ing for a place to eat. How strange this would have been to a Cypriot! All the eat­ing places were closed ex­cept for a grubby Thai restau­rant, a small ho­tel and a Pub. We opted for the lat­ter and en­joyed a “Ready Meal”, nicely heated up by the chef.

A half mile away from the iron bridge is a fac­sim­ile Vic­to­rian town, with streets of shops, busi­nesses and in­dus­try as it all was in 1900. Fresh bread and cakes, pies, fish and chips… . All were read­ily avail­able. Even an “old” branch of Lloyds Bank, where you could ex­change the cur­rent Bri­tish money for “old” Pounds, Shillings and Pence, which could be used for pur­chases in the “old” shops. This is a won­der­ful trip into the past a glimpse of what life was like 120 years ago.

… and so Wales and 150 year old steam trains! More next week!

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