Architecture · Art · Chicago · Kent · Life On The Road · Road Signs · Transportation · Travel · UK · Weather

Tudeley All Saints Church : Inside a Gem

#RochesterKent

A few years ago, I watched a BBC television feature on a little church in Tudeley which housed stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall.  By the end of the program, a visit to All Saints Church Tudeley was in my Bucket List.  So when 3 weeks ago the Hubby had a couple of days’ work with a client down in Rochester (Kent), I grabbed the opportunity to tag along with the goal of striking out to neighboring Tudeley from there.  I planned to go via Tonbridge, about an hour away by train from the Strood station, which was in turn a bus ride and walk from the hotel.  A long-time admirer of Chagall’s works, I have been lucky that 2 of them are within easy viewing for me when in Chicago :  the Four Seasons outdoor mosaic murals (4-sided) at the Chase Plaza entrance to the Dearborn Blue Line station; and of course the America windows at the Art Institute.  All Saints in Tudeley is particularly special because it is the only Church where all (12!) its stained glass windows are works of the Artist.  There is a tragic, heartbreaking story behind the Windows’ commission, but it all turned to good as both Story and Artwork are now immortalized by the collaborative genius of Chagall and glassmaker Charles Marq of Reims.

My trek to All Saints Church Tudeley began with this page, and the “How To Find Us” directions here.  For all the big-time, long-road, open-sky driving that I do in the US, I cannot drive here in the UK (yet). So, from among my available options to get to the Church, I decided to do so by-foot, instead of cab or bus.  That decision came easily enough : The walking directions, which I carefully copied by hand, had described the trek as “delightful”; and I was quickly sold on the lyrical characterization of the landmarks along the way:

“the road rises to the crest of the hills and then descends”

parade of shops”

little black and white lodge” 

green footpath fingerpost”

“charming foot path lane between high sided walls (may be wet underfoot)”

charming wooded dells”

Indeed, a pied it is.  Surely, I thought, there will be a throng of visitors headed the same way from the train station.  That scenic 2.5 mile walk will be dreamy and enjoyable; and it will give me a good 5,000 steps exercise on the walking app (multiplied by 2 if I walked back!).  I also envisioned having interesting exchanges with fellow enthusiasts.  EASY.  Or so I thought.  

I hurled the first of my assumptions out the window as soon as I got off the train.  I should’ve known that a gloomy, chilly, windy Thursday is not exactly the best day for the Chagall Window Enthusiasts sub-set.  Or perhaps any one for that matter.  I found myself walking alone, often bemused if a house or footpath qualifies as “charming” as described in the Directions, and second-guessing what exactly “wooded dells” looked like.  I was a City-Mouse lost in the deep country.  At some point I found myself the only human within sight, often shadowed by that nagging feeling of being followed.  Of course, it turned out that the imagined sound of footsteps or rustling was actually my backpack rubbing against my neoprene jacket.  I walked through lush fields, mountains of molehills, nettles and brambles that whipped at the hems of my jeans.  I wondered where to shelter if the clouds suddenly gave in and poured, and hesitated when a path Y’s out to different paths.  It amuses but doesn’t surprise me, on hindsight, that “The Blair Witch Project” movie was on my mind as I sallied forth.  [Slideshow below to view some of the bits I saw along the way.]:

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By the time I finally managed to get the Destination within sight, the clouds have given way and Sun was out full-blast.  I had sweat running down the small of my back.  My ankles were soft and wobbly.  My pedometer indicated that it took Lost and Flat-footed Me a total of 7.1 miles (2 hours +) to do the 2.5 mile walk. :)  I crossed the dusty road to a little village church that looked outwardly plain and unspectacular, curious to see what lies inside.  [Hover mouse over the bottom of each pics below to see my marginal notes!].

As it turned out, the church building’s deceptively unsophisticated exterior was the perfect tension before the BIG WOW.  Pushed open, the main wooden door was the rabbit-hole to a wholly different world.  The plain white walls and exposed beams provided the perfect canvas for Chagall’s masterpieces.   That day, within that smallish space, on a gloriously sunny afternoon, I walked into a magnificent crossfire of light from 12 vibrantly colorful sets of windows, — primarily beaming the Blues of night sky and deep sea, and a couple golden Yellows the color of corn and sunlight.  The Windows framed an eclectic collection of Biblical characters, members of the  D’Avignon family, the Moon, fishes and doves, sea creatures, playful donkeys, mythical birds, the whisper of Chagall’s term of endearment for his wife (“Vava”), and a selfie of the artist himself!

I’ve read somewhere that the experience of Tudeley All Saints Church feels like being inside a jewelry box.  That is an understatement — I felt like being inside the jewel itself, — and a perfect, most sparkling one at that.    Slideshow below : — 

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Best of all, I had that wonderful space all to myself for most of the time.  It’s not always like this.  The place gets packed with visitors in the summer apparently.  And so I lingered a bit, savored the quiet and the glow of natural and enhanced lights, and remembered my dad.  How I wish he were still around to hear me blabber about this.  And finally, when it was time to head back, I took the bus.  Exhausted and jelly-legged, thoughtful and happy. :)

VISITING TIPS:

1. Don’t forget to walk into the open Vestry on the west side of the Church (directly opposite the altar).  There is a switch towards the back which lights up the Boscawen Windows (Victorian glass) on the south wall.  These panels were replaced by the last Chagall installations.

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2.  The walking from Tunbridge station is indeed scenic and beautiful.  However if walking through isolated paths is not your thing, make sure you plan ahead and go with a group.  It may not be easy to navigate the Directions on your own.

3.  If you are taking the walk, make sure you pack enough drinking water, your phone is charged or bring back-up power so you can keep in touch if you get lost.  It is quite a long walk, —  with lots of ups and downs and uneven grounds, — and you WILL get lost if it is your first time.  Give yourself enough time allowance, and the cardinal rule:  wear comfortable shoes.

4.  There are interesting and very good publications and postcards on the side of the church.  And a donation box to drop payments and donations.

5.  There is a labyrinth on grounds.  I didn’t see it though.

6.  1.5 miles away is the St. Thomas a Becket Chapel. No longer in active use.  Supposedly has fantastic 13th century painted murals.  It’s still on my list of to-sees.

7.  Bus service to the train station is infrequent — an hour between buses.  And they don’t run late.  The last bus is just past 4:00 p.m., so plan accordingly.  

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”
― Marc Chagall

Chicago · Life · Weather

Oh Snow!

It snowed nonstop for a whole day here in our little village outside Manchester 2 days ago.   It didn’t take long for our front and backyards to be covered in a thick, puffy quilt of white.

For all that it felt so cold during those days, I find that the temps were at its worst just below 30*F (-4.0C), — quite a ways away from the sub-zero (Fahrenheit) windchilled winters of Chicago.  And yet — why did it feel so cold?  Why did the snow fall accumulation seem even more extreme?  I was griping about the cold until the Hubby reminded me that it is nothing compared to our winters in Chicago.  True, I probably complain less about the cold there than here.

Simple explanation.  The cold is more challenging here because the UK is largely unequipped or unprepared to tackle extreme weather of this sort.  On a grocery run for instance, I was surprised to find that SALT had run out, in Tesco, Sainsbury and in the neighborhood co-op.  I was later told that many had to resort to using table salt to dust their icy front door to prevent elderly from slipping; — which gives you a clue that the roads are totally ungritted.  The council took a while to send trucks to plough the snow off the streets, and if they did, it would only be the main thoroughfares.  Most houses are not amply insulated for harsh winters (and of course, let’s not forget the prohibitive cost of heating).  And the government services all seem to come to a halt.  The garbage bin (“wheelie bins”) were not collected.  Mail was not delivered.  Schools are out.  Parents cannot go to work because schools closed.  The roads to the supermarkets are superclogged.  Cars are stalled and abandoned.  Power is cut off in some places…. yadah yadah yadah.  I’m sorry if this sounds like a gripe sheet, but in some way it probably is.  It’s crazy how life almost comes to a stand still, and daily living just seems helpless to go forwards for those few days.   It makes me realize how much I miss the efficiency and readiness of Chicago for wintry elements which make for what appears to be hardier, keep-going, can-do city.  Remember this comment of Pres. Obama regarding a snow day in D.C. same time last year?

UK · Weather

Overnight

Snow comes treacherously. Without sound. No footprints– no tapping nor rattling on windows. Overnight our grounds went from CLEAN AND DRY to THIS–

The hubby tells me this is the worst, or best as the case may be, that he has seen in 25 years. (Good job we did a Sainsbury run last night!)

IN any case, with all that white, it’s still a good 30 degrees Fahrenheit warmer here than in Chicago– where I am due in less than 2 weeks!

Fitting In · Life · love · Uncategorized · Weather

Don’t Try This At Home

An overcast day in a beautiful semi-rural village on the outskirts of Manchester (England).

Outside, the leaves begin to fall, with a big chunk of burnt orange and yellows defiantly clinging to the branches, — thanks to a lingering Indian summer.

Inside, the house is too quiet and still.  And here I am by myself in the study looking out as Geoff*, (*that’s how what sounds like “Jeff” usually turns out to be spelt here), the English farmer, and his German Sherpherd do their routine back-and-forth walk on the field beyond our fence. 

In the background, iTunes randomly and perhaps coincidentally plays the perfect setback:  Elgar’s “Nimrod”.  And, being that time, It hit me.  I felt It creep in softly.  That which I knew would surreptitiously and very treacherously come one day.  I just did not think it would be today.  — “What the frick am I doing here in this part of the world, by myself, forcing myself into a very particular jigsaw puzzle shape to fit in?”  “What wind possessed me to marry in my 40s, to move away, and to exchange the familiar for constant second-guessing?”

Luckily, there was a  faithful box of tissues beside.  And between sobs I nagged myself to stop this silliness.  And you have an appeal due for filing in Cali on Tuesday.  Stop now and starting working.  Thankfully the clouds — I mean the ones hovering inside my head — did not tarry.  I blew my nose, took a deep breath, exhaled, and fired up the laptop. 

Moments later the hubby walks in, clueless to that bit of internal struggle, and I say:  “I really would like to have blueberries with my coffee.”

“Did they have it in the Co-Op?”

“Yes, they did.  2.89 for an itty-bitty pack.  But I want some.”

“Let’s go get you some then.”

“Ok.”

“You go get dressed.  I’ll wait in the car.”

And so it came to pass.  I have my two little boxes of blueberries.  And no more tears.  And I think to myself, “THIS boy — who always put priority to what makes you happy — is why you are here.” 

In a different life, this morning could’ve continued with me blueberry-less and still questions-ful.  In a different life, I could be sad, for real and not just because of the weather’s sleight-of-hand, or Sir Edward’s tendency to the melodramatic.  And so again, I exhaled.

Take it from me.  Stay away from Elgar, and the Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” on gloomy, lonely, quiet, autumn mornings.

Saved the day
Saved the day

 

"The View"
"The View"

 

Outside the British Consulate in Chicago.
Outside the British Consulate in Chicago.

 Postscript :  In any case, Carried Bradshaw, too, married in her 40s.  All in the name of love, and closet space.

Chicago · Weather

Blizzard Tonight

Chicago is metaphorically known as the Windy City because of its history of arrogant politicians.  But I am convinced that the Windy monicker rings just as true for its weather.  The cold can be fierce, and I mean brutally so, because of the winds.  I live 2 blocks from Lake Michigan, and there are the times when I am physically pushed forwards by the strong winds.  Tonight’s forecast, from what I gather from the weather channel is… wow, a BLIZZARD.  Do we need that?  Not if I had my way.  Certainly we’re bracing ourselves for the kind of cold that can only be described as FEROCIOUS.

Blizzard warning for Chicago: Yes, you see it correctly. There is a blizzard warning in effect for Chicago. It goes into effect tonight at midnight central time and lasts until noon on Tuesday.

The same storm system we mentioned at the 11:01 am ET update will track east today move into Illinois and Indiana by tonight. The snow will not be tremendous with this system (especially for Chicago standards) but the winds will be ferocious. As the snow falls and the system pulls farther to the east, winds on the backside of the storm will begin to crank out of the northwest.

As stated earlier, the winds will not only blow around the falling snow but will kick up any freshly fallen snow on the ground. It goes nearly without saying that visibility will be very poor.

Along with the winds and the poor visibility comes the brutal wind chills. The winds will be ushering in an arctic air mass so that factor combined with high winds means that it will feel like it’s 10 to 20 degrees below zero tonight. Definitely a night to crank the heat or light your fireplace and stay indoors!

Traveling tonight is highly discouraged on both local roads and interstates. Prepare now for the upcoming dangerous weather conditions.