Sunday, May 08, 2011

Exploring London and other places

I am enjoying my time in London. There is so much to say and do here! Before I came I thought a week was a lot of time. Now that I am here and almost through the week I wish I had another week. So what have I done with my week?

Finchley Meeting House
Hammersmith Meeting House
John Milton's House
Liz Yeats, Terry SoRelle, Trish Carn, Warren Wilson-Reiner and I spent a day at two Quaker Meetings (Finchley and Hammersmith) and John Milton's House in Buckinghamshire. We learned that Friend Thomas Elwood was a student of John Milton's and influenced him to write Paradise Found. Later that evening we saw a performance of Alls Well That Ends Well at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The Globe is an outdoor theater with a choice of standing or sitting during the performance. We had seats for which I was happy because the play was 2 and 1/2 hours long. It was also cold. I was glad that a had on my fleece vest, coat, hat and gloves. The others rented a blanket for 6 pounds. Trish provided the cushions we sat on. Watching the play took me back to my senior year in high school when I feel in love with Shakespeare's plays. We read on each year in English and it was that year when I really understood the statements his plays were making about English society.
Tree of Life
Liz, Terry, Warren and I spent an afternoon at the British Museum and several pubs! If you ever spend time in Britain, make sure you plan to spend at least a day at the Museum. We had a wonderful time but there was so much to see that we barely saw what was available. The most amazing part of the exhibit for me was the sculptures made out of gun parts by four artists in Mozambique. It was wonderful to see a Tree of Life and other items made out of items that took lives.

In addition to spending time with Trish, Liz, Terry and Warren I spent time with several other Friends in London. Margaret Fraser was in London for a couple days. It was wonderful that she spent one of them with me. We explored Brixton Market and Brick Lane. I was pleasantly surprised to find a gluten free stall The WAGfree Bakery, Cafe and Deli in the Brixton Market. Thanks to them I was able to eat a Leek and Cheddar pie (my first British pie) and A kitsch kirsch kiss: almond genoise, kirsch, mascarpone, cherries and thin crisp shortcake. I felt like a kid in a candy store there were so many options, something I am not used to experiencing. If you cannot eat gluten and are near the Brixton Market you must visit The WAGfree Bakery. I would loved to have filled up a suitcase full of their products and brought them home with me. Margaret and I walked along Brick Lane where we ate lunch at the Aladin, an Indian Restaurant. Both Margaret and my London tour book said it was a Bengali neighborhood, but times have changed and the community has gentrefied and become an artistic community with many Indian restaurants.

Gluten Free Fish & Chips
I also had a chance to eat the traditional Fish & Chips! The Mermaids Tail on Leicester Square has gluten free fish and chips. I was so excited to be able to order gluten free fish and chips. I have not had fried fish since I was a little girl. My dish came and the portion was hugh. I was sorry that Barry was not there to share it with me. In addition to the fish and chips there were mashed peas on my plate. Not only could I eat the fish and chips, but I also was able to eat the Heinz Ketchup because they use sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Everything was delicious. I wanted to eat everything on the plate, but it was just too much food. If you want gluten free fish and chips and are in London I highly recommend The Mermaids Tail.

I also got a chance to spend time with Audrey West. It was nice to catch up with her. When I was in London four years ago I stayed with her. I met Audrey when she and her daughter Yola attended the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent in the mid 2000's. I wish we had more than a couple hours to spend together.

Spotted Dick
I was able to spend time with Harriet Hart twice over the week. I visited her one afternoon at Friends House. The second time Liz, Terry, Harriet and I spent the day at the ZSL London Zoo. It was a beautiful day and we had lots of fun. Trish and Roland joined us for dinner. We ate at their favorite fish and chips restaurant, Toff's. I was able to order grilled fish which was wonderful. The group shared a British dessert called Spotted Dick, it had both wheat and dairy so I could not eat it. They really enjoyed it.

I have enjoyed my time in London. There is so much to do here and I did not have time to do everything I wanted. The good thing is when I come back there will be many things still to see and do. I feel like I am finally getting oriented to London and it is time for me to go. I am looking forward to seeing my family. I have missed them very much! 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Travel to London

Warren and I travelled to London together. Trish gave us a ride from Woodbrooke with Sarah Hoggatt to the Selly Oak station where we caught a train to New Street. At New Street we said goodbye to Sarah who caught a train to Lancaster and had a couple more trains and buses to catch to get to Swarthmoor Hall, her next home for a couple days. I needed to purchase my train ticket. As I stood in line Harriet, who had caught the bus from Woodbrooke with Beth bounded up to me and gave me a smile and hug. I purchased my ticket and joined Warren. We found the platform and waited for our Virgin train to arrive.

When the train came we boarded with our suitcases. There was a place in the center that had a luggage rack next to a table. We put our bags on it and sat across from each other at the table. We also happened to be in the cafe car. I was impressed to see that they had a gluten free category with an item listed (vegetable soup) on the menu.

Our ride was uneventful. Warren and I talked. I took a few photos of the yellow fields of rapseeds and occasionally watched the young couple behind Warren who were kissing. Then She decided to sit on his lap while they kissed. We were waiting for them to begin ripping each other's clothes off. Fortunately they did not. Eventually we arrived in London, Euston Station.

Warren and I parted at the station and headed for our hotels. I got directions from the information booth at the station. I was surprised when I crossed the street and began looking around that things looked familiar. Of course they did because I was at Friends House. I forgot that Friends House was across the street from Euston Station. It was nice to see a familiar building as I walked by Friends house. After walking on Euston Road for several blocks I came to Mabledon, the street my hotel was on. I turned the corner and there it was.

I registered with the front desk and walked into my small first floor room with ensuite bath. The bathroom was bigger than the one at Woodbrooke, but the shower was smaller. I hung up my clothes, unpacked my toiletries and said hello to my new home for the week. I was happy to see the customary electric hot water kettle. I immediately fixed myself a cup of tea and sat down in the desk chair to relax. QUIP had been good, but very busy. I was tired and happy to have some time to relax. I ate some dried fruit and raw nuts for dinner. Woodbrooke fed us well over the past five days, so something light was a nice change.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

QUIP - Quakers Uniting in Publishing - April 2011

I attended my fourth QUIP meeting this spring. My first time attending QUIP was four years ago, the last time QUIP was in Britain. That year, 2007, we met at Glenthorne, the Quaker center and guest house in the Lake District.

I really appreciate that QUIP is an international conference. We had Friends from Britain, France, Ireland and the United States of America attend. It is wonderful being with other writers and sharing our experiences with each other. Two members of the Spirit Rising Editorial board, Sarah Hoggatt and Harriet Hart were with us. Some of the British Friends who shared their work and writing experience with us were Gerard Benson, Ben Pink Dandelion, Cathy Benson, Peter Daniels, Alex Wildwood, Gil Skidmore and Harvey Gillman.  It was nice to have them with us. Last year the volcano prevented British Friends from attending the conference. This year I also had an opportunity to try writing some peotry and later during the conference wrote a short story.

I learned about a program that Jeanne Henriette Louis and Be Pink Dandelion have put together for the french town of Saumur. William Penn was a student there from 1662 to 1664. As a result the town is naming a square after him. The municipal authorities and the association "Saumur et son histoire" are planning two days of events May, 20-22 on the theme of William Penn and Saumur. Stephen W. Angell, William Frost, and Thomas Swain will be three Friends from the USA who will join them for the celebration.

Irish Friends, Ian Kirk-Smith, editor of The Friend, shared his life with us through participating in a conversation with Trish Carn on Saturday night.

The conference this year was different because British Friends flowed in and out of the conference, unlike last time when because of the location they remained for the full conference. It reminded me of when Philadelphia Yearly Meeting meets at 4th & Arch. Philadelphia Friends flow in and out of the sessions fitting parts of it in their daily schedule when they can. However, it was nice to catch up with some British Friends I had not seen in four years even if it was only for a few hours.

It was nice hearing Hal Weaver share his experience with being one of the three editors of Black Fire. Even though our books are so different Hal and I shared many challenges and similarities that come with working with different cultures and collaborations. I also realized that Harriet, Hal and I all are using the books we have written as tools to futher our ministries.
Harriet Hart and Sarah Hoggatt organized a book launch of Spirit Rising for Friends in Birmingham. They performed a special slide show for us and along with several older Friends read pieces from the book. They sold several books that night. Harriet has planed to give two more presenations here in Britain., one in June at Friends House in London and the second at Britain Yearly Meeting this summer. Each night we end our day with Epilogue. Saturday night I was asked to give the Epilogue. Since the focus that evening had been Spirit Rising, I decided to read a piece written by a Young Friends from Britain. I noticed that none of the pieces read earlier in the evening included Friends from Britain. I wanted to make sure their voices were included in that evening.

Next year QUIP will be meeting back in the United States of America at another Quaker Conference Center, Pendle Hill. This is the closest that QUIP has been to Philadelphia since I have been attending. It will be nice to attend the conference while being able to go home every night and sleep in my own bed. I know Barry will appreciate that as well! I am looking forward to connecting with the writer in me again next year.

Britain - Woodbrooke - April 2011

Rear view of Woodbrooke
Where do I start? I arrived in Britain on April 28th. I flew from Philadelphia to Brussels, spent two hours in the airport then flew an hour to Birmingham. As I was waiting on the runway at Philadelphia airport I began to ask myself why most of the time I travel abroad I go to new places and by myself? Of course the answer is money. I usually have just enough funds to cover my travel let alone a companion. It helps me appreciate the time I am able to travel with an elder with whom I can explore new places. I thank my parents for providing and environment that supported me taking leaps of faith. I could not do the work I do without that trust they nurtured in me.

Some of the Gardens at Woodbrooke
When I arrived in Birmingham I took a train from the airport to the New Street Station. When I arrived at the station I had the option to take another train to the Selly Oak station and then a bus to Woodbrooke or a taxi. The taxi was more expensive, but after the long trip it was the option I chose. It gave me an opportunity to rest and get to meet someone who told me a little about Birmingham.

Sunning butterfly
I arrived in time for a delightful lunch at Woodbrooke and time to explore the gardens and lake before the conference began. A part of me REALLY wanted to take a nap in my room, but I know the best way to adjust to a time change is to go with the local time. I was fortunate to have a sunny day, so I spent some time enjoying it. The gardens are beautiful. Spring had sprung everywhere. The first part of nature I interacted with was a butterfly sitting on the path basking in the sun. It remained there long enough for me to take several photos before moving to another location. There were Canadian Geese and several BIG birds (Crows and Magpies.) The trees and flowers were blooming. I even had an opportunity to walk across a stream on stepping stones and swing on a tree swing which I have not done since I was a child. There are so many special trees on the property.

Walking stones in stream
Woodbrooke is a lovely facility. My room was small, but it came with a private bathroom. The first room they assigned me was cold. It was on the shady side of the building and the window was wide open. The first thing I did was shut it. The woman who showed me to the room let me know that the heat would come on in the afternoon and I could get a space heater if it remained cold. I checked the room right before dinner and it was still freezing, so I approached the Friend in residence who checked my room and determined that the heater was not working and offered me another room. I had unpacked, but was happy to repack and move to a warm room on the sunny side. Even though the temperature in the new room was warm the Friend in Residence left the space heater with me just in case.

Tree Swing

Western Red Cedar
Lilacs - My favorite flower
This was my first trip to Woodbrooke. The facility is huge! I imagined the number of staff it took for the Cadburys to run the estate. All of the Woodbrooke staff were very helpful. The food was fantastic. They were able to make delicious meals that met mine and several other Friend's dietary needs. I was amazed. There was only one meal, ironically my last one, that they had to fix something special for me. They fixed a batch of corn fritters which I could not eat, so was given a piece of chicken from a previous meal. I did not mind because the chicken was so flavorful. I truly enjoyed my time at Woodbrooke and would love to return there as a sojourner. It is a facility where I would love to take a retreat to write or just rejuvenate.