Sunday, July 17, 2016.
My 55th birthday.
It’s 7.15 p.m., and we have left Exeter en route to a hotel at Heathrow. Our transit to East Anglia has begun.
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than singing in a British cathedral, worshipping God with friends and acquaintances, enjoying good food, celebrating a most extraordinary space like Exeter Cathedral, and giving voice to music of two of my favorite composers.
This was indeed my Sunday!
The choir showered me with birthday cards. I heard two renditions of “Happy Birthday,” the latter one most memorable in the choir room after Evensong, where the local clergy joined in.
And food? Breakfast was not memorable by any means, but luncheon was duck breast in cherry sauce, Duchess potatoes, a Kir Royale, and some more Prosecco too. We walked around the corner then, to a patisserie, for a Tart aux Framboise and some tea. And dinner, at the hotel, was a ‘carvery’ affair (think sumptuous buffet), where I had gammon, roasted potatoes, green beans, peas, and carrots. And apple pie with custard sauce.
I blinked back tears this morning during the opening hymn, as I stood facing the vast west window, hearing the sound of the full-house congregation singing back at me – and overwhelmed by the splendor, the aural overload, the emotion of the day. I had to stop singing during Evensong, so powerful were the emotions during our opening hymn and that ancient tune SLANE.
I have felt rightly loved today.
Exeter is a fine town, but I don’t know that I would wish to spend much more time there. A university town, the county governmental seat, a market town, and old site of industry, a jumping-off point for countryside visits – the town is like Lincoln or Columbia or Wichita, but more compact and with two millennia of history.
Photos from the craft fair on Saturday:
Exeter Cathedral was warm and inviting and quite lovely. It’s off the beaten path, and doesn’t get the kind of traffic many of the ‘star’ cathedrals receive. But it’s a great and fine place to spend a week.
One of the joys of being in the UK is that we find different cuisines on every block. I’ve had Turkish, Indian, Italian, pub food, French, high-brow salad . . . and Cornish pasty from a Cornish farmwoman, made with farm-raised beef and her own pasty crust, and the most amazing meal of the trip. Yes, I’ve eaten well without breaking the bank this past week.
Now we move on to someplace quite different: the flat landscape of Norfolkshire.
But first, a night outside of London.