October 2021

To ensure that we take the time to explore our new country, we are attempting to take Fridays off to wander. Today we set out to visit Chichester, a town that many had recommended to us. We noticed, as we studied the map that there was a place enroute called Arundel, with a castle. It seemed prudent to make that stop along the way.

It turns out that Arundel is one of the finest historical towns in southern England which sits on the banks of the Arun River. It is a charming, picturesque market town know for its two stunning landmarks, Arundel Castle and Arundel Cathedral. The town overlooks the beautiful expanses of the South Downs and upstream lies a wetland and nature reserve. The High Street is filled with antique shops, specialty teas, fudge of every conceivable flavour, and bake shops, restaurants and pubs.

The magnificent stately home and fortified Arundel Castle, is the ancestral home of the Duke of Norfolk, reflecting nearly 1,000 years of history. It was established by Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067, the land ceded to him by William the Conqueror. De Montgomery became the first to hold the earldom of Arundel and this has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk ever since. Originally built by the Normans to protect the vulnerable wooded plain through the South Downs, the town grew up on the slope below the castle.

Sitting at the top of the hill overlooking the town is the impressive Arundel Cathedral. It was commissioned by the Duke of Norfolk in 1868 and its designer was Joseph Hansom, the most notable architect of the Victorian Age (whose name survives as the designer of the Hansom Cab). Built in the French Gothic style, it features a spectacular round stained glass window reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris and a huge vaulted nave.

After buying a few Christmas gifts for our grandchildren, we stopped for lunch at the The Swan, down by the Arun River for some schnitzel and salmon before heading home. Our Google Maps navigator – who we have nicknamed “Ginger” – gave us some hilarious miscues on the way, through a farming cart path and to a bridge closed to all but pedestrian traffic. All part of the fun of exploring when you are no longer bound to the tyranny of a job and a schedule! We can’t wait to head out again!

After almost two and a half months in England, we finally took a day off to take a trip in to London. We walked the two hundred meters to the train station and grabbed a latte for the fifty minute ride into Victoria Station in the heart of the city. Eighteen quid and our senior’s rail card got us a day of travel on the train, buses and underground. It was an unseasonably, warm sunny fall day that allowed us to walk around enjoying all the sights and sounds we could pack into a day.

We dropped by Buckingham Palace but the the Queen was not in to greet us. However we did catch the end of the changing of the guard before wandering into Green Park where we saw the Canada Memorial, a lovely sculpture in which shimmering water flows over the monument giving the impression of maple leaves gradually changing in colour from dark brown to bright green. Maple trees planted by the monument were in full, glorious colour, giving us a lovely taste of the fall season that we have missed so much.

Our meanderings down the Mall and alongside the lake in St James Park brought back memories of earlier visits. Because of Covid and the fact that it is off-season for tourists, the the crowds were very thin. Some Brexit protesters livened up the street corners around the Parliament Buildings and Westminster Cathedral. Unfortunately much of the Parliament Buildings, including Big Ben are undergoing a face lift so were well covered. A lengthy walk along the Embankment of the Thames River took us by some unique sights and ended up with afternoon tea by Trafalgar Square. Our timing was perfect to take in a visit to Canada House, an hour of spectacular art at the National Museum and an Evensong Choral concert at St. Martins-in-the-Field.

A ride around town on the top of a double decker bus took us back to Victoria Station and the opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy a pub dinner at The Albert pub before catching the train home. It is a privilege, at this point in our lives, to be living just outside such a wonderful. historic city and we are looking forward to many more visits to explore the many facets of London.

My Aunt Marion passed away suddenly on Sept 16th, just shortly after she had moved to a care home due to severe issues of mobility. She passed away just as she lived, with grace and dignity, having just about two weeks earlier celebrated her 87th birthday surrounded by her five children, fifteen grand children and seven great grandchildren. Aunt Marion and Uncle Tom were committed to family, highly regarded members of our community, faithful congregants in their church and loved by many. Marion was a gifted singer and loved music, was a photographer and a historian and loved by all the community children who rode on her school bus for almost twenty years. Tom and Marion loved to dance and even after Tom had lost his hearing, their dancing was a wonder to watch.

My mother’s family was large and somewhat fractured as new immigrants from Scotland who settled in Winnipeg. Three of her siblings, two of my uncles and an aunt passed away before I was born. My mom’s oldest sister passed away when I was young but had lived at such a distance that I had met her only once that I remember. I was very close to my mom’s youngest brother, Uncle Archie, and even though he lived in Ottawa, I visited him often as a teenager and young adult. Somehow, on leaving Winnipeg, my grandparents, my mom, mom’s sister Lil and brother Tom all ended up living on the 16th Concession of London Township, where I grew up.

Although Marion entered into the family through marriage to Uncle Tom, she was in many ways the rock of the family; the voice of reason, common sense and practicality for us all. While life was not necessarily easy – raising five kids on my uncle’s basic income – Marion was always the steady, calming influence for our extended family. She was able to manage a bus full of students in all sorts of weather with compassion while not tolerating any nonsense that might impact the safety of her charges.

At 87, Marion’s mind was sharp and fully engaged in the lives of her entire family. She maintained a family tree cataloguing the life and death of all of Tom’s siblings, and the births and marriages each of their of children, grand children and great grandchildren. She acknowledged every birthday or celebration on Facebook and kept in touch with us all on her trusty iPad. Just two weeks before she passed away, I received an email from her, congratulating us on our move to England.

Marion was the last of my mom’s family, and faced each sorrow and loss with peace and joy, founded in a deep faith in Christ, a reliance on the Holy Spirit for strength and wisdom and a song in her heart. She was a lady in every sense of the word and someone who I long to emulate. Her children, grand children and great grand children will miss her dearly but she leaves behind a wonderful legacy in her family who were her life.

We have lost count of the number of places we have lived in during our marriage, but it is well over a dozen by now. Some we have owned; some we have rented. Some we have adored; some we have endured. But there is one thing we know how to do, and that is secure a place to live. So it will come as no surprise to any of you who know us that one day after we landed in England we had secured accommodation. True, we did have to wait another four weeks to move in, but at least the place would be ours and we could go about securing the others things we needed, like a car and a bank account.

The flat is a corner unit, with lots of light and a view of the park across the street. There is a theatre beside us and a train station just up the road. It is a five-minute walk to where we now work, and only slightly further than that to where we shop. Most importantly – and this is what closed the deal for us – it came furnished and had a parking spot right beside the flat, two things that are virtually impossible to find in this country. There is even a ramp leading up to the flat from where we park our car.

However, there were two obvious drawbacks: one was that the flat was a one bedroom and a mere 430 square feet in size, and two, that the bed was a double. We had plenty of time over the four weeks we waited to move in to second guess the wisdom of our choice. Now that we have lived here for a month we are happy to report that 430 square feet is perfectly adequate for an elderly couple, and that a double bed is less of a problem than we thought it might be.

The place has other charms as well. The heating comes through the floor, for one. In a land that is considerably colder than the last two countries we have lived in, this is a notable feature. The floors are warm to the touch, and with no fan to move the heat around, there is no air to irritate my allergies. The place is so small that it takes a minimal amount of energy to heat the place, and the windows transmit radiant heat from the sun, even when it is cold. The kitchen is open to the living room, which both of us have always liked. And the closet in the bedroom runs from floor to ceiling so there is actually plenty of space to store our stuff.

But the area around the flat is its greatest feature. We walk in the park most nights, and there is a little pub just down the street that has a great Sunday roast beef carving. We saw the new Bond film at the cinema beside us, and plan to see live theatre there as well. And although we have yet to take the train to London, we have our senior’s passes in hand and are planning a trip in the near future.

Without question there is a liberty that comes with fewer possessions that many in our generation have yet to learn. We arrived here with two suitcases each and will likely leave with less than that. That is virtually all we own in this world, and all we are ever likely to need before we go to heaven. And it turns out that 430 square feet can hold all of it and us quite comfortably. We are grateful to God who clearly had set aside this place for us upon our arrival.