Saturday 2 September 2023

What I did in my holidays

Wow! From 15° (59°) in Edinburgh to 37° (99°) and the last days of the long hot Romanian summer. I had an amazing holiday, met many great people and saw many beautiful places, but it is always wonderful to return to Bucharest. Deep joy, as Professor Stanley Unwin would say.

In sixteen days in my beloved country I saw these cathedrals: St Alban's, Exeter, Rochester, St Edmundsbury, Ely, Peterborough, Lincoln, Glasgow and two in Edinburgh. I forgot to go into Oxford and only walked past Westminster hurrying for my train. I wasn't trying to see a lot of cathedrals but am delighted I did.

I'd been to them all before, all but Peterborough, Glasgow and Lincoln several times, but I had seen Lincoln in 1997 in semi-darkness.

The best was either Exeter or Ely, probably Ely, but Peterborough and Rochester are absolutely wonderful. Lincoln disappointed except for the west front, visible for the first time since last year after decades of restoration.

They took the crazy golf course away from the nave of Rochester and replaced it with an exhibition on astronomy. One Glasgow church is a café but also a church and an Edinburgh church is a jazz club but is also a church. The sea of faith has ebbed a long way.

The couple getting married in Ely Cathedral had requested the organist play Dire Straits. They can have anything they like, the priestess told me, adding "Within reason".

Edington Priory was a great chance discovery. The very loveliest towns were Totnes, Bury St Edmund's, Stamford and Newark. And the wonderful Devises.

I saw Avebury at last. If I am truthful it was not as numinous as I expected, which might mean I was not in the right frame of mind after much travelling.

The very loveliest city, of course, was Oxford, the most beautiful city in the world outside Italy.

I bought 5 days of the Interrail Pass for Great Britain, to which I am entitled because I didn't live in GB. First class which only seemed a good idea when I caught the train from Newark to Glasgow with 2 minutes to spare, thankful I didn't have to lug heavy suitcase over a bridge, and was plied with wine.

Newark is a snare because it has two stations on two different lines almost a mile apart.

Colchester, St Edmundsbury, Ely, Peterborough in one day was very easy though I did not have long enough in Ely or St Edmundsbury. I'd have continued by a ten minute train journey to Stamford except the hotels there cost astronomical amounts.

I paid an astonishingly cheap price for two 'antique' (40 year old) Turkish and Persian hand-made carpets at a market in Bury St Edmund's and hauled them from place to place without doing my back in.

I covered a lot of miles till I found refuge in the deep armchairs of the New Club, Edinburgh.

Tennyson by GF Watts at Lincoln.

Stamford, the perfect town.

Bury St Edmund's Unitarian Meeting House, 1711. The English Baroque.

A baroque tomb in Edington Priory (since the Reformation a parish church). The baroque has no sense of embarrassment, like Americans.


Octagon, Ely.


Ho was a waiter at a hotel at the bottom of Haymarket and start of Pall Mall.

Homerotic mural in Lincoln Cathedral by Duncan Grant of the Bloomsbury Group.

Kensington Palace

The Brompton Oratory

Newark castle

Peterborough cathedral

Rochester castle.

Sickert in the Ashmolean.

Sophie Ryder, Paintpots, St James's Square

St James's St.

My first cathedral this holiday, St Alban's.


  1. You used your time well Sir. You have seen more of island in a few days than I have in a few years - I am rather ashamed of my inactivity. There are so many wonderful places.

  2. My favourite line "The Baroque has no sense of embarrassment, like Americans."