Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Truffles Redefined

When I started this blog, my first post (May 7, 2006) stated that the word "truffles" in the title above refers to my journey down the road to becoming a vegetarian. From time to time since then I've expressed some thoughts on that subject. Yesterday as I considered what Christmas dinner would have been if there were no turkey, I realized that I will probably never be a vegetarian. To assume that label would show disrespect for the many people who have succeeded in changing their eating habits. Maybe I'm too old, or to reluctant to cook, or too reliant on food for emotional support. Time to be honest about this: whatever the reasons, my vegetarian resolve is not sufficient to keep me away from meat and poultry. Despite my efforts, I still eat way too much meat and poultry to consider myself a vegetarian by anybody's definition.

Taking a more practical stance for the upcoming year, then, here's what I've decided.
  • I will increase my support for organizations like Food Animals Concerns Trust (FACT) that work to make the farming industry more humane.
  • When consuming animal products, I will try to find those that are humanely produced.
  • I will continue my efforts to reduce my intake of meat and poultry.
In light of all that, I'm redefining and broadening the word "truffles" in the blog title. For 2007, the "truffles" theme will refer to my efforts to eat a healthy diet and to exercise, which is a far greater concern for me at the moment.

This reflective post must be a sign that Christmas is over and New Year's Eve is right around the corner.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lessons and Carols at MMF (2006)

Upon returning home from Portland, I plunged into helping our pastor organize the annual MMF Lessons and Carols service. Although Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship is a very small congregation (average attendance 35 or so), this service involved a cast of thousands. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, I'll admit it. But it felt that way because nearly every regular attender was involved in some way. A singing ensemble of about 12 people performed 3 songs. Two children played violin pieces; two other children played a flute and piano duet. The entire congregation sang hymns and carols, and a gospel choir from a sister church in the Bronx presented special offertory music. A marvelous pianist who attends our church played a lovely prelude and postlude and accompanied the hymns and special music. Various people read the seven scripture lessons, the last of which was the Christmas story. During this reading, children and adults alike formed a Christmas tableau which contained shepherds and a small poodle playing the part of a lamb, angels, wise men, and of course Mary, Joseph and a real baby playing the part of Jesus.

I've included the order of service especially for a couple of friends who used to attend our church until they moved away from Manhattan.


Congregational song: "Hark! The glad sound!"
Welcome and Introduction of the Day

Candle Lighting
"Gavotte" by P. Martin (played by 12 year old violin soloist)

Lesson One: Zephaniah 3:14-20
God’s people sing and rejoice in the promised deliverance.
The First Carol: "We will walk with God" sung by the MMF Ensemble

Lesson Two: Isaiah 12:2-6
Sing praises unto the Lord.
The Second Carol: "Gaudete" by Viktor Hug performed by the MMF Ensemble and instrumentalists (two flutes and violin)

Lesson Three: Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always, and think on things that praise God.
The Third Carol: "Love came down at Christmas" (congregation)

Lesson Four: Luke 3:7-18
John the Baptist preaches and prophesies of the mighty One who will come.
The Fourth Carol: "Lo, how a rose e’er blooming" sung by the MMF Ensemble

Lesson Five: Micah 5:2-4
The one who shall be ruler of Israel will be born in Bethlehem.
The Fifth Carol: "O, come, all ye faithful" (congregation)

Lesson Six: Luke 1:26-33
The angel Gabriel announces that the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary, and she will conceive and bear a son, Jesus.
The Sixth Carol: "The angel Gabriel" (congregation)

Lesson Seven: Luke 2:4-14 and Matthew 2:1-2, 11
The Christmas story is read while the Christmas tableau is formed.
"O come, little children" traditional folk song (played by 8 year old violin soloist)
The Seventh Carol: #193 "Silent night, holy night" played by 12 year old flutist and 9 year old pianist (congregation singing along)

Pastoral prayer followed by The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer of Thanksgiving & Offering
Offertory music by Friendship Community Church Gospel Choir

Closing song: "There is more love somewhere" (congregation)

This service, which is not a very traditional Lessons and Carols format, was quite an organizational feat involving many people getting into the right place at the right time as well as moving a few props. Baby Jesus was fussy before the pageant began but miraculously she settled down when she was handed over to Mary. (Yes, in this pageant Jesus was a female, being the only baby available for the part.)

When so many from our youthful Manhattan congregation return to their parents’ homes in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia and other places around the country, the lessons and carols service has become the time when we draw together as a congregation. We are small and we have our share of problems, but at Christmas we appreciate each other and unite to celebrate not only our faith but our community. I was gratified to have been able to organize a service where everyone could experience a solid spirit of community.

Afterwards we went over to Menno House, the boarding house owned and operated by the church, for a bountiful meal contributed by members of the church. We ate and socialized and rejoiced in the warmth of the Christmas season. In this post, I hope I've shared a little Christmas joy with all of you.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Portland Weirdness

Ok –here’s something Manhattan doesn’t have: volcanoes. Portland has extinct volcanoes within the city limits! Thinking I should check out at least one of them while I’m here, I went to Mt. Tabor Park last Saturday. Before my visit, I looked it up online. I learned that Mt. Tabor is part of the Boring Lava Field, an extinct Plio-Pleistocene volcanic zone containing at least 32 cinder cone and small shield volcanoes lying within a radius of 13 miles. The zone became active 2.7 million years ago and has been extinct for about 300,000 years.

Mt. Tabor is a cinder cone volcano, which means its cone-like shape was formed when bits of congealed lava were ejected from a single vent. As the gas-charged lava was blown violently into the air, it broke into small fragments that solidified, forming cinders which fell back down around the vent to create a circular or oval cone. Although the park originated in 1909, the volcanic significance of Mt. Tabor was discovered in 1912. Sometime after that, a small section of the cone was excavated and now you can see its inside wall. Cool!

I didn’t have a camera with me, so I’m going to use this United States Geoogical Survey graphic to help you visualize the excavated cinder cone wall and its present surroundings. Picture yourself standing in the crater typically found at the top of cinder cone volcanoes. The parking lot was probably built on a portion of the crater. Facing left, you follow a sidewalk which descends from the parking lot down to a basketball court and a small amphitheater constructed at the base of the excavated cinder cone wall. Viewed from down here, the wall looks like a steep drop-off with an irregular surface. Although you can’t really get close enough to touch it, loose bits of cinders lie next to the sidewalk giving you lots of opportunities to feel the volcanic cinder. Interestingly enough, cinder from the excavation was used to pave the basketball court and the parking lot. After a look around, you walk back up to the parking lot. Facing right you see a high mound which constitutes the majority of the park. It’s covered with grass, trees, and shrubs through which trails and a single-lane road meander to the top. If you didn’t know Mt. Tabor was an altered volcano, you would think you were looking at two mountain peaks with a parking lot built in the saddle that separates them. Since the park does not have plaques or signs to explain the topography, that was exactly what I thought. Only when I combed the internet later did I realize that the two mounds of differing heights are actually one volcano – the taller mound representing the bulk of the volcano still intact, the shorter mound representing only a small section of the volcano’s cone, and the parking lot sitting where the crater in the middle would have been.

Phew! That was a bit tedius – are you still with me? I see what they mean when they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Getting back to my Mt. Tabor adventure, from the parking lot I hiked to the highest point in the park: elevation 641 feet. Since the height of cinder cone volcanoes is estimated to be 300-500 meters (984-1640 feet), we can assume that lots of erosion has taken place in the last 300,000 years. After all, cinder cone volcanoes aren’t formed of solid rock so they erode more rapidly than other types of volcanoes or regular mountains.

Photo by Linda Mason Hood
At the top of Mt. Tabor is a sculpture of Harvey Scott who, as editor of the Oregonion newspaper from 1866 until his death in 1910, greatly influenced the political thought of the region. The artist who created the sculpture was Gutzon Borglum, the man who put the faces of the side of Mount Rushmore.

When my ears started hurting from the cold wind, I went back to the car and drove all around the park’s roads. To the west I had wonderful views of the six reservoirs at the base of the mountain and downtown Portland in the distance. Here is one of those views.

To the east was a view of Mt. Hood and another peak in the Cascade range which I took to be Mt. Adams. Mt. Hood looks wonderful now, by the way, and quite different from the pictures in my October 22 post which were taken at the beginning of October. Now that it’s November Mt. Hood is completely white, and on this day it was gleaming impressively against the blue sky.

Actually, this was an unusually nice fall day, even if it was brutally cold. The incessant rains and thick cloud cover had given way to a sky that was clear blue for the entire day, and Portlanders were lovin’ every minute of it. Despite the brisk wind and freezing temperatures, people were hiking, cycling, and walking their dogs in the park. Young kids scrambled around on the playground equipment and older kids played basketball. Outside the park, local shops were doing a brisk business. In residential neighborhoods, cats basked on porches in the sun. The sight that took the prize, though, was what I saw when I looked out the window of the lovely upper-middle class suburban home where I was staying. A man in his terrycloth bathrobe and slippers raised his garage door, put an aluminum yard chair between his two SUVs, and sat down with his cigarette to catch some winter rays. Ah, suburbia – ya gotta love it! Looking back on the entire day, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the sight of that man in his bathrobe inspired my escape to Mt. Tabor Park.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Knowing My Place

[With this post I'm taking a break from the photo competition series. Am saving the top winner for last, so stay tuned!]

Lately I’ve been reflecting on a sense of place and what makes one feel comfortable in a particular place. These reflections have been prompted by a month’s stay in a newly built suburb of Portland, Oregon. This housing division is being built in an area that formerly contained rugged northwest woods on steep hillsides. Everywhere you look, tall evergreen trees are being chopped down and the land bulldozed to make room for yet another street of beautiful upper middle class homes. This complete alteration of the natural environment imparts a sadness to this otherwise cheery family neighborhood. I wonder about the animals being displaced and the effect on the ecosystem. I’m not inspired to do any exercise walking here even though there are consistent sidewalks, a park that seems perpetually empty, and hills that would provide a good aerobic workout. Imagining what this area must have looked like a mere five years ago puts a damper on my motivation to walk.

On several occasions in the past month when I was in downtown Portland I noticed that I suddenly felt more at home. So marked was the feeling that I would describe it as being almost a physical sensation. Not something I could ignore. I think it had to do with being in an urban setting again. Although Portland doesn’t have skyscrapers like NYC, it does have tall office and apartment buildings, public transportation, shopping areas that are not malls, parks with people in them, restaurants that are not national chains, traffic, bridges, and pedestrian walkways along the river – all of which make me feel at home. Although I grew up in a suburban area, I moved to NYC as a young adult and have spent 38 years there. It is not surprising, then, that an urban area would feel more like home to me.

Sometimes people are drawn to places by the weather. For example, many people retire to Florida and Arizona to escape the cold northern winters. If weather were a determining factor, I don’t see why anyone would move to Portland. It rains all the time. Nearly every day. And quite often it’s not just drizzle. People here don’t even count drizzle as rain. They just say it’s wet outside. Moss grows on trees in Portland -- it’s that wet! Once when I was here in the spring, rain turned to hail the size of golf balls – the largest hailstones I’d ever seen. Lately it has been snowing. That’s something of an improvement because the temperature isn’t cold enough for the snow to accumulate on the ground. With all this precipitation, needless to say even a few hours of blue sky during the day is an event. The clouds are always hovering in the distance, threatening to move in and darken the day or unload more water. In fairness, I must say that all this rain makes for a stunning spring. When the grass gets green and buds appear earlier than most places in the US and the trees and flowers come into full bloom in March, I’m sure Portlanders’ spirits soar. And in summer when it rains the least, it’s not as hot as many other places around the country.

By contrast, I would say New York City is weather-neutral. By that I mean the various types of weather balance themselves in such a way that none seems to predominate. Hot, cold, wet, dry - you get a little bit of everything. And each season gives you some clear days that enable the Manhattan skyline to look its best and leave you as breathless as the first time you saw it. That said, I'm not sure anyone would move to NYC for the weather either. Throughout all the seasons New Yorkers are forced to interact with the weather because we do so much walking in the course of our everyday lives. We walk to the grocery, the laundrymat, the pharmacy, the bank, the restaurant, or to the subway or bus stop. We dress for the weather, whatever it is, because we know we’ll be out in it every day. We have a relationship with the weather. We brave the heat and the cold, and though we may complain loudly at times, we take pride in our ability to endure it.

More than weather or setting, I think familiarity is the strongest factor in making one feel comfortable in a given place. And familiarity builds if you stay long enough. In my neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan I love knowing the cashiers at the vegetable market, the dry cleaners, the pet store and the bodega (small corner grocery store, like Pantry Pride or 7-11 in Portland). I love knowing exactly what I’ll get when I order from the neighborhood restaurants. I love knowing the City well enough that I never get lost. I love the variety of smells and sounds that serve as a backdrop to the diverse mix of people, dogs, and drama you find on the street. I guess if I moved I would eventually become familiar with a new place. I would grow accustomed to the weather and get to know the people in the shops. I would redefine drama and make my peace with driving everywhere and shopping in malls when necessary. But it would take time. Another 38 years perhaps.

I am very lucky to live in a place that makes me feel so good. I wasn’t born in New York City. I chose it. I’ve become part of it, and it’s become part of me. And being away so long, I surely do miss it.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Three Kitties

For all you cat-lovers, I couldn’t resist posting this photo which got honorable mention in the Nature category.

Photo by Azaouz Guizani

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bangkok Cricket

This photo of a cricket eating a colorful leaf was the winner in the Nature category.

Bangkok Cricket, by Attapon Faknoi. Used with permission

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ode to Joy

Moving to the People category, you can easily see why this shot won.

Ode to Joy, by Remy Granville

Under the last rays of setting sunshine, a French boy jumps with ecstasy on the hot sand of a Corsica beach.

Monday, November 20, 2006

NYC September 11, 2006

Finally, my personal favorite among the Landscape/Cityscape winners:

Photo by Luis Galarza
Tribute in Lights: 5th Year Anniversary, September 11th 2006
New York, NY

Saturday, November 18, 2006

NYC on Cold November Evening

Continuing with honorable mention from the Landscape/Cityscape category, we move to my home town - New York City.

Photo by Piotr Wybieralski

Midtown Manhattan on a cold November evening, as seen from viewing terrrace on top of Empire State Building. In the center of the picture is Broadway between 34th street and Times Square.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chicago in a Bubble

My previous post displayed the winning picture in the Landscape/Cityscape category. Since this category was the most popular, I'm going exhibit three cityscapes which received honorable mention. This one is a unique view of the Chicago skyline.

Photo by Joe Somak

City in the bubble, taken at Millenium Park, Chicago, Illinois

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Westminster at Sunset

The Landscape/Cityscape category was the most popular of the four categories in the recent employee photography competition I mentioned in my last post. Here is the WINNER. My UK readers will particularly enjoy this one!

Westminster at Sunset, by Emma Rossiter

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Haystack Rock

On a visit to the northern Oregon Coast in the summer of 2005, I took this picture of Haystack Rock, a 235-foot tall rock outcropping in the Pacific Ocean, the third-tallest structure of its kind in the world. This fall when my company advertised an employee photography competition, I submitted my photo and the caption below to the Landscape/Cityscape category.

Photo by Linda Mason Hood
World without end, Amen. Thoughts inspired by Haystack Rock on the Pacific Northwest coast of Oregon, USA

The competition results were announced last week. Over 800 photos were submitted, and my picture was not among the winners. The winners from each category were pretty amazing. I'll be sharing them in the next few blog posts. Enjoy!

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween

Photo by Kiyoshi Ota

A dog in a Halloween costume takes part in a parade in Tokyo's Harajuku Omotesando district October 29, 2006. Are we having fun yet?

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hiking on Mount Hood

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to Oregon to visit our son who attends college in Portland. All three of us took a day hike on Mount Hood - our mountain. A pleasant 45-mile drive east-southeast from Portland, the majestic Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon and the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Mountain Range which runs north to south from British Columbia through Washington and Oregon ending in Northern California.

First some stats and history: Mount Hood is 11,237 feet tall (or 3,426 meters if you prefer). It is a stratovolcano -- that is, a volcano composed of explosively erupted cinders and ash with occasional lava flows. Mount Hood's main cone is about 500,000 years old. Regarding its volcanic history, it has had only four eruptive periods in the last 15,000 years. The most "recent" of those was 250-180 years ago. Though its eruptions have been few and far between, future volcanic activity is not outside the realm of possibility and would endanger the communities on its flank.

We began our hike at the Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark completed in 1938 as a WPA project during the Depression. It is a magnificent structure which speaks to the rugged elegance of the high peaks of the western United States. Poke around the Timberline Lodge website and you will see exactly what I mean.

We began our day riding the ski lift which originates just east of the lodge. This lift, according to Alpenglow Ski History, was built in 1938 and was probably the second chairlift in America, following the one in Sun Valley which was built in 1936. The Mount Hood lift was named the Magic Mile because it originated above treeline and extended for nearly a mile. Fascinating details on its construction are described by Thomas P. Deering, Jr. in his 1986 Master's thesis entitled Mountain Architecture: An Alternative Design Proposal for the Wy'East Day Lodge, Mount Hood Oregon (Master of Architecture Thesis, University of Washington). The lift we took is actually the third incarnation of the Magic Mile chairlift. Like the original, it originates at 5,924 feet and took us up to the small buildings in the middle of the mountain slope, just beneath the glacier. (It's easier to see the buildings if you click on the picture to make it larger.) The elevation of those buildings is 7,015 feet.

At the higher elevation, the glaciers were accessible. My son hiked on the nearest glacier for a bit.

We all hiked upwards from the chairlift. Here is a picture of me and my son at about 7,600 feet with Mount Hood's peak still 4,000 feet above us.

Here is my husband looking at the view from the chairlift.

At about 6000 feet, we hiked the Timberline Trail through wooded areas . . .

and through two glacial canyons - the Sand and the Little Zigzag. Here are my husband and son on their way out of Little Zigzag Canyon. The camera angle makes this canyon looks enormous, but keep in mind its name.

Next we went through an area where shrubs provided beautiful fall colors to contrast with the evergreens.

The enormous expanse of the (big) Zigzag Canyon with its 750 foot drop down to the Zigzag River was breathtaking. We lingered here for some time - soaking in the splendor, eating our apples and trail mix, and taking some pictures. Who could resist?

After the hike we returned tired and hungry to the Timberline Lodge and found ourselves some comfortable sofas with an exquisite mountain view in the Rams Head Bar. We ordered hearty sandwiches with mulled cider and Guinness and remained there gazing out at the snowy peak long after we finished our meal. My son drove us back to the motel where we all fell exhausted into bed, satisfied with our efforts and the time spent together.

(All the photos in this post are mine.)

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teacher Man

I just finished reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. The book recounts his experiences as a NYC highschool teacher of grammar, literature, and creative writing. McCourt is a grand Irish story teller. Frequently the tales he tells have to do with making an authentic connection with the students in his classroom. He seems to have tried to dig through the well constructed teenage facade to catch a glimpse of the individual person inside.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday: Itchenor

Before diving into my Itchenor post, let me apologize for how long it has taken me to blog my way through London. A 9-day trip has lasted nearly 11 weeks! I guess you might say I got carried away. You would also be correct in assuming that everyday life distracted me many times. Anyway, this posts concludes my London series. Thanks for your patience with my snail's pace. Researching the posts, I learned as much afterwards as I did when I was there. And now, down to business!

The last full day of my London trip was spent in Itchenor, a coastal town on the Chichester Harbor in West Sussex. The name Itchenor is Saxon in origin: Icca was the name of the Saxon chief who resettled the area after the collapse of Roman Britain around 400 AD. Ora is a Saxon word which means "a bank on the shore." Over the years shipbuilding and sailing activity have played a prominent role in the life of this town. The connection to the sea is evident in the naming of the little Norman church, built in 1175 AD, which was dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of seamen.

The St. Nicholas Church with its adjoining cemetery was the first place Maurene and I stopped on our Sunday morning walk. The vicar and a woman who tends to the church were setting up for the service. They showed us around and generously gave us some postcards and a pamphlet of historical information about the chapel.

The church is quite small – a rectangular building 50 feet long and 16 feet 6 inches wide with no structural division between the nave (where the congregation sits) and the chancel (where the altar stands). Like most ancient buildings, the chapel has undergone many restorations and elements from many eras are visible. The oldest windows, pictured below, are from the 13th century. (Note the vicar, trying to disappear into the wall on the left there.)

The little chapel was very peaceful, lovely in its simplicity. I wish there had been time to stay for the service, but it was a beautiful day and we needed to keep to our schedule. As the St. Nicholas Church receded into the background, we communed with God and nature as we made our way down the road toward the Chichester Harbor.

Maurene took a shortcut down this walled path…

which opened up onto the majestic harbor view!!

Just up from the marina sits the picturesque pub below, The Ship Inn. According to one internet site I read, it is the only pub in Itchenor.

On our way back to our hostess’s house, we walked through a nature preserve.

Betty, our hostess, had a swimming pool, and after walking all morning Maurene and I were happy to join her for a dip in the pool. The mischievious Sindy did not join us.

Betty served us a nice lunch before we went back to the Chichester train station to catch the London train.

My last night was a nostalgic remembrance of the my first two nights in London. Maurene and I walked around the St. Katherine’s Dock area near the Dickens Inn and looked at the Queen’s swans.

Then we went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. I spent the night with Maurene and her Abyssinian cat named Peri.

The conclusion of my London blog series would not be complete without a special thank-you to Maurene. She waited patiently when I got lost on the tube and was late. She had cash on hand when my British currency ran out. (We settled up at the end of the week.) She gave good directions and suggestions and had boundless energy and enthusiasm. She suggested the weekend in Chichester. She was the perfect traveling companion. She made it possible for me to turn a business trip into a simultaneous vacation. So, thank you, Maurene. I hope someday we can have more travel adventures together – soon!

(P.S. All the photos in this post are mine.)

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Saturday, part II: Chichester Cathedral

The problem with descriptions of cathedrals is that writers assume readers understand not only the terminology designating the areas within the building but also the organizational role of the cathedral within the religious group. Descriptions loaded with special terms and insider jargon leave most of us with no better understanding than we had before we read them. Using myself as an example, I’ve attended Christian churches all my life -- even spent a good 20 years as an Episcopalian. I mention that because Episcopals have cathedrals, whereas Mennonites don’t. I have also visited and toured a fair number of cathedrals in various parts of the world. However, when reading about the Chichester Cathedral I found myself woefully unclear regarding many references and their implications. For this blog post, I made myself look up and clarify all my fuzzy understandings, and I’ve included definitions and explanations for all the terms I found necessary and meaningful to use here. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!

To appreciate the early history of the Chichester Cathedral, you need to understand that a cathedral is more than just a great big church. A cathedral is the bishop’s church and, as my son would once have said, the bishop is the boss of all the churches of the region (i.e., diocese) and their respective priests. Note the hierarchy: priests run churches; bishops run cathedrals. The town in which the cathedral is located is called the see, meaning the official seat or center of authority of a bishop. Considering all that, it's easy to see why the cathedral is usually the biggest and grandest church of the diocese. This page on the organization of the Chichester Diocese explains very clearly the main “players” and their roles.

I read that the Chichester Cathedral’s history actually began in the village of Selsey, ten miles south of Chichester, on land given to Saint Wilfred in 681 AD. In 1066 AD the whole area was conquered by the Normans led by William the Conqueror. In 1075 the Normans moved the see to Chichester and began construction on a new cathedral in 1076. Histories of the Chichester Cathedral include references to its predecessor in Selsey because even though the Chichester building itself wasn’t begun until 1076, the functions served by that building remained the same as the functions of the Selsey building dating back to 681. In fact, there have been 101 bishops to rule over this particular diocese which extends throughout what is now defined as East and West Sussex, and only 76 of them have presided from the Chichester Cathedral. The point I’m making here is that this is obviously a very old building, but its history is even older.

Let’s turn our attention now to the building itself and the terms used to describe it. These terms are not words found in most people’s everyday vocabulary. Often a picture is the best explanation, so I scanned the floor plan found in a pamphlet I bought in the Cathedral bookstore, Chichester Cathedral Pitkin Guide. North is at the top, but the front of a cathedral generally faces East. Knowing that, the descriptions will be easier to follow.

The initial period of construction from 1076 through 1123 was responsible for the nave (central portion where people congregate), the transepts (the portion of the building that forms a cross with the nave and provides additional seats which face the center), and the quire (the center section where the choir sits and where the organ is located). The presbytery (area to the east of the quire) contains the altar.

Actually, various parts of the cathedral were completed at different times over the years. The floor plan outlines the original early 12th century section in purple, later 12th and 13th century additions in red and green, and 14th through 16th century additions in pink and orange. My picture of St. Richard’s Walk below, taken from the south side of the Cathedral, captures construction from several of these periods. You can see the 13th century walls which lead to the 12th century building whose spire was rebuilt in the 19th century.

The marvelous arched ceiling inside the Cathedral was truly beautiful. I took this picture standing at the front of the nave looking back toward the main entrance.

Turning around, I faced the quire and the presbytery behind it. You can see the stalls in the quire as well as the altar decorations in the presbytery. In small weekday services both the choir and the congregants sit in the stalls in the quire.

Above the quire stalls are the painted Renatus Harris organ pipes dating back to 1678, reports the Pitkin Guide. They were restored in 1986 after a silence of 13 years. I can tell you with certainty that their sound is as beautiful as their housing. Maurene and I sat beneath them in the quire stalls at the Choral Evensong service on the day of our visit.

And here’s a close-up of the white marble altar by Robert Potter and the tapestry by John Piper (1966) which hangs on the screen behind the altar in the presbytery.

There’s not much ancient stained glass left in the Chichester Cathedral. Most of it comes from the 19th century. This window, located in the south transept, was designed by C. Parrish and made in 1877.

In the south quire aisle are two medieval sculptured stone panels dating back to 1125 AD. (This photograph was borrowed from the Chichester Cathedral website.)

Not far away a section of Roman tiled floor panels from the 2nd century can be seen beneath a plexiglass plate in the floor. These tiles were from the Roman city of Noviomagus, the predecessor of Chichester.

Going around in back of the presbytery and into the retroquire (area behind the presbytery, separated from it by the screen bearing the Piper tapestry above), we entered the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene with its very modern décor. The striking 1960 painting below by Graham Sutherland entitled “Touch me not” dominates the area.

After looking around this chapel, Maurene and I lit a candle and took a seat to gaze at the painting for a while. An announcement, repeated periodically, reminded us that although the Cathedral housed many significant works of art, its purpose was primarily that of worship. Visitors were encouraged to pause in their explorations of the cathedral and meditate. A timely and appropriate message, since that’s exactly what we were doing!

Also in the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is the small but stunning stained glass window designed in 1978 by Marc Chagall.

The 12th century chapel on the east side of the north transept contain the Treasury, a small museum of interesting artifacts. I read in the Pitkin Guide that “the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths gave generous financial assistance to enable the cathedral to house and display securely its own treasures as well as plates from churches in the diocese.” Maurene and I enjoyed examining the medieval chalices and plates, bishops’ rings and the heads from bishops’ staffs, as well as some impressive medieval wooden chests.

Chichester Cathedral has a strong musical heritage. Leonard Bernstein composed the Chichester Psalms in 1965 for the Cathedral. Gustav Holst also had connections to the Cathedral and is buried there. His ashes are entombed under the diamond-shaped plate in the floor in the picture below. Since I played quite a lot of Holst's music in high school, I can't believe I somehow forgot to take a picture of his tomb! But here's the one I found on the website I linked to his name.

Completing our tour of the Cathedral itself, Maurene and I purchased some gifts and souvenirs in the Cathedral Gift Shop before adjourning to the Cathedral Snack Bar for a "cream tea.” Maurene explained to me that a cream tea consists of scones served with (specifically) strawberry jam and clotted cream. The scones were not the dry, hard things I’ve had in NYC. They were fresh and moist. The strawberry jam was densely strawberry in flavor. Despite its name, the clotted cream was not disgusting and did not have hard lumps in it like cottage cheese. It was a heavily whipped cream which was not as sweet as we make it in the US – a perfect compliment to the jam. The whole concoction can only be described as “to die for.” I most definitely thought I had gone straight to heaven with the first bite!

After tea we wandered through some of the town's tourist shops. I was sorry to discover that there was nothing as tacky as a shot glass to be found in the classy little village of Chichester. My shot glass collection would just have to make room for a small china thimble bearing a handpainted depiction of the Cathedral. That was as close as I could come.

At around 6:30 pm John, Betty’s driver, took us out to Betty’s house in Itchenor, a village on the Chichester Harbor about 20 minutes drive from the walled city of Chichester. After a walk around Betty’s extensive garden which includes an orchard and a grape arbor as well as flower beds and large fruit and vegetable patches, we enjoyed an informal cold supper with Betty and Sindy, her mischievious shelter rescue dog. Betty theorizes that Sindy’s clever food heists are signs of an earlier life deprived of adequate food. Whatever the reason, Sindy demonstrated her stealth and daring by stealing Betty’s prawns and some crisps (potato chips) when she thought nobody was looking! And here is our Sindy, enjoying a lie-down with a stomach full of prawns. I dare say Maurene and I probably looked just as content when we climbed into our beds that night after good company, good food, and after a jam-packed day (no pun intended) of touring in Chichester.

(P.S. All the pictures in this post are mine, except where otherwise noted.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Betty's Birthday

Photo by Linda Mason Hood
Today is the birthday of the lady on the left. She is 90 years YOUNG today!

Happy Birthday, Betty!

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saturday, part 1: Chichester Walls and Chichester Cross

Saturday, at last! With the work week behind me, I was excited about spending 100% of my time over the next two days vacationing with Maurene in West Sussex. I had never visited any part of the British countryside, so this would be a new adventure. Also, I hoped the weather by shore would be a little cooler than what we'd endured in London during the past week.

Maurene and I were to stay overnight with her 90-year-old friend Betty, who met us at the train station in Chichester. We were driven to the nursing home where Betty’s 95-year-old sister Nancy lives. After a short but very pleasant visit, Maurene and I set off to find lunch and fortify ourselves for a day of sightseeing in Chichester.

Driving into Chichester, our view of the city walls was the first evidence of its long history. The ancient city of Chichester was laid out in Roman times, possibly as early as the end of the second century. In 1204 AD repairs to the Roman wall were undertaken, with additional work performed in 1261 and in the 1370s. The medieval construction used “knapped flint.” Flint is apparently the local stone, and knapping was probably a rather manual process which involved cracking open the flint rock to expose the beautiful coloration inside. Standing in the middle of Canon Lane, which is just off South Street near the entrance to the cathedral close, I took this picture of the old city walls.

Turning around (still on Canon Lane), I saw the Canon Gate House which dates back to the 13th century.

This picture gives a closeup view of the surface of the walls. You can see not only the knapped flint but a spot where recent brick repair has been applied.

Maurene and I didn’t walk the perimeter of the walls (1.5 miles or 2.4 kilometers), but the internet provides a nice virtual walk which I highly recommend.

Chichester’s four main streets – simply named North, South, East, and West streets – all radiate out from a central “cross,” a structure given to the town in 1501 by the Bishop Storey to shelter farmers who sold produce in the city. Here’s my picture of the Chichester Cross.

In Roman times there was no Cross, of course, but these same four streets extended from the center of town in all four directions: North to London, East to Winchester and Silchester, South to the sea, and West to Fishbourne, which was the Roman supply base on Chichester Harbor.

What makes Chichester interesting, however, is not only the landmarks of Roman and medieval times but evidences of all the other eras in between. It has had a vibrant, continuous history with a consistently rich cultural heritage. In addition to being the center of the diocese and providing religious leadership to the region, Chichester has also offered music, theater, art, museums, libraries, societies for intellectual improvement (such as the 19th century Literary and Philosophical Society), and community dances. Personally, I think the Chichester Cross is a symbol of all that. This beautiful landmark, which is neither Roman nor medieval, stands in the center of town and symbolizes how artistic contributions of all the periods have added to the culture and beauty of the little town of Chichester. 

(P.S. All the photos in this post are mine.)

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Friday: Pimms No. 1 and The London Symphony Orchestra

The picture above shows the view of Canary Wharf just outside the office, a popular gathering place with many lively pubs and restaurants. After work on Friday I was invited to join my London colleagues for an end-of-the-week beer at a pub called The Slug and Lettuce, just out of view on the right side of the picture, behind the trees. After socializing over a pint of Guinness, I went back up to the office to make a few phone calls to my New York colleagues who were all still hard at work due to the time difference. I finally called it a day around 8:40 pm (as you can see by the clocks in the picture).

I discovered the London Symphony Orchestra was doing an outdoor concert in Canada Square Park, just behind me as I snapped that picture. The concert was half over by this time, but I wandered over anyway. Even though I was tired, I couldn't resist hearing just a few pieces.

Intermission was in progress so I decided to get something to drink before the music started. The makeshift outdoor beverage stand offered only two (alcoholic) choices: Budweiser and Pimms. Well, I had not come all the way to London to order a Bud, so I ordered the Pimms. I thought it curious that the bartender put ice and fruit in the glass before she filled it from the tap. It looked like beer, but was it? The taste was... well... not at all like beer. Almost sweet. And one of the pieces of fruit was actually a cucumber! I drank a pint of the stuff and never did figure out what it was! Thanks to the internet, I can now tell you that Pimms No. 1, as it’s called, is a gin-based drink which consists of a slice of orange, lemon, apple, cucumber, and a sprig of mint -- all placed in a glass of two parts lemonade to one part Pimms. Apparently it’s as British as tea and is only drunk in the summer.

Canada Park was crowded, but I found a little place on the edge of the grass (on a curb, actually) where I could see the conductor on one of the big screens as well as the bandshell through the trees to my right. The "picturesque" crane in the background served as a reminder that Canary Wharf in the Docklands was an industrial area before it became London's ultra-modern version of Wall Street.

As soon as I settled in with my Pimms, the second half of the concert began. As if just for me, the London Symphony was performing a program of American music.

Now Bernstein, Barber, Gershwin, and Copeland are all serious American composers, and Richard Rodgers always makes good summer fare. But John Phillip Sousa??? What was he doing with that lot? But never mind. Sousa was last on the bill, and I planned to leave before then. I'm not very fond of Sousa, probably because I played Sousa marches ad nauseum in my high school marching band.

The concert was lovely, and it was nice to sit out in the cool summer air. As the program progressed and the orchestra launched into the first Sousa march, I got up to leave. However, the audience reaction to the music stopped me. The British obviously found these marches much more exciting than I did. People were clapping in rhythm and cheering at the chirping piccolos. I decided to stay and observe the crowd. Then I began hearing the marches through their ears, so to speak. It was an amazing experience. By the end the crowd couldn't stop applauding. They gave the orchestra a huge standing ovation and were rewarded with an encore.

I left before the encore ended. I needed to get back to the hotel and pack. Maurene and I had a big weekend ahead. In retrospect, though, I must say that I have a whole new appreciation for Sousa marches. They will always make me remember the enthusiasm of that Canary Wharf audience and wish for a Pimms No. 1.

(P.S. All the photos in this post are mine.)

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement