Canterbury Tales

The city of Canterbury was built by the Romans and became the capital of the Saxon kingdom of Kent. It was here during the late 6th century that St. Augustine and his missionaries brought Christianity back to England.

My young friend and I visited the Cathedral last Saturday. Gingerly we climbed up and down the many staircases dotted around the building, as she is still recovering from her badly sprained ankles, and I still have a little way to go before I'm back to full health. As we approached the south-west porch we joined a long queue to gain entry. (Quite a change to my last visit several years ago when you just walked in.)

But once inside, the magnificence of the architecture was awesome.

I've always been intrigued by the Black Prince. No idea why. Canterbury is the burial place of Edward, the Black Prince - one of the most dynamic figures in England's long conflict with France during the 14th and 15th centuries, known as the Hundred Years War. I don't think he was called 'the Black Prince' because of the colour of armour he may have worn. Maybe it was because of the terror his bravery and ferocity inspired. We found his iron-railed tomb close to St.Thomas Becket's shrine on the Trinity Chapel's south side.

And here are just a few of the many photographs I took during our visit.

To round off our tour we headed for the garden. (I had been extolling the magnificence of the gardens - complete with semi-hidden priest's hole) but sadly found it was not open to the public any more - at least the part I remembered. This little corner was nice though.

I spent most of my holidays as a youth just after World War Two in Deal where my mother had a friend who owned a guest house called 'Sea Breeze' right on the sea front.

Driving there we couldn't find it but did locate my favourite place in Deal - The Ice Cream Parlour. To me as a boy this was a wonderland with its Art Deco facia. (still the same) It was where I tasted my very first 'Knickerbocker Glory' a real treat after the austerity of the war years. This figure dominating the entrance to the (now run-down) pier is a new addition.

We were visiting Kent for the weekend primarily to attend the blessing ceremony of my oldest friend, Maurice Bowra, who recently died in Bangkok. But due to unforeseen circumstances the blessing has been postponed till next year. However as we had already booked to stay in the Bridgewood Manor Hotel in Chatham we decided not to cancel the weekend away. Looking for somewhere to go on Sunday morning one of the guide books in the hotel advertised 'Dickens World' in nearby Chatham. Described as an exciting journey through Dickens lifetime 'when you step back in time into Dickensian England and are immersed in the streets, sounds and smells of the 19th century' It sounded fun, and somewhere we found out that actors dressed as Dickens characters would enliven our tour. The settings were pretty good.

But our guide, although knowledgeable about Victorian times (or having a good memory of her script) put on a irritating loud cockney accent. And there were no other actors. Most of the sets were well done and characters like this one were dotted around the scene.

At the end of the tour we were treated to a sharp lesson about Victorian schooldays. Our little group numbered about 25 and it was annoying to be lined up outside Dr. Dotheboys classroom while our very noisy 'cockney' made everyone hold out their hands and then turn them over to inspect nails! (We didn't participate.) But the last chore of the tour was to all sit down in a schoolroom (complete with desks with grooves for pencils and inkwells - I remember them well) and be shouted at. Grr!!!
So we escaped and drove the short way to the Royal Engineers Museum.

Of special interest to me as I was a 'Sapper' during my National Service days. And I think my young friend was interested too. There was a section on the Malayan Emergency (my war). As I'm a member of the Royal Engineers Association I was able to visit the Museum free of charge. The museum covers a host of the many activities of the Royal Engineers from bomb disposal, bridge building, combat engineering, to surveying, photography and siegecraft. The medals room was extra special and housed the many Victoria crosses won by Royal Engineers in past wars. The siege of Mafeking, Chinese Gordon and Lord Kitchener all featured.

The other day my old school friend Averil Tarbrooke popped over for a visit. She gave me a present. It was a framed enlarged black and white photograph of a 1950's scene of Broad Street in my home town - Wokinghan. Nothing out of the ordinary you may say but somehow she had recognised my father in the picture. He's riding his bike on the far right, complete with carpenter's apron and pipe, on his way to work. She must have an incredible memory.