Places of Beauty

I’ve been in Britain for the past week and a half.  The first part was spent at the World Science Fiction Convention in London.  (Largest Worldcon ever).  I met my new editor from Titan books, and the owners of Titan.  Caught up with old friends, made new ones and that was lovely.  Then I took the train down to Somerset to visit with my friends Emma and Peter Newman.  Emma is the author of the SPLIT WORLD series.  You’re heard/read me burbling about how great they are before so if you haven’t read them go find them and read them, and listen to her terrific webcast Tea and Jeopardy.  (She was nominated for a Hugo this year).  Here’s a link to Emma’s website — Ems Place.

Anyway, right now I’m ensconced in the guest bedroom looking out at a grass and tree covered hillside rising up behind the charming stone houses.  There are cows peacefully grazing on that green hillside.  If we lived here my horses would think they had died and gone to heaven.

On Wednesday Pete dropped Emma and I off in Wells for a ramble.  I love this small town.  Narrow twisty streets (if you saw Hot Fuzz you saw Wells), water running down the gutters of the cobblestoned streets.  I was wondering about the source when Emma floored me by saying the water always flowed through the town because of the natural springs.  Water just running away like that.  Not being caught and hoarded.  Wells is famous for it’s cathedral and rightly so.  I’ve visited a lot of cathedrals, all of them beautiful, but Wells may trump them all.  Not only is there the church it’s right in the center of a beautiful garden filled with ponds fed by underground springs and grass and flowers and sculptures.

We entered the nave and the first breathtaking sight was of this, the scissor arch in the center of the building.

It was added later when they realized the central tower was sinking. Not surprising considering how wet the ground must be. It looks amazingly modern, like you’d see it as the superstructure on some spaceship from an advanced alien race.

We moved deeper into the church and came upon the famous clock installed in 1392. It’s not only still there, it’s still operational. It chimes on the quarter hour and the hour, and knights go merrily tilting away at each other.

We next headed up the worn stone steps to the Chapter House. I had once read that the Chapter House in the Wells Cathedral was the most beautiful in Britain, and having now seen it I would have to agree. The pillars culminate against the vaulted ceiling in a spray of stone ribs that look like frozen fireworks. Each boss in the ceiling is unique. Now I wish I had brought a camera because I’m having trouble finding an image of the actual chapter house. Here’s a picture from the main floor of the cathedral that will give you some idea. Just picture this in a small round room with a stone bench running around the outer wall.

It was market day in Wells so when we left the church this courtyard like area was filled with booths selling fresh fish, meats, breads, fruit, crafts of all kinds. I saw a box of raspberries where the berries were so large I thought they were strawberries at first. Apparently this area of Somerset was famous for it’s strawberries and Emma told me they had a special rail line just to take the strawberries to London.

We paused for an Elevenses of tea. I ordered a cream tea, thick clotted cream, strawberry jam and 2 of the largest scones I’ve ever seen. I ended up taking one home, and then Pete just bought some clotted cream at the local market. The stuff we get imported in the States is okay, but nothing like the local cream. After that we wandered through the gardens. The Cathedral cat passed us with a mouse in her mouth. Then she decided we were interesting so she followed us on our ramble. I got a in a lot cat petting which was good, I’m really missing my kids. An iron gate that had always been closed when Emma came before was open so we darted through the the end of the cathedral and studied the way all the sections came together. The gargoyles were perfect and had me thinking the the gargoyle in Emma’s book. Oh, and just stuck on the roof next to one of the gargoyles was a man’s head. (No, not a real one, this isn’t Game of Thrones). A small stone face with an odd grimace.

Titan wants me to come over to Britain fairly often. I think I’m going to be happy to oblige and I’ll be spending a few more days in Wells.

2 Responses to Places of Beauty

  • Well if you do come to Britain more often, let me know if you’re around Manchester! Wells sounds amazing and I’ll have to add that to my weekend break options, and meet this awesome cathedral cat!

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      She/he was a beauty. Dark tabby stripes, and liked belly rubs. I wanted to pick him up, but wasn’t sure he’d be keen on that. I do hope to come back more often. I love Britain. I think my heart is here in a very fundamental way.

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