Friday, March 2, 2012

A Fun-filled Finish to February

I promised a bigger blog post this week; I had no idea it would be this big. Uploading all these pictures has reminded me some of the pros and cons to doing picture-filled blog posts using, exclusively, the camera on my phone. On the one hand, it's easy to depend on the phone because it's always there and it's easy to transfer photos (and not have to resize them for the blog). But, the quality of the pictures is lacking - especially when I'm trying to take pictures of big, thousand year old cathedrals. The enormity and beauty of them gets lost in translation.

Forgive me, book a ticket, and come see some for yourself.

This past Saturday, we took a trip with Owen and Celia down to Liphook, England. Why Liphook, you ask. Well, not only is it where Owen's parents, Alison and Jeff, live - but it's where Owen was born. We thought we'd go along for the ride to find out what sort of stock Owen comes from.

It was an early departure - O&C picked us up at 8:30am.

Owen wore his new Mint pants.

Back in the Citron.
It took us 45 minutes to get out of London, even though it was an early Sunday morning. I'm glad we don't drive in this city. 

Kenz did what she does best - this time blocking out the sun with her scarf. 

The trip wasn't much more than an hour after that. The road that leads down to Liphook has recently been changed from a bottlenecked two lane (once you're closer to their town) to a four lane highway, complete with a 3/4 mile long tunnel. They've changed the area that the road used to follow into a national park called "The Devil's Punchbowl." More on that later.

Upon arrival, Owen asserted:
"I was actually born in the house, but I won't tell you which room in case that bothers you."

His older (of two) sister, Jane, was at the house for the day as well. There was a big wool market/convention on in the next town, so all the knitting ladies were excited for the trip (this was the original intent of the visit - everyone wanted to stock up on some good wool).

Unloading the car.
 Jeff and Alison are both retired and were delighted to have some visitors at the house. Jeff, from what I could glean, has taken up art. I don't know if he did much before retirement, but there are several easels, wood carvings, and other art bits and bops all around the house which lead me to believe he's been interested in it for a long time. The following picture was hanging in the room Kenz and I were to sleep in that night. It's a painting of Owen's face within some motley. I think the picture below it was the inspiration.

Later that night, Kenz mentioned that it was kind of strange/scary to sleep underneath this portrait. 

Adorable young Owen
I love looking at family photos in other peoples' houses.

The Scholar
For their mother's 60th birthday, the kids went and duplicated a picture from their youth:

Pretty awesome gift. They traveled to Winchester to replicate it. 
We hung out for most of the early afternoon, unwinding wool that had been washed in order to dry it, catching up, tinkering with things around the house, while Jeff prepared an absolutely deeeeelish soup for us (complete with the Celiac that O&C had brought down from London). 

Owen's sister, Jane is making her baby niece a knitted Octopus. 

She's a ninja with those knitting needles.
Jane told us about going to some upscale restaurant that's know for its varied meat menue. Her husband ordered "chitterlings"as his entree. It took me a moment, then..."OH, you mean chitlin's!" I thought it was funny/cool that chitlin's are considered an exotic meat-y entree.

Owen and his Mom

Unwinding wool

We each had our own unwinding strategies.

Representing the Celtics. 

Lunch, again, was delicious. 

Kenz managing the mushroom paste. Lots of pastes come in tubes here. I don't really get down with that - makes me think of toothpaste. 

Celia and Jeff

 I freaked out Alison with the front facing camera on my phone. She wasn't expecting it.

"What? What are you doing?!"

We all had a good laugh at her reaction. 

After lunch, it was time to take a walk around town. Liphook is located in Hampshire (which is the county). From what I can tell, it's kind of rural - but not rural rural. Just quaint. We walked along the road for about twenty minutes, then got on a "footpath" that cut through some backwoods, underneath a bridge, through a cemetery, and out to a different road that led back to the house.

Getting ready for the walk. 
Before we left, Alison mentioned that "we'll get to play poo sticks" on the walk. Not wanting to be rude (being a guest and all), I restrained from asking what, exactly, poo sticks was. I figured I'd find out soon enough.

Poo sticks, as it turned out, is an awesomely simple yet entertaining game played on a bridge traversing a swift stream. You get a stick from the side of the road, everyone convenes on one side of the bridge, drops their poo stick in the stream at the same time, then scurries over to the other side of the bridge to see which stick comes out first. Classic stuff.

Eagerly awaiting the results. 
The second time we played, I dropped mine in early, caring more about getting a picture than whether or not I won. I got called out for cheating.

"Cheater! You dropped yours too soon!"
 We got to walk past one of the historic houses on a huge plot of land that had cattle on it.

Old School stuff
Alison and Jeff are great tour guides, telling us things we should know about the town, its history, and their own anecdotal family stories connected to various parts of the town. Next time, they're going to take us to the house Jane Austen used to live in. As we were walking, Alison told me that Hampshire is known for its sunken roads. Apparently the one we were walking on used to be above our heads.

Take that, leaning tower of Pisa!

We walked through the cemetery as Jeff and Alison each told us the story of the plot of graves of Canadian soldiers from the first World War. There had been a hospital just down the road from this cemetery (which is connected to a church). There were a lot of young Canadian soldiers who had been injured in the war there in the hospital. Then the influenza outbreak of 1918 hit the hospital - most all died as a result. There is a service at the church each year commemorating the event.

Flowers starting to February. 

The Canadian soldiers.

The pictures don't show how many graves there are.

Under the bridge, there was a lot of artwork on the columns and underside of the bridge.

Afterwards, the ladies went on to the wool fair, as Owen, Jeff, and I went down to Emsworth. We were originally headed to Portsmouth, but the football club had a home game in the afternoon, so the traffic was backed up enough to cause us to stop short. Emsworth is on the south coast - Portsmouth is an island right off the coast. We walked along the water, looked at the ducks, gulls, swans, and old boats. It was a pretty day and there were lots of folks out doing the same thing.

Jeff and Alison are bird watchers. Jeff was pointing out all the different types of birds we were seeing. 

Owen and I were wondering how people got to their boats. Then we saw a smaller boat taking someone to a bigger boat. 

People feeding the swans. 

We agreed Mallards are awesome. 

I thought this boat looked like a duck, too. 

After Emsworth, we had a coffe and a chat, mainly about politics and history. Jeff is fun to listen to. Watching Owen and his dad is fun, too. I enjoy getting to meet my friends' parents - this was turning out to be a "top ten" friends'-family-visit.

Afterwards, we headed over to Chichester (who makes these names?). Chichester is a city because it has a cathedral, Jeff pointed out to me as we were walking through the streets on our way to see it.

The Chichester Cathedral is stunning. Jeff told me that Paragon Falcons nest in one of the spires, but that it wasn't the right time of year for us to see them. Apparently the cathedral is named after Saint Richard of Chichester. Owen and I thought the statue looked kind of like Dhalsim from the video game, Street Fighter.  

You can see the resemblance. 
The cathedral was massive - and it had a lot of cool stuff in it. Again, these pictures don't do it justice.

People used to be small!

So, they had recently put some big gold ornament on the top of the cathedral. Jeff pointed out that the ladder is still in place that they used to climb to the top. You can kind of see it on the corner of the spire closest to you in this photo. Can you imagine having to be the one to climb that thing?

Boss: We're going to need you to climb this ladder and go ahead and put that ornament on the top of the spire, there.
Me: When do you want that done?
Boss: Monday.
Me: I think I'll be sick on Monday. Yea, I'm pretty sure I'll be sick. Won't be coming in. Maybe Johnny can do it.

The cathedral, like most, has a school attached to it. It was Saturday, but the young boys had choir practice. The con? School on a Saturday. The pros? Getting to wear those sweet cloaks and getting to go into some super secret stone spiral staircase behind a tourists-not-allowed closed door.

Little Harry Potters

This was some famous stained glass window:

As most of you know, cathedrals are shaped like a cross. The above pictures were taken in the main part of the cross. Usually, theres another little chapel in the tip of the cross. Below are a few pictures from that one.

When they were doing some renovations, they found a super old Roman mosaic underneath the cathedral:

We headed back to the house afterwards. The evening was filled with laughter, Owen getting micromanaged by both his parents while trying to build a fire, card games, and, of course, knitting.

"Light it, then when it goes out, I'll come over there and re-light it" - Jeff

Owen, concerned that this would come true.

Alison "helping"
I love watching family dynamics in action! We had a blast.


Jane finished the Octopus, but spent the rest of the night working on appropriate eyes for it. 

Alison and Jeff insisted on sleeping down in the living room on air mattresses so that everyone else had a bed for the night. This type of treatment is symptomatic of what kind of people they are: generous, happy, fun, and delightful. We slept well...

...and woke up to Bubble and Squeak (with fried bread, eggs, veggie sausages, baked beans, and HP sauce)!

Alison and I had a debate regarding the merits of American baked beans versus British baked beans. When they come visit us in April, I'm going to be administering a blind taste test. We'll see...

The bubble and squeak being cooked. (Potatoes and cabbage, right? I can't remember.)

Celia sewing a hole in Owen's mint pants. 

Satisfying breakfast

Alison hooked us up with some of their homemade jams and chutneys. One comes from a fruit called Medlar, but she told me that the French have a name for it that translates to "dog's ass," because the fruit itself resembles that...
"Because the fruit looks like a dog's anus."

After breakfast, Jeff and Alison took us to The Devil's Punchbowl. We hiked around, took in the views, and read the history of the area. Back in the day (I can't remember how long ago - but the year started with an 18-), some sailor was in the local pub eating dinner. He paid for three other guys' drinks with a gold piece. Afterwards, as he was walking to some lodge, those same three guys ambushed him, slit his throat, and robbed everything he had - including his clothes. Later that night, they were arrested trying to sell his stuff in the next town. They were hanged at the ridge of this "punchbowl", right beside the road, for three years! The road, as I mentioned, was the way to and from London from this part of the country. The three hangers were a symbol for "highway men" trying to rob people on the road near this part of town.

Now that this section of the road is no longer in use (because of the tunnel), the asphalt has been destroyed and it's a series of walking paths all over this part of the county.

The gravesite for the sailor. You can see where the road used to be on the right side fo the ridge

That stone thing behind us is where the three highway men were hanged. 

This is an old school mile marker. 39 miles to London. 

Sadly, I didn't have the forethought to take a picture of all of us together.

The trip was a great success. We had fun learning about the region, history, family, and everything else that came with it. Getting to meet Owen's parents, listen to the banter that comes with a 40+ year marriage, and their stories was a true gift. Jane added fantastic quips that kept everyone laughing. All in all, it was a true joy to get to visit Liphook - a town that (I bet) most of the citizens of this country couldn't find on a map. We were/are grateful to the Evans' for welcoming us into their home.

If you're interested, here are two different reads about London: The first is a profile of the city today, the second is about the changing population of the city.