Friday, July 02, 2010

Home and Garden -- the God issue

Thursday's exploration in York focused on two places: York Minster, and the gardens at Yorkshire Museum. Along the way there was a bit of shopping (including a new SD card for my camera, a bookstore, and some pastries), and a lunch at Wacker's.

I had Yorkshire pudding and bangers and mash -- thus checking off two more must-have British experience meals at once. The pudding was in the shape of a bowl as far across as from the tip of my pinky to the tip of my thumb when I spread my fingers; it took up most of the plate. It was full of three sausages swimming in a brown gravy full of onion pieces. The mash was on the side with more of the gravy and onions. It took several iterations of eat, digest, eat, digest before I got through enough of it to feel like it was okay to stop there (I did leave about half the pud and most of the gravy behind). Overall assessment: it's all right, but I feel no grave need to replicate this back home. The girls had fish and chips with mushy peas and tea; I am told the fish was great, and the batter was lighter than at the previous day's lunch (which to them is better, not so much for me). The peas were apparently the right consistency too. No one seemed overly enthused by the chips, and I have to admit, when I make chips at home following what I have been taught as the British method (salt water soak, two fryings) I like them better than any I've had here.

York Minster is a cathedral which is the third iteration of a great house of worship on this spot dating back to Roman times. It can call itself a minster since this building dates to Saxon times, and it's not Gothic revival, it's plain-old Gothic, most of it dating to 13th century. There's not much I can say about it that won't be the same superlatives you undoubtedly already have heard. It's really huge, it's very old, the architecture is impressive, the collection of monuments and memorials and gravestones is dizzying, the organ is bigger than a Volvo, and so on. I kept thinking, if this is God's house, then God must be overcompensating for some perceived flaw. I am suitably impressed by the amazing feats of architecture and restoration, the humbling acts of reverence and devotion, the sheer audacity of the engineering, the artistry, the crushing weight of history. But I also can't help but wonder, while it's amazing that people could do all those things, at the same time I wish they'd invested all that industry in something else.

I will note that I didn't go up the umptyleven steps to the top of the tower to get the apparently breathtaking view of York, but Suri did, and assured us that it's good we didn't. At times she barely fit; at other times, she was so out of breath she could barely proceed; and at several more, she feared for her life. But she's glad she persevered because the view was amazing. Still, if she had it that tough, I, with my knee still sore from the bike spill and back still sore from compensating for my knee, couldn't've done it, even discounting the narrow quarters.

Incidentally, God has a really nice house, but He should consider investing in some improvements to His privies. They were awful. And better privies really help with improving resale value, any realtor will tell you.

We also spent a short while in the gardens of Yorkshire Museum. That's maybe not the best name for them, because most of them, at least what we saw, were a pleasant, spacious park, comprised of lawns, a few trees of impressive canopy but no special provenance, and interspersed bits of ruins (no doubt some of them Roman era, and others more recent). There were certainly patches of formal garden here and there displaying various unusual pieces of flora, but they were a fairly small part of it. Most of it was just a charming, relaxing, pretty park of the sort one expects to find in a city. Which was quite a nice thing for us at that point in the day. There might have been a lot more to it, though. It started to rain, and while the trees offered fine shelter, the threat it might get worse combined with our being generally weary (especially Suri from her harrowing climb) led us to head home.

Dinner was at Red Chilli, a Chinese restaurant with some nice (if a bit surreal) decor, and very generous portions of tasty foods. The menu is about ten million items long, and none of the descriptions tell you what the dish will be (even more than at most Chinese restaurants, which is saying a lot). But the actual dishes turn out to be good, and neither skimpy nor excessively padded with bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. We all shared around all our dishes, as is the way, and got through not even half of our main courses.

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