A Visit to Newton’s Woolsthorpe

Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire is the birthplace, and home of Sir Issac Newton.  It is a 17th Century yeoman’s holding, and is now a property of the National Trust.

This is a relatively small Trust property, and it can be taken in fairly quickly.  That said, there is a small tea room and gift shop, and there are several interesting feature such as the coat of arms, and the famous apple tree to take in, and take one’s time with.

Plague temporarily closed Cambridge University in 1666, so Issac returned to Woolsthorpe and continued his experiments on light, optics, and refraction.  It was while here that he is said to have witnessed an apple falling from a tree in the orchard.  This chance encounter, led to him to develop his law of universal gravitation.

This as noted is a yeoman’s house, and while not grand, it gives wonderful insights into life in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries.   Exhibits include a short film about Isaac Newton, science displays and activities for children, and the historic house and preserved apple tree.   The staff are friendly and helpful, and the small size of the manor makes even a quick visit easy and informative.


National Trust Link

Remembrance Sunday


At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918 the guns fell silent.  In their wake over 10,000,000 combatants, and a nearly equal number of civilians lay dead.  It is remembrance of these, the fallen, that this day, the Sunday nearest the anniversary date has been set aside.  This is right and fitting.

But might I suggest to you that today is remembrance day, because it is a Sunday? In the book of Exodus, God had laid down a commandment that His people, Israel, “remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy.”  This is one of the central mitzvots, and the fourth of the Ten Commandments.  But the events of the Passover in the beginning of the 3rd decade of the Common Era, had an impact which shook both Heaven and Earth.  Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, died, and was buried.  But on the third day (the Sunday) He arose from the grave, and ushered in a new covenant.

Because of this His people began to keep the Lord’s Day “holy.” “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread,” Luke records in Acts 20:7.  Paul expands on this, in I Corinthians 11:23-26, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes [italics mine].”


Jesus said, whenever you eat these symbols, do in “My memory.”  Each and every Lord’s day, is a remembrance Sunday!  We collectively come together to remember His sacrifice, in the bread and the “fruit of the vine.”

In Luke 24, Cleopas and his companion encounter the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The carry out a conversation with Him about the events of His own death, but throughout they do not recognise Him. Then in verse 28 and following,  “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.   They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”

The breaking of the bread in remembrance of Jesus is an opportunity for us to open our eyes to Him.  It is a time for us to focus on “Him crucified,” but more importantly on “He who is risen.”  Let us seek that focus, and make every Sunday, a “Son-day.”



Non-Alcoholic Raisin Wine and Passum

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This is the third of my posts on biblical food recipes.  Today I will consider non-alcoholic versions of raisin wine, and Roman passum.

Raisin wine was known at least as far back as 800 BCE. It is a sweet, sometimes almost syrupy drink and is a nice after dinner treat.  The prevailing modern recipes for it, take up to 12 days to prepare (and risk some alcohol production), but there are some simpler ones as well.

Method One:

Ingredients –

  •                   1 pound (450 grams) raisins or saltanas,
  •                   1/2 of a lemon
  •                   1/2 pound (225 grams) sugar or 1 to 1 1/2 cups honey (depending on taste)
  •                    3 litres water

Place the raisins into a large jar or crockery pot.  Finely slice the lemon and pace over the raisins.  Then bring the water to a boil and dissolve the sugar/honey into it, then poor over the fruit.  Stir and cover with a cloth.  Stir the mixture daily for a week, then strain and bottle.  It is ready in 10 to 12 days.

Method Two:

Ingredients –

  •                          1 1/2 pound (675 grams) raisins or saltanas,
  •                          1/2 of a lemon
  •                          1/2 pound (225 grams) sugar or 1  to 1 1/2 cups honey
  •                           3 litres water
  •                           Cinnamon stick optional

Place all the items into a pan and bring to a boil. Then lower to a simmer (adding cinnamon if used)and allow to slowly evaporate until reduced to 2/3 of original volume [about 2 or 3 days].  Sieve and bottle.

Method Three the Passum method:

Passum was a Roman drink made by re-hydrating raisins in wine.  Typically 100 grams of raisins would be used per pint (1/2 litre) of wine.  This would be left 2-3 days then sieved.

This however, is a non-alcoholic alternative method.

Ingredients –

  •                     200-300 grams of raisins or saltanas (depending on desired “raisin” taste.
  •                      1 litre of red or purple grape juice (I prefer Welsh’s for this)
  •                      1 Tbs honey

Place fruit into and juice into a pan and bring to a boil.  Add honey to the cooling mixture, and place onto a large jar or pot. Cover with cloth, and place in a cool place and allow the fruit to absorb as much liquid as possible (about 3 days).  Then place into a sieve, and squeeze out as much of the enriched juice as you can.  Chill liquid, and serve with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

As always, let me know how you get on.


Exploring A La Ronde House

A la Ronde House

A la Ronde

The National Trust property, Al la Ronde House, is an 18th-century, 16-sided house located near Exmouth in Devon. The house was built in 1796 for two spinster cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter. The house with its diamond shaped windows, sixteen external walls, and general octagonal character is a wonderful piece of architecture.


A la Ronde Tea Room

Tea Room

We arrived before the house opened to the public, so went to the tea room which is very lovely, and the service friendly. The hot chocolate was good, and the coffee as latte okay, but the filter coffee was a bit bitter. This said the smell of baking, and general atmosphere made the tea room portion of the visit pleasant.

When we went around to the main entrance (a word to those with mobility issues there is an uneven path from the tea room) our problems began. We were treated like unruly children. We were instructed how to carry handbags (as “not to damage the wall hangings”), and we were told in what I thought were quite rude tones not to take flash photography (though we had yet to take a single picture). As we started to view the house we discovered that the “tour route” led up a narrow curved stairway (which was more than we could handle with mobility issues), so we asked if there was another way around. We were told we would have to go back the way we came. There was no offer for barriers to be raised for us the move on as has been done at other Trust properties (notably Wimpole Hall). So, we reversed direction and were soon challenged by another member of staff with “You are going the wrong way.”

Here we had had enough, I explained the situation to the staff member, we looked at one or two more downstairs rooms (we were never offered to go “the wrong way” up the straighter staircase), and then left.

The positives: The house itself is pretty, if a little quirky.  The architecture is amazing. The wall hangings and craft work of the spinsters is creative, and are very talented. Among the fascinating features are room surrounds made of feathers, and wall hanging art made of cut paper silhouettes.  The upper area has a gallery made of 25,000 sea shells, all of which are unique and captivating.

The negatives: It would have been wonderful to see the house without what seemed constant admonishments to alter our ways. The shell gallery because of its fragile nature is viewed by using a touch screen virtual tour.  The exterior areas are a bit rugged for some with mobility issues.

I never thought I would write a bad review for a National Trust property.  So, despite the house and grounds being pretty, and the house itself having very interesting features (though we did not see all of it), I must say it was a somewhat disappointing visit.

I would still suggest it to be something to take in if in Devon, but with a consideration of the negatives to inform your visit.


National Trust link


“A Love Beyond”


Sister Claire recently brought a thoughtful and personal message on the love of God.  She noted that, this Godly love was transforming.  It can provide for a timid, or self doubting individual a relationship, and sphere of protection, that no other love can provide.

Many of us seek such relationships outside of God. We at times put our trust in the “love” of others that may be (at least in some measure) self-seeking, limiting, or even down right abusive.  In fact, some of these “all giving” human loves further limit us, as they thrust us into a dependence which continues to diminish us.

Not so with God.  Claire drew her message from the text of  Romans 5.  It showed the context and the extent of a “love beyond.”  Verses 6 trough 8 read in part, ” . . . when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  We we not only in that state of timidity and self-doubt but actually powerless to do anything about it.  Worse still, we were at odds with God.

He in this “love beyond,” nevertheless demonstrated that love by laying down His vary life for us.  This was that first step in transforming us, and an example that there can be strength in “weakness.” His death was not an end, but a beginning.  ” . . . we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (verses 2-5).”

He has transformed us.  He has freed us.  He did not free us from “all” suffering, but rather from the negative consequences of that suffering.  He did not remove the external forces which at times make us timid or self-doubting, but rather taught us perseverance.  That perseverance developed not a self-serving dependence, but a character of hope.  That hope has transformed us into a Spirit-filled people of God.

“God so loved the world,” and yes us timid, sinful, self doubting people within it, “that He sent His one and only Son,” to transform us through that very act of love.  It has transformed at least one of my “little sisters” from a timid, bullied, and at times abused girl, into an inspiring “woman of God.”  One bold enough to stand before others, and deliver this powerful and moving message.


A Visit to Monk Bretton Priory, Yorkshire

We made a visit to the ruins of Monk Bretton Priory in Yorskhire as part of our genealogical research into my wife’s family.   It is relatively well preserved site for a disillusion monastery, and it was really interesting to look around.

Its history begins, somewhere around when 1090 Robert de Lacy founded a monastic house dedicated to St John in Pontefract, in order for the Cluniac monks to make daily prayers on behalf of his family. In 1154 Adam Fitz Swain followed suit by having a “daughter” house (St. Mary Magdalene) established at Lundwood, Barnsley.  This has come to be known as Monk Bretton Priory.  The Cluniacs at Monk Bretton controlled agriculture and natural resources in the area of  Wakefield and Rotherham. It was not all smooth sailing however, as in the reign of King Edward I, monks from the Cluniac “mother house” in La Charité-sur-Loire, France came to make claim on some of this wealth.


Information and Artist’s Depiction

The house at Monk Bretton survived this and remained fairly prominent until 30 November 1538, when it was closed by order f Henry VIII’s commissioners as part of the monastic dissolution.  On closure, it passed into the ownership of the Blithman family, and later to the Earl of Shrewsbury. the property is now managed and maintained by the Borough of Barnsley and English Heritage.

The Gate House and Admin Building are the best preserved, though there are some other features such as the chapel space still semi-extant as well.


Chapel Ruin

The site is open daily from 10 am to 3 pm, except for Christmas and New Years.   The day we visited was drizzly, but the overall experience was still good.  There are Chinese and Indian restaurants and a cafe not far away on the A628 as well.


English Heritage Information on Monk Bretton



Post-Pilgrimage Reflections

I have made several spiritual journeys in my life, some of these have been internal and personal, others have been physical.  These physical pilgrimages, were not mere holidays for me, but meaningful attempts to come closer to God.  As I look back on these, I have come up with a few post-pilgrimage reflections and subsequent tips.

First, don’t expect all your fellow “pilgrims” to be on the same journey as you.  Yes, they may physically walking the same path, but their intentions may not be the exact same as yours.  Despite these differences still treat them as fellow travelers and support them in their journey.  This may be that they are devoutly seeking the divine.  It may be that they are seeking a non-conventional (religious) spiritual experience. Some may be the curious trying to see or feel what it is all about.  While yet others, may be their for the sights (tourists, etc.).  What ever their motivation, their journey is their own.

Secondly, with the first point established, expect the “unexpected.”  For those with different religious, spiritual, or non-religious intentions, you will meet with “less than pious” acts by your fellows.  It is not unheard of for there to be swearing or irreverent humour.  I have come across drunkenness and anti-social acts.  And  more and more, don’t be surprised by what may seem to you unnecessary or even inappropriate selfy-ism.  Bottom line, don’t judge.  Your actions may be equally alien to them.

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Queues at Santiago de Compostela

Third, be ready for hustle and bustle at the site of your pilgrimage goal.  While some quieter shrines, and wayside churches may well be places for quiet contemplation, most of the famous sites will not be so tranquil.  I found the Via Dolorosa  awash with tourists, vendors, pilgrims and more.  Santiago de Compostela was packed for mass, and crowds waited outside.  This does not mean that they were not spiritually moving experiences, but rather that they were less than idyllic.

Fourth, make the most of the time you have.  Even with crowds, or with others with different agendas than your own, find time and a place to make the pilgrimage your own.  If you tend to seek solitude for prayer, consider visiting a side chapel, or neighboring church for your reflections.  Most cathedral cities have these.  If you are a emotional or tactile worshiper, find a time to touch the stones (as in the Holy Sepulchre) at less busy times of the day.

St Oswald Chapel 1

Side Chapel Peterborough Cathedral

Finally, whether the experience met your expectations, or no, remember to be thankful for the opportunity, and be sure to reflect on what blessings you have gained.

I hope that what ever your spiritual journey may be, that it will be blessed.




A Visit to Cavendish, Suffolk

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Suffolk Pink Houses in Cavendish

In a previous post on the lesser known villages of Constable Country and the Stour Valley, I talked about Kersey.  An equally beautiful, and historic village in that same region is Cavendish.

Cavendish has a large green, three pubs, and some wonderful period views.


The views take you back to a bygone era.  And the village does indeed have a past.  It was the home of the father and son (both John) Cavendish who were key in the putting down of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.  John the Younger is said to be the king’s servant who delivered the fatal blow to the Revolt’s already wounded leader, Wat Tyler.  In response the peasants in Suffolk retaliated by killing the elder John Cavendish at nearby Bury St Edmunds.


The village today has several remarkable houses, with detailed plaster work, and the striking Suffolk Pink.  The village is small but offers a lot in views and atmosphere.  After taking in the green, we went to the George (already mentioned in my Ancient Pubs posts), and had a quiet drink.


Suffolk is full of these wonderful time capsule villages, and it is well worth going off the beaten track to take them in.


Bible Ladies (Part 2): Eve (Mother of us all)


Genesis chapter 1 provides an overview of the creation.  From the beginning God made heaven, earth, land and sea, and all that is in them. The culmination of this creative act is found in verses 26 to 28, ” Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground [italics mine.]”

Humans male and female are created in God’s image.  Note we are in His image, not He in ours.  It seems this is more about nature than appearance. We are creative, and we are to fill the earth (with our own kind), and to subdue it (to our God-guided purposes).  Note Eve as well as Adam has this characteristic.

But chapter 2 goes on to embellish the story for us.  And we are given a more information about our relationship with God, and our purpose.  Verse 7 tells us, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  Yet, at this point Man (Adam) is the love human.  God places him in the paradise of Eden, “to work it and take care of it (verse 15).  God then tells Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die'(verses 16-17).”  This instruction given, God brings every creature that has been created to Adam to be named.  But none are found to be a suitable companion for him.

Okay, you might be thinking, “this is a lot on Adam, but the post is supposed to be about Eve.”  Good point!  But, this background on Adam’s need for a companion, and his instruction on the trees is vital in our study of Eve.

So here it goes, verses 20-22 read “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

This account of Eve’s creation is so powerful, especially in the realm of gender relations.  No suitable companion for Adam was found in all of creation.  Eve was made to fill a void in Adam’s life.  But the manner of her creation, is important. She was made from “a rib,” or more literally from “the flesh of his side.”

There is a rabbinic tradition that states the symbolism of this thus, “She was not made of his head, that she might lord over him. Nor was she made of his heal that he might master her. But from his side, that they might stand as equals.”  In fact, this unity is first expressed by Adam, ““This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ or she was taken out of man (verse 23).”

Humanity has been called the crowning glory of creation.  After the heavens, the earth, and all within them, humanity was made.  But Eve was the final creation, a glory of that glory.  A fulfillment of man.

Genesis 3 is the account of the entry of sin into the world.  When the serpent engineers the downfall of humanity. The serpent approaches Eve, and tempts her with the fruit of the forbidden tree.  She at first responds correctly, but with second hand knowledge, that it is not to be eaten, in fact it is not to be touched.  Interestingly, this is an instruction given to Adam, she was yet (at the time of its giving) to be created.  The tempter does not relent, and challenges her knowledge and she gives in.  Okay, abbreviated greatly, but she falls for it.  Was this only head knowledge for her?  Was it something she only knew from Adam (after all her depiction of it is different than God’s actual words). Did she doubt what Adam had told her? Or was it something revealed to her by God?  We may never know.  The result, however, is that she not only eats, but shares with Adam (who goes along with it, by the way).

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (verses 8-12).  Adam is quick to blame – both God (“the woman you put here”), and Eve (“she gave it”). So much for “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

“Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate (verse 13).” Okay, she passes some blame too, but does at least admit the fault (“I ate”).

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,” [And the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on – sorry couldn’t resist].  In the end the fall was by both Adam and Eve.  Yet, she usually get’s the blame.  What questions can we ask?  Did Adam make it totally clear to her?  If she did know, was Adam any less guilty by going along with it?  No, verse 17 suggests, he was even more guilty, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it’.” 

The chapter ends with the naming of Eve, verse 20, “because she would become the mother of all the living.”  Eve is the mother of us all.

What can we say of her then?  She is a crowning glory.  She is the mother of humanity (physically, but also in our character).  She was created to be a suitable partner, and equal in the work of Adam.  She was deceived (yes, she had human weakness), but was at least honest about it.

As we encounter the consequences of the fall, let us not be overly judgmental of our mother.  We too are daily tempted, and often fall. As we encounter sexism, remember the high place and purpose Eve was created for.  As we go about rebuilding our relationship with God (a gifted opportunity opened to us in Christ), let us approach it together “male and female” in spreading God’s word (even as our first parents worked together in Genesis 1: 28) to tame and tend God’s world.





Biscay Cruise (Part 6): French Ports


Cruise Terminal La Rochelle

Our voyage next took us to the port of La Rochelle midway up the French coast.  We had accomplished a lot on our Spanish leg, so when we found out that our berth was some 30 minutes outside the city, we decided to make it an additional “sea day” rather than facing a long shuttle journey.  Fair enough we missed out on what several fellow passengers said was a picturesque town, but we had some quality time of our own.

We took to the upper decks initially and look in the nearby Ile de Re.  It is beautiful, and the bridge connecting it to La Rochelle is truly impressive. This is a wonderful piece of engineering, and is nearly 3 kilometres long.  It is also a great backdrop to the water-bourne traffic below it. It is well worth seeing.  We sat and watched the sailboats, and noted the butterflies passing over the ship to and from the island and the mainland.


We then had some mocktails in an outer deck bar, and headed down to our little sanctuary of peace in the Andersons Lounge.  Soon enough, everyone was returning to Aurora, and the “Great British Sail-away” was held.  Music on the deck, and the outer portions of the ship bedecked with union jacks.  I thought the theme was a bit cheeky when leaving a French port, but good-natured rivalries have their place I guess.

Ready for Sail-away


We sailed away and headed north.  Our next stop, Cherbourg.  While technically no longer on the Bay of Biscay, it was nevertheless our final stop before returning to Southampton.

A shuttle service was put on for us and it dropped us near the Office de Tourisme Cherbourg. This is a useful little tourist centre. It has the usual assortment of local brochures, some multilingual staff to help with inquiries, and a small but basic souvenir bit with postcards, etc. There are two computer terminals as well, and a limited amount of seating, but this more intended for computer use, or as a wait to see staff. It is located in a good place near the square and makes a good starting point.


It was a very short walk to the Place du General-de-Gaulle and we found it a lively place which offered a great local atmosphere. There is a fountain, seating, cafes, and a great view of the old theatre. The square is the starting point for both a road train tour, and several horse drawn carriage tours came through here as well. This was a family friendly place, with a carousel as well as the tours, and local fish and cheese vendors had their stalls open as well. We bought some really wonderful Camembert which was sold as the cheese monger’s (le specialiste fromage) own brand, and a huge wedge of Port Salut, which we later ate with baguettes.
The square is a place to get a cup of coffee, and just soak up the local culture and atmosphere.


The theatre is an impressive building with a wonderful facade. But the Cafe du Theatre was rather underwhelming. It did seem popular (or at least busy), and offered some indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating gave good views of the fountain, carousel, and life in the Place du General De Gaulle, but the service seemed hit and miss, and the drinks rather dear for the quality. The latte was a bit bitter, and the tea rather average.


Theatre (cafe to left)

After leaving the square we returned to the ship. But not before seeing the Cite de la mar. This is a museum and aquarium which is housed in the old cruise terminal. This huge space is directly along side the Quai de la France, where cruise ships still dock. It is therefore super convenient for cruise passengers, in fact the entrance to the museum was literally metres from our gangway when we came off the ship. The complex also has a French nuclear submarine which can be explored.

Back on board we made our preparations for our return to Blighty.  It was an super cruise, and one which made me feel warmer to P and O.