Friday, July 22, 2011

Country Roads, Take Me Home

'Sheep may safely graze' was the theme song for our country walk through Eynsford to Shoreham just outside of London-town. We had a WWII veteran named George and his two brothers leading our group and showing us the sights. Among other things (walking), we grazed through some Lavender fields (top picture) and sang Mormon hymns at a seemingly abandoned country church.
Since it was raining gatos and perros, we took some shelter in a small barn dedicated to all things lavender - everything from booze, to soap, to bread - all made from the purple stuff you see in the top picture. I instead chose to down some English Ginger Beer (non alcoholic, of course). Ginger ale pales in comparison. This stuff is more ginger than liquid. It was 'brilliant'!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cambridge and Wentbridge

We took a short jaunt to Cambridge University today. According to some "who's who" websites, it's been ranked as the top place to the wehld (as Englishmen pronounce it). Since I'd gone to see the midnight launch of the second part of Harry Potter 7, of which I had no emotional stock invested, I was decidedly a bit tired. The two hour bus ride didn't help the cause, but it was all worth it as we started 'punting'. Check out a link here to see a vid of exactly how it works.

Six anxious students. One square, wooden boat (called a punt). Tenish pounds, not the lb kind. One long, awkward, cumbersome, heavy pole to push it all. It's practically begging for a good time. My respect for both Englishmen and the Italians who push the 'punts', as they're called, has increased. I tried my hand at punting for a bit. It went as smoothly as me playing linebacker at Springville High would have gone.

We toured the rest of the university - grabbed some ice cream, pounded some sammiches Gardner style, ate my first turkish delight. We're all getting a bit cathedraled out, frankly speaking, so we avoided those today. Too often the talks of this saint and that saint and this stained glass window and that stained glass window, never seem to satisfy the inner craving for some real gospel-centered talk that somehow involves the Savior. I felt especially so at Westminster Abbey. But like my church's eleventh article of faith states:

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

That sums it up pretty well, I believe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

'H&M and Fake Fires are the Cheese'

  • I shopped for the first time by myself in two years, at none other than H&M. It's actually a Swedish based gig. Not Norwegian, but I'll take it. However, shop till you drop took on quite a different meaning this go-around: While I was perusing, I was listening to a little Third Eye Blind in honor of my good friend Andrew Dearden. Midway between trying some new pants on (Third Eye Blind still playing...heh...) I heard a siren-like sound outside. I took my headphones off, thinking that it was some newfangled rap song that I hadn't heard before. But it kept going. I peaked my head out the door, half dressed, you know, and it turns out it wasn't a drill. A lady rushed over to me, and using frightened English accent tones (hard to reproduce), she yelled at me to get out. I decided I'd ere on the side of burning down before I went out half dressed, so I popped my pants on and jaunted out with her. As we walked out, even more sirens. My pants and shirt were apparently still electro-tagged. Shoot. It all died down shortly after...but what a 30 minute clothes try-on!
  • Ventured to a local grocery chain named Waitrose. Since it's not me paying the bills, I snuck to the pompous cheese counter and gave it a go. After speaking with a supposed Lithuanian cheese connoisseur, I ended up buying 100g 'Cropwell Bishop' marbled cheese (politically correct for odd black streaks and blotches of black stuff embedded in white stuff called cheese) and 200g of 'Mull of Kintyre', sharp as a tack. The Cropwell Bishop variety tasted like a horse pasture smells. However, I found my mouth enjoying it after each go. You know, you have to let your pallet mature. I assumed the Mull of Kintyre must be good, because the Beatles sing about it. Color me impressed on that one, too.
Well, there it is, folks. Big Ben itself. Before checking it out, we went to the famous Westminster Abbey. I've read about it a veritable grundle of times in various pieces of literature - and it always seemed more like fiction than reality. Holy goodness, it's real. We're talking, if Barack Obama were to be buried there he'd be in the back corner behind Dickins, Darwin, Newton, Henry VIII. As we were waiting in line for their evening mass service (which was decidedly different than the Mormon method), I discovered that I was walking all over Charles Darwin's grave, like it was my J-O-B.

To think, for a moment, that I was standing on the grave of the man who I had conversations about with Norwegians for a good part of two years, was striking. I'd heard his name probably a few hundred (I'd wager a few thousand) times on my mission to Norway as people explained their 'religious' views. It was quite the experience.

It was quite the interesting historical experience, but as the clergy at the church-abbey explain, the primary purpose to its existence is worship. I found that very respectable. Sure, it's not my faith - it differs a good deal in it's views of Christ. I realized, like I have on so many other occasions, that their faith is in no way wrong - but that the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ could serve as a great way to learn more truth about God as He truly is. The music, the preaching, and the ceremonies were all interesting. Everything was very well planned and went smoothly. I did miss the application part, however. What can I do about what I'm hearing right now?, was my thought process. It was quite the experience nonetheless.

Big Ben was astounding. It stood there, keeping watch over the city (town?!). And this time, it wasn't on James Bond or Peter Pan. To be honest, before this experience in London, I hadn't quite understood what Englishmen were so proud about. After all, I do come from the land of the free and the home of the brave. I thought that everything outside of America was nice, you know, with a pitiful tone. My eyes have been opened to the fact that there truly are great places outside of the New Yorks, LAs, and Springvilles (....). Around every corner I turn, and I mean quite literally, there are historical sites dripping with memorials of people who shaped how my world is today. And I haven't even downloaded a Beatles song in my life. Figures.

To sum it up - although the United States still is the country of my choosing, liking, and I daresay loving (thanks to a touch of inspiration from Top Gun), I could definitely see myself thriving here - and not just as a tourist.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Tower of London: A 'Crown Jewel'

I had originally thought that the Tower of London was the Clock Tower that housed Big Ben. Turns out it's actually an old castle used for defense back in the day. It's been guarded since it's beginning by men in blue and red halloweeny costumes called Beef Eaters. I can only imagine what their kids say at school for career day. They're pleasant chaps at any rate.

Among other fairly plain attractions (to the American eye), was a medieval play, some interesting towers and fortresses, etc. However, I didn't know that the Crown Jewels were found in the Tower of London. Not going to lie, they were pompous in all senses of the word. They even had a conveyor belt in front of them so you wouldn't get caught googly-eyeying them for hours.

I managed in addition to pop a few pics of the red-guard man with the huge hat. I felt so sneaky...and so did the other thousand people that took a pic with him. I think he got the memo on the red, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

'What does a Gardner do for fun?' If you guessed cruise, you're wrong.

I guess if there's any way to know a Gardner - it's this picture. Me, Neal, Owen, and Grant (future superstar) - at 6am running ourselves to near death. And we're smiling. Some people call it torture, others, unnecessary conditioning from an unhappy Football coach.

We call it vacation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kensington Gardens...more pomp.

Took a stroll through Kensington Gardens tonight with the fam - with conversation topics ranging from Norwegian governmental policies to how much Heavenly Father has blessed us all. Good times. Each morning, I run through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. It's quite a dream, really.
As I run through the gardens, the shiny, golden, overly-decorated Albert Memorial stares with it's LOTR-like all-seeing eyes, to add yet more to the Londonese pomp.