Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 8 - Part 1 - Peterborough Cathedral

Tuesday 3rd April 2012
We have made a neat getaway today. We planned to be driving away by 8:40. A slight delay checking out because they were very busy at the Bull and Swan but we’re on the road with just a little slippage.  Tomtom takes us to Peterborough via the main roads, which I suspect is a rather round about route but not to worry. So long as we get there it’s fine with me today.  It’s striking how much further progressed spring is as we scoot along the motorway.  Leaves are emerging on the trees giving an effect of a long tall patchwork of green and white in the roadside.
We find an easy parking spot near the cathedral and then discover it’s maximum half hour, but we don’t know where else to go so we wander into the Cathedral as a bit of a reccie. We are met by a friendly greeter who tells us that there is a service underway that should finish in about 15 mins. We can go in and just observe the rest of the service if we choose, but no wandering about and no photos. We need to move the car anyway, so we ask for directions to a better parking spot, and this along with a handy map is cheerfully provided.  We’ll easily kill 15 mins moving the car. The best parking for the cathedral is in Bishop’s Road. We pay and display (£1.20 for one hour and then similar additional for extra hrs- bring your coins with you) and as we walk along the road looking around quizzically, a kind woman asks us where we’re heading and makes sure we’re on the right track. We can't help pausing to take in the Bishop's garden and enjoy the fragrance of the spring flowers.
We pass the tourist information centre, which is in the arcade at the end of St Peter’s Road, and emerge into a large town square. Hubby has a quick go at getting cash from a machine. No joy. No time to muck about.  We move on.  The clouds have thickened since we’ve been gone and there’s not the deep shadows making photography so challenging. I am a little surprised to see that small statues have survived across the face of the cathedral.  It really is a very beautiful building.
We enter the cathedral and opt for the souvenir book £5 plus photo permit £3.  Peterborough cathedral is also free entry with voluntary donation so we make a similar donation to what we did at Norwich. There are panels on one side of the cathedral telling the story down the ages, but as I’m in a rush I’m more keen on just exploring.  Of course the above makes it sound like I conduct the proceedings in the logical order.  What really happened is the people on greeting duty make the appropriate noises and I just reply … “Good morning.  Is that the original ceiling?” no doubt in a tone of awe.  Yep. Dates from the 13th Century. “Wow, it must have been amazing when the whole roof was painted”.
Along the way it is noted that “from your accent it sounds like you’ve come a long way”  “Australia. It’s a shame we don’t have more time here. Unfortunately we have a train to catch”.  Perhaps it’s this or perhaps it’s my obvious sense of awe and enthusiasm but some excellent spirit moves one of the greeters to take a quick break from the desk leaving his colleague holding the fort. The objective is to show me something that is not in the book I’ve bought about the cathedral.  In one section of the cathedral on the back of a wooden screen where the casual visitor probably wouldn’t notice it there is the remains of colour where Cromwell and his oh so lovely vandalistic cretins weren’t quite as successful in removing the paint as they clearly hoped.  The little bits here and there give you just a faint idea of how spectacular the whole effect would have looked.  You know I’m really developing a strong aversion to Cromwell and his cronies! It’s one thing to read in the histories about the civil war and the commonwealth, quite another to be here seeing what they did to these sacred places.

It is also noted for us that the tessellated floor is also original and it’s very elaborate. It’s showing some signs of wear after all these hundreds of years, but the skill of the artisan who was brought in from Italy for the job is clear.  As I understand was the typical thing in those times, he would not let anyone watch him work.  The floor through the choir is much more recent marble. Italian.  I can’t help but wonder if Cromwell hadn’t destroyed the magnificent artwork here and all around the country, perhaps places like Burghley would have had a more local source of inspiration.  I guess it’s just as likely that familiarity may have bred contempt in any case.
We wander around the cathedral marveling (as you do) and snapping the odd photo, but really, the thing I just can’t take my eyes off is the ceiling.  The only section that is not original is a small area where Cromwell and his mob used the images of the saints as target practice, so that bit is a later (but still impressively old) reconstruction. It's the blue section at the bottom of the photograph.
We haven’t had a lot of time here, but we are so glad we made the effort.  We have set ourselves a deadline with an allowance of an hour to get to the train.  We can't help but stop to admire the town square on the way back and we take the opportunity to extract money from a hole in the wall.
We’re slightly late to depart and it all goes smoothly until we can’t find the Enterprise Car Rental premises.  We phone and get directions, twice,and eventually we are there. Now it seems pretty clear we’re going to miss the train.  It’s a costly development as tix now cost three times the price of the ones I had booked, but we don’t regret our choices this morning.
Enterprise drops us to the train station. Peterborough station is in a bit of chaos at the moment with construction works and we are not familiar with the layout. I think of the comment that you simply cannot hide the fact that you are a tourist because no matter what you wear to try to fit in local people don’t constantly gawp around themselves.  Oh how true.  I’m gawping to the max and no doubt looking a bit lost along with it. We have only missed the train by about 5 minutes, so there’s a little time to wait. On our way to the correct platform a well dressed lady insists on helping me down the stairs with my bags. :o) Have I mentioned that people here are SO nice :o)
It’s then a simple business of simply hopping on the train and a quick trip to King’s Cross St Pancras.

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