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Archive for January, 2013

The excitement surrounding this day had been building up for weeks. It was the boys’ second visit to our Lincoln home in the UK and Liz’s first trip to Europe. Steve and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to find out which terminal they would be arriving at. Most international flights come into Terminal 3, but there was nothing on the boards about their flight. A roaming information person told us that we should go to Terminal 1. Luckily it was only a 15 minute walk between terminals.

They've landed 30 minutes early

They’ve landed 30 minutes early

At the Terminal 1 waiting area, the first stop was a visit to Costa Coffee, keeping an eye on the arrivals monitor. Their flight was showing an arrival of about 30 minutes early, as the jet stream was working overtime. As the estimated arrival time approached we finished our coffees and stood by the railing where the new arrivals would appear. And stood. And stood some more. Arriving passengers have to exit the plane, walk quite a distance to get to Immigration, get their passport stamped, walk further to the luggage claim to get their suitcases, thru the customs “Nothing to Declare” area and finally through the doors to the arrival area. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the small duty free shop that you have to walk thru before you get to the doors. About an hour later we greeted them with a big hug and kiss.

They Are Here!
They Are Here!

Steve and I planned out the whole trip the month before. We had many places to visit in a short amount of time ~ they were only here for 10 days. There was no time to waste so we drove east from London Heathrow airport directly to our first stop in Avebury. Avebury is a World Heritage Site made up of a number of prehistoric monuments in an area of a few square miles.

We packed sandwiches and other goodies along with bottles of water for the drive from the airport so that we did not have to stop for lunch, giving us more time to spend at our destinations.

These areas had torrential rains a few weeks before causing major flooding in this area of the country. In fact, it wasn’t until that day that we knew for sure if we were going to be able to get to Avebury. The satnav (GPS) took us through the small winding roads of the countryside and they became  muddy and wet, so Steve had to drive slowly through this area. Then as we got closer the road went up hill a bit and there were less puddles of water on the road, however the whole area was still a bit under water.

Avebury

Avebury

We followed the signs for Avebury and drove up to a field dotted with loads of large rocks. We pulled off to the side of the road and parked the car. There were puddles of water around the car and it was cold and windy. We all got out and put on our coats, scarves, gloves and hats and walked to a gate in the fence leading into the field, which was wet and muddy. Steve and the boys toughed it out and walked through the field lined with rocks.

Avebury

Avebury

Liz and I took a few pictures and got back into the car. It was the first time that we had an opportunity to talk since they landed a few hours ago. We had a great conversation as we waited for the guys to return from their walk in the field. They walked the length of the field in about half an hour.

Walking Back

Walking Back

We then headed down the road a few miles to see Silbury Hill, Europe’s largest man-made prehistoric mound. As we drove up to it, you could see how big it was. We pulled off the road to the small parking lot and opened the car doors to a cold wind. We again bundled up with our scarves, hats and gloves and walked down a wet pavement path that took us to the observation point of Silsbury Hill.

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill

After reading the information board and taking a few pictures, the boys decided that we would walk to West Kennel Long Barrow, about a mile down the road. It ends up that there was a closer place to park after all, but we did need our exercise, even in this cold, wet and windy English weather. The field that we needed to walk through to get to the mound was flooded and partly under water. Jonathan and Joshua staked out the area to see if there was another way around to walk up the hill to the Neolithic tomb. It was fenced in, so the only way up the hill was to walk through the field which had turned into a small lake. The boys were determined to see it and decided that they would take off their shoes and socks and roll up their trousers and walk across this lake, across the small bridge to the dirt path that would take them up the hill.

Crossing the "Lake"

Crossing the “Lake”

When they got to the path they put their socks and shoes back on and continued walking up the hill. Now remember that it was freezing cold, so Steve, Liz and myself walked back to the car and drove back to the closer parking area and waited until Jonathan and Joshua returned from their adventure, about an hour later. When I saw them coming down the hill I jumped out of the car to take a few pictures of the two of them. You can imagine the conversation we had as we drove to Stonehenge, our second stop. They were very happy that they did it.

The Return of the Explorers

The Return of the Explorers

It was about a half-hour drive to Stonehenge, where we parked at the visitor centre and were welcomed by a guide who gave us some information about visiting Stonehenge.

Near the Entrance to Stonehenge

Near the Entrance to Stonehenge

Since it gets dark so early at this time of year, the Stonehenge site closes at 4pm and it was already 3:30pm. We decided to come back the next morning as we had planned, and already had reservations at a hotel close by.

At the Visitor Centre

At the Visitor Centre

Stonehenge is an English Heritage Site. It is a bit disappointing that there is a rope around the stone monument stopping people from getting close and touching it. We have lived in the UK for nearly five years but until now had not visited Stonehenge.

Our Family Portrait in Front of Stonehenge

Our “Family Portrait” in Front of Stonehenge

I have to say that it was quite awesome, especially viewing it from the road as you approach it.

Liz and Jonathan

Liz and Jonathan

The hotel was in the village of Amesbury, which was very quiet in the lull between Christmas and New Years. The main road circled the main part of the village and we drove around the circle three times before choosing a local pub attached to a small hotel. We were prepared for a Fawlty Towers experience, but the staff was well organised and we had a very enjoyable dinner. Pretty good for the first full day of the kids’ ten day visit.

A Welcomed Dinner After a Full Day

A Welcomed Dinner After a Full Day

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The Council of Christians and Jews was formed during some of the darkest days of the Second World War to help Christians and Jews build bridges through dialogue and friendship. Last year was the 70th Anniversary of the Council of Christians & Jews. A number of the CCJ Branches celebrated though various local events during 2012.

In addition to the events at the branches, there have been a variety of celebrations throughout the UK by the National CCJ. One of my favorites was the special event  hosted by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, at Lambeth Palace in London.

My Invitation to Lambeth Palace

My Invitation to Lambeth Palace

As the Chairman of the CCJ Lincoln & District Branch I received a personal invitation from the Archbishop to attend a reception celebrating the important part that Christian-Jewish relations have played in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ministry over the decade in which he has been in office. The event was to highlight the work of CCJ as it celebrates its 70th anniversary, as well as the Church’s relations with the Board of Deputies of British Jews. It was extra special in the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury was coming to the end of his time in office at the end of December.

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace

I was able to ask one member from our branch to accompany me to this event. I chose Doug, the Treasurer of the CCJ Lincoln Branch. He has been a member of the branch for over fifteen years and I felt that this was a great way to reward him for all of his work in CCJ Lincoln.

We live three hours away from London, so Doug and I decided to take the train down to King’s Cross, one of the main train stations in London. I went online to book our tickets and saw that they had a senior fare, so I quickly called Doug and asked if he had a senior rail card, and he replied “Maxine, I have not been on a train in 30 years.” We both laughed and I continued to purchase regular priced tickets for each of us.

Kings Cross Station

King’s Cross Station

On the day of the event the weather was remarkable. The sky was blue, the air was fresh and crisp and the sun was shining. Doug drove to my house and left his car in our garage. We then took a taxi to the Lincoln train station. We were both very excited and looked forward to a very special day. After a three hour journey we arrived at King’s Cross Station, where we took a taxi to Lambeth Palace. Doug will tell you that it was quite a taxi ride through London. The driver was swerving in and out of the lanes as well as in between cars and buses with only an inch on each side to spare. I was enjoying the ride and was impressed with the way the taxi driver manoeuvred through the London traffic.

As we were passing landmarks, Doug was reminiscing about when he and his family visited London. Then he told me that it has been 30 years since he had been to London. I could not believe it, since it is only a three hour train ride into London from Lincoln. I realised how important and special this trip into London was for Doug.

We chose an early train into London not knowing what the traffic would be like and how long the taxi ride would take, and we wanted to arrive there in plenty of time. Well we did. In fact we arrived at the Palace about an hour early. The taxi dropped us off in front of the palace, we walked through the archway and was guided into the reception where we were warmly welcomed. After giving them our names we were escorted through the outside courtyard and into the Palace through the beautiful front doors.

Entering the Palace

Entering the Palace

As we entered, we were taken into the cloak room to hang up our coats and jackets and taken up a huge staircase that led to a long corridor decorated with lovely paintings of Archbishops dating back hundreds of years.

Lovely Corridors

A Lovely Corridor

When we arrived in the Guard Room, we were offered a cup of tea (very English). It was only Doug & I who had a cuppa (as they say here in jolly old England). That was the advantage to arriving early. Another advantage was that they allowed me to wander around the many hallways and rooms on that floor to explore on my own and take pictures (one of my favourite things to do everywhere I go).

A Lovely Room

A Lovely Room

One more advantage was that we were able to choose our seats. Of course we wanted to sit in the perfect seats, front and centre. We were told that we could take pictures during the presentation, so I took that into consideration when choosing our seats.

Best Seats in the House

Best Seats in the House

After half an hour of wandering the palace and taking pictures I returned to the Guard Room where the presentation was about to take place. By now the other guests began arriving. I welcomed those that I did not know by introducing myself and learning about them and which CCJ Branch they represent and also meeting the various religious leaders. Some I already knew and others I got to know. I had had the privilege of meeting The Archbishop of Canterbury a few years earlier at a Jewish event in London, where I was able to talk with him and have a picture taken with him.

The Guard Room

The Guard Room

When he came into the Guard Room, he was surrounded by those taking part in the presentation. However as I walked by him, he looked up at me and smiled and nodded his head as he had remembered me from our first meeting. It was a special moment for me, a ‘Max’s Magical Moment’.

Everyone took their seats as the event began. There was an wonderful introduction about The Archbishop of Canterbury and the important part that Christian-Jewish relations have played in his Ministry over the decade which he has been in office. They highlighted the work particularly of the Council of Christians and Jews as they celebrate their 70th Anniversary and the Church’s relations with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury

Then it was time for the Archbishop to speak. He gave a beautiful speech, an account of many of the things that he had accomplished in his Interfaith work, and thanked the people from these organizations that contributed and supported his work over the past ten years, including all of us from the CCJ branches in the UK. Then there were a few more speeches by the leaders of CCJ and Board of Deputies of British Jews as well.

We were all invited into another beautiful room for refreshments and to mingle with one another. They even had a kosher company cater the whole event. All of the food and sweets were delicious. I introduced Doug to some of the people that I knew including Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism and a President of CCJ, and Revd David Gifford, Chief Executive of CCJ. Rabbi Danny introduced me to the Priest of the Greek Orthodox Church of England. Revd David introduced me to other religious leaders and the Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs to The Archbishop of Canterbury. We had some very interesting conversations and I learned something new from each of them.

Doug, Maxine, the Archbishop, Rabbi Danny, Judith

Doug, Maxine, the Archbishop, Rabbi Danny, Judith

As we left Lambeth Palace, I caught a glimpse of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, sparkling in the evening sunset, and I realised how fortunate I was to be having Max’s Magical Moments all the time.

Big Ben and Houses of Parliament

Big Ben and Houses of Parliament

To top off the day, Rabbi Danny Rich joined Doug and myself for dinner at King’s Cross Station as we waited for our trains and shared with each other what the day had meant to us and what an important role Interfaith plays in our communities.

Magical Max

Magical Max

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