I've just returned from a short trip to Berwick upon Tweed. Passed it loads of times, passed through it several times, but never stopped there before. It's a nice wee town just inside England on the east coast (about two miles south of the border with Scotland) and it has a lot of history within its walls.
At short notice I was invited to spend New Year with a friend's family, so we went down yesterday and I came back today, leaving my friend there until tomorrow. It was a good time, and I even enjoyed the two walks round the walls/ramparts in the very high, very cold wind!
We even went to Evensong at the local parish church, one of very very few which were built during the Commonwealth period (i.e. Cromwellian). Interesting service! When we arrived there were nasty "elevator" style carols being played through the sound system. The vicar then arrived and noisily clumped his way down to the front where he essentially flicked a switch cutting the (shite) music dead. He was wearing a longish black Crombie style overcoat over which he wore a black stole (i.e. no cassock). He started the service by saying that for various reasons the organist/choirmaster couldn't be there so there would be no music. He went on to say that his daughter was having contractions at that moment and he had to get back to the house ASAP to look after children while she went to the local hospital, two people from the congregation were in hospital "passing over" by which I guess he meant in the act of dying, several people were unwell, it was awful weather, and basically he was sorry the service was going to be cut short, but thanks for coming anyway (which came across about as insincere as I suspect it was meant). He sang the Ferial responses very flat and of the 8 in the congregation I suspect I was one of the few who sang them back to him (couldn't quite decide whether to alter the flatness but in the end thought it'd be easier not to rock the boat, notwithstanding any flatness with which I normally sing!). At one point he announced we would now say the Song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis, before almost shouting "Oh no, I mean the Magnificat" just as I was wondering why we were missing out the first canticle! OK he had other things on his mind, but rumour has it that this performance was not entirely out of character! Oh, and we had communion at the end of Evensong from the reserved Host. Bizarre. No communion service, just a request for anyone who wanted it to come up to the altar where we said the "we do not presume to come to this Thy holy table ...." bit, which despite it being probably more than 10 years since I took part in a service with that form of words, I remembered word-perfectly. Good old Anglican Pavlovian response!
Today we took a trip across the causeway to Lindisfarne, the first time I'd been, which is slightly strange because I lived in Northumberland for a few years but never got round to visiting. It was a getting a bit too dark, a wee bit too cold and a big bit too windy to have appreciated it properly but I saw enough to make me want to go back for another look during a better part of the year (two pubs!).
Anyway, just back, so need to chill out a bit after the drive (in the wind!).
Happy New Year to everyone!