Wednesday, August 31, 2005

When Worlds Collide 2

Latterday pilgrims in Canterbury, Sunday, 31 July.
(Hmm...Which will they visit first: the cathedral or the Starbucks right next door?)

After the beach walk and head-banging finale (see Aug. 26 & 27 posts), long-lost cousin Cyril #1 (there are 3; also 2 Mervins, 2 Laurences, 2 Dans & 2 Howards--all cousins of varying degree to each other & very confusing to keep straight) took me, Enid & her daughter to the cemetery of the Margate Hebrew Congregation. Founded by Cyril's father, it's tucked into a little corner of the Thanet Crematorium and contains maybe 200 graves.

Sad to say, this was the largest Stander gathering I'd ever attended. And these were the only family graves I'd ever seen, apart from my father's at Forest Lawn Glendale ( is a blessing and a curse). Apparently the latest deathly fashion in England, for Christians as well as Jews, is to fill in the grave surround with glass (stone?) chips in a bright bluey-green that contrasts hideously with grass--and anything else found in nature.

I remarked upon the headstone of Sadey G., who had the same unusual last name as the Texas descendents of a long-ago Stander. "Oh," said Enid, "she was Howard's godmother." Great: Even more loops in the family tree to track down.

Cyril at the tiny Margate Hebrew Congregation cemetery.

Cyril at the massive gateway by Canterbury Cathedral.

From the ultimate Jewish place of repose, Cyril then took me to the ultimate center of English Christianity and commerce: Canterbury. Along the way we passed a road sign in a roundabout proclaiming, "Minster-in-Thanet, A.D. 670." A few miles further on was a sign for "Fordwich - Smallest town in England, established 1066." America suddenly felt very new.

Which is not to say that there are no modern innovations in Kent: Outside the 16th century Flying Horse Pub in Canterbury is a signboard announcing "Lap Dance." And the area adjoining the old market in central Canterbury is as mallified as Freeport, Maine, with faux-old paving and a jumble of outlet stores. God forbid you should go anywhere and not be able to shop at Gap, Clinique or Laura Ashley. Or, worse yet, not find a Starbucks.

Even the houses are looking askance at the changes in Canterbury:

But I get ahead of myself. Before we visited central Canterbury, we had a typical Sunday dinner (roast lamb, roast beef & Yorkshire pudding) at The Phoenix, a typical Kentish pub that prides itself on serving real hand-pulled ales. Their charms were lost on me, as I loathe and despise beer, but I know that others feel differently; hence the photo below. (Note obligatory decoration of Kentish hops.)

Not a bad way to while away a Sunday afternoon...

Old school:

Canterbury College, a public (i.e., private) school for boys.

View from the front of the school:

That's the cathedral and old city wall, mostly built of that old Kentish standby, nasty sharp flints.

Detail of exterior wall, Canterbury College:

Trust me, you don't want to fall--or worse yet, be thrown--against this wall with bare arms. Or bare anything.

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