Scotland, September 7 – 14, 2014
Having often told American friends that the gorgeous scenery of Scotland is due to the fact that it rains every day, I am now forced to eat my words and report that for the whole of last week there was not a drop of rain. On the contrary, the sun was so hot that I had to use sunscreen, a substance usually as unnecessary in Scotland as air-conditioning! I was staying with friends in the village of West Linton in Peeblesshire, just a 20 minute drive south of Edinburgh. Their gardens were full of flowers, including a huge bank of sweet peas whose scent was wonderful. I did little but sit on their deck with a book or two and a glass or two of something cool and refreshing.
A couple of days I went into Edinburgh and met up with various friends at the New Club, which in true British fashion (like the 13th century New College, Oxford) is actually the oldest club in Edinburgh. Everywhere the talk was of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, and windows all over the city proclaim Yes or No. I liked one which said “Aye” and another which said “Mebby”. Most said Yes, but that is not necessarily a certain indication of the way the vote will go, since several windows with No posters in them have been broken by Nationalists. In fact, the more I see and hear of the bullying tactics of the Scottish National Party, the more I hope that my fellow Scots will rejoice that we are also British and vote a solid No majority on Thursday.
On Sunday I celebrated the Mass of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the 14th century Rosslyn Chapel where the Priest in Charge is my old friend Fr Joe Roulston who used to assist me when I was Rector of St Michael & All Saints in Edinburgh. The chapel was built by Knights Templar and is quite magnificent. Those of you who have read “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown or seen the movie will recall the crucial role this little chapel played in the story. The famous “Prentice Pillar” stands behind the High Altar and is an elaborately carved pillar, so much more ornate than all the other pillars that it was rumored that within it was hidden something very precious, perhaps even the Holy Grail, the cup used by our Lord at the Last Supper. I think it is more likely that it once contained a relic of the True Cross, and if so, what a privilege it was for me to be offering the Mass of the Holy Cross just a few feet from that pillar.
I came south to London yesterday, leaving Edinburgh in that thick mist and fine rain which had been remarkably absent all week, and am now on my way to Norwich to visit Canon Jeremy Haselock, who as well as being Sub-Dean of Norwich Cathedral and a Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen is also a Guardian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Clemency in Philadelphia. I will continue this travel blog from there.