Thursday, May 24, 2007

Brighton Festival

The entire month of May is devoted to the arts in Brighton-- and to expanding the tourist season! There are countless productions, exhibits, displays, concerts, and activities to see. We only participated in a tiny smattering of what was on offer, but we throughly enjoyed it. The first event we attended was the children's parade. All the schools in Brighton get to be in the parade and unlike America, there are no cars allowed in the parade! It is all on foot. There were amazingly creative floats and costumes. The theme was Inventions. I know we posted a bit about it before, so I'll just put a photo or two up.

This school had the Heinz ketchup squeeze bottle as their invention. I though that was really hard, but they were great. Don't you just love the tomatos?

And this school had SCUBA as their invention. I thought the air tanks were really clever-- they're made of 2 liter bottles.
Iain was in a very grouchy mood that morning! I have no idea why, but he really didn't appreciate the parade very much, as you can see.
Later in the month, we went on a tour of what used to be the village of Preston, but has now been swallowed up by Brighton. Our church is in the Preston area and my favorite park in Brighton is Preston Park, so I was quite interested in the tour. We learned that the park used to be farmland and was purchased and landscaped by the city of Brighton in 1883. You can still see some of the poplar and elm trees planted at that time. We also climbed around the rockery, saw some old cottages and an old church, and the grave of the victim of one of Brighton's most notorious murders. Man never changes, does he? We were told not to photos during the tour, so I didn't. As we were heading home, I did take a picture of this beautiful tree in the park.
We went on another tour of Brighton's Back Passages. We saw lots of dumpsters and rubbish, but also lots of beautiful little homes tucked away in odd corners. After that tour we stopped for lunch in the Lanes.

Brian and Iain spent the morning together another weekend checking out the old WW2 air raid shelter at the primary school in the nearby village of Whitehawk. It was built by concerned parents in 1939-- construction on it began several months before war was actually declared. Lots of thought and care went into building the shelter in the thirties, and much thought and care has been given to restoring it as well. One elderly employee of the school thought it should be made into a museum and made it happen. This gentleman led the tour that Brian was on, which he enjoyed very much. Many schools still have these shelters, but most are closed up and deemed unsafe for public access, so it is really great that Whitehawk is preserving this piece of history.

Here is a photo of children actually using a similar shelter at a neighboring school.
Here is the interior. There was a wooden bench along the wall, which is gone now, and there are brick partitions to protect the children from flying shrapnel. I shudder to think of it.

The last thing we did was....

the circus! Iain LOVED it. Our friend Sophie was holding him and he was almost jumping off her lap he was so excited. He grinned and clapped and bounced for the first twenty minutes, then lost interest. He eventually fell asleep! He had a great time, and so did I. There was some filler, but some of the acrobatic acts were awesome!

Here is the crew before the show. Sophie, Darren, Lizzie, and Rowena.

And here we are with our tired man after the show!

There's still lots going on in town, but for us the Brighton Festival is over because we're going to SPAIN on Saturday! I'm absolutely thrilled to have the chance to go and we will certainly post pictures and memories on ye old blog when we return! Adios!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Long summer days

Brian here again: I was up very, very early on Saturday to catch the 5:35 train because I had to be in Otford by 8:00. I wasn't back home again until just before midnight.

The great advantage of such a long and tiring day was enjoying the full length of the summer days. The sky started to get light just before 4:30 am and didn't get completely dark until almost 9:45 pm! And we're still a month away from the longest day of the year!

This definitely makes up for those long December nights, when it doesn't begin to get light until just before 8:00 am and the sky is completely dark by 4:00 pm.

But despite its length, Saturday was a wonderful day. It was a training day at Oak Hall in preparation for our trip to Spain, for which we leave on Saturday. It was held at Oak Hall's headquarters at Otford Manor. Click here to see photos of the manor, but be warned that they don't nearly do it justice. Its huge grounds are right on the North Downs Way, with a magnificent view of the valley below. The house is large enough for all of Oak Hall's 30 full-time staff members to live and work in it and while hosting numerous events, both large and small. I met dozens of lovely people, enjoyed some good food, and was very encouraged by my time there, and now I am ready for our holiday. We'll be staying directly on the beach at Pineda del Mar, with daytrips to Barcelona, Montserrat, and the Pyrenees. Click those links and check out the photos! And we'll be sure to post our own photos once we return.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Unexpected (and Undeserved) Blessings

When I don't get my way, I still act like I'm two. I get angry, I whine, I pout. This is something I desperately want to change about myself; I want to be able to say "Thy will be done" and have complete peace and faith that it will be.

Sometimes I try to pysch myself up when I don't get what I want. I'm going to work harder and better and be meaner and sharper than anyone and take what I want. But this invariably ends with me making matters worse, or not changing the situation in the slightest.

So often it seems, it is only when I come to the end of myself and 'fess up that I can't do it that any progress is made. When I cry out to the Lord for forgiveness for all my immature screw ups, he remembers me. And then he shows me that he doesn't need my help in working all things for good, and that he delights in showing his strength through my weakness. When I finally surrender "my right" to whatever it is I'm demanding, and all my plans for achieving that goal-- when I stop believing in myself and give up, so often he is kind and gives me what I couldn't achieve with all my useless striving and scheming. Genuinely letting go and rejoicing in humility isn't easy. It feels so wrong. But it is the most right thing that I know how to do.

"...for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:11-13

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mothers Day!

To our moms, and to every other mom out there, have a wonderful Mothers Day! I think Mr T says it best:

Saturday, May 12, 2007

An afternoon in the park

One of the best months to be in Brighton is May, for that is when the Brighton Festival and the Brighton Fringe Festival occur. There are so many events happening all over the city that one could not possibly attend them all. Every venue in Brighton -- whether indoor or outdoor, small or large -- is overrun with drama, music, art, academics, politics, history, tours, talks, family events, and more.

A week ago we attended the Brighton Festival's opening event, the children's parade. All the schools in the area participated. Our friends Sophie and Lizzie joined us for the parade, and afterward we all went to Preston Park for lunch. Of all the people here at the university, no one has been as kind and welcoming to us as Lizzie and Sophie. We're blessed to have such friends. Here is a video of what we did after lunch:

Both Liz and Sophie are fellow students with me in the intellectual history program, so needless to say there were a few jokes made about the serious and sophisticated ways in which intellectual historians spend their free time.

We have already attended a couple Brighton Festival/Fringe Festival events and have plans for several more, including the Cirque Surreal on Monday. Perhaps we'll post more about the Brighton Festival later.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Our fair city

Brian here again: Our friend Liz thinks Brighton is the greatest city in the world, and she's been to some incredible cities. Honestly, we didn't think much of Brighton when we first got here. I don't know what we were expecting, but this wasn't it.

The longer we've lived here, though, the more we like it. It really hit us when Jordan's family visited. As we were showing them around our new home, we remembered what it was like the first time we'd seen it, and we realized how much it's grown on us. There are a few things we would change about Brighton, but this is our new home and we love it very much. We'll definitely miss it a lot when we leave.

Here's a fun video of Brighton:

We think you should all come visit us and see for yourselves if Lizzie's claim is true. If you flew into Heathrow and traveled through Victoria Station in London, this is what you would see:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Just Thankful

O God beyond all praising,
we worship you today
and sing the love amazing
that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder
at every gift you send,
at blessings without number
and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you
and wait upon your word,
we honour and adore you,
our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
accept the love we bring,
that we may know your favour
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we'll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.

--Michael Perry

Oh Lord, how good you are to me. How richly you have blessed me. How quickly I forget all that you have done for me. Thank you, oh my father. Oh love that will not let me go, how thankful I am to you!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

England is beautiful

Brian here again: England is far more beautiful than we could have imagined, and spring must be its most beautiful season of all. It began (quite early, we're told) a couple months ago with the blooming of the daffodils and other larger wildflowers. You might remember how absolutely lovely a time early spring was from our previous posts. The line in the Cranberries song, Daffodil Lament, will forever mean so much more to me having been here: 'and the daffodils look lovely today'.

The early spring flowers are all gone now. They've slowly wilted and died away over the last couple months. But by no means is spring over: now there are literally millions of tiny, utterly beautiful flowers anywhere you set your eyes. They're small enough that you might not notice them at first; some of them are downright tiny. But if you pay careful attention, you will notice some of the most astounding beauty in all the earth:

In the photo below there are no less than a half-dozen different varieties of flowers, each growing in all its glory without the slightest help from man.

And it's not just the flowers--the trees have all gone into bloom over the past couple months as well:

Even the motorway is lined with amazing flowering trees:

The one and only kind of flowering tree that I have ever seen that is more beautiful than the ones here in England is the Flamboyant (or 'Royal Poinciana' or flamboyante, en espaƱol, depending on where you see one), which is originally native to Madagascar but grows everywhere in the Caribbean basin and surrounding subtropical areas. Flamboyantes adorn the Finca Vigia, Hemingway's home near Havana, among other places. We first noticed them during our trip to the Virgin Islands; I remember some particularly stunning ones beside the pool at our hotel and at Government House just outside Road Town on Tortola. We've seen them in South Florida, too, but they were nowhere near as brilliant and colourful as the ones in the Virgins.

I think England's most beautiful plant of all, though, is this crop plant:

It's called oil seed rape, and it is the chief ingredient to vegetable oil. Despite its harsh-sounding name, I think a field of oil seed rape is one of the most stunning things I have ever seen:

And to think that I took every one of these photos while on a brief walk after lunch today, meaning all this beauty is within walking distance of our home. How wonderful it is to live in such a beautiful place! This last photo illustrates exactly what I mean: here is the entire University of Sussex campus, surrounded on all sides by the preserved land of the South Downs. We are so blessed to be here!

A trip to Queen's Park

A few weekends ago we decided to check out a park here in Brighton that we hadn't visited yet. So we loaded Iain in the backpack and hopped on the 25C to Queen's Park. Here are my boys on the top of the double decker, enjoying their front row view.

Queen's Park has a pond with oodles of gulls swimming in it (probably not quite what the park designer envisioned) and a playground, a cafe, and lots of green space. It was packed with families enjoying the long-dormant sun. We took Iain to the playground to try out some of the equipment. Swings are still his favorite!

Papa has been showing Iain all the springtime flowers. They're so pretty and interesting! Unfortunately, he has a definite taste for some of the tiny daisies that grow around campus. I have to clear an area of ground if I want to put him down!

After playing on the playground we walked around the park, and then got ice cream while watching everyone around us.

We had a lovely afternoon with our dear boy.

Spring Barn Farm

Last week our playgroup went on an outing. We went to Spring Barn Farm near Lewes. We had mums and little ones all piled into a 15 passenger van-- including me with my crutches! I had a great time seeing all the baby animals. Iain had to stay in the stroller most of the time since I had to use my crutches, so I don't think he enjoyed it as much as I did.

Here are some of the lambs. They were so precious. They scrambled to the fence everytime the kids came to see them because they let the kids bottle feed the lambs. So everytime they see a little one, the lambs rush over hoping for food. Iain's fingers were just the right size for sucking on. He thought that was strange, but funny!

Those little animals were so adorable. Spring is definitely the season to visit a farm!