Canterbury Cathedral Silver Lining

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL - Silver Lining

Date: 24th May 2011

A SILVER LINING

I was rather surprised when on Tuesday, my agent phoned to say there was a story and pictures in a Daily newspaper about my being a Volunteer Assistant Guide at Canterbury
Cathedral. Not so surprised about the story as that has been lurking since Easter when I was commissioned to write 1,500 words and the piece was not printed. However, I did wonder about photographs and when I saw the article, realised that I’d basically been ‘papped’ within the Cathedral – which is private property. Photos had been taken without my knowledge and sold on to a paper. In fact I am told that it is illegal to enter private property –the Cathedral and its precincts are private – and take unauthorised photos. If I’d been approached I would probably have assented but I do get angry at this invasion of privacy. Mind you this is among the least of invasions of my privacy over the years.

However, there was a positive outcome. Much to my astonishment, the local TV and various papers were interested in the story and if it does some good for and promotes visiting the Cathedral all to the good.

So yesterday, with Christopher Robinson the Cathedral PR by my side, I spent five hours at the Cathedral doing interviews etc.

When we entered the Cathedral with the cameras (relatively small and unobtrusive) for some unaccountable reason I was surrounded by a large group of French schoolchildren aged around 10+ I would guess. They looked at me expectantly and my first question was ‘Parlez-vous Anglais’ – met with totally blank faces. Then one girl – braver than the rest – murmured something which I didn’t comprehend. They had sheets of questions and the teacher explained that she was saying ‘Adam’ – our oldest and most famous Stained Glass window. Oh heck – so I launched into my schoolgirl French and my mind cleared itself of almost all but the most basic words – but we got by and I bade them Adieu. A few minutes later some boys asked or rather pointed to their question about the Martyrdom – home ground I thought until I realised they were from the same French group! Relaying the story of Becket’s relationship with Henry II and his subsequent murder was quite beyond me so we worked in tandem. I told the story sentence by sentence and the teacher translated. I think I might just write out and ask someone to translate for me the main details about the Martyrdom, Henry 1V and the Black Prince. These seem to be the questions which crop up most frequently and my French accent isn’t too bad so at least I could help somewhat.  

If a group requires a Proper Guided Tour in their own language, we can oblige in French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch etc. etc. but I'm only an Assistant - do not do Guided Tours but only stand in various places in the Cathedral to answer questions in English if required so I was totally unprepared to deal with the youngsters but did my best.

After the French, the TV people wanted more reaction and suggested I approach a couple poring over a small guide book. When I asked if I could help, the gentleman said ‘What are you doing here?’ I think quite a few of the Brits are surprised to see me in this very different role but of course the foreigners don’t know me from a bar of soap.

I won’t waste my one photo per blog – so will post one of the only King to be buried in Canterbury Cathedral - Henry lV.   The story goes that when the king's body was being brought from London to Canterbury by boat, there was a storm.  Sailors being superstitious, it was rumoured that Henry's body had been heaved overboard.  In Victorian times, the curious decided to open up his tomb - but not of course in the sterile conditions which would occur nowadays, and as the tomb was opened momentarily the onlookers saw the King's features before they crumbled and disintegrated - but he did have the Red Beard for which he was reknowned.  It is ironic that Henry iV's tomb stands immediately across the Chapel from that of the Black Prince.  Henry's nephew usurped the throne from the Black Prince's son. (The Black Prince died a year before his father so he never inherited the throne)  It was because of marrying his cousin that the Black Prince had to pay for Papal Dispensation and  the refurbishment of the Chantry in the Crypt which is now the Huguenot Chapel and I attend services there from time to time.
 

CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL - Silver Lining

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