Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Some thoughts on returning from holidays

I'm back from a three-week holiday in the UK. First week in London, with day trips to Oxford & Cambridge; second week in Glasgow, with day trips to Mallaig (Harry Potter country!),Edinburgh & St Andrews (Presbyterian country!); third week in the Cumbria Lakes District, with day trips all over the place.

Some reflections:
  • Australia sure is a long way away from the UK (*yawn*) (*jet-lag*);
  • The UK is full of history. Things built in the 1800s are new - like the "new" palace of Westminster and the "New Wing" at Magdalene College, Oxford (where C. S. Lewis had his rooms);
  • I love the museums. I saw artefacts relevant to Biblical times in the British Museum in London and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Highly recommend the Imperial War Museum;
  • Most of the museums & galleries in the UK are free & have cheap audio tours which provide an excellent commentary;
  • Scotland has, given its small size & population, made a disproportionate impact on world history through its heavy engineering - Glasgow, in the mid 19th century, constructed more than half Britain's shipping and a quarter of all locomotives in the world - and in heavy intellectuals - notably the philosopher David Hume, but also poets like Robert Burns, and scientists like James Watt, whose improvement of the steam engine enabled the industrial revolution; Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone; Lord Kelvin, who created the Kelvin scale down to absolute zero; and Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin;
  • The major church denominations (Church of England; Church of Scotland) are stuffed. Widespread lack of confidence in the Bible has gutted their ability to proclaim Christ, with the result that more & more church buildings are turning into pizza parlours;
  • But within the denominations, there's plenty of Evangelical churches valiantly holding the line and preaching Christ. The flagships are St Helen's Bishopsgate in London and St George's Tron in Glasgow - but they're not alone;
  • The quality of the speeches in parliament at Westminster were far, far above anything I've heard from Canberra;
  • The Global Financial Crisis has hit the UK and Europe much harder than they have Aust. The whole of Europe is reeling from unemployment and financial and corporate collapses. When I was there, the UK govt was debating a financial bailout for Greece - as in Europe financially assisting the whole country of Greece. This economic hardship might be behind the recent flare-up of sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland;
  • UK is dog-friendly. Or maybe I should say dog-indulgent. Everyone seems to own a dog. Or two. Or six. Shops put up signs saying "dogs welcome." People work as professional dog walkers - as in taking dogs for walks. The trade-off is a 1,000-pound on-the-spot fine for not cleaning up after your dog;
  • Sydney winter weather is more pleasant than UK summer weather (*wet*) (*cold*) (*grumble*);
  • But the benefit of all that rain is that UK fields really are green. I love the rolling hills with ancient stone walls with lambs gambolling and cattle grazing. Aust really is a wide brown land;
  • Speaking of a wide brown land: I still call Australia home.

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