Friday, July 25, 2014

More England

 I met a couple through some internet research who live in Stockend and bought their house thirty years ago from some Cook cousins.  They invited us over on Sunday afternoon and gave us a walking tour of the area. We walked the narrow lanes ad climbed over fences and shimmied down hills, walking on ground that was my family's home for several generations.  Its hard to imagine leaving such a place for the relative desolation of Sugar City, Idaho, but that's what Martha and Arthur did, and George too.  Great grandpa George first actually in December of 1905 he left with some missionaries and other emigrating saints, and then the rest of the family the following April, 1906.  Why Sugar City? I don't know, except that there was a missionary from Rockland, Idaho serving in Stroud, (Elder Robert Kelly) and Rockland was the destination point that George Franklin put on the passenger manifest when he traveled to the US. on the same boat with Robert Kelly and dozens of other returning missionaries and emigrating saints, so reason would suggest that George (then just 15) was traveling with Robert, and likely staying with the Kelly family at least briefly until he got his footing in his new country.
Here's a shot of the country lane that leads o Randall's farm.

The LDS Church has a long history in this part of the world, and not always a pleasant one. For many years, the city of Stroud, I am told, would not allow Mormons to build a chapel in town, so they had to find places to hold meetings, including this community hall, and members homes. Martha and Arthur would have brought their family here, among other places, and they were baptized just down the road at a public bath house.  
This is the Methodist Church in Stroud where some of the family attended church.
About fifteen minutes south east of Stroud is Kemble. And this is Kemble Station, where, in 1855, GGGG grandpa Jeremiah Franklin was struck by a train and killed. His widowed wife, along with their young children ended up moving in with oldest son John William Franklin (my GGG grandfather).  John had been married a few years earlier and had children of his own, and was now responsible for both families.  Here's the newspaper article about Jeremiah's death:

This is Lower Street in Ruscombe near Stroud where in 1860 much of the Franklin clan lived in a row of cottages. We walked up and down the street to get a feel for what it would have been like to live along side so much family (something like two dozen Franklin brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles all lived right near each other.

In Liverpool, our subterranean Pod hotel.
A fun street in Liverpool.
We took a tour of old Liverpool docks that are now mostly burried beneath streets and a shopping mall.  It was in Liverpool at the new version of these docks where Martha and Arthur and their children emigrated to the United States on the SS Cymric, a White Start Line boat that shipped both people and livestock.
This fantastic looking building is the old headquarters of the White Start shipping company.  That's the same company that owned the Titanic.

Liverpool skyline.
Between the research and the conference in London, we spent a day in North Whales on a whistle stop bus tour.
We were in England for ten days and we only had one day of real rain.  The rest of the time we had just the right amount of cloud cover.
Conwy castle from the bus window.  It cost omething like 45 million pounds in today's money, and King Richard I only spent a few weekends here, or so they say.
This castle is one of the major reasons we did the bus tour of North whales.  I don't know what it is about medieval castles...maybe its just Hollywood, but I feel like a castle offers such sense of history, of a glimpse into the past that is hard to get anywhere else....also a simultaneous sense of man's ability to accomplish big things, and also the ultimate transitory nature of those big things.  We can make really big sand castles, but the ocean always wins--even if it takes, as in the case of Conwy, more than a 1000 years.

These narrow streets in North Whales were much more fun to walk around then the narrow streets in Stroud were to drive around.
And just like that, we are out of the village, and into a national park.  Still farm land here though.  Sheep. Lots of sheep.
A view of the street in front of our hotel near Earl's Court station.
This is a view from the window of the theater where we saw War Horse.  All the chimney's made me think of Marry Poppins.  And War Horse, by the way, was really amazing--hit all the notes that a good piece of war lit should (i.e. it showed how war brings out the best and worst of humanity).

We had one full day in London together before my conference started, so we hit all the major sites.  Buckingham Palace was surprisingly uninspiring.  I think its something about the neoclassical architecture--it brings to mind banks and schools more than palaces and monarchies. 
The Book of Mormon is playing in London and is, apparently, very popular.  I haven't seen the show, but I hope I'm one of those Mormons who can laugh at himself.  Still, its too bad such an oversimplification of missionary work is garnering so much attention.  However, since those of us on the "inside" of the missionary story have yet to tell a compelling version of the story for a national audience, its no wonder the guys behind South Park own the stage.  Hmmm... 

So many old books. So little time (and money).
As I understand it, this little alley of shops was the inspiration for Daigon Alley in the Harry Potter series.  No Goblin's bank though.
One day to see most of London was a little overwhelming.  Here's the dizzing scene in front of the house of parliament.
One of our last stops was the tower bridge.  A great view of the Thames.

We couldn't leave this part of London without walking through Bloomsbury--one-time home to Virginia Woolf, among others.

We ended our long day in London with a 45 minute boat ride down the Thames back to our end of town.  It wasn't a tour boat, but a river bus and it only cost us a few pounds each. We got a great view of London and a nice bit of time to rest our feet.  By the end of the day I had begun to question the value of the "go here and look at this famous place" approach to tourism.  I did enjoy all the places we saw (take Buckingham palace, for instance.  We walked past the main gate and dozens of people were being escorted through, all of them wearing their finest clothes--men in police and military uniforms, suits and ties, and women in smart dresses and fantastic hats.  Someone told us they were being presented to the queen in honor of public service, or something like that), but I think at a certain point one reaches saturation with such looking. 

I remember going to the grand canyon and having the same experience. The shuttles took us from one overlook to the next and we oohed and ahhed appropriately, but at a certain point in the day I'd had my fill of looking. I wanted to get down in the canyon. To engage my body in the memory, and not just my mind. 

And maybe that's what it comes down to--wanting to experience and remember a place bodily.  That's why I always remember the food I eat when I travel--because I've used food to bind myself to that place. 

I'd seen enough churches and museums and statues.  What I hadn't had enough of was people.  A person, a life to connect to the places I was visiting.  Otherwise England might as well remain a postcard.

On the first day of my conference, Melissa spent the day and Kew Gardens on the grounds of Kew Palace where crazy King George III spent the end of his life.

Here is crazy King George's bathtub.
After Kew Gardens Melissa went to the Opera house, but before she hit the show, she had lunch at an Okonomiyaki restaurant.  We've posted about Okonomiyaki before--one of our favorite japanese meals.

On Sunday after my conference ended we headed to the Southbank for a show at the Globe.  We stopped in at St. Peter's and caught the tale end of Mass, crossed Millenium bridge, saw the gum art, and then made it to the Globe for what we thought was a 7:30 showing of Antonie and Cleopatra.

The short version of this long story on the South Bank is this: The show started at 6:30, not 7:30 like we'd supposed, and our pre-purchased tickets were accidently purchased for a July 29th show, not the June 29th show, like we'd thought.  So we were either an hour late, or a month early, depending on which angle of the story you want to focus on.  We ended up buying groundling tickets and leaning against the stage for the last two acts of the show that we hadn't missed.  Not ideal, but it worked out in the end.

And that brings us to the end of the trip.  Some fine research. A fantastic international creative writing contest, and a few days of tourism to ice the cake!

Monday, July 14, 2014

England Part 1

The last ten days in June, Melissa and I took a little trip to England for research, a conference, and a few days of sightseeing.  The kids stayed with a dedicated army of friends and relatives who kept them fed and clothed and happy while we were gone, and to all of you, we are very grateful.  Below is a photo dump of our trip, with a few highlights.  

The trip started out with a seven hour layover in Philadelphia. What do you do when you have a half a day in one of the best cities for art in the World? You catch  train into town fro the airport and you make a mad dash around the city to see as much as possible before you have to be back to the airport.

Our plan was to to hit the Rodin museum and then whatever else we had time for. 
 This is "The Thinker," as if you didn't know...but what you may not know is that it takes its inspiration from Dante.  In the Early 1880s  Rodin was working on a massive sculpture called "The Gates of Hell," meant to depict scenes from Dante's Inferno.  In the image below you can see Dante near the top of the doors near the center pondering his trip through hell.
 It's hard to appreciate just how massive and overwhelming this sculpture is.  At the bottom of the post here I'e included a shot with us in it to give you an idea.  What is really fantastic about coming to this museum is that if I have my facts straight, they have the first ever completed "Gates of Hell."  Rodin only ever did casts for it (cost being one of the major factors that kept it from being completed). But the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia had the money to do it, and here it is.  They did two, actually, and gave the second to the original Musee de Rodin in France. That's more than you wanted to know probably, but for me its a big deal. I wrote an essay two years ago called "The Lifespan of a Kiss," that was, among other things, about the History of Rodin's famous sculpture "The Kiss," and this museum contained all (or nearly all) the artwork that I studied for and referenced in that essay.  I'd only ever seen any of them in books, and here I got to see them in person.
 an image of damned souls clinging to one another as they spiral through hell.  You gotta give those Catholics credit...their images of hell are a lot more intense than the Mormon ones I grew up with (and I never really liked that one (in the link) looks like Christ is shunning people, and I don't think Christ is capable of shunning anyone. Rather, we choose to turn our backs on him, but that's another story).
 Here's a close up of Dante.  As I understand it, Rodin was a big Dante fan, and (as you will see below) Rodin used Dante's Inferno and "The Gates of Hell" as inspiration for decades to come.
 "The Kiss" was originally supposed to one of the tormented couples on "The Gates" but they were eventually removed because the image was too pure and exalted for the anguished theme of the gates.  There is this couple in the lower right corner, but they don't look nearly as at peace as the figures in "The Kiss."
 It is hard to do this bust justice in a photo. This is Rose Buret, Rodin's first love and first model.
 The "story" behind "The Kiss," is from Dante's Inferno, who writes of meeting two lovers bound together in hell, unable to consummate their passion. There names were Francesca and Paolo and they were brother- and sister-in-law and well, you can see what got them in trouble.
 This was the piece I was most excited about seeing, and I had no idea it was there.  This is the sculptor's equivalent of a sketch or study--an early terracotta mock-up of "The Gates" that shows the earliest known vesion of "The Kiss," when it was still part of "The Gates." So cool! Apparently it is on loan from the Musee de Rodin in France as a thank-you to the Philadelphia museum for paying to complete "The Gates."
 I think to appreciate Rodin's work, you have to appreciate the significance of sexual energy in human life, an energy that is too often demonized by Victorian ideas about passion, or trivialized by 21st century free-love mentality (both oversimplifications).  These two sculptures capture in my mind the paradox of Rodin's work and of sexuality in general---It's freeing, liberating, empowering force, as well as its potential to enslave. This is not a conversation that we have nearly enough today, I don't think.

See? Massive? Astonishing.  Fantastic!  Plus the woman at the front desk found out we only had a few hours in Philadelphia and gave us some free tickets to the Philadelphia art museum (below).  Rocky fans will recognize it.  And it is so large I don't even know where to begin. We only had about an hour, so we hit the highlights and then took the bus to Love Park a few blocks away.

 Robert Indiana created this iconic image in the started out as the cover of Christmas cards he sent out (and then failed to copyright).  An essay on this sculpture is somewhere in my mind, biding it's time, though I haven't attempted it yet.

 Okay, flash forwards twelve hours or so and we've flown to London, rented a car (pictured here), and driven two hours to Stroud, in Gloucestershire (pronounced "Gloss-tuh-sure").  This is part one of the research portion of the trip.  Stroud is in the Cotswalds, a remote, scenic, and very hilly part of the country, with roads built for horses and pedestrians and not for cars of any sensible size.
In Stroud we retraced the steps of my Franklin ancestors who were born, married, and buried in this region for centuries before emigrating to the US in 1905-6.  For a detailed look at all the places we went, and why we went there, see this map.  In short, The family had a history of rough-edged individuality that involved hard living and hard drinking, and it turns out, the valley that many of them came from (Stock End) had a reputation for lawlessness, and according to local history, the constables didn't like coming down to that area because of said lawlessness.

In fact, one source suggests that the reason churches like the one above (where several generations of Franklin's were married and buried) were built was to bring some civilization and morality to rural, lawless places like Stroud.

 We met with the warden of the church on Sunday afternoon and he gave us a tour.  He even turned on the recently refurbished organ and let Melissa play.

Here's a shot of the interior, standing just about where ( I presume) great great grandma Martha Cooke Steele Franklin and Edward George Franklin would have stood in 1887 when they were married.  Ed would die of the flu 4 years later and set the stage the family's conversion to the Church.  Martha remarried a man named Aurthur Steele and they met missionaries in 1901, were baptized in 1902, and then emigrated to the US a few years later with a larger group of LDS converts coming to the intermountain west of the United States.

 Also on Sunday we visited with Percy Brownjohn (93) whose sister married one of my distant cousins years and years ago.  He's the closest thing to a living relative I could find (though I'm sure there are others). He was a sweet old man who was happy to have visitors to his little cottage that he built himself from the ground up more than 60 years ago.

 Sunday evening we ended the day by visiting Stock End and the area surrounding Randall's Farm, where Martha and Edward lived and where my great grandfather was born in 1891.  I'd heard that this area was populated by family, and had always assumed it was Franklins, but we visited an old man who grew up in the area and told us that all the families in the area were Cooks--Martha's family.  This image below is "Grandpa  Cook," the Patriarch of the family in the early twentieth century. I don't know how he fits in to the family tree, but the man we spoke with knew him and worked on his farm and knew many of my cousins.  "I grew up surrounded by two families," he told me.  "Cooks and Franklins."

 The man had a lot of old photographs of the area, and this painting of Randall's farm that someone painted in 1995. This is the house that the Franklins lived in in the early 1890s--the house where my great great grandfather George was born.

Again, it is really hard to do this justice.  The green went on forever.

More later. This is just the first three days!