25 October 2009

St Bernard and St Luke

After a rainy, stormy night last night, I woke this morning... well, when I say "morning"... to bright sunny skies, and an outside temperature of PleasantlyNotCold (almost bordering on warm, but for the crisp, strong wind that blew the dead leaves around like a tornado whipping through the streets). Since it was such a lovely day, I decided to throw on a sweater, grab my camera, and give you all some lovely "outdoors" shots of my current habitation.

If a pattern can be deduced from only two situations (which, you know, it can't, but bear with me), my stay in the UK is going to be patterned with living on Saint roads, and near cemeteries. Not entirely certain how I feel about this.

St Bernard's Close, in all its glory - the green door gets you into my part of the building, and the three windows up and to the right of said green door are (respectively) my bathroom, my kitchen, and my lounge.

More full shot of the roundabout in the center - my three windows are the very left-most.

St Bernard isn't exactly as well known as St Peter - he basically was a really, really good monk, known for convincing other people to give up those sinful things like - oh - eating, resting, conversing, and enjoying life. He wrote a lot, didn't die a martyr, and eventually became less famous than the dog that also bears his name.

My dear Stephen Fry wouldn't be pleased if I let this opportunity go by without reminding you that St Bernards NEVER carried brandy in the casks around their neck - milk, perhaps, but never brandy. Total urban legend, started perhaps by a romanticized painting done in 1831 by Landseer - in reality, the brandy would freeze almost instantly in casks outside in the mountains, and brandy given to a person dying of hypothermia would only make them die faster. (Bad dog!)

Up and over St Cloud Road, then Auckland Hill - it takes me about ten minutes to walk into "town", simply because I have to walk *around* the cemetery. From the top of Auckland Hill, you can see the steeple of St Luke's rising up from the valley below.

I was asked what West Norwood is like, and I think my best answer (or, at least, the closest I can give) is that of downtown Renton, only with a much smaller population of obnoxious white boys who pretend they're "gangstas".

West Norwood is a sleepy little area, full of great old brick houses, small grocery stores, a bunch of charity shops, a rail station, and very little else. It's populated, it feels like, by an almost even mixture of commuter families, old retired people who wouldn't/couldn't move out to the country, and mentally/physically handicapped people with their carers. Not the hustle and bustle of central London, but quiet - and, having lived next door to a nightclub for a year, I appreciate not being woken up at 3AM by screaming drunks.

I didn't take any pictures of St Cloud or Auckland Hill, even though it was a lovely day, the houses are old and brick and lovely, and nearly everybody keeps their front gardens full of roses - despite several moments where I wanted to get a shot, I had to remind myself how it would look to someone who lived there. I know if someone came wandering into the Close and started taking shots at my front window, I'd come running out in a bathrobe, curlers in hair, and armed with a rolling pin.
I also didn't get many shots of the town, for pretty much the same reason. This isn't London proper - tourists don't come down here, and people taking shots of the streets get given the stink eye.

St Luke's is lovely, however - it was commissioned in the 1820's, one of the four "Waterloo" churches (I bet you can guess the names of the other three churches...)

It's quite lovely and grand, though the interior isn't quite so majestic as the exterior. (Still lovelier than most American churches, though, and benefits - I feel - from the lack of duplex screens, pop worship bands, and "worship songs" that employ the 5/13 rule [five words sung 13 times in a row] )

More info on the history of the church can be found here at their website. Sadly, no good shots of the exterior or interior, and only bland blanket Christianity on the other pages.

Funny tidbit that I don't seem to have mentioned yet: the name "Norwood" is a shortened version of the original area, which was called the "North Wood". The first two letters of all postcodes in London indicate their location within the city (NW1 would be in the northwest, E2 would be in the east, etc); West Norwood sits pretty much dead smack South, yet, as there is no S postcode, it *officially* is classified as SE. All this to say, I live in South-East London, in West Northwood. I'm not sure if this means I'm all over the place, or if the rest of the world gravitates out from me...

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