So the idea that people think of a romantic snowy England, all dark green or bright red painted tobbogans, holly wreaths and rosy cheeks makes me snort. As Simone White once sang,
"Cosy rosy jolly holly folly."
But. It's now February and a little bit of that snowy British magic entered my life. It's probably in part being away from the South-East. The landscape of Suffolkian long-distance flatness is something entirely alien to me. And so seeing those massive fields snow-covered was really quite beautiful.
And one day, we decided to go to Ely to see the Cathedral.
I've written previously about Ely Shopmobility. They made the trip possible.
The Cathedral has dealt with the problem of how to keep itself running by opening itself up in a very official and business-like way. You pay to enter and, if you're a sensible photographer and bring along a tripod (ahem), then you pay a tripod fee. There's a gift shop. They host concerts and exhibitions. It was very much alive, and although it felt a bit funny paying to enter, I'm not sure I minded that much. It felt right for such a massive building to be so active.
One strange thing about cathedrals is the tardis effect. I think it's the matt stone and dark windows of the outside that do it. When you're inside with the vast vaulting and bright pin-prick colour lights of distant stained glass windows, the richness draws your eye further and gives you greater understanding of scale. It's a space you're suddenly lost in.
I think scale's another thing that, nationally, I'm not that used to. When I think about the US, I think of massive buildings. The UK is, for the most part (barring castles and manors), all about small spaces. And, indeed, my life is all about very small spaces (hence my love of macro photography). But the cathedrals break that conservatism. They soar and shout. It's a kind of awe-inspiring which verges on the scary. Think about the sheer weight of stone around you. Forget the stone! Think about the sheer weight of paint! Gold leaf! Glass! All that combined, it's a wonder the thing doesn't sink under the earth. But no...it towers up into the heavens.
The cathedral I'm most used to is Guildford cathedral - a very modern and somewhat minimalist building. Decoration is towards the IKEA end of the spectrum. Ely is somewhat more oppulant. Indeed, I'd need to go back many times over to take in all the details. Each pane of glass, each sculpture, each piece of metal work. On and on and on, higher and higher. I was very glad to have my telephoto lens with me if only so that I could see some detail higher up!
Then we went to see the "lady chapel", only when we got there, we found that an exhibition was running. It'd take an age to describe it, so here's a link so you can see for yourself. The Quaker Tapestry
So there we are...it was quite a visit and I probably only took in a single percent of all of the details. I will be going back as soon as possible. But hopefully on a day when I don't risk frost-bite.