Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Death Day!

Yup, you heard correctly . . . that's our greeting today to one another at the Kilns, former beloved home of C.S. Lewis, and also the day that he died in 1963. Let me quote from Green and Hooper's biography, "'Friday 22 November began no differently from any other day from some weeks past,' wrote Warren Lewis [CSL's brother]. 'I looked in on Jack [the name CSL went by] soon after... six, got a cheerful, "I'm all right" and then went about my domestic tasks. He got up at eight and as usual breakfasted in the kitchen in his dressing gown, after which he took a preliminary survey of his crossword puzzle. By the time he was dressed I had his mail ready for him and he sat down in his workroom where he answered four letters with his own hand. For some time past he had been finding great difficulty in keeping awake, and finding him asleep in his chair after lunch, I suggested that he would be more comfortable in bed. He agreed, and went there. At four o'clock I took him in his tea and had a few words with him, finding him thick in his speech, very drowsy, but calm and cheerful. It was the last time we ever spoke to each other. At five-thirty I heard a crash in his bedroom, and running in, I found him lying unconscious at the foot of his bed. He ceased to breathe some three or four minutes later. The following Friday would have been his sixty-fifth birthday.'
Then Green and Hooper continue to the close of their biography: "'Then Aslan turned to them and said: " . . . you are -- as you used to call it in the Shadowlands -- dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning . . . "'And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for... them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.'"
And I say to you, "Cheers". I'm off to the Magdalene College [where CSL taught and attended] Evensong service, then to the Eagle and Child pub for supper with friends, and finally to the Oxford CSL Society meeting to hear Owen Barfield (grandson of the Inkling, Owen Barfield). Let us celebrate a life well lived for our Lord Jesus Christ! Bottoms up to your tea cup:-)!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I'm Back!

Well, it has been since January that I've posted on my blog. Comments included "you must be very busy" and such it has been! It was at the end of January that my dear friend, Kate, who runs the stateside business of The Kilns, was diagnosed with brain cancer and she has been undergoing treatment. I have been doing double duty since then and also had more visa complications; the double duty continues, however, the visa issues have all been resolved--and not only for me, but for all future Resident Directors. So, there's one major milestone accomplished!

Now, let's see, a quick clip of the past months. I have had visitors who have brightened my time here as well as brought me coveted "goodies" from the U.S. Kathy Goddard and Autumn Wurstle from SAU packed in a full day with tea, a tour of the Kilns, a tour of Oxford, evensong at Magdalen College, and then to a C.S. Lewis Society dinner and meeting with speaker Jason Lepojarvi (he spoke on "Theology of Love: C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine in Dialogue"). Jason is from Finland and is teaching the first CS Lewis class ever to be offered at Helsinki University; he also appeared on the Finnish TV series of Survivor (you can google him). This summer Lisa Diller from SAU visited and I met her in London so she could take me to the London International SDA Church she used to attend. It was pretty exciting and of all things, Jamie Jorge, from Collegedale, TN, was the speaker, and did he ever put on a concert! You can listen to him on youtube (as I just did in the middle of writing this--but I don't think youtube does him justice--he's much better in person--and his testimony is great! And then, of course, since I was catching some youtube music, I somehow linked onto the Gaither Band and their version of "It is Finished"--absolutely awesome--especially the last two vocalists (http://youtu.be/FGuaJM_Jmyl); and then, since the last vocalist reminded me of Keith Green, I had to look for his music, too, and found my favorite song "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful" (http://youtu.be/uVgPQm06g2c) and also his live Estes Park version of "Make My Life a Prayer to You"). Now that you have followed my stream of consciousness music sidetrack that took me into some wonderful praise music for the past hour and a half . . . I'll get back to some "catching up" . . .

We even had a group from our neighboring Lee University in TN come through for a tour. As for tours, we get big groups of people, small groups of people, one person passing through, or two . . . and then they come from all over the world: some from close by in England, places like County Down, Ireland, Alberta, Canada, Washington, DC, NC, TN, CA, Alabama, Japan, Denmark . . . now that was an interesting one. Ten Danish Lutheran pastors (3 who were military chaplains) who were studying in Oxford for a week, walked the 3.5 miles uphill to The Kilns from Magdalen College. Arriving early they decided to stop at the local pub for a pint before coming over for the tour. They immediately began talking about Beowulf with me and it was a grand and glorious time of discussion of all things heroic about Danes and Anglo-Saxons. Since they were also studying GK Chesterton, I phoned up Aiden Mackey (renowned Chesterton scholar and WWII vet who fought in a Scottish Regiment) and Aiden agreed to come over and give the pastors one of his awesome lectures. Aiden spoke of WWII, of Chesterton, and then I asked from the back of the room, "Aiden, would you please recite some of Chesterton's 'Ballad of the White Horse' for the ministers?" He replied sharply, "Now, Debbie, you know I'm too old to remember a poem like that [Aiden is 89]." I waited; I knew what was coming next . . . Aiden began reciting a part of the long poem, a heroic battle with the Danes, it was Aiden's best--he wept as he quoted word for word how the warriors fought herocially, some lost, died in battle. We all wept, too; not a dry eye in the room, but silence, just like in the mead halls of ancient times--there was always silence when the bard spoke. He finished and still there was silence. One of the chaplains finally spoke, "Aiden, you just took us back in time to what it was like listening to a bard in a mead hall. Thank you." Well, we finished the tour of the Kilns, Aiden left, I was invited to Denmark, "home of Beowulf" and the tour ended with a toast--and a memory was created that we will carry with us the rest of our lives. Such is a day in the life of the Kilns. There will be more catching up later . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm "Proper" Today

Well, I've decided that the favorite word over here is "proper". If you set a nice tea out, then it is a "proper" tea, or a "proper" lunch, or a "proper" thing to do, which just about fits anything. So, today I have decided that I am "proper" as I have welcomed overnight guests into the house in a "proper" manner, I have fixed "proper" scones, and so on so forth; so, today I am "proper." We may speak the same language, but only to a point. If I am asked if I want pudding after dinner, then that means dessert; to say someone is wearing a nice vest, well, that means undershirt so what I mean to say is "waistcoat"; and to make my recipe I needed a courgette--so I asked the young produce man where to find the courgettes--and he corrected my pronunciation--I used a hard "g" and of course, (since this word came into the language after 1066 and the Norman Invasion) the word is pronounced with a soft "g")--I explained that we didn't have courgettes in the U.S and he just smiled and pointed me in the direction of, "next to the onions"--and low and behold, there sat the . . . zucchini's! Why not just call it a zucchini?! And of course, don't ever say you are wearing pants as pants mean underpants--you are wearing trousers (and hopefully pants as well:-). Well, on to events of the past two weeks. The Oxford CS Lewis Society meetings began for the new term (called Hilary term--not semesters--there are three terms: Michaelmas, Hilary, and Trinity terms which obviously show the religious roots to the university). Stratford Caldecott spoke, a renowned JRR Tolkien author who writes on the religious aspects of Tolkien's works. And I attended a chapel at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies--a very global mission with reports from all over the world and interdenominational. I was surprised that sitting right in front of me were the SDA president of the work in Tanzania and the Associate Director of the Global Centre for Adventist Muslim Relations! Then our overnight guest this evening is a professor from the University of Georgia who is an entomologist who specializes in bees. I must admit that I am gaining a rich education just from the people with whom I am in contact. More next week!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Comings and Goings

The weeks are packing full here at the Kilns! With the release of Voyage of the Dawn Treader there has been an increase in tours. If you've been to see the movie I would like to get your opinion on how it compared to the book. We've also had several teas and dinners with guests--that's part of what we do for networking--nice! Last Thursday we had 4 tours with 3 of those tours including tea. This past Tuesday we celebrated Michael Ward's (of Planet Narnia and The Narnia Code) birthday with a household dinner--that means the household is invited (the three scholars, but only two could make it). Michael said it was the first time he had had a cake since he was 7 years old:-)! I made a chocolate sponge cake with an "interesting" icing ("interesting" due to ingredients not being the same over here as in the U.S.); Jonathan decorated the cake with a lamppost--it was great--and if I ever figure out how to post pictures onto the blog then I'll get those up for you to see. Our new friend, John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, joined in the festivities and kept us in good conversation about Tolkien and his involvement in WWI. So, this week consisted of Sunday's working with the CS Lewis Nature reserve people (known as "tree-huggers") for three hours checking bird boxes (the SAU biology department would be proud of me!), Sunday afternoon guests, Monday's three tours, Tuesday's dinner, Wednesday's attempt to catch up on emails, Thursday's lecture to Taylor Univeristy and a tour (both by Michael), and ASH the chimney sweep (yup, those are his real initials and he even has chim chim cheree as his ring tone--here's a memory for you http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te_Nv3lMUnA!)--and ASH got a tour, tea, and biscuits (cookies) as well as cleaned our chimney (and shook my hand for luck)! And what will tomorrow bring?!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas at the Kilns II

December arrived and tours lessened a bit. We all welcomed author Greg Bourgond who prepared and actually wrote his second book while here. He even wrote during our scholar Christmas party--a dress-up Narnia Christmas party. While Mr. Tumnus was one of our very own, we also had Lucy, Edmund, Susan, Mrs. Beaver, Prince Rilian, Reepicheep, and many more. Another crowd of 30 or so guests! This time I only did minimal baking and the scholars bought or made the goodies to eat. The house looked warm and inviting in contrast to the cold and snow outside. Lots of pleasant conversation and more tours of the house took place. Greg returned home on the 23rd and the scholars drifted off to homes and friends to celebrate Christmas day. I "happened" to get invited to the best-known cook in the neighborhood's house for Christmas dinner. So, after a lovely morning church service I joined Robert and Dierdre's family for a traditional English Christmas dinner. We had crackers (not food) at the table, wore crowns and told the riddles that were in the crackers, and had real Christmas pudding (and the traditional brussel sprouts ...). Several of us went hiking in the snow after lunch and then returned for a full Christmas tea with trifle pudding. I returned home sufficiently stuffed and having learned much about English Christmas traditions! Skype phone calls home made the day wonderfully complete!

Christmas at the Kilns

Along with celebrating early in November, we had Christmas parties in November as well. Since the term lets out the end of November, the Oxford CS Lewis Society held their Christmas party at the Kilns. I decorated three mantles with lites, holly branches from the woods, and pine cones. Candles burned in the fireplaces and pine branches strewn on tables gave a festive yet natural look. About 30 people turned up and all had the cookies I had made (I hadn't stayed up baking Christmas cookies since my kids were little!)plus mulled (spiced) punch and other goodies. We split up into 3 groups to tour the house and, Cole Matson, Michael Ward, and Walter Hooper and I led the tours. Walter was great--since he knew Lewis he had all sorts of stories to tell for each room. I think I had the best group:-)! Then we gathered for some poetry reading (yup, only groups like this one would thrive on poetry reading:-) while Cole and Michael recited poetry or read funny stories. Walter had to take the Mr. Popularity award as I have pictures of him with a dozen or so students all grouped around listening excitedly to his experiences with CS Lewis.

Christmas in Oxford

Well, Christmas in Oxford begins early--in November! We decorated the house by Thanksgiving as celebrations begin that week. There are wonderful Advent and carol services at numerous churches throughout the city with the boys' choirs lifiting hearts and voices in heavenly songs. I attended two such services--both at Magdelen College, where Lewis taught when he was in Oxford. I didn't at first know we needed to get tickets so I went to "turn up" and was given a seat outside of the chapel area. Upon entering the church, I met with the vicar and since I know him, he asked where I was sitting and then offered to "trade" a guest ticket that he had in his hand--so, I sat up the top of the chapel, right behind the choir and two seats from the vicar who was performing the service. I did get tickets for the carol service but too late to get good seats, and once again, one of the chapel staff moved me (and a fortunate friend) up to the front of the chapel area. We had a good view of the choirs and the services were in honor of our Lord. What a perfect way to begin the Christmas season!