The Kings and Scribes Exhibition at Winchester Cathedral is a magnet for visitors from overseas where they arrive by cruise liner at Southampton. Considering there are a number of different nationalities, perhaps two cruise liners. Many visitors also fly into Southampton as it is a short distance to England’s former capital. They enter the Cathedral and after exploring its overall majesty, visit the Kings and Scribes Exhibition located in the South Transept.
Welcoming visitors from America, France, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Romania, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, and many other countries is a truly wonderful, enlightening experience. Joining in conversations and guiding visitors around this award-winning exhibition is a joy and privilege.
They look in awe at the many historical masterpieces including the 900-year-old Winchester Bible. Written in Vulgate Latin by one scribe, taking five years to write. Vulgate Latin was the language the monks spoke in the monasteries.
There is a commonality with many countries. France: William the Conqueror. Italy: The Roman Empire. Denmark: Vikings. Germany: Saxon influence. Such links certainly stimulate discussions about the history and characters over a thousand years. I just love engaging with people from around the globe. Entering the Exhibition, a brief exchange or a more detailed explanation of the history from the departure of Romans in AD400 to William Conqueror in 1066. The most famous Year in English history.
To witness the wonder on people’s faces adds to the enthusiasm of Exhibition Stewards.
Common historical links include for example William the Conqueror’s great aunt, Queen Emma. Married to Ethelred the Unready and when he passed away, King Cnut; she was the only queen to be crowned queen twice and the only woman to have a mortuary chest in the Cathedral. The Normandy and Viking connections are rather pertinent.
And now a little imagination. Reality elevated to fantasy?
On welcoming and talking with for example visitors from France, many topics present themselves. William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc, where there is a most amazing statue of her near the choir. She has a beautiful face projecting bravery and determination.
Within a few minutes, my imagination takes me on an imaginary journey expanding many hours. Visitors naturally remain in their time frame, when I stand in front of them exchanging elements of historical significance and wonder. Little do they know that in a millisecond I am elevated to Paris for what seems like hours. Perhaps a blink of an eye. A different time sphere.
I am liberated; I am in Paris. From reality to fantasy.
On leaving the hotel on Avenue Suffren, walking past the Eifel Tower; an amazing sight! Here the police exchange greetings with each other as they change shifts. Normal and delightful in France. I am strolling along Rue Saint Dominique, sensing the vibrant atmosphere of nearby Boulevard Saint Germain with myriad shops, brassieres, and restaurants.
Memories come to life as I once again sit outside brasserie Les Deux Magots, enjoying an espresso and almond croissant, watching the world go by. Next to Les Deux Magots is a former drinking fountain; a gift of The Wallace Collection in London; one of many in Paris. Perhaps a link may have been the many paintings featuring French artists including Horace Vernay. One of my favorite artists.
After a coffee and a croissant, I walk across the road to enjoy some Papillon oysters at Brasserie Lipp.
Within what was a blink of any eye to the French visitors. I am back talking with them; no space between my fantasy visit to Paris. My three hours in Paris were a millisecond in reality and hours in fantasy. Perhaps they noticed a glint in my eye. Indeed, returning to reality from fantasy.
Visitors from Germany arrive from München. A few minutes discussing the award-winning exhibition and a minute sharing my experience; business and pleasure in Germany, including white asparagus, ham, and lots of butter! Fields of asparagus can be seen; grown like celery, beneath the soil; tops only on display.
Within a millisecond I am with my family in a bus being driven, or rather, raced up a steep hill, the edges of the narrow road scarily visible. We chose to walk down after the visit!
Neuschwanstein Castle. A true fairytale structure of vast proportions, its towers reaching for the sky as if welcoming winged angels and fairies. Neuschwanstein Castle is famous for being the location of the movie ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, a great spectacular film for children….well adults too! The tour was awesome the architecture so splendid.
Walking down to the town, we entered an inn for a light lunch and a drink. I ordered what I thought to be a small beer. The waitress walked with a large number of glasses in each hand! They are famous for it! A glass of beer was placed in front of me. It was a large glass. Very large. My daughter said, “I hope you’re not going to drive after that, Daddy!” A gentleman across the room raised his glass and said with much pride and humor, ‘This is the way we drink beer in Bavaria!” And we exchanged big smiles. Cheers; ‘prost’.
Whether it was the beer or not, within an instant; in fact the same instant that my memories elevated to a tangible fantasy, I was continuing my description of the exhibition with the visitors from Germany.
A number of folk from other countries were walking around mesmerized by the journey back in history.
A Swedish couple was certainly interested in the Anglo-Danish era; including the Vikings, although the Swedes were not overly active in invading England!
Having visited Stockholm on many occasions, my thoughts and memories are as vivid today.
It is strange how a memory can take you back to that very moment. The human brain can connect a sight or sound within what feels like an instant. Synapses are rather clever facilitating unlimited pathways to memories.
The next moment I arrived by cab at my usual hotel. There were crowds of people, cameramen, and the press. Well, I can’t be that famous! On exiting the car, they all turned around, realising I was not a star! On checking in at reception I enquired about what was taking place and was advised that such information could compromise security. In fact, it was an award event. No more info.
Later on, after a coffee, I was walking along the reception area and noticed two familiar faces. Wow! Two of the ‘Spice Girls’! ‘Baby Spice’ and ‘Posh Spice’. A famous pop group at the time. I really wanted to ask for their autographs. Perhaps I could say they were for my daughter! But no, I kept a respectful distance as did other hotel guests and visitors.
And then a walk to Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) across the river, onwards
To Vesterlänggatan, a lovely narrow street with many restaurants and brasseries. One if which is Mårten Trotzig. Named after a fairytale character. At the side of the restaurant is a tiny alleyway: Martin Trotzig, which the restaurant is named. I have visited and eaten there many on one visit, I was told I could not pay my bill! It was on the house as I had been there so many times.
One evening, I ordered a rather interesting main course; monkfish with fig dressing, sitting on top of wilted spinach. The dark brown dressing looked like a thin gravy. It was so delicious, that I asked for the recipe. They were reticent but ultimately provided it. I prepared and cooked it many times at home, much to the delight of my family. My son was in Stockholm once and ate at the Trotzig; it had not changed.
I suddenly imagined I had landed in the Kings and Scribes Exhibition. The only sign that I had been transported back less than a millisecond may have been a smile on my face.
And so, at the end of my fantasy and what felt like reality, I had returned to the present, but to engage with delightful people; in this case, Swedes from Stockholm.
There are many more stories that I will write as inspiration visits my heart.
Thank you for joining me on my journeys. Should you be interested a full account of the visits are available on my BizCatalyst 36O° ebook (click below):