Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation By St. Thomas More

Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation by St. Thomas More

After receiving a smart phone for Christmas, I decided to join the Kindle ranks and downloaded the Android Kindle app. Browsing around for free stuff to start with, I check what was available from Thomas More, a favorite author and saint. For the past two Lents I've read his The Sadness of Christ and have found it greatly edifying. Figuring the Dialogue would be similar, I was excited to start reading it in Lent after re-reading his other work.

The book is written as a dialogue where two or more characters discuss issues or ideas. Here, one person (a nephew) asks pretty basic questions and his uncle expostulates at length on those questions. The nephew says, "You are so right, I don't know why I didn't see the point you are making. Here is my follow up question to continue the dialogue:..." Sometimes I'm not in the mood for that style, because the people really aren't characters or persons in their own right, just one mouthpiece and one sounding board. Plato's dialogues sometimes fall into this, but most have actual characters discussing the issue (thus a true dialogue) rather than one person providing his interlocutor "the truth" (really a monologue). The first third of More's book is written in the more monologue style. The delivery provides a lot of content but it comes off a little dry and academic.

After the first third, the discussion becomes a bit more of a discussion and the uncle begins using stories to illustrate his points. The book becomes much more engaging and enjoyable. The final third of the book deals with the hard issues of imprisonment and death, which clearly were on the author's mind as he awaited his own fate in the Tower of London. He was executed in 1535 by King Henry VIII's government on false evidence of treason. The treasonable act would have been denying that the King was the supreme head of the Church in England.

While many parts of the book are very compelling and great reading, a great portion of it is pretty dry. Sometimes the language is a little convoluted, for example: "Forsooth, uncle, this thing yet seemeth to me a somewhat sore sentence, not because I think otherwise but that there is good cause and great wherefore a man should so sorrow, but because of truth sometimes a man cannot be sorry and heavy for his sin that he hath done, though he never so fain would." This particular edition has "modifications to obsolete language by Monica Stevens," modifying the Everyman Library edition of the book. I can't say she did a good job. More refers to an author named "Austine" that I soon realized meant St. Augustine. I'd recommend someone interested in reading this either stick with Everyman or look for another modernizing of the text.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Movie Review: [Marvel's] The Avengers [Assemble] (2012)

The Avengers (2012) written and directed by Joss Whedon

Lots of words have already been written and said about The Avengers (known here in England as Marvel's Avengers Assemble, presumably to distinguish it from the old (and quite awesome) TV show called The Avengers). Certainly it is an amazingly entertaining movie. There's lots of comedy; there's lots of drama; there's lots of fight sequences matching up practically every major character against every other character, both good and bad guys. Even match-ups that seem quite ridiculous, like the Russian assassin Black Widow with no superpowers against the Hulk. And yet, it still works. The credit has to go to the director/writer Joss Whedon. He dodges all sorts of bullets with the deftness of Neo in The Matrix.

Whedon has helmed many large casts on TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Doll House) and managed to keep a good balance of developing the characters and making them interesting, individual, and real. Such an accomplishment is not so hard with one or more seasons of TV episodes. To achieve the same in a two and a half hour movie is rather amazing. How many superhero movies have foundered because they had too many villains? Whedon's deft direction and great dialogue keep the movie moving along while giving all the various characters chances to shine.

Another common problem in comic book movies is when the main villain completely upstages the hero (as in almost every Batman film). Here there's just one villain, Loki. He is Thor's adopted brother and has the typical ambition to rule the Earth. While the actor, Tom Hiddleston, probably gives the best performance in the movie, he does not outshine others by far. Robert Downey Jr. is hard to upstage. Mark Ruffalo gives a great performance as Bruce Banner, combining the tension, sadness, and weariness of a man with his own Mr. Hyde waiting to come out. The other actors give worthy performances; all are convincing in their roles. And they are all given enough motivation and interest to keep them engaged in the story and engaging to the viewer.

Yet another problem is taking the characters too seriously or not seriously enough. On the too serious side are Ang Lee's Hulk and Watchmen. In my opinion, Christopher Nolan's Batman movies come very close to collapsing under the weight of their heavy themes. On the other hand, Joel Schumacher's Batman films killed the franchise for almost ten years with their neon-colored nonsense and utter superficiality. Whedon gives the characters their due but also gives them a sense of humor. They are more like real people than like stand-ins for ideas or ideologies. Or like cardboard characters who deliver bad dialogue (mostly puns) or wear skimpy outfits.

Speaking of skimpy outfits, another common complaint against comic book movies (and the books themselves) is the treatment of women as merely love interests and/or sex objects. Whedon's record for empowering female characters is undebatable. Black Widow's role in this movie isn't to provide a scantily clad female. She is a fully developed character who is motivated by trying to ease or erase her past indiscretions as an assassin, not because she's got the hots for one or more of the male leads. She even gets an equal share of screen time with Iron Man and Captain America, with possibly more time than Thor. Even when physically outmatched by the Hulk, she still has the skill and brains to hold her own and live to fight in the big finale. It's a refreshing change from the typical female superhero and this movie convinces me that a Black Widow movie would be something worth seeing, if handled just as well.

The Avengers is a rip-roaring adventure, full of fun, action, and laughs. It's a movie that on paper looks like a disaster waiting to happen. But in the capable hands of Joss Whedon, the cast delivers fine performances and great dialogue with a joy and exuberance that few, if any, comic book films have ever had before. Big thumbs up and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

Oh yeah, and if you are in America stay to the end of the credits for a great bonus scene. At least, I've heard it's a great bonus scene. It's not on the end of Marvel's Avengers Assemble here in England. Boo-hoo!

For other, more insightful and better written words on The Avengers, try these:
  • Interesting comment on how we are all like Loki here. The blogger has a couple of other articles about the movie seen in a Christian context.
  • My favorite critic, Steven Greydanus, gives an awesome review here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another Level Up for Lucy

One of the great things about raising children is seeing them develop new skills and abilities. I remember the first time that Jacob saw a manual for one of his toys and said, "Hey, that picture [on the manual] is my toy!" He was able to connect a picture of the toy with the toy itself. Such an observation isn't very clever for an adult, but to see a child make such a connection for the first time is pretty amazing.

Today, Lucy and I were out running errands. We went to the bakery to get some treats, since the store is nestled among all the other shops we were going to. She chose a cupcake with a small British flag stuck in the top. I chose a flapjack two-pack (Jacob will get to eat the other one soon enough). We continued on our errands planning to eat our snacks back at home.

At the kitchen table, the local newspaper was out and had a bunch of ads, including ones for a Jubilee celebration. Lucy said, "Hey, it's the same flag!" when she saw this ad:

Cupcake flag and ad flag brought together

I was pretty proud of her for making the connection. The light of recognition in her eyes is delightful to see.

Monday, May 28, 2012

No Nukes IS Good Nukes

In case you missed it, there's a new type of home that's ready to help you survive a zombie apocalypse. But not only you, also 69 of your closest friends! As long as you can all pay $2 million a piece and are willing to move to Kansas. Where is this great deal? Inside a nuclear missile silo! Check out these amenities:
Survival Condo will have enough supplies of site-grown food and purified well and rain water to house 70 people in lockdown for years. Just so they won't go insane, the silo would also have facilities like a spa, movie theater, classrooms, a bar, and a pool.
The swank residential spaces, meanwhile, would feature Jacuzzis, large HDTV panels simulating windows, and deluxe appliances.
Read the rest of the article here. The condo has a web site where they list the criteria they have for potential residents:
We are not looking for stereotypical "survival nuts" portrayed in movies, but rather like-minded individuals with the desire to provide care and protection for their family. We seek people with the financial resources, interest, education, experience, and desire to participate in the shared tasks of survival under difficult circumstances. We want people with good values and we will screen applicants for criminal backgrounds.
In case you didn't click through either link, this particular silo is sold out already, so you will have to contact the developer and find another similar sized silo somewhere else to set up in. We're saving our pennies and pence right now. We'll need somewhere to live once we move back to America!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Review: Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Tony Attwood. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998, 223 pages, $18.95 US.

Our son Jacob has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a disorder on the mild or "high functioning" end of the autism spectrum disorder.

Brief overview of content:

The book begins with a review of how people are diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and what are the key attributes that indicate someone may have the syndrome. The book then goes chapter by chapter over major characteristics of Asperger's: social behavior, use of language, interests and routines, motor clumsiness, cognition, and sensory sensitivity. The characteristics are described and various ways to support the child (or teen/adult) or to mitigate the challenges that arise are provided. Each of these chapters end with a summary of strategies to support someone with Asperger's. A large final chapter with frequently asked questions is comprehensive and provides very specific answers. Three appendices cover various resources that are helpful. An extensive reference list is included, along with indexes by subject and authors.

Author overview:

Blurb from the back of the book: "Tony Attwood is a practising clinical psychologist who specialises in the field of Asperger's Syndrome. For the last twenty-five years he has met and worked with many hundred individuals with this syndrome, ranging wildly in age, ability and background."


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

If the parent or professional wants to focus on a specific area, that section of the book can be consulted. The entire book is valuable, though, to give a bigger picture of the variety of challenges and solutions throughout a person's life as they deal with having Asperger's Syndrome or with a loved one or co-worker who has it.

2. Readability.

The language is not too technical. Many examples from real life cases are cited, adding a human dimension and more understanding and sympathy.

3. Helpful to a parent?

Each chapter goes in depth into the wide variety of possible challenges that can arise for children, teens, and adults with Asperger's. The chapters end with a bullet-point list of strategies for dealing with behaviors discussed.

4. Did we use it?

We've both read it and it's given us a clearer understanding of Jacob's condition. We haven't adopted specific actions but it has definitely formed our outlook on where we go from here. Also, it is one of those book where I read through it and started to wonder if I have Asperger's Syndrome too!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

York in May

With friends visiting from the States, we decided to go one morning to York. Using our favorite park and ride, we were able to get into the heart of the city hassle free and ready to begin our adventures. Our first adventure was to find a snack!

We walked on some of the old walls of the city and discovered one of the turrets on the River Ouse has been converted into a coffee shop!

The Perky Peacock cleverly disguised as a battlement

Right under the Lendal Bridge near the train station, this coffee shop is a hidden gem. We ordered some drinks and they had a nice variety of snacks. Being of a zombie-bent, I ordered the "Pat's Pie" which was also labeled "Fly Cemetery." Having had something with the same name in the Jamaican/Scottish bakery which made our wedding cake (sorry there's no link to Loch Lomond Bakery), I was excited to try this pastry filled to the brim with raisins (the flies who are in the cemetery). I ordered a chai to go with it. They both were delightful.

How do they do that with the foam on the chai?

Jacob had a flapjack and Lucy had a brownie. My wife ordered regular tea and some ginger cookies that were probably the best ginger cookies I've ever had. She let me have a sample. I happily let her sample mine.

Most beautiful customer the shop has ever had

The children did really well and had a table to themselves...until Lucy got too rowdy and was forced over to our table.

In hindsight, it's obvious who was going to be the grumpy one

After a while all the kids were antsy, so my wife took them outside to walk around while the rest of the adults finished up. I was able to see them from one of the windows.

Jacob, Colin, and Lucy with Mommy

Fortified for the rest of the morning, we walked across the bridge and into the city.

Minster ahead!

Our main destination was the Jorvik Viking Centre, which we had visited before but were happy to see again. We rode through the authentically-odored Viking village. The animatronic people were a little scary for Lucy. In the museum, we were able to chat a bit with one of the docents about the uses for a cow's horn. In addition to providing access to yummy cow brains when it is detached, the horn can be used for many household items. After hollowing it out, the middle can be cut out and a bottom attached to make a drinking cup. The whole horn can be boiled to make it soft and then reshaped into spoons, windows, lantern covers, and many other useful items. If left intact, the horn can be used as a trumpet-type horn. The horn could be used on ships to warn other ships in the fog or to alert the port that a valuable shipment of perishable goods is coming in, so get ready for a quick unloading and trip to the market. It could also be used to announce guests at large houses or castles. It's amazing what you can do with a simple cow horn.

Naturally, the Centre exits through its gift shop, where young Colin turned into Colin Blurhand of the Viking lords. He even wore the right shirt for the day.

"Blurhand" sounds a lot better than "Lollypop-hand"

Time was getting away from us, so we wandered our way back through the streets of York, admiring storefronts and old-style architecture. A lot of street corners had nice statues adorning them.

Is that Athena up there?

We also saw one street performer whose puppet at first fascinated and then scared Lucy. She said, "It's eyes are scary!" She wanted to continue on.

It was nice enough to cover its eyes for a little while

Jacob was not afraid. He took a coin and put it in the man's violin case. Yeah, he was playing violin and making a puppet dance at the same time. Pretty amazing, huh?

After all that excitement, we made it back to our bus stop with a few minutes to spare before getting back on and riding back to our car. It was a fun excursion for everyone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Naughts and Zeds: Chocolate Edition

Naughts and Zeds is an ongoing series of posts on the differences between language, culture, and everyday items in America and in Britain. For a list of previous posts, go here.

In a new country, it's not surprising to discover candy bars you've never heard of before, like Wispa or Twirl. Maybe you'd even expect to see a few old favorites from your home country. But what if a candy bar has the same name but is a different bar? I recent bought what I thought were three favorites from back home, but only one was the same as in the United States. Can you guess which one of these chocolate bars is exactly the same in the U.S. and in the U.K.?

If you based your guess on the label and said to yourself, "The Snickers label is just like an American label, but the others are different from their American counterparts," you would have made the right guess. Snickers are packed with peanuts and nougaty goodness on both sides of the Pond.

The U.K. Mars Bar has no almonds in it. It has the nougat and caramel, resulting in a bar just like the American Milky Way bar.

So what is a U.K. Milky Way bar like? It's like an American Milky Way, except it doesn't have the caramel. Which means that it is just like an American Three Musketeers bar. I guess the British don't want a Three Musketeers bar since Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are French characters. French!?! Can't have that.

I have not found a U.K. equivalent for the American Mars Bar, but rest assured I will keep researching the issue. For science! For my readers!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone

The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone by Robert Kirkman

ZPAA rating

Mid-teen and up.

Gore level

7 out of 10--Lots of zombie-caused deaths, including some humans torn to bits; drawn-out fist fight; bandaged up faces.

Other offensive content

Lots of bad language including f-bombs; traumatic back stories of characters; bad attitudes displayed throughout; abusive home life for a character; other family strife; a few discreet sex scenes with shadowy nudity; lots of gunplay; debate about whether funerals are appropriate or not; the value of the priest/pastor's input seems negligible except for feel good sentiments.

How much zombie mythology/content

Nothing new this issue.

How much fun

Some occasional jokes; mostly this is good drama that makes you keep guessing and keep reading.

Synopsis & Review

Rick's group has accepted residence in a little community just outside Washington, D.C. The community has electricity from solar power and lots of supplies. The area had been set up by the government in case of an ongoing emergency. Life is sort of normal (i.e. like the pre-outbreak society) but little things seem odd to Rick. What about the kid with a black eye? Why is everyone so nice and gets along seemingly so well? Rick was appointed "constable" for the community and has to protect and serve. At the end of the last issue, Rick stole some guns from the armory (not a hard task) saying he didn't want the locals, including their leader Douglas, messing up the good thing they have.

Things move along uneasily. Glenn is back on scavanging duty, which his wife Maggie is unhappy about. Michonne is Rick's deputy, though how loyal she'll be to him is anyone's guess since she doesn't want Rick to mess things up. Andrea struggles to get past Dale's death and start engaging with others. Are they all "too far gone" to come back to living in a community?

After some heavy issues, this book moves pretty quickly and not too darkly. Sure, people die but the deaths aren't as gruesome or morbidly dwelt upon as earlier. Treating people like people seems possible again in this new place as long as the delicate balance of harmony and justice can be maintained. This book asks how people can have that balance within themselves.

Gabriel, the priest/preacher, still is a big question mark for me. He never gives real substantive input into anything. He believes he has been led here by God's plan but his impact on the people there is touchy-feely. Rick is the one to bring a sense of righteousness to the story. He says a funeral is important so people can process what's happened. Tellingly, Gabriel's only role (that we see) at the funeral is to introduce Rick, who waxes eloquent about one of the dead men. I just don't think the author takes Gabriel seriously as a man of God.

Sample Text

Rick on why he's the man for the job: "I'm just doing what needs to be done. Don't you see that? Pete needs to be stopped. I'm the one who does what needs to be done--no matter what. You need me. I make the hard decisions, I do whatever it takes to keep the people around me alive. If you think you can survive without me, you're wrong."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Movie Review: Hamlet (2009)

Hamlet (2009) directed by Gregory Doran

Arguably the most famous play in English, Hamlet has been adapted for the movies and television innumerable times. I had a professor who said "Eternal problems are always contemporary." Similarly, great plays always have something to say to each new generation. The Royal Shakespeare Company of London has made a television version of its smash hit production of Hamlet starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.

The good thing about a movie/tv production of a play is that the actors don't have to play to the very last row of the house and people in the last row (or in obstructed seating) can see all the detail and the action going on. The camera makes greater intimacy possible between the performers and the audience, while separating both in space and time.

Speaking of space and time, you'd think I'd comment about Captain Picard and Doctor Who crossing over in medieval Denmark. Thankfully, this isn't that sort of adaptation. The setting is not medieval; Elsinore Castle is more modern with security cameras and large mirrors everywhere. Many characters have hand guns in addition to their swords (can't have Hamlet without swords, can you?). It's an odd blend of contemporary and historical set dressing and costuming meant to evoke a timeless quality.

Tennant give a frenetic performance as Hamlet. At some points, he does look totally bonkers. This is no dour, Olivier performance. Tennant is convincing and doesn't go over the top, in the same way as Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight keep from going too far. Such performances are easy to parody because they come so close to overdoing it. Tennant balances the madness and the cunning of Hamlet quite well.

Stewart as Claudius give a more subdued performance. This viewing is the first time I thought Claudius was a bit of an idiot at the beginning. Stewart has him bumbling a little bit. After the mock play in which he sees for the first time in an objective way how he killed his brother, he realizes the evil he's done but can't quite repent of it. He makes a believable turn into a more crafty schemer. He is more in control of the situation than he lets on, sending Hamlet to England or poisoning the cup. Stewart balances the evil and the cunning of Claudius quite well.

Stewart also plays the Ghost of Hamlet's father. It's an interesting choice, suggesting Hamlet's disparaging comparisons between his father and his uncle might be more exaggerated than accurate. The choice provides a lot of food for thought about the characters.

Unfortunately, Tennant and Stewart shine so much that the other actors are underwhelming by comparison. Gertrude and Ophelia are both competent but not exceptional. Ophelia's mad rant, singing and giving out flowers, seems flat and forced compared to Tennant easygoing frenzy. Polonius and Horatio are okay but unremarkable. Surprisingly, Mark Hadfield as the gravedigger comes off as an equal of Tennant. That actor should have been bumped up to Polonius's role.

Many elements of the setting are used to emphasize various themes. The use of surveillance cameras (or "CCTV" as they are often referred to here in the UK) is a little odd. Snippets of scenes are shown as surveillance footage. At one point, Hamlet tears out one of the cameras and says, "Now I am alone." Spying and deception (and the damage they cause) are more critical elements to the story than I had considered before.

Another element is the use of mirrors. Claudius and Polonius spy on Hamlet and Ophelia's conversation through a one-way mirror. When Hamlet kills Polonius, he shoots him through a mirrored door. From that point, almost everyone sees themselves in shattered reflections, showing the damage that so much deceit as done to them. It's an interesting device that isn't overplayed.

Taken as a whole, this film version is definitely worth viewing. Many thought provoking ideas are brought out of the play that I hadn't seen or delved deeply before. Tennant's performance will surely be considered a classic portrayal of the mad Dane.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lucy's Creativity

Lucy has been quite creative and crafty lately. She came to me the other day and said that she had sculpted Diego (of Go, Diego, Go fame) out of playdough. She was proud to show me her achievement:

You'd better click the link above if you want to see what Diego really looks like

A few day's later, she turned herself into a robot using only cardboard! It was an amazing accomplishment that I am sure the robotics industry is sure to copy soon.

Lucybot 2012

Can you guess what's in her hand?

She later wanted me to dress up as the robot. The plastic box was too small for my head but my feet did fit in the "foot" box. Too bad she isn't very good with a camera, eh?

Jacob's Daring

Jacob has climbed to new heights literally. He's made it to the top of one of those spider web climbers that are all the rage on playgrounds in England. The first time he did it, he was with Mommy. Mommy was quite worried about him and didn't have a camera to capture the moment. The second time he did it, he was with me. I didn't bring the camera with me because I didn't know it was coming, but I did have my smartphone with me. Here he is, at the top!

I was nervous too!

In case you can't make him out up there, here's the close up.

I guess we'll need to find a new, even greater challenge for the little guy. Maybe rock climbing?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ely Cathedral

There's been a church in Ely since Christianity came to England. The first church at this site was made by St. Etheldreda, daughter of a king. She was married several times for political reasons even though she felt a call to the religious life. Her final marriage to Egfrid (heir to the kingdom of Northumbria) was unhappy. She asked to leave him to become a nun. He agreed, but changed his mind and tried to get her back. She escaped and founded a double monastery (for men and women) in 673 AD in Ely. She led it for seven years then died of a tumor on her neck. Her sister Seaxburga took over. Eventually, she had Etheldreda's body exhumed from her simple grave and brought inside the church. Her body was incorrupt (the tumor had disappeared, too!) and many miracles were attributed to her. Ely became a major pilgrim destination.

The Vikings destroyed the church in the late 800s and the Benedictines rebuilt it in the late 900s, though as an abbey for men only. The town succumbed late to the Norman conquests. The Normans continued the construction of the cathedral. This period of construction straddles the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture and is reflected in the style and decoration of the older parts of the church.

The cathedral continued to be revised in good ways (the main tower collapsed and a new octagonal tower was built) and bad ways (after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s, the locals destroyed most of the art, especially in the Lady's Chapel) even up to modern times (the last restoration was done from 1986 to 2000). On to the pictures!

Front view of the church

View from our approach

Detail of the arches, arches, arches

The entrance is a covered room that is called the Galilee Porch, a common term used for such rooms. In the good old days, the Galilee Porch was (among other uses) the final stop for Palm Sunday processions. The people would sign "Hosanna" and rest before entering the church after the procession.

Doors inside the Galilee Porch

The nave is the first striking feature of the church. The ceiling was painted in the Victorian era and shows the ancestry of Christ from Adam, Abraham, Jacob, David, and onward.

Nave of church

To the left as you enter is a statue called Christus by Hans Feibusch, in bronze and dating from 1980.

Christus by Hans Fiebusch; Mommy and Jacob are a bonus!

To the right is the southwest transept, where the Romanesque rounded arches are plentiful and the baptismal font is (again) from the Victorian era.

Baptismal font

Another impressive ceiling

Further down on the right is the Prior's Door which was ornately carved around 1135.

Christ is enthroned in majesty above the door

Detail of the carving

In 1322 the square central tower collapsed. It was decided to rebuild in a larger, octagonal shape. The span is too wide for stone so it was built of wood and metal. The eight-sided shape is meant to convey that here it is the eighth day, a place beyond our seven-day week, the hoped for eternity and glory of the Lord. The nave altar is here.

The octagonal lantern

The nave altar

Lucy takes a moment to pray

From here the north and south transepts are visible. These date back to the Norman construction of the 1100s.

North Transept, note the rounded, Norman arches

South Transept, more rounded arches

Over the pulpit is one of the Millennium Sculptures (donated in the year 2000). This one is Peter Ball's Christ in Glory, a common theme for the church.


Christ in Glory closeup

Several chapels are found in the cathedral. The largest and most famous here is the Lady's Chapel, honoring Mary the mother of Jesus. Built in the 1340s when devotion to Our Lady was very popular in England, it had fantastic carvings on the walls and amazing stained glass windows. During the Reformation, all the windows were broken and the carvings were all defaced. In fact, many of the small statues were beheaded and all of the niche statues were removed. Now it is a simple room with an ornate altar and reredos from the 2000s, along with another Millennium Sculpture, The Blessed Virgin Mary by David Wynne.

The new altar in the Lady Chapel with the plain windows

Decapitated decor

Another chapel is dedicated to St. Edmund, king of East Anglia who died in 870 for refusing to denounce his faith. The chapel includes a 13th or 14th century painting depicting his martyrdom--being tied to a tree and shot with arrows. A copy of a sixth century icon from Sinai of Christ Pantocrator (which means "ruler of all") is also found in this chapel.

Just outside St. Edmund's Chapel

Medieval painting of St. Edmund's martyrdom

Christ in glory on the altar in St. Edmund's Chapel

Christ Pantocrator

St. Etheldreda's Chapel had some very ornate carvings.

From St. Etheldreda's Chapel

Bishop West's chapel dates from the 1530s. He was bishop of Ely and an envoy for Henry VIII until he opposed the divorce with Queen Catherine. He was very generous, feeding 200 poor people a day and gave large gifts to King's School in Ely.

A simple altar with fantastic stained glass

The main altar or Presbytery is found between the nave altar and the western wall of the cathedral. It was built in the 13th century and had a shrine to St. Etheldreda which was destroyed in the Reformation. A plaque commemorates the shrine's location.

Victorian altar

Sign commemorating the Etheldreda shrine

To the left is the organ, which had a nice spiral staircase which was closed off to visitors. While we were there, the organist must have come in. He started playing with a loud blast, which caught all of us off guard and sent Jacob's hands to his ears.

Organ pipes

Organ stairs

The stained glass in the cathedral dates from the Victorian period. The glass represents some of the finest work from the period and the cathedral even has a Stained Glass Museum, which we did not visit since we were there too early. There were plenty of fine examples in the cathedral to satisfy us.

The sun made this one quite vibrant

Annunciation, Visitation, and Birth of Christ

Scenes from Jesus' life

Bishops and their coats of arms

Jesus in glory with various saints

Many tombs are also found in the cathedral, mostly post-Reformation and all fascinating.

Waiting patiently for the resurrection of the body

Lucy liked this little dog sculpture on one of the tombs

Bishop Joseph Allen (1836-1845) looks a little too relaxed

Do not disturb!

Other items that caught my fancy were the rather Victorian-looking heating mechanisms that were interspersed throughout the cathedral.

Woodburning stove?

The most ancient monument in the church is Ovin's Stone, the base of a cross. Ovin was a stewart of Etheldreda and the stone dates back to the Saxon period.

Quite simple by comparison to the tombs

We left from Ely Cathedral quite satisfied with all we saw and with quite an appetite for a snack. We wandered through the back yard of the cathedral, eventually coming upon the high street where we went for a baked treat. But I've already told you about that.

Yard with view of Lady's Chapel and the Octagonal Lantern