Halloween on the River Thames

This is how I spent Halloween weekend:

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I was on a yacht on the River Thames in London. This is how LDS single adults party in the U.K. Sounds pretty wicked, right?

This post is about to get real.

I wish I could say it was “smashing”, as the British say, but that just isn’t true.

Yes, the setting was rather scenic.

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The Shard and other buildings on the other side of the river by Tower Pier in the sunset light.

 

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Another sunset picture with the London Eye in the background.

And when it came to dressing up, 99% of attendants actually tried. Several had very impressive costumes.

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The first floor of the yacht

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The second floor with music and dancing.

I dressed up as a fairy. I basically just wore some red wings I bought at Poundland (the English equivalent of Dollar General). I forgot to take a picture. Don’t worry, you aren’t missing out on much.

I have this theory: in order to have an amazing time at a dance — even on a boat on the River Thames — there must be three critical ingredients:

  1. Good friends
  2. Good music
  3. Good dancing

Here’s the report on each element:

  1. Good Friends: I went there knowing one person, and him not very well. I met others along the way, but we had no established friendship and no strong connection.
  2. Good Music: It just wasn’t my style.
  3. Good Dancing: Have you ever tried dancing on a boat? It’s a bit of a struggle. I mean, if you want to stay upright and all. I found that the best technique was to sway from side to side along with the movements of the yacht.

I don’t regret going. If I hadn’t, I would have wondered what I’d missed. But it wasn’t as amazing as it sounds.

And that’s the long and short of it. On to bigger and better things in the next post.

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A Portal to Middle Earth

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I thought I had to go to New Zealand to see Middle Earth. I was wrong.

Birmingham was my home base while in England. It was only after I arranged to stay here that I discovered that at one time, it was Tolkien’s home base too.

As a small child, around the turn of the 20th century, John Ronald Reul Tolkien lived with his mother and brother in an apartment on Wake Green Road, just across the street from what he called “a kind of lost paradise”.

One paradise he refers to is Sarehole Mill.

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Sarehole Mill

Little John (no reference to Robin Hood here intended, *wink wink*) and his brother would sneak into the woods and pond around the mill and play games until the miller chased them out. I imagine them tailing it like Peter Rabbit after he ate Mr. MacGregor’s vegetables, the miller waving his fists and shouting “You rascals! Stay off my property!”

Tolkien’s memories of these idyllic times were inspiration for his imagination of the Shire. Today, the mill is a museum dedicated to his legacy.

My friend Nikki was kind enough to take me on a tour of the mill and its surrounding areas.

The Mill Pool

The Mill Pool

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You can see how Tolkien might have been inspired by these surroundings.

 

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A handmade carving of a crocodile lurking in the woods around the pond.

An even more beautiful lost paradise of Tolkien is the mysterious forest of Moseley Bog. Tolkien said that these woods were his muse for the Old Forest surrounding the Shire. It’s just a green pasture’s walk away from the Mill…

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A look back at the Mill’s chimney rising above the trees as we crossed the pasture.

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Mosely Bog or “The Old Forest”?

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A lovely little stream lined with an organic fence

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There were more handmade carvings in the Bog. This one is a dragonfly!

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“Swamp, yes yes. Come master. We will take you on safe paths, through the mist.”

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Perhaps my favorite picture of the day.

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My friend tells me these wooden planks were laid along the pathway by convicts. You can see the imprints of wiring along the wood, colored and dampened by moss. I felt as though I were walking on top of dragon scales.

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This tree looks like a fiery phoenix nest.

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A gnarly, wizened old tree, perfect for climbing…

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And for sitting…

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A glance back at the meadow in the waning afternoon light as we head back to the streets of Birmingham.

These sites were among the best of those spontaneous and serendipitous gems that sometimes accompany exploring the world. I certainly never expected to find such beauty tucked away in what is the the second largest city in England. What a magical experience.

Holiness to the Lord: The Preston England Temple

I had the great privilege of visiting the Preston England Temple twice while I was in England. It is such a lovely temple with an important history. Preston was the first town in England to receive the news of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I felt the sanctity of that humble beginning and the holiness of this beautiful structure. This site is also home to an LDS church, a distribution center, and the England Missionary Training Center, none of which I captured in pictures, but are nevertheless worthy of mention.

Here are a few pictures of the temple and its surrounding areas:

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Walking toward the temple from the Missionary Training Center and Distribution Center. You can see the temple’s steeple rising in the background.

 

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More of the gorgeous landscaping on the way to the temple.

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The temple itself. This picture pales in comparison to the actual structure.

There are 159 operating LDS temples around the world. I’ve visited several of them, and I’ve even worked as a volunteer in one of them. Whatever temple I go to, the feeling is the same. It is a symbol of peace, a place of revelation, and a house of holiness to the Lord. Here families can receive sacred ordinances that enable them to be together forever. Here the opportunity to serve God is always open. The comfort and clarity I’ve received in this building have been both powerful and healing. How I love the temple.