Thursday, 11 March 2010

My mini St Albans adventure

((Also posted at

Now that I finally have a bike, a whole world is opening in front of me. Last week I realised that there is a train station tucked away right near my house that connects to St Albans, my favourite place nearby, so yesterday I got on my bike and went out for a little adventure, just me, my camera and a book to read.

When I found the station I could understand how I’d never known of its existence before. It’s a single platform by the side of a road, with a couple benches and one train an hour.

I timed it perfectly, and just half an hour after leaving my house, I was already at St Albans Abbey with the bell chiming above me. (Hmm, is it still "chiming" when it's a very big heavy bell? I think it was probably "tolling", more than chiming...)

This abbey is one of my favourite places to sit and think. It has a beautiful homey atmosphere for somewhere so large. Over its hundreds of years of life, it has been rebuilt and repaired so many times with different materials (mainly materials sourced from the Roman ruins across the river) and in so many styles through the ages, that it now resembles a patchwork quilt made of brick, flint, tile, and plaster. It calls to me, telling me, “Don’t worry about being perfect. It's our imperfections that make us beautiful, and strong. They are what make us stand out from everyone else in this world, what make us shine. Perfect is dull...” And when I'm here, I believe it.

After my cathedral visit, I went for a walk through Verulamium Park. This place has always had a magical hold over me. Obviously every place has its history, but here... I can feel it. When I see the stone remains of gates where the road from London (or Londinium I suppose) met the Roman town of Verulamium, I can see the carts trundling through the narrow gaps, and I can see the Roman guards standing at their posts, both by the gates and along the top of the wall. I feel the hustle and bustle of the town that once stood where the park lies now.

Even though the day was overcast and grey, there were traces of spring wherever I looked. Right now there are huge clumps of snowdrops lining fences and walls, and the lake is full of cygnets; almost fully grown into swans, their beaks still warming into the same flaming orange as those of their parents, and the last of their tawny feathers being replaced by fresh, brilliant white ones. They kept swimming up, curious about me and my camera, but were soon disappointed when they realised I had no food with me.

And the coots! Before yesterday I'd never noticed how, without warning, they suddenly start running across the top of the water like sprinters heading for a finish line. I was determined to catch a good photo of them doing this, but it turned into a photographic cross between Space Invaders and Wack-a-Mole. They gave no indication when they were about to stop swimming sedately and run for it. The first I knew of it would be a splashing sound and by the time I had turned with my camera, it was too late, and they were just bobbing along innocently as if nothing had happened. After a while I was certain they were doing it on purpose.

Eventually, though, I managed to get this shot:

It’ll do for now, but I’m going back when the sun’s out and I can use a faster shutter speed. I’m not giving up until I capture the perfect photo!

Then I finished off by sitting in the cathedral café with my book, a cup of hot chocolate, and some ginger biscuits. The perfect end to a perfect day.

1 comment:

Lilly Rose Chen said...

WOW! what gorgeous pictures you've taken. I esp like the bird taking flight from the water...well said about the imperfections of life....