1) Coventry is just a ten-minute train from Kenilworth, so we didn’t have to make a very early start. Indeed, it could be said that the day got off in a leisurely way not least because it was Christian’s birthday and he had cards and things to look through.
2) We exited Coventry Station onto a wide plaza populated with walking commuters, and I was seized with the sensation (as the day before leaving Warwick Castle) of wondering if anyone knew where we were going. As it happened we headed into a very modern-industrial-retro coffee shop (all exposed brick and wiring and edison light bulbs) for flat whites and cookies to fuel us for the adventures ahead.
3) Before we got to our first destination, several things were pointed out to me, including Coventry Town Hall. Seeing some graffiti that made me wonder if Banksy had been through, we investigated further. Turns out it’s a portrait memorial to the woman who “realized the theme music” of Doctor Who! Happy thoughts of my friends who are fans of The Doctor.
4) And finalmente, we entered The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, a fine vigorous little museum with a vision and perhaps a random collection. Large, interesting exhibition on the history of Coventry featuring local manufactures, fashions, and technology; I was reading with absorption about dial telephones when Christian started blessing me out that we’d come into the exhibition through the wrong entrance and were at the end and not the beginning. So I tore myself away to do it properly. Who knew Coventry had been a center of world ribbon production?!
4a) Paul surprised me with a present of a beautifully-mounted section of elaborately woven silk ribbon depicting the old and new Coventry cathedrals. Wow!
5) TECH RANT [please skip ahead if you’d rather not be bothered]. This was my first trip overseas with a smartphone to use as a camera and - as wonderful as the camera on the smartphone is - next time I’ll bring a regular camera that doesn’t have to upload everything into the Stupid Cloud. All the time I was away I had difficult uploading photos, and NOW I swear they all didn’t upload AND they weren’t uploaded in the order in which they were taken. Technology is supposed to make our lives EASIER, isn’t it?! Ridiculous! END TECH RANT.
6) The rest of the museum was notable for an exhibition on the history of Lady Godiva in art (I felt so stupid having forgotten that OF COURSE Lady Godiva took her famous ride through Coventry), the concept of Peace, and one random gallery of random Old Masters. The latter included a cabinet of drawers filled with curiosities, and I’m afraid Paul and I giggled like naughty schoolboys over a scale to weigh gold that appeared to depict bizarre sexual practices.
7) After a quick pass through the shop (as well as a little stationery shop down the road my friends indulgently allowed me to explore), we passed by the ruins of Coventry Cathedral to tour the Guild Hall. The hall itself is a fine splendid room with some remarkable stained glass and interesting ceiling carvings.
7a) There’s also a Mary Queen of Scots’ Room, as I gather Mary passed through here in custody at one point. I was the first to get the irony of the “Please mind your head” sign on the door. I must say, the stackable banquet chairs in this room were NOT of the Tudor period!
7b) When I was little and my parents got us a World Book Encyclopedia, there were two subjects on which i read everything: the Presidents and First Ladies, and Mary Queen of Scots.
8) We then repaired to the little café in the basement for lunch: sandwiches and wine, as I recall. The whole place very much like a church hall concession, but with alcohol. We made friends with the barmaid on the way out. Paul and Christian plan to return the next time they’re in Coventry.
9) The entrance to the ruined cathedral was just across the way. Thoughtfully and beautifully maintained as a memorial, and as a visible reminder of the need for Peace, I found myself reflecting on the crisis in world leadership all of us face right now.
10) I lingered a bit too long, and Christian and Paul were waiting outside the entrance to the new cathedral for me. Inside, very mid-century (not a style I’m particularly fond of), but I was interested to see how the architects and designers had reimagined traditional forms in new ways or with new materials. This was very much like the interior of Lincoln Center, which took the traditional red-velvet-and-gold theatre interior and did something new with it.
10a) Some sort of drumming/percussion rehearsal was taking place - so restful, so conducive to contemplation. I drifted back to a small, round, very bright chapel filled with an exhibition of Chinese embroidery. Really exquisite pieces, very finely done - the sort of thing I would want to tell Mother all about because she would have loved it - and Gramma, too.
10b) We stopped in another chapel on the way out, this one filled with exhibitions on social justice and activism, as well as a centerpiece of origami cranes. By this time I was just done with all that drumming and ready to go.
11) Again, drifting down sidewalks, not clear to me if we had a destination in mind or not, but quite lovely and interesting. And then we found a church much more my style, the Church of the Holy Trinity. Appearing unhampered by anything newer than the late 19th century, in fact the central window had been blown out during the bombing in World War II. Its replacement, rather than something aggressively modern, harmonizes beautifully with the architecture and other elements of the church. It also has the unique feature of a Christ with no facial hair!
12) We took in a couple other sites en route to the train station, but I’m damned if I can find the photos.
13) I feel sure I had a rejuvenating NAP before what was truly the big event of the day: Christian’s birthday dinner at The Cross, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Kenilworth. They have a dress code, and every time I made an allusion to traveling light in the run-up to the trip, Christian would hasten to remind me not to forget my jacket for this dinner. (I include this because I know Christian will read it and this will make him smile.) And I’m glad I didn’t because it was really nice. (I must say, we three scrubbed up very nicely, too, but I can’t find any photos to prove it.) We walked over - it was only about 15 minutes - and squashed in at a high top for a drink in the bar before dinner. The bar had a low ceiling, so I felt like I had to keep watching my head.
13a) The dining room where we were seated later, however, was quite spacious. The spirit of Mrs. Moorehead must have been with us, because we were seated next to a towering arrangement of Lovely Rubrums; Christian wisely had them sent away, as the scent really was overpowering after a bit.
13b) I started off with the smoked salmon, and then a salad - both of them looked like Jackson Pollock might have been involved. It was “a little poem of a dinner,” as the chef in O. Henry’s short story The Renaissance at Charleroi might have said - the main course may have been poultry - though the remaining details are a bit hazy due to the excellent wines Christian chose and the passage of time.
14) It was a beautiful clear night for a walk home, after a grave threat of rain during the evening (we chose not to risk sitting in the garden), and I believe I fell into bed like a stone.