After Blist’s Hill we drove out through Coalport and some interesting roads to Shifnal, which looks like a town worth exploring, and up to the A5. Then I saw a sign to English Heritage Lilleshall Abbey, so we followed it. SJ737142. A short walk from the road, and a rather peaceful spot.
It was founded in about 1148 for a community of Augustinian canons – they originally came from Dorchester in Oxfordshire (a town I have never been to), there were probably about 13 canons originally. It was a powerful place by the C13, deriving its income from gifts and legacies, farmland, two windmills and investments in property. They also had the tolls for the use of Atcham Bridge over the Severn. Henry III was entertained here twice around 1240. This picture is by Terry Ball and is on the EH interpretation board.
The Abbey suffered a financial crisis in the C14 and the abbot was accused of mismanagement. The number of canons was down to about ten before the abbey was suppressed in 1538. It became a private house, owned by James Leveson of Wolverhampton, but the buildings were severely damaged by several weeks of a Parliamentary siege in the Civil War. It was then abandoned and left to decay.
In 1767 the Donnington Wood canal was dug through the abbey precinct. It stretched from coal mines at Donnington Wood, with another branch from a lime quarry at Lilleshall, down to a basin beside the Newport/Wolverhampton turnpike road. Later it was connected to the Shropshire Canal, which was linked to the Severn by the Hay Inclined Plane. The whole system was closed by 1904 and you wouldn’t know there was ever a canal here (which is the polite way of saying I didn’t until I read the EH website – https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/lilleshall-abbey/History/. The State took over the site in 1950. It is an unstaffed property.
You come up to the Abbey by the west door of the church. You can easily imagine it in all its splendour.
A little way down on the north side is a spiral staircase which you can still climb. It is a good view, back to the west arch and forward to the east end.
Walking east, you realise how important this area of the church was – seven services a day, and they wouldn’t have closed down for the plague. The east window was a C14 addition. The choir stalls at St Peter’s Wolverhampton are thought to have come from here, rescued by the new owner after the Dissolution. I wonder about the sense of emptiness and betrayal the monks must have faced as their monastery was closed and sold off around them, but I suppose you just go with the flow as that’s the easiest thing to do.
Finally I wandered round the precinct buildings. The Skype, a narrow passage way which could be closed off at either end, and the warming room – lovely ceiling. The arch into the cloister is rather lovely too – you can imagine the procession of canons with cross, incense and music, making their way through here on a Festal Day.
Three hundred years after a Royal Visit, sold to a man from Wolverhampton … ho hum.
Last November we purchased an Annual Pass for the Ironbridge Museum in their Black Friday deals. Then came winter, then came Covid. We drove over a few weeks ago to collect it, but it was a wet, horrible day and after a couple of hours at Blist’s Hill we had had enough. On Friday 21 August we booked a 10 am admission, and were there exactly on time. The weather was rather better.
We ambled across to the Canal, and admired Trevithick’s loco which was built here in 1802 (this replica dated 1990 – I would love to see it steam.
We had a lovely walk along the old canal – I’d love to dredge some of that and get some vessels on it – past a fascinating Gospel Car and Sunday School. It was originally built in 1904 as a double-decker tramcar for the Birmingham & Midland Tramways car number 10 in Wolverhampton, then converted to a Sunday School for Bridgnorth People’s Hall Mission at Erdington in 1928. It needs some TLC. There were lots of blackberries as we walked along, and when J is on Morgan she is just the right height.
This part of the canal ends at the top of the Hay Inclined Plane, which operated from 1792 and 1894. It lifted boats through 63 metres (207ft), a height that would normally be achieved by using 25 locks. The original rails were removed in 1910 and the canal basin filled in during the 1920s. Restoration work started in 1969, continuing later with the re-laying of the railway tracks and the clearance of the canal basin. There is a long article The Hay Inclined Plane in Coalbrookdale (Shropshire, England): Geometric Modeling and Virtual Reconstruction, from the journal Symmetry 2019 – which I attach – and I think I now understand how it worked. It is one of those things that needs a bunch of MA students to build a digital recreation of it (Julie and I were so good at that, I don’t think it will be done by us).
Later on we walked to St Chad’s Mission Church. Sadly this was locked – a grill you can look through. Martin, formerly the Diocesan Communications Officer for Newcastle, says he and all the other CE Communication Officers recorded a hymn there for the BBC on one occasion – the obvious one would be “Go forth and tell”, but there must be one about confusion and spin. A google tells me there is one called “God you spin the whirling planets” (though it is not a ditty I have ever sung).
The original building was built at Lodge Bank, close to Granville Colliery (now in Telford), around 1888. These were churches that could be built nice and easily. The majority of the contents are from the original building, moved here in 1977, augmented by various items from St Paul’s church, Aqueduct, Telford, with “pews, offertory plate, hymn and prayer books from Broseley Parochial Church Council.” It was re-consecrated by the Bishop of Hereford, and it is sad you can’t get inside. I don’t know if they ever use it, it should be possible to portray a living faith in a historic reconstruction.
In the Ironworks, and you can imagine some of the congregation working long, dangerous hours here, we joined a guide for a half hour tour. Pig (or cast) iron was the original product, the base of the industrial revolution, but while you can make a bridge out of it, it is basically brittle. They needed something stronger, especially to make rails. By heating the iron to about 1,200 degrees C, puddling it (removing the impurities), then hammering it, you could make wrought iron. The Puddler was paid a good salary, but looking into an oven with a bright white light would cause blindness, and the chemicals were the same as smoking 300 a day. Most were dead by 35. The job passed to the son, who must have realised he would go the same way.
Then it was taken to be hammered, 19 tons every time it came down. The adults kept out of its way, but a child with a brush was expected to sweep the debris away between blows. If they lost a limb, or died, they were dispensable. The hammer was made about 140 years ago, and still works perfectly. Then the metal was rolled and rolled, getting smaller every time. The talk made sense of some of my Panamint films.
We had a really enjoyable day, and walked about 5 miles. I feel we’ve done most of the museum, but I’d like to go back for some of their special events. There are several other Ironbridge Museums that need to be done too. Our pass is valid until July 2021, so we might get to some sort of normality by then.
Let’s start this final section with one amazing memorial, then we’ll end our visit with another. We should mention we enjoyed the gardens and the café – and look forward to coming back when the Remembrance section is open, an exhibition exploring how humanity remembers. There are also many memorials I didn’t photo, and others that I even failed to find (The Donor Family Network is an obvious one for me). We will be back.
The Shot at Dawn memorial is one of those that makes you stand in silence. During WW1 309 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot for desertion, cowardice, striking a senior officer, disobeying a lawful command, casting away arms and sleeping at post. Most of these were sentenced after a short trial at which no real defence was possible. Andy de Comyn’s statue is modelled on Private Herbert Burden of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, who was shot in Ypres in 1915, aged just 17. The wooden posts are arranged like a Greek amphitheatre, each one named and given their age (when we know it) – many of them were just children. I failed to photo the six trees which stand for the firing squad – and we should not forget the trauma that being in the squad must have caused. It is good that a pardon was issued in 2006, but a tragedy that so many died.
‘The hand of peace’ is a memorial for Sapper Support, asking us to think about post-traumatic stress and mental well-being. The sculptor was Peter Barnes, and we are invited to reach out and hold the hand of the person who needs our love and support. There is an additional notice at the moment. Is it poignant, or does it increase the fear? There has been little reported of the mental cost of the pandemic, and what the mental toll will be over the next few years, to soldiers and so many others.
I found the Ambulance Service memorial touched me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know how many ambulance crew have died, but I do know that their job is dangerous. I have had several high speed journeys with my boys – I shall never forget being in the passenger seat of an ambulance car on one of Gareth’s journeys to London for a new heart. We had gone from Bury to the Stansted services in a souped-up minibus, then transferred to a fast car for the ride on to Great Ormond Street. He put the blues and twos on as we came round the roundabout, down the slip road, then I watched the needle on the speedo. It didn’t take long before we were over a hundred. Most cars got out of our way, but I could see the concentration of our driver. Later we were coming in along the Bow Road, dodging the traffic, through the red lights, wrong side of the road – all because it was his job. I have no doubt there was danger, but I never felt safer. Sometimes, I am sure, something goes wrong and lives are lost.
The Royal Tank Regiment has a model of a Mark V Heavy Tank (Male) which took part in the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, less than two years after the first battle involving tanks which was on the Somme in September 1916. If I come in the Spring I will see hundreds of daffodils planted in the pattern of tank tracks, and if I look more closely I will see a pattern of ash trees, several of which were propagated from trees from the battlefield at Cambrai.
The Polar Bear deserved a closer look. It is a memorial to the 49th West Riding Infantry Division and was dedicated on 7 June 1998. The Infantry was formed in 1908 and fought in France and Flanders during WW1. In WW2 they saw action in Norway and Iceland, hence the name. The bear is made from yellow hardwood and was created by Essex woodcarvers.
The Normandy Veterans original memorial was dedicated in 1999, and an improved one went in in 2014 for the 70th anniversary. Julie’s dad was one of those involved – he was in the Duke of Cornwall’s. We keep saying we ought to find out more, trouble is that someone with the name of Henry Brown is not exactly the easiest person to trace.
Blown away, by Sioban Coppinger, FRSA, 2014. “A study of a moment in time. The young man, his life fleeting as a gust, sees the whole world in a glance.” The artist’s inspiration was from T.S. Eliot, “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future”. It is made from bronze laurel leaves and sits on a plinth fabricated in mild steel. It has intentionally been left to rust, with stripes of bronze reflecting its adopted strength.
We left the Armed Forces Memorial till last. It is reached by a flight of stairs, but the path circles round twice and that is a special way (though I am glad my wife now has Morgan the powerchair rather than Esme the wheelchair). This is the memorial where over 10,000 names are recorded, those who have been killed on duty since the end of WW2. Since 1948, the men and women of the Armed Forces bhave taken part in more than 50 operations and conflicts across the world. To quote the guide “These actions have ranged from hot war to peacekeeping, from humanitarian assistance to fighting terrorism, from the jungles of Malaysia to the storms of the South Atlantic, from the seaport of Aden to the streets of Northern Ireland. It is not just service men and women who have made sacrifices. Behind every name on the Memorial there are the wives, husbands, partners, parents, children and colleagues who have loved them and who live with the pain and consequences of their loss every day.”
I recognised one of the names, and I must check the name of the man from Darley Abbey who died in the Falkland’s conflict. There is space for more names.
The Memorial was designed by Liam O’Connor and draws its inspiration from the ancient landscapes of prehistoric Britain and the classical forms of ancient Rome. At the centre are two bronze sculptures, the embodiment of loss and sacrifice. Created by Ian Rank-Broadley it bears witness to the cost of armed conflict. A gap has been left in the two southern walls, which allows a shaft of sunlight to penetrate to the heart of the Memorial, onto the central bronze wreath, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.
It was an inspiring end to our visit. We had walked 5 miles, and yet there is a great deal more to see.
Our next amble was from the Naval area up beside the River Tame to the railway, then back in the direction of the ‘Shot at Dawn’ memorial, which we’ll do in the next blog. Here are a selection of the memorials we passed. I ought to know more about the trees and the wildlife.
‘Every which way’ is the British Evacuees Association Memorial. It was unveiled in 2017 and the sculptor was Maurice Bilk. “Through the deliberate distortion of the figures; reversed hands and some torsos twisted 180 degrees, the memorial conveys some of the anxiety and confusion the child evacuees felt. The split open luggage clutched by the figures represents how families were torn apart by the evacuation process.” Apparently 3.5 million people were displaced, the greatest social upheaval in British history. We forget that some of them never saw their families again. There is some good film of them (and also of Land Girls) on this dvd https://www.panamint.co.uk/second-world-war/women-children-at-war-dvd – well worth buying.
‘Posted’ is a memorial to the JHQ at Rheindahlen, Germany, and the Ark School, both of which closed in 2013 – I remember being at school governors’ meetings in Northumberland when we got some of the youngsters from Germany (they were moved to the Albermarle Base on Hadrian’s Wall). The birds on the sculpture represent the dispersal and regrouping of families due to military postings. The post boxes were used at British army bases abroad. The children worked with the blacksmith Melissa Cole – she set up her forge on the school playground. Almost all of the metal was salvaged from redundant stocks on the base.
The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department has the Chi-Rho, the combination of the first Greek letters of ‘Christ’. “In this sign conquer” is the motto of the department. Military veterans assisted the blacksmiths of Fire and Iron in Surrey in the creation of the memorial. Chi (X) is rendered as swords beaten into ploughshares, representing soldiers in both wartime and peacetime and recalling the hope of Isaiah and Micah. Rho is rendered as a shepherd’s crook, representing the padre as a pastor. One of my fellow students from Lincoln Theological College, Mark Christian, served as a chaplain in Afghanistan. I remembering hearing him being interview on Radio 4 one day after a major attack in which several of our troops had died – it put my parish woes into some sort of context. Hundreds of army chaplains have died into the conflicts of the C20.
‘Free Spirit’ is a statue which commemorates horses which died during World War One. It was designed by Georgie Welch, and was put on display here after years of fundraising. Tracey Francis, from the Free Spirit Memorial Appeal, said they wanted to highlight the “huge difference” horses make “in all walks of life” – over a million horses and mules served in WW1.
When you walk round a place like this, you start to muse on why we fight. You see memorials from long-lost conflicts and wonder why we go to War. One of the first conflicts I really remember was the Falklands War. We were at Cambridge – the story goes that this conflict took everyone by surprise, and the MoD phoned Cambridge University Library to ask if they had any maps of the islands. It was described as a conflict of two bald men fighting over a comb, and us students were some of those who felt we should not be involved. This wonderful bird, and the orchard that surrounds it, is a memorial to those who refused to be subjected to the enemy force after the islands were invaded on 2 April 1982. These brave islands spied on, sabotaged, and disrupted enemy activities before the British Task Force landed. Islanders than helped the troops by fighting with and alongside them, supplying vehicles, food and clothing, gathering vital intelligence and offering comfort to injured troops, all often under fire.
This is the memorial to the attack at Pegaseus Bridge, the longest day attack on D day. Capturing these bridges was a major victory on D day, so important for the start of the battle to liberate Europe.
Going back to WW1, this is the memorial to the Christmas Truce and the playing of football in No man’s land. It was designed by 10 year old Spencer Turner from Newcastle in response to the Football remembers competition in 2014. It was created by sculptor Georgie Welch.
The final memorial in this section is the Rail Industry Memorial which was commissioned by the British Transport Pensioners Association. A class 8F locomotive of the LMS stands on the top, and there are pictures of men and women at work. I can’t find details of the sculptor/engraver, which is a shame. It is rather good.
Having visited the Millennium Chapel, we started to explore the grounds. There is no way I will do all the memorials, so we will have a selection of them. The gardens are lovely, and there is a good variety of planting. I like the Alder Tree, although the Arboretum seems cut off from Alrewas by the A38. Access to the Arboretum by public transport is appalling.
The RAF Halton Apprentices Memorial Garden has a centrepiece representing the wheel badge. The base in Buckinghamshire, was open in 1912 when forces from Aldershot needed somewhere to practice the defence of London using their three aircraft and an airship. The information board was fascinating.
The RAF Regiment provides specialist Force Protection for military airbases worldwide. It has been on operation since it was founded in 1942.
The Auxiliary Territorial Service Statue is the work of Birmingham sculptor Andy de Cimyn who used his wife Francesca as the model. It consists of a cementitious render over a reinforced concrete core. The ATS was founded in September 1938, had 23,900 women in the service in 1939, and 212,500 in 1945. 335 were killed, 94 reported missing, 302 wounded, and 20 became PoWs.
We went into the area of the Arboretum which commemorates the War in the Far East. It is perhaps the hardest part. We went round the displays in the Pavilion, and the horror is so overwhelming that silence is almost the only response. Ronald Searle the cartoonist, and former pupil of the Central School in Cambridge (which became the Boys’ Grammar and then Netherhall), suffered appallingly. While working in Suffolk I met men who had served in that theatre where so many East Anglians met their death – and I met their wives and widows. The Sumartra Railway was not a story I know, the Burma Railway I only know through the lens of Bridge over the River Kwai, I have never been brave enough to watch The Railway Man. The Sumatra memorial is by Jack Plant, based on a sketch by Owen Greenwood – they were both prisoners there. The track for the Burma Railway was originally manufactured in Middlesbrough and returned in 2001 to be in this memorial.
The World War I Sikh Memorial is dedicated to the 124,245 Sikh soldiers who fought for the British Indian Army in all the theatres of warm including major battles at Ypres, Flanders, the Somme and Gallipoli. The guide does not say who the sculptor was. It was unveiled in 2015.
The Women’s Land Army and Timber Corps Memorial is lovely – I liked the figures better than the ATS one. The Women’s Land Army existed for two years in WW1 and was re-founded on 1 June 1939 (it was disbanded for the second time on 30 November 1950). By 1943, 80,000 women were working in the Land Army, and about 6,000 others were in the Timber Corps. Land Girls and Lumber Jills. The bronze memorial was unveiled in 2014. It is by Denise Dutton. 1,000 Land Girls worked as Rat Catchers, killing “Hitler’s little helpers”.
There is a selection of naval memorials. We sat in the Women’s Royal Naval Service garden for a while and admired the Wren. It is a memorial to the 21 WRNS and the 1 Naval Nursing Sister who died when SS Aguila was torpedoed in 1941.
The Naval Service Memorial commemorates those who have served, serve today and will serve tomorrow, regardless of rank, trade or fighting arm. It was created by Graeme Mitcheson, from a theme developed by Lt Col Nigel Huxtable. It is comprised of 13 coloured glass panels on a white granite terrace and includes a figure of Kilkenny limestone. The glass depicts the colours of the five oceans – steel grey with spume lines for the Atlantic, turquoise for the Indian, ultramarine for the Pacific and white for the Arctic and Southern oceans. Yellow for the rising sun, red for the setting sun and the blood spilled at sea, and on land. On the memorial’s terrace stands a figure of a sailor, head bowed in respect to shipmates everywhere, cap held in the ‘at ease’ position. The figure faces west, where the sun sets. The terrace has a carved inscription of the Tennyson poem ‘Crossing the Bar’, a phrase used when shipmates pass away (I’m sure I did the poem for O level). The glass panels cast a shadow suggesting the shape of a warship, visible only in sunlight and for a few hours each day. The carved shapes suggest waves and motion while the scale and colour hint at sails in a harbour. It was unveiled in 2014.
The memorial I wanted to find was the one to all the crew members of HMS Barham, from her launching in October 1914 to her sinking on 25 November 1942. I wrote my daily facebook rambling about this later that day:
When we were in Orkney we went to the island of Hoy, and I was wandering round the Naval Cemetery at Lyness. I found the memorial to the Chaplain, the wonderfully named Henry Dixon Dixon-Wright, who was one of the 26 who died when she was involved in the Battle of Jutland.
At the start of WW2 she was part of the Mediterranean fleet, and saw action off the coast of Africa, on convoys to Gibraltar, and came as far north as Scapa Flow. On the afternoon of 25 November 1941, she was one of a group of ships which departed Alexandria to hunt for Italian convoys in the Central Mediterranean. She was torpedoed by submarine U-331, three of the four torpedoes struck amidships so closely together as to throw up a single massive water column. Barham quickly capsized to port and was lying on her side when a massive magazine explosion occurred about four minutes after she was torpedoed and sank her. 841 men lost their lives.
When I mentioned finding the memorial on Hoy to my colleagues St Edmundsbury Cathedral Neil the Dean told me that the candlesticks at Westminster Abbey had been given in memory of the survivors, and when I did some research I found that on the nearest Saturday to 25 November the HMS Barham Association attended Evensong. In 2011 Gareth and I joined them. It was the 70th anniversary and, for the final time, the survivors carried the Standard to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior (I’m sure there’s a more naval way of expressing that). There were several hundred of us in the Abbey, and you could have heard a pin drop as a group of very old men made their way down the Nave. Incredibly moving.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.
We haven’t be able to visit churches for the last few months, and I am aware that I have still not blogged my two or Derby Cathedral. On Saturday 1 August we went to the National Memorial Arboretum. Our friends Rob and Anne have sung its praises, but we were not convinced. We decided to pay a visit. We were very glad we did. We booked at 10, and the queue was well organised.
The Arboretum was the brainchild of Commander David Childs CBE and planting began in 1997. The National Lottery paid 40%, and the public matched it. I like the phrase in the guidebook that “From the start it was seen as a place of joy where the lives of people would be remembered by living trees that would grow and mature in a world of peace.”
The first building, once you have passed through the entrance, is The Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness. The architect was Catherine Harrington. When I walked in I was annoyed at a video screen behind the altar, constantly playing. I am never amused by TV screens in churches or Crems – the symbolism of the cross in our local Crem has been replaced by a TV screen constantly showing “footprints”. No one else seems to mind – I am a dinosaur. In the NMA’s defence, they seem to be using the screen as the welcomers can’t be there. I just wish there was a short pause between each presentation – in case anyone wanted to pray. In normal times I think they have a daily act of remembrance at 11 am. The “No Entry” sign is because of a one-way system in and out – so much we have got to get used to.
The Chapel is constructed mainly of wood and the roof is supported by 12 columns of Douglas Fir, each carved with one of the 12 disciples, by ex-Royal Marine and Shropshire woodcarver Jim Heath. Outside we have Peter, Andrew, James and Thomas – I had forgotten Thomas is the Patron Saint of builders.
Inside we have Philip (who talked to Jesus about the feeding of the 5000), Matthew the tax collector, Bartholomew (said to be one of the first bishops), Judas not Iscariot (a missionary who sailed with a sextant), and John the brother of James (who was offered a poisoned chalice).
The trees and leaves are beautiful on the altar and the kneelers. The altar was made by young offenders at HMP Swinfen Hall, and the altar frontal by the women’s section of the RBL.
The storyteller is rather lovely. Carved by Essex woodcarvers it is makes the link between the apostles on the pillars and the teachings of Christ today.
Anna Crompton’s Millennium Prayer (I think Millennium should have a capital M, but at least they have spelt it correctly) is on the wall outside. She was a Suffolk girl, and I remember a lot of publicity being given to her prayer at the turn of the century. The Open Churches Trust has died in the last 20 years, and our churches are shut. Rather depressing.
Right, off we go into the Arboretum. Three more blogs to come!
This cartoon was in Private Eye and it sums everything up better than I can. I should have been celebrating my 25th anniversary of Ordination, instead we are struggling to get churches reopened. We had our first Sunday service at St Matthew’s on 19 July – St Edmund’s has had the builders in, so that delayed things there.
Some local walks to Quorn, Duffield and along the old railway to Breadsall.
A very wet day at Blist’s Hill Museum at Ironbridge.
Trips to Kedleston Hall, our nearest National Trust property.
A new whill3 powerchair from TGA Mobility, named Morgan. It means Julie can get a lot further and I don’t have to push. We took her to Hardwick Hall, another lovely National Trust property.
Facebook ramblings done as usual. I walked 59 miles, so I have done 284 miles this year.
Covid continues, aided by a shambolic government. We learned about social distancing and managed to get one church open for Private Prayer. I made lots of phone calls, and posted on facebook every day. Here are my ramblings.
This cartoon sums up the shambles that was May. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. It will be interesting if people reading this blog in 20 years time have any idea who the cartoon relates to. I know an historian should give his sources, but I will not mention the evil man’s name.
The first half of the month was spent walking round the garden, going some cooking, and trying to hold everything together.
Thursday 14 was the first proper walk, a circle through Quarndon and the outskirts of Duffield. Lovely to see that the tree is still there, and the log is good too.
I managed some walks the next few days. We’re not supposed to drive somewhere to walk or use public transport, so I have to be able to start and finish here. Fortunately there are lovely walks from my own front door. I managed 52 miles in May – add that to Jan 60, Feb 19, Mar 28, Apr 29 and I’ve done 188 this year.
I also managed a daily facebook post – here are the documents. Finally, enjoy the rose. Beauty in the time of Covid.
Here we are in the time of Covid-19. This is one cartoon which sums up the month. The one below sums up what it felt like not to do Holy Week and Easter in my churches. You had to try and smile (or else you’d cry). If you want to know what we got up to in our two churches, have a look at https://www.stedsandstmatts.co.uk/copy-of-worship-while-our-buildings
The furthest I got in the month was Nottingham Road Cemetery. The staff there (and at the Crem) are being superb. We tried to keep in touch with people through emails, phone, and facebook. Here are my daily facebook ramblings.