Friday, August 19, 2011

Time flies when...

Can it be that four days have passed since I was on here??? Apparently so; it seems like the days are simply evaporating. So much has happened in this week, but even so I felt like I could have done more with it. Let's step in the Wayback Machine and travel to...

Monday, and the brief excursion to beautiful downtown Wrexham. I had the incredible privilege of spending the morning there, and wasted no time in seeing the whole city. Wrexham is a relatively nondescript place, about 65,000 strong, with no buildings above five stories save for the gleaming shopping center downtown and St. Giles' Church, whose 135-foot tower is one of the seven wonders of Wales. Naturally, I spent most of my morning at these two sites, starting with the circular, open-air mall called Eagle's Meadow. It's the first time I've seen something of that sort, and it would have been my favorite place were shopping on my list of hobbies. As it was, I didn't spend more than 15-20 minutes in any given store, and it was off to the winding side streets again.

There were a few other stores around town closing down, which speaks volumes about either the local economy or Wrexham's overall lack of appeal. The deals at these places were incredible, but there was nothing that I needed and the clothes were absolutely picked clean, making the task of finding anything for a 6'3" frame all the more impossible. I took a brief jaunt through the People's Market (read: flea market), but as soon as I opened my mouth vendors heard the distinctly American accent and started pushing every single product on me, so that wore out pretty quickly.

In the end, the most fun I had was simply walking through the streets of the town. Wrexham doesn't have the industrial, rundown look of cities like London, or the glitzy, glossed-over look of tourist-centric sites: it's just plain. The brick, the cobblestone walkways, the church bells pealing every fifteen minutes, the Victorian fronts on most buildings--this is a prototypical British town. Not a modern industrial force by any means, but not quite left behind to the point of decay. The cliche phrase "frozen in time" comes to mind, and it was a joy just to experience this at my own pace.

And of course, no typical British town would be complete without some history and an ornate cathedral. St. Giles' offered both of these. The church was built in 1495, and houses some of the most beautiful stained glass I have ever seen--including Westminster Abbey. However, my favorite part of the church is one of the most overlooked features in the building--a faded painting of the Last Judgment on one of the arches. In short, Peter is shown at the gates of heaven, directing lines of kings and bishops towards their final destination. However, hell's orange flame is still visible, whereas heaven has faded completely from the wall; therefore, all the churchgoers see when they stare at the vaulted ceiling is the path to hellfire. Granted, it's a black kind of humor, but I found it to be immensely entertaining.

I have yet to meet any Welsh people in Wrexham; the two couples in my tour group at the church were on holiday from England, and I met a lady in one of the department stores who was from Northern Ireland and ended up staying here. We got to talking about the area, and she snorted when I said I was enjoying my time in the city, which is not normally a good sign. She did say that the nightlife is where it's at though, so I'll be devoting a night or two to check that out in the near future.

Speaking of the future, the Wayback Machine can only do so much, so I'll do a quick recount of Tuesday and end this piece. Pretty uneventful day, but evening services at Bethel Baptist were a delight. It was a laid-back experience that consisted largely of watching the BBC documentary "When God Spoke English," a look at the creation and impact of the King James Bible. Incredible work, I recommend watching it for a number of reasons: it gives an in-depth look at what went into the undertaking of this masterpiece, demonstrates the superiority of the King James edition as far as aesthetics are concerned, offers a number of insights into the contemporary British view of religion and, most importantly, it's told from a relatively neutral standpoint. More on this in an adjacent blog soon, but I am retiring for now. The other half of the week should be up later tonight!

Stained-glass windows at St. Giles' Church, Wrexham

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