Now, at last, I conclude the posts about my trip to England. I apologize for the delay. I have been busy working at the day-job even though they’re about to lay me off, getting “Godric the Kingslayer” ready for publication, continuing the search for an agent (something I have reason to feel hopeful about!), and–as always–writing. I need to pick up the pace of my publishing if it’s ever going to catch up with me!
For now, it is my pleasure to tell you about my last two days in England.
First we took a trip from Tamworth to Birmingham. Because Birmingham is such a large city, we decided to ride the rail to it, rather than test my left-lane driving skills in a thick urban area. Boy, am I glad! Birmingham was even bigger and denser than I expected it to be.
Birmingham is the second-largest city in England next to London, and its urban economy is the 72nd largest in the world. I could not believe how many malls were all together in walking distance, nor how many people were out shopping in the middle of a Monday! It felt like Christmas season at the St Louis Galleria.
We made our way to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which was the focal point of our journey.
This would be our first glimpse of the renowned Staffordshire Hoard.
Sadly, we were not allowed to take pictures. However, there are plenty on the internet that I can share.
If you’ve never heard of the Staffordshire Hoard, I should remedy that quickly for you. The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold metalwork ever found. A man discovered it in 2009 while searching a hill near a highway with a metal detector. The little tiny scraps of ancient craftsmanship he pulled from the dirt, piece by piece, would soon be valued at more than 3 million pounds.
The next few images are from http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/, which I encourage you to visit.
Glancing at this pectoral cross (don’t peek at the next picture yet), how large would you suppose it was? I mean, look at those tiny spirals, or the intricate little ridges around the edges. Then remember that this all would have been hand-made–there were no technical gadgets to help the Anglo-Saxons create something like this. Do you have an image in your mind of how big this would be?
Good. Now you can look below.
A little smaller than you imagined, eh?
The most incredible thing about the hoard was tiny and intricate every little piece was. Most pieces were displayed in glass cases with magnifying glasses so that you could study each piece more clearly.
See more incredible images here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/birminghammag/sets/72157622327837525/
News of the Staffordshire Hoard became public around the same time I was writing “Eadric the Grasper.” It was amazing timing for me. Call it narcissistic, but the fact that this great discovery of the Anglo-Saxon era happened while I was writing my first historical fiction felt like a divine indication that what I was working on was important, profound, and unwilling to be forgotten.
In any case, there’s a glimpse at the Staffordshire Hoard, which we saw more of the next day, at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.
I skip ahead a little, but in truth, I near the summation of the story of my England trip. The last two days were a blur of walking, riding the train, driving, and then touring museums. Here are a couple more images from the Birmingham museum and city:
During our last full day, we took a walk through the Tamworth morning market:
And then made our way through an incredible fog to Stoke-on-Trent. I must confess, I was not a big fan of that town, and in fact the only picture we took other than a picture of the museum was this one:
And that pretty much sums up my impression of that town. Sorry. Might have been my mood.
In any case, I leave you now with an image of the fog we drove in, an image that lingered in my mind long after I left. I felt as if on my last day, England was telling me that I had seen a great deal, but there is still so much more to learn and discover about this magical, majestic nation.