Spent all day Sunday driving down to Carlisle stopping briefly in the morning at the Falkirk Wheel. http://www.thefalkirkwheel.co.uk/index.asp
Wow! It was pretty neat except that I totally misunderstood what the ticket salesman said, “Right, then the boat will take you up the wheel, through the tunnel, to the castle and then back.” Sounds like fun to me. So I bought a ticket and waited the hour for the ride. In the meantime I watched boats come down the wheel and then through the lock. It was pretty amazing. Then it was my turn! The canal boat was packed full of people but the captain was amusing. He was so funny that most of the people in the boat didn’t even realize we were in the air until he pointed it out. So the misunderstanding was that the NAME of the tunnel was the RoughCastle tunnel. So there was no trip down to a castle. It was up the wheel, through the tunnel, and then turn around and back through the tunnel and down the wheel. It was an experience though. On the way back down it seemed like we were going to go right over the edge because people in the front (where I was) can’t see the rubber gasket which holds the water in. So it appears that one is hovering mid-air. Thrilling. The wheel is based on Archimedes principals of water displacement and balance. Yet it took us a thousand years or so to put them into practice. The wheel makes what used to be an 11 hour journey just over 40 minutes. Pretty impressive. Not as impressive as pricetag though.
Anyway, I kept driving and driving before I realized that Carlisle is in England and I only had Scottish pounds. Okay get this. The UK has pounds sterling as it’s currency. But each country of the UK aside from England mints there only currency which has exactly the same equivalency as a UK pound but it is only good in that country. And it was Sunday so there weren’t any banks open to trade my money in for. So I drove up to the borders region (which is where my family hails from) to a town called Hawick.
Now I will bring a flashy souvenir back for the first person to email me with the correct pronounciation of that word. Sorry, no one got it right. The phonetic spelling would be something like Hoick the oi being like in “point”. I didn’t get there until around 6pm and the visitor information place was closed. So I went out of town to the “Christian Retreat Center” thinking that in lieu of a hostel and I didn’t want to camp in the rain that maybe they hand sleeping bag accomodation.
Well, the place was empty. The woman who was helping me said that she didn’t have anything clean I explained that I had a sleeping bag and that it didn’t bother me to sleep on the floor I just didn’t want to sleep in a tent outside. She got cheerful and said well let’s have a look at the room and that if she could just get the standard rate of 34 POUNDS we’d be set. WHAT! Standard rate to sleep on the excuse my lousy french FLOOR! Um, no. I enquired if she knew of budget accomodation nearby. She said to try at the Balchory House back on the main road up the hill. As I was leaving she said, Oh, and you have to be a Christian to stay there. I looked at her quizically and replied that it wasn’t a problem.
So, up the road to Balchory House I went. I rang the bell of this MASSIVE manor house. The FIVE locks on the door were undone and a man answered. I enquired if they had any room for the night. He said, “the woman who keeps the manor is in meeting and they just started. I am 90% sure that she does.” I enquired about price which was right at £15. He restated that they were all in meeting. I said no problem and when should I come back. It was 7pm and he thought they might be finished around 9pm. I said I would go to get something for dinner and then come back as I walked to the door. He then asked if I was Christian. I said yes. He then said, “well you should join them at meeting. Afterward there will be juice and sandwiches for free.” I said that wasn’t nescessary and that I would just come back at 9pm. He assured me that it would go along way to “proving” that I was Christian because they don’t allow non-Christians to stay at the manor. At this point I thought, “uh, oh”. But then I calculated my odds of finding someplace else for that price that didn’t involved sleeping in the rain in my tent without a roof nor illegal activity. And decided I would stay.
I told him I needed to use the ladies first and then I would be ready for meeting. In the bathroom I once again weighed my chances of finding other lodging in town (I had already driven through town once and hadn’t seen any place) or the rain lifting. I went and found him and he showed me through the bottom floor and out the back to what looked like used to be a garage. It STUNK and it was HOT. There were no chairs available so I took one down and placed it in the back. Everyone was already standing, arms in the air, singing a song I had never heard. There was a woman playing guitar. I was by far the youngest person of the 14 in the room. There was one African man who might have been in his late 30’s but everyone else was easily 50. There were about 5 songs and then a sermon. The sermon was on how we never feel farther away from God than when we are closest to him. Interesting idea–however I TOTALLY disagree with the premise. I did get a little freaked out when the pastor forgot what he was going to say and he started shouting that the devil had stolen his thoughts. Simultaneously two or three of the women began whispering various things like “amen”, “Holy Jesus”, and “Satan begone!” I think I was holding my breath wondering what was about to happen. But presto chango he remember and then they all started with the alleluias and hallelujahs.
Then communion was served. As the man began bringing it around it occurred to me that I didn’t particularly want to be eating or drinking anything that these people were. I am NOT a koolaid drinker (please see the Jim Jones reference) so when he presented me with the bread I asked if it was unleavened. No it wasn’t so I passed. Thank you God! Then when the liquid in the cup which everyone had a drink out of came to me I enquired if it was grape juice or wine. It was wine. I am, evidently, not in the water to wine camp but in the water to grape juice camp and therefore passed on that. Thank you God!
I thought wow. We are almost finished and it isn’t even 8pm yet. Oh, no. Evidently the first sermon was just a teaching and not a sermon. The pastor was a shouter which I detest. Especially when there are only 14 people in the room. His sermon which lasted well past 9:30pm…ahhhh….was about a million things–what I remember—Adam and Eve and satan. Pride being man’s downfall always. No sin greater than pride. How satan fell from heaven over pride. The 5 “I am”s of Satan. And that Jesus, although nice to think that he died for us, wasn’t God’s main point. God’s main promise was via Abrahm (NOT Abraham!) ((I don’t know if this is a KJV difference or a different person or what but it was stressed many, many time)) and God’s promise that Abrahm descendents would fill the earth and descend to heaven. I tried to listen politely and really think about what was being said. But I strongly disagreed with a lot if not most of it.
Once the service was over we went into the dining room of the manor house. They offered me food and drink but I decided to pass. I was REALLY creeped out at this point. I have never heard of a Christian group who doesn’t really believe in the promise of Jesus.
The pastor asked me if I had ever been to a meeting like that before. I looked at him quizically because I wasn’t sure what he was asking me and I didn’t think, “no, y’all are freaks!” was the right answer. He then asked the question again slowly like it wasn’t that didn’t understand but more like I couldn’t understand and if he spoke slowly and if I was dimwitted I might get it. So I said, “Well, it doesn’t matter if it is the same people in the same location, each service is different depending on the spirit that moves the group.” Now it was his turn to look at me quizically. He said, well more asked, “You’ve been to church before?” I said, “Oh, yes.” He then asked, “Are you a Christian?” Evidently I had failed to put on my Christian outfit that day because he was the third person to ask me that. I said that yes I was. He looked really, really disappointed then. I think he was hoping to convert me as then he walked away.
Anyway, I answered all those questions 13 more times as each person there came up and asked me. It was mind numbing. Which sent up alert signals again. At this point I was very creeped out but it was almost 10pm and I knew this was the only choice unless I wanted to sleep in the car.
Finally the woman of the manor said that she would go make up my room. I told her she didn’t need to as I had a sleeping bag. She insisted and then showed me up 3 flights of stairs, down a stair, down a hall, to my room. On the way she said, “There is just the “colored” (I assure you these were HER words NOT mine!) man that you will have to share with.” I said that I didn’t think that would work well for me. She laughed and said that he was just on the floor not that we would be sharing the room. She showed me into a single room with a twin bed and said, “This is the Jane room.” Creepy. I smiled and thanked her. Then she said, “Now I will show you our bookstore.” Not a question or an offer but a demand.
So we walked up the hall, up the stairs, and then down 3 flights to their bookstore. Where I was lectured on the “true” faith, the Isle of Lewis revivals of the 1950’s where the “covenant” came to someone or other as the true way, and the “covenant” was explained in depth. She really wanted me to be interested but I really just wanted to sleep. She went on until almost midnight when I said, “Oh, I have kept you, how rude of me, I know that I am just exhausted and I am sure you must be too.” She relented at this point.
I practically flew up to my room and shut and locked the door and put the key in my pocket. Normally I leave the key in the door in case of fire but I was more worried about the creepy people coming to get me in the night for more indoctrination. At this point I had been lectured/sermonized/spoken to for 5 hours straight…
Needless to say I didn’t sleep well due to being a tad anxious about my surroundings. At 5:30am I tiptoed down to the bathroom then gathered my backpack and tiptoed as quietly as I could to the front door. After undoing all 5 locks and then quietly shutting the door I RAN to my car. I escaped without having to go to morning meeting or talk with anyone else.
So, learn from me my friends, when in Hawick, keep driving!