Sunday, 28 August 2011

No, I haven't found Jesus...

...I didn't know he was lost.

So while I was in Nottingham, at Wollaton Hall café (see previous blog post), I got chatting. There I was, minding my own business, polishing off my jacket potato and veggie chilli, alone, when a voice from the next table said "Was that good?" "Absolutely delicious", I said, looking up at an elderly man in a beige suit, white socks, pale slip-on shoes and with very few teeth. "And what was it?" he asked. "Veggie chilli and a jacket potato" I replied, in a way that I hoped made it clear that I wasn't really in the mood for idle chit-chat (I had a blog to draft, after all).

Undeterred, he went on with the small talk and within a few minutes of perfectly pleasant chat, I'd discovered that he lives locally, comes to the park every day, has a niece who lives in Hove, thought I was either Australian or from Cambridgeshire (?!), had been a mathematician, retired at 52, and had written three books since retiring. Innocently, I asked "Oh, what were the books?" "Funnily enough, I have one here", he said, pulling a small white book from his equally white jacket pocket. I glanced at the cover, couldn't work out what it was, so I flicked through a few pages and was none the wiser. I saw poems, personal memories, fables and a random list of chapter titles with no discernible connection. I made a few suitable noises of appreciation and handed it back. He started to talk about chaos theory and how mathematicians try to make sense of everything around them, trying to make order out of chaos, he mentioned the butterfly effect and various other concepts I'm relatively familiar with.

And then it came - "You see, as a mathematician, I see life as a journey, a logical progression, from questions to the final answer, from ignorance to knowledge and that only comes when we understand God and Jesus and the real love which follows." My heart sank. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with religion - when it's kept private but I could see where this was going. He continued for a good four or five minutes while I shuffled my feet and nodded politely, until he reached "Don't you see? You'll finally be complete and free when you love Jesus." I couldn't take any more so I was quite diplomatic (for me!) and said "Well, of course, everyone's entitled to their own opinion and no-one actually knows who, if anyone, is right. But I'm an atheist, I feel perfectly complete and free already thank you, and I personally disagree with your views on the subject." Unsurprisingly, he ploughed on, not aggressively and not exactly preaching, but not letting the subject go either. I picked up my bag, put on my jacket and received a rather convenient text which gave me the perfect excuse to leave.

It was a shame - he'd seemed like an interesting person to talk to at the beginning but once the topic had headed to where he clearly wanted it to go, it was pointless. The subject wasn't going to change and he clearly wasn't prepared to listen to my views even though he thought it was perfectly acceptable to foist his on me. I really don't understand it - most religions preach tolerance and yet seem to be entirely intolerant of anyone who doesn't share their views. Personally, I'll never understand why anyone would want to live their life being told what to do by an invisible entity, a big book or some bloke claiming to be speaking for the invisible entity. Personal responsibility, people! Do what YOU believe is right and take the consequences if there are any! OK, I'm getting down off my soapbox now before I'm accused of foisting my views on anyone! ;-)

So, a potentially nice chat spoiled! What a shame.

What I did on my day out...

...near Nottingham.

Last Tuesday, having dropped Dade in central Nottingham for another photography training course, the day was my own. On the net, I'd seen a hall and deer park - Wollaton Hall - to the west of the city that looked pretty interesting. Having no map and a SatNav that failed to recognise the name of the park I was reduced to just heading west and hoping. Fifteen minutes later, I was there! I drove in to the park and immediately saw some deer but no sign of the huge house! It was free entry but you had to pay to park and being a disorganised soul, I had no change. I was about to head off in search of a cafe to get some, when a very nice man knocked on the car window and handed me his all day parking ticket. He'd only used it for half an hour!

The hall didn't open for another half an hour so I set off (in the rain) to find more deer. I spotted a big group and carefully circled them, keeping my distance, wary of the big males and their rather impressive antlers. I'd seen a sign saying it was calving season so I knew to be on my guard. Just as I'd almost completed my circuit, two more appeared from behind a clump of trees about twenty yards away from me. The only thing between them and the rest of the group was the patch of open ground I currently occupied! My brain said "Just keep walking" but my legs were yelling something very different. When they broke into a run, so did I (the most exercise I've had in a while!) Once the adrenaline kick had worn off, I at least managed to take a couple of pictures.

By then, the cafe was open so I hid from the rain with a cup of tea and let my heartrate return to normal. It's a cute cafe with the expected clientele - elderly couples, middle -aged people with their elderly parents and thankfully few kids, despite it still being the school holidays.

Finally it was time to hit the hall, which was rather odd. The house itself is very impressive - a slightly less Gothic version of Gormenghast. Inside was a "natural history museum". Hmm - I found myself rather bothered by the exhibits. The Tudor entrance hall was beautiful and from there I entered "The Bird Room" which contained stuffed birds of all sizes and descriptions, none of them very nice. Undeterred, I carried on into The Insect Room - not quite as disturbing but the trays of butterflies made me sad and the tarantula gave me the creeps! Then came The Wildlife Room. It was about as far from "life" as you can get. Stuffed with every mammal you can imagine, mostly big game and obviously hunted. I know it was a different time, blah blah blah, but the sight of zebra, lions, buffalo, giraffes and gorillas which had clearly been shot, stuffed and then bequeathed by some colonial old fart who thought there was nothing better in life than killing defenceless animals got the better of me in the end. It improved after that with the mineral, gemstone and fossil collection which was, as Stephen Fry would say, Quite Interesting. And that was that for the house. It's a huge property but the museum part only takes up a small part of two floors.

The very wet morning had given way to a sunny afternoon so I wandered out in search of the gardens, camelia lawn and greenhouse, all of which were very pretty as well as nice and quiet. The greenhouse was a little odd - I can only assume that it had been used to grow something which had already flowered as it simply held a couple of dozen huge green bushes! The camelias smelt gorgeous though.

My tum told me it was time for lunch so I went back to the cafe and treated myself to a jacket potato with veggie chilli. It was absolutely delicious, huge and a bargain at £4.50.

As I finished eating, I started chatting to an elderly guy at the next table but soon regretted it when it turned into an attempt at religious conversion, but I think that's for another blog post. After lunch, I went for a long walk through the deer park, ending up at the lake where I watched a very amusing duck-feeding display by three seemingly "hard as nails" blokes who were all reduced to gibbering wrecks when the ducks came at them en masse having spotted the bread they were carrying! I found a comfy bench and read my book by a secluded bit of the lake until the sun went in and my bum went numb. By then, Dade had finished his training and it was time to pick him up, find some dinner and start the drive home.

All in all, it was a lovely place to spend a day, great value with only paying £4 for parking (if you have to pay at all of course), a tasty reasonably-priced cafe and plenty to do. If you're in the Nottingham area at any point, I can highly recommend it.

All my pictures of the day are HERE. Apologies for the quality - all taken on my iPhone.