In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
-J. McCrae, 1915
In honor of Remembrance Day, in the UK, Canada, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries, for those who served and died in World War I.
Today involved a lot of train stations. We took a train from Epsom to Waterloo, then the Tube from there to Paddington Station, and then an hour train ride from Paddington to the Roman Baths.
The geothermal hot spring is known to have been used by the Celts at least as early as 900 BCE. The Roman began a temple during their occupation of Britain and gradually created an extensive bath house over the next several centuries. The ruins fell into disrepair after the Romans abandoned their British outposts, but the site was used over the centuries, since as early as 675 ACE, as an abbey. At various times through the Middle Ages and into modern times, the church has been in disrepair only to be restored several times.
When Pat and I arrived, several volunteers were at a memorial for Remembrance Day. I struck up a conversation with one, who was a former British Army solider. We talked about the significance of World War I to Great Britain, as compared to World War II, and the devastation that the war caused to the psyche of the country. He told me that his grandfather died at Ypres and was never recovered, and that about half a million Commonwealth soliders have never been found. He works with a group that continues to hunt for remains, and reported that he has found three himself over the years. He had lived in College Station, Texas, for several years, so he and Pat briefly discussed the Texas Aggies.
The Roman Baths museum contained excellent interpretations of the building of the baths, how they were used by the public, and of course demonstrations of the geology of the springs and the engineering of the site. The water is not considered safe, containing amounts of radiation, which would be common from deep underground water sources, as well as amoebic meningitis. After completing our visit, I asked a local for dinner recommendations, and he directed us to a nearby pub, where we feasted on “hand-pressed beef burgers with streaky bacon and Devon cheddar” and half pints of IPA.
On the way back to the station, we also found a chocolate-and-ice-cream shop, where we of course had to get dessert to eat while walking back to the station.
In both directions, we spent £10 and upgraded to first class (Pat hates to ride in “goat class”) and ended up in a nice conversation with our train manager. He had lived in Fort Lauderdale for many years while working as a wine and beverage manager for line Royal Caribbean cruise lines, so we shared stories about places we had been. Arriving in back in Paddington, we reversed all the directions: Tube to Waterloo, train to Epsom, taxi to the house with a stop at the market. A long day, but well worth the trip.