Yesterday morning, when we left the Lake District, the weather was, of course, absolutely gorgeous. But we still had to leave.
We drove first just a few miles down the road to the fairly sizable town of Milnthorpe, still in Cumbria. This is the home town of John Taylor, eventually the third president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Born in 1808, he lived here until his emigration to Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1832. There, of course, he would meet and marry his wife, Leonora Cannon, a native of the Isle of Man, and, in 1836, would hear the Gospel from Parley Pratt.
The Anglican parish church of Milnthorpe shown above was built in 1837, so John Taylor would not have known about it before he left for Canada. And, anyway, by that time he had become a Methodist. But he would have seen it when he returned to Milnthorpe as an apostle and missionary on the Quorum of the Twelve’s errand to England in 1839-1840.
We continued on down to the vicinity of Preston, where Heber C. Kimball first introduced Mormonism to England in 1837. But we bypassed Preston itself, and went up to the villages of Downham and Chatburn, where Elder Kimball had legendary success. I don’t think these stories are well enough known in the Church.
Buying some drinks in the little shop in Downham — “Are you Mormons?” the lady asked — we were told that the M6, the major southward bound motorway that we were planning to take back to London, had been absolutely closed down owing to a terrorist incident in a bus; military units were on the scene. This was true. The motorway was absolutely closed for fully four hours, and a mess for hours more, and it greatly lengthened our drive. However, it turned out that there was no terrorism involved, merely an “electronic cigarette.” But British fears regarding the fast-approaching Olympics are not without a basis in reality: Just hours before, five Islamists were arrested very near the Olympic stadium in London on charges of planning terrorist attacks, and, the previous Saturday, seven people had been arrested during a routine traffic stop on the M1 motorway in West Yorkshire when they were found to be transporting a large cache of hidden weapons.
Nearing London, we stopped off at High Wycombe, the place (roughly midway between London and Oxford) where my father was stationed while awaiting his orders to go over to continental Europe during the Second World War. He was attached to an Air Force unit there, studying the interpretation of aerial reconnaissance photographs. We’re reasonably sure that the building he was working in was Wycombe Abbey, which is now a girls’ school. There’s a good story connected with his stay in High Wycombe that I’ll reserve for a future entry. (It’s very late, and, although I’m behind on my blogging and emails, I’m going to have to cut this short.)
Finally, via the M25 — often described as “the largest carpark in Europe” for its perpetual traffic jams — we returned our car at Heathrow and caught a hired car into the Picadilly area of London, where we had a single night reserved at a hotel. Our driver was from Nairobi, and he was very talkative about Kenyan politics and history — which was lots of fun, because my wife and I spent a week or two in Kenya many, many years ago, when we were first married and were living in Egypt, and we loved it. I was sure that I would be back fairly soon, but, alas, it’s been more than thirty years. I would still like to learn Swahili, though. Fascinating language.