The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
John M: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the secret sect of Mithras in the heart of London.
The first phase was the information gathering and the assembly of a dossier on everything known about the cult. Next, tickets were obtained for a crack team to gain access to their underground lair. John emailed his contacts with an outline of the plan and one-by-one the slots were filled. The rendezvous was set to the viewing platform overlooking the Tower of London and enthusiasm was such that everyone was early. To combat the freezing conditions and to get everyone firing on all cylinders, coffee was downed in large quantities.
John started the briefing with a tour of the memorial to the Merchant Navy, honouring the sacrifice from two world wars. Next we strolled through the city admiring the Roman defences, passing under the gaze of one of our greatest generals, a renowned philanthropist and a famous tunnelling engineer – all whilst weaving our way through the classic architecture of our capital city.
The route culminated with our arrival at the Mithraeum. Tickets were scanned to authorise entry and we were initiated into the dark rituals of the sect, or at least some of them. It turns out there are levels of membership and we were stuck at the lowest rung. It was obvious that this sect was aimed at men: there was the bull wrestling for a start and the curious symbolism (including the snake drinking blood and the scorpion on the testicles - that’s got to be a guy thing). It might be just as well we stayed as initiates, it really wasn’t clear what you had to do to become a man-bride, let alone a lion. There was evidence of past members in the form of leather sandals, elaborate keys and records of gambling debts: all adding to the history of possibly the oldest men-only club in London.
Having escaped the clutches of the cult of Mithras, some of us felt in need of a soul-cleansing and headed for St Pauls Cathedral for Evensong. The whole area was chaos with barricades, security guards, trucks and cranes. Half the party battled their way through to the service, the rest gave up and scattered. Sheltering in a nearby coffee house, we heard from one of the groundcrew that the chaos was due to the filming of Mission Impossible 6 and Tom Cruise had been jumping off St Pauls earlier. Famously, he always does his own stunts. John – where’s your dedication?
Brooding in Bury
It wasn’t a particularly inspiring forecast, but January saw us heading for rural Suffolk and a stay in a former hen house (brooder). The barn had been thoroughly renovated – more than just the hens swept out, I think they’d totally rebuilt it. There were several comfortable rooms and a well-equipped kitchen, plus a superb lounge complete with Moroccan goat skin lamps. Still, we couldn’t stay in all day and a rather rainy Saturday took us over to Lavenham. This is a beautiful village, even in drizzly conditions, and alongside the ancient buildings there was the compensation of some very fine tea rooms. We also managed to find a very jolly traditional pub at Brent Eleigh on the way home.
The Sunday weather was rather better and perfectly suited our plan to explore Bury St Edmunds. And there was lots to explore. We started in the Abbey Gardens, entering the town proper through the Norman gate. We took in the magnificent cathedral, Guildhall and Cornmarket, whilst revelling in historic details like the Charter of Liberties and the naming of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Tea in the Orchard
It was a cold but dry day that we met in the park and ride at Trumpington. This was the start of our cultural adventure under the tutorage of Doug. From the top of a double-decker bus we got a bird’s eye view of the posh houses and private schools of Cambridge suburbia, before dismounting at the Fen Causeway for the start of our walk. We followed the River Granta out of town, through Lammas Land and past the Skaters Meadow: a route used by countless students over centuries to escape the pressures of academia. Our destination was the Orchard tearooms in Grantchester, made famous by Rupert Brooke in his poem: The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. They’ve also served tea to other luminaries from Woolf to Wittgenstein, and of course Chelmsford YHA. With lunch downed, but still hungry for culture, we returned to Cambridge for a look round the Fitzwilliam Museum. As it turned out most of the culture we were interested in was in the cafeteria, but it was a café in a museum of world renown. I feel more intelligent already.
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