After a blisteringly dull journey, we arrived in Chester. It was not just a clammy handshake greeting, but a full-on, unsolicited monsoon. Being British, I like to moan about almost anything, the ups, the downs and the inevitable political sideways. A favourite pastime must be the downs. Perhaps it’s my Mancunian upbringing? I will leave you to debate, and inevitably whinge about this.
Whilst waiting to register at the hotel, I had a scroll through Twitter. I discovered, Chester, a glistening gem of Roman ingenuity, has a variety of fondly nicknamed Twitter streams. There was a multiplicity of imaginative adjectives – I may have laughed loudly enough for a couple to take a breather from their Cabernet Sauvignon…
This confirmed, Chester was already a mini-excursion like no other, our first since COVID-19 (!). I had been whittling down my days commuting between bed and computer screen, bed and computer screen and occasionally, bed, Leeds and then computer screen. I can tell you are envious, even from here. During the lockdown, I had mainly been teaching the piano and music theory to children in Taiwan, China, Canada and Hull. Throughout, this was a truly extraordinary experience I will go into in more detail at some point in the future.
Firstly, the history and the architecture, just – WOW! You can’t help but admire the medieval black and white buildings, a majority of which are Victorian restorations. The Chester Canal, The Eastgate Clock, the relocated Victorian archways in Grosvenor Park, the … I’ll just catch my breath.
One of the last times I was in Chester was for a Year 3 field trip to the Roman Amphitheatre, nope – not a trip I was leading, I was in Year 3 myself. Arguably, this was quite a few years ago, by a nice rounded factor.
The highlight of our trip was without doubt, Chester Cathedral. Coincidentally, our visit coincided with their first week fully open due to COVID-19. Why was it such a highlight I hear you squark? There were so many factors.
My wife and I were greeted like an old friend. The ‘Welcomer’ – honestly, I’m not sure what his official position, is a genuine credit to the Cathedral. He was not only welcoming; in retail some certainly need a crash-course in personality, but he was brimming with warmth and energy. Not only did he succinctly explain the COVID-19 guidelines, but he did with passion, knowledge and a spark of wit.
What a fantastic way to start our visit.
The Cathedral itself is truly immaculate, adorned with foul-looking gargoyles. It was awe-inspiring to trudge in the footsteps of so much history and unrivaled architecture. The immense scale of the building was even more noticeable without all the usual seating.
Next, I was in for a treat; ear splitting to some, but remarkable for others. The Grand Organ was being tuned by David Wells Ltd. The stops pierced through the cathedral like songbirds through an orchard.
I could have stayed in the Cathedral for hours. Staring through the tear-stricken stained glass, exploring intricate passageways whilst rediscovering remarkable history and infinite passion.
Passion kept cropping up during my visit even when ear-wigging innocuous conversations between the shop manager and new shop assistant. The energy, commitment and genuine love that radiated from the staff was inspiring. Even though we must have been the first visitors of the day, we were welcomed like old friends.
The following day we decided to go to a Cathedral service, booked online due to COVID-19 restrictions. The system worked like a surreal dream. Seriously, how often does technology work so flawlessly?
On turning up to the service, I was once again overwhelmed by the magnificent Grand Organ and refreshing Bach interpretations. It had been months since I heard, let alone played, a real live pipe organ, and notably one played so exceptionally.
Dean Tim and Canon Precentor Jeremy, whilst unnecessarily apologetic about minor technical service glitches, were brimming with knowledge, warmth and again, infinite passion.
Put simply, so many organisations could learn so much from a visit to Chester Cathedral. I felt privileged to be in the presence of such passionate caretakers in the heart of Chester City Centre.