Friday, 23 November 2018
A walk on a winter night
in the streets of Lichfield
Between the two-day meeting of USPG trustees in Roehampton in London on Wednesday and Thursday and a meeting of USPG volunteers in Birmingham Cathedral today [23 November 2018], I have been staying overnight in Lichfield.
It is hard to explain how Lichfield is further from London than it is from Dublin, and after an eight-hour journey by bus, coach and train from Roehampton through Birmingham to Lichfield yesterday afternoon and evening, I am now willing to argue that it might have been quicker – almost – to catch a flight to Dublin and a flight back to Birmingham.
I know from past experience that a flight from Dublin and a train from Birmingham is more efficient and speedier journey, and often a cheaper one, than the way I travelled on Thursday.
The meeting of USPG trustees finished at 2 p.m., and I finally checked in at the hotel in Lichfield at 10 p.m. By then, the hotel kitchen was closed, as were the first two restaurants. But I ought to have remembered I could fall back on that old reliable favourite: Ego Restaurant overlooking Minster Pool, with the dim lights of the cathedral reflected in Minster Pool.
But no matter how long the journey, or how late the hour, it is always a joy to be back in Lichfield. Here my faith was shaped and formed in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital and in Lichfield Cathedral when I was still in my late teens almost half a century ago.
Rather than go for a drink afterwards, I went for a walk along Minster Pool, around the Cathedral Close and back through the quiet, still streets of Lichfield in the late night lights of winter.
One homeless person with a sleeping bag had found shelter for the night in the west door of the cathedral. What does winter hold for homeless and vulnerable people this Christmas?
Samuel Johnson looked pensive on his perch in the Market Square last night amid the Christmas lights that are waiting to be switched on next Sunday afternoon [25 November 2018].
Before the Christmas Lights are switched on in Lichfield on Sunday, there will be a special market from 11 a.m. around the city centre selling food and gifts, events at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and children’s rides.
There will also be live music and entertainment on the switch-on stage on the Market Square from 2.30 p.m., and a special performance from the cast of the Garrick Theatre’s ‘Dick Whittington’ at 4.45 p.m. just before the big switch-on. The Mayor, helped by two local school children, will throw the switch and light up the City’s Christmas Illuminations at 5 p.m.
During the afternoon, two local bands will entertain people from 2.30 p.m., and the Christ Church School Choir will then lead carol singing on the Square from 4.20pm. We are also expecting a special visit from Santa, who will be arriving on stage on the Market Square immediately after the lights are switch-on.
The lights, provided by Lichfield City Council with the support of Lichfield Chamber of Trade and local businesses, will stay on throughout December from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m.
But the lights remained off last night as I wandered through Dam Street, Market Street, Bore Street and Bird Street before returning to my hotel.
I hope to visit Lichfield Cathedral and the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital later this morning, before catching a train back into Birmingham for today’s meeting in Birmingham Cathedral for volunteers from the Diocese of Lichfield and neighbouring dioceses organised by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).