Provincial Weekend in Shrewsbury – 6 to 8 October 2017

Haiku challenge in Shrewsbury

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What do Percy Thrower, Charles Darwin, Wellington’s second-in-command, Clive of India, Wilfrid Owen and Scrobbisbyrig all have in common? Well, all were answers in the quiz about Shrewsbury which was given out as the after-dinner entertainment during the Province 15 Weekend which was held there recently.

Sixty brothers, wives, widows and family members arrived in Shrewsbury for a weekend that was billed as a relaxed and informal time together and which proved to be a great success, demonstrating the very best of what the Association stands for – fun, friendship and family.

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The fun came in the form of a variety of activities: two Cadfael-themed walks and one about Darwin; a boat trip on the Severn with afternoon tea; a visit to the amazing stained-glass windows of Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral and St Mary’s Church on Dogpole, which has been there since the Saxon period; a visit to Shrewsbury Abbey, the setting for Ellis Peters’ monk-detective novels; a stroll in Percy Thrower’s gardens, known locally as The Dingle;  and the chance to indulge in some local beers at our hotel or at the Oktoberfest in the Dingle.

The friendship was evident in the way that brothers and wives from the different Circles mixed and enjoyed each other’s company, as shown by the “old codger with friends from Derby” photos (top and below). And the family came in the form of this old codger’s son, daughter and daughter-in-law.

The weekend began with delegates arriving at the hotel and then walking into town, or taking the short bus ride, to find the monthly Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair on the Market Square, which is surrounded by suitable emporia for retail therapy; one or two bargain purchases were made! A few had been to visit Ironbridge, Wroxeter and Attingham Park which are all nearby so they only wanted to put their feet up with a nice cup of tea.

After a very informal drinks reception, everyone went in for dinner where the level of noise suggested that there was a lot of catching up being done. Over coffee, the first of the weekend’s challenges was set; this was a hotly contested quiz about Shrewsbury, its history and famous denizens, with eventual winners Peter and Julie from Mansfield who just beat David and Eileen from Derby by the narrowest of margins on a tie-breaker (though I think Peter, a former history teacher, had a slight advantage over the dates).

Saturday morning meant the group dividing into three with two sets following the Cadfael trails and one finding out more about Charles Darwin. Our local Blue Badge guides were excellent and knowledgeable, and never flustered by the stream of awkward questions. We all finished our walks in the Market Square which gave us a chance to explore the covered market and take on some sustenance in the many excellent coffee shops and restaurants around the town centre; you could even drop off your hubby, should you wish:

Saturday afternoon was filled with a boat trip on the Severn (or Sabrina, as the Romans referred to it), where the delights of the town could be seen from a completely different angle and at a much more leisurely pace than in the morning. Our boat was overtaken by several boats from the two school rowing clubs which have their clubhouses next to the park.

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After a stroll back to the hotel, via Shrewsbury Abbey, and a short rest, we gathered for the second challenge of the weekend. This took the form of an evaluation in haiku format (haikus are an exquisite 17-syllable Japanese poetic form) and each table had the whole of the time it took to eat our evening meal to come up with one haiku that summarised what was best about the weekend. We were joined by a Shrewsbury brother and his wife who were made most welcome and who joined in the challenge. There were plenty of winners in this challenge and all efforts were acclaimed praiseworthy. All of the haikus are on the following blog page, if you have not yet seen them:  Provincial Weekend – Haikus

Sunday Mass was at Shrewsbury Cathedral, whose designer Edward Pugin was son of the more well-known Augustus Pugin who was responsible for St Barnabas’ Cathedral in Nottingham, seat of the diocese covering most of Province 15. After the service was finished, we were offered the opportunity to view the magnificent Arts and Crafts stained-glass windows created by Margaret Rope who later became a Carmelite nun but continued to produce some beautiful windows full of Christian symbolism.

Funds were sufficient to enable us to offer a donation to the Cathedral and there was even some spare, as a result of unanticipated savings on the boat trip, which will now go to CAFOD’s Harvest Appeal; it was Harvest Fast Day while we were there.

A lunch back at the hotel marked the end of a happy time with great memories of spending time together and of discovering this lost gem of Shrewsbury, often ignored on the drive to South Wales. Hopefully the weekend has stimulated some members of Province 15 to drop in again when they are passing.

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