I have come to a land of poppies.
Huge fields of them, swaying in the wind, holding their own against the rape seed, dancing more demurely with the grain. The landscape is said to be flat — and sometimes, it truly is so — but as often as not it swoops gently and reminds me of New England farms.
And that is the great surprise of Lincolnshire. Here I am in a place I do not know, have hardly ever been to, and it feels already known. Sometimes, it is New England. Sometimes, Kentucky or Virginia. Sometimes Oz. But one way or another, I turn a corner and think: this is a place I have always known.
My first Sunday here, I went to Boston. I hadn’t meant to go to there, but after many a frustrating hour driving around central Lincolnshire looking for a 5th Sunday Eucharist, I gave up, and decided to go to a church I knew would be open.
St Botolph’s — the tallest parish church in England — is known as The Stump. The tower rises octagonally and once would have been lit to help map and navigate the fens.
Did I know that Boston gave us Boston? I suppose I did — but I hadn’t thought about it. Did I care about the links between one place and another? Perhaps, but not as much as one might assume. I went for the eucharist, and that seemed to be enough.
I am not much of an historian, and I have little sentiment about pilgrim roots. And yet, as I stood there and began saying the Collect for Purity, I could hear the echo of those who had stood in the church all those years ago and said the same prayer before boarding the ships and crossing the ocean and saying it again — in time — at Old North Church.
Later, I read of a Forth of July celebration in one of the towns along the coast, and found that the local Tesco’s sells Hershey’s cocoa, Crisco, Kayro and Butterfingers.
It is all unexpected, and slightly strange — but quite delightful too.