My visit to Rosslyn Chapel

When I entered the chapel, there was a crowd almost blocking the door — I thought it was someone checking our tickets, but then they seemed too gabby, so I figured it was maybe that ancient corn carving or something they were all excited about.  Just as I was about to move on, the crowd dispersed, revealing at its heart an enormous cat.   A tour guide lady stood next to it, smiling enthusiastically, as if willing us to ask questions. Another woman and I approached and we started quizzing her about the cat.  

“Does it have a name?”


“Who takes care of it?”

“We feed him during the day.  At night he catches rats.”  She paused.  “Outside.  On the grounds.”  She waved her hand to indicate the ever increasing distance between us and the rats.

“My cats would never tolerate being around so many people," I said. 

"Mine neither."  The other tourist pursed her lips and frowned, as if planning the lecture she was going to give her own cat that night.  The tour guide said, “Oh, neither would mine!”  

Then, she told a story.  One day last winter, when the chapel was super crowded — someone was giving a talk — a woman came in late, saw what she thought was an empty spot between two men and sat down.  

“I don’t think she could’ve sat all the way down,” and here she hinted at re-enacting the scene with, or rather, on, poor Tom there, so we could see what sitting all the way down would mean for him. 

“But there was the most awful scream.  You can’t believe how loud it was.  And the cat went running over there,” she pointed at the Seven Sins, “and then over there,” she pointed at the Apprentice Column, “and out the door."  She shook her head, still in seeming disbelief.  “We didn’t see Tom for at least a couple days.”

“Did the woman enjoy the rest of her visit?” I asked.

“Oh, she was really upset.” The tour guide looked like it was only fitting, and perhaps not enough.  

But then, maybe feeling guilty for her thoughts, she went on, “Of course, you can see how it happened.  She just saw the space and never thought to look.  Or maybe she thought he was a hat.  Some people have actually said they thought he was a hat.”  She pondered the cat.  “He could even be a jacket.”  

The other tourist touched the guide's arm and, in that sudden rush of relief-induced honesty one feels when hearing about someone doing something more stupid than you, said, “You know, when I first saw him, I thought he was a stuffed cat!” 

The tour guide didn’t seem to like that comparison.  She edged away, closer to Tom, and we made room for the next batch of tourists. 

The rest of the chapel was kind of like looking at an obsessed person’s wall before they invented cork board.  It was a bit hard to make out some of the sandstone carvings in the low light.  Downstairs in the crypt there were some scratches on the wall and a mini flood-light directed at them and an explanatory plaque.  It said something about what the scratches meant, but it wasn’t so interesting to me, so I went back upstairs, said bye to the cat and left.

British eccentrics

I asked Ray, my frame store friend, what was the longest someone had left an order before picking it up.  

“18 years.  I remembered it well, because it was my first day on the job, and I didn’t take a deposit.  I got in a lot of trouble because of that.”  

18 years later, the guy came in and said, “Uh, I dropped something off about a year ago.  I’d like to pick it up now.”  

“It was 18 years ago!”  

The guy broke down and said he’d gotten divorced, moved out of the country, moved back, gotten divorced again, etc. etc. 

“What did you charge him?”

“The original price!  20 quid.  Now it’d cost 65 quid."

I didn’t tell him about how I once left my Miata for a year at the repair shop — I’d dropped it off to get the zipper fixed.  But still, I could feel smug, as 18 years > 1 year.

He also said a lady came in with a curtain rod.  “I want to return this.”  

“We don’t sell curtain rods.”  

“I don’t care what you sell.  I want a refund.”  

He kept trying to explain that she’d have to return the curtain rod where she'd bought it, and she kept demanding a refund. 

Another time, a lady called: “My window is broken.  I need you to come and replace it.  But there is something I have to tell you.”  

“What’s that?”  

“I have no intention of paying you.”  

"I can’t fix it for free.”  

“That’s why I’m telling you now!   I have no intention of paying you.”   

“OK, well, I have no intention of coming over and fixing it, then.”

I wish I worked in a frame shop!