Because of sadness there is dance!

Tonight, following a visit to an Italian restaurant, Jon made clear his opinion of musical comedy. I feel our relationship may have suddenly encountered a rocky patch. After spending a lovely morning together, while the other weasels went walking and taking photos of dirty signs, I must admit to being somewhat devastated.

I’m trying to shake off this blow.

Our day started off pleasantly enough with a trip into York. Jon had to pop into the office for a bit, so I went with him to keep him company and avoid falling over in some sodden field somewhere.

York was lovely though a bit crowded. I started off walking around to the minster then, feeling a bit put off by the crowds, found a Starbucks for a quick latte. I was a bit upset by the lack of hazelnut syrup but, other than that, it was rather pleasant. And rather fancy.

Suitably refreshed, I headed off for the York Art Gallery to enrich my soul with a bit of art viewing. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover the current exhibition of Japanese ukiyo-e prints tautologically called Pictures of the Floating World.

Of great interest was the series of prints relating to kabuki players. In particular, the work of Utagawa Toyokuni (Toyokuni I) who was ‘renowned for his actor prints (yakusha-e) which he produced primarily from 1794 to the late 1810’s.’

The print below is of Iwai Hanshiro V (1776-1847) who, it is said, was one of the best female impersonators of his time.

Although kabuki started life with only female performers, in the 1620’s women were banned and men took all the roles. So, like Shakespearean plays, there was a lot of cross dressing. I guess the men realised that kabuki was lucrative, so they banned women and took over. Just like Katrine Marcal so eloquently writes in Mother of Invention.

I also discovered that there was a Japanese festival (the Torinomachi Festival) during which prostitutes were fined if they didn’t have customers. Which seems incredibly odd.

I thoroughly enjoyed my wander around the paintings. Apart from the Japanese prints, I rather liked the work of Marinella Senatore (1977-). In particular her works made as part of York Symphony which gathered together local stories and transformed them into artistic works.

I really liked her work titled Because of sadness we have dance! which made me smile.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and sat in Exhibition Square for a little read, while I waited for Jon to take me to lunch. Which was had in the delightful Eagle and Child pub.

We then drove back to the house where, while waiting for the return of the weasels, we both sat in fold up chairs in the sun trap that is the back of the garden, reading and generally snoozing like a couple of contented old men.

It was so pleasant that Lilly (the cat) actually let me stroke her. She hasn’t been particularly approachable ever since the roofers were round, replacing the tiles a few weeks ago. Which reminds me that I forgot to mention the roofer that was scared of heights. It occurs to me that his choice of career may not be the best decision he’s ever made.

Eventually, the peace and tranquillity of our Polkington idyll was shattered with the return of the weasels and we found ourselves gathered in the living/dining/kitchen area trying work out the contents of a parcel which was delivered to the house the other day to a name that doesn’t live there.

The small, flattish parcel was stroked and fondled for a bit by most of us before John managed to extract a small green fussy thing from the tiny hole in the wrapping. Then, feeling the other objects in the parcel again, seemed to indicate the same sort of things only in different sizes.

John found the person they should have been delivered to by looking up the surname and road name in the BT phone directory. A person of the same surname was listed living a few doors down. It was figured that the person who had ordered the item had accidentally picked the wrong number from the postcode drop down.

There was a lot of hilarity until the door bell went and we all suddenly went silent. Were we in trouble for laughing and cackling with noisy abandonment? Had we annoyed the neighbours? No, it was two young teenagers asking if their parcel had been delivered to the house.

Bev handed it over without finding out what it was for. Anthea figured it was probably for some school project.

Eventually, it was time to walk to the pub (Cross Keys) where we relived old times in various European countries and discussed TV programmes we have all and separately enjoyed.

Lorna, Anthea, Bev, John, Jon, Darren and me

After a couple of pints, we set off for our booked table in the Italian restaurant. We were not alone in our riotous behaviour as there was a long table behind us full of women (and one man) who were noisier than us. I would have thought this was an impossibility but, to be fair, there were more of them.

We devoured as many carbs as we could before espresso and amaro to see us into the night. We left when the staff started clearing out the furniture in preparation for closing up for the night.

Eventually we were settled into the front room where I discovered how Jon feels about musical comedy (neither particularly musical or funny). We also found out about the dining area in the Amundsen-Scott Station at Antarctica, which was nicknamed Alice’s Restaurant. Jon’s father worked there for a while.

I’m still trying to get over the musical comedy thing.

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Vegan roadkill

Because of a verbal NDA, I’m not allowed to tell the story of the famous person who, unexpectedly, wanted to sing a famous song in a kitchen. Which is a shame because it’s quite the funny story. Still, what’s a confidence if not confidential.

I was told the story on our way to Northallenton where Bev had a work meeting. I probably can’t talk about that either so I’ll just skip along to the town of Northallenton direct.

Madame E and I wandered up and down the largely under construction and behind Heras fencing high street though not before having a coffee in Neros.

Anthea quizzed the man in orange to find out what was going on but, he explained, he’d only started working there today and didn’t have a clue. He did say they’d had a lot of complaints about the disruption which had been going on far too long for some people.

We later found an artist’s impression of the finished construction stuck to a vacant shop wall. It’s going to look very good, if the artist has it right. And someone tells the workers.

Having walked to the end of the high street and spotted this sign outside The Durham Ox…

…and queued for and bought four fat rascals from Betty’s, we ended up at the Tickle Toby Inn for a just on lunch time pint of Copper Dragon.

Obviously we popped into the Tickle Toby Inn in order for Anthea to quiz the barman about the name of the pub. He’d only been working there for a few weeks, he said, and didn’t know. “I’m not from around these parts,” he unnecessarily added, in a broad Geordie accent.

Not being Nellie’s meant that Anthea could ask her constant companion, Google about the name. It turns out that Tickle Toby was a local highwayman who would ‘tickle’ the pockets of gentleman on the King’s Highways roundabouts. When she told the barman he nodded wisely and said “Oh, yeah, I knew that.

Bev rang Anthea to find out where we were. It turned out we were across the road from her. She came and joined us for a drink before we left to see an old Cistercian abbey buried deep in the Yorkshire countryside.

Except it didn’t start off as Cistercian.

It was originally founded by the Monastic Congregation of Savigny in 1135. Mind you, it wasn’t an easy task. They moved five times before settling down in the flat lands of Byland. Then, abandoned by god, they were absorbed into the Cisterican group shortly afterwards.

During the leadership of Abbot Serlo, the Savigny’s fell into financial difficulties and had to admit defeat. Obviously, god wasn’t happy with them. The far more successful and, therefore, godly Cistercians, took over the Savigny English holdings.

In 1322, a bunch of marauding Scots turned up and there was a big fight between them and King Edward II. The fight was decided when Eddie ran away to York, leaving enough riches behind to stop the Scots chasing him.

I’m surprised the Scots had come so far south. Perhaps they were headed for Inverness but went the wrong way.

Then, of course, the most godly of them all, Henry VIII, decided to take over all of the religious houses regardless of god. He gave the place to William Pickering in 1539, which, when I think about it, is not much different to what the Tories do all the time. Except it’s business and not religion.

The ruins, now run by English Heritage, are extensive and incredible. There are scores of floor tiles scattered around the site although, when we returned home, Jon told us that the guy who looks after the site told him if one more tile is stolen, he’s going to turf it all over. Apparently there are certain visitors who think it’s okay to rip up and make off with medieval glazed tiles. They probably think English Heritage means them.

But, before entering the abbey ruins, we had an amazing pork sandwich at the Byland Inn, the pub across the road. Which is exactly what every abbey ruin needs – a pub across the road. It’s a pub that Bev did a report on in order for it to have permanent glamping permission. We figured that was enough to get us a table. Given we were there just as they opened, we had no need to call in any favours.

We were met by two young guys, one of them the chef. We asked if they did sandwiches. The chef then asked the other guy if lamb and pork had been added to the menu. The other guy said no. We said yes with great gusto. The roast pork sandwiches with apple sauce and crackling on the side were bloody brilliant.

The stroll around the abbey was extensive and highlighted by the remains of grass, desiccated by a strimmer. Obviously, having Bev with us meant we talked a lot of educated assumed archaeology, which is always great fun.

Then we returned to the car for the long drive home. And it was then we hit the rain. Or the rain hit us. Torrents of rain, blocking out Castle Howard and making visibility next to non-existent.

It was on the drive home that we encountered the spuds. Isolated droppings in the road at well spaced intervals. It was Anthea who christened them Vegan roadkill which we thought was incredibly clever.

Back at home, we had a delicious Thai, wonderfully prepared by Jon then waited up for the arrival of Weasels at midnight.

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Stories told by needlework

On 15 November 1889, quick thinking teacher Caroline Elizabeth Hanks, saved the Beverley Minster when a fire broke out in the roof above the choir. Her actions on the day saved the church from “irreparable damage”. Sadly, she died the following April, aged only 23. On 13 September 2021, Anthea and I accompanied our own Beverley on a visit to the town of Beverley, in part to see the minister that Caroline saved.

Jon remained at home, completing a work thing he forgot to complete yesterday. Apparently we both became slightly inebriated last night and the work thing may have slipped his mind during the lead up to a bit of joyous assembly. I have to admit to forgetting most of last night so I am not a reliable witness.

However, I was pretty close to sober this morning when we headed off, across the Wolds, to Beverley.

A potted history of Beverley Minster

A monastery was established in 706 by John, Bishop of York who died there in 721 and was buried with all the pomp possible. He became a saint. The monastery was abandoned around 900 following a visit from the Vikings. In 1190, a new building was built which was damaged by fire in 1188 because Caroline Elizabeth Hanks wasn’t there to help. A new building was begun two years later.

Like all of these things, it had bits added over the years until, sometime after 1400, the two towers were completed. In 1534 Henry VIII made himself head of the church and had a bit of fun with the church of Rome. The tomb of John, the Bishop of York, was robbed and destroyed. I don’t know why god let that happen. Though, weirdly, a new stone slab was placed in the church in 1936 over where his bones were said to reside. I don’t know how they got there.

Then, in 2021, we visited.

At midday, every day, a prayer is broadcast throughout the minster, asking god to protect everyone from a virus that, it would seem, he created. They’ve been doing it since the beginning of the pandemic. It would seem that god is ignoring them. In some strange way, they have given up any belief in god’s kindness because they were all wearing masks and insisting people put germ killing goop on their hands.

Still, hypocrisy aside, the minster is pretty amazing. Not least for the war chapels. Each one a testament to man’s inhumanity to other men (mostly). Memorials and plaques to battalions and officers, war battered flags hanging from the ceiling, it’s all very odd if you think god and Jesus are all about peace, love and casual miracles.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the war chapels. I thought they were quite moving. We also enjoyed looking for Mouseman’s mice in the final chapel. Apparently there’s 11 to find, but we couldn’t manage more than eight or nine.

Possibly the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a church for a long time is the embroidered life story of St John of Beverley. There are lots of needlework images of incredible miracles and the various impossible things that John did. Including the healing of the dumb boy. I can only assume he taught him something.

My favourite things in the minster, however, are the scores of tiny statues depicting all manner of things from men with heavy loads to satanic rituals involving nuns, from puffing bagpipe blowers to hurdy gurdy men.

We spent a long time looking at each and every one. Both the sacred and the profane. All good fun for all the family.

Having wandered around the minster for quite a while, we retired, parched and desperate, to the Cosy Tea Room. Somehow, Bev managed to eat a great slab of orange and chocolate cake, the sight of which was making me ill. Anthea had a scone while I had a cheese sandwich, both looked far more palatable.

Clearly not churched up enough, we then headed for St Mary’s, the daughter church to the minster, at the other end of town, where a pleasant surprise awaited us.

A number of the exterior statues have been lost to death and destruction over the years and some heritage money was given to the church to fix them up. Most were completely gone so it was decided to make new ones. The idea to create characters from the world of Narnia was inspired, if you ask me. Now, 14 statues adorn the western roof line.

Inside the church, a display featuring the plaster casts and drawings allows people to see them up close.

In the meanwhilst, work on the eastern roofline continues. The statues on this side are going to feature famous women. There’ll be Ada Lovelace and Mary Wollstonecraft, to name but two. Mary lived in Beverley for a bit – there’s a blue plaque on the house. I think Ada is included because she was amazing.

But enough church stuff, we cried. We needed a pub.

But we didn’t go to the Beverley Arms. Instead, Anthea treated us to the wonderful White Horse Inn or, as locals call it, Nellie’s.

Stepping into Nellie’s is like stepping back in time. A tangled collection of wobbly rooms, no technology allowed, only cash accepted. Being forced to speak to each other is a delight. Mind you, no phone means no photos.

Madame Edith was roundly told off for using her phone to look up Nellie’s. The barman suggested she read the walls, where the story is told over various rooms.

Ironic, really, as her pint was resting on this coaster at the time.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our tech free beer, we headed back to Polkington. There was a short lookout stop coming down of the Wolds but, sadly, the weather meant we couldn’t see York Minster.

Then, finally, back to see Jon who didn’t manage to finish what he had to finish yesterday.

A lasagne was created and put into the oven and we went to the pub where Jon and I had the unfortunate experience of drinking a pint of tasteless bitter. We agreed we would have got more taste out of a glass of water.

The lasagne was enjoyed much more than the beer and we laughed out ways through dinner and the remains of Bev’s apfelkak.

We managed to go to bed sober.

The reverse side of the coaster
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A grand day

There was a group of teens on the train giggling and laughing. Suddenly a phone call to one of them and she was instantly in floods of tears and saying how she couldn’t believe it. It was difficult to hear but it sounded like her best friend had committed suicide.

There followed lots of tears and commisserations, peppered with phone calls and texting.

Turns out her best friend had sex with her boyfriend. Definitely put the dampeners on the cheerful journey. Still, I thought, a bit of an over reaction.

Something else that almost put the dampeners on my journey to King’s Cross was the closure of the Northern Line. Fortunately, standing handily by a tube map was an extremely knowledgeable TFL person. I asked her the best way to King’s Cross. She immediately came back with “Bakerloo to Oxford Circus. Victoria line to King’s Cross.”

I thanked her profusely and continued my journey across London.

Having waited for the platform, I joined the throng heading for the train to Aberdeen. Once aboard, I unexpectedly found myself in a first class seat to York. Very happy with LNER, I have to say.

The morning had been a bit of a run around for me while Mirinda enjoyed a sleep in in a comfortable bed. I had last minute things to organise before leaving.

There were the services at the flat needed by the real estate place and payment of a couple of invoices. It was with a sigh of relief that I climbed aboard the train at Farnham.

As arranged, Madame E was waiting for me at York Station and we were soon speeding across the country to Polkington.

Originally, I was going to travel up with John but he was unexpectedly detained with a cut so bad it required stitches. The stitches are coming out tomorrow so he is now coming up with Lorna and Darren.

And so, eventually, we pulled up outside Bev and Jon’s place to be greeted by Bev trying to open the front door. Her struggles were plain to see through the glass of the front door. She was then replaced by Jon who resumed the assault.

Finally the door opened and there were hugs galore as well as a bit of WD40 for the latch.

Naturally, having settled where we were all sleeping, we headed for the pub for a couple of interesting beers and a long and lively catch-up chat which even the man behind the bar joined in on.

Finally we returned to a house full of the smell of lamb shanks which were then, suitably devoured.

The evening was finished off with gin in the garden room before we all fell upstairs to bed.

A grand day.

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Two weird trike things

The walk into Farnham late this afternoon was delightful. Lots of happy families in the adventure playground, many groups of people smiling and saying hello, sun out, beautifully green. It was a lovely swap for the traffic all the way home from Devon.

Honestly, the traffic was awful. And not the bit by Stonehenge either. In fact, after the clogged up lane convergence, the ancient stones sped by like never before.

No, the traffic snarls were everywhere and unavoidable.

I felt particularly sorry for the thousands of single lane cars trapped behind two weird trike things that appeared to have had an altercation with a van. It was at a particularly narrow stretch of road and the queue consisted of trucks, buses, caravans, the lot. And our lane was just as packed but, at least, it was moving.

Still, it had to be done and arriving home is always a joy. Especially when the first thing I do is go and collect the girls from Sue. They were rather keen to see me.

Then, of course, I had to go shopping.

But, for Devon, I have to say, while I really loved the isolation of the cottage, it did leave a lot to be desired. The damp was a problem, as was whatever insects decided to feast on me over the week. The latter was a surprise because, generally, I never get bitten by insects. I’ve always figured it was because of the high alcohol content in my blood. Clearly, the insects in Devon are all piss heads. At least, they are now.

We ran into the owner, almost literally, as we left and told her how much we’d enjoyed our stay before heading home. It occurs to me that, rather than the cottage, I’m really going to miss the excellent Dartmoor Inn.

In the meanwhilst, back in Farnham, I noticed that the only-historical-but-important-for-all-that stile has been attacked. I wonder if it will be fixed or just left to rot. I guess only time will tell.

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Who dun what?

The crane flies in the part of Devon we’re staying in, are big and numerous. More than once I have mistaken one of them for a sparrow as it flew into a lamp. Then, this morning, I was surprised in the shower.

The light switch in the bathroom also turns on the exhaust fan which is a great idea unless you are a cane fly and your spindly legs keep getting sucked into the one you are sleeping on. That happened this morning.

I had no idea I was about to share my shower with an insect but found out rather quickly when, with a sudden burst of super insect strength, this one managed to drag itself away from the pull of the fan and flew straight at my head.

I was unprepared for such an assault. As it struck me between the eyes, I instinctively brushed it away in a similar vein to Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her bracelets though a bit late to avoid a collision.

The cottage has a problem with damp so we have been instructed to keep the windows open to air it. Obviously, being the type of people we are, the windows would be open anyway but it’s nice to know one has right on one’s side in these situations. For this reason, the bathroom window which is above the shower stall, was wide open.

The flick of my wrist sent the crane fly straight through the open window. It landed, teetering on the edge of the window frame before wobbling a few times. It then appeared to go back to sleep. Perhaps it thought it was a dream.

Insects aside, today was a most entertaining one. Not only did we manage to visit somewhere we’ve been wanting to see for years, but we also met Abby, Becky, Ben and Delilah. We also journeyed across a misty Dartmoor National Park, dodging livestock and admiring spectacular views.

But first today it was a big treat for Mirinda as we visited Greenway, Agatha Christie’s summer and holiday house. Years ago, when we stayed at Dittisham, we took a tourist ferry down the River Dart. While enjoying the views, we were told two things which have stuck with us.

Firstly, that some scenes for the African Queen were filmed along the route we were taking at the time and, secondly, that Agatha Christie’s house, Greenway, could be seen through the trees.

Greenway was gifted to the National Trust by Agatha’s family in 2000, and restoration work was begun there in 2007. While the gardens had been open to the public since 2005, the house wasn’t ready until February 2009.

It was a long drive from the cottage, but it was well worth it.

Greenway is an amazing place. The grounds, the house, the boat house (where a body is found in Dead Man’s Folly) it’s all exactly as she left it. Unlike a lot of National Trust places we visit, we could imagine living at Greenway.

I think the deckchairs were a bit optimistic. The day was rarely without clouds and quite often drizzly wet. Still, they did make it look like we had stepped back in time.

Agatha and her family were great collectors. Boxes, walking sticks, tiny embroidered pictures. If they bought one, they had to buy a hundred. They were sort of like Nicktor only super charged. In fact, when the National Trust catalogued everything the list came to over 20,000 objects.

Of course, we also took the long, sometimes steep, sometimes staired walk down to the boathouse. We didn’t see the boat because the bottom half of the building isn’t open but we did walk around the saloon which is a lovely space. It looks out over the Dart from a small verandah while, inside, lounge chairs and a fire are there to welcome visitors.

Our visit was lovely and comprehensive. In fact, the only thing missing, was the fact that Mirinda didn’t tell anyone that she used to live in the block of flats where Hercule Poirot had his office.

On the drive back, we intended to visit the Merrivale prehistoric settlement. We parked up at the Seven Winds car park but figured it was too far away. We then drove to the next car park but then realised there was a very steep hill between us and the remains. It was also very foggy and the sun had gone somewhere sunnier. There was a light drizzle.

Then, faintly in the distance, we heard the siren song of the Dartmoor Inn. Obviously, our dinner booking was calling us.

We exchanged a look, stepped back into Max and drove to Lydford.

Of course, our meal was once more superb. As was the bottle of rioja we had with it. As was the lovely long chat we had in the front bar. It was accidental, the chat. As I stood at the bar to pay, Delilah came over for a pat. She was a beautiful golden retriever and her owner, Ben, said she loved the attention.

And that was enough for us to have a long, lovely conversation. Ben, for instance, had worked in Australia and New Zealand and told a very funny story about killing kangaroos. Abby was the daughter of the pub owner and, although it was her night off, she’d decided to sit in the bar. Becky was the lively and lovely bar maid.

It was a wonderful end to an all round wonderful day.

The locals have been, generally, very friendly.
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Fortunately we didn’t have the steak

A trip to a fondly remembered restaurant can be a disappointment. Sometimes the experience can become overblown with the years, other times the memory can elect to blot out the bad bits. Even when you faithfully record things in a journal, there are always details that get missed, ignored or embellished.

Back in 2004, during our stay in the Tamar Valley, we had dinner at The Horn of Plenty. It had been recommended to us by someone who Mirinda worked with (she thinks it was JC). I wrote about it here, at the end of a very full day of sight seeing.

For this trip, we wanted to return to The Horn of Plenty. Unfortunately they were fully booked, all week, for dinner and only had today at lunchtime for a meal of any kind. We snatched up the 1pm slot. The booking was for today.

Back in 2004 we started our meal with a drink out on the terrace. This wasn’t going to happen today. While the terrace, which looks out over fields and down to the Tamar River, was very tempting, the weather had other ideas. At one point, the rain was lashing at the glassed in dining room. We happily remained dry while the sheep in the field lay down, obviously weighed down with wet wool.

We ordered our lunch (sadly, they’d run out of the calamari) and sat back with a glass of red, watching the rain come and go and listening to the diners around us.

There was one chap who wasn’t happy with his meal. There was a lot of discussion with his waitress which mostly featured her apologising. It was all done very quietly so I couldn’t actually hear what was being said, but it seemed to involve the state of the steak he’d ordered. It was taken back to the kitchen.

He wasn’t happy with the return of his meal either. He took a fork full and, having eaten it, deemed it inedible. He didn’t want anything else and sat and chatted to his wife who was happily eating whatever she’d ordered.

In the meanwhilst, behind us, a woman complained that her steak had arrived with the peppercorn sauce all over it when she’d asked for it to be on the side. The waitress apologised and took it back to the kitchen. She returned with a second steak which the woman ate but which she declared was not very nice.

Mirinda spoke to her in the bathroom, so we found out the whole story.

All the steak related problems occurred after we had ordered. While I went for the lamb, Mirinda had ordered the steak. It was with a bit of trepidation that we waited for hers to arrive. But, before the main course, we had our entrées.

My charcuterie plate was delicious and decidedly pretty. I was particularly keen on the caperberries which, while I’ve had them before, I didn’t know the name of. We asked the waitress and she happily went out to the kitchen and asked the chef. She came back with the name and little bowl of extra ones. They were an unexpected treat.

But then, it was time for the main course. And, for reasons known only to Bacchus, we were both presented with the lamb.

We could have been quite rightly annoyed and sent it back but, given what was happening with other steak orderers, Mirinda decided to have the lamb. And it was lovely. Especially the mint sauce. I told our waitress to let the chef know it was the best sauce I’d had for years. As good as my mum used to make, I said.

Our desserts were also excellent. I had the panna cotta while Mirinda had the lemon tart. Mine was delicious while Mirinda’s was very tart, which apparently is what you want in a lemon tart.

And, then, of course, coffee with petit fours.

While I paid, I chatted to the poor waitress who had been in the middle of the steak rows. She had bright orange fluorescent nail polish which I complimented her on. She said she’d thought it would cheer people up. I told her it worked on me, but then, I didn’t have the steak.

All round, a lovely meal. It would have been nice to have had dinner there but, as things turned out, the lunch was great and very entertaining. What more could you ask for?

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Well, the wipers worked

High up on the rocky hill of Brentor there stands the lonely little church of St Michael de Rupe. It is thought to have been built in around 1130. Why anyone would want to build a church in such a difficult spot and expect the brethren to climb up once a week, draped in Sunday best, is beyond my ken. Unless, of course, they thought it important to test the mettle of the believers.

These days, services are only held in the drier six months but, once upon a time, men and women would have to trudge up there in the foulest weather the moor could throw at them.

There’s the tale of the funeral that took place in such foul weather, that everyone was forced over double and ended up ‘walking like frogs’ in order to get from the church to the grave site. It was written in the 19th century that the weather was a penance for the parishioners and their sinning ways.

We walked up there today. It’s a rather steep climb, not helped when the rain is falling as a light drizzle making everything wet and slightly slippery. The path spirals up and around the rocks, making the trip appear less steep than it actually is, which is nice.

Mirinda had found mention of this church and (quite correctly) thought I’d love it. Then, today, as we drove towards Cotehele, the church loomed high up above us. We pulled into the car park and trudged up and up.

The views from the church are magnificent, even on a murky day like today.

Obviously, a path would have solved a lot of problems so, a Tavistock curate took it upon himself to employ people in the task. His approach was interesting. He would tempt sturdy labourers into his lodgings with whisky then, once ‘moist and smiling’ the man would be pliant enough to give a day to help build the path.

I have no idea if the above is true – it comes from The Book of Dartmoor (1900). It sounds a bit more lascivious than pious. Still, it makes an interesting tale. And I do wonder how much more difficult it was to negotiate before the path was made.

Inside, the church is small and cute, perfectly formed for a tiny congregation. Apparently, in the 18th century, there were around 19 families in the parish but each Sunday there’d only be around nine or ten people sitting in the pews.

In January 1951, thieves stole some lead from the roof of the church but, having climbed all the way up then all the way down carrying the lead, they decided to give up. Speaking of stealing…the Tavistock curate mentioned above, dug up stones used in a prehistoric castle to use in his path.

We left the church behind as we headed for Gunnislake, Calstock and, finally Cotehele. It was not easy to get to. Mirinda’s patience was sorely tried as Maxine led us down impossibly narrowing paths and cars threatened to squish us at every turn.

Naturally, Miss Cranky Pants put in an appearance. As the roads narrowed, I kind of thought she might. It was not pleasant. Still, she convinced me the best option was to return to the main road. Then, helped by Mirinda’s little friend, we managed to find the better route.

I should mention the general shit Internet access we have come up against here. The 4G signal is not always around and the connection in the house is sketchy to say the least. In fact, while the wifi connection in the house is fine, the link to the Internet only started working today. Though it is remarkably slow. There’s no way I could live here.

Still, we managed to reach Cotehele in one piece and pulled into the car park. We took some time to calm down a bit before going inside.

We’ve been to Cotehele before. We visited in 2004 when we stayed in the Tamar Valley. We took the small ferry from Calstock and it was all very smooth and simple. Though, being a Friday, the house wasn’t open. Not that that stopped me. I wrote quite a comprehensive history of the house back then. As a companion piece, this entry is about the inside of the house.

National Trust volunteers are a knowledgable bunch. Today we had David and a lovely lady whose name I didn’t catch. David was not just an authority on Cotehele, it was as if he had a handle on just about everything historical. He was wonderfully informative.

The lady upstairs, in an unfamiliar room due to staff shortages, was bright and bubbly. She pointed out the impressive door with its motif of flowers which could depict either roses or marigolds. The rose being Tudor, the marigold Elizabethan.

I suggested they could be chrysanthemums because Richard I loved them. I lied. Obviously, Richard was a rose man. His was the first royal name to pop into my head after I suggested chrysanthemums. Perhaps I should have suggested the Japanese royal family which has the chrysanthemum as its symbol.

We had a lovely wander all round the house. Well, in the accessible rooms. Not all of it was open but enough to make the visit most enjoyable. Then, naturally, we had a stroll around the gardens which are most extensive.

Heading back to the cottage was a lot easier than the going and we were soon driving back through Lydford.

We decided to try and have dinner at the Bearslake Inn which is renowned for a decent meal. Unfortunately (for us) it was fully booked so we had to make do with a drink. Still, it’s a lovely little bar with some interesting beers from Hanlon’s Brewery in Exeter. I can thoroughly recommend the very interesting Yellow Hammer.

Back at the house we decided to eat in and hunker down as the rain drifted in and out. Which brings me to the title of this post.

Before we left home last Friday I fitted a new set of wipers on Max. I wasn’t sure if they’d work. The weather has been glorious, so there’s been no need to give them a test run. Then, today, as predicted, it rained. My concerns regarding the wipers suddenly flying off were completely unfounded. However, the blades do not really fit the curve of the windscreen very well leaving a bit of a smurdge across the centre every now and then. I don’t think this has anything to do with my fitting skills but, rather, a lack in the manufacturing process.

Mind you, I’m sure Miss Cranky Pants would blame me.

In passing, I rather liked this small sign in the porch of the church at Brentor.

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No room! No room!

Back in 2008, we almost visited Castle Drogo, the last castle built in England. We were looking for somewhere to take a break but, instead, met a bus in a narrow lane. It was a harrowing experience and, as it turned out, we didn’t get to see Castle Drogo. Today, however, we rectified that.

Mind you, the lanes were just as narrow, and the hedges either side over ten years taller. This made for a bit of a hair raising journey as, not for the first time, I was glad we have a Mini. Still, we made it in one, unsquashed piece.

Drogo is an extraordinary place. Built on a granite promontory, it looks for all the world like a new build. The granite blocks, the hardest rocks in England, each individually cut by craftsmen and inspected before use, are bright and unmarked by age. The whole thing is light coloured.

It’s quite an amazing view when you leave the low lying tea-room/shop/ticket office complex and walk down the ‘drive’ to the castle.

The castle was designed by one of Mirinda’s favourite architects, Edwin Lutyens. He was employed by the British Raj to create New Delhi at the same time but, Drogo was his opportunity to create a ‘modern’ medieval castle for a man with seemingly unlimited wealth and desire.

That man was Julius Charles Drewe, a self-made man who retired at age 33 rich beyond imagining. He opened a chain of grocery stores, starting in Liverpool, and, was very successful. As well as the grocery world, Julius was also rather interested in genealogy. Along with his brother William, Julius worked on the family tree. He eventually employed a professional who managed to trace the family back to Edward Drewe, Recorder of London.

Now, this is going to sound a bit weird, but this is the same Edward Drewe who is in my family tree. I discovered the link back in 2010 and posted about it twice. The first post is here. Subsequently, I discovered a rather unsavoury report which, it would appear, Julius didn’t bother telling anyone. I wrote about that, here.

My connection to Julius aside, his genealogist made a tentative connection with the Norman Conquest, suggesting that an early Drewe was, in fact, a baron called Drogo of Teigne. His name has been preserved in the nearby village of Drewsteignton. The name was like a magnet to Julius. This was the land of his ancestors. He had to build a castle there.

And so he did.

Flicking through the pages of Country Life, Julius came across the up and coming architect, Edwin Lutyens and knew he had to have him on board for the massive project. Building work started in 1911, was interrupted by the Great War then was completed 21 years later in 1932.

It’s fair to say that we both loved Castle Drogo. While looking like a castle from the outside, the inside is very comfortable and the family rooms are cosy. This is not something usually attributed to castles. And the kitchen, pantry and other staff areas look beautiful as well as functional.

Mirinda was very impressed by the extraordinary dolls house which belonged to Mary Drewe and was hand made by carpenter William Hodder in 1906.

Unfortunately, the dolls house is being restored, so you can’t see inside. I was amazed that it not only has electricity but also plumbing. It’s beyond me why a dolls house needs plumbing. I guess Mr Hodder’s mate the plumber thought it would be really cute to have working taps. And a flushing toilet.

Possibly my favourite thing was the pestle and mortar.

It seems that whenever Mrs Rayner, the cook, used it, the noise could be heard all over the castle. (Note that Mirinda is not actually touching the pestle. That would not be very good and we are careful National Trust members.)

As well as the amazing castle, there are also the gardens to wander around. They include the biggest croquet lawn I’ve ever seen as well as numerous terraces leading up to it. I feel I have to say that I thought the terraces were far too symmetrical. I agree with Alan Titchmarsh. You shouldn’t be able to see everything from one end of a garden to the other. You should be drawn to investigate the bits you can’t see.

Having spent a goodly amount of time at the castle we decided it was time to partake of a high tea. To that end, Mirinda had been trying to book a table at Mill End, a rather lovely spot not far from Castle Drogo. The booking procedure, according to the website, is you only need to book during holidays and on the weekend. Mirinda emailed them but, according to them, booking was still not necessary.

It turns out, you need to book 24 hours ahead of any time you wish to visit Mill End.

We turned up, walking by the almost empty garden full of tables and chairs then through to reception, noticing dozens of empty dining tables and chairs. We asked the receptionist about having high tea. She shook her head and said they were full. We looked around, incredulous. She followed our gaze then said that, very soon a lot of people would be turning up.

I was reminded of a couple of things. There was the empty Lebanese restaurant in Stockholm and the rather expensive place in Oslo that didn’t approve of Mirinda’s shoes. There was also the Mad Hatter’s rather rude suggestion that there was no room for Alice to sit down to tea.

Anyway, we left the car park and headed for Tavistock where we had a lovely panini and a Peroni at the Café Liaison before going for a walk around the town.

Sadly, the Pannier Market was just closing as we turned up, so we just wandered around a bit before heading back to the cottage.

I should mention that it was very hot today. In some parts of England the temperature reached 30°. Combined with yesterday, this confirmed the prediction I had from the Lady from St Mawes that we would have summer this Monday and Tuesday. Conversely, I have had predictions from two people who claim we are to have thunderstorms tomorrow. We shall see.

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Losing a head in political squabbles

Oakhampton Castle, the largest in Devon, was built by the Normans shortly after Bill the Bastard arrived in Hastings. It eventually became the property of the Courtenay family. It remained so for a few hundred years before the last Courtenay was executed under the orders of Henry VIII in 1539.

Now, the castle, looked after by English Heritage, is a ruin.

And a very attractive ruin it is too.

Lady Courtenay, via a not very good audio guide, took us through all the rooms in her best Downton Abbey accent. Mirinda claimed she was not only informative but also quite funny. I can’t vouch for that because I didn’t listen to a lot of what she said.

I spent a rather long time trying to find the graffiti left by a Napoleonic POW. I never did find it. Apparently it says, in Latin or old French, ‘Vincent was a prisoner here’.

At some point in the family’s history, the Courtenays only bothered to visit twice a year in order to go hunting. When they arrived, they brought an entire retinue of hangers on, including 14 lawyers. I can’t imagine what you’d need 14 lawyers for, unless it was to get rid of your money. Maybe they had too much or maybe they had a lot of lawsuits. Whatever the reason, the 14 lawyers did not help the family when it came to the crunch.

Henry, the last Courtenay was a cousin of Henry VIII. They played together as boys and enjoyed each other’s company. All looked happy until Thomas Cromwell came along with his hatred of Catholics. Henry and Ollie did not get on. One of them had to go.

Courtenay was upset with the Crown and, according to Cromwell, fomented revolt. He was unceremoniously chucked into the Tower where he waited for a bit until called to the chopping block. Obviously Henry VIII didn’t actually wield the axe but wielded it was, and Henry Courtenay ceased to be.

With Henry’s death, all of his lands and titles reverted to the Crown. This included Oakhampton Castle.

It was at the top of the castle, inside the keep, that I received a phone call from the real estate agents with whom we’ve listed the Canary Wharf flat. They had had a lot of interest and, in a very unusual fashion, I answered the phone and chatted to them about which person to choose.

The castle wasn’t our only visit, we had already spent a bit of time in Oakhampton itself. We started off parking in the Lidl car park only to move to the Waitrose car park shortly afterwards.

I’d love to say this is because of a snobby decision on my part but, actually, the Lidl car park was restricted to shoppers while the one at Waitrose was a pay and display.

Having finally settled the car into a space, we then headed for the Red Lion Cafe for tea cake and coffee.

I do rather like tea cake and I hadn’t had any for a very long time. And, in order to preserve that long expectation, it took an age to get to us. Not that we minded. It was very interesting watching the various customers who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) read the signs indicating where to queue. I’m not complaining because Mirinda rarely notices signs. It’s merely interesting from a design point of view, something we were discussing while waiting for our toasted tea cakes.

Eventually, our morning tea arrived. After Mirinda said her coffee was nice, I knew it would be quite weak. I was right. Still, the tea cake was lovely.

We then wandered through the Victorian arcade. Built in 1900, it’s an impressive collection of shops lining a covered walkway. It reminded me of a very orderly souk. Though not as scary. Mind you, the chap sitting outside one of the two barber shops was a bit scary. His face was completely tattooed and he had piercings in just about everything on his face. I have no idea why anyone would do that. It wasn’t attractive.

The arcade was completed in 1896 but, because the council and the owner were arguing about people living in what was essentially, shops, it didn’t actually open until 1900. It came about after the railway line was completed between Exeter and Oakhampton – the arcade was a shortcut to the station – as well as sewerage and a main town water supply installed.

A few years after opening, a hotel was built on top of the Victorian Arcade which, to my way of thinking, is a sort of dwelling place. It appears there wasn’t any argument though. This might have been because Henry Green, who originally built the arcade, had become mayor of Oakhampton and waved the hotel through. Then again…

But the castle was calling, so we collected Max, after popping into Waitrose for some very important loo paper, and headed for the castle.

We were a bit concerned that the very narrow lane to the castle was going to be the only way back, but Tom of Oakhampton Castle informed us that if we continued up the road, it would take us back the way we wanted to go. Happily we set off.

To be entirely fair, I did think he’d got it wrong but, eventually, the two roundabouts he’d mentioned, appeared and we found ourselves well on the way back to Lydford.

We then found ourselves settled into the garden at the Castle Inn, which is becoming our place of choice this holiday, for a couple of beers.

We stayed in the garden long enough for the kitchen to open and start serving food. Dinner in the garden was a delight. This delight was enhanced by the presence of numerous dogs.

We followed dinner with a wander up and down the road that runs through Lydford. It reminded me of Chawton without the traffic noise. Not that I’ve ever witnessed Chawton without the traffic noise but I can guess how pleasant it could be and that’s Lydford.

After the excesses of yesterday, today proved far more palatable for us. Both of us much prefer taking things slowly. Today was perfect.

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