Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh it’s SMASHING, isn’t it????

DSC03685We started our Day Out (GREAT!) by getting a bit lost. Well really lost. It’s all these bloody roundabouts. Or roundandroundandroundabouts if you are like me. However we eventually made it to the right road AND the right direction (crucial) toward Sissinghurst Castle and Garden. Today’s choice of destination was my Mum’s and she chose these famous gardens (well you have heard of them haven’t you??). The castle is medieval and mostly in ruins, with only a tower remaining but the house and gardens really are beautiful. Of course, DSC03707everyone wanted to climb the 79 steps to the top of the tower and so I thought well, how bad can 79 steps be after the 297 at St. Paul’s? Yes, Jane, how bad can it be? Bad. It can be bad. I made it up the spiral staircase and emerged onto the open terrace at the top of the tower. From the ground it looked like the solid stone railing around the terrace looked like it was at least 4 or 5 feet high. From the top it looked like this railing was only 2 or 3 inches high. I gulped, blinked, then quickly bolted back inside muttering something about meeting everyone downstairs. I zipped back down the spiral staircase, closing my eyes as I went past the windows so that I would not have to witness my children as they fell over the 2inch high railing and plunged to their untimely deaths , passing the windows on their way down, and, to the great surprise of the Man at the bottom of the stairs who, only moments before had counted me (only 40 people allowed at the top at once) and sent me up the stairs, burst through the door into the courtyard. “I’m OK” I almost shrieked in answer to his unasked question. “That was fast” he said, finally. I was unable to speak for sometime and instead sat and listened as he explained to a group of smiling, uncomprehending tourists from somewhere in Eastern Europe that Elizabeth 1st had stayed here and in fact would have stood where they themselves were standing now which he indicated with hand gestures while he spoke. They thought he meant they had to move and so they stepped backwards, smiling all the time, and then, when he shook his head and waved his hand to say that they had misunderstood him, they smiled and moved again. Then one of them said ‘I am thanking you” in broken English and they all turned and headed off in the direction of the White Garden. At this point, the rest of my family appeared (through the door, not headfirst onto the flagstones to my relief) and we, too, headed off to the White Garden where, you guessed it, everything is white! It’s actually stunning and I loved it. I think it would be spectacular at night with a full moon. And Hugh Grant. With Julie Andrews narrating. I digress. We walked the rest of the grounds in the burning heat (so much for England being cold and rainy – it’s been hot and dry the whole time) and encountered a little old lady (LOL) who had in fact collapsed due to the heat. I asked her family if she was alright and they said she was just a bit hot. Yes, so hot that she’s lying half on the gravel road. I said I thought maybe she wasn’t quite alright and at that moment she went unconscious. Thankfully the castle medical team showed up at the moment and called an ambulance. We got out of the way and headed for our car. I was just driving out to the main road on one of England’s ridiculously narrow ‘roads’ that are also lined by 12foot high hedgerows (as they call them here, aka hedges in the rest of the world) and the whole thing makes visibility an unknown concept. Add to this an ambulance (carrying the LOL) coming up behind you and another car approaching and what is one to do?? One drives as fast as one can, with the poor bugger who was coming the other way driving as fast as he can in reverse until a ‘lay-by’ is located into which one can swerve allowing the ambulance to roar past you.

Peace soon settled on us again as we made our way to the small town of Headcorn. I am not making this one up. Headcorn happens to be one of the villages where the Potter family has lived. My Uncle Richard has traced the Potter family roots back hundreds of years and discovered that many of them lived here in Kent in an area known as the Weald of Kent which is basically a forested area in the centre of the county. It was neat to go to the parish church and search for Potter Family gravestones, of which we found several. There was also a window in the church dedicated to the Potter family. The Rector (an unfortunate title, I’ve always thought) was very helpful. In fact perhaps a bit too helpful and we spent much longer than I had intended in the church while he searched for the right key to the safe that held the parish records etc etc. He was lovely, if a bit doddering. He had that English habit of making a statement, and then following it up with a question. For example, “I hate it when the badgers get into the potatoes, don’t you?” or “I like a nice slice of tripe for my tea, don’t you?” or “That cd of Sounds from an English Kitchen is FANTASTIC, isn’t it?” How exactly is one to answer these sort of questions? The answer, should you choose to have one, is almost always ‘no’ but you can’t really say that for fear of being rude. And they aren’t rhetorical either as the asker always looks at you as they say it. I have taken to turning my head to the side in a sort of angle that could be yes, could be no and saying ‘mmmm’. Some people are more pushy than others and actually repeat the question portion of the statement. My mother is among this group. Try being in a car with her.

My mother: “Oh look at that church it’s so sweet isn’t it?

Me: (head angled) “mmmmm”

My mother: “I say, Jane, isn’t that the sweetest little church?”

Me: “Ummmm…well the last one…

My Mother: “I mean just look at it it’s quaint, it’s got a garden it’s sweet isn’t it????”

Me: “well yes it’s very pre…”

My mother: “Oh that is a LOVELY field of cows over there isn’t it? Jacob look at the cows! They’re lovely aren’t they?

And so on. But it’s nice to be with someone who appreciates everything so much, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?  DSC03686

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