Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Which I Meet Henry the 8th and Encounter a Flock of Parakeets


Jacob and Zoe walking to the tube station in Whitechapel. And that’s my mum in the black hoodie behind them. No it’s not, actually. Just kidding.

Right. Today.

Those of you who know me will recall that I have a bit of a thing for Henry VIII. Not that kind of thing – the man is disgusting! – but I do find him completely intriguing. And apparently I am not alone in this as it seems that here in the UK one need only mention the slightest connection to Henry VIII and people like me come rushing from far and wide in the hopes of, oh I don’t know, standing in the same place that some long-dead historian may have once suggested that Henry VIII had possibly considered or may have mentioned in passing.

Some of the connections really are very remote, like the pub that I once visited in England that proclaimed that the original pub that once stood on the same grounds as this pub, had used the same supplier of horse feed that one of Henry VIII courtiers had used. Now that’s weak. I mean come on. What a stretch. And how did I know this, you ask? Well I was reading about the village and got to the part about the pub and saw “Henry VIII” on the write-up and that was enough for me! I was there! Of course when I got there, after loudly telling everyone that we would be eating at an establishment frequented by Henry VIII, I actually finished reading the write-up on the wall and learned the pathetic truth (about the pub and also, apparently, about myself. Sucker. There’s one born every minute, as my dad likes to say.)

So you will, I am sure, be thrilled to hear that today’s efforts at Hampton Court Palace were entirely rewarding. I even had the pleasure of meeting Henry VIII in person. More on that later.

Hampton Court was a favourite place of Henry’s and he spent a great deal of time there with his various wives. Much of the Palace is open and has been restored museum-style to reflect the Tudor lifestyle.



Most impressive was the Tudor Kitchen replete with blood splattered walls, and, as Zoë called them, “smell effects” (gross), as well as a roaring fire with spit racks.


But the best part was Henry VIII’s apartments. An amazing carved ceiling, ancient tapestries, and Henry himself, in full regalia, taking petitions from his subjects. I, of course, was first in line and Jacob filmed the whole thing which luckily for you, dear reader, I will not subject you to just now. Let me just say I was grateful that Jacob was there not only to record my brush with fame, but mostly because he knew the answer to the question asked of me by his Royal Largeness, which English explorer first “discovered” the New World? (John Cabot, of course).


Kinda looks like him even.

We spent the rest of the visit in the grounds which included a much-touted but really rather lame maze. I have a suggestion for the Maze-keepers, or whatever you are called, this sort of thing defeats the purpose of a maze:


After this stimulating experience, which a blind baby could probably solve in about 2 minutes, we came out into a park. Birds were squawking in the trees and I stopped and said to Jacob that they sounded like a bunch of parrots. He looked at me like I had no clue , shook his head slightly, and explained that they were, of course, blackbirds. At this point three green and blue parakeets swooped out of the trees. I said nothing and merely pointed and he conceded defeat graciously.

Apparently southern England has been invaded by parakeets who overwintered here one year by mistake and liked it so much they decided to set-up shop.

It was quite beautiful lying under the trees watching the parakeets flying against the blue sky. Another surprising and delightful moment.


There are actually two parakeets in this picture but good luck with that :)

We headed back to the train station and into London. The train stopped at Wimbledon on the way back to Waterloo station and I was tempted to take a detour, but Zoe was starting to spiral out of control and her hysterical laughter was garnering looks of disapproval and a few comments from the couple, Douglas and ?? (I’ll name her Helen), behind us on the train:

Helen (while Zoe was singing): I don’t remember singing on the train do you, Douglas?”

Douglas “I don’t remember you singing much at all”

Helen “Bit loud isn’t it. And that baby is joining in too”.

Me (Under my breath) That’s it, Helen, have a go at the baby.

Douglas “Mmm yes”

Helen “I suppose times have changed. Shall we get off here?”

Douglas “It’s not our stop…”

Helen “Come on”


And so Helen and Douglas went back to their semi-detached in Vauxhall and we made our way back to Whitechapel. Jacob and I went in search of dinner and located an amazing Indian Grill where an entire chicken could be seasoned and grilled on the massive flame grill, street-side, to your specifications for 4 pounds. We added a few curries and sauces and took it home to devour. Completely delicious.

Jacob and I sometimes laugh mercilessly, but with great affection, at the eccentricities of the English and one of our favourites is the British “Great Day Out!” Cobble together any number of tourist attractions and the English will package it all up into a Great Day Out! Hilarious. To our delight, we found a pamphlet proclaiming Hampton Court a “Jolly Day Out” Even better!!DSC07175

I might even agree with them.

More tomorrow!



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