Knole House: making the most of a rainy day

We set off at about 12.30 p.m., having waited for Eversley to sample one of the local churches. Mind you, Stephen and I were pretty slack about getting up and it worked out well for us.

The journey to Knole House was uneventful, with a taxi at the end for the last 3 miles. We booked the taxi for our return journey and he was supposed to arrive at 5.00 p.m.

As the property is a National Trust offering Stephen and I got in for free and Eversley decided to only do things that were free. The extras were a visit to the ‘showrooms’ so called because they were decorated to provide a show of wealth by the owners. I wasn’t allowed to take photos. The rooms were dark, and even darker because blinds are used on the windows to help preserve the artefacts, especially fabrics which fade and fall apart over time. There were colourful panels, paintings and rooms set up for show. The long galleries were used for getting exercise during bad weather and the wooden floors makes them ideal for the purpose as wood is much softer for legs than stone. The following photos are of the Orangery, a sort of indoor greenhouse.

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The tower

We also visited the tower, which was set up as an apartment for the heir who ousted Vita Sackville-West, inheriting her childhood home. We could better understand her upset over this. She had set up her own tower ‘apartment’ at Sissinghurst, but it wasn’t as spacious as at Knole House. She was passed over purely because of being a woman, and since she was a rather manly woman it must have been particularly galling.

We enjoyed views from the tower and I was allowed to take photos there, of course. There was a bookshop and cafe as well for our rest and afternoon tea.

A feature of Knole House is the deer park and we went for a walk in the park, with me concentrating on deer, but also taking photos of the views.

The non-arrival of our return taxi was a bit of an anticlimax, or so we thought. Stephen had some phone numbers of taxis, but said it was only 3kms to the station. It was a fine evening and we decided to tackle the walk as it meant we could still be out in the fresh air. In our coats and hoods we were well protected from the wind.

Of course, there is quite a difference between 3kms and 3 miles, as we discovered. Sevenoaks, the little town, is quite interesting and most of the walk through the town was downhill, thank goodness.

At the station we made the fateful decision to catch the first train which would take us to London Victoria. A peaceful train ride was followed by the news that there was a planned rail closure and we had to catch a bus to East Croydon. It was a long, long ride, especially as the bus had to divert to many station on the way home. Eversley said it took about 1.5 hours, instead of a train journey of about 25 minutes. We didn’t get home until about 9.30 p.m.

Eversley said she had rested on the bus and was able to cook her promised meal of a frittata. It made a very tasty meal with some salads.

My zoom lens isn’t that long, fortunately the deer are relatively tame and only move away if you move towards them and get quite close. One of the does seemed to be looking for food when it walked towards me – it was great for getting the photo.

Saturday

At 11:30 am we had a call from Matt, the last FaceTime session of this trip. He seemed in good spirits and we had a good talk. I told him that I dream about him when we are a way and asked if he dreams of us. We thought he said ‘no’, but the staff filmed a short video of him saying ‘yes’ by crossing his legs. Of course, he was put into the position of the ‘correct’ answer being yes, but we enjoyed it all the same and really appreciate the staff for making it possible.

In the afternoon we went to a talk by Paul Crooks on tracing slave ancestors for people whose forebears come from the Caribbean. Doesn’t sound relevant to us, but it was interesting enough that we each bought one of his books. One is a fictionalised account of a boy tracing his origins and the other gives help with tracing ancestors, for anyone really. He is firm that you need to have a purpose, a good reason for it, to take you through all the twists and turns and frustrations. In his case he was able to find the family of one of his ancestors from an African country, but only because she kept her own name. Usually slaves were given European names.

We had tea at a Weatherspoons pub, good, fairly cheap food, then went to the Fairfield Halls for a symphony concert. We thought we should be dressed up, but everyone was as casually dressed as us, and there was applause between movements, which suggests people not used to this type of concert, it was very good indeed, including serving ice creams in the interval.

Some shopping on the way home completed the day. The little supermarkets around Croydon stay open until 11.00 pm.

London: St Martins in the Field Cafe, the National Gallery and Extinction Rebellion

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An artist copying a painting in front of an audience at the National Gallery

Yesterday morning we were held up by workmen coming to replace a couple of windows in the apartment. I wanted to check on their work as we had problems previously. It was only two of the windows being replaced, rather pointlessly, to hang from the opposite side when in casement mode. One of the replaced windows seems slightly wonky, the handle doesn’t end up completely straight and the window doesn’t tilt as much as the others, but I may leave it for now. When Gary has other people staying here they may find problems and he can follow it up. Basically, things work.

They left in time for us to go out for lunch before visiting the National Gallery. We knew that Trafalgar Square in front of the Gallery is a place where protesters are sitting, but as there hasn’t been violence we thought it was safe enough to check things out.

Lunch first, at the underground cafe at St Martins. This is a cafeteria type cafe with good food, not too fancy, located in the crypt.

We wandered out into the square and observed the protesters from the edge closest to the gallery.

There are three cafes in the National Gallery and for afternoon tea we chose one which had subdued lighting and a view of Trafalgar Square. The seating was comfortable as well.

Afterwards, before heading back home, we took a walk amongst the protesters. We felt fairly safe with all of the police around and the overal general good feeling of a peaceful protest. We were intrigued by the people dressed as living statues in red costumes and I followed up today on Google.

Who are the Red Brigade who silently appear at Extinction Rebellion protests?

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Asking people to sit so they weren’t blocking the view of the Red Brigade.

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It was a very grey day, but there was surprisingly little rain when we were out.

 

 

Sissinghurst Castle

Yesterday Stephen and I went to visit Sissinghurst, which is not a castle at all and never was, whilst Eversley was catching up a friend in London. It was owned by Vita, famous these days for having an affair with Virginia Woolf, though she was a writer and published books.

Vita’s writing room in the tower. It was very dark inside, partly to protect furniture and books from sun damage, but also because it is as she would have seen it when she came in from working in the garden to do her writing.

This shot was taken from the top of the tower. The odd white chimneys are seen all over this area and were used as part of drying hops.

I enjoyed walking around the gardens taking photos of flowers.

The property consists of a farm and some buildings which include remnants of an Elizabethan manor house. Vita and her husband set out to creat beautiful gardens and these are maintained for National Trust visitors. We were also able to see through the cottage occupied by Vita and her husband. They had an odd way of,living, Vita had a writing room in the tower, they slept at the cottage where the husband had a study and they ate in a third cottage where their sons lived when not at boarding school. They also renovated an old stable into a huge living room.

There was a National Trust shop, restaurant and cafe.

The journey there involved a train to London Bridge, then a train to Staplehurst, then a bus to Sissinghurst and a 20 minute walk. For our journey home we ordered a taxi to the station, then caught the two trains. We stayed until things closed at 5.30 and the journey home was quite easy. We are now getting home in the dark, which feels strange because when we first came to England it was light until 9.00 pm.

We arrived at about 12.30 and had a nice lunch at the restaurant before beginning to explore. We climbed the tower and had a guided walk through the cottage, checked out the shop and had coffee at the little coffee shop. I found another little gift for Matt.

We went for a walk in a field before we left and checked out the huge fungi.

We had some sunshine, but in this photo taken later in the day it’s getting a bit dark.

Rolling yesterday and today into one blog

We have been resting today after quite a big outing yesterday. Stephen has a headache, I woke up with one, but have been OK since getting up.

Stephen had been planning to meet up with an old school friend since we came to England and yesterday was the day. We caught the train to Windsor where we were picked up and taken to a cafe for hot chocolate and to discuss what we were going to do with the day. They immediately began reminiscing about school days.

In the end, it was decided to stay in Windsor and visit the castle, which dominates the town. Windsor is part of Greater London, but feels like a village because of the surrounding farmlands, part of which is owned by the Queen. We had lunch, Stephen and I sharing a cooked breakfast.

It was certainly very interesting to visit a working castle. The Queen uses it as a weekend residence and we did not actually go to the section which is the private residence. We saw ceremonial rooms – reception, dining and drawing rooms, plus some historical areas. No photography was allowed inside, but the outside was a good subject and we saw some guards doing their thing, marching about in their red uniforms.

This garden is where the moat used to be.

Stephen and David. They are the same age, of course, having been in the same class at school. They have interests in common, including a love of the city of London.

The castle has views over the town and towards the surrounding countryside and the Long Walk, which we saw as we were driving away.

We were not alone. There were many, many tourists visiting, but the process was handled well by the staff and we didn’t feel overwhelmed.

Later in the day, we were caught in a heavy shower of rain. David, the friend, took us back to his flat for a rest, then we went to a Chinese restaurant with his lady friend, Lorraine. It was after 9.00 p.m. when we were dropped off at the station to catch a train back to Clapham Junction, then another train back to East Croydon. We caught a tram up the hill. It was dry, but there was a bit of breeze and it was quite chilly.

The train journey to and fro is quite easy, with very little waiting on platforms. Anyway, on the way out I had time to buy a coffee at East Croydon, which made a 20 minute wait go quickly. We started out quite early for us, at about 9.30 a.m. and appreciated having a sunny morning.

A photo before I was told not to take photos.

We may go out to do some shopping later.

Greenwich – evensong at the chapel at the Old Naval College

The main objective of our trip was to go to evensong, but we also enjoyed exploring the complex. It is now part of a university, but was originally built as a hospital and retirement home for sailors. It’s extremely grand, the idea being that men would be more likely to volunteer for the navy if they felt they would be well taken care of in the event of being disabled.

The buildings were designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

When we arrived at the chapel at about 5.00 pm the choir was practising for the service. They looked a motley collection of young people in casual gear, but with lovely voices. For the service they were transformed into angelic beings in cassocks and surplices. The whole service was enjoyable as we all have a background of going to church when we were young. We joined in for a rousing hymn at the end. Stephen and Eversley had to revert to singing lower parts, made up on the spot, since hymn tunes are pitched for sopranos.

It was a good outing. Stephen and I went there last year, so it wasn’t new to us, but definitely worth a second visit.

Judy: the movie about Judy Garland

Rain was forecast for Sunday (yesterday) and we decided to take the opportunity to see a movie. We had our chat with Matt in the morning, then caught the tram down to the central of town.

The movie was engaging and as it is a BBC movie set mainly in London it gelled with our travel mood.

Afterwards we went into the mall and watched traders at market stalls struggle to be positive with so few customers. However, we at least bought some sausages for a future meal.

At the Fairfield Halls we were able to get cups of tea in paper cups and eat the treats Eversley bought at another stall. The renovation has not changed the building, just smartened it up. We will get to see inside the theatre when we go to a concert next week.

London: British Library and ‘Little Venice’

The British Library is a relatively modern library (1973) incorporating the old British Museum Library as well as some other collections. Red bricks are used to blend in with the other buildings in the area such as St Pancras International Station, which is across the road. Inside, it is a very interesting place, with a collection of very old books and a copy of the Magna Carta, a shop, bookshop and what appeared to be cafes on every floor. There are seating areas everywhere with tables and plug in facilities and they were just about all occupied by young people with mostly Apple laptops.

On the left, St Pancras, on the right, the British Library

After we left, we realised that we didn’t actually see the reading rooms. It is not a lending library, but a place to do research like our WA State Library. Although the building is relatively stark on the outside, the interior has enough curves to make it feel a delightful place to be.

We caught the Thameslink train which takes us straight from East Croydon Station to St Pancras and had tickets that allowed us to catch buses as well. The bus to Little Venice took about 30 minutes. The area is a bit disappointing. We have been to canal areas in other cities and they are usually picturesque, but there was something a bit neglected about the area that mean that despite the willows, bird life and beautiful surrounding townhouses, it just missed being lovely. The houses mostly appear to have been converted into flats, as evidenced by TV aerial cords snaking up the outside of buildings. They are not even confined to back of the houses.

I had hoped to get a photo of these swans, which were a sort of motley colour in stead of pure white. But you can see that they made their escape before I could, and the camera wasn’t able to keep up with the action enough to get a non blurry photo.

Stephen had read about a historic pub in the area where we hoped to have afternoon tea, but we found it not very hospitable and found a tiny cafe nearby.

It was a grey day, as you can see from the photos, but we didn’t have any rain and the temperature was pleasant for walking, cool but not cold.

Our journey home on a different bus seemed very long, but there was interest in going through different residential areas of inner London, some more posh than others. Of course, it is all very expensive, but some areas seemed run down and others very vibrant, with interesting shops and cafes.

Our train tickets also allowed us to take the tram home for the same price. We enjoyed leftovers, followed by fruit and ice cream for tea.

An ordinary day

Today Eversley took off to do her own thing. I went shopping for a raincoat and bought a few small items at Boots. Stephen bought us tickets to a concert at Fairfield Halls next Saturday night, and we all did some shopping. As we didn’t coordinate we have a lot of apples and two different types of coffee and honey.

A cluster of small apples from the Woolf’s garden

The weather was mixed, there was sunshine in the early morning, which warmed the house, then light drizzling rain with grey clouds by the time we were going out.

We bought some diced beef yesterday which I made up with vegetables and a can of tomatoes into a crock pot meal. After having it tonight we have enough for two more meals for three.

A photo from Potters Gorge where we will stay a couple of nights in November.