A bit later than usual getting down to the computer to write this as GOS and I are just returned from a very pleasant weekend with our son and his girlfriend in London. Quite a contrast to our normal modus operandi! It has been lovely to see SAS (struggling artist son) and EG (elfin girlfriend), in what has become, their “natural habitat”. They have been keen to show us all the improvements made to the flat. They seem very settled at the moment; throwing themselves wholeheartedly into metropolitan life. I can’t think when I last had to queue for a restaurant table or went out for a late breakfast -quite a change from our normal routine! (Mud and haynets the housesitter’s problem this weekend!) Their third floor flat is only just off a busy east London high street, but really quiet and, having given up his very comfortable bed to Mum and Dad, we slept very well. There are trees all down the street and communal gardens between the blocks of flats. EG even has a tiny little raised-bed allotment where she grows an amazing amount. The first flat SAS ever shared when first moving to London was somewhat noisy – on a busy junction, next to a late night kebab shop and yards from a fire station. Got very little sleep when I visited him there! Sirens going all night
We surfaced late Saturday, went out for breakfast to, what the kids told us, had been an old “pie and mash” shop. Minute premises, all rough brick and original tiled walls. Quite scruffy, but obviously very trendy, with an enormous choice of unusual and conventional breakfasts. Absolutely packed with breakfasters! After a leisurely breakfast we all walked to “Sutton House”, a Tudor red brick, National Trust property squashed in at the bottom of a busy high road. Having only read ” Wolf Hall” back in the summer I found this building fascinating. Not big, by NT standards, or elaborately filled with stuff, but understated and very atmospheric. It has a long and chequered history after it’s Tudor heyday and is lucky to have survived. According to the NT, Hilary Mantel’s visit had inspired her to write her bestseller. The house was built by Ralph Sadlier (1507 – 1587) in 1535. He was taken into Thomas Cromwell’s household as a seven year old; went on to become his secretary and friend and after Cromwell’s execution continued to prosper under Henry VIII and later Elizabeth I. He died in his own bed in 1857; reputedly the wealthiest commoner in the land. (Resolved : I must now read the sequel “Bring up the Bodies”). At the moment the top floor of the building is given over to a “squatters” exhibition as the house had been occupied in the 80’s, That was a bit different from the usual NT shows!! A bit like Tracey Emin’s bed with I saw at Tate Modern a while ago!
(Seems to be all things Tudor at the moment: we are currently learning a four part mass by William Byrd in Choir for our Good Friday Concert in Church. Extremely hard to master. Our choir master is nothing if ambitious for us!)
All the travel arrangements over the weekend went well – no rail delays and we arrived home Sunday evening. House sitter reported it had poured with rain here all weekend, as evidenced by the height of the Wye seen on our way home. We are very lucky to have our house sitter, as you can imagine going away with the animals is not easy, especially in thewinter. However, she is used to horses and other stock so everything is in safe hands.
I took SAS a little picture with me at the weekend that I picked up in a bric -a-brac shop and he had quite fancied for his art collection- two framed taxidermied butterflies. Old but not antique. The reason it caught my eye originally was the butterflies were labled “Rajah of Sarawak”. I went away at age 11yrs to a convent boarding school and the boarding house was reputed to be the British home of the “white Rajah of Sarawak”. There was a portrait of him in the hallway and there were the stones marking the graves of his horses and dogs in the garden. Looking the history up again I discovered that “Chesterton House” was the third Rajah’s home (nephew to the second) and where he died. It is now, as is the way with many of these lovely old buildings, a nursing home and the school building is turned into to rather exclusive flats.
Birdwing Rajah of Sarawak butterfly.
I managed to cut the lawns before we went away. The garden was just about dry enough to tolerate the mower. The grass has never stopped growing in the garden all winter. It soon “runs away” and becomes a big job if let go. If I can keep it cut regularly it is manageable. The daffodils are all coming out this week (I took a big bunch up to London – a little bit of Wales in Hackney!). The celandines are poking through and a large patch of yellow crocus have flowered ( I cannot remembering planting them at all – senior moment!). I bought a pot of very colourful primula for the front porch when I popped to Aldi this morning to stock up on groceries. So altogether the whole place is looking a lot more cheerful even if still very muddy.
I rode out in sunshine this morning and saw a large flock of starling. Something I haven’t seen on the hill for a while – when we first moved here we used to see flocks and flocks of starling. I put up several snipe from between the horses feet. You almost ride over them before they move. Little darts zig zagging out of the hollows in the fern, making a very sharp little alarm call as they go; they never seem to spook the horse though. Heard that bird again, but never saw it . . . . . will keep looking and report back ……. The horse was quite naughty after her three days holiday. So lots of work for her this week before our last day’s trail hunting this season. Seems to have come and gone so quickly.