Up the chute. 1/10/15

This is last Thursday’s blog… Or is it Friday’s?

Photos to be added later.

1 October 2015

I’m getting way behind typing these up.

Today we had decided to go to Hampton Court.

Breakfast was supplied as part of our accommodation, so we went out our door, down the corridor, 180° turn, up the stairs, cautious 180° turn, down the corridor negotiating the dogleg, out the front door, past the White House Hotel and into the Belmont Hotel. Then it was literally follow your nose downstairs (the equivalent of our downstairs – including the 180° turn and promised fall down the steps) and right turn into the dining room.

The options were English breakfast – Fried eggs, bacon, sausages and beans, with orange juice, and you could make your own tea or coffee. Or continental – help yourself to a packet of Rice Krispies (aka Rice Bubbles), Cornflakes, or Cocoa Pops. Toast provided for both options.

This morning I went for the full English, even though I didn’t particularly want more bacon, or sausages, or, as much as I like them, fried eggs. But I did want something more substantial than a cardboard packet of nutritionally dubious cereal.

We made our way to Paddington Station, and from there on the train to Hampton Court.

Hampton Court has a long history. In fact a 500 year history this year. It was built by Cardinal Worsley when he was in favour with Henry VIII, and when his lack of progress in other areas got him out of favour in later years, he was “encouraged” to gift the house and lands to the king.

We arrived just after 11.00am, so we missed the first talk. This was a slight disappointment as Pen had said that the talks and tours were given by people in character and period dress. The next was at 12.45, so we decided to have a look around while we waited for that next tour.

You could, if you were so inclined, dress in the appropriate cloak of the king or prince (nothing for the ladies) and waft around the property, but with my daypack I would have looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and my camera would have got tied up in knots. So we settled on collecting our audio tour guides. We’ve had these at other places and are great because you key in a number and the helpful voice tells you about whichever room you’re in.

Our first stop was the royal kitchens. It showed how big a royal household was. It also explained why royalty tended to up sticks and move on to another royal house. They stripped the surrounding countryside bare of suitable food and had to leave to give the locals a chance to stock up again.

Great carriages of food were coming and going almost continuously and it took a lot of rooms and people to process it all.

The first room we entered was the butchery, replete with large pieces of meat and the sounds of the butcher hacking into them. Then it was the kitchens with the authentic sight and smell of smoke filling the 40 foot high space. This was because there was a real fire burning in the grate. Nothing cooking on it though.

Having been through the meat preparation area we found ourselves in a high-walled outside passage. Our helpful audio guide (picked up at t

One thing that was noticeable was the large number of pies (fake) about the place. These were (the real ones) made out of flour and water and weren’t for eating. In effect the pie crust was the cooking pot. You received your pie, cut the top off, and munched on the interior.

It was getting close to 12.45, so we headed back out to base court to await our tour guide. She was easy to spot, being the only one striding across the courtyard in Tudor clothing.

She introduced herself and proved to be bright, engaging, (if a little shrill), and knowledgeable. That was until the point where she shamefully had to admit that one of the problems of being in period costume was that you had to dress yourself and that these old outfits weren’t as simple as chucking on a pair of slacks and a t-shirt. She had, she said, had a “wardrobe malfunction”, so she apologised and withdrew behind the central fountain to sort herself out.

A recorded voice began to speak. It instructed us to look up at the window over the archway and see a young lady sitting there. She has received a letter. How she responds to that letter will dictate as to whether she lives or dies.

Then we were directed to windows off to the side. There we saw a young man looking out and then running between the rooms, pulling on his clothes.

Our guide returned, apologising for leaving us in the lurch with nothing of interest to see or listen to. Then she led us into a brick lined room where she offered us the one interesting fact there is about bricks. You can tell if a building is Tudor because the row of bricks is laid lengthwise – long, long, long – and the row below is laid end on – short, short, short. Victorians when doing restorations didn’t realise this and they laid the bricks long, short, long, short.

She then realised that we were in an alarmed area and that she’d better let control know we were there so we didn’t set the alarm off. Please excuse her…

A pouch was thrown over the wall with instructions to take it. One of our party did.

Then the door at the other end of the courtyard opened and another man stepped out. This was Thomas Cranmer the priest. He had heard a rumour that King Henry’s present queen – Catherine Howard – had “known” a young man before she’d married the King. Should he tell the King? He didn’t want to risk incurring the wrath if it was incorrect, but knew the King would be furious if this information was true and he hadn’t been informed. He decided, with no help from us, to leave a note on the King’s pew at church on Sunday and then catch up with him later. He thanked us and withdrew.

Our guide returned, full of apologies and offering us a choice as to which way to go. Through the door through which a young Tudor man poked his head, saw us, and backed out, or through another door which she opened to reveal Thomas Cranmer writing his letter. She closed the door again, we took a vote about which door we wanted to go through, and then went through Thomas Cranmer’s. He wasn’t there.

I can’t remember what our guide told us next but we ended up in another room with Thomas Cranmer and the Queen’s supposed lover – Culpepper. (As I said to Pen later, if she had a choice between a fat, old – Catherine was only about 19 and Henry in his 50s – lame man and the man who was standing before us… I don’t blame her for taking a chance with Culpepper.

Cranmer, with the assistance of some of our group who read out distinct questions, interviewed a clearly nervous and trying to think on his feet Culpepper. The Queen’s Lady in Waiting came in and was implicated in the plot. In a later tableaux Cranmer accused the Lady of knowing of her mistress’ infidelity. She was equally as nervous, especially when a chest was opened to reveal a letter from her mistress to Culpepper – who was summarily summonsed.

Our guide took over again in a room that was supposed to be haunted – by a ghost that had only been seen since Victorian times. There was also supposed to be a cold spot under one of the lights. I was fully expecting a bit of visual effects trickery and thought the temperature was dropping.

In the end we were told that Catherine was found guilty and sentenced to death. Culpepper was also sentenced to death – as was another of Catherine’s lovers – and both their severed heads were impaled on London Bridge and Catherine had to sail under them to her doom. The Lady in waiting went mad with all the stress. At that time it was illegal to execute someone who was insane, but Henry had the law changed so she could be executed.

Sounds like our present Prime Minister.

The Lady in Waiting managed to regain her composure for her execution, but had to deal with laying her head on the chopping block that was still wet with the blood of her mistress.

We then had lunch.

After lunch we had another little look around before joining a tour around the William and Mary part of the court. When William became king Hampton Court was dilapidated and he would have pulled it down, except that England was in the middle of a war with France and that was using up the nation’s money. So Hampton Court is half Tudor, half Stewart, and has Victorian influences.

This time the man who had played Thomas Cranmer was our guide. He was dressed in Stewart style clothing and his excuse for leaving us was (I think) because he’d forgotten something. We were then accosted by a masked lady (the former Lady in Waiting) who said she was a Jacobite – someone who was waiting for King William to die so that the rightful king, in her eyes, James – a fourteen-year-old boy living in France and brought up Catholic – to take up the throne. We then met another lady of the court (our last guide) who was hoping that Lady Anne would become queen – even though she was going to obese and ill to live for long and had never produced live heirs, and whose nearest relative was 52 time removed from the present throne.

We also met Lord Pembrooke(?) (the handsome Culpepper) who had been one of King William’s closest confidants until another moved in and started exerting an undue influence over the King.

This tableaux continued in the same way as the Tudor one. King William eventually did die. He’d always suffered from asthma and one day was out riding when his mount stumbled on a molehill (they are quite big) and he fell to the ground, breaking his collar bone.

Cue the handsome Lord Pembrooke running through our corridor crying out for the doctor to see to the King.

Instead of staying put, or taking the less stressful water route on the Thames, King William for some reason decided to travel to Kensington Palace by coach. He died soon after he arrived. When they did the autopsy there was little blood in his arterial system. When they opened up his lungs, they were filled with blood and pus. (I hope you’re not eating as you read this.)

The two ladies – the Jacobite and the one loyal to Anne – asked us to show our loyalty to whichever side we thought had the greater claim to the throne. I went with the Jacobites and Pen the Royalists. It turned out that the Jacobite lady’s husband had been the previous owner of the horse that had thrown King William. As her husband had been executed for his Jacobite leanings, she was quite pleased that he’d had some influence on the royal downfall.

She had a bowl and a goblet to toast the ascension of King James and told us off for not bringing the wine. She then explained how, whenever they toasted the king, they always passed their glass over the bowl in a symbolic gesture that they were toast the king across the water – James – and not the present one. They also toasted the (if I remember the wording of the toast correctly) “little man in the black fur coat”. The mole.

(As opposed to the “Mole”. The drilling machine used by International Rescue to dig down to those trapped beneath the ground.)

The Jacobites failed to put James onto the throne and the royal line took a sharp detour – about 52 steps away.

Outside the Yew trees were in full fruit and Pen told me several times that they were poisonous and not to eat them. I had already realised that. Fruit that is brightly coloured usually is as a warning that it’s not good eating. Fruits like raspberries and tomatoes are probably cultivars that have been bread (not bread. Bred!) to be attractively-coloured as well as good to eat.

Of course being at Hampton Court we had to have a go at the Hampton Court maze. This wasn’t as extensive as I’d expected and with the “right hand stays against the right wall/hedge and don’t touch the Yew berries” method in action, we got to the centre in about five minutes.

I’d bought a Gorillapod tripod in New Zealand. This is a small tripod with flexible legs that can cling to things as you take the photo. As there was no one there to record our triumph, I finally had the opportunity to set it up.

I’d no sooner done so when someone turned up and took our photos. One group were even New Zealanders.

So much for the Gorillapod. So I had to unscrew its base from the camera again, reattach the camera strap which uses the same attachment to hold onto the camera (thank you, Barrie, for your work on my handy slot-turning penny), and then head out.

We continued looking around until it was nearly time for the staff to shut up shop. Being a royal palace several times over, each room had a “yeoman” to keep watch on you and answer any questions. They looked very bored… And in many cases, very young… And with ill-fitting coats.

For dinner we considered going back to where we’d been last night, but Pen had another suggestion. She’d used to go to a pancake place and thought (if it was still there), that would be a good place for a meal. So we decided to do that.

It took a bit of finding as it was growing dark and we were approaching it from the other direction to what she was used to, but eventually we found “The Old Dutch Pancake House”.

We each had a bacon, apple and maple syrup pancake that was as big as a rather large platter. (I think I’ve had more bacon this trip than I’ve had in the last decade).

It was very delicious, but not very nutritionally balanced, so I had a fruit salad – and ice cream – for dessert.

Pen had a hot chocolate for dessert.

We came home and packed our cases and worked on our blogs.

We had just turned out the lights when we heard some interesting sounds from upstairs. All we could do was lie there and laugh. I suggested that we should have got a can of CRC and put it outside their door with a note saying it was for their bedsprings.

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