We’ve had a full week with my folks still here. We went to Wakehurst Place Gardens in West Sussex. The mansion seems to be unoccupied, but the grounds are gorgeous. The place is kept up by the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew and administered by the National Trust. I liked the water way where the little stream fell over rocks in many falls and rested in pools before continuing downwards. One pool had the largest goldfish I’ve ever seen in my life.
One afternoon we got the girls from school just as they finished lunch to go to a National Trust house that is close to here. [Judging by the photos, we must have seen Polesden Lacy.] Since the place only opens at 2, we couldn’t see the house and get back to Reigate by 3:15. Lisa was thrilled to be getting out of school even though they missed no classroom work; on Tuesdays they have triple games, meaning three periods that the whole school troops up to playing fields for organized games. Kate was a little concerned that she would miss a break in school, but she enjoyed changing out of her uniform and looking like a tourist. We had seen the house when we first came here, but my folks hadn’t. I saw things this time around that I’d missed before – traveling cosmetic box and a lady’s “necessary” (tiny sewing and repair kit). $ liked figurines displayed on his level and pushing his own stroller in the garden. He didn’t last too long in the house, so we went out to the entrance hall and chatted with the lady collecting tickets. She and her husband do the cleaning of the place! She was filling in for a vacationing ticket taker. She said, “We give it a proper do every Monday and Friday when the house is closed to the public.” The roses and the peonies in the gardens were superb.
John and I both passed our stiff English driving test one day before the law stated that we had to. If you stay here for more than a year, you are supposed to have taken your test before that first year is up. We now feel like quite superior people! Mother and Dad have now “done time”; they kept $ from 9:15 – 11:45 during the tests and from 3 – 5:30 while I was getting Lisa’s new Dunottar uniform from the outfitters who supply the school. That poor baby would have become glued to his push chair if I’d had to drag him everywhere. At left is a photo of our having tea outside at our house.
We went a second time to the open air market, buying a few things for them to take home and enjoying seeing all that is for sale. We ate lunch at a National Trust house, Clandon Park. The lunch was delicious; $ behaved nicely until we went through the house, and my folks got a chance to wander through an historic building by themselves while $ and I gamboled on the lawn. His attention was soon riveted on two horses; he practiced saying “horse” until I think anyone could understand him.
Yesterday we drove to Bath (be sure to put “ah” in that name) and first went through Bath Abbey. For over 1200 years a Christian church has been on that site. St. Augustine was in Bath in 603! The present church was begun in 1499 and completed in the 17th century. Further back in history, the Romans built baths to take advantage of the only hot springs in Britain soon after AD 43. Amazing! These buildings were covered over with later construction and not discovered until 1878. We could see where excavating continues today along with displays of Roman coins, statues, and mosaic tiles. Most of the rest of Bath is Georgian – the time when it became a spa for the upper classes. The streets are unusually wide for England and the buildings much like those in the Federal style in the U.S.
I particularly enjoyed seeing the Pump Room where people gathered to drink the waters and socialize and the Assembly Rooms where dances and concerts were held. These two places feature in almost every Georgian and Regency novel. I felt like I was seeing places where my friends had been! We tasted the mineral-laced water and were glad we didn’t have to drink much of it. Under the Assembly rooms is a museum of costume. Clothes were displayed beautifully on models, and many were grouped in room settings. The old court dresses looked as if yokes had dropped from shoulders to hips and were covered by the fancy dresses. Some were over a yard wide flaring out from 18 inch waists; from the side they appeared to be only five inches wide. There were quite a few things from the 1700’s up to winners of last year’s fashion awards. I thought the dresses from Queen Mary, the Queen Mother and the Queen were most interesting.
The ancient Roman baths were fantastic. We understand people are allowed to swim here one day a year.
On the way home we stopped to see a country mansion, Dyrham Park built by a minister of William III. The feature the children enjoyed most was a couple of 3-day-old peacocks. [At some point we saw a hand-cranked merry-go-round. I think this was near Hampton Court, and therefore out of order here.]
Mr. Clewes had told us that there was to be an air show this weekend, but of course we made no attempt to find out where it was to be. We saw some of it! Out on the open road, we happened to look round to see six to nine planes performing fancy stunts in the air.
Today we went to Westminster Abbey for the morning service. We sat in the second row in the nave; I was first in and so almost on the steps to the altar. I could have reached out and tickled the feet of the man reading the scripture lessons. The choir was superb, as usual. We did notice the novice choir boys dressed in red robes, but without the white tops, sitting near the organ console. We haven’t seen them there before. I saw the man in charge of them tap one boy on the shoulder during the service. Wonder what he did wrong. John said these very young boys were brought out of the service after the anthem was sung; they had black capes to wear over their red robes as they were marched back to their dorm.
The shortest and quickest way to London on Sunday mornings goes just on the edge of the suburb of Wimbledon. John kindly drove us by the tennis club since there were no games today and no traffic. Our neighbors who had seats on the center court said they spent an hour trying to get out of their car park! We noticed signs at the stadium stating the price of admission is two pounds. That is really cheap. You wouldn’t be allowed in the center court, but could wander around to any of the other 12 to 18 courts where many of the famous players would be playing. Of course, the best way to see tennis is to sit in front of the TV set where they broadcast hours and hours every day. I think they are on live from 2:30 until 7:30 and then begin the reruns of all the important games of the day. It was fun to see in person where all this activity takes place.