Archive | May, 2012

Mary Arden, and the uncertain glory of an April day

28 May

On Shakespeare’s birthday, the houses that form the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust held various activities and special programs.  We took the opportunity of a bright, clean, spring day — with sunshine, no less — to make the hop up to Strafford and one of my favorite places, Mary Arden’s Farm.  When we last visited, the farm was being laid to rest — literally, there were corpses everywhere — and it was cheerful to return to spring lambs and fresh faces.  Like these:

All together now: “Awwwwwwwwwww.”

A large poster was near the entry, where visitors could leave their birthday greetings for the Bard, and grab a photo op.

We explored the spring-cleaned Palmer’s Farm house, one of two farm houses on the Mary Arden Farm complex.

I have severely impractical fantasies about cooking in this kitchen.

Palmer’s Farm central hallway, looking toward the kitchen garden.

The wealthy owner’s private room.

And the beautiful table set in the private room.

One of the upstairs bedrooms (this one above the owner’s room).  Check out that sweet trundle bed.

Love the dolly on the child’s trundle.

On the other side of the house, above the kitchen, sleeping quarters for lesser persons.  Used during the day for other tasks, like spinning wool from the farm’s sheep.

A stroll through some farm buildings and gardens, to the Mary Arden farmhouse, where Shakespeare’s mother was born and lived as a child.  Palmer’s Farm house (in the photos above) is a contemporary neighbor to the Arden Farm, but not where Shakespeare might have lived or visited as a child.   The Birthplace Trust bought Palmer’s farm by accident, thinking it was the Arden home because of some ambiguity in the real estate records — lucky accident!  Now both homes are beautiful, but the Palmer farm house is more accurate to the period.  The red Tudor roses on signposts point out especially interesting sights around the farm complex.

Lounge seating in a downstairs room at Mary Arden’s Farm.  Let’s play pretend, I’ll read sonnets and …

… You dress up, in some of the period garb available for visitors to try on.

Or we could play one of the many games set out.

Not sure what this is — the Tudor equivalent of Candy Land?  I like the photo.

The Apothecary’s corner.  See the rose?  Now you know this is important.

The fletcher at his trade?  I assume the apples are to put on your head, so an archer can shoot at you, William Tell style.  Go ahead, try it.

More impractical fantasies about setting this up in my own home.

Looking out a window.  I wonder how much the shape of this village has changed in the past 500 years?

A last goodbye to one of the lambs.

Although I love the interiors of these Tudor farmhouses, the Farm also has a variety of healthy and very cute animals, all of which are close on hand for viewing, sometimes feeding, or for watching in awe (the birds of prey come to mind).

How lucky are we that we live close enough to visit Strafford several times a year?


25 May

Eight months in, and how is it going, this expat adventure?  The crumpets are great, I’ve got to say, and the jam is pretty damn good, too.  I’m still bipolar — this is wonderful/this is awful/wonderful/awful/wonderful/awful/wonderful — and I’m starting to hope that, eventually, those feelings will come in succession so quickly that I’ll find some balance by standing right there in the middle, where they flip.

Some days closed.  A bit shut down, emotionally. Keeping it together by keeping it bunched up inside.

Some days bursting open.  Curling with delight, dancing in the sunshine, throwing arms wide open.

Some days it just seems I’m stuck with lemons.  News from home that makes it hard to be away; transition pains that feel like battlefield amputations; another round of cooties from school; distracting home repair problems; the continuing exhaustion of always being out of place.  But then I remember:

I freaking LOVE lemons.  A little sugar, a little ice, and it’s sunshine in a glass.  It just takes … a little time, a little patience, and a little thirst.

I have so many travelling adventures to write about, I may never catch up.  I’m distracted by making something good out of all these lemons, but I’ll be back … it’s time to pucker up.

Day out: Tintagel and Lands End

19 May

You know what I remember most about Cornwall?  The ocean, of course, but then: the cliffs.  The stairs.  The climbs.  The terrifying vertigo.  But I’ll get to that later.  First, let’s start out with the cozy fourteenth-century Old Post Office, a National Trust site in Tintagel.

Check out the roof.  The slate has been in place for so long it looks like swoops of fabric.

The inside of that roof — no insulation!  This is an upstairs bedroom.  To the right (not pictured) is the ‘shelf’ where unmarried ladies slept.  Yes, the phrase ‘on the shelf’ comes from making older unmarried women actually sleep on a shelf.  Charming.

I’m a sucker for these simple table settings, although the Mary Arden Farm feast table is still my favorite.

Hmm, windows.  Something so dreamy about them.

There’s a kid’s scavenger hunt through the house, which was fun for the children, and a garden behind with some outdoor games for the younger crowd and pretty flowers for everyone.  Well worth a stop in as you walk toward the ruins of Tintagel.  This is an English Heritage property, and far more extensive than I realized.  If you don’t know anything about Tintagel, first read the Wikipedia entry.  Then spend the next three or four years reading Arthurian romances and medieval histories.  Go on, get started, come back when you’re ready.

Access to Tintagel is by foot only — or you can pay for a ride on a Land Rover.  We walked along the grassy path and down some steep stairs and over rocks to the beach to see Merlin’s Caves.  The tide was out, so we could run around on the sand.

Check out the waterfall.

Look for mermaids, or pirates.

Always be prepared: if you see someone with rabies, throw them a life preserver.

The walk from the beach to the cliff entry to Tintagel was a challenge with three hard-to-herd kids and a mother who was clenching her teeth so hard to avoid screaming in terror that she couldn’t talk.  (That would have been me.)  I didn’t take too many photos, since I was trying to keep a death grip on my sanity and my five year old.  But it was beautiful.

There’s the beach where we started, the waterfall there in the bottom right corner.

A peek through the remains of a window toward grassy cliff and sea.  (“Do not climb on the walls, danger of collapse.”  Oh, thank you, that is very encouraging.)

I managed a short walk over to the other side of the island for a view in another direction.  You see the end of the grass there?  That’s a cliff.  Which falls all the way to the water.  You see that guardrail?  Nope, me neither.  (“Hold my hand, hold my hand, holdmyhandholdmyhandholdmyhand.”)

And a walk back around to another viewpoint over the beach, caves, and look at that — crazy people used to live right at the edge of the cliff.  The water is so clear, so stunning.  I’d really rather be swimming in it than staring at it from way up here.

Since from here on out I pretty much laid down on the grass and started chanting “don’t move, you’ll fall off and die, don’t move, don’t move, I SAID DON’T MOVE” the family took pity on me and we slowly made our way back down the cliffs to the way out and a gratefully purchased Land Rover ride back to town, where we ate pasties and cream tea and I recuperated.  Visiting Tintagel is one of those bucket-list items I’ve dreamed of much of my life.  It met every expectation, and the remembered terror will keep the experience fresh in my mind forever.  Just like that magpie goose attack at the wildlife park.

From Tintagel, we found our way to the motorway and down to Lands End.

Not an outlet store.

There’s a multitude of tourist death-trap shops and activities at Lands End, but fortunately we arrived late enough in the day that all that was closed and all that was left was the thrilling reconnection with my new best friend, terror of the cliffs.

Frankly, I’m shocked that I made it this close to the edge.  (See the guardrail?  No again?  Yeah, not one here, either.)  The amazingness of the place made it worth the gut wrenching cremnophobia.  But I need to stop looking at this photo.  Right now.

Ah, finally, a guardrail.  Well, a rope, anyway.  Which people have walked over, so they can stand on the cliffs.  Power to them.

This was a stunning day out and we returned to our hotel exhausted.  And I relaxed with the kind of cliff view I prefer:

You know you’re in England when…

16 May

This is a door:


This is a view:


This is a telephone:


This is a mail box:


This is a deli:

This is a gang of teenagers:


Camelot is gorgeous today! Can you guess the location for all these photos?

Radio screed

14 May

And yes, if I do start a band, that will be our name.

BBC Radio One is appalling.  It is horrible.  British radio makes me want to rip my arteries out from inside my own body and use them to hang myself.

Phew.  I feel better now that I’ve said that.

I’m not saying British music is appalling — far from it.  I’ve heard some amazing new music and artists since we’ve moved, and my mp3 player has been forever enriched.  But British radio?  If you honestly tell me you like it, I will honestly lock you in a room with a radio stuck on BBC Radio One for 6 months, and if you can speak in coherent sentences when you come out I will still say British radio is appalling. But I will give you a pumpkin muffin.

Why do I hate it?  There is no spontaneity.  BBC Radio One is a massive monopoly, and someone — or more likely, some horrible committee — gets paid off or socially engineered into telling the public what is good and what will be a hit.  The hosts promote their ‘favorite’ new songs in ways which defy credibility.  The same 15 songs are played on all shows all day long.  BBC One radio hosts have ‘special guests’ — who are the hosts of other BBC One radio showsThis is not special.  And why do the British like covers so much?  Why is a terrible cover of “Hero” so popular, when you could listen to Mariah Carey blow it out for real? If I hear Carly Rae Jepsen again, I will destroy the earth. And I like that song.  If  Skrillex is forced into my ears one more time I will destroy all time and space.

It’s gotten bad, people.

I woke up this morning and decided there’s no more point in pretending I’m being a good little acculturalist.  Screw British radio.  I’m getting myself a KROQ feed and I’m not looking back.

Here, have some cake.

On the beach

10 May

This is a bit of a lazy post, but that’s appropriate for the beach, I think.  We spent a long weekend on the coast in Cornwall and I filled my ocean-loving tank (that’s a metaphor) with waves, salt breezes, sandy beaches, seagulls, and the glass or two of adult beverage.  Spring tides in Cornwall have dramatic highs and stunning lows.  Take off your shoes and come on a dreamy walk with me …

This is high tide.  The water comes up almost to the sea wall.  Where we saw this fellow:

I don’t know why I like him so much.  Look at those clever legs, that shiny jacket.  And he gets to live at the beach and hang out on sunny walls all year long.

Now stroll out at low tide.  Miles of beaches open up, and mysterious rocks produce fairy mermaid circles. (Are there fairy mermaids?  I’ve decided yes.)

Do you see it?  This rock and pool are the shape of a heart.  Love.

The sand, the rocks, the water, the plants, the reflections … it’s like walking in a living watercolor. Dazzling.

The flowers along the cliffs aren’t bad either.

Mussel-covered stones, just waiting for a mermaid convention.

Holding on tight to their sips of seawater, waiting for the tide to return.  When I’m away from the ocean for too long, I start to feel like this.

Death comes for the small mussel. A seagull smashed it and was picking it apart.  (My son does double duty as the shadow of death.)

Small and large caves are revealed all along the coast.  Usually these are underwater.  Standing in this spot, I felt like I was dreaming.

If you could stand here at high tide — as in the first photo — you’d be under about 8 feet of water.

I’m still feeling dreamy, so I’m ending with a poem by Cornish writer A.G.  Folliott Stokes:

The Cornish Coast and Moors
With granite ribs and black basaltic brows
And flanks of dark and metal-bearing slate
All veined and patined o’er with snowy quartz,
Cornubia rises storm-swept from the sea,
A land of legend and strange mystery,
Of tragic frown and sun-kissed ecstasy,
He who would know the depths of that old heart
For aeons cradled on the changeless rock,
For aeons guarded by the encircling sea
Must seek the silence of the purple moors,
Must know the fury of the mighty surf,
Must mark the splendors of her sea-born clouds.

New stuff, same as the old stuff

8 May

Ah, another rough day, just like every other rough day. It’s getting boring, to be honest.  I look around and wonder when this will feel like home.  I’ve got no clue. I’m recycling myself.

I do have new photos of recycling, Cornwall style.


Yeah, baby, recycle it all!


Recycle it in the rain, in a Brythonic Celtic language. Woot!

It’s good to get excited about the little things … right? Eventually, it’ll all be sorted out.