Penshurst Place

One of my motivations for moving to England was all the history to explore. Coming from a province that will be 140 years old next year and a country that has written history only from the late 15th century, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around just how old some of the buildings are around here. Saturday I went to one such place.

A friend picked me up and we went the 8ish miles to Penshurst Place, a beautiful country manor house.

The backside of Penshurst Place with the gardens in the foreground.

The backside of Penshurst Place with the gardens in the foreground.

I’ve looked Penshurst Place on Wikipedia and here are some fascinating tidbits:
-The present mansion was built in 1341 for Sir John de Pulteney at the time when such properties ceased to be castles: they were more dwellings that could be defended in an emergency.
-It was enlarged after 1552 when King Edward VI granted the house to Sir William Sidney (1482–1554), who had been a courtier to the King’s father, Henry VIII. Sir William’s son Henry (1529–1586) married Lady Mary Dudley, whose family became implicated in the Lady Jane Grey affair, although Henry himself escaped any such implications. During his lifetime he added apartments and the “King’s Tower” to Penshurst. He also created what is now one of England’s oldest private gardens.
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-The Baron’s Hall was used as a set for the Hollywood film The Other Boleyn Girl based on the novel by Philippa Gregory.
-The Baron’s Hall was used as a set for the film The Princess Bride.

The famous poet Ben Jonson, not to be confused with the infamous Ben Jonhson, wrote a poem called To Penhurst.

T H E F O R E S T .

II. — TO PENSHURST.

Thou art not, PENSHURST, built to envious show
Of touch, or marble ; nor canst boast a row
Of polish’d pillars, or a roof of gold :
Thou hast no lantern whereof tales are told ;
Or stair, or courts ; but stand’st an ancient pile,
And these grudg’d at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joy’st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water ; therein thou art fair.
Thou hast thy walks for health, as well as sport :
Thy mount, to which thy Dryads do resort, 10
Where Pan and Bacchus their high feasts have made,
Beneath the broad beech, and the chestnut shade ;
That taller tree, which of a nut was set,
At his great birth, where all the Muses met.
There, in the writhed bark, are cut the names
Of many a sylvan, taken with his flames ;
And thence the ruddy satyrs oft provoke
The lighter fauns, to reach thy lady’s oak.
Thy copse too, named of Gamage, thou hast there,
That never fails to serve thee season’d deer, 20
When thou wouldst feast or exercise thy friends.
The lower land, that to the river bends,
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed ;
The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed.
Each bank doth yield thee conies ; and the tops
Fertile of wood, Ashore and Sydneys copp’s,
To crown thy open table, doth provide
The purpled pheasant, with the speckled side :
The painted partridge lies in ev’ry field,
And for thy mess is willing to be kill’d. 30
And if the high-swoln Medway fail thy dish,
Thou hast thy ponds, that pay thee tribute fish,
Fat aged carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously at first themselves betray.
Bright eels that emulate them, and leap on land,
Before the fisher, or into his hand,
Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours. 40
The early cherry, with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come :
The blushing apricot, and woolly peach
Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They’re rear’d with no man’s ruin, no man’s groan ;
There’s none, that dwell about them, wish them down ;
But all come in, the farmer and the clown ;
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit. 50
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples ; some that think they make
The better cheeses, bring them ; or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands ; and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum, or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such ? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know ! 60
Where comes no guest, but is allow’d to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat :
Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine,
That is his lordship’s, shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit (as some this day,
At great men’s tables) and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups ; nor standing by,
A waiter, doth my gluttony envý :
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat,
He knows, below, he shall find plenty of meat ; 70
Thy tables hoard not up for the next day,
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery ; all is there ;
As if thou then wert mine, or I reign’d here :
There’s nothing I can wish, for which I stay.
That found King JAMES, when hunting late, this way,
With his brave son, the prince ; they saw thy fires
Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires
Of thy Penates had been set on flame,
To entertain them ; or the country came, 80
With all their zeal, to warm their welcome here.
What (great, I will not say, but) sudden chear
Didst thou then make ’em ! and what praise was heap’d
On thy good lady, then ! who therein reap’d
The just reward of her high huswifry ;
To have her linen, plate, and all things nigh,
When she was far ; and not a room, but drest,
As if it had expected such a guest !
These, Penshurst, are thy praise, and yet not all.
Thy lady’s noble, fruitful, chaste withal. 90
His children thy great lord may call his own ;
A fortune, in this age, but rarely known.
They are, and have been taught religion ; thence
Their gentler spirits have suck’d innocence.
Each morn, and even, they are taught to pray,
With the whole household, and may, every day,
Read in their virtuous parents’ noble parts,
The mysteries of manners, arms, and arts.
Now, Penshurst, they that will proportion thee
With other edifices, when they see 100
Those proud ambitious heaps, and nothing else,
May say, their lords have built, but thy lord dwells.

Perhaps the other thing of note, was this was my first ever first date. And he wants to see me again.

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Emancipation of Erin Celebration

Amazing story

Amazing story

I left for the UK last week so that I’d have arrived and been settled so for Thursday.  It wasn’t as a tough as I expected it.  I smiled whenever I thought about I was I doing in a place I had always dreamed of being.  It was a great escape; just what I needed.

I took the train to London Bridge and then the tube to Swiss Cottage station.  I found the hostel by following two Canadians (I knew from the luggage tags) with suitcases.  It was a beautiful Victorian building with very friendly staff.  Lunch time found me at Victoria Station (one of the largest, if not the largest stations in London with trains, underground, and bus connections).  The Apollo Theatre was right across the street.

Wicked was simply amazing.  Before leaving Canada I listened to  an audiobook edition of The Wizard of Oz and I read Wicked while I was in Alberta.  It’s not often that the show/movie is better than the book, but this was one of those rare exceptions.  I really appreciated the changes they made to the plot; it actually made Elphba a much more sympathetic character and made Glinda actually likable!  Simply, it is sensational.  I don’t think I could recommend it any higher.

The much anticipated show...and pretty disappointing.

The much anticipated show...and pretty disappointing.

Wednesday evening found me at Grease.  I was really disappointed by this show and it might have been the one I most looking forward to.  I absolutely LOVE the movie.  Mom and Holly took me to it when I was 3 and on a trip to Mount Rushmore.  Holly gave me the record back in the day too!  They used many of the same costumes and choreography as the movie.  The man playing Danny was excellent as was Sandy, but it just felt like watching a live action version of the film.  I’m still glad I went because I would have always wondered.  Oh well!  They did play a ’50s radio station’ complete with commercials while we were getting seated.  That was pretty cool.

Exeeded over a decade of built-up expectations!

Exeeded over a decade of built-up expectations!

Last week a lady at the bank said that I’d love Wicked, but Lion King was even better.  Lion King was amazing.  I think the plot was better in Wicked, but the imagination that transfered an animated movie into live theatre was unbelievable.  It was truly a spectacle in the best sense of the word!  My mom is really likes making costumes and I thought she was really imaginative (she once made a giant shoe costume complete with Addias stripes!), but these even outshone her costumes!  About 12-13 years ago, I saw The Lion King showcased on the Rosie O’Donnell show and never forgot it.  I could see the gazelles leaping in my mind from then until now!  I watched 90% of the show leaning forward, resting my chin in my hands, completely enchanted!  Again, this show totally exceeded my very high expectations.  I’d love to see it again, and may try to talk any Canadians visiting me into seeing it with me!

Church and Castle

On Sunday I walked to St Stephens for the morning service (about an hour).  The building is being renovated and so the 10:30 service is meeting in the chapel at Judd’s School, a grammer school for girls.  It was an interesting service.  Nary a prayer book in sight; which, to be honest was a bit disappointing.  The music on the other hand was great.  They did contemporary worship songs (I knew I’d forget which ones!) including one my favourites – Here I Am to Worship.  There was no “message,” but rather a very interactive explanation of the Festival of Tabernacles.  I was very impressed with how the minister put the service together.  It was an all-ages service so lots of families.  I was surprised at how casual some were dressed, but pleasantly surprised.  I’m going to go to the church that is closest to my house next Sunday and see what it’s like.

My first glimpse of the castle.

My first glimpse of the castle.

After church, I stopped and wandered around the castle.  There is an admission charge to see the gatehouse and do the audio tour.  I decided to leave that for a day that I was fresher.  There was a plaque commemorating some event (urgh, I hate when I forget things!) that happened in 1297 at the castle.  I’m having some trouble wrapping my brain around 700 years of history.  I’m looking forward to the Medieval Fair on the 12th and 13th of September.

So, when did you see your first castle?

Adventures on the High Street(s)

Tonbridge's High Street

Tonbridge's High Street

On Friday I decided to check out down town.  The Brits call it the High Street.  I’ve actually learned from experience (shocking I know!) and waited to buy the heavy stuff on my way back!

My first purchase was at a candy shop (again shocking!).  I bought crystalized ginger in honour of Professor Slughorn of Harry Potter fame and my mother.  One piece later, the package is on the way to my mom (well, it will be!).  I also picked up Rhubarb and Custard hard candy and Mint Chocolate (hello Eileen!).  The place was filled with fascinating things that must have inspired JK Rowling (I think it was a chain store) for the treat lady on the Hogwarts Express.

I also checked out the two big pharmacies and picked up some toiletries.  This was after passing 3 shoe stores without even going into them!  You have no idea how much self-control that required!  I bought some storage things and hangers at the

£ store.  So all of this was light on it’s own, but not so light after carrying it for a mile.  The bigger problem is that it’s about 2.7 miles from the end of High Street to home.  I’m quite thankful for the numerous benches that have been strategically placed between High Street and York Parade (where I get groceries).  I kept thinking of Renata’s hilarious tale about going for a walk with Lena when she first moved to Calgary.

My initial plan was to pick up some groceries on my way past York Parade. Along the way I decided to forgo the groceries.  Then I thought that if I didn’t pick them up on my way by, then I’d need to go back and get them.  So in my infinite wisdom (said very tongue-in-cheek) I bought groceries which only made my arms hurt even more.  To only increase my enjoyment of this voluntary forced march I got lost trying to take Paul’s shortcut home from the shops.

Needless-to-say (but I’m gonna anyway!) I slept well that night!

Walking in the English Countryside

Stile at the end of the street

Stile at the end of the street

Thursday evening Paul pointed out a walk that starts literally at the end of the street.  It takes 2 hours to do the full loop; I went for about 45 minutes.  I had a huge smile the whole time – I WAS WALKING IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE.  Mom, you’ll be proud of me, I didn’t actual shout that out, but I was sure thinking it!

So, the first picturesque site was the stile into the sheep pasture.

The Second Stile

The Second Stile

Now, I’m really wondering how I knew the word ‘stile.’  Was it from a nursey rhyme or a fairy tale?  I immediately knew what Paul was talking about when he said it and linked the word with visual when he pointed it out.  (I’ve been finding that sometimes I need to translate the language/accent before comprehending.)

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The white spot is actually a white pony…Welsh perhaps?

I love the sky in this one.

I love the sky in this one.

This picture reminds me of the old Pony Club manual – Keeping a Pony at Grass.

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A cob???

A cob???

He had a number branded on his back, under where a saddle would go.  Seemed odd to me.

Sigh…

Quintessential England

Quintessential England

A brick wall/fence.  This really made me think of fox hunting.

The initial inspiration for brick jumps in hunter classes.

The initial inspiration for brick jumps in hunter classes.

A gate covered in real, honest-to-goodness ivy.

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And then the mother-lode just before I turned around.

I haven't discovered who/what these belong to, but those are jumps!

I haven't discovered who/what these belong to, but those are jumps!

Day 1 – Wednesday, August 12

As my last post shows, I was exhausted after my trip. The flight stuff was all great, got through immigration just fine, etc. I was a little nervous (and I knew this because I started to sweat!) and only picked up 4 of my 5 suitcases. Yup, the maths teacher can’t count!

Victoria Station

Victoria Station

A girl named Candice, another Canadian, met me at Heathrow. We took the train from terminal 1 to terminal 5, the tube to Victoria Station, the train to the Impact Teachers office. This took 3 hours and include multiple flights of stairs. Let me tell you, in England chivalry is NOT dead! Many lovely men helped us carry my 2 humongous, heavy suitcases. Thank you to all those men!

I was pretty dead on my feet at the office and will be going back in next Thursday to complete all the paperwork, get a bank account (Barclays), and find out all the things I need to know. The office people were super nice. It looks like a really fun place to work. I do find it rather ironical that most of the office staff are not former teachers.

English countryside near Leigh (which is pronounced Lye)

English countryside near Leigh (which is pronounced Lye)

I then took the train from Clapham Junction (the closest station to the office) to Tonbridge. So neat to go through the countryside. Most of the track was bordered by grassy banks and/or thick trees. Occasionally there would be a break and I could spot some of the beautiful Kent countryside. It was truly breathtaking. I befriended the train conductor who turned out to be a transplanted Canadian! He helped me get my luggage (which just doesn’t do justice to the amount of baggage I brought) off the train and up to street level. Again, more chivalrous men were involved as well as rather banged up luggage trolley!

Paul (my landlord) and his girlfriend, Sue, picked me up at Tonbridge Station. Somehow, they both made me feel right at home within minutes. (Mom, don’t read this next bit out to Dad.) The glass of wine might have helped! I’ve discovered that I quite like the British definition of a curry. It was very good, even as left-overs the next evening!

I was so tired and so happy to go to bed. I had been traveling for upwards of 36 hours with only a short nap on the plane between Toronto and Iceland. I slept hard and long; 15 hours in fact!

Erin’s Travel Tip: pack less, ship more later.

The Past is Prologue

While writing the first page of the brand new book of my life the pen skipped. I did what every person in my (multiple pairs) shoes would do and scribbled circles until the ink flowed again. And that’s where my analogy ends. During the flight from Winnipeg, the plane circled over Toronto and then was diverted to Hamilton while Pearson was closed due to thunderstorms.  Not even a 2 hour delay could wipe the wide smile off my face. I found myself smiling for no other reason than pure joy at being on this adventure.

While waiting in Hamilton I watched Duplicity, a moving I could watch over again. It had a complex plot that, I think, would unravel itself with each successive viewing.

My first glimpse of The Thames

My first glimpse of The Thames

I’m learning all kinds of things about myself. I can navigate through unfamiliar airports by myself, I can start conversations with other travelers, and it’s only after Holly asks me if I’m nervous that I acknowledge it. Apparently, as a way to deal with stress my body produces copious amounts of sweat (sorry Mom, I was sweating not glowing) along my hairline. You can imagine what this does to my coif (Selina you can let me know if I spelled that wrong in the comments). I remember Dad’s hair being sopping wet the first year I rode Captain at Winter Fair. Somehow, I don’t think his farm implement hat is going to blend in on the streets of London as it did along the concourse of the Keystone Centre. Just saying.

Erin’s travel trip: Don’t bother painting your nails, they’ll just get huge chips while manhandling the huge, heavy suitcases in which you packed enough clothes to clothe a small village.