Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 7)

Travelling for 5 weeks with only ONE dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderful outfit to travel in. The dress is Sierra, a swing dress that can easily be used as a pinafore, meaning that it would never actually touch my skin, thus cutting down on washing.

The real beauty of this dress is that it’s made from merino wool, which means that it’s odour-resistant, easy to wash, crumple-free and absolutely comfortable to wear.

This makes it stellar for travel, especially if, like me, you choose to only take carry-on and so space is at a premium. Having just one outfit makes carry-on travelling a breeze.

Obviously I was very protective of Sierra, being extra-careful where messy foods were concerned. Before my travel I had to spot-clean a few times, but while I was travelling it was never an issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How and why did I choose to wear just the one dress – not just for my 5-week holiday – but for a full 100 days?

For those who don’t know, I began a 100-Day Challenge run by Wool&, an American company that makes merino clothing. What interested me in buying one of their dresses – after I thought about it for 2 years – was that merino is an excellent fabric for travel.

I went to Antarctica last year and bought merino long-sleeved tees to travel in, wear on the ice and on the ship, and those tees were absolutely brilliant. Due to this, I decided that I was going to take the plunge and invest in a Wool& dress and do their 100-days challenge.

Because after all, why not? I love a challenge and a US$100 voucher is nothing to be sneezed at. Having two dresses would make a perfect travel capsule.

I also decided that the easiest way to succeed at this would be to schedule my end date to be the day I got home from my 5-week trip to England and Ireland. If I gave myself no alternative outfits to wear, I’d have no option but to succeed! I counted back the days and the 100 days began on July 1.

Before my trip, I treated the dress as I would anything else. I was protective of her – I wore an apron when cooking to eliminate any oil spots and I was careful with sauces and such. Spot cleaning is easy – I just used a bar of Velvet soap and handwashed the area.

Just before my trip I washed the dress by using the velvet soap, immersing in water and then rolling her into a towel and standing on it. I hung her up in a well-ventilated spot and the dress was dry by morning!


What was also incredible was that before I went on the trip I was teaching secondary students. Not one of them noticed that I was wearing the same dress every day.

While travelling, I was very protective of the dress.

“Not near THE DRESS!” I’d say if any ketchup or creamy sauces were handed around near me, and it became a running joke. I didn’t have to spot clean once and I only gave her one full wash towards the end of the trip, not because I thought she needed it but because I thought that it was a good thing to do.

(The merino tops were hung up every night and spot-washed in the armpits every 3 or 4 wears, usually when I had 2 nights in a room, just to make sure that they’d be dry when I needed to pack my case again.)

Merino is definitely the best fabric for travel.

Right at the end of my 100 days I noticed a couple of pills on the fabric where the strap on my travel bag was running against it. You can see the size of my travel bag in the photo above – it’s large and was quite heavy some days.

I don’t think this is a problem – I worked the dress hard and if there a tiny bit of pilling at the end of the challenge, then so be it.

The clothes I took on the trip were as follows :

1 x Wool& dress.

4 x merino tees.

3 x undies.

2 x bra.

2 x black tights.

1 x walking boots.

1 x runners.

1 x woolen cowl.

1 x woolen beanie.

1 x light raincoat.

1 x warm fleece jacket.

That’s all I wore for 5 weeks and, to be honest, I only needed the fleece jacket once when we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I’d think about leaving it home next time, depending on where I go next.

I really enjoyed just having carry-on luggage. It was so good to simply get off the plane and walk straight to the exits. Wheeling it around on the streets was also very easy.

At the end of my trip, when my carty-on case was stuffed to the gills, I had to walk up 3 sets of stairs to get to my room in an old hotel in England. I don’t think I would have been able to get up there if I’d had a traditional 30KG suitcase!

So all in all, I’m loving the Sierra as a travel dress. Having the one outfit that I could dress up or down as I pleased made the whole trip so easy.

Will I wear her in my ordinary life? Maybe. I’m actually liking the thought of folding her up and putting her in my carry-on case, ready for the next trip next year.

Alaska and Canada – I’m looking at you!

Days 34 and 35. Homeward bound – plus souvenirs for light travel.

Here am I at Market Harborough station, waiting for my train to London.

The morning was spent trying to get my carry-on case to close. It took me ages to cram everything into the tins and around sculptures and artwork lying flat. For a few minutes it looked as if my beloved flannelette pyjamas were going to have to be sacrificed, but some creative packing saved them. (In fact, I’m wearing them right now as I type.)

After I checked out of the hotel, I wheeled myself over to Scott and Mark’s, where I spent the next few hours having lunch and getting my tarot read. I’m never getting my tarot read again because this reading foretells a future that’s so TERRIFIC. Scott kept turning over the cards and saying, “Oh my god, Frogdancer!” and I’d be like, “What? What?” and it would always turn out to be good.

Well, except for one card, but you can’t have a life without something going wrong at some stage, so that’s ok.

Ruby came and lay on the cards for a while, just to be involved. Fortunately, it was on the section that we weren’t reading yet, so by the time we got to it she’d moved away.

We walked to the station and Scott stayed until the train came, which was nice of him because he has his brother from NZ arriving tomorrow so he must have had a million things to do.

I’d booked a room, on Scott’s recommendation, at Heathrow terminal 2. It was a little exxy but so worth it when the alarm went off at 5:30Am and al I had to do was walk across the car park to get to the airport.

My flights went flawlessly and I was able to bring all my souvenirs home in my slightly heavier than allowed carry-on case and handbag.

So what did I bring home?

Keep in mind that I only had carry-on, so my space was limited. Weight was also a consideration. They don’t tend to weigh carry-on, but if I was unlucky and was asked to pop my bag on the scales, I would have been in trouble. For most of my trip, I reined myself in with regard to size and weight, but in the last few days I went. a little crazy.

I could have bought a bag and checked it in, but to be honest, I didn’t want to clutter up my wardrobe with another bag. Plus, I was already really enjoying the sensation of simply walking off the plane without having to wait for luggage.

My souvenirs from Kinsale in Ireland. I’m calling them Molly Malone and Sean. Molly had airport security in Dublin wanting to go through my bag with a fine-toothed comb. She was wrapped up in bubble wrap and a tea towel and they couldn’t make out on the x-ray what she was. I had to describe her before they’d let me through.

For the rest of the flights, I just had her in my handbag so I could unwrap her if they wanted. She was easily the heaviest thing I bought.

Note to self: steer away from pottery items in future. She made my handbag pretty heavy.

When I travel, I like to bring home art and also practical souvenirs. Here’s my soap holder from the Tiptree Jam museum. It’ll stop my soap from sitting in a pool of water and so it’ll last longer.

This is the huge framed print I bought at Windsor Castle. It’s now hanging at the end of my hallway. I had to pay duty on it before they’d let it into the country!!

This is the little Toby jug that Deana’s friend Kathleen gave me on the drive into Stansted airport before I flew over to Ireland. It fitted snugly into a tin and is now in my china cabinet.

My Belfast earrings. I wanted to buy a pair of earrings that were small enough to wear every day. I ended up buying 2 pairs. Oops.

A few days later I bought these. They have Connemara marble in them.

A sketch of Yates.

I bought this little card – and it’s tiny – at the town where they shot “The Quiet Man’ movie with John Wayne and Maureen O’Sullivan. It’s off getting framed.

I love it so much.

This little one comes from Wimpole House, along with a couple of garden ornaments. He was surprisingly light for his size and I just love the shape of him.

Postcards and magnets.

These are excellent souvenirs to buy when you’re worried about size and weight. The magnets fit into tins and the postcards are stored flat with your artwork.

Every day I can see souvenirs from my trips to Europe, Antarctica, Ireland and England.

An ironing board cover from Maldon. Hey – it provided handy wrapping for a breakable item in my case!

I saw this in Cork and had to buy it. This was the only tin that kept its contents because I was curious as to how shamrocks taste.

Spoiler alert: these teabags just taste of green tea.

These are two flat garden ornaments that I’ll be nailing up somewhere in the backyard. These came from Wimpole House, along with the rabbit. Really easy to transport. I just popped them in with the artwork.

A coffee mug. I loved this place!

I’ll be showing all of the Christmas tree decorations but this one deserves its own photo. It’s so intricate, so silver and so expensive. The buyer’s remorse is still struggling with this one…

Christmas tree decorations!

My Blarney Stone hat! The cowl I’m wearing around my neck travelled with me the last time I was in England and Europe in 2015.

I went home with this fully-framed and glassed print in my case. I was worried that the glass would break but it came through unscathed. It was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back though — I only just managed to get my case zipped up after I put this into it!

Ken the climbing man. Not too sure where he’ll go, but it’ll be somewhere that hands won’t make him chip my newly-painted walls. Again, he wasn’t too heavy and his rope was folded up so he could fit in the case.

Tea towels! So handy for wrapping around breakables and stuffing into corners.

I bought the bright yellow one because 3 of the boys have names that are on this tea towel. Maybe Ireland is my spiritual home because I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, yet I named them Irish names.

Anyway, more useful souvenirs.

Speaking of useful souvenirs, look at these babies! These were great for fitting smaller souvenirs into and also for providing a flat base for me to lay all of my artwork down so it wouldn’t get creased. I didn’t think of that before I left, but it soon became evident that it was a smart way to go.

When I’d pretty much covered the bottom of my case with tins, I decided that I was finished. Until Scott pointed out the tin with the three Westies on it in the last few days of our trip. This tin travelled home in my handbag with my wallet, cough lollies and tissues in it.

I ate the shortbread for dinner on my last night in England.

My rescued Cavaliers. I’ve always had Blenheims and one tricolour. Maybe this is a sign that I should get two whole colours for my last pack?

My Antarctica souvenir that I found in Ireland! Being framed and will live in the Man Cave along with the other pictures.

I love this for two reasons. The first is because my friend James told me about fairy trees when we were driving around and the memory makes me happy. Secondly, the fairy tree that we saw when I was on the bus a week later looked almost exactly like this.

This print of Derry isn’t as pretty but look at this:

This is the view from the bridge. I found the walking tour around Derry deeply moving. It’s not something I want to forget. The stories of a city tearing itself apart over something as stupid as religion were searing.

Especially with what’s going on in Gaza and Israel.

And finally – the little sheep in the Irish colours that James gave me.

All I want to do now is to post something separately about the experience of wearing the same dress for the whole trip – and the two months before it. Yes, I wore the grey sack for 100 days.

I’ll send it, along with my selfies for the whole time period, to the company who made it. They run a 100-day challenge.

But now? Time to get showered, get dressed and get to Bunnings.

I want to buy a fuschia as another little souvenir from the trip. I saw them everywhere along the streets and gardens of my trip.

Thanks again to Scott, Deana, James and Corinna. What amazing friends you are to me and I love you all. There’s a spare bedroom here in Melbourne… just saying!

Days 33: Market Harborough, Kirby Hall and Bede Almshouse.

Here is the building that graces the middle of Market Harborough. It’s a grammar school built in 1640, with the open-air structure underneath used for markets and the occasional raging flood sweeping through the town in the olden days.

For this reason, the church that stands beside it doesn’t have its own churchyard. No one wants to be sitting listening to a sermon only to see Granny’s coffin bobbing around beside them. The church was given space in St Mary’s, which is wisely placed on higher ground.

In 1569 the town was briefly in the news as the Privy Council debated whether a local girl Agnes Bowker had given birth to a cat.

I thought that this quote underneath the grammar school was very appropriate for a single woman wearing a grey sack on her voyage across the world. No man was going to give me a second glance wearing this!

Scott wanted a sleep-in now that he was back in his own bed, so we’d agreed to meet at 11. I decided that rather than staying in and writing a blog post, I’d get out and about and have a look at the town.

Plus I could find that gift shop and have another look at the depressed cow vase I’d spotted in the window the night before.

I set off.

I saw this disgusting-looking overcoat in an op shop.

Finally, I got to the gift shop and although the depressed-looking cow vase was lovely, it was just too expensive. Also, I couldn’t see how to make it fit in my overburdened carry-on case.

But then I saw this…

I’m calling him Ken because he doesn’t have a penis. He’ll be a fun little addition to a wall somewhere, though it’ll have to be where people won’t try and move him. I don’t want my new paint being chipped!

On the way back I decided to get Scott a little snack for our trip today. (By the way, I patted those dogs.) I decided to harken back to my visit to Dublin with James and so I bought him a couple of little Bakewell tarts.

Then I dived into the church.

It was full of toddlers having a dance class or something. I looked around for a bit, then went back to the hotel, passing an op shop on the way. I found two whole-colour cavalier ornaments there for only £1.50 each.

Cavaliers in an op shop for such a basement price? This is the best breed in the world!!! This is OUTRAGEOUS!

Not on my watch.

So I bought them. They could easily fit in one of my tins, I reasoned.

It was a really good idea to use tins as souvenirs when I had so little space. I gave away the biscuits/tea/fudge the tins contained and as I went, they filled up with souvenirs or clothes.

Now I have them as decorations and storage for my sewing room.

When I was in the gift shop where I bought Ken the climbing man, the owner asked me where I was going that day. When I said that I wasn’t sure, but I thought there was an almshouse involved at some stage, he gave me the hot tip to go to Kirby House, an Elizabethan manor house nearby. He also mentioned that the village of Rochester was pretty. It has a castle but it was closed for the season.

So when Scott picked me up, we headed off to Kirby Hall. We’d heard it described as a ruin, but on the strength of the gift shop man, we decided to give it a go.

I’m so glad we did. It was one of the most evocative places I’ve ever seen.

Kirby Hall was one of the great Elizabethan houses of England. It was built for Sir Humphrey Stafford beginning in 1570. In 1575 the property was purchased by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. 

For. acouple of hundred years it was maintained and renovated and kept beautiful. Henry VIII stayed there for a few days with his wife, Katharine Howard. It was either from here or from Lincoln Castke (which we saw on my last trip), that poor Katharine Howard wrote the love letter to Thomas Culpepper that was used in her trial against her.

They weren’t the only royals to stay here. Eighty years or so later, James I and his wife Anne of Denmark stayed here 9 times. Must’ve been good hunting here!

Unfortunately for Kirby Hall, the family built another mansion at Eastwell park in the late 1700’s and the family moved there, leaving this place as a holiday house.

THEN the 11th Earl of Winchilsea sold off the lead from most of the roof to pay his gambling debts. Can you believe it?!?

From then on the place fell steadily into ruin, with only the Great Hall and the rooms above it, which include the Royal rooms, being still as they were.

It’s such a shame, because the place would have been stunning. Still, the ruins now have a beauty all their own.

The details of how the building was put together were all there in front of us.

Little things like how the fireplaces are stacked one on top of the other, because they used the same chimney. With a floor in between them, you wouldn’t notice it.

Even back in 1786, some idiot was carving his name into the building.

With so much gone. there were still details remaining, like these elaborately carved friezes over the doors.

After exploring the ruins at the front of the house, we made our way to the intact rooms. Look at all of the little Tudor windows! They didn’t know how to make glass windows bigger then.

As I went in, I took a look back. Imagine how stately and beautiful this house would have been? Fit for royalty to come and visit. And don’t forget that James I was the king who threw the owner of Audey End into the Tower when he saw how amazing his house was. Just how much bigger and more expensive was Audley End when it was complete?

This is what is left of the great Hall. You can see the minstrels’ gallery above.

After the place began to fall into ruin, the local farmers moved in. They used to welcome parties of the getry who would pop in to have. apicnic and mourn at the state of the house. One shepherd’s child was actually named ‘Kirby’, so he was probably born here.

Here’s a model of what they think the grounds would have looked like in its heyday. They’ve restored the pretty waking garden at the side of the house. I’ll show you later.

Ignore the person vacuuming. Look at those windows! This would have been such a pleasant room to hang around in. It’s huge!

The room next door has windows just as impressive. This was designated as the library.

This is the view from the King’s Room. I leaned on the windowledge for quite. awhile, touching the exact same ledge as Henry VIII and James I. Looking out onto the type of view they would have looked at.

It’s just amazing that these places are still around. In Australia, it would have been knocked down and the stones. carted off to be reused elsewhere.

It’s nice to see how we would have looked had we been born back then.

Because naturally, we would have been nobility.

The Long Gallery was where major entertaining was done and where the lord of the manor and the King, if he was here, would greet people.

Even in its state of neglect, you can still almost feel what it must have been like.

Here is where the Long Gallery was. It has a window in front of it now, but there was a grid underneath the window that, when placed correctly, you can see what the hallway would have looked like.

Fortunately, I had Scott with me. He’s a details man. I held the grid in place and he took the photo…

After that we went outside and wandered around.

I liked the look of the decorations at the top of the building against the sky.

I felt that the gardens, while pretty when looked. atfrom the house, would have been pretty dull to walk around in. Still, if I were encumbered by all those skirts, a walk around these paths might be all I could manage, who knows?

We walked around to the back of the house.

See how bumpy the lawn is? Do you know why?

Mole hills!

I was excited. I’ve read about them, but never seen them. I can understand why people don’t like them – they were really making a mess of the lawn.

Then we walked around the side of the house to find the ruins of the kitchen area. These were so beautiful and interesting.

Look at the size of the fireplace down here! There would have been many a pig, cow or goat roasted on the spit here.

On the way to the Bede Almshouse we passed through the village of Rockingham. Scott was able to get a park for the car, so. Iran back down the street taking photos.

Look at how thick that thatch is!

Talk about a chocolate-box village!

Sometimes it’s just the details. I’d love to have a doorway like this.

Look at how one half of the house is thatch while the other isn’t.

My god. It’s so ENGLISH!

Imagine living in a fairy-tale cottage like these ones?


After I’d scampered up and down the street while Scott ate the Bakewell tarts I’d bought earlier, we headed off to visit a vastly different place – Bede Almshouse.

But first there was the church.

The medieval paintings on the walls were covered by whitewash at the time of the
Reformation, but in 1937 some areas were cleaned and the surfaces treated
to preserve them. The most interesting painting is that behind
the pulpit, which consists of a king in ermine cloak and cap, holding an orb. He is thought to be Edward the Confessor, who bequeathed part of Rutland as an
endowment to Westminster Abbey on his death in 1042.

This was the clearest one.

I forget what the wooden divider is called, but it’s genuine Tudor.

Then we walked over to the building huddled next to the church… the almshouse.

Basically, an almshouse was where you went if you were too poor to feed and house yourself. It was better than going to the Workhouse, but not much.

This place was built 300 years ago.

It housed 12 men and 2 women. Once you got in, as long as you followed the rules, you had a place for life.

It wasn’t as kind as it sounds.

Before you got a room, you had to be free from lunacy, leprosy and french pox. Naturally you had to be of good character, so people had to vouch for you to the priest.

Once you were in, you had to attend church A LOT and pray A LOT and do general work around the place. The women were were up in the second floor, away from the men, and were expected to look after the mens’ laundry and basic cooking and cleaning. As well as go to church and pray A LOT.

The doors were small. Maybe they were shorter than us, or maybe it’s a ploy to keep the heat in.

If it was the latter, they were wasting their time. These rooms were COLD.

Zoom in on the corner of the fireplace. It’s a Tudor rose!

The gift shop was where the kitchen once was. So. I bought a tea-towel. Seemed appropriate.

These rooms were basic. And they were so very cold. It was a clear autumnal day outside. It was not raining but it was still pleasant to wak around in. But as soon as we walked into these rooms, the cold slapped us in the faces.

This is how they think the rooms would have been set up. The church is just 100 metres away, so the sound of the bells would have punctuated every day.

Men over 30 who could no longer support themselves, either through age or illness, could apply to the Cecil family for a vacant place at the bedehouse. Two spaces were also reserved for widows over 45. Many applicants had connections to the family estate; others hadworked as craftsmen, tradesmen, or labourers in thesurrounding villages.

The residents received clothes (a blue gown and black cap) and an allowance of 3 shillings a week, and had to apply themselves to a handicraft, unless they were too
blind or old. They assembled in the bedehouse every
day for prayers and attended church every Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and holiday.
Places at the bedehouse, which provided respectability and security for the residents’ final years, were keenly sought after. The Cecil family and their descendants, the earls of Exeter, continued to support the bedehouse
until the 20th century.

It wasn’t just poor people who lived here. This place was also home to the bishop of the area. He lived in the upper floors, away from the riff-raff. They also entertained important people. Wen Henry VIII stayed here in the summer of 1541, he brought around 4,000 men with him. It was. ahuge burden on the estate to feed and house so many people.

Beyond that big room was this room – a private room for the bishop to be alone.

The bishop withdrew to this room to hold his most private conversations, and probably slept here. With its ornamental fireplace and handsome ceiling, this would have been an impressive room, furnished with a canopied bed,
rich hangings and decorated chairs.

The information board says “Bishop John Longland (in office 1521-1547) was possibly the last bishop who occupied this room. He was King Henry VIll’s confessor and was caught up in the king’s struggle against the Church:
while he supported Henry against the Pope, Longland also spoke up for the power of the bishops. The king’s visit to Lyddington in 1541, just after the suppression of the monasteries, would have been a particularly delicate time for him.

I like the words “particularly delicate”. The king wanted to destroy the Catholic church in England – a catholic bishop would have had to choose his words very carefully, whether he was the king’s confessor or not!

These old stone steps – look at the wear in them. How many feet have stepped on them over the centuries?

Up in the roof. See how the roof tiles are slate?

I love the angles.

It’s never occurred to me to wonder how they get flat pieces of slate to hold together on. aroof. Here’s how. See how each slate has a nail punched into it that hangs on the wood slats? I found this really interesting to see.

How beautiful is this?

And just look at how this door was put together.

After that we drove back to Market Harborough. I was going to dinner at Scott and Mark’s place and I was really excited to see their ‘new’ apartment. (I put that in quotes because they’ve been there for years… it’s just the first time I’ve seen it.)

In the gap between getting dropped off and going to theirs for dinner, I went to an art gallery. There I saw the perfect “England” print. Their houses are all tall and skinny and jammed together. It screams ENGLAND to me.

Then I walked the 5 minutes to Scott and Mark’s.

Mark cooked while Scott showed me around. They’ve got a fantastic place on the top floor of a converted warehouse. It was a really fun, relaxed evening and I got to renew my acquaintance with the cats. Oliver and Ruby took to me like ducks to water, but Rose wasn’t too sure.

Tomorrow I have to pack my suitcase to make my way home. I hope that the glass in my new picture won’t break. Scott suggested taking it out of the frame to get it home but no way! I paid for that frame and by god… I’m going to try my best to get it home.

Day 32: Wimpole Hall.

Today was primarily a travel day to get from Maldon to Market Harborough, where I’ll be staying for a couple of days to catch up with Scott’s husband Mark and their 3 cats.

We walked around Maldon on the last morning, and I bought an ironing board cover and a salt pig. You all know how I like to buy useful souvenirs. When I got home, Ryan28 was rapt about the salt pig. “I never thought you’d buy one, but they’re so handy!” he said.

Anyway, back to England.

To break the trip up, Scott had selected a stately home for us to look at along the way.

It’s easy to forget how tiny England is compared to Australia. We were driving along the motorway when I saw a sign for an exit to Cambridge. I was like, “WHAT??” I went to Cambridge on my last trip.

Scott looked across and said, “You know England is small, Frogdancer.”

It’s true. The whole of England can fit inside the state of Victoria.

Along the way, we saw this truck which is basically a giant whipper-snipper. This is how England and Ireland keep their narrow streets free for cars. He very kindly backed up to let us through, otherwise, we would’ve been there for ages.

This place was very popular. It had a huge car park which was pretty much full when we got there. It was the middle of the day on a Wednesday! This building was the old stables, which is now being used as the gift shop.

I went a bit mad, buying a couple of flat garden ornaments, a model of a hare gazing soulfully upwards with his ears pulled back, (he was very light), and another Christmas tree ornament. I knew that there was going to be a reorganisation of my carry-on case when I got to the hotel room tonight.

To have this on the top of your stables isn’t flamboyant at all…

As we walked closer to the house Scott said, “Look at the rose!”

He said it didn’t smell. But I think we can all agree that it looks beautiful.

Here’s the house again.

The estate was held by the Chicheley family for over 250 years, beginning in 1428 with Henry Chichele, who was Archbishop of Canterbury. The last of this family to hold the house was the politician Thomas Chicheley, who was responsible for the “new” house that was completed in 1650.

I love how the word “new” describes things that are hundreds of years old in this country!

 Chicheley established the formal gardens and architectural landscape of the estate. He enjoyed the house for 36 years until, weighed down by financial problems, he was forced to sell it to Sir John Cutler.

In 1689, Sir John gave it as a marriage settlement to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Charles Robartes, 2nd Earl of Radnor.

On the death of Elizabeth in 1697, without an heir, the estate passed to Edmund Boulter, nephew of Sir John Cutler.

Poor old Edmund didn’t have a title. What a commoner!

In 1710 it was in the possession of John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who left it to his daughter Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles upon his death the following year.

Upon Henrietta’s marriage, in 1713, it became the possession of her husband Edward Harley, the 2nd Earl of Oxford and he was also Earl Mortimer.

Sounds like a good match, hey? Two Earl titles with the one man? But notice how when she married, it “BECAME THE POSSESSION” of her husband. Can’t have the little woman owning an estate!

In 1740, Edward sold Wimpole to Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, in order to pay off his debts. Wouldn’t you want to kill him if you were Henrietta???

On 27 October 1843, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the hall. They listened to speeches by local politicians including the Earl of Hardwicke, and dinner was served for 26 people. A ball was held in the evening. On 28 October 1843, Her Majesty visited the farm in the morning before departing for London.

There is a portrait of her in the dining room, which she was reported as saying was “a perfect likeness”. So much is made of her visit, but she was only there for one night.

In 1938, Capt. George Bambridge and his wife Elsie, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, purchased it after having been tenants since 1932. They used the inheritance left to them by her father, and the royalties from his books, for the long-needed refurbishment of the house and grounds. During the War, for instance, the house had no running water or electricity.


During her time at Wimpole Hall, Elsie was known to become irritated by members of the public gathering too close to the house for picnics, so much so, that she once returned to the offending couple’s property and had her own picnic on their lawn.

Haha. Good for her! How funny.

Here is a view of the backyard, with the fake ruined tower that someone in the Victorian era put in. Nothing like a fake abbey in your backyard to impress your friends and neighbours!

But what rocked me back on my heels was a single line on one of the information boards, saying that the architect John Soane had worked on the house in the late 1700’s.

Do you remember? On my first day in London, I visited his house!

This picture shows the yellow dining room, which is one of the rooms he worked on. There was a large skylight and a couple of BIG mirrors that would have cost an absolute fortune when they were put in.

John Soane also put in a rather large “plunge pool” tucked away at the bottom of the house. You have to wonder what it was used for and if there were any kinky parties going on back in the day.

This painting has hung here for around 250 years. Imagine the people who have walked past him in that time? The plaster mouldings were also really impressive.

After we visited the house we ate our lunch in the car like we did yesterday, but this time we were looking at the building where the toilets and entry were.

Somehow, it just didn’t have the ambience of the decommissioned nuclear power plant.

Then we drove the rest of the way to Market Harborough.

The three of us went out to dinner that night. It was lovely catching up with Mark again. He and Scott make a great couple.

On the walk back to my hotel we passed a gift shop with lots of interesting things in the windows. Scott and I were planning a late start to my last day of exploring England tomorrow, so I vowed to get back there in the morning to have a look through.

Surely my carry-on could squeeze another souvenir or two in? I can still do up the zips…

Day 31: a picnic at the decommissioned nuclear plant.

Today was the day that Scott went to explore his roots. His family is from England and we were near the place that the family went to visit Grandpa at the caravan park. He used to go here for his summer holidays and Scott has a few faded photographs of them in a boat on the beach.

Here he is, back at the beach.

And here he is, having crunched his way over the pebbles.

This beach doesn’t have sand. It has pebbles. Just imagine…

Scott took away two pebbles, one for him and one for his Mum. I’d like it if, down the track, the boys would do something like that for me one day.

Even though the caravan park had gone, it was a successful trip down memory lane.
On the way back to the car I saw these two signs. They amused me.

We were getting a little peckish after our walk on the beach, so we headed to our next destination… the decommissioned nuclear power plant.

Nothing says ‘picnic’ more than the smell of polonium!

The plant looked very different when it was working. It turns out that our B and B hostess, Kim, used to work there back in the day. She said that once it was all built and operational, it only required 4 workers to keep the whole plant humming along. I thought that was amazing.

Once they decided to shut it all down, they took away all the external parts and encased the nuclear reactors in concrete. That’s what were looking at.

A man in hi-viz was looking at us suspiciously as we loitered in the car park, so we drove a little way away, parked the car and ate our lunch. What a picturesque sight to whet our appetites!

In 2083 these buildings will be demolished.
I guess the hi-viz guy has job security up until that point.

Once our salad rolls had been consumed, we were off again. Scott had heard of an ancient church that was called the most isolated church in England. We went off to find it.

It was quite the drive. The satnav sent us along all of the back roads. It turned into a pilgrimage of sorts by the time we actually found it.

St Cedd sailed down from a town a few hundred miles further up and founded the church, introducing Christianity to the area. This was in 654.
The church is still standing.

But they make you walk a long way from the car park to see it.

We walked. And walked. The wind stepped up and the windmills to the right of us were spinning merrily.

I began to wonder if the church was moving further away, rather than getting closer.

After what seemed like an age, the church appeared.

Finally, we were there. The hutch is just a short walk from the beach, and there’s a secretive Christian commune a little way away who offer bed and breakfast.

But otherwise it’s all alone in the fields.

Scott opened the door, we went in and I fell in love.

Sadly, the pictures can’t convey the sense of peace and serenity that was here in this old stone building. I stood and gazed, breathing it all in.

They’ve left it all so simple. A few wooden benches, a crucifix on the wall, and a pulpit. That’s pretty much it.

It was utterly beautiful.

Someone before us had left a candle burning, even though a sign at the door tells people not to do this. Scott blew it out before we left, but I was secretly glad that it was there when we walked in.
The tiny flickering light was lovely.

I could see where walls had been altered and repaired over the 1500 years that this place has been here.

This was true for the outside as well.

Look under the window. Roman tiles!

I absolutely loved this place. I think it was the whole package; the long walk to get there, the utter purity and simplicity of the place and the isolation. If I was a believer, this would be the perfect place to pray.

We left, but a little way down the track I turned around. If any place needed me to buy a postcard to put on my fright, this one did.

Scott gave me some pence (all I had in cash were euros) and I walked back.

Scott took this photo of me walking back.

I was walking back alone when I looked across at the windmills. If people from St Cedd’s time could have a window into the future, what would they make of these?

I suppose they’d recognise them as windmills, but the scale of them would probably be terrifying.

Enlarge the next photo.

Pheasant on the road!

I’ve never heard of these before…


More thatch! See how thick it is?

Scott decided that he needed a tea room.
Honestly, never get in between this man and a tea room! He loves them.
We drove from town to town, with no tea room in sight. From a country that seemed to be littered with tea rooms, suddenly this place was like a desert.

We got lucky in a little place called Burnham on Crouch.

After Scott had his coffee and cake, we walked along the sea front. It took 10 photos before I could get one with the flag fully out.

It also had a little clock tower with a tunnel through it.

After we got back to the B and B, I could hear lots of bird noises outside my room. A flock of birds had decided to take a rest on the rigging of the barges.

On our last night in Maldon, we decided to go to the restaurant with the cheesiest name.

It turned out to be a very good meal.
At the end, we had fortune cookies.

I was incredibly happy with mine!

Scott was less so with his. Though it does give permission to have naps if he wants them…

Day 29: Grand ambitions all for naught – Paycockes House and Layer Marney.

We emerged from our B and B to find this natty little MG parked on the side of the road. There’s something about these old cars, isn’t there?

I took this picture of an amazing looking building in Coggeshall, not realising that it was the place Scott had brought us here to see.
This is Paycocke’s House.

It’s most well-known for a wealthy young couple who settled here and proceeded to make their mark on the house and the town.

Zero in on the sign. Omg.

The house itself is a series of add-ons that various owners have built over the centuries. I was talking to the guide and mentioned how lucky it was that the house hadn’t been pulled down over the centuries.

“You see, Coggeshall has fallen on hard times over the years,” she said. “ In richer areas, they probably would have torn it down to build a fancier place to live, but here? They needed cheap houses to stay in.”

Beer bottle bottoms as decoration. This is called Pargetting plasterwork. I think I had examples of this in yesterday’s post.

The house has extensive carvings on the street side. You know, where they will show of his wealth to all passers-by.
Taxes were paid on how large the frontage of a property was. Clearly, money was no object to this couple.

I spied some Tudor rosés under the window.
But who was this wool merchant who decorated his house so grandly?

Thomas Paycocke came from money. He was the third son of a merchant, so this house would have been the third-best property.

He was apprenticed to a wool merchant and married the boss’s daughter. Margaret brought a lot of money to the marriage. The young couple were definitely well-off.

Thomas may have been a third son, but he was going to make his mark.

In 1504 her father died and left them a sizeable bequest in his will.

There were far more beams on the ceiling than were needed to actually hold the roof up. The carving on the roof beams clearly shows that he had money to burn. This house was the showpiece of his prosperity – he and his wife were going to start a dynasty. Her initial is here too, not just his.

( As an aside, the Georgians hated the oak panelling and boarded it all up. See the nail holes all through it? They also painted over the roof beams.)

When people were restoring the house in the early 1900s, after it had been divided into 3 tenement houses for decades and left to decay, they found this mantelpiece.

Look at this genuine Tudor panelling. It’s reminiscent of the panelling in Ingateston, that I saw with Deana.

There were 4 different types of Tudor panelling in this room. These 3 panels, hidden behind the door, are the most glaringly obvious. Perhaps they came from the abbey, the guide suggested, but no one knows for sure.

Here’s what the information board says about Margaret Paycocke:


b. Clare, Suffolk

m. Thomas Paycocke Margaret Horrold was the daughter of a successful woollen clothier and brought useful skills, as well as wealth, to her marriage with Thomas Paycocke.

She was a true partner in the Paycocke’s business, as shown by the equal status of her initials in the carvings of the main hall.

Margaret was probably taught by her father or a priest. She may even have been one of a few girls at a ‘petty school’ being taught a limited range of subjects, compared to the boys in the same school, of basic literacy and numeracy.

It is clear trom letters of the ume that miedieval mierchants wives helped manage the company and houschold undertaking administrative and hnancial duties when their husbands were away on business.

The couple were seen as successiul and reliable and, upon her lathers will of 1504. they received notable bequests.

Unusually, upon her father’s death, her two sisters came to live with the Paycockes in Coggeshall rather than staying with their mother or brother. This shows that their sister’s house was seen as the most prosperous and stable.”

I got all excited when I saw a couple of Cavalier mantle dogs carrying what I thought were cupcakes in their mouths. Turns out, upon closer inspection, that they were carrying baskets of flowers instead. I was a little dashed by this. I could definitely see Poppy and Jeff scoffing some cupcakes.

The dining room. The guide told us that none of the furniture in this place is authentic to the actual building… it had had far too many tenants over the years for that… but the tabletop itself is authentic Tudor.

So, like Austen and Dickens’ writing desks, I had to flip back the tablecloth and snap a selfie.


Look at the burn marks on the wall beams. This is the medieval form of fire insurance.

You know the old saying, “Lightning doesn’t strike twice?”
They used to put scorch marks on the beams, sometimes even before the beams were put into the houses, to protect against fire.

So anyway, Thomas Paycocke was a big deal in Coggeshall, employing many people and running a thriving business. But he and Margaret were not blessed with any children.

When she died, he wasted no time in marrying again.

In 1518, Thomas died, just before Anne gave birth.

He stipulated in his will that his unborn child should inherit the house, but only if the child was male – the property should stay in the male family line. Anne gave birth to a girl.

After Thomas’s death all hell broke loose. Family on both sides claimed that his property had been embezzled and a legal battle ensued. In the end Thomas’s great-nephew John Paycocke took over the house, but he was the last of his name in Coggeshall’ and when he died the house was not passed down the male family line.

His daughter was left the sum of 500 crowns in her father’s will. This made her quite the heiress and she ended up marrying the son of the Lord Mayor of London.

The rooms were filled with furniture and examples of the types of fabric that Thomas would have sold. But look down! Original floorboards.
How many pairs of feet have trodden these boards over 600 – 700 years?

In a little room off to the back there was a little museum about when the fabric trade crashed and the women of Coggeshall turned to lace making to make ends meet.

This device was interesting. Four women could sit around this and work by the light of one candle. Imagine the savings!

But also imagine making lace this fine by candlelight. You’d be cross-eyed by 20 and blind by 40, surely.

Then we were off to Layer Marney, a strange name for an estate that it’s owner surely believed would cement the reputation of his family
Most of this tower was built in the reign of Henry VIII. The King believed that a building should reflect the status of its owner, so Henry Marney had grand plans for this place.

Henry Marney was Henry VIll’s Lord Privy Seal, which was a very important post. He started to build his statement house, Layer Marney Tower, sometime around 1518.

Layer Marney Tower was built to the height of fashion, in particular, using terracotta for decoration on the turrets, windows and tombs in the church. Terracotta, like brick, is made from clay. The clay for terracotta is worked into a very smooth creamy consistency that allows it to be worked into delicate moulds with sophisticated decoration.

Wait until you see the chimneys!

Layer Marney Tower is an incomplete Palace. Henry 1* Lord Marney died in 1523 and his son John, died just two years later. John Marney’s daughters became Wards of Court and later married, but never came back to Layer Marney Tower.

The Long Gallery was originally built as a stable block for 30 horses and a few carriages. The roof Timbers are original and made of oak.

Imagine making a roof like that just for horses to look at!

A.dry unimpressed deer surveys the room.

The deer might be unimpressed but I was gobsmacked when I read an information sheet about the first Lord Marney. He was right in the thick of things all his life. He was clearly a very powerful and most trusted man.
Here’s what the sheet said:















“O mortall folk| you may behold and see

Hoto I ist here somatyme a mugghty krught:
The end of joy and all prosperitig
Is aethe: st last through his course and mught, After the day there comth the darke night:
For though the daye be never so longe, At last the bell ringeth to evensong.

You might have noticed that I highlighted one item on the timeline of his life. He was the executor of Margaret Beaufort’s will. She was Henry VIII’s grandmother and she was a very wealthy and powerful woman in her own right.
She was married at 12 and was a mother at 13. She was a tiny woman and it’s obvious that the birth must have been traumatic. She was married 4 times and never had another child.
But the child she had was Henry Tudor, and she was incredibly instrumental in converting his somewhat tenuous claim to the throne into seeing him become Henry VIII.
She wouldn’t have chosen just anybody to see to her last wishes, and it’s very likely that the king would have been keeping an eye on things too.
Excellent link to what she did in her life. Extraordinary woman.

Anyway, the photo above is his grave in the church beside the tower.

Here’s his profile.
“One of the highlights of the church is the tomb of Lord Marney, complete with effigy, terracotta and canopy. The terracotta work on the tombs is very high quality, probably made by Flemish craftsmen to Italian designs. The effigy is carved from Catacleuse Stone quarried at the Marney Estates in St Endellion, Cornwall,” says the guidebook.

He had a son and 2 daughters, so everything would be fine, yes?

Except here’s the grave of his son, who died 2 years after he did.
His two daughters were made wards of the state, which basically means that the king decided where they were going to live and who they would marry.

After his son died, no-one from the family ever came to Layer Marney again.

Just as an aside, this model shows how Layer Marney was intended to be.

Suddenly, the big towers at the front make sense.

Anyway, back to the church…

The mediaeval wall painting of St Christopher was saved from destruction at the time of theReformation by being painted over and it remained undiscovered for over 300 years.

They must have worked so carefully to avoid damaging it.

At the bottom left, here’s a section where someone was a bit heavy handed…

Information sheet about St Christopher.

As we came out of the church and back towards the tower, I noticed the chimneys. How incredible do they look?

We had to climb the tower to see them up close.

And while I’m at it, the brickwork is also very beautiful.

It also means that the side we came in by was never intended to be the main entrance. It would have been part of the courtyard. THIS was supposed to be the first impression people were supposed to have.
Got to say, it would’ve impressed the living daylights out of me!

As we were walking up the stairs to the top of the tower, there were various rooms to stop off and see. Many had exhibits like the model of the intended shape of Layer Marney that I showed you earlier. But I really liked this room. It shows how they would have used tapestries in the rooms for warmth and comfort.

And then we were on the roof. How I love these chimneys! I want to go home and install a fireplace and have these bad boys on top of my house.

Here’s the view from the front of the tower.

Chimney close-up! I can’t resist…

Far over to the right is where Scott’s car is parked. This whole section of land is where the rest of the house was intended to be built.

I loved this place. I bought a tea towel and a mug to remind me.

Then we went to the Tiptree jam factory to have lunch.

Scott was so excited to be there.

I was less so.

We wended our way home after this. Scott’s cold wasn’t seeming to want to get better, so we headed back for a quiet night.

I found it interesting that without meaning to, Scott had found two families who had had the exact same thing happen to them. Both men, Thomas Paycocke the merchant and John Marney the nobleman, both rose to the top of their trees.

Yet within two generations, everything they’d built up was gone.

Day 28: Audley End, Saffron Walden and other chocolate-box villages.

We drove through the pretty little village of Thaxted on our way to see Audley End. Here are some snaps from the car:

Look at the THATCH!

I remember Ben saying, “Once, you lived in a thatched house if you were poor. Now, you live in one if you’re rich.”

We were on our way to the prettily- named town of Saffron Walden, where the grand house of Audley End is located. Scott took this photo of one of the Audley End swans.

We knew that the house was going to be large as we drove around the perimeter of the property to get to the front gate. The old brick fence that surrounds the house is HUGE.

Audley End was built in 1605, on the site where a 12th century abbey used to be.

The first lord of the place was Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, and he was content to live in the old abbey buildings. However, a couple of generations later, the lord of the manor had more grandiose ideas.

The current house that we see today is only a third the size of the original. This guy built a MASSIVE house. It was so large that when the king, James I, came to stay, he knew something was up.

“This house is too grand for a king, but not grand enough for my lord Treasurer,” the king said, and promptly threw him in the Tower.

He had to pay a fine of £30,000 to get out. This, of course, would be worth millions today.

No, we’re not laughing at his misfortune.

But really, what a doofus. His family never recovered financially.

(Picture taken by Scott.)

I stayed down in the Great Hall for quite a while talking with one of the guides. He gave me the information I’ve just told you and we also talked about Ireland. Turns out his name is Sean O’Sullivan, so we had a great chat.

“These old houses have so many things packed away that everyone has forgotten about,” he said. “One day, I was called over and told to open up an old book very carefully. There, written just like you or I would write our name in a book, was ‘Walter Raleigh.’ I tell you, it gave me chills to think that he had touched this very same book.”

They didn’t allow photos in here, so we had to be sneaky. (This one was taken by Scott.) Look at the ceiling!

The first room up the stairs was a sitting room. The girls of the household used to practice their watercolours here, so there’s a record of how things have changed in the room over the years, from furnishings to the size of the panes of glass in the windows.

(Photo taken by Scott.) The next room was the lord’s sitting room, which has the truly idiotic features of two fake doors and one hidden one. This is in addition to the two doors that already led people from one room to the next.

Seriously? How many doors, real or otherwise, does one lord need?

It was full of paintings. The guide said that in Victorian times, some art critic came around and was convinced that every second painting was an old master. “Nowadays, “ he said, “We have a much calmer idea about who painted what.”

There was a Van Dyke self portrait in this room, which shows him pointing to a sunflower. The room guide explained that Van Dyke was Charles I’s court painter. A sunflower is a symbol of loyalty, so he was professing his loyalty to the king.

The nursery was interesting.
The first indication we had that we were getting near was this bell high up on the wall.
The mother of the children, in Victorian times there were 8 of them, would ring the bell from her sitting room when she was ready to see the children before dinner. Their governess would have to make them presentable and deliver them to see their parents for a little while each day.

The boys were sent off to Eton when they were 11, while the girls were allowed to actually dine with their parents once they were in their late teens.

During WWII the house was used for training soldiers and the nursery wing was used for officers. When restoration work started, they found the ivy wallpaper and other colour schemes from the girls’ sketches.

Think that the carpet is hideous? Take a closer look at the drawing on the wall. It’s authentic.

Here’s the governess’s room. It’s right in the centre of the nursery wing. There would have been no escape from the kids at any time for the poor woman.

(Photo taken by Scott.) The main library was a very pleasant room, where the ladies would have come to work on their embroidery and such. It had huge windows looking out onto the gardens.

There was a formal garden around the back of the house. This was a view from one of the windows.

I liked this little side table in the dining room.
“I like the look of the cakes!” said a young man walking through.

Here’s the back yard. When you think that this used to be three times bigger than it is now, the mind boggles.

Keen eyes will be able to spot an actual bumblebee.
I bought a bumblebee ornament for my Christmas tree from the gift shop here.

We were feeling a little bit peckish by now, so we drove into Saffron Walden to have a look around.

Saffron Walden used to be called Walden, but the for a long while in the Middle Ages there was a thriving saffron growing industry here.

It’s a very pretty town, with many old buildings still in use today.

It was in this shop that I realised that my sense of smell was back.

I mean seriously. Look at that.

But in some ways, time has marched on.

A short walk away from the centre of town is the ruins of Walden Castle. It was built in the 1100’s.

I was able to walk underneath the second story of this house without ducking my head. I’m 5’2”.

The roof. The plants…

Zero in on the date above the door. Amazing.

There’s a dachshund behind the man. The dog’s name is Banger.

I just had to snap this picture. You can just see how this used to be a shop window, with all the wares spread out where people would walk right by.

What a vista.

Then we went to find a church that had Lord Audley buried in it. He used to work with Thomas Cromwell during Henry VIII’s reign.

The church was impressive enough. But where was The Great Man’s tomb?

Here. In a side office where the church files and day to day operations are carried out. How the mighty have fallen, We had to look past a curtain and push it aside to get to him.

He was actually a huge deal in his day.

Thomas Audley was appointed Speaker in the House of Commons in 1529 expressly to preside over the Reformation Parliament that authorised the break with Rome. He worked with Thomas Cromwell to take control of the king’s legal and parliamentary affairs.

The Reformation Parliament was summoned by Henry VIll in 1529 to settle his ‘Great Matter’, his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry’s case was championed in the Commons by the Speaker, Thomas Audley.

Lord Chancellor Audley passed judgement on Sir Thomas More and John Fisher for their refusal to swear an oath recognising the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn.

This made me cross. I love the play/movie ‘A Man For All Seasons’ about Thomas More. Audley is an arse.

At the time of Anne Boleyn’s arrest he was known as ‘Cromwell’s creature’ but when the King became unsettled by Cromwell’s ruthlessness, pursuit of reform and the unsatisfactory marriage to Anne of Cleves, trust between Cromwell and Audley broke down.

In 1540 Audley announced Cromwell’s arrest to the House of Lords and after his execution, his judicial responsibilities were given to Audley.

Lord Audley and Henry VIl’s queens:

Lord Chancellor, Thomas Audley sanctioned the King’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

He investigated Anne Boleyn’s alleged crimes and accompanied her to the Tower of London in 1536 prior to her trial and execution.

He was instrumental in obtaining the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1540 and presided over the trial of Catherine Howard in 1541.

So, basically he enabled Henry VIII in all the dodgy shenanigans that he got up to. How funny that he’s now shoved aside in a local parish office.
I bet he’d be furious!

As if all this prettiness wasn’t enough, we stopped in the chocolate-box town of Finchingfield on the way home.

All we had to do was walk around the town square…

The town windmill.


Scott took this one with the reflection in the water.

For dinner we went to a lovely Italian restaurant in Maldon, housed in a 1500’s building with oak battens and rafters from sailing ships.

The lights were quite blinding from the candles on the tables and the many electric lights in the ceiling. How fortunate then, that they sat Scott right next to the dimmer switch.

Over time, the lighting in the restaurant mysteriously changed to be more flattering to many of the patrons. I’m sure our waitress knew what was going on. She enjoyed it.

Day 27: Goodbye to Ireland and hello to Maldon.

Four of us were on the bus at 7:15 for our drop-off to the airport. Single Carol and I chatted happily, while Fred and Wilma, an American couple who had been friends with Cornelia sat silently. Fair enough… it was early.

Then as the bus stopped at the terminal, the wife handed Ben a small stack of COINS and said, “Thank you for your work on the trip, Ben.”

Now, in Australia we don’t tip a lot, but even for us, that is an insult. Good lord, at least give the man some folding money!

Do you know the worst of it? After Ben got their luggage out of the bus, he got Carol’s and mine out, then looked around and said, “ Where are Fred and Wilma?”

They’d gone into the terminal without saying goodbye.

“I feel terrible about not saying goodbye,” Ben said. “Let me quickly see if I can find them.” He dashed into the terminal to try and say goodbye to the couple that had stiffed him on the tip.

They’ll never know it.

Single Carol and I had a couple of hours to kill at the airport, so she found a table and a couple of chairs while I was held up in security. My pottery woman caused me some difficulty. They couldn’t work out what she was. I hope that doesn’t also happen at Heathrow and Singapore. It was a bit nerve wracking, especially when I only got one of my boots back, so I was hobbling around with only one shod foot while they were elbow-deep in all of my things.

She and I swapped travel stories until it was time for her plane to board. Then it was just me, happily dropping photos onto the blog until it was time to go.

The flight between Ireland and England is just right for a little nap. Then before I knew it I was in the car with Scott and we were headed for the bed and breakfast in a little town called Maldon.

The plan for this leg of my holiday is for us to drive around and explore Essex. Deana and Kathleen have shown me a bit, and now it’s time to see the rest!

The b and b is directly across from the river, where these sailing barges are moored. My window overlooks the river and the wetlands beyond. The house is filled with bowlfuls of lollies and chocolates, with nice little touches like some binoculars by the window for birdwatching and a rubber duckie for the tub.

After we settled in, we took a walk around the place to orient ourselves.

We were looking for a particular church. In a surprise to no one who knows him, Scott had done a bit of research on the places we were going to visit and this church has a link to the first president of the United States.

There was a window in here…

… which was donated to the church from the USA because…

… George Washington’s great-grandfather was the rector here.

I’m tipping that the rector would never have dreamed that he’d be honoured by a window in the church, though really, it’s not himself it’s really honouring.

After walking around the town a bit, we went for a meal on a quayside pub that our hostess Kim recommended, and then it was home to bed.

Scott took this photo of the Orange moon.

Day 26: Dublin Day!

Today is the last full day of our tour. It’s a day in Dublin, with four major stops.

The first was a museum called EPIC, which is all about Irish migration across the world. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this because it sounded a bit dry. But this museum is really good.

It was all technology driven. There’s lots of films and stuff to watch and interactive screens you can use it you want further information.
The first section is heartbreaking. It’s all about Ireland’s past and why millions of people have up stakes and moved elsewhere..

I tell you, it all made me very glad I don’t have a drop of Irish blood – these people have had it ROUGH.

The second part was all a celebration of Irish achievements around the world

It was so much better than I thought it would be. If you’re ever in Dublin and have a couple of hours to spare, it’s worth a visit.

Ben enlivened the bus trip towards the next attraction by turning the wrong way up a one-way bridge. A yell from the whole bus alerted him.

“Christ,” he said as he frantically backed up as the traffic advanced towards us. “I’d better get out of here before the Garuda come!”

On our way to Christ Church Cathedral, we passed this clock.

“Clery’s clock,” said Ben. “The tradition is to meet under there for a second date.”

We began talking about the nicknames all the statues have. There was one, whose real names escapes me now, that was a woman rising from water. Ben said that it had to be removed because people kept adding dishwasher detergent to it. She got the name of “the floozy in the jacuzzi.”

Look at where the bullet hole is. It’s not an accident.

Ben gave us a potted version of the 1916 rebellion and urged us all to go home and research it further. Basically, what happened was that in 1916 there were many young men off fighting for the allies in France. Back home in Ireland there were some freedom fighters in Dublin who decided that now would be a good time to fight for their cause upon the world’s stage.

They organised a shipload of weaponry which was then cancelled. Half of them pulled out, while the other half wanted to go ahead. So they did.

They barricaded themselves in a block or two in Dublin. I’m a bit hazy on the details. The town of Dublin didn’t know about it until it happened and there was very little support for it.

The English were not impressed. They diverted a ship full of 17 year old soldiers who thought they were going to France over to Dublin. The ship sailed as far as it could up the river and then opened fire.

The regular people in Dublin were NOT impressed and after 3 days convinced them to surrender. As they left the GPO people spat at them.

Then, here’s where it gets interesting. A guy called Maxwell was the leader of the English. He started executing the freedom fighters

By the time Asquith, the English PM at the time, heard about it and told him to stop, 16 of them had been killed.

Of course, public opinion immediately swung around and the English had 16 dead martyrs on their hands.

The paperwork for the Irish republic was signed in 1922 by Michael Collins.I’m going to track down that movie when I get home.

When we got to Christ Church Cathedral, I was in a Messenger conversation with my sister Kate.
“They’ve just told us that the toilets are located down in the crypt!” I typed.

The answer came back immediately. “We’ll you have to go now!!!”

As soon as I heard about the cat and the rat I headed straight down to the crypt to see them for myself. Here’s the info board:

But wait!

There’s more…

Here’s what the brochure said about this artifact:

“Here you will find the heart traditionally associated with St Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of Dublin.Laurence was buried in France in 1180 and his heart was reputedly brought back to Christ Church soon after. It was stolen in 2012 but recovered in 2018 and restored to its home in the cathedral.”

First of all… how’s the symmetry???

At the beginning of my trip to Ireland I see a head in a box. Now, at the end, I see a heart in a box. Both in cathedrals. Amazing.

Beautiful floor.

Here’s the Magna Carta. It’s one of the oldest copies of it in Ireland.

We were taken up lots of spiral steps to ring the actual cathedral bells. I had a go and they actually lifted me right off my feet. Single Carol is a bit claustrophobic, so she went up first and down first, so all she had was the guide in front of her instead of being hemmed in by a lot of people.
For some reason, the bells and the ancient stone stairs had the reeling with excitement. This was the highlight of her tour. I heard her say to the church guide, “ This has been the best thing on the trip.”

He replied, “Oh dear!”

After ringing the bells so that all Dublin could hear us, it was off to the Guinness Storehouse.

Now, as you might remember, I hate Guinness with a passion. However, one of the American couples, Doug and Cindy, have been absolutely lovely on this trip. I gave Doug my free pint of Guinness voucher.

He was a little bit happy.

Yeast. Not just used for sourdough.

This tour was self guided, ending up in the Skybar where people could redeem their vouchers. I dutifully wandered along. I had 2 hours to kill in here.

Bright lights.
I saw an interesting video from the 1950s about how the oak barrels were made. It was eye-opening just how skilled the coopers were. Unlike the whiskey distillers, Guinness now uses stainless steel for their barrels.

Here’s the movie theatre that they showed ads for Guinness on repeat. I had a little snooze in here…

Then I popped up to the Skybar. Dublin was laid out before us. There were a lot of happy Guinness drinkers here.

Then it was off toThe Merry Ploughboys’ pub for our last dinner.

The men in the band own the pub. They have an excellent business model. Play good Irish traditional music. Pay some Irish dancers. Serve good food. Get the coach companies in.

The evening was excellent. Here’s some dancing for you:

In the second half of the night, the band started playing nationalist songs of reunification of the whole of Ireland. When the singer started his introduction of one of the songs by saying how Ireland had been ruled for 800 years by England, I couldn’t help myself. I glanced over at the other end of the table where Cornelia was sitting.

I laughed out loud at the sour expression on her face. She didn’t see me but I think her meek husband did.

Anyway, who cares what Cornelia thinks? Tomorrow I’m flying back to England to spend a week with Scott!

Day 25: the reason Ireland is so green.

We were supposed to see The Rock of Cashel this morning.

Unfortunately, Ireland was dealing with the aftermath of a little storm called Cyclone Agnes, so the winds and rain were dreadful.

While we were sitting on the bus, which was being buffeted by the wind and rain, Ben told us the story being depicted here.
St Patrick was visiting the monks at the small wooden chapel there, and the devil was on the next mountain. He was furious that St Patrick was preaching Christianity, so he bit off a piece of the mountain and threw it at St Patrick.

This is the Rock of Cashel where the church is built.

Unfortunately, one part of this legend is limestone, while the other is sandstone, so there goes that story!

When James heard that we’d been washed out, he sent some photos so I could see what the Rock of Cashel is like.

Now I wish we had’ve been able to see it. It looks amazing.
The town itself looked pretty, glazed with rain.

We had lunch in a nice little pub.

This was the picture waiting at the foot of the stairs.

There was also a newspaper clipping of a newspaper advertisement offering a reward for Daniel Breene.
£1,000 reward . He was a member of the 1916 rebellion and the Civil War.

He was interviewed when he was much older and he said,, “Of course I regret the violence, but I’d do it all again. The British went down in the gutter and we went down there with them.”

Then it was off to the Irish National Stud.

As you would expect, it has horses in it. The guide showing us around was mainly talking about how much each stallion earns every time he covers a mare.

These are the yearlings. The ducks ended up taking more than their fair share of the food.

Unlike the stallions, who have double fences around them to keep everyone safe, these retired race horses are geldings and so are friendly. It was clear how much the guide cared for this on, in particular.

I went a little nuts in the gift shop and bought a silver Ugly Christmas Sweater ornament for the tree.

And look at these! They’re in the middle of the roundabout where the horse stud is. There are 5 of them in total and they’re made of Bog Ash

When we got to the hotel, all we wanted was to get to our rooms. We were all taken to the side in one group and the hotel door guy said that we should call out our names and he’d find our room keys. ‘Strangely inefficient’, I thought, but after one couple called out and got their keys, I called out “Frogdancer Jones” at exactly the same time as Cornelia called out her name.

You remember her,? The English woman in her 70’s who started out professing sympathy for the Irish but was unprepared for the level of hatred towards the English and to cope, is now saying that the Irish should just get on with it and move on. The one trying to get people to give little or no tip to Ben.

The doorman began looking for my key as Cornelia started repeating to me, “Wait your turn.”
After the third time, I turned to her and said, “Calm down Cornelia, you can get yours next.”

Now, I know I shouldn’t have chosen the words ‘calm down.’ They always have the opposite effect. But I hadn’t done anything wrong and perhaps SHE could learn to wait her turn?

If looks could kill, I would have been in need of an ambulance. She’s an entitled little woman who’s very used to getting her own way and I didn’t back down to her when she demanded it.

Anyway, I got my key and escaped to the lift. I knew in my bones that I was going to hear more of this.She was going to try to teach me a lesson, I was sure of it.

Not altogether to my surprise, just before dinner I arrived in the hotel foyer to find her waiting for me.

She hissed something at me and I said, “Let’s not do this, Cornelia,” and she looked at me, narrowed her eyes and said, “, Oh we ARE going to do this.”

I smiled at her, and said, “Ok then.”

And that’s when she fucked around and found out.

I hate confrontation and I’ll do my level best to avoid it. But when you bring it to my door? You’ll get the Frogdancer Jones who will not roll over and let you turn me into a doormat.

You all know that I wasn’t unprepared about the type of person she is. Plus I’m a secondary teacher… I know how to deal with bullies.

So when she came up close, leaned in and said in a voice so furious it almost trembled, “Don’t you EVER try to push in front of me again!”, all I did was smile and shake my head.

“I was just doing what the man said to do,” I said. “You know that.”

She blew up like a puffer fish and said, “You’re a VERY IGNORANT WOMAN!” and she turned on her heel to walk away, as if she clinched the whole conversation.

So ok, I could have let it go, but I thought I might see how she handled it if I reflected what she’d just said back to her.So I leaned forward and said earnestly, “Oh my god, I was just thinking the same thing about YOU!”

Well, that opened the floodgates. She gasped as if I’d just stabbed her and she said a few things that I can’t remember, while I just put on a patient look, raised my eyebrows slightly and nodded every now and then. (Ok, I knew how annoying that would be.)

Finally, she stopped, took a deep breath and said, “And you can FUCK OFF!”

I grinned because with that outburst, I’d won and we both knew it. As I grinned I said, “That’s the first honest thing you’ve said to me all night, Cornelia.”

She started to walk off, turned around and ferociously gave me the finger and stormed off.

I know I could have defused the situation but for once in my life I simply didn’t want to. Once she made it obvious that she was in for a fight, she was always going to lose, because I didn’t care and I had zero interest in pandering to her.
Besides, if she spent her time stewing over me instead of Ben for a change, then it would be time well spent.

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