In the morning we headed for Stratford via Ikea. They were selling pineapple plants! I was very good and didn’t buy one – although the hypnotic Ikea effect did lure me into buying an Olive tree, a stuffed dragon, two ferns, a set of funnels and an egg slicer as well as the light bulbs I had gone in for.We decided to visit Anne Hathaways cottage – which was wonderful. Had lunch at the cafe opposite, then joined flocks of Japanese tourists into the cottage. It was beautifully – and obviously lovingly – kept. We followed two ladies into the kitchen where one of the guides was talking about Shakespeares will – and we stayed to listen. He was explaining that the second best bed left in his will would probably have been the marital bed – so in a way was a message of love. He then went on and quoted the Carol Ann Duffy sonnet
-The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love –
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.
He said it so well that he had all four of us in tears – he didn’t speak in that horrible whiney ‘poet voice’ – he should be on the stage! He went on to quote some of Shakespeares sonnets – I could have stayed and listened for hours, but more tourists came in and we had to let him get on with his job.This was the garden – I want mine to look like this! It was just crammed with flowers.
We left straight from there and drove back – all the way down the M40 signs were warning of congestion between J10 and J5 of the M25 – as we hit the M25 the traffic was solid, we left and travelled back on A and B roads guided by the Satnav – it was a beautiful journey back – it took ages but was definitely scenic! We saw a hare dance across the road – it was huge!
The next morning we sat around like spare parts, as nobody could remember if we were being picked up, or if we had to take two trips down in Richards car. It turned out that we should have gone in Richards car, so everyone else was waiting at Biddulph for us.
We had a personal tour around – with Paul – who used to go to the class but is now head honcho at Biddulph.
It took quite a while to tour around the gardens – they are unique, with upside down trees – (exactly what it says on the tin – a tree dug up and planted upside down)
spooky dark tunnels
a chinese garden
(including a representation of the Great Wall of China)
An Egyptian garden
And, last but not least, a corridor which would once have been the entrance to the garden, representing the creation – complete with geological samples and fossils appropriate to the day of creation. It is a great shame that most of them are now missing – but there were drawings of it in it’s heyday.
We had lunch at the cafe there – then got on the minibus for the trip home. We had planned on stopping off to see some stone crosses at Sandbach, but Sandbach was closed! I think there was some sort of parade going on – but Police were guarding the streets and wouldn’t let us through – so we just went straight on to the motorway and back to London.
At some point in the past my darling husband asked me if I was free this weekend – I glanced at my diary and said yes – not noticing that I didn’t finish work until 0600 on Saturday morning.
Which is how I found myself, after being up from 1400 on Friday and working a 10 hour shift, getting on a train to Waterloo at half past seven in the morning.
We were going to meet friends who Phil used to study Anglo Saxon history with – and go off to Lichfield and Biddulph Grange gardens. I managed to get about half an hours sleep on the train, and we walked down to the Old Vic theatre where we were going to meet everyone. There was quite a gathering outside – in a rather orderly queue – and we recognised none of them. Turns out the queue was waiting for returns for tickets for the theatre – our lot straggled along turning up just in time for the arrival of the minibus. I had been counting on sleeping on the journey up – but didn’t get to sit next to Phil – and much as I like Ian I don’t know him well enough to snore on his shoulder!
We had a jolly journey and arrived at Wall – described by Michelle as a Roman travelodge just off Watling Street. We were hoping for a nice cosy trot around the museum there, but it was closed, so were sent around the small walls in the field next to the museum – it was very cold!
In the far corner was a boundary with the churchyard – noticed these boots sticking out of the earth – a paupers burial?
We had lunch at a pub in Wall, before we went in Michelle said ‘They are not expecting us so act like strangers. ‘ Phil and Richard went up to the bar, where they were asked if we were all together – Phil obediantly said ‘No’ – at the same time Richard said ‘Oh yes, we were all at evening class together …’ It turns out subterfuge would have been useless as the landlady had watched the minibus arrive in the car park on CCTV! They were very welcoming and the food was lovely. We carried on to Lichfield – I had never been there before – and when people started to say ‘Oh, there are the three spires – I thought that it must be like Oxford – many churches. But no – Lichfield Cathedral keeps all its spires to itself! It is very, very impressive. For those who work in the wrapped building – look – there is a carving of Frank!
We went inside to meet Canon Pete, who was going to show us the St Chad Gospels. Canon Pete (on the far right) was rather handsome – I would happily have snored on his shoulder!
He had taken the gospels out of their case, so Michelle could turn the pages – we were allowed to take photographs – but NOT WITH THE FLASH ON!!!!!! (yes I did)(whoops)
While we were there, a music group were practising for a concert that night -good music in church always catches my throat – and this was beautiful – no idea what it was – someone said that they thought it was Britten. We didn’t get much chance to listen though, as we were taken up to the library to see more books.
This was a doodle in a 13th century law book -on the page dealing with infidelity. They used to write the law in the middle of the page leaving huge borders, so that if the law was updated or changed they could just write the changes in the borders without having to re write the whole page.
Pat had the enviable job of librarian – we could have listened to her for hours. There were so many wonderful things – including a first edition of Henry the eighths bible,
and a lovely collection of watercolours which had been painted in the 1860s. (and did someone forget about the flash again?)
We went on to Erasmus and Charles Darwins house nearby – where I am afraid I did fall asleep in the talk by the curator. So Darwin has passed me by – it was a lovely house – but I preferred being out in the garden taking photographs of flowers.
Look – this one has fur!
We were staying at different B&Bs – so Cecil had to drive us around to drop us all off – we had thought ours was in the small town where we were all meeting for dinner – but no – it was about two miles away up on a hill – by this time I was crosseyed with tiredness and absolutely freezing – so was hoping for a deep hot bath.
It was a deep disappointment that there was only a shower – and a lot of notices!
We got changed and were given a lift down to the restaurant by the B&B landlady, where we had a fantastic evening with champagne and good food!
I finally got to bed at midnight – only 34 hours awake.