"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

Jewel & Ruth wish their US family & friends & fans a Happy Thanksgiving Day. As do the other residents of the Lodge!

The girls will have some turkey, just as they do when the Chap & I are in the UK at Thanksgiving and they are staying at their kennel. Plus a teeny bit of pumpkin pie with whipped cream!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sudeley Castle Gardens

As a gardener, garden-lover, garden historian, I chose to visit Sudeley primarily for its grounds and landscape. Well, that and the textiles collection. The Tudor-era connections were a bonus. It was the end of Sudeley's open season, about 48-hours before they closed to the public and resume life as a family property. Meaning we had the place to ourselves, and the guide in the upper rooms seemed thankful for interested and knowledgeable visitors. Seeing what a keen photographer I am, he encouraged me to take the photograph above. In fact, he opened the casement and helped me onto the ledge and kept me from falling out the window while I got my "money shot."

"You're the only who has this picture," he assured me.

The foreground portion shows a part of the public garden. But beyond lies the private garden enclosed by the family apartments.

The Tithe Barn.

Barn ruins and the Carp Pond.

The castle front.

View of the Costwold hills from the terrace.

Ruins of the Banqueting House and part of a knot garden.

Climbing Rose.

Entrance to the Queen's Garden.

An alley of shaved hedges. The lawn was like velvet.

Looking towards the castle from the Queen's Garden.

I love lavender!

This Cedar of Lebanon is very old...and tall!

An army of gardeners planted hundreds of tulip bulbs along the borders of the Secret Garden. One of them told us it's a new scheme/design for springtime.

A peacock at the entrance to the Pheasantry, where rare (very beautiful) pheasants from many countries are tended.

Autumn foliage and a willow beside a long pond.

Fun with yew hedges.

I've got many more Sudeley photos, mostly of the 17th and 18th century textile collection. They might become the subject of a future post....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tudor History at Sudeley Castle

During my time in Gloucestershire, I visited Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe--Cotswold country. My parents have always spoken highly of the place. I'm familiar with the area but never took the time to visit the castle. As it was the perfect spot to break up the drive from Gloucester to Marlow in Buckinghamshire, we spent part of a day there.

Sudeley was Crown Property for hundreds of years, and thus came into Henry VIII's possession. After his death it was the home of Katherine Parr, his last Queen--the one who outlived him, and her fourth husband (and longtime love) Sir Thomas Seymour (Henry's brother-in-law through the marriage to Jane Seymour.)

In a future blog post I'll share my photos of the gardens and grounds, my favourite part of the visit. But as a onetime Tudor scholar, I did enjoy the public display of costumes from David Starkey's series on Henry VIII and his wives. The garments are the result of impressive historical research and made from materials and dyes that were authentic to the period, as much as possible.

Henry VIII.

Katherine of Aragon, the Spanish princess who was bride and widow of Henry's elder brother Arthur and mother of Queen Mary I. She was the first of the wives to be divorced.

Anne Bolyen, the cause of Henry's divorce, who visited Sudeley with Henry on a Royal Progess and supposedly helped him plant a rosa mundi rose bush. (A variety I grow, possibly my favourite gallica). Also the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, and beheaded for treason and infidelity and worse...

...because Henry had decided that Jane Seymour would bear the legitimate son and heir he required. Indeed she did, but she died as a result.

So, widower Henry cast about for a good-looking foreign bride. German princess Anne of Cleves turned out to be prettier in Holbein's portrait of her than she was in the flesh, so Henry promptly divorced her. She remained in England as his "dear sister."

Still seeking an attractive girl--and some spare male heirs--Henry became besotted with the very young, very giddy, and secretly sexually experienced Catherine Howard. Marriage to an old and ailing King couldn't keep Catherine from reverting to her wild ways, and she got found out. The second wife to be beheaded. (In my acting days I played Catherine in a ghost play which was very sympathetic towards her.)

Hearbroken and aging and suffering from an abcessed leg, Henry decided a nurse and widow was what he needed. He found one at court, twice-widowed Katherine Parr--who happened to be in love with Thomas Seymour, Henry's brother-in-law through the marriage to Jane Seymour. Katherine was clever enough to know better than to turn down a king for true love. As his queen, she reconciled him with his elder daughter Mary, and his younger Elizabeth, shown here in red gown.

Katherine was a proponent of the New Religion and was very learned. Here is her prayer book.

She skillfully avoided getting divorced or beheaded and therefore outlived her King.
Thomas Seymour married her in scandalous haste, becoming her fourth (!) husband. He renovated Sudeley to serve as their marital home. Her stepdaughter Princess Elizabeth lived with them, as did Lady Jane Grey.

The year after the marriage Katherine bore a daughter, but neither of them survived. The Queen was buried in Sudeley's chapel. Her grave was discovered and excavated in the 1790's.

Thomas came to a bad end...his brother persuaded their nephew King Edward to execute him for treason (the charges included trying to mess about with Princess Elizabeth, climbing in to her bed in the morning and tickling her, and perhaps scheming to extend his power by marrying her.)

There is a wonderful textile collection displayed at Sudeley. Among the items is this 16th century christening robe, purported to be the one worn by Elizabeth I as an infant.

Sudeley's chapel is decorated with stained glass depicted Tudor-era notables. Below is a window showing Thomas Seymour, Katherine, and Henry.

And here is Katherine's grave and monument.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Always a photographic theme of my trips Over There: interesting signage.

Affixed to the outside wall of a pub that I neither entered nor left:

I've photographed this sign before, in a Buckinghamshire village. For the first time we saw the canem during "walkies"--small, compact, and not terribly fearsome. Unless, apparently, you are a postman bearing letters!

This sign can be found in buildings everywhere.

I drank only hard cider and perry in the West Country, so you'd have to ask the Chap if this brewery's claim is truthful and accurate.

Needless to say, we paid for our petrol before crossing the line.

An 18th century advert for a wine auction at Christie's.

Notice at entrance to a public park in Worcestershire.

If made from meat/fowl provided by poachers, the sale of these little pies at the butcher's in a Worcestershire market town would be highly illegal. I assume they're concocted using the poachers' recipe.

In the parish church in one of my ancestral villages in Bucks, the name of the local pub is emblazoned on this pew kneeler.

In the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, very near the church of that name.

So many other photos of interesting things...was confronted by a very busy schedule on my return. More to come...eventually!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

London Calling

Haven't actually made a call from a callbox for yonks...like most people, I've got a UK mobile phone. But I do treasure them.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Fauna, Fowl, Family, & Flora

In fact, it was the sheep who were stalking me--they surrounded the car in a country lane!

After leaving Bristol environs, I spent time in Three Counties: Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire. Cider country, sheep country, pheasant country...

...and land of my forbears. One of my ancestors was church warden at this Worcestershire parish church. He was also a Captain of Horse in the Royalist Army, fighting with and for King Charles I.

On 4 October, 1649 an ancestress of mine was christened at this font in a different church in a neighbouring village. She grew up to become the daughter-in-law of the aforementioned warden and cavalry officer.

Fallow deer in the Deer Park at Stonor.

The Rose Garden at Sudeley Castle.

I have so many photographs, this is merely a selection. I was too busy to do much blogging.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


It costs 50 pence to cross this bridge spanning the Gorge (about 80 cents at the current rate of exchange). Each way. Last night I walked across it--pedestrians don't pay--but today travelled across by car.

Been spending some time in a very familiar place I've not been for several years, which I've mined as a setting for at least one novel and another yet to come. In the past I was practically resident for portions of the year. Having a lovely time seeing friends, catching up on news, seeing sights together, trying out restaurants.

Visited a museum and art gallery today.

Stopped in at my bank. Purchased a tiny stuffed hedgehog (I always buy a hedgehog) and a research book.

My friends' comfortable new abode is adjacent to a wood. Deer wander onto their property. A pair of deer, the mum and her young one, loitered in the garden all of yesterday afternoon. I never saw the papa. I shot these photos leaning out my bedroom window.

Mother deer.

Mother in front, young in back.

The little one. It had just eaten one pink cosmos flower and was working out whether it could eat all the others without falling into the fish pond. It gave up.

The property's gardener and caretaker doesn't mind the presence of these deer at all. They wander about and roam at will and nibble things but are very welcome visitors. This morning when I returned from the gallery and shopping expedition, I went deer stalking, to see if they were about, but couldn't find them.

Next...sheep stalking!