Monday, March 30, 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015 - A day of rest

I woke up this morning at the stuffy head phase of the cold I was getting over the past couple of days. Luckily, today is a day of rest and recuperation from last night's festivities. No one got up very early today. Dave and I finally dragged ourselves out of bed by 11.

Chris fixed eggs for brunch and we lingered long over the table fixing the politics of the world and other important topics. We finished cleaning up from last night and slowly made ourselves presentable for the day which was grey, blustery and rainy.
Hospital of St Cross

Hospital of St Cross

The Hospital of St. Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is a monastery founded in 1132 and still is a living community of 25 brothers, mostly retired.
Winchester: Ron & Chris at the Hospital of Saint Cross & Almshouse of Noble Poverty

They walked along the bank of the River Itchen.
River Itchen

Which led them to the grounds of the Bishop's Palace and a still existent part of the medieval city wall.

Medieval city wall of Winchester

A stop at P & G Wells to check out the old store which, besides selling old books, also provides the textbooks for Winchester College.
Winchester: P & G Wells, bookseller & stationer

Further along, they looked at houses whose back walls incorporated the old city walls.
Winchester houses whose back walls are the old city wall

They spent some time exploring King's Gate which has the church of St. Swithins above.

Kingsgate, Winchester

St. Swithin's has been an active church for 750 years.

A plaque in St. Swithin's that caught Dave's fancy.

You can see Priory Gate through the window of St. Swithin's.

Priory Gate, Winchester

King's Gate was an entrance to the city when it was walled. Then going through Priory Gate leads you into the cathedral grounds.
Inside Priory Gate: front of houses we saw earlier whose back wall is the city wall.

Winchester: side yard of the cathedral.  There's a wonderful Christmas market here in the winter.

March 28, 2015 - A Toast to Great Friendships

Once upon a time when the earth was young, Dave and I moved to Poughkeepsie, NY where Dave had been hired as an engineer for IBM. Of course, we knew no one. And few people were being hired at that time due to a poor economic climate, so his work colleagues were older with homes and families and little time to spare. But shortly after moving into our apartment, another young couple moved in below us. Upon making introductions, we learned they were on assignment with IBM from Hursley England. Shortly thereafter, they introduced us to another couple on assignment from Hursley and that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the 6 of us. 

Syd and Mad (who were married to each other at the time but now have different partners) and Ron and Chris (still married to each other) and Dave and I did lots of everyday and weekend things together as we all explored the newness of the New York area. We became great friends and constant companions. Then they left after a couple of years to go back to England. That was around 1972. They left a large hole in our social interactions in Poughkeepsie.

In a wonderful serendipity, Dave was offered an assignment in Germany in 1974 which we took with great excitement. Over the 3 1/2 years of that assignment, we were able to vacation together in Greece, the ski slopes of Lermoos Austria, and several French locations. And we visited each other a few times in our respective homes in England and Germany. 

But once we went home in 1978, our visits stopped and we kept in contact mostly by the annual Christmas letter and occasional business trips.  We visited England in 1981 but then we all became busy in raising children. It was 17 years later (1997) that we brought our children to Europe for a month's vacation and stopped for a few days in Winchester for a visit. And now we're here again, it is 17 years later again, the children are grown and we are all grandparents. We joke that our every 17 year visitation plan is not going to hold out much longer, as none of us is guaranteed another 17 years of life. We are hoping to change our ways now that we are all retired (well, mostly)

We have indeed seen Ron and Chris a few times in the past few years - we spent 2 months in France in 2011 and they came to visit us for a week there. They came to the US in 2012 where we met in New Orleans for French Quarter Fest and then they spent a week with us in Madison, WI. 

We don't see each other often, but when we do, it's as if we'd just had coffee together yesterday. That's the sign of a great friendship in my mind. We are immensely comfortable in each others' presence. 

We're currently staying with Ron and Chris and they invited Mad and John and Syd and Jean for dinner Saturday night. Chris had planned a super 3-course meal, the recipes for which she has now promised to send me. John and Jean were amazingly indulgent as we caught up with the lives of our children and grandchildren at first but then spent enormous amounts of time reminiscing over our former escapades and adventures. We laughed till our sides hurt. 

Syd, Mad, & John
We had brought discs of images to share from our photo collection which Ron put onto the TV after dinner. Mad brought photo albums to share. We filled in blank spots for each other and remembered other times we had been together. Syd, now a dance photographer, shared photos of his daughter dancing. Pieces of art, each one. Mad had iPhone photos to share of her grandchildren. By the time things slowed down, it was 2:30 in the morning. As we were wrapping up, cell phones reminded Ron and Syd that it was actually 3:30 in the morning as England moved to daylight savings time that night. (Only they call it something else). 

John, Chris, Lynn
So at 3:30 am, these older than dirt friends finally and sadly parted ways, promising to see each other sooner than 17 years from now. May it be so because these good friends are so near and dear to our hearts.

Jean, Ron, & Syd
A toast to long and lasting friendships. We love you all.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 27, 2015 - Avebury Village

After exploring Avebury Stone Circle, we made our way to the Old Farmyard of Avebury Manor. These buildings have been re-purposed into an archeology museum for the site and visitor amenities, including the cafe where we had our lunch. Dave and I chose a Spicy Bean & Sausage Stew. We sat at wooden tables on old wooden church chairs, their wooden pockets for missals and hymn books still on the back.
Spicy Bean & Sausage Stew -
a bit like our chili with beans, tomatoes, onions, red & yellow peppers and squash

After lunch, we split up - boys to the museum and Chris and I to the Manor House and Gardens. This house, begun in the 1550's was enlarged by succeeding generations and owners to its present shape by about 1900. A succession of owners dedicated to the manor's history and caring tenants kept the house from crumbling into ruin until sold to the (British) National Trust in 1991. 

However, the contents of the house had been dispersed by the early 1900s and so the house was empty of furnishings when purchased. This actually became a blessing in disguise as the house became a perfect fit for a BBC project called The Manor Reborn whose goal was to film the return of an empty manor house to its former glory, showcasing the skills of craftsmen and highlighting historical periods along the way. 

Today, Avebury Manor is open to the public. It has only 3 rules we were told by the docent as we entered. Take all the non-flash photos you like as long as you are smiling, please don't touch the Chinese wall paper, and please talk in normal voices. The house has some "sacrificial antiques" and mostly skillfully and authentically reproduced copies that are meant to be touched, handled, sat on, and played with. There are hats for all to try and children's dress-up costumes in a stairway cupboard. The docents are knowledgeable and conversational but not pushy or preachy. What a refreshing attitude to take. A great place to take children.

The oldest part of the house is the kitchen which has been re-interpreted in the late Victorian period.

A wood-burning stove just fits in the cavity of the old kitchen fireplace.

The Tudor Parlour was likely added around 1600. It is set up to represent the prestige and status of William Dunch, the first recorded owner of Avebury Manor. Paneled in dark oak, hung around with tapestries, but light and airy from all the windows, this room shows how the Dunch's might have dined. 

Chris as Lady Dunch 
In this room is also an aumbry, which looks a bit like a large pie-safe as was used in colonial times in America. Originally located in churches, left-over foods from the days' meals would have been put in by villagers and then distributed by the monks to the poor. With the dissolution of the priories, many of these were similarly used in the houses of the rich. 
Aumbry (food cupboard)
Also added around the same time was a Great Hall (now a Georgian style dining room) and above it the Great Chamber (now Queen Anne's bedroom)  It's sure that Queen Anne visited Avebury Manor, but whether she slept here or not, a room would have been done over in suitably opulent style for her comfort. This included a separate waiting room, a withdrawing room with a chaise lounge, and a closet (place to put her red brocaded gold-embroidered porte-a-pot). Trompe-l'oeil painting on the paneling and door-frames gave the appearance of marble without the price. 
Painting in the Withdrawing Room - a peacock for you, Judy.

The dining room is now set as late 18th century Palladian style to reflect the life-style of then-owner, Sir Adam Williamson, former Governor of Jamaica. The wall-paper, though modern, was painted by Chinese craftsmen. It reflects a narrative style that includes vignettes of the owner's experiences. Behind this room is a Billiard Room set up as a masculine space with dark paneled walls filled with books and a billiard table. We were invited to "have a go" at playing the snooker game set up on the table. Similar to billiards, the game has mostly red balls that must be sunk before trying to sink first the green then the black ball. 
Governor of Jamaica Dining Room

Chinese hand-painted wallaper
Upstairs, in addition to the Queen Anne suite, there is a bedroom set up in Tudor style to represent the late 16th century marriage of the Dunch's widowed daughter-in-law to Sir James Mervyn.


Surrounding the Manor are expansive gardens in both formal and informal styles that were re-designed in the early 1900s. These include a walled kitchen garden, a walled topiary garden, an open grassy area surrounded by yew hedges for privacy, an orchard, a formal garden and a tree and shrub-filled grassy front lawn. 
Topiary Garden 

Topiary garden

Yew hedges

Formal entrance and front lawn

Formal gardens

A very old church just outside the manor was intriguing and held several surprises. 

View of St. James from the Tudor bedroom

View of St. James from front lawn of the Manor

St. James was built as an Anglo-Saxon church about 1000 AD and still reflects its original construction although it was much altered over the years, significantly in the Norman period. The tower is 15th century. It has a tub font that possibly dates from the Saxon era, but the carving was done early in the 12th century. 
15th century tower

kneelers at St James Parish Church

Carved baptismal font

Before we leave Avebury, a few notes about thatched buildings. Chris tells me that many thatchers do quite complicated designs on the top and ends of the thatch. 
Avebury thatch design

And we were told at the Old Farmyard in Avery that the thatch that looks like it's just thrown up on the tops of the barn roofs is actually the work of jackdaws (small black birds) who pick at the thatch even through the chicken wire and throw it onto the roof.  
thatched roof

You can see the little devils at work below.
jackdaws pulling straw out of the thatched roof of the farm


Bye, bye, Avebury. What a lovely discovery! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 26, 2015 - Winchester

We're staying with our friends Ron and Chris in Winchester. It's as if we saw them yesterday! We've been friends for - dare I say it - 45 years. Dave has noticed that we seem to visit them in England every 17 years. Obviously, that has to change as I'm not sure nursing homes have bus trips to England. Luckily, we do manage to vacation together every few years, so it's not like we NEVER see them.

After lunch of Chris' delicious curried sweet potato soup, a bit of unpacking, and catching up, we headed into Winchester to wander around in the late afternoon. The day is chilly and blustery, but warmer than it has been at home in Wisconsin recently. We headed to the area where once stood Winchester Castle, but now houses the government and law centers for this region.

Our first stop is the Great Hall which remains in its 13th century form and is all that is left of the original Winchester Castle. The famous King Arthur's Round Table has hung in this hall since the 1400s. The table dates to the 13th century so is not contemporaneous with King Arthur. (Hmmmm...) Originally unpainted, Henry VIII had it painted in 1522 with the names of the Knights of the Round Table and an image of the legendary King Arthur.
Dave & Ron under King Arthur's Round Table to give you a sense of its size.

Out a side door is a beautiful re-creation of a medieval herb garden named for the two Queen Eleanors (of Provence and Castile) wives of Edward I and Henri III. It's a lovely calm spot with the beginnings of spring flowers and tree buds already showing themselves.

After exploring the little history museum, we headed for the downtown area, filled with a mixture of brick and half-timbered buildings, small roads and alleys.

God Begot Manor, 1050, part of estates of Emma, daughter of Richard Duke of Normandy. Emma was mother of  English King Edward the Confessor.

We moseyed down High Street (like our Main Street) past lots of estate agent offices - these are real estate agents. Chris tells me that Winchester is the new "posh" location to live. Only an hour from London, it's a relatively easy commute by train and a small town environment. House prices have been skyrocketing because of the influx of London folks and estate agents have been busy. Contributing to the problem is that developing land willy-nilly isn't allowed and so prices of existing houses go up due to the shortage of housing. Makes it hard on the locals to find affordable housing. Sound familiar?

Near this building is the City Cross, aka Buttercross. A Buttercross dates from the medieval ages and was placed in an open air market where villagers purchased their butter, milk and eggs. Sellers would lay out their wares on the stepped bases of the cross. 

Chris in front of City Cross

We headed down a covered alley and I spotted an extremely narrow church - at least its entrance is narrow, hardly wider than the door. St. Lawrence in the Square has its roots in the 9th century and became the royal chapel for William the Conqueror (that would be shortly after 1066). It is considered the oldest parish of Norman foundation within the city's walls. 
The stone and flint entrance is the entire width of the church footprint at the street.
The walls are filled with memorial plaques going back hundreds of years.
The blue fish sign marks the entrance to St. Lawrence and you can see the narrowness of its stone and flint street entry.

We ended at the Cathedral, which we've seen in past visits. This cathedral is always worth a visit as it is huge, beautiful and full of history. While the cathedral was founded in 642, the current building dates from Norman times and is more than 900 years old. Built in Gothic style, this is one of the largest cathedrals in England and is the longest of any European Gothic cathedral. 

"WinchesterCathedral-west-wyrdlight" by Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Our final stop was the Old Vine Pub to have a pint. Well, the boys had a pint and the girls had wine. There's something so warm and inviting about English pubs. Our trip is well-started with great friends in an historic English town worthy of wandering. Cheers!