Sunday was Family Day – first, I was to watch James playing football, then have lunch with Sheila and Michael. If there was time afterwards, I had an invitation to join the gaming fun at Jon’s place as well.
First, I needed to use up my internet time – having woken reeeeeealllllllly early, I chatted with the Bigster for a while, got dressed in my standard daytime clohtes – jeans, top, jacket and walking boots – and kicked off the day with some gaming fun. When Sheila and Michael arrived, I headed downstairs – to see them dressed rather more elegantly than I, and looking a bit worried at the jeans. I ran back upstairs and changed, then we headed off.
It had been raining overnight – bucketing down, apparently – the Ouse was a good 4′ above its normal levels, according to Michael. We took a circuitous route past the old Terry’s factory – Michael worked for Terry’s and is a dedicated amateur historian of the Terry’s factory and its operations. Apparently the plan is, pending planning permission, to turn the buildings into retirement apartments, with associated serviced apartments and a full nursing home. Michael’s plan is to live there.
Lunch was at a gorgeous restaurant whose name I don’t have handy – an old 15th century manor house. Fantastic service and wonderful food – I couldn’t order anything but the roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding, of course (it was gorgeous). When the dessert menu arrived, I had to laugh – they had a Banoffee pavlova. Banoffee is the English word for banana and toffee, which isn’t a combination I really see in Australia. Pavlova of course is an australian dish – but what really sold me was the description:
“a layered tower of crunchy meringue, bananas, fresh cream, toffee sauce and Cream of the Wolds vanilla ice cream. O.M.G!”
It really was OMGBanoffeePavlova!
Then, because we were getting carried away, we tried out 3 different dessert wines: Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora (this is australian and yum, as dessert wines go); Southbrook Blueberry wine, from Canada (the first sip tasted like cough medicine, the second was better but not a favourite); and an OMGwine to go with the OMGBanoffeePavlova, Swan Valley Chocolate Reserve from Australia. OMG. This wine includes natural cocoa extract. It’s like drinking boozey chocolate. Wow.
Next stop was Castle Howard, the home of the Howard family and the setting for both the 1981 TV adaptation and the new movie of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
After a major fire in the 1940s, in which an entire wing was restored, the house has been slowly restored, and is open to the public. It is, without exaggeration, absolutely stunning. It has it all – sweeping lawns, fountain (during World War 2, the house was used as a girls’ boarding school and the fountain was their swimming pool – that’s how big it is), TWO lakes, … There are also guides in every room, to tell you about the history of the house or about the items in there.
My favourite story was from one of the bedrooms, where a collection of glass animals was displayed. Each was probably about 30cm long and 15 or so high. These were brought over from Norway around 1775 and are “conversation pieces” – when the family was entertaining guests, a selection of these would be scattered around the table, each about half filled with wine. The challenge for the guests, working together, was to extract the wine from the animals.
First, they would pick the animal up by the tail and try to pour the wine out of the opening in its mouth – but an airlock would form, and nothing would pour.
Next, they would try to shake it to break the airlock – and cover themselves with droplets of wine, but still not really put it into their glasses. The only way to really get the wine out was to put your mouth to the animal’s and drink directly from it.
Another animal in the set – for a popular party game – was a pig. In this case, the guests also had to try to extract the wine – but this time the only way to get it was to drink from the pig’s bottom.
Of course, that is the glass animal that I have a functional photo of.
New this visit – for Sheila and Michael, as well as for me – was an exhibition of photography of Castle Howard, by one of the family. The photos are absolutely beyond superb. I bought a print and a couple of postcards to take home – if they had had a book of all of them, I would have bought it too.
Of course, Michael being Michael, when I say “I bought” I mean “he insisted on buying for me” – I’ve never yet managed to pay for anything with him around.
The weird thing I noticed as we walked around Castle Howard was that my feet started swelling really badly – they’ve not been this bad for a year or more. It seemed odd that they would do it while I was actually getting exercise, too – they were at the “hurts to bend” stage, which may be because I’m not used to the swelling anymore or may be because they were REALLY swollen. Possibly salt from the gravy or roast beef, or something from the wine. Looking back, I didn’t have a lot of water on Sunday, which may have triggered something.
Back to Sheila and Michael’s for photos with Sarah and James and a quick goodbye, before being dropped back at the hotel. By now it was nearly 7 so I sent Jon a message that I wouldn’t be making games that evening, checked my emails, and repacked my bags before settling down surprisingly early (around 10) for the night.