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Blenheim et al

Learned more than I ever thought possible about Queen Katherine Parr yesterday, when we visited Sudeley Castle, where she lived for many years. She was Henry VIII’s last wife, the one who outlived him, if only briefly. She was six feet tall and published two books, the first woman to do so in her century. And as you can see by her lovely toilet, she, like other royalty, had a Royal Groom of the Stool, whose job it was to wipe her bum. When you see the heavy dresses they wore, you understand why he was so necessary.

We wound through many of the most gorgeously quaint villages imaginable, Disneyworld Britain, thatch and flowers, village greens and tiny doors. It was raining and dark, then drizzling and dark, and, throughout, freezing with a bitter wind. We had some soup in Broadway, quaintest and loveliest of all, and then made our way to Blenheim Palace, seat of the Spenser-Churchills, therefore in the blood not only of Winston but of Lady Diana. It’s a vast pile, begun in 1702 to reward the Duke of Marlborough for a success in battle – vast rooms, rooms full of Singer Sargent, Van Dyke and Reynolds portraits, and the bed where Winston was born. What a spectacular man he was – he not only helped save the world from a hideous monster, but he painted all his life, and wrote so many excellent books, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. Now, that’s a Renaissance Man.
The 11th Duke of Marlborough still lives in the East Wing. We saw a film of him. Winston he is not.
As we toured, Penny admired everything, and I shivered uncontrollably. The British don’t understand why I’m cold, when I’m Canadian. But, I explain, Canada is cold OUTSIDE. It’s warm inside. A foreign concept here.
On after Blenheim through the rain, listening to the BBC, including a dissertation about the new Treasure Act, defining what treasure is, in case you find some. It’s anything gold or silver over 300 years old, or anything at all that might be prehistoric. If you find such a thing, you need to contact your local Treasure Liason Officer who will present it to a Trove Panel. Apparently, 95,000 objects have been assessed, and 975 of them were declared, officially, Treasure.
And then we arrived in the evocatively named community of Maidenhead, where Penny’s older brother Chris and his wife Jane were waiting in their lovely home to greet us, to feed us a marvellous meal from Jamie Oliver recipes, and to talk and reminisce until we went to our comfortable warm beds.

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I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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