Sunday, 4 October 2015

Scotney Castle - beautiful Autumn visit

Battleaxe is clearly having a National Trust moment. Less than a week after Bateman's we decided to go to Scotney Castle. I hardly dare confess that we had never visited after travelling past it on the A21 about half a million times.....
     It was another really fabulous autumn day. Flawless blue sky, clear, sparkling light, trees just on the turn....
     Scotney does not have a distinguished historical past, but it was given to the National Trust, intact, when its last owner and inhabitant Betty Hussey died in 2006. We gathered the Husseys made their money from iron, in Worcestershire.
     The estate we see now was created by Edward Hussey in the 1830s and 1840s. He partially demolished the old castle to create a fashionably picturesque ruin, had the grounds landscaped, and had the new house built in Gothic Revival style.  The house, designed by Anthony Salvin, reminded us, both inside and out, very much of our local Fairlight Hall, also Gothic Revival, built at the same time as Scotney.
Scotney - the 'new' house
     We loved the house, which is just as it was when Betty left it, even to the cat bed in the kitchen. One of her cats still lives there, but we didn't see it. Betty's bathroom, and her bedroom, reminded me very much of my mother - the old lady musty talcum powder smell, the pink fluffy things, the dressing table set.....  The place was packed with interesting objects and pictures, some notable, some less so, and some just funny, like the ancient electric wall heaters in the guest bathrooms. It felt very homely.
Great retro pots in the kitchen

A nice John Piper over the fireplace

A female Hussey, posing in the garden
 We had a coffee sitting outside the very nice tea-room. This time, Philosopher had to deal with the rigours of the queue - sure enough, there was an old buffer in front of him, wanting something or other which took an unsuitably long time.  For NT aficionados - shop is not as good at Bateman's!
Excellent outdoor tea area....
Then, we walked on down to the real heart of the place, the astonishingly beautiful old castle, in its moat.  Clearly, picturesque ruins have just as much appeal for us as they did for our Victorian forbears. How photogenic is this......

Battleaxe would totally recommend Scotney Castle - there is lots to see. I'm so glad to have this period of wonderful autumn weather. The Scotney outing was our last before I go into the Conquest Hospital tomorrow to have my gallbladder removed - oh yuck.  Get ready for another gripping hospital blog post!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Bateman's at Burwash - a WI outing

Having returned from Turkey in the small hours, later the same day Battleaxe was lurching through the Sussex lanes on a coach. Feeling very groggy, she was with twenty-five cheerful WI ladies, heading for Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's home at Burwash, seventeen miles from Hastings.

Bateman's - front of the house
    It was a beautiful, clear autumn day, sunny, brilliant blue sky, so I was quite happy to roll along. I even managed the necessary shouting about getting back to the coach on time etc. At least once a year, we organise heavily subsidised/free outings, with a coach, to ensure all members have the opportunity to join in. In addition, Gary Enstone, the Bateman's House Manager, is coming to our next WI meeting to talk about the house and Kipling.
    I've been to Bateman's once before with Philosopher, quite soon after we moved down here, and they do seem to have developed the facilities and amenities since that earlier visit. The shop is excellent...
    The C17 house was Rudyard Kipling's home from 1902 until his death in 1936, and remains exactly as it was when he and his family lived in the house - mostly very dark. The most memorable room is Kipling's study. However, much of his most famous work, including 'The Jungle Books', was written before Kipling came to Bateman's.
     Interestingly, we visited exactly one hundred years to the day after Kipling's son John, aged 18, was reported missing at the Battle of Loos in WW1. It is a sad story. The boy was turned down several times because of poor eyesight, and only ended up on active service after his father lobbied in high places to get him a commission. Kipling was devastated by John's death, and never totally recovered from it. His poem, 'My Boy Jack', overtly about the Battle of Jutland but probably about his son, was written in 1915, before John's death was finally confirmed:

"HAVE you news of my boy Jack? "
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Has any one else had word of him?"
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?"
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind---
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide. 

     Some of the photos in this post are mine, and some come from the National Trust website - it was difficult to take photos inside the house.
Bateman's - the front hall

Kipling's work table
     Bateman's must be one of the National Trust's smaller properties, but there was plenty to keep us going for an afternoon, with tea-breaks in the essential National Trust tea-room. Why are the queues in those establishments always so slow? It always seems to be the case that some old buffers right in front of you want a bean-by-bean breakdown of the origins of the coffee, or the recipe for the tea-bread, or require some organic gluten-free customised whatever.
     So, what of Kipling?  His work is still unfashionable, and can easily be dismissed as unappealingly jingoistic. When you look at some of his writings, you can see why.  Check this out!  But although some of his writing does look dated to modern eyes, plenty of his work is powerful and timeless. His most famous poem 'If' was judged Britain's favourite poem in 1995. 
     When I was younger, I loved Kipling's dog poems and stories, and when I was a lonely little girl at boarding school, I identified with The Cat who Walked By Himself.....
  In addition to the house, you can see Kipling's 'magnificent one-thousand-two-hundred-guinea motor-car' on display. That quote comes from Alan Judd's 1991 biography of Ford Madox Ford, from a Ford anecdote about Henry James. James clearly regarded the more famous Kipling with a mixture of envy for the 'rewards accruing from his enviable popularity', and amusement at his probable awkward pomposity. I can't quote the whole piece for space reasons, but the waspish James took unsuitable pleasure, including 'humorous gasps' and 'low chuckling' when the expensive motor car seized, through lack of lubrication, between Rye and Burwash, 'which should be pronounced Burridge'.
    We all spent time pottering round the garden. It is not a big garden, but has some fine old trees, and the roses were looking good.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Scary Turkish storms and Turkish Bayram

Did I say Cirali was quiet?  Well, not now.  Turns out this week is a national holiday for a big Muslim festival and the place is absolutely packed with Turkish families. Many small children running around the place.
    Here, the festival is called Kurban Bayrani. We call it Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. Derya, our landlord, invited us to go along to the mosque early in the morning, where he was helping to distribute sweets to the children.  Unfortunately I overslept but Philosopher went. He said it was very interesting. The children each got a carrier bag full of goodies. Derya also told us that he had paid for an animal sacrifice - it is done in a slaughterhouse - and the meat should be given to the poor - but he said there were no poor people in Cirali.
     Here are some of Philosopher's pictures of the sweet-giving ceremony.
Gathering round for the distribution of sweets

That's Derya in the front in the middle

A sweetie mountain
Going home with the spoils...
     We have lots of opportunity to practice our limited Turkish.  There are no other English people here at all.
     Yesterday we met Derya's mum, a wrinkled little lady in traditional Turkish clothes. Given the ages of her children, she could well be younger than us. Strange. In the past, it amused us to see three generations of Turkish women going into the sea.  Granny would wade in up to her knees, fully dressed in shawls and baggy trousers.  Daughter would swim in an industrial strength one-piece swimsuit, and grand daughter would follow, wearing a skimpy bikini. Now, the grannies have disappeared and all wear similar swimwear, except that occasionally we see a young woman in an all-over Islamic swim outfit. Fortunately, that is still very rare.

       So, the storms.  We gather we were lucky here, in our old haunt, Bodrum, they had flash floods and cars swept away.  The first thunderstorm night we were quite scared, it was so violent. The thunder was deafening, the lightning continuous, and the rain torrential.  This carried on for over an hour.  I got up and looked out of the door.  Our orange grove had turned into a soggy paddy field.         Cirali is built on a narrow strip of largely reclaimed flat land below towering mountains.  Philosopher and I had scary visions of torrents sweeping down the mountains to wash us out to sea - bit like Boscastle.  I also have bad memories of being trapped in dreadful floods in Stratford-on-Avon in 1998.  However, when we woke up the next morning the water had disappeared and the sun was out.  This pattern carried on for three nights, with roaring wind added to the mix on the last night.  Everything was damp and clammy, and sleep-deprived children wailed fretfully.
        We managed to get every morning on the beach, but by lunchtime the clouds were rolling in again. We had two humid walks, one to revisit the ancient city of Olympos, just up the beach. Fortunately, good weather returned later in the week.
         Following photos are of Cirali animal and bird life - particularly the friendly chicken family that hang round our house, Mr Cockerel and his three wives. Battleaxe would like chickens, but we have so many foxes in Hastings. These Turkish birds have amazingly strong, muscular legs and big feet, reflecting their outdoor lifestyle.


         The nearby pool on the beach is full of frogs - a playground for dogs.

      There are lots of wild tortoises - on the way to Tekirova last week there was one making its ponderous way across the road. I got the driver to stop and jumped out to rescue it before it was run over.  When I picked it up it thrashed its legs trying to claw me, and whirled its head around on a surprisingly long neck trying to bite. Ungrateful.
          Home later today..... And a final scary cat, begging for food in a cafe in the village.