Welcome to lilarhodes.com! The official website of author Lila Rhodes.
Welcome to lilarhodes.com!The official website of author Lila Rhodes.

Spring in England 2012




Isle of Wight




Ludlow was a primary target because Anthony Wydeville lived there with his nephew the prince of Wales. I arrived late in the morning, dumped my stuff in my B&B room, and followed the directions through the city gate. I found the castle and a farmer’s market with many kinds of produce.

A saleswoman advised me to take the path around the castle, go down by the river, and have lunch at the Green Café. It proved good for pictures as well as home-made soup.

The library became my afternoon target. The librarian was not only accommodating, but enthusiastic. She unlocked a row of local history books, but neither of us found Anthony’s name. I did read a bit about Ludlow including a legend about giants making the hills.





It had rained and threatened more.

I managed to avoid the Ludlow city gate which had no room for both cars and pedestrians. Instead, I walked St. John’s Road back up to the butter cross. More directions saved wandered a bunch farther. I had visits with several people who don’t know my hero but can place him because they know of his nephew, Edward V.

I went off to the castle. I was soon juggling my daypack, an audio guide, and my camera. Sometimes the wind threatened to take off my hat. Sometimes it sprinkled. I caught a couple rabbits—with the zoom lens. I climbed one corkscrew staircase but didn’t try for the keep. The broad daypack was not designed for so narrow a space. (Maybe I wasn't playing for keeps.) By the time I finished the tour my hands were very cold—but I had taken 30 pictures.




     It looked partly sunny out and I wore my white shoes to catch the train. Ooops! In Shrewsbury I was pretty-much wading.

The archivist couldn’t find Anthony under either spelling. I finally found something on the tournament where he is called Lord Scales. I picked up some tidbits.


      It was at Milton Keynes that everything started to fall apart. I caught the bus and got some (probably good) advice from an older gentleman. He took such an interest that he wrote down directions for me. But I was unable to follow them. The driver dropped me off in the rain next to nothing either recognizable or particularly useful. But I could see a Travelodge.     

     Next to it was a convenience store. With some help from the clerk, I called the woman at the B&B. We couldn’t establish either where I was or where she was. I packed it in and checked into Travelodge. 




With my suitcase, I took a bus into Luton. There I saw 'Medieval' people and a man in wings! Two women in trailing gowns and cloaks were sheltering in the library doorway. We had a good conversation. They were members of the mummers group about to perform in the square. I dropped my 'anchor' in a cheep hotel and hurried back to the event.

Meanwhile, the tale of St. George and the dragon was un­folding. The man in armor with dragon wings demanded ransom for Luton. The lady he had confronted, and three associates, sought a solution. That is, they spent the night in the taverns and managed to acquire only a hangover. It appeared that the dragon was a bit hung-over too.

George was a poor excuse for a knight, but a lady gave him a magical shield and performed a spell over his sword. The rest isn’t quite obvious because we were invited to choose the victor. Maybe it was tradition that won the day for George.



The room I had booked so quickly turned out to be in a warehouse for humans. I was shown a windowless ‘room,’ but spent a couple pounds more for a viewless window—and 24 hours of wifi. There were no perks, not even a night stand. I had only the bed and the window sill to set things on. The bathroom could be in an r.v. with the shower sharing space with everything else. I showered and jumped into bed fast to warm it up. I sure wished I had the excess of comforter I’d had the night before.


Sunday morning, there were very few eateries open, but I found a bagel and cream cheese and a fruit bag. There I learned that British monopoly boards have London streets.


Having found my way to High Town the day before, I walked to the Methodist Church up there. That involved going through the railroad station. The advantage of that was being able to take the elevator. 



I moved from the cubical to an elegant Milton Keyes hotel. There, I even had conversations with staff members.



It was sometimes sunny as I explored Stony Stratford. I invited myself into the Cock and the Bull inns and took pictures. Yes, Stony Stratford is the home of the cock-and-bull stories. The locals enjoy this with an event for telling outrageous stories. I didn't have a venue for mine: "My coat is so old it's mastodon fur."


I looked at a couple things, at the library. One woman told me that I was in the wrong county for the good information. I heard "Toaster" but my detailed map doesn't show a crumb much less a toaster. "Spell it," I said. So with good bus information, I hopped another bus and went Towcester in some of the warmest sunshine I’d found in England.



Wednesday, April 25


I've never quite figured this one out.


It quit raining and I decided to lunch at the Milton Keyes town centre and maybe see a museum. I turned back the way I came Tuesday and found a golf course. (Surely the bus that took me there had passed both ends of the curved street the hotel was on.) I walked down to the arterial and under it, wondering what became of the land of orange houses.

A bus passed heading for Northampton. Oops. On the other side of the street, the next bus was not for an hour. It was mizzling and I was cold. I asked directions at the pro shop and was soon back in my room—eating a protein bar.


About the next time the sun came out, I turned right and retraced my steps from Monday. Sure enough, orange houses and a bus shelter.  ???




Getting under London was easy—with the help of half a dozen men. There was a whole rainstorm while I was changing trains at Clapham Junction. I was under cover for nearly all of it.

I loved having reader boards inside the car because I had trouble hearing the announcements. The board kept announcing that the train was dividing later, but Redhill was before that.

At Redhill, I was advised to ask the taxi drivers. I did, expecting to hire one. But, bless them, they gave me directions and told me it was only a couple blocks. They were long blocks, but it wasn't raining and the park looked pleasant. The business district including the mall was also nearby.


A man at a Sky phones kiosk informed me about medieval lay lines. Having eyed two eating places in the mall, I followed excellent directions to the library. There I picked up a sheaf of brochures about various castles and other attractions.    

Back at the mall, I found the eateries closed. The whole mall closed before 6:00. The phone salesman recommended Mama Mia’s across the street. It was mainly pizza; but I decided I was due for a pizza.



The huge barn at the Wealds and Downland Museum had displays scattered around. But I was interested in the building with so much space under a wood-supported roof. I think that very few of their buildings are significantly different from Medieval buildings, but the authentic one got photographed the most. This provided my concept of a hall house as a campfire enclosed in a building.

 Back in Chichester, the cathedral was jumping due to a meeting of flower arrangers. I found conversation with Joe. He is an actor who has played Richmond in Richard III and has some sense of the events and of Wydevilles.




When they split the train at Horsham, I saw it: flipping open a panel and, presumably, changing some switches.

It was a special day and Arundel Castle was crowded. I wanted to find the medievalists at once—which wasn’t easy. I loped past room after room of wonderful china and came at last to a little tower room where four women were doing handwork by the light from an arrow loop. No, three, one was a mannequin.

Two of the men were soon deep into the history with me. We sorted out that Margaret Wydeville became Countess Arundel. But she didn’t live at that castle.

The fighters demonstrated how ineffective a sword is against plate armor. Then three without armor set upon the 'knight'—who licked them all. Later, I saw the armed show over again and still didn’t get a picture of the knight rolling over in his armor. He was quick!

I got to wield a sword briefly and to try on a gauntlet.

There were so many people speaking French that I told a castle employee that it was too late to even lower the portcullis. 




Then I looked out into the rain, changed my shoes, and hiked to the Community Church meeting in a school auditorium. After a nice service, I had tea and a conversation with a Scott of longtime residence. He told me that Caxton kept his type in the baptismal font—hence the term. After 12:30, he also gave me a ride through the rain to my B&B. (That was the fifth driver who gave me a ride on the trip.)

Before long, I went downtown in search of lunch—with no rain—praises be! I thought I was buying a pasty, but got a “pie” that consisted of a minimum of meat under a huge layer of whipped potato. As if that wasn’t enough, it was served with corn and fries! (No wonder I came home with a couple new inches.)




From the train station to my B&B in Leicester wasn't very far, but it was a hike with the suitcase. Escaping that was my main purpose for booking in Leicester as I had in Red Hill.  


At my B&B, I did little more than bounce and set off for the museum. The route was a nice broad, busy walkway away from auto traffic.

The museum had art works including ceramics by Picasso. (Their best exhibit was dinosaurs.)


The receptionist was most empathetic—partly because she doesn’t drive. She managed, with much effort, and a couple phone calls, to find me a way to get to Bolsover Castle which has jousters scheduled.


I also saw Leicester's priory started by Dominicans centuries ago and the cathedral with its amazing stone steeple and beautiful nave angel ceiling. 





I got really rained on walking to the Leicester U library. (The first four people I asked could not locate it.) There I got a day card and tried going on line. That required a second trip on the lift for the user name and password. I never got that to work.


But I did read from some books and learn that the Greys had ruins of a Norman castle in their garden. The boys must have loved that!


In the afternoon it had quit raining. I went back to the museum in hopes of using wifi there. I was unable to because I’m not a member. I hiked on to the library where I’m not a member either. But I was granted the use of a computer with one cranky, extremely slow, old program. I did get to my email and discover that the lodge in Canterbury had room for me. It took some doing, but I got the room booked for the 9th.  





The train to Nottingham made a stop next to half a dozen nuclear-plant cooling towers. Awesome!

Spoiler alert!

[Skip the next paragraph if you want to be surprised at Nottingham Castle. I am so glad I was.]

What’s on top is mostly post-Civil War, now a museum full of clothes etc. But, Castle Rock! What an incredible place! It seems a very Swiss cheese. One grotto I photo­graphed had been the miller's home. The castle museum has a video including uses of the passageways. 

I also learned that there is alabaster in the area and some fine pieces have been made there.

On the walk back to the station, I got side-tracked by an offer of hot soup. So I had a bowl of vegetable soup and a bun that would have accom­moda­ted a burger.  No wonder I came home with two added inches!



I fogged around, asked many directions, and followed some of them. Finally, the combined efforts of two old women got me to the Leicester bus station. I caught one to Ashby de la Zouche. (This castle still belongs to the descendants of Will Hastings, but English Heritage runs it.)

To me, out in the roofless ruin, the audio guide was a waste of time. I can recognize a second floor fireplace after all. I was so cold that the best part was hanging around and talking with the young sales­woman in the castle shop. She had more interest than information about the history. (She has more now. ;)

The young woman gave me directions through an alley between the high street businesses to the museum. She assured me that there were eateries along the way.

It’s a nice old & new town high street. I went through The White Hart and looked at their menu. I also saw a pair of the largest great Danes I have ever seen. They were stretched out next to the bar, watching people.  I decided it would be rude to eat in front of them and moved on to a different pub.




Being Sunday morning, the Leicester railroad station was deserted. I learned that the Pumpkin Café opens at nine and gets no requests for pumpkin juice. It does have a nice shaft of heat in the doorway. The ride to Chesterfield was nice and I slept though parts of it.

It was a steep & complicated bus ride to town center. There I hared to another bus and just caught it. The ride to Bolsover Castle was long and hilly. (I ate my cranberry flapjack.) We passed the entrance to the castle area, but it wasn’t a long walk back.

The crowd gathered along the ropes for the knights’ show. A man on a white horse was an excellent M.C. needing no microphone. He was dressed as a king’s herald and carried the marshal's baton. He told us a bit about the Marshal under King John, who worked his way up by sheer prowess.

More to the point, he introduced two knights on horseback and explained about jousting practice as they cut cabbages. (I think these "boys" love the mess.)

They did a show about fighting with various weapons. One of the men got a cut near the eye. We could see the blood running down his face. (He soon had a modern band aid.) I did learn some things about the weapons and the slow beginning and speedy action of a duel. (That reminded me of bicycle racing.)

A joungler got onto tall stilts and juggled some torches.

The knights’ second show included galloping at bracelet-sized rings. I got a good picture of a knight in plate armor on a horse in red barding, galloping over the grass.




Medieval manors are far less common than castles but I was off to one. The bus from Leicester dropped me off near Donington. I needed directions to ‘Donington le Heath.’ The only business I saw, the pub, was closed. I spotted three walkers with a Labrador and made for them through a field yellow with blooming rape. The walkers not only knew the way but accepted me into their party. The affect was that the man and I got into the debate over ‘good' king Richard.

Following the tracks they indicated, I reached ‘Donington le Heath’ just at opening time. I opened the door, as instructed, by sticking my finger through the hole and lifting the latch. Inside, a costumed woman was in the kitchen with at least a dozen school children. Upstairs, another was leading a lesson on setting the medieval table. Being tired, I sat in for a while. They paid no attention to the intrusion.

I took a few pictures and read about how the manor was originally. I waited in the garden for a while. When class broke up, the women could explain. I really shouldn’t have been there because it is not open to the public on Tuesday any more. They didn’t seem put out about it perhaps because they recognizing I had come a third of the way around the world. 



My first day in Canterbury, I went to two museums. In the first, a senior man offered to show me directions. Then he started talking about the stuff. I ended up with a personally guided tour that was wonderful. (He was born in 1940 and had memories of the blitz.)

Back at the West Gate Tower Museum, a man showed me around the main rooms with portcullis and nine murder holes. He said it was all pointless. If he were going to attack the town he would pick a point along the wall. (Maybe the purpose of  a portcullis and murder holes way psychological.)

Finally, I went to a café and ordered a ham & cheese jacket to take away. While I was waiting, I watch two deaf guys conversing. Their sign language was full of emotion. 





Did I go through the tissues! But I couldn't sit in my room all day in Canterbury!

At a street fair, I got a short Puccini break. A tenor was belting out “Nes un dorma.’ Alas I heard only the last few bars. Oddly enough, about the only other time I’ve heard opera music it was that same melody—with a whole new set of lyrics.

Concluding that I was close to the Augustinian Abbey, I paid a leisurely visit and took some pictures with lawn between the ruins—and sunshine.

It took half the evening to book a room in Northampton. Meanwhile, I was going rapidly through a new box of tissues.




By running some, I caught the train. The connection at Ashford was a cinch: cross the platform and walk onto the train. At Borough Green, I learned that the buses don’t run anywhere near Ightham on Saturday. The taxi people wanted about £19 and had another run to make first.

It was God’s turn to do a trick. About the only place open was the 'Corral,' a gambling place. I asked the ‘cashier’ if somebody might like to make a quick pound by driving me to the Mote. ‘No.’

But a young man overheard this. He said he would do it for £ 7. As I climbed into his car, I knew some of my friends would be horrified. At Item Mote, he gave me his phone number and offered to come get me.

In lovely sunshine, I hiked down to Ightham Mote and went through the manor. Volunteers in each room were able to talk about the building. The first one told me that the Wydevilles never owned it. Their cousins, the Haut family did. He found my theory about Richard III and Edward V plausible.

By wandering the gardens, I met Mark and his little son. I took their picture. His wife took mine. They gave me a ride back to the train.  Good job, God!




         At St. Peter’s Methodist Church, I learned about an ecumenical service for Christian Aid Week at the cathedral. Aha! I could experience the cathedral and donate the price of a ticket to Christian aid instead.

       About 5:00, I headed for the cathedral. A vegetable wrap including raw spinach left me fifty minutes to walk a block. In the cathedral compound, a few people were strolling toward a side entrance. There I was greeted by a woman who said to go ‘through the middle.’ I had to follow others to learn that meant into the choir.

       There I was joined by Margaret, a Methodist mother hen I had met in the morning. Never­theless, I got to gaze about in peace.

        I couldn’t sing a note, but it didn’t matter. A choir of twelve plus organ rang the vaulting—four stories up.

       Margaret would have given me a tour of the whole place had it been allowed. As it was, we saw the martyrdom site, the arch bishop’s throne, and a medieval painting. Then she gave me a ride home. The route, by car, has no resemblance to the pedestrian one.



At ‘Wildwood,’ I set out clockwise and saw a few imported animals. I finally got a decent look at a pair of ravens. (I believe one was grooming the other.) Taking pictures seemed like trying to take them in the wilderness. Either the animal was too shy to be seen properly or so fast that I came away with an empty frame. With one, it was too dark in his ‘barn’ and I didn’t get the flash to work—the rat.



The museum in Sandwich didn’t even include anything about the guildhall they stuffed it in. The rain had quit and I headed, I thought, toward the waterfront. The walk, along a charming waterway, turned out to be the rope walk.

I strolled the narrow streets between long-established houses and went into Le Fleur pub. I was drawn by the riddle posted on their blackboard: "What goes around the world without leaving its corner." I responded to Adam's answer with a riddle of my own and ended up having lunch. A man was replacing the handles on the draft pumps. They looked like hand-bells to me. (Oh, the answer is a postage stamp.)

Back to Canterbury, I arrived at “Canterbury Tales” simultaneously with a crowd of at least a couple dozen noisy teens speaking French. As I waited it out a good half hour, I prayed for adult  English-speaking company. But I went through “Canterbury Tales” alone.

It was a dimly-lit walk-through presenting five stories in different ways. For example, “The Miller’s Tale” was told (pretty discreetly) with pop-up cut-outs. 




The route from St. Pancras station to King’s Cross station crossed a London street. As usual, the crowd crossed against the light.

At my hotel in King's Lynn, I dropped off the heavy stuff and headed back to find the museum. Explaining my quest, to the women at the desk, got me a file folder of material on Middleton Manor and its moat. I also got the name and appearance of the buses that go to Middleton about three times an hour.

The museum's main exhibit is the 4000-year-old ‘seahenge’ they brought up from the sea floor. They have both the real posts behind glass and a full-sized replica of what it probably looked like new.

As I was leaving, the lady told me that Middleton Towers is not entirely closed to the public. People have events there. Then she gave me the phone number of the family that lives there. The business day being almost over, I phoned the lady. The upshot was an appointment to meet with her husband at 11:15 am. I had to bubble over to the receptionist. My expectation had been training a zoom lens on the manor from beyond a fence. Now I had a chance to go to it!



I got off the bus in Middleton village about 10:00. The only open business in sight was a garage. The mechanic gave me simple directions to Middleton Towers. The countryside was lovely--yellow with blooming rape. I boldly went between the gate piers marked private. Being early, I walked slowly around the building and considered taking a picture of the peacock. Finally, at 11:11 or so, I went to the door. Mrs. Barclay saw me and came to the door. She gave me the booklet she had about her home!

The grown daughter showed me around the oldest part of the house. I took a few pictures. One thing I pointed out gleefully: among the coats of arms worked in the window glass was one with the Wydeville quarter.

She even gave me a ride back to town and I learned that her name is Antonia. 



I ate a banana while walking my suitcase to the King's Lynn train station. I expected to sit around in the waiting room and journal. Nope, I walked straight onto the 12:56 to London. Then I had a great combination of English countryside and yogurt-flavored flapjack.

At King’s Cross London, I tried to buy a tube ticket to Eusten station and was nearly laughed at. ‘Five minute walk,’ he said. I think I took closer to 15 to it, but, once again, I walked onto the train at once.

It was nearly full. Three women welcomed me to their table. Another joined us by stacking her suitcase on mine. A man put hers in the rack and squeezed in next to mine. (By then there were people standing.)   The woman across from me had a great sense of humor and, of course, I had a blast.



When I set out for the Northampton library, it wasn’t even wet underfoot. J

A librarian promptly directed me downstairs to the ‘Discover’ section. As soon as Clare heard my quest, she  handed me two books I had read and two to which I give mixed reviews. She added The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville, a couple clippings in an envelope, and a history of Grafton Regis.

Then she brought out the treasure: a huge hand-made armorial of the Wydevilles up to the 19th century when it was made. It seemed to open directly to Anthony’s complex coat-of-arms beautifully wrought. I asked about pictures and Clare said as long as they’re for private use. I took one and, to my delight, it was legible. So I did a bunch of 21st century note-taking.

By contrast, I took longhand notes about Grafton until my hand started to cramp. That signaled lunch time.



About 8:15, I set out to find a church—not easy. It turned out that behind the Bistro is All Saints Church and they were having a service. I supposed the building to be Georgian and the decorations baroque. I went into the narthex. Suddenly, I saw a black bead rolling away from me across the flagstones. I shook out my coat and gently shook my suit. I think it was their new priest who found the main string of beads for me.  Then we found most, if not all, of the beads and a few of the spacers.

I guess I was in the mood for ritual. The youth choir sounded great. ‘When in Northampton, do as the Northamptoneans do.’

With my trusty little camera, I took ‘21st century notes’ at the museum's "Story of Hampton." The remarkable shoe collection even had quotes about shoes.

At dinner, there was a misunderstanding and I wound up with thousand island dressing on my chicken. Actually, it wasn’t bad. 


5/22/12 Grafton!

At the White Hart, I explained my mission and the hope that somebody would be as eager to show me Grafton as I was to see. A man got on the phone and searching for such a person. Soon, he told me that Sue Blake was working in the garden behind the church and she had a key.

It was so warm that I left my coat at ‘The White Hart’ and hiked back to Grafton. At first I didn’t see anything but foliage deep enough to hide a woman.

She was clearly into Tudor things, and said that Henry VIII stayed there with Anne Boleyn. So Grafton was the site of a royal marriage and, two generations later, figured in a royal divorce.

Inside this functioning church,  Sue showed me some Wydeville tiles and a tomb. She also settled the question of “The Queen’s Oak.” The traditional tree is much too young to have shaded a 15th century meeting. 



Climbing the Learning Curve

When I checked out of Ibis about 10:00, I learned that I could not get a refund on the unused day. I felt sure nobody told me this. I was very sure it wasn’t mentioned when I tried to cancel the first day. (Could I have taken it out in wifi and refused to pay?)

As I hiked to the train station, I planned my revenge. I would absolutely scald Ibis in my book. [Never get on the wrong side of the bard.]

At Euston station in London, I wandered a bit and, eventually, caught a tube that went first to King’s Cross. The crowd thinned out as we left central London. Eventually I was chatting with a lawyer. He spoke of Elizabeth of York and her connection to four or five kings. [or six]

At Hounslow, the machine wouldn’t accept my tube ticket. The man said it was too old. The price of the ticket was £5.30—exactly all the cash I had. 

The room in Days Hotel in Hounslow looked like a copy of the one I just left except that the chair had a cushion and the drapes ran from wall to wall.

The real difference was free wifi. I went through my emails and learned, to my horror, that I had a non-refundable contract with the Red Lion in Colchester. How I wanted to cancel there and stay with the Jameses at Pescara House! I had to email to cancel with them.

But first, I took a walk, found the Hounslow mall, and had a milk shake. (The day was really that hot.) 




(Since my journal entry ran 1167 words,  I have chosen to post my travel tangle rather than Windsor Castle. There are many places to read about that.)


A barkeep at the hotel started to tell me how to get to Windsor Castle by bus, but got interrupted. I was too impatient to wait for her, consequently--

I set out before 9:00 to learn a route at the railroad station. The man made me a note about four trains to Windsor. I waited until my ‘under­ground’ ticket was useable at 9:30. I believed it was good all the way.

I changed trains correctly at Acton Town, but at Ealing Commons, I  followed my neighbor off instead of going on to Ealing Broadway.  I realized my error just as the train's doors closed.

The next train was over half an hour late. I met couple from Georgia. We hared off together, caught the next train, and continued our conversation.  At Ealing Broadway, I learned that my ticket was only good on the ‘underground’ trains and I was out of their zone and on national trains. (It's hard to recognize a tube train out in the sunshine.)

At Slough, I was glad when I missed the train because I had time to buy a sandwich. It was such a short run into Windsor that I hadn’t finished it.

The castle came into view right away and we curved around toward it and arrived about 11:30. Through the big station entrance, all I could see was castle wall.

What a day for a tour! The sun was shining and yet there was no great queues anywhere. [Great tour.]

Back on the railroad platform, I found one man. But, for nearly an hour, no train. Gradually, the crowd grew to an SRO trainload including some people I had met.

I caught a train quickly in Slough and then, foolishly caught the wrong train at Acton Town and found myself doing a 180 at Ealing Commons again.

At one of those places, I gave up on the idea of a sit-down dinner and bought a pasty to eat on the train. I renamed my projected book: How\not/ to Visit 15th Century England.

[It is now available on Amazon.]



As I was leaving the Hounslow hotel, I met a couple from Oklahoma. They had one day before joining their cruise, and asked what to see. Of course, I said ‘Windsor Castle.’ But then there was the quandary about how to get there. The receptionist gave them one set of directions and I gave them another. They needed to get to the station. I was going, so I played native guide and he played porter. (I don’t know which I liked better.) I pointed out the logos for underground and national trains and the reader board and map on the train.

Unfortunately, we didn’t hike down the platform but wound up in a full car. They changed trains and I’ll never know what became of their day.


When I reached Norwich, the digital clock on the platform said 14:52. I said, "Perfect." That would give me eight years to get oriented before the beginning of my novels.





The Great Yarmouth Potteries and Smokehouse was one of those weird and unexpected pleasures. A woman enthusiastically pointed out the pillars and beams of the museum. They had been masts and keels of ships—sometime wrecks. She pointed out that one wall of the building was actually the city wall. Then there was the ancient well—they were still using.

When I moved along into the next room, I expected to leave the woman to her work with the pottery molds. But she came buzzing out to tell me about her work and show me a wall of forms for mug molds. Many had realistic faces on them. She said that some depict lifeboat crewmen. Others were celebrities I could recognize.

There was plenty of evidence that the place had spent a century or two as a fish smokehouse--including models of the fish hanging on racks.

The mug-form artist was happy to tell me about the city wall. It had been a big half-circle and everyone lived inside the space between the wall and the river.

I got a chance to talk about my history-related project although I only know of one quick trip my fictional hero is likely to make to Great Yarmouth .  





After lunch in Bury Saint Edmunds, a man heard my request for directions and accompanied me to the large open-air market. (Somehow, the DVD's didn't fit into my Medieval images.)

There we came upon an evangelist. Since my companion, claims to have checked out the religions of the world, I asked him which figure was most worthy of worship. He said Coli. I wish I had asked him why.

Following his directions did indeed bring me to the abbey gate. I saw some of the ruins and formal gardens. I went looking for the most intact remaining building and then the old church. The Victorians worked the church over good, but I had a fun visit with the ‘sitter.’[As I recall, there was an agreement in progress that Mary Tudor gets a bum rap.]

For some reason, I wandered into the library and got into a philosophical/ theological discussion with a male librarian. Later, in Colchester I got into another such discussion. What is it about Suffolk?




After many struggles to find a way to Lavenham, I was starting from the right place.  I simply walked to the Bury St. Edmonds bus depot and caught the Chambers bus to Lavenham.

I had the whole top story to myself and sat in the front port position. I felt disconcerted when the bus moved and realized that I was in what I am used to as the driver’s corner.

It was a twisty but pretty drive adorned with donkeys and rabbits and a pheasant.

I shot a couple pictures of Lavenham with its marvelously crooked buildings. The postman provided good directions to tourist information. I walked around and admired a gold on gold building. It was a pottery place as well as a very old home. It was open because of an art show in progress. Consiquently, I saw the arrangement of the house. The wooden beams were whatever shape they had taken over the centuries. 

The guild hall was a similar hike under the beams—except that, in their main room, the beams were nicely finished and beveled.

It is a museum and I spent quite a while on the displays about wool and fabric. In one room a recording repeated of children singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” because it too is a Lavenham product.



Back at my room in Bury, I discovered that my money pouch was missing—with over £20 in it. I must have just stuck it in my pocket as I was getting on the bus in Lavenham. So I fared forth to the bus depot with a big umbrella. (The wind made it a wrestling match.)

All they could say there was to call the Chambers company. "I may stick around this town a bit longer than I’d planned." I called Chambers buses. They said they hadn't cleaned the buses yet—call in the morning.

June 1, 2012

I recalled Chambers buses. "What does it look like?" the man asked.

'The pouch is covered with embroidery—some of it purple.' They had my money pouch! I think what saved it was that it looked more like a make-up pouch. Had it been a billfold, it surely would have been long gone.

The man said he could send it tomorrow and I said I'd be in Colchester. He said they had no place to put it there. But their bus toward Colchester runs right past their office. So we arranged for me to take the bus back through Lavenham and on to a change of buses at Sudbury. When I boarded, the driver said he'd mind my suitcase but I'd have to walk a few yards to the bus stop to catch him. I didn't. The man was at the door of the office. He handed me the pouch and I stepped right back on the bus. (The pouch had nearly £31 in it!)


Colchester Medieval Fayre  6/2/12


I found the sword fighting—which always ended in a clinch and throw, more like wrestling. But, in one case, the older man had picked up the skinny youth. The young 'n clung to him for a couple minutes—and then managed to throw him.


I saw a play of St. George which had elements that differed from the one in Lutin. George introduces himself as a paladin. The fair maiden is played by a man taller than George. George gets so into talking to her that she has to point out the dragon behind him. He kills the dragon rectally. The devil appears with a flaming torch, but the maiden overcomes him with holy water. Then George and Saladin square off and talk and talk. Eventually, Saladin runs George through. A man of learning comes and after much mumbo jumbo (including juggling a ball, a bean-bag, and an apple) revives him.  


After no debate internal, I went to the hog roast and got a big, tasty burger full of pork, dressing, and apple sauce. The best part was being able to sit in the shade in their pavilion.


A maker of black-jacks, leather mugs and other containers, explained how boiling pitch or heating wax in them makes them waterproof. (At another booth, the woman showed me her ten-year-old black-jack still in use.) That was the key answer I needed as a writer: people of all strata drank from black-jacks. (Truncheons have the same name because they are covered with heated leather.)



6/3/12 Colchester


I picked up lunch and climbed back up three flights to my room an the centuries-old hotel. I turned on the television. (No hotel was too ancient for flat-screen t.v.)  They described the plan for the Jubilee parade on the Thames. When my interest flagged, I read Treasure Island.   

Once Queen Elizabeth and Duchess Kate appeared, I turned to watch—often from the bed. Her Majesty’s involvement was well over two hours. There were elegant seats for her and Prince Philip on the richly decorated barge, but I'm quite sure no one ever used them.

You could see from the banners that it was very windy. But the queen only descended into her barge briefly and returned with an additional wrap.

Meanwhile, the belfry led the way with eight accomplished bell-ringers sending music to both banks of the river. (I hoped they would take a break now and then for the sake of those stuck nearby.) I saw the galley “Glorianna” and many small row boats. The most interesting of that lot was a canoe with a dark crew in native garb who raised their paddles and did a fancy routine with them. Other groups of boats included work boats, narrow canal boats, and boats that helped with the evacuation of Dunkirk. (I was glad they didn’t say much about that because I was a bit short of tissues.) The whole flotilla moved down to Tower Bridge which was opened as a salute to the queen.

The queen her consort had stood throughout and it was a relief to see her laughing heartily.    





It was gray, windy, and rather threatening, but I headed back to the festival. I even bought rum & raisin ice cream near the gate.

I had a different set of conversations, of course, and learned something about a lathe and that wood is a non-uniform and unforgiving material.

I was thirsty but every drink at the fayre was either carbonated or alcoholic! Hoping for an exception, I bought cider. It turned out to be hard cider that left me feeling a bit dull and wobbly.

Nevertheless, I saw a demonstration with the hawks and learned tidbits like barn owls are far-sighted and not waterproof. I saw seagulls chasing the falcon. They want to chase her away, but must stay above her. The handler told us that she was about five. An older falcon might have had herself a seagull.  

I saw a play of the miller’s guests [see Chaucer]. I even got to dance. I might have done so a second time if I hadn’t been in conversation with one of the actors.

Just before I left, and after they’d started packing up, I had another visit with the merchant lady from Western Wales. She gave me a brochure for a medieval event in Knutsford, Cheshire—two weeks later. I had nothing booked!

In the morning, I picked out a hotel in Knutsford. My hostess phoned them for me and I booked a room. 

Then I "went on vacation" to the Cotswolds. In Moreton-in-Marsh, it quit raining and I took a stroll. When I returned to the business district, I saw the corn exchange. Good idea! I bought corn pads. The one place I could find dinner was “The Mermaid Fish Bar.” I took a multi-wrapped piece of cod over by the WW monument and, with some untidiness, peeled and ate it. 





At the station, somebody advised me that the train tickets were ridiculous for such a short distance as Warwick. So, back to t.i. There the woman worked out the route by way of Stratford-Upon-Avon. She also sold me a ticket to Warwick Castle for a discount.

For the whole trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, I chatted with a woman from Stockholm and her son's girlfriend from Georgia.

On arrival, I turned toward the Avon and a deserted park. I’d like to have taken a picture of the colorful narrow boats on the river, but it was sprinkling too much. Two of them were set up to sell take-away food.

I went into a fish restaurant, but they ignored me so long that I left—even though it looked good. Instead, I landed at a classy restaurant. I was intrigued by celeriac, apple, and watercress soup. It was good. So was the very light bread.  

I’d like to have checked out the “Tudor Experience” but couldn’t get the suitcase over the cobblestones.

At the bus stop, I met a woman from Warwick and we started a good chat. As we boarded the bus, she asked a friend to join us. The three of us had quite a lot of conversation. (consequently, I am no better informed about any of the places I traveled through.) But the two women figured out where my hotel was and told the driver where I needed to get off.

The hotel manager, in Warwick, took the bag upstairs to my room. She spoke of the stairs being creaky. I said that, after where I’ve been, this was a modern hotel. 




I call it Bourton-under-Water  although the rain quit briefly. Most of the attractions are outdoors. I crossed the stone bridges a couple times and wandered to the church. Parts of it are around 800 years old! It sprinkled and I shop hopped. The last shop I visited had a whole lot of mugs with “Keep calm--."   I'd like one that says, “Keep calm and cuddle the cat."

One glance at my medieval room at Moreton filled me with horror. A stark white bed next to stone walls looked like a prison cell—especially when you factor in the darkness and the tininess of the windows.

I left the suitcase and about fled. It was tea time, so I went to the bakery and got a pot of herb tea and a rhubarb and cherry pastry. I managed to make it last quite a while.

Eventually, it was time to ‘homestead’ my room. I rather thought of it as a campsite. On second look, especially with a lamp on, it looked a bunch better. I found and started up a space heater. It did help the space—but I guess the stone walls are always cold. The heater helped my sodden hat though. I placed it on the waste-basket in front of the heater and turned it periodically.





At the station, somebody advised me that the train tickets were ridiculous for such a short distance as Warwick. So, back to t.i. There the woman worked out the route by way of Stratford-Upon-Avon. She also sold me a ticket to Warwick Castle for a discount.

For the whole trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, I chatted with a woman from Stockholm and her son's girlfriend from Georgia.

On arrival, I turned toward the Avon and a deserted park. I’d like to have taken a picture of the colorful narrow boats on the river, but it was sprinkling too much. Two of them were set up to sell take-away food.

I went into a fish restaurant, but they ignored me so long that I left—even though it looked good. Instead, I landed at a classy restaurant. I was intrigued by celeriac, apple, and watercress soup. It was good. So was the very light bread.  

I’d like to have checked out the “Tudor Experience” but couldn’t get the suitcase over the cobblestones.

At the bus stop, I met a woman from Warwick and we started a good chat. As we boarded the bus, she asked a friend to join us. The three of us had quite a lot of conversation. (consequently, I am no better informed about any of the places we traveled through.) But the two women figured out where my hotel was and told the driver where I needed to get off.

The hotel manager, in Warwick, took the bag upstairs to my room. She spoke of the stairs being creaky. I said that, after where I’ve been, this was a modern hotel. 





At Warwick Castle's Medieval event, the first thing on the schedule was the raising of the portcullis. Quite a crowd of us gathered on the 18th century stone bridge to watch. First they had to lower it, of course. A man with a studded coat was explaining, warning, and ‘entertaining’ us. As soon as it was down, he climbed onto it and launched into a history lesson. Finally, unseen people raised it again and secured it.

Before long, I went down to the river and spoke with the man ‘holding the bridge.’ The world's largest trebuchet was on the island in the Avon. They had four workers inside the great tread-wheels. We learned as she was about to fire it, that their trebuchet 'master' was a woman. Later, I met people walking back from having located where the ball struck over 150 yards away. Much later, I got to visit with the young woman. Apparently, Natalie is also the leader of the project and an authority on trebuchets.

I took my lunch noodles to a bench with a view of the birds of prey show. As an American, I didn’t like seeing a bald eagle in jesses.

 Back down on the island, I followed people around to the far side of the arena for a good view. Five mounted ‘knights’ including the one playing King Edward III celebrated his 'jubilee.' A couple times they had one-on-one spear running and they ended with a melee.

Finally, I went out by the ballista on display and met Meg who had a pot of something cooking. When she found I was into the wars, she took me across the road to the archer. He had quite a line of chatter to go with his info on archery. When he wasn’t busy with other folks, we had quite an extensive review of the Wars of the Roses. He looked at power structure and I was looking at social connections. J For quite a while, Meg stayed and listened with her big ladle on her shoulder. 





Back at Warwick Castle, I asked for a picture with Devlin the Dragon Slayer. He drafted a passer-by to take it and said, "Look radiant."

I watched a couple of adults try to pull the sword from the anvil and the stone. Then they invited a boy of about seven who told them his name was Arthur. They expressed great surprise. He, of course, drew forth the sword and was hailed as king.

The electro-magnet, I get; but was the boy a plant? From the way they treated him, I don’t think so. Was this a randomly chosen boy who knew the story? If so, he told them his name was Arthur to play the role.

Their was a smaller crowd than the day before and I got a good place along the rail for the ‘jousting.’ The knights did their playing with fire and I got fascinated by the squires putting out blazing rings and even barrels. Miraculously, I did get one good picture.

This time, Mark emceed the trebuchet show and there was a different trebuchet master. Somebody tumbled out of the wheel with an apparent case of trebuchet sickness caused by the flickering light coming through the turning wheel. [see above]

It was getting late and I found a bunch of children trying to throw ‘rats’ through a fancy hoop. (They were good looking toy rats too.)

But my most distinctive visit was with Henry VIII. It was weird talking about “your mother,” her uncle, parents and grandparents.  I guess I was visiting the wrong century.




6/12/12   York

I caught the tour bus and heard a bit of history before jumping off at Monksbar Gate for the Richard III museum. (Later, I was pleased to tell two senior women that it was on the second and third floors. I think they decided to pass on that.)The man at the desk didn’t do Dick any good either. He seemed to see visitors as an interruption in his reading.

It wasn’t worth £2 &50. There were many newspaper clippings. Upstairs an audio tape of Richard responding to a woman judge. I was just coming back down to that floor when she mention­ed the executions of Anthony Wydeville and Thomas Vaughn. Richard said that was the way things were done in that century. (Talk about a familiar, thin excuse!) 

After a short ride with a live guide, I got off at the Shambles. The hard-to-find signpost pointed into a narrow lane between medieval buildings. I shot some pictures and told some people that I call 21st century people in medieval settings ‘muggles.’ That went over pretty well with fellow muggles.

I walked to the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. Those dedicated guild members even sponsored a hospital in their undercroft. It dealt mostly with contagions others wouldn’t touch.

The group is still very much alive.  J

A receptionist there was reading Lady of the Rivers. I told her not to believe it. Not to worry: she couldn’t remember that it was John of Bedford the heroine was marrying.

 From there, I walked to the castle. By then I was hungry and I’d gone from a nest of eateries to a set of museums. But the Castle Museum’s café served. I topped off lunch with a fruit scone slathered with clotted cream.

Then I toured the museum. What my book is likely to say is, ‘Don’t let it’s name fool you. This museum has nothing to do with our century.’ It has rooms about four subsequent centuries.

Next, I climbed to Clifford’s Tower, took a couple pictures, and added it to my life list of castles—thirty-five I think.

I let the first tour bus pass because they were using tiny earphones and the next one would have the live guide. He drenched us with lots of facts but little eye-contact. Then he went off shift and Mark started his by saying, "Welcome to Newark.”  His funny remarks suited me better than an avalanche of facts. I rode that bus one stop past mine—intentionally. 



On the bus from York, I had a chat with a for-sure nonagenarian, a veteran of the WWII  RAF! 

At first, the land was flat as a frozen lake. But, after a time, it became low hills. We rattle along one-lane two-way back roads and only saw the great M1 when we went over it. But it was a pretty day including sun breaks and I got some sense of the Vale of York.

I had intended visiting Middleham Castle. However, I learned in Ripon that the bus left so late I couldn’t get back to Ripon for the last bus to York at 5:15. So it was an outing to Ripon.

I walked along the market non-square and then turned in at the pedestrian way. There I lunched on a little pork pie and lots of mushy peas.

Apparently the one site Ripon can boast is its cathedral. They have recently replaced the front wall and heavy door with a glass wall with automatic doors. But they still have windows from various centuries and a Saxon vault from the 8th century. I went down alone into the crypt. There isn’t much down there, but it was entertaining to walk through its narrow passages.

Back upstairs, I came upon a discussion of sanctuary. A man had seen a white cross about a mile from the cathedral and others agreed that it might be a sanctuary marker.

Back in York, I walked a hundred yards or so along the Ouse. Before long, I focused on foraging for dinner. I must have walked a mile and read several menus. Over by the Minster, the street, piano player was at it again. He was playing Scott Joplin J. The walk was worth it. My chicken mushroom pie looked huge, but the crust was high and full of air. 'Twas wonderful! 



York  6/14

Intent on resting and keeping warm and dry, I went to the library. I was drawn to the graphic novels. I settled in a comfy chair and read a couple short stories. Then I read all of The Thief of Always by Clive Barker and came away with that satisfied disorientation I get from an engrossing movie.

The king’s lodging belongs to the university. There I manage to waylay somebody and tell my three theories of Wakefield. Then I had carrot and coriander soup in the refectory restaurant.

Back at the Yorkshire Museum and spent over two hours. (It helped that I got to hang up my coat with my computer glasses in the pocket.) The Roman stuff and the extinct and endangered species exhibit were interesting. But the useful part was the description of the Corpus Christi miracle play. It was complete with photos from a modern version.   They did have a good display about the abbey too.

Finally, mostly because I wanted to sit down, I returned to the library and the graphic novels. I skimmed through some stories about Zorro. I think Albin novellas could work as graphic novels—if somebody wanted to illustrate them.

I crossed the street for a quiche at Barney’s Café. Nice.

I had left my broom skirt in the shower to dry. When I got back, I found it on the bed—pressed!




To Cheshire 6/15


On the train, the man across from me was a professional story teller—with lots of Gaelic material. Inconveniently, he told me stories I already knew. We acquired a silent seat partner who turned out to be nervous because he was on his way to his wedding.

At Manchester, I found the train in plenty of time—even though it was only two cars. There was no reader-board inside. I got a bit concerned about hearing my stop announced. I asked the man behind me to allert me. He gave me good notice, got my suitcase unjammed from between the seats, and boosted it down onto the Knutsford platform.

A young woman at the gate gave me directions to my hotel. When I got to the super-busy corner, they didn’t make sense. So I asked a man. He led me back the other way and pointed down King Street. It was a walk, but P.T.L. an essentially dry one—not counting puddles or dripping eaves. It was a rather hazardous street with a sidewalk that was often less than half normal size. Occasionally, the corner of a medieval building went clear to the street.

Once settled in another medieval hotel, I went looking for dinner. I poked my nose into the “Penny Farthing Museum” which turned out to be a tea room full of goodies and antique bicycles.  

That evening, the wifi didn’t work. I ended up carting my netbook around to three men before one, at the reception desk, got me on line. Once I got into my email, I read President Obama’s message to the bystanders. The man looked a bit hurt and said, "The queen doesn't email us."




About 10:40, I set out down the Knutsford street thinking that it was maybe half a mile to the medieval event. After going down to the arterial and seeing a sign pointing the opposite direction, I headed for the train station for information. A passer-by told me to go up to go up to Princess St. and catch a bus. There, two young women said I didn’t need a bus and pointed up King Street.

They were right about the park—but the event was another matter. I walked for over a mile past 21 deer in the velvet and among the skimming swallows. I met a woman walking a large dog. After quite a visit, we started on. A car stopped and the driver said she had told him to pick me up. He drove me to the car park and I had only a brief hike to the event. He volunteered the information that Knutsford was named for Hardy Canute. (After that, everybody seemed to know it.)

The tournament  consisted of six fighters on foot. The first pair had swords, the second pair had two swords each, and the third pair had pole axes. One of the second pair got his sword tangled briefly in his surcoat. The third duel turned into a wrestling match repeatedly. At least once it was because one had lost his weapon. The two of the six who had the most points had a final round with two swords each. When they finished, and again when the winner was announced,  they embraced.

After that, I flitted making sure I was under cover when it rained. I had a cheese & spinach crepe for lunch. I didn’t get a knife and ended up chewing it off the plate. Meanwhile, I met a well-dressed medievalist. 


Knutsford 6/17/12

I met some nice women at the Methodist church. Maria delivered the miracle. She offered me a ride to the fayre. First she drove home and picked up the card that admits her to Tatton Park for free. As an employee of Knutsford, she was one of few people to have one.

It was close to 1:00 and I had free-range sausage on my mind. I went straight for that. Once fed, I walked into the re-enactors encampment.

There I met Chris. He could discuss the Wars of the Roses and believed that Richard III was power hungry. He was one of two people who recommended visiting the armory museum in Leeds. He lived near Pontefract and told me that Anthony was buried in a Norman chapel at Pontefract and people did pray to him for a while.

It had sprinkled a little in the morning, but the sun came out for the afternoon.

I asked a fayre organizer if there was any plan for getting stray people to town and he recommended asking Chris to announce a request. I went out to the sound truck and found Chris. He said he could make such an announcement after the battle.

Scores of men, and some women with banners, came onto the field. It was a brief melee on-foot leaving "bodies" scattered on the grass.  

Chris announced that a woman doing research needed a ride to town. A pleasant woman named Jan, volunteered. So I was back in town with time to mosey down to the river and take a picture of ducks. 



Alnwick—Northumberland  6/19

I left my suitcase at the B&B and, even though it was raining, headed straight for Alnwick Castle. In places I was doing a bit of wading. Then there was the children, several classes of them. I slipped into a Hotspur room where they had a video of one child telling another about Hotspur. (For me the pictures were an irritating shadow show, but the telling  was clever.)

After that, I was repeating the line about calling demons. In time, I came to a lady who knew it. She also knew that “Stay not upon the order of your going…” is Comedy of Errors.  

I couldn’t hear the woman guide but learned that Peter would be leading a tour at 11:40. I had time to climb onto the wall before joining Peter and about a dozen visitors. He told us about the tunnel from the kitchen to the dumb waiter and promised to tell us why it was called the whistling tunnel. He showed us places the Percys added onto the castle. We also learned that Duchess Elizabeth (1716-1776) harassed other ladies into giving her the over-sized figures that now grace the roof of Alnwick. Peter pointed out that she not only had a small hill built so that the castle would appear quickly and dramatically as one arrived, but had the river moved a few yards farther so she could see it from her window.

We didn’t go into the barbican because it was full of children throwing balls at each other. (Months later, I realized they were playing muggle quidich.) When we got back to our starting point, Peter told us that it was the whistling tunnel because the servants wheeling the food to the dining-room were required to whistle so they couldn’t sample it.


Alnwick, 6/20

I hiked to tourist information and learned that they can do nothing to help find a room in Durham—two days away.

I chucked the whole project and caught a bus to Warkworth Castle. There I visited with the women in the reception/shop. One was fairly knowledgeable about the wars. Mostly, of course, they know Percys. 

It was a beautiful, sunny day. There were classes of children to work around.

The audio guide was very clear and easy to follow. I certainly established that you can see the river mouth from the solar windows and the North Sea from many places.

Directions for a short-cut to the village became muddled, so it was a good thing I asked somebody else. Once I got started along the river side of the castle (quite a steep bank), it was easy. I did not let a sign for a hermitage distract me.

          About the first eatery in the village was The Jackdaw Restaurant. I think the man was French. My salmon mousse certainly had a French style to it with a wedge of tomato on two lettuce leaves. The little strips of toast were served wrapped and on their own plate. It was all delicious too.

I hurried the man for the bill and he told me exactly where to catch the bus. To my surprise, I caught the 1:06 bus and was back in my room by 2:00. (Meanwhile, I had a Cadbury brunch bar full of flakes and raisins nested in chocolate. Yum!)

I found dinner at “Carlo’s Fish and Chips.” My beef steak pie looked slapped together by an amateur machine, but it tasted good. 


Alnwick 6/21

I'd visited a nice hotel for three mornings to use wifi. This time I actually got the job finished! J I got confirmation of my room in Durham and booked a room in Guildford for my last nights in England. I rambled off in search of lunch. Not wanting to hike the full length of the street in teh rain, I ended up at Carlos’ again. This time I tried a spam fritter. Once again it looked hopeless and tasted excellent.

Rain sent me back to the library. I got to the bit I was looking for: stories of Alnwick Castle changing hands in 1462. One book mentions Lord Scales and the other ignores him and mentions three other guys. The story of what happened is muddled too: when did the Scots come down and relieve the siege? I learned that they were motivated to do so partly because there were Scots in the garrison. I wanted to discuss it with somebody. The librarian phoned the museum, but the woman she had in mind wasn’t there. If the weather had been fine, I would probably have gone back to Julien at the castle gate.




Durham 6/22/12

I thought the bus ran a bit after the hour and I was exceedingly early. Nope, it came through at 9:45 soon after I’d worked out which stand. It left me in Alnmouth across the street from where I had boarded it on Monday. At the railroad station, I met a young woman who needed directions to the bus. That I was able to provide.

After Newcastle, my seat partner turned out to be a Scottish equivalent of a mother in running shoes: a member of the Scottish parliament with major concerns about the environment. She was pleased to hear that Seattle recycles.

In Durham, I stepped off the train at noon. I looked into the hotel's elegant dining room and went off to find an affordable lunch.

Meanwhile, God had worked out the place and the timing to perfection. I went into a church, which was selling lunches, and had a pasta, tomato, and mushroom combination.

          I asked the couple at the other end of the table: “What should I be sure and see in Durham?” Did I ever ask the right person: a woman with a special interest in local history.

“We’ll take you there,” she said. She meant on foot. We hiked up the hill.  Suddenly, she opened a door and showed me a tower from the ancient city wall.

At the library, I also saw a 10 minute show about the castle-turned-university.

A tour guide in an academic ‘duster’ told about the oldest part of the castle(c1072). It was a palace of a prince bishop. We saw the oldest functioning kitchen in Europe: a modern kitchen tucked in the ancient one. Cooks were preparing dinner for several hundred resident students. The dining-hall is a three-story great hall where I expected owls to deliver the mail. That was accurate! Their dining hall became Hogwarts's in the movies.



Durham 6/23/12

It didn’t take half an hour to walk to the bridge, so I got to the Fulling Mill Archeological Museum forty minutes early. With a little help from passers-by, especially a young man shooting pictures of just about everything that didn’t move too fast, I managed to wait. After all that, the fulling mill had vanished into a museum about Roman things and about what can be learned from skeletons. The woman did say something about treading on the soaking fabric so it would take dye better.

For lunch, I found a Mexican place—a rarity in England. There I had a burrito assembled to my specifications with rice, steak, black beans, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream. Not bad.

I spent a while drifting through the cathedral from the modern art to the shrine of St. Cuthburt and the chapel of nine altars. The massive pillars are indeed an experience.

It was sprinkling when I went out, so I hurried to the library. There I got to telling about Pontefract. The woman believes that a train goes there from York. She encouraged me to phone them again.

A major goal of my trip was to visit Pontefract Castle on June 25th. I called Pontefract again and got a man who not only assured me that I can get there by train but that bringing flowers shouldn’t be a problem. J

I was so excited that I went down to tell the receptionists. The result was an hour or so of conversation. One receptionist was a connoisseur of castles and her favorite was Rabe.

I went to train schedules and Google maps and concluded the Pontefract Castle is tucked in between three railroad stations.    I don't think they are what the castle was built to defend.





On arrival in York, I bought a train ticket to Pontefract. Then I bought myself a whole wheat Cornishpasty. J

Having my course pointed out and the map in my hand, made it easy to find Lady Anne Middleton’s Hotel. This elegant hotel is an amazing, rambling establishment concocted out of six historic buildings.

The next thing I wanted to see was the flooding. I walked a bridge across the Ouse and took a couple pictures of water among the trees in a park. Then I tried walking the wall. (I didn't like not having a handrail or anything on one side.) I did reach Miklegate bar—more pictures.

In the evening, I intended to go to the main lounge area, but I came upon two senior couples in the solarium. We had a great chat. The upshot was one of them saying that if they had the leisure she would like to go to Pontefract and commemorate Anthony. (She had been reading The White Queen.)

I didn’t do a lot of sleeping. What I did do was write a poem using the same rhythm and rhyme as Anthony’s death-day poem. Mine was a farewell to England. I still choke up if I try to read it.


York 6/25

The hotel's receptionist advised going to Mark and Spencer for flowers. The eight white roses came as a package deal for only £3.50.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time sitting around the railroad station. Eventually, I realized that the train to Sheffield was sitting there—and got aboard. But I wasn’t very secure about it until Pontefract was announced. On my way, I was working on things to say to some dyed-in-the-wool  Richardian to get to leave even a flower.

There was no one at the lodge outside the ruined castle gate. I wandered on in and found Joan sitting outside her ‘office.' I told her my interest in Earl Rivers and she came promptly on board with it. She even devoted a plastic pitcher to the cause. She not only encouraged me to write something but provided paper and a plastic sheath for it.

To the best of my recollection, I wrote, “Worthy to be remembered:

Anthony Wydeville…” And then I listed his titles. I called him a martyr for peace and quoted—to the best of my recollection—the last stanza of his death-day poem. I think I was off by no more than a couple words.

I left these in the minimal remains of the Norman chapel and took pictures—partly as evidence that I had really succeeded. After that, I walked around the castle with the map Joan had given me. I wandered with the strange, spacy feeling that I had finished my agenda in England.

When David arrived, Joan showed him the memento and they both promised they would keep it watered.

This leaves me with a sense of having finished what I set out to do even though many things got left out. I felt ready to fly home.







On the train, I met a woman visiting her homeland from Rowanda. She had an African girl with her. We had a good conversation. I was pleased to hear how she conversed with the girl and explained things to her.

The trip ran about three and a half hours. I had to buy a BLT off the cart. On this last trip south, I changed trains at Reading instead of going under London.

Two women in the Guildford station strongly advised me to take a cab because the Mandolay Hotel is ‘at the top of the town.’ They were right, it would have been a heck of a hike with the suitcase, and I probably would have taken some wrong turns too.

My map indicated a closer railroad station. Once settled, I took a walk and found it—without an employee anywhere. There was one Asian. The speaker system announced a train. It came in, picked him up, and rushed on. I didn't see or hear another soul. It was way too spooky for me.

By the time I got to the minimal remains of the castle, it was so late that it wasn't worth the price of admission. I did get pictures of the excellent garden around it.

By backtracking people with orange Sainsbury bags, I found groceries for breakfast.



The bus to Farnham ran along a very lengthy ridge with views on each side rendered nearly invisible by trees planted beside the road.  They were probably to stabilize the ridge.

A couple inquiries in Farnham got me to the castle--after rather of a hike. There I learned that, because it was Wednesday, there would be a tour in the afternoon. I visited a room of automated museum with sound and projections. Farnham Castle had been a home of prince-bishops. I hiked back down the hill barely early enough to lunch on an excellent breakfast.

(Months later, I realized I had been in Farnham twice. The first trip, I arrived by train and went south to the ruins of Waverly Abbey.) 

Having hiked back to the castle, I climbed the minimal remains of the keep. The tour of this Anglican building focused on portraits—most of them 19th and 20th century churchmen. After a while, I got bored and excused myself on the grounds that I had a bus the catch.

The bus was very late, but that gave me time to get acquainted with two good friends named Ann & Anne. We even rode back to Guildford together.

My last dinner in England was arguably the best. I wanted meat pie. One pub I auditioned was dominated by a raucous drinker and one by over-loud music. I asked a woman on the street—who turned out to be a vegetarian—but she gave me good directions. I wouldn't have found the Tudor Lounge otherwise—up a stairway off an alley.

Climbing the crooked stairs to the restroom was the best evidence of its great age. The dining-room was 21st century! While eating excellent beef pie, I watched electronic water-lilies, leaves, clouds, bubbles, and daisies float across multiple screens on the wall. 



It wasn't a straight shot from Guildford to Heathrow. I had to start earlier and change to a bus.

I asked a handsome young man to mind my suitcase while I ran back into the station. Of course, we had a visit. He turned out to be a newly professional cricketer.

I didn't have enough time at Heathrow for a proper lunch, but I was loaded up on snacks when I boarded the plane. After a while the staff served excellent cheese calzones.

My Sikh seat partner closed the shade and watched a very festival of violent movies—because his wife didn't allow it at home. After he ran out of time for another, he helped with my crossword, but we still didn't add much.

I did learn that the woman across the aisle had gone to England intent on genealogy and had a lot to read.  At one point, I had to walk to the very back of the cabin because the stewardess, who was coming,  was slightly wider than the aisle.

We finally got to Detroit. I took their cute train to the wrong end of its run—and back again with a bottle of juice. At the correct gate, I learned that the plane would be late.

I have crossed the Atlantic on three trips. As I recall, things went smoothly on the European end.   But every time, I was delayed in an American airport on my return.

Joyce came along just before my suitcase appeared on the Sea Tac carrousel. Linda, her sister, picked us up and drove me home to Lynnwood.

I thought they had keys to both my security building and my apartment. Nope. I had to get somebody to buzz me into the building. While Linda waited insides to let me back in, I had to go out in the dark and find my hidden key. Close to midnight of my twenty-six hour day, I got inside. A bouquet of balloons on my dining-room table read, "Welcome back." 








People ask

When did you get into writing? 


As soon as I could misspell enough words. 

I was fascinated by the primers with the word lists in the back. I started writing primer-level booklets. Over the school years, I also wrote some miniature newspapers and magazines that rarely lasted beyond one issue. But the desire to put stories onto paper has stayed with me through every era and career.


How did you 'meet' Anthony Woodville (or Wydeville)? 


Back in 1983, I read Jan Wescott's The White Rose. [Yes, it is availabale on Amazon.] I fell for the noble, brave, able, and affectionate knight she painted. I began writing sketches about him. Within three months I was main-lining history. To my relief, he turned out to be what Jan claimed--and more. In those days research meant going to the Spokane library and the EWU library. 


Was this really behind your move to the Seattle area?


Yes indeed. One day at the EWU library I met an acquaintance. "This isn't a research library," he told me. He recommended the University of Washington. I moved to the Seattle area to use the library. Now, with Wikipedia, I could just as well live in a miniture town in Idaho. (But I do love it here.)



Who are the Albin and the Jouster books for?


They are intended for whoever is interested, mainly teens and adults. But a special concern for people challenged to read English has me keeping the words and sentences, simple. That allows English language learners and people who cannot read as they used to, to get in on the fun. 









Print Print | Sitemap
© Lila Rhodes

This website was created using 1&1 MyWebsite.