Posts Tagged ‘house’

Introducing…. Mrs Massey

So the other day, I went to see the Vagina Monologues. When I went to pick up the tickets, they had the name Mrs Tracy Massey on them. I didn’t notice it at the time but it was pointed out to me later and I thought that this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. The opportunity to remodel myself as…

Mrs Tracy Massey

I could live a whole different life as, like, an MI5 double agent or something. I could live my Mrs Massey life whilst also being Laura. In the daytime, I could leave the house in my National Trust t-shirt all innocent, then when I get to the end of the road, I could put on my black ninja outfit, which makes me almost invisible and I could use my powers of secrecy and stealth to go to the river and swim underwater to the Houses of Parliament (on one breath), where I use the secret underwater entrance.

In the secret changing room, I change out of my ninja outfit and into a business woman power suit, where I go straight into a meeting about the state of the country’s security and discuss the imminent threat of the giant lizard people who disguise themselves as newborn babies but then become lizards and eat all the nurses. Some days I dress as a nurse and use my ninja powers of extreme intelligence to save people’s lives all day while also doing undercover work into the giant lizard people babies.

For lunch, I would eat gold leaf and caviar made by small dragonflies from the Fijian rainforest. Cause that seems like a thing that a Mrs Tracy Massey might do, do you think?

In the evening, I underwater swim back down the river, sneak to the end of the road, change back into my National Trust t-shirt and walk into the house, super casual and all like, “O hey, how’s it going? I’ve had such a lazy day today.”

So, um, yeh. I could do that. I could become Mrs Tracy Massey, right?

To the flyer dropper…

Dear Mr. Flyer Dropper,

There is something very serious I must discuss with you. I keep meaning to open the door as soon as I hear a flyer being pushed through and talk to you properly about it. But I’m usually too comfy on the sofa. And a little bit too lazy. I shall say it here, therefore, because I do not have to move from the sofa.

Mr. Flyer Dropper, are you stupid? Is that what this is about? You genuinely have no comprehension of what you are doing? You are stupid, in the academic sense of the word? You drop flyers because it is the only thing you can be trusted to do without breaking it?

For if you are not stupid, maybe you are one of those extremely clever people who has no connection to real life? A savant, perhaps? For a savant cannot be expected to take notice of such trivial matters.

Or maybe you don’t care? Maybe you don’t care because you are dropping flyers for a living and this is not what you intended for your life and so, as a fist-shake to the world, you do your job half-heartedly, to show everyone that you are too good for it.

Well, it doesn’t tell me that. You want to know what it tells me? It tells me that if you can’t carry out the most basic of tasks – dropping a flyer through a letterbox – you probably won’t go far in life. And you’re pissing me right off while you’re at it.

Why, Mr. Flyer Dropper? Why do you do this?
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I mean, it’s more out than in. I’m surprised it didn’t fall back out of it’s own accord.

Let’s get a close up.
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Ridiculous!

And from the front.
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Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Now, I don’t expect you to know anything about my house but I shall just tell you anyway, as an FYI for next time.

My house is little and old. It is beautiful and compact and I love it very much. Due to its oldness, it doesn’t have any central heating. It also has huge single-glazed sash windows. And no carpets downstairs, just floorboards. And the only heat source in the house is a gas fire in the front room. This means that when the weather is cold, my little house is freezing.

Cold drafts blow up from in between the floorboards and the outside toilet is abandoned for the winter, in favour of the slightly less cold upstairs toilet. Any trip away from the front room fire and into the frozen wilderness beyond is made with great haste.

Therefore, Mr. Flyer Dropper, when you decide, every single day, to pop by my front door, push the corner of some silly leaflet about a pizza delivery place near by (what an insult to my kitchen, pizza delivery?!) which then wedges the letterbox open, you have allowed a significant cold breeze to enter my little already-cold home. I have felt this letterbox breeze as far down the hallway as the kitchen.

Yes, young man, I kid you not. You have made my house that little bit colder. It’s already very bloody cold! You don’t need to make it colder.

What is wrong with you? Just push the bloody leaflet all the way through the door! It’s not that much effort. You’re already standing at the door and have opened the letterbox, just keep pushing that leaflet, goddamnyou! Don’t be so stupid.

Yours faithfully,
Grumpy Laura

P.S. I’m actually ok with the cold. As mentioned before, I was built like an eskimo, but it’s the principle of the thing, ok?!

Show me the Old Stuff

“Wow, is this the original table that was here in the chapel in 1330?” I asked the room guide in the Old Chapel at Ightham Mote.

“It is definitely of that period. You can see it was quite stylish for the time because….”

“Yeh, but is it the actual real table from 1330? From here?”

“Well, it has been acquired by the Trust to replicate what would have been here but it’s not the original from this room, no.”

“Ah.”

And I wandered off, looking for some actual old stuff. I found one of the sitting rooms and a lovely little fireplace.

“Is this an original fireplace?” I asked the room guide, all excited.

“Yes, it was built in the Victorian times.”

Pfft! Victorian times! Whatevs. I need medieval or nothing.

When I reached the kitchen, I found out the sink had been built in 1330 and I just stood looking at it going, “O wow. What an old sink.” I wanted to get my Indiana Jones on and start having an archeological adventure but the truth is, I’m not equipped with the historical knowledge to really draw any fascinating conclusions about the development of sink building by looking at the sink.

Actually, after about 30 seconds of going, “O, wow,” the people I was with had moved into the next room so I just walked off.

There is the same thing when I am demonstrating in the Ham House kitchen. People always ask which bits are the oldest. Once they’ve looked at the table, I tell them that the mantelpiece thing over the range is original.

They go up to it – it’s a peice of painted wood on the wall – and they look at it really closely and they go “O wow.” Then they walk off.

I could understand it if I was going to do a bit of dendochronology and start dating the origins of the room by looking at the wood. But once my insatiable need to see The Old Stuff has been met by something old, I just go, “O wow, it’s so old,” then walk off.

What is this Old Stuff obsession about? Is it a bit of one-up-manship?

“I’ve totally seen older stuff than you. I saw a kitchen sink built in 1325. Beat you!”

Of moats and medieval knights

On Friday, it was Away Day at Ham House. The great thing about working or volunteering with the National Trust is that Away Days are spent at other fabulous National Trust properties (none of them as good as Ham House, of course, but they’re still nice).

This year’s Away Day was to Ightham Mote in Kent (pronounced Item Moat).

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And yes, it is surrounded by a moat. This is the view of it from one of the windows in the house.

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It was built in, are you ready for this, 1325! Isn’t that mind-blowing? Almost 700 years old. It had lots more bits and pieces added over the next five centuries but the original buildings are from 1325.

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This kitchen is from original build, as is the Crypt…

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In one of the upstairs rooms, there is a glass panel in the ceiling so that you can see through to the original oak beam roofing.

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The house has been owned by medieval knights, sheriffs, MPs, generals, businessmen and many others. In one room, the wall on my right was built by Isolde Inge (they think) in 1330, the wall on my left was part of a later addition built by Sir Richard Clement in 1530 and the motifs on the window are someone else’s addition but they don’t know the exact year.

As opposed to the extreme grandeur of Ham House, this house was a place I could imagine myself sitting down in, perhaps reading a book, perhaps lingering by the warm fire in the billiard room. One of the rooms actually, the Oriel Room, has been made back into a sitting room so guests can have a little sit down part way around. (Ham House is still better though, our stuff is sparklier.)

The New Chapel at Ightham Mote is an interesting room, mainly for this fantastic ceiling, painted in situ in the early 16th century.

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Another interesting thing is the way over-the-top Jacobean fireplace in the Drawing Room, which they actually had to lift the ceiling in order to fit in. Anyone else might just make a smaller fireplace. But not the Selbys (whose ownership of the house spanned 300 years). They got hold of the ceiling and pushed it upwards, for the fireplace must be put in and it must be huge.

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We then saw some rooms furnished as its last owner had them. He was an American businessman from Portland, Maine and his ashes are in the Crypt. Interestingly, his relatives traced his ancestry back to medieval knights.

After wandering out of the house, we saw these buildings opposite.

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It turns out they were built in 1457 and are currently being let out as holiday cottages… New cool weekend away destination, maybe?

We then lunched (not after I snuck into the kitchen to chat to the chef for a bit!) and I had the difficult choice between joining a garden tour for my last 45 minutes or raiding the shop for cookery books.

Guess which one I chose?

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An open letter to the Rich And Famous

To The Rich And Famous,

This letter has been prompted by Jessie J’s song, ‘Wild.’ I heard it at the Chime For Change concert for the first time and I thought, “You know what Jessie J? Shut up. Just shut up.”

And why, all you Rich And Famous, would I think this? Well, forgive me for overreacting in this post-recession climate, but if I’m going to scrape together the £10 or so that it costs to buy your album or single or whatever (and rest assured, I’m not, but if I was) and I know I’ve splurged a bit and there’s a little bit of residual guilt lingering in my mind about the fact that I should have paid that off my overdraft/credit card/loan and then I get home and I put it on and I sit back and I get ready to listen to you, Jessie J, and enjoy the music…. And then you go, “I just can’t believe that this is my life… It feels so crazy when you scream my name…”

Translation: You all love me and now I’ve got an amazing life.

O, you’re welcome Jessie. You’re very very welcome. It’s nice to know that you’re having a nice time from all the pennies I scraped together to get your album. I guess I’ll just go back to my menial task job again in a few hours and try and earn some more money so I can buy even more of your records and listen to you tell me about how fab everything is for you.

Isn’t it just wonderful to be you? Wonderful. Thanks for reminding me.

And you, Fergie. You’re not much better. Glamorous?! What was that about? What a fucking insult. You wear “them gold and diamond rings” but you still go to “Taco Bell.” What a comfort to me. I’m glad you reminded me of that. You know where I go? The kitchen. My own fucking kitchen. Because if I ate out every night I’d be broke.

Imagine that, Fergie! Being broke! O wait, you can’t. Cause you’re so fucking loaded… And real. We mustn’t forget that! O god, you’re so real “no matter how many records you sell.” Well, thank god for that.

And, you remind us, before you were “flyin’ first class,” you just had “a Mustang.” That must’ve been tough, Fergie. I can’t even imagine how you’ve suffered, just having a Mustang. You must’ve been so fucking poor.

Guess what I have, Fergie? My feet. My own two little feet. And when I need to go somewhere, I use them. I’ve also got this way flashy thing called an Oyster card. You put money on it and you can go on public transport. You should totes get one…. O wait, excuse me, of course not. Public transport! For a Glamorous first class flying lady like you. Pffft! What am I thinking!?

But yeh, totally real. I totally dig your realness, Fergie.

And you over in the corner there, J.Lo. You have not escaped my rage. This song has stuck with me for years, way before I had worked out that you were talking utter tripe. Because you, “Jenny,” you are still “from the block.” And in my sadness or my money worries or the trivialities of my comparatively mundane life, paying rent etc, I have always found strength from the fact that you, Jenny, you understand me. You understand my worries and concerns, a bit like Jesus really. Because you are like me, J.Lo, and you, like Fergie, are “real” and you have stayed “grounded as the amounts roll in.”

I’m sorry? The “amounts roll in”? So you’re loaded? Fuck off. Just be rich and stop going on about it.

I’m glad you’re loaded. I’m glad your shoes are worth more than I earn in a year. I’m glad you have a diamond encrusted mobile phone cover. That’s all fab and great. And I like to see pictures of beautiful people singing or acting well. That’s nice. It keeps me entertained. It gives me ideas for my next hairdo. I don’t need to know so much about your private life, to be honest. A bit of glamour and mystery is a good thing, I feel. But to show I like you’re acting/singing etc, I may part with money to experience it. Not often. But sometimes. Maybe.

But, for fuck’s sake, do me a favour and don’t sing at me about how fucking rich you are and how amazing your life is. And how my pennies spent on a record have helped you buy yourself a million billion pound mansion castle thing.

Just. Don’t.

I don’t need to hear that nonsense. Just sing your songs about love and make them sound nice. That’s all I’m asking of you.

And now, Rich And Famous, I shall leave you with a version of J.Lo’s big hit, adapted by my friend Cilla, when we were 17 years old.

“Don’t be fooled by the rocks I haven’t got,
I’m still, I’m still, Cilla from the block.
Used to have a little, still only have a little,
No matter where I go, I’m still where I came from,
Don’t be fooled by the rocks I haven’t got,
I’m still, I’m still Cilla from the block.”

Let that be food for thought, all you Rich And Famous.

Sincerely, Laura (from the block)

Hilarious memories

After an evening of reminiscing about my gap year with a friend, I just had to share some of this nonsense with you. The highlights of the evening discussions were:

1. The time a friend flipped his car and was all stressed that the police would get him so ran off into the sand dunes. We had heard about it and been given a lift to where he was. We also ran off into the desert and were covering his white shirt with Lucy’s long skirt, to avoid him being seen by a helicopter….! When one has consumed much alcohol, this seems to make perfect sense, that in a place where there is no ambulance service, they would be sending a helicopter out in the night to catch a man who had flipped his car. He was quite shaken so in my 18 year old mind, I decided the best way to be supportive was to declare my love for him. (I didn’t love him at all. I’m not even sure what made me say it.)

2. The time Lucy and I got in a car with a total random who drove us to Cape Town and, right before the border, while stopped at a petrol station, both went to the toilet at the same time. We suddenly realised what we’d done and rushed outside. Thankfully he hadn’t driven off with our stuff.

3. The time our friend, Ramon, came over and we made up a story about a purple fairy who lived in the garden called Finesse, then went down to the tree and started calling out to her.

4. The time another of the gap year volunteers went off with some random guy after two days in Cape Town, then came back one day, told us his name was Rudolph and he’d asked her to marry him and she’d said yes! (She didn’t end up staying and marrying him, much to the annoyance of the other girl at her project, who had to deal with her for the next year.)

5. The time I tried to climb up on the ledge round the house to look in the bathroom window, where Lucy had locked herself and fallen asleep after a night out. My arms and legs couldn’t handle the exertion of the climb so I just let go and fell straight backwards on to the ground. I’m surprised I survived that fall, actually.

6. All the times we ate plates of rice and faux dumpling-things or the peanut butter sandwiches the kids used to make as part of their activities at school, cause we couldn’t afford anything else! A box of Frosties was BIG news in our house! We only bought those when we’d just been paid and were feeling really flash with our money.

W is for…

WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE?

…my constant request whilst in Pompeii earlier this week. I had seen a programme about Pompeii a few weeks before going and the historian lady, strolling around looking at things, stopped behind some of the now-famous plaster casts of Pompeian people who were found when excavating the town. She said something like “This is the first thing that greets you when you enter Pompeii.”

Well, thought I, this will be excellent. I shall see the actual people. I will see their faces and can imagine what their lives must have been like and imagine them in these grand homes.

I find it fascinating, imagining the people going about their daily lives. It suddenly makes history a really alive subject that I can connect with because I can start to imagine myself in the past and how different my life would have been from the one I am now leading.

So we entered Pompeii, my eyes scanned for the Pompeians lying on the ground….

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Eventually, walking into the Stabian Baths, we saw a few in glass boxes…

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…and it was so strange. On the TV programme, they had talked about pyroclastic flows and ash falling and four different flows of something, which had meant that people had died almost immediately. There was no long drawn-out choking to death or disease or anything. They had been caught unawares and had barely any time to try and escape. So when I looked at the man in the top case, I imagined him seeing the ash falling and lying down and covering his face and being immortalised that way, forever. How strange, that the smallest action has defined his life forever. Of all the other things he did in his life here at Pompeii, he is forever defined by covering his face from the approaching disaster.

We kept walking but it was a long time before we saw any more people, which had become my obsession at Pompeii, a little bit.

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Danda walking across the stones set high up in the road so people could still cross the road when it was raining.

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Me ‘working’ in the Pompeian version of a deli.

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Wall paintings

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Floor mosaics

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More people! The lady on the programme said that this position with the arms is typical of someone going into rigor mortis after a shock.

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This one is strange in a totally different way. His exposed skull and two thousand year old teeth poking out from the plaster made me feel odd, like I’d accidentally seen someone undressing.

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You can even see the shape of the belt he was wearing when Vesuvius decimated the town.

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We found some more people in an area which seemed to be blocked off for archaeologists to work in, although there were none there at the time. In between all the wine jars and other artefacts, there were some more people.

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The lady on the programme talked about how this person had probably crouched down and put their hands to their face to stop the ash going on it.

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This person, it seems, dived on the floor and hid their face.

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O and here’s one we found. Just in amongst the wine jugs on the shelf. Have you spotted him yet?

After looking at loads more buildings and reading in my little guidebook about what it used to be and who used to live there, we were back near the entrance, we had been there for five hours and were both knackered.

“But I didn’t see the people from the programme…” I said sadly.

Danda insisted we go and find them, even though I was tired and said it was ok. He reminded me that we don’t know if we’ll ever come back here so we mustn’t go home disappointed. So off we went, back into Pompeii, not much time to spare before closing, the tourists almost all gone, to find “the people.”

We trekked right back to the other end, near to the vineyards which, by the way, they have replanted and turned back into working vineyards (the wine produced there is called Villa dei Misteri) and eventually we found them! The people! The people lying on the floor! Hurrah!

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And it was so interesting. I was enthralled, standing up against the glass case imagining who’s children they were, which house had been theirs, whether they had worked in the vineyards, as that is where these 13 were found during excavations or whether they had lived close by and just run there together to shelter.

Eventually, time and daylight were running out so we made our way back to the entrance, having added an hour on for “the people” and left, among the last few.

What a brilliant brilliant day. Damn planes and trains and the history of the automobile, give me some real people’s faces and clothes and lives to look at and I’m planning my future as an archaeologist/historian.

That’s inbetween my full time job as a farmer, my part time job as the world’s best baker, my hobby as an internationally renowned pianist and my ongoing project as a human rights lawyer.

I can fit it all in, don’t you worry.