Wednesday, 12 August 2015

July 2015 -

The month opened with my getting rid of the last of my 1/12ths by giving them to a splendid lady who is organising a terrific Dolls House show, locally.  She did her first one last year and, being a glutton for punishment, is doing it again.  I so admire the energy and enthusiam of some people for the things they enjoy.  She also organises a local club which meets once a month.  I am lucky if I can just crank myself up to actually doing something on my minis instead of just thinking about it.  I seem to be doing a lot of the latter lately and not all good.

So we toddled along into the month with friends and meals and bits of gardening and miniing until the 11th rolled round and we nipped off to Chatton for a week, in part to meet up with my daughter and husband.  

Chatton is near Alnwick in Northumberland and is a neck of the woods that we have been to before but like it enough to go back.  This is a huge recommendation from me as I am famed for my 'been there, done that' attitude.  I like to think of it as a virtue and describe it as a low boredom threshold.

I am also a twerp and have now just discovered I didn't take a photo of our splendid little cottage - actually not so little.  Small from the outside but a veritable Tardis when you went in.  

Never mind, I do have a photo of the place next door.  

The Percy Arms Hotel

The Percy Arms Hotel has a good food reputation and, on Sunday, we decided to give it a shot.  We had the most bizarre experience ever.  

We later discovered most people enter through a side door from the car park and when you do that the place possibly makes more sense.  Silly us, walking all the way from next door, we went in through the main door at the front of the hotel.  We landed in a mini lobby with a choice of three doors - feeling like Alice in Wonderland we opted for the one which said Dining Room - rather than the one signed for Ladies Toilet (!) and another which I think said Private....   We entered a small but perfectly formed dining room all beautifully laid up but totally empty.  A member of staff appeared from (probably) the kitchen and I said, "Is the restaurant open?"  Yes, she says and proceeds to head off back through the hall and through the Ladies door so we duly followed her ......  into a bar where we were then abandoned.  Three servers, three muddled conversations, such as "Do you want to eat?" and three tables later we were finally seated.

Two more servers and more muddled conversations followed just trying to order some food.  There was nothing suitable for our gluten free member on the menu (Sunday lunch), they had mashed potatoes and they didn't have mashed potatoes.... eventually we asked for an alternative menu - only to be told that couldn't be done because "chef is in today".  Yes, chef being in means you get a choice of three things, the inference being if he wasn't in (???) you could have more.

Things went downhill from there and we left.

Ken and I braved it again later in the week at which point it transpired we had been sitting in the bar which had a limited selection on Sunday and the restaurant was a whole other large room somewhere else.  The empty dining room we first went in is apparently for hotel guests' breakfasts.

Don't ya just love British service.  How any foreign tourist ever returns, having visited once, I have no idea.

The post script is Ken and I had a perfectly normal lunch, served in a perfectly normal way and the food was delicious.

S & S came to visit for a couple of days, so we did a bit of a drive here and there and found the nearest 'home-made' decent ice cream place - which is an absolute when we are together.

Ken and I spent the rest of the week driving around more than actually disembarking and visiting any where.  It appears you can't park in Northumberland in August.  Every beach was just heaving with people and traffic and full car parks. Indeed the day we ate at the Percy Arms we had been to Low Newton, Caister and Seahouses - all of which we gave up on, hence our early return to our little home in time for lunch.

Mid-week we bobbed over to visit S & S in Edinburgh which was nice - lovely to see them at home and we had a delightful day with my daughter (and a garden centre) and we stayed on to spend a couple of hours with her other half when he got home.  It was an hour and a half's drive from them to Chatton, but a very pleasant one on a summer evening.

The following day we visited Wallington.  A house we have been to a couple of times before but it offers the very best of gardens not to mention a room filled with dolls houses.  What more could I want.

the most beautiful hall

tiny part of the truly unique walled garden

a not-too big house

The doll's house collection is eighteen houses, with a huge centre piece house - the Hammond house which has 36 rooms, 1,500 pieces of furniture and 77 figures.  I had enough to go at for a while.

on end wing of the Hammond house on the right

The following day we visited Bamburgh castle....  mmmmm.... there was something a bit Hearst Castle about it.  It is another nineteenth century rich man's grand folly.  

It is odd to think it has incredibly expensive apartments in it - I know Miriam Stoppard had an apartment there.  I rest my case.  

I think you can also just stay there and then, amongst all that, is the endless stream of day trippers.  As to the place itself it is decidedly an over-egged pudding and, of course, you are not really seeing what you are led to believe you are seeing.  There is little or nothing 11th, 12th (etc) century - you are merely walking through a Victorian creation of someone's 'dream'.

The current Armstrong owner lives on a nearby farm.  Sensible man.

Having said that there is no denying it dominates the landscape in a dramatic way.  Try and get planning permission for that today!

How do we get to that empty beach?  Why is it empty?

a carpenter's rendition of the castle

The following day we returned to Bury stopping in at Houghton Hall on our way home for lunch and for me to 'do' the Dolls House Emporium is no more.  Hey ho, lunch was fine!

The rest of the month did its usual thing and took us off into August.