Don’t worry, madame, dead birds don’t fly

Sixteenth century life laced with lots of modern conveniences seems to be agreeing with us here within the gates of Kitford Mead. The doves delight with their flight from roof to food to daily bath. The dogs’ routines keep all of us busy, though they do tend to bark more than we do. Our attire is more suitable for wearing about the estate than pretending to be Cromwell.

Our first week in Kent took us to two nearby historic sites

For those still wondering how the muckspreading went
Thomas Cromwell

Our first week in Kent took us to two nearby historic sites — first to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, just five minutes away and second to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s estate 15 miles north.

Hever is a small castle dating to the 13th century that had fallen on hard times until being rescued in the early 1900s by William Waldorf Astor. Reportedly, he spent $10 million restoring the castle, furnishing it in grand style. And adding a second moat (one can never have too many moats) and developing extensive gardens. A grand Italian garden became the home for his spectacular collection of ancient Roman statuary.

The Boleyn family (original spelling Bullen, but given a pretentious French touch at one point, maybe when Anne was sent to France for a proper court behavior course that lasted six years) owned the place for more than a hundred years. This included the years Anne’s sister was Henry VIII’s mistress, when Henry was courting Anne, when Elizabeth I was born, when Anne was accused of adultery and beheaded. Not that much of this is mentioned on the tour, but we did see Henry’s bed.  And portraits of him and Anne and others in the family. We wondered how her beheading was handled with her young daughter. Tour guide’s response was, “Don’t know.”

Oh so many books. Everywhere, books.

For those still wondering how the muckspreading went
Deedie and David At Chartwell

Chartwell was a wonderful surprise. The brick house is enormous — less a house than perhaps a mansion — and the grounds and views of the countryside stunning. Oh so many books. Everywhere, books. Many of Churchill’s 805 paintings grace the walls, along with a Manet, various portraits of Clementine and the children. Information and artifacts from his lengthy political and writing careers are scattered about, as are his many uniforms, all of which he loved to wear, apparently. Included is a 1940 handwritten letter from FDR to Churchill that was hand delivered by Henry Wilkie, FDR’s Republican opponent that year. Wouldn’t happen now.

We were reminded that Churchill rivals Shakespeare in contributions to the English language; the citation for his Nobel Prize talks about him “mobilizing the English language” for the greater good.

Two favorite statements are blown up

Two favorite statements are blown up:
“In politics, when you are in doubt what to do, do nothing. In politics when you are in doubt what to say, say what you really think.”

“Never give in, never give in, never, never ,never, never … never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Ted Beason’s very proper mother-in-law

The story David was told about Churchill a number of years ago by Ted Beason’s very proper mother-in-law was not referenced during the tour but is included in a book of his quotes sold at the shop on site. She reported that when Churchill was about to stand up at Fulton College in Missouri to make his famous “Iron Curtain” speech, the woman sitting next to him on the stage leaned over to tell him that his fly was open. He responded, “Don’t worry, madame, dead birds don’t fly.”

For those still wondering how the muckspreading went
“Don’t worry, madame, dead birds don’t fly.”

Our drama this week occurred on our return from Chartwell. The key (4.5 inches long) to the front door would not turn. The back door was bolted shut with an iron bar and a side door had not been opened in many years and no key for it was found. All the windows were locked. A call to the police for help led to a recommendation that a locksmith be called. We found one, with the help of the internet. Fifty minutes went by before Peter in a blue van called to say he was lost. In fact he was just around the corner. His effort to get the key to work also failed and his inspection concurred with ours about other options, notably not drilling through the wooden doors that might be original to this nearly 500 year old house.

The saw was used to cut through the door lock

But he was resourceful and had the right tools, including a long bar to slide up and open a clasp on a leaded glass window, a metal saw to cut through an iron bar and the dexterity and size to leap through the smallish window space. The saw was used to cut through the door lock. Off he went to get a replacement mechanism.

Poppy, Mimi and Busby welcomed us enthusiastically, as eager to get out to take care of their important dog business and then have their afternoon meal, as we were to get in.

The adventures of house sitting so far have included two flat tires, an electrical failure in the kitchen, mysterious nighttime noises that set the dogs to barking and the failed front door lock. One night the fire alarm went off. We were called to alert us fire brigade was on its way. We said no fire here. They came anyway. It was a short night. Firemen were polite, though. What’s next? Stay tuned as the Runkels have another three weeks on the job as Trusted House-sitters.

Full pub report to come.

For those still wondering how the muckspreading went,

For those still wondering how the muckspreading went, here’s what we found out: Pub regulars brought their prized items grown in garden from seeds, or seed potatoes, that were distributed in the spring. Each was judged by size, color, good looks. The winning red potato was enormous, weighing in at 13 plus; second place was a little over 6. The winning gardener admitted to administering a lot of fertilizer. Later on after a few pints, an auction was held for those interested in taking home the harvest.