It's Nathan's birthday and we've been in Warwick all day. We were going to make one of our bi-annual pilgrimages to Avebury to soak up a bit of prehistoric energy, but we decided instead to go to Warwick, which is half way between where Nathan's Mum lives and London. The good folk of Warwick also voted to stay in Europe, so I felt they deserved our tourist pennies!
We took Abbie with us and met my Mum and Dad and Nathan's Mum and Ron there.
The day started at the Saxon Mill at Guy's Cliffe, which is on the outskirts of the town. It's a stunning little country pub with its own water wheel, and it has deep significance for my family. My aunt had her wedding reception there, well over fifty years ago, and my Mum used to walk there across the fields from Leamington when she was a young child. She announced today that she'd done a great deal of courting there... Not with my father I should add! She described a rather horrific-sounding scene where she and a previous beau freed fish in the lake behind the mill from the clutches of a parasite of some description by squeezing the worms out of them. The image I've had in my mind ever since is probably a great deal worse than the reality, but squeezing worms out of fish is close to my idea of hell!
We had lunch on the terrace over-looking the lake. The vegetarian selection was stunning. (The fish story came after we'd eaten thankfully!)
We went for a short walk after lunch across a wooden bridge and into the fields behind the Mill, where there's a stunning view of the romantic ruins of Guys Cliffe House, which used to excite me so much as a teenager. We read today that you can book a tour of the building, which is considered one of the most haunted in Britain, so Abbie and I have vowed to return one Autumnal day. Preferably when the mists are swirling.
The last time I came to the spot was when I was 18. It was Christmas time and the fields were covered in a thick frost. I was wearing a floppy cloth cap and a big brown coat. I had just become obsessed with Marlowe's Edward II, and we'd come to Guy's Cliffe to find the spot where the king's lover, Piers Gaveston, was murdered. There's a very strange, somewhat inaccessible statue with a sternly-worded plaque on it, in the middle of a nearby wood which marks the bloody spot. My Uncle John told me where it was. There are all sorts of pictures of me sitting by the monument looking grave and bohemian, a huge green woollen scarf thrown around my neck.
We went from Guy's Cliffe to Warwick, which my parents warned us wasn't that interesting a place. It's charming, but, if you're not visiting the castle, I sort of understand what they meant. We drifted around a few antique shops, searching for one of those porcelain chickens that people store eggs in. It's something Abbie has apparently always wanted for her kitchen. We didn't find one, but my Mum bought herself a Muffin The Mule puppet which is something she'd always wanted. Tick!
We met up with Brother Edward and Sascha's Eurovision wives, Fiona and Sylvia, who found out we were in Warwick and travelled to us from Coventry and Kenilworth where they live. It was SO lovely to see them. We sat outside a Weatherspoon's in the town square listening to the somewhat eerie sound of a carrillon of church bells bouncing off a building and giving the aural illusion of the church from whence they came being situated in a completely different part of the city.
We probably should have sat inside the pub, but left against our better judgement. It was cold and wet outside. We stuck it for as long as we could, but were finally forced to go back in with our tails between our legs. I don't think the people who'd stayed inside were particularly thrilled to see us. It looked like we'd left them with quite a mess to tidy up.
We talked about meteorology and the First World War. We regaled Fiona and Sylvia with stories of our recent trip to France and the subject got on to Thankful Villages, those forty or so villages in the UK whose residents didn't suffer any casualties in the First World War. To think there were only forty such places in the entire country is really very shocking. I googled a list of them and noticed that one, Woodend, was in Northamptonshire, not a million miles from the route we were due to take home. So we jumped in the car and took ourselves there!
It wasn't the best idea I've ever had! The countryside surrounding the village was pleasant enough. The West of Northamptonshire has always been considerably more beautiful than the Eastern side where I grew up. I don't know what I was exactly expecting at Woodend. I know some Thankful Villages have plaques and things, but this place had nothing. We couldn't even find a church. Just a few houses and a number of sleepy residents walking dogs.
It did mean we got to eat our tea in Towcester. We went to an Indian Restaurant. It was that or fish and chips. The area has gone up in the world since I was last there, but its cuisine has festered in the 1990s! We were hoping to meet my old mate Tash but we probably should have given her more than five minutes' notice!
We came back via a traffic jam on the M1. I always come back via a traffic jam on the M1!