. . . . . . or Kenilworth Castle and the Right-handed Camera
As soon as we drew up to Kenilworth Castle After we drove around the town of Kenilworth for 15 minutes looking for somewhere to park our Chevy unsuitable-for-tiny-villages truck, I leapt stumbled out of the passenger seat and grabbed my camera to fight with the zip to release it from its case. The parapets of Kenilworth Castle stood out in stark relief to the azure blue sky of a perfect English summer day.
Tiny specks of tourists wandered the parapets putting into perspective the enormity of the castle. If I was quick I could capture the scene. I managed to flick the lens cap off – it dangled on its safety cord – and held my camera clumsily in my left hand. I held it up to my face but daren’t even switch it on for fear of dropping it. Himself draped the neck cord over me and my hastily donned, stupid-looking Dora the Explorer hat and I tried again.
With no fear of dropping the camera I might have been able to awkwardly press the shutter button but the framing was wrong and I couldn’t possibly pull on the zoom lever. I let the camera drop on its cord, whipped my dumb hat off in disgust and himself pulled the camera off over my head. I could have asked him to be my cameraman for the day but I was so annoyed with the whole ordeal I thrust the disgraced and useless piece of equipment back in the truck.
A right-handed camera. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. I had taken for granted that it fit neatly tucked in my right 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers leaving my index finger free for the zoom lever and my thumb for the shutter. It was a perfect fit in my right hand and clearly unusable in my left hand.
If you’ve just happened on my blog and haven’t heard me whining before, my right arm is in plaster.
On a lighter note, I was free (as free as you can be with your arm in sling) to enjoy the delights of Kenilworth Castle and its Elizabethan gardens without the pressure of recording each scene at every step.
The following information comes compliments of a mature PhD student who was holding court with a history teacher and her family at the next table in the tea room. Naturally I eavesdropped. After a quick restorative nap I committed as much as I could remember to print.
He let us them know that much of the information was not available on the internet. You would need to go to the Tower of London and read and copy out documents by hand as he had done as you cannot borrow or photocopy any of these ancient documents. He also let us them know that this was privileged information that would be divulged in his dissertation. Am I about to reveal . . . ?
According to Mr. Not-Quite-Doctor, Kenilworth Castle is mentioned in the Domesday Book – a survey of much of England and parts of Wales ordered by William the Conqueror and completed in 1086.
Kenilworth Castle was the most powerful castle in the land, much more so than its neighbour Warwick Castle, at one point housing 6000 troops as compared to the 2000 troops at Warwick.
Killing pits with weight sensitive trap doors were used at entry points. Attacking troops would fall in and be at the mercy of the castle troops. Lime mixed with water was a form of torture that would cause eyeballs to burst and fatal burns. It was a political stronghold.
I knew of Warwick Castle but had never heard of Kenilworth Castle until I picked it off the road atlas map as being the nearest garden to our campsite near Coventry. You revolutionaries in the US may not have heard of either castle.
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, turned the medieval castle into a fortress late in the 14th c. He was one of the most powerful men of his time owning 30 castles and land in virtually every county in England. His legitimate heirs included Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI.
Rulers were always wary of castles as they were seats of power so according to Mr. NQD the very first Act of Parliament was to destroy Kenilworth Castle as it was a threat to the seat of government.
Part of Kenilworth Castle was destroyed by Parliamentary forces in 1649 but I can’t substantiate this as a first act of parliament and that is way past John of G’s time. In fact, the dates are completely wrong. Is this one of Mr. NQD’s secret facts or did I zone out after a dose of sunshine? If he’d known I was listening he’d have kept his voice down. If I hadn’t had a tantrum over my frustrating (albeit temporary, yes I know that) disability I would have had my phone with me and could have recorded him verbatim and could wow you with many more fascinating facts.
I have padded this post out with some Google images but none of them are as perfect as the pictures that are in my mind’s eye: the jutting ruin and every space within filled with families picnicking, children frolicking, couples courting, teens bounding, all on the green, green grass under the blue, blue sky. The fact that it was at odds with the gory, impromptu history lesson made the present day scene even more delightful. It was a lost photo opportunity. I just hate that.
Do you have any missed photo opportunities that play on your mind still?
Do you have a right-handed camera? Is there such a thing as a left-handed camera?
Oh dear readers, are you sick and tired of hearing how we get it so badly wrong every time we travel or are you smugly pleased that it’s not you, that you’re not in this script?
‘It’s not here.’
‘It must be. Have we looked down here?’
‘Is it that one?’
‘Is it that one?’
’Did you check the number plate?’
‘Maybe it’s in the workshop.’
‘Of course it’s not!’
‘Where is it then?’
‘It’s been stolen! Bl***y h***! It didn’t have any security fitted. The insurance won’t be valid.’
‘Surely the site has security and insurance,’ but I was talking to thin air as himself had gone looking for a third time in the same place hoping our new caravan/travel trailer/RV would magically appear.
I beetled off in the opposite direction to the storage facility office. Himself overtook me and burst through the doors.
I was reminded of the time our VW Golf disappeared overnight from its parking place in the little hill town of Vejer de la Frontera in Spain. The police had picked it up and plunked in down in a car park a 10 minute walk away. We were told the town council wanted to plant a palm tree where it had stood or were they playing a joke on los Inglés?
Meanwhile . . . . ‘I can’t find it!’ himself blurted out to a startled-looking receptionist who didn’t know who he was or what he was talking about.
A competent-looking woman with a clipboard stepped out of the office and stated calmly, ‘I’ll just see if it’s where I think it should be.’
She vanished out a side door and we stood dumbly uncertain for a moment then raced after her back to where we’d been looking. And there it was – all twenty-six feet of it. We must have walked and driven past it six times.
‘It wasn’t there five minutes ago,’ I said blithely to her. As her worry lines creased into a smile I realized that she’d been concerned too.
And that was just the start of the day.
We couldn’t get the hitch to engage or the jockey wheel to disengage. I would explain what that means but you’d glaze over and go find something interesting to read. Suffice it to say that a five minute job took an hour.
The journey was OK-ish but I was increasingly hating sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle. In our big American left-hand drive truck on roads originally for a right-hand drive horse and cart my driver was in the hedge and I was sat in the middle of the road. Every time the central cat’s eyes dunk, dunk, dunked under the truck wheels when the road narrowed I knew the caravan was encroaching at least a foot into the oncoming traffic – not funny on a blind bend. I got dizzy from holding my breath and my back is permanently kinked from leaning to the left to avoid imminent impact.
We made it to within five miles of our campsite and got lost. Himself stopped to read a sign that stated “Vehicles over 45 feet prohibited.” We are 45 feet, four inches. How do you turn a 45 foot four inch rig around on a single track road? You don’t. You swear loudly and repeatedly and carry on.
Looking for somewhere to just pull off the road and hyperventilate a bit we found ourselves parked outside a country post office – ideal for asking directions you’d think. They were lengthy, complicated and wrong and included a single-track humpback bridge with an S-bend. I closed my eyes and hoped not to hear a screeeech on the flint stone walls as we snaked through it.
There was, of course, no signal on our phones or the SatNav.
I’m not sure how we eventually found our way but we were leading a long parade when we turned off the road to the campsite six hours after leaving home for a 70 mile journey that became 95 miles – some of that excess in reverse.
Arriving tetchy, prickly, jittery, hungry, thirsty, weary and crabby we could have given the Seven Dwarves a run for their money. Attempting to set up on site we couldn’t get anything to work – electricity, gas, water, leveling, heating, fridge, cooker.
We blamed the dealer, the caravan, the campsite, the locals, the whole of the county of Norfolk and their roads and naturally each other for our woes but all the issues were simply down to our diminished mental capacities. I’m sure you could think of another word for it.
Though now washed, rested, warm, fed and as calm as I’ll ever be I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.
It was actually four weeks ago that we went but I couldn’t replace go with went and make it rhyme.
On the verge of giving up on my French lessons, I remarked to himself before the trip, ‘I’m hopeless at French, I can’t remember anything. What’s the point of learning if you can’t remember?’
I’m the dummy in my ill-advised advanced class who tries to keep a low profile and goes home to look up the same words and phrases over and over again, then crams for the next week and writes little cheat notes I hide in my notebook. I was going to give my brain one last chance to redeem itself on a five day trip to the French coast, not far from where the train spits us out in our car.
I got on surprisingly well at hotel check-in leaving himself dumbfounded as I spoke in secret code with the receptionist.
‘I’ve got the key, the lift is over there and we’re on the third floor, room 307,’ and I strode off self-importantly. I gained confidence with each shop and restaurant encounter, even responding in French when I was spoken to in English.
My only disappointment was at tourist information where I asked about local walks speaking politely in French. The assistant threw a stream of unintelligible gobble-de-gook at me even after I asked her – in French – to speak more slowly. I grabbed the map she’d been jabbing at for reasons only known to her and left, bemused at her insensitivity working as she was at a seaside holiday resort close to the tunnel and ferry port of Calais, one of England’s main entries to France.
Perhaps she just doesn’t care for les anglais. Not that I’m English but she wouldn’t know that as we didn’t chit-chat and exchange pleasantries. I wasn’t able to tell her that my father had served in the American Army, landed at Normandy, fought for and was wounded for her country and she had better buck her ideas up.
On the lookout for stamps on our last day I popped into a likely looking shop and asked. Himself stood by as I showed off my language skills. When we stepped out onto the street he said, ‘She said to go to the tabac. It’s just down here on the right,’ and he pointed it out to me. Hmm.
The tabac was only able to supply stamps for Europe but I was directed to the post office for stamps for the U.S. Feeling pleased with my French conversation I stopped to browse some English language newspapers for a bit of light relief before leaving the shop. Himself looked up from The Times and said, ‘She told you to go to La Poste, back to the church and turn right.’
Well! He dredged that up from two years of schoolboy French *! years ago!
I wasn’t feeling so clever then so went for a little nap on the promenade. Can you see me? Look closely:
Any of these take your fancy? There wouldn’t be any garden maintenance. I wonder what the neighbours are like? The accommodation might be a bit small. Good view of the North Sea though. Nice beach just a few steps away. It could be our only opportunity for a seaside “villa!”
Yes, I’ve posted similar pictures before. I’m rather smitten with beach huts.
I had thought they were a quintessentially British “quirk” – somewhere to cower and make a cup of tea on your camping stove when the weather is foul – but I’ve discovered them in other countries as well. Have you seen any?