Skip to main content

On a duke, a queen and a VERY big house

After the impossible perfection that was four days in San Sebastian (with a side of Bilbao), I knew it would be pointless to return to the UK looking to recreate my Spanish mini break. Summer in London had been dismissed without so much as a cup of Earl Grey and a Hobnob, and I had more of a chance of marrying Harry (even with MM in the picture) than getting a glass of white wine for £1.80. Not to mention that my days were more back-to-work than back-to-the-beach.

But don’t cry for me, Argentina.

I was saved from the literal and metaphorical ‘couch of woe’, where dreams of pintxos and txakoli and Gerald’s danced in my head, by a duke, a queen and a right big house.

The day was September’s first Sunday and as I forgot to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day (while actually talking to him on the phone and hearing him describe the gift my sister had bought him), I boarded a train to the exotic locale of Brentford, headed into the unknown wonders of a place called Syon House.

As far as imposing English estates go, Syon holds its own. Many parts of the ‘home’ stopped me, and my breath, in their tracks. And while I don’t consider myself tall by any means, nothing can make you feel absolutely tiny than a room filled with marble statues and the art of wealth.
Marble-y

The long gallery – a mimic to that seen in Versailles – paved with leather-bound volumes made me want to move in, and spotting a copy of Town and Country in one of the many, many rooms, made me giggle in awe and jealousy that I was not the one to perch upon an irreplaceable and uncomfortable-looking chair and flip through the magazine at my leisure.
 
I'll take this room, thanks
Because all good estates should have their own mag collection

If, like me, you (*sob*) don’t move in such circles, you may be unfamiliar with the fact that Syon House is owned by the Duke of Northumberland and has quite the lineage of ownership. Not only that, Syon’s visitors are walking history pages. For there I was, in my jeans and wet weather gear (because it was three days after summer and so of course it was raining), standing on the threshold that led to a room in which the future Queen of England stayed. Yes, Princess Victoria often visited her governess, Duchess Charlotte Florentia, at Syon House (that copy of Town and Country was totes probably hers LOLZ).
Vicky's room
But the beauty of Syon is that it doesn’t just capture the imagination of the recent past. Oh, no. For the most interesting, head-spinning part of my visit happened down in the crypt, as is want to happen with all good I-visited-a-duke-owned-English-estate-on-a-Sunday-after-a-trip-to-Spain blog posts.

Syon had ties with, among other English monarchs, King Henry VIII. Fascinating enough. But it was seeing the name ‘Catherine Howard’ that stopped me in my tracks. Catherine Howard, the seventeen-year-old queen to Henry’s forty-nine-year-old-king. Catherine Howard, who was executed a year later for adultery. Catherine Howard, who saw out the last months of her life at Syon.

I just… Wow.

The dark, tragic, winding paths of a country’s history was not what I had expected to find among the opulence and marble of Syon House on a colder-than-necessary September morning. But I did. As I read about the history that lay beneath my feet, that echoed around the rooms within which I stood, I couldn’t help but be a bit glad I was back in the UK. It might not have been a Spanish beach, or a bar that made my heart beat for home, or even a glass of good, cheap wine, but it was enough. Not perfect, but… enough.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On accidentally becoming a cat person

Building a new life in a new city can throw challenges at you both big and small. Most challenges are to be expected; learning a new public transport system, setting up a bank account, finding the local pub, getting a job, making friends. Some are not; Brexit, realising your old winter clothes are a laughing stock when compared to ACTUAL winter clothes, Brexit, knowing your phone calls home will always mean one side of the conversation is just waking up while the other is on its way to being drunk and never the two wavelengths shall meet, Brexit. What I hadn’t planned on were challenges that would fundamentally change who I was. And in that respect, there is one challenge needs addressing, and has needed addressing for some time. For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you will have noticed a certain someone who has crept into my Twitter feed and onto my ‘ currently reading ’ page. And for those of you who have spotted this certain someone, and also know me well, will surely be wonder

On learning a new skill

So how many new skills have you mastered during this Covid-19? Are you fluent in Latin? French? Turkish? Is your personal brand lighting up Twitter/Instagram/Facebook as you sell the wellness candles you cooked up in the kitchen after you created an online festival but before finishing a new dress made from scraps around the house you can wear when you next meet a friend for ‘exercise’ with a keep cup full of ‘coffee’? Spoiler, it has wine inside. Thought so. But guess what. It seems that if you haven’t managed to generally improve yourself, and a substantial number of people online, during this dire time of unprecedented crappness, then apparently you’re doing it wrong. (Bonus points if said improvement was expressed in a language other than that with which you were born). Having missed this chance at enlightenment earlier in the Covid-19 mayhem, this week I decided to give it a go. To change up lockdown life for the better. I vowed that no longer would I spend my

On the privilege of seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (no spoilers, promise!)

Beloved characters from books, films and television shows are often sacred ground for us fans. We have journeyed with them, taken them into our hearts and think about them when our real lives are being a little less than spectacular. And so, when these characters are revisited for what sometimes feels like a money grab, and what sometimes is (I’m sure) a form of closure for the creatives, we wait with the duelling emotions of hope and fear, wondering if those in charge are about to wreck everything. Most often than not, they do wreck things, a lot (Mitch Hurwitz and your Arrested Development season 4 shambles, I’m looking at you!). While I always want more Bridget Jones, Mad About the Boy didn’t quite do it for me and I’m terrified about seeing Bridget Jones’s Baby for fear that watching it will forever ruin the first film and first two books for me. Similarly, I’m nervous about the upcoming Gilmore Girls episodes even though I’d give my right arm to go back to Stars Hollow. And maybe