Monday, May 07, 2007

The Loveliest Castle In the World (TM)

Ooh look, yet another castle! 90% of Leeds Castle. Forgive lack of panoramic lens.

During last week, Narelle and I went to Leeds Castle with very few expectations of what would actually be there. Leeds Castle bills itself as "The Loveliest Castle in the World" which is really a very big call. While I will grant that it has a moat which looks like a glamorous water feature, and while it is otherwise very handsome indeed, I think they may be overstating their case a little. I will get back to you when I have seen the several thousand other castles in the world. I will however acknowledge that their library is fairly swish.

Plus, unlike Kenwood House, the books are real

The castle is on giant grounds, mostly parkland/minor gardens and scads of water features, as the previous owner, Lady Baillie, who was something of a style maven, had a bit of a bird fetish going on. She was in fact the first person to import black swans from Australia, and I got to make squeeing noises when I saw them. THE SWANS OF MY HOMELAND! Sure, they are a little crossbred and have white patches under their wings, and one we saw was definitely seducing a white swan, but still. Proper swans!

Lady Baillie was the granddaughter of one of the richest American industrialists of the day; so rich, in fact, that his grandchildren were still buying fixer-upper castles with the proceeds decades later (don't you just hate it when the previous owners don't do any maintenance work for several centuries?) and then spending squillions on repairing them, as well as on importing exotic birdlife for no apparent reason. And that's squillions of pounds.

Apart from the swans, the other plus side of the bird fetish was falconry. Again, we had no real idea what a falconry display would involve, but I sort of thought it would be along the lines of "this is a falcon, isn't it pretty?"

But actually it was more like this:

This is Bailey, some kind of owl or other, performing tricks for food. He later swooped to command over some schoolchildren. Very funny, and a very beautiful animal. There was also a peregrine falcon showing off mad skillz including catching a lure in midair, and some kind of hawk which was supposed to drop onto a lure "rabbit" being pulled along the grass, but he misjudged the drop and ended up landing behind it and waddling after it on his chickeny legs. FUNNY! Possibly on purpose.

And there were peacocks. And then we had dinner at our new favourite Mexican place. Behold the Rare Sirloin Taco of Grant:

And that is all for Tuesday.

On Friday Narelle and I went to the Spitalfields market, and really I think it's best left for Sundays as there wasn't a lot there. Some interesting things though. Brick Lane was quite dead but I did get enough Indian street food for lunch for just over a quid. BARGAIN!

My study group on Friday afternoon went really well. Everyone seems quite enthusiastic and most had done some preparation work, some quite a lot. I think it will work out for everyone.

Narelle and Rohan left at the weekend and so we had a very quiet one for the first time in ages. It has been really great to have friends around but it didn't suck to just laze about, either! Only now we've tragically run out of bad American telly to watch.

Thesis words added: 1500, all on bits I didn't *want* to add. Beginning to feel like the character from Chabon's "Wonder Boys" - "I can't stop."
Steps: 85,000.
Housework loathed: I haven't cleaned the floors or the bath/sink for TWO WEEKS. The shame.


Anonymous said...

I like the photos in amongst the words.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you know, but Leeds Castle starred in the Doctor Who story The Androids of Tara from the exciting year of 1978. Another piece of Doctor Who trivia - a rather silly book by two rather silly Americans from the 1980s that was about how to tour Britain to spot Doctor Who locations recommended that discerning fans ought to catch a train to Leeds to check out the castle. Ahem.

inertia said...

for once I know who has posted the anonymous comment!