We have a lot of catching up to do: A visit to Blenheim Palace, drinking and eating in Leeds, walking the moors in Bronte country, hiking in the Peak District, tasting Bakewell tarts and returning to Oxford for a day punting on the Cherwell River.
The highlights of the past week were a hike along the Curbar Edge (in the Peak’s national park) and the punting (with the Carpenters’ son, Ben, doing the hard part, using a pole to push us along the river). The rest of it was just laughs with old friends, the excitement of some very close rugby games and excursions across some beautiful English countryside.
The only event that disappointed was a talk by Simon Schama at the Sheldonian Theatre here in Oxford. We had read an excerpt from Schama’s new book, “The Face of Britain: The Nation through its Portraits” and thought his appearance here in Oxford would serve two purposes: We would hear an interesting talk and we would see the inside of the Sheldonian. Mostly a waste of 20 pounds. The acoustics in the theatre, built in 1664 and designed by Christopher Wren, suck. Maybe Wren didn’t have a good audio engineer working with him. For one-eared John this was a total loss, Kathy thought she might have followed 70 percent of it and a woman we talked to on the street said she only got every other word: The . . .of . . .The . . .through . . . Portraits, or something like that.
The outside of the theatre is ornate, classic and one of the most interesting buildings in a city of interesting buildings. The inside is a theatre in the round with old, dark wood — nothing that comes near to matching the outside.
We had a lovely drive through the Cotswolds on the day before friends John and Trish went off to London. We stopped at nearby Blenheim Palace, built by John Churchill, later to become the Duke of Marlborough, who was awarded the estate by Queen Anne for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim, fought in 1704 in Bavaria and the key to keeping the nasty French and Spanish from joining forces to rule the world. A big step in advancing Britain’s effort to rule the world.
The Palace is also the birth place of another famous Churchill — Winston. Kathy and I got behind two tour buses entering the Palace and diverted to a display on Winston’s life. Very good on what they included, but there was not a mention of Gallipoli, a not-so-very-good idea of Winston’s in World War I.
The grounds of the Palace included a butterfly house where not only the butters fluttered but small birds also held forth. Could have stayed all day.
However, it was on to the villages of the Cotswolds, their funny names, the stone walls marking the fields and regrettably the many tourist shops that now inhabit most buildings in the towns.
There’s more to tell, but it will have to wait as we are off to Bath today with a new set of visiting friends, then on to Cardiff for the Wales-Fiji game, which could make or break England’s effort to stay alive in the tournament.
Wales beat England on Saturday night, 28-25, in a game England could have tied if they had chosen to take a penalty kick. Instead, they tried a “Japan,” opting to try for a try but failing to get it as Japan did in their win over South Africa.
Fiji has not won a game yet, but Wales went into the tournament with injuries and sustained more on Saturday night. So Fiji has a good chance, which would give England a fighting chance, if they can beat Australia this Saturday night, when we will be at a play in London.
Wait. We will be inside a theatre during the England-Australia game? Surely a mistake in the scheduling. This can’t happen, can it?