Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Chatsworth House, and a lively little inn

The last day of our Tour de Norte has taken us to Barnard Castle, an old market town in County Durham, where the best accommodation we could find was a room above a pub. I've always wanted to stay in a room above a pub. You only have to read a few fantasy novels to know this is where the action happens - where mysterious travellers abide quietly in shadowy corners, a barman pulls beer with a towel over his shoulder, and the door crashes when a cloaked stranger enters, rain and wind with him, the room growing silent. 

This pub - in which I currently write - has paisley carpet, a giant tv showing Today's Sport, four old men on stools, and Carling on draft. I'm sat in the smoker's courtyard - the only place I won't get chatted up, by nature of its emptiness - which, in addition to the lone, sticky table holding a full ashtray, leads to the toilets. I sit here, understandably alone, swatting flies as I type. I'm sure a swordfight will kick off soon; it's all exactly as I pictured it.

Speaking of the flies - we went to a place for lunch that had an outside terrace, and we asked to sit there since the weather is nice. We're told it's temporarily closed because 'the flies have arrived.' Say what? 'Last Thursday they came.' Katie and I are convinced an ancient plague has befallen the town. Someone has sinned.

BUT NOT US. Yesterday was the most magical of days: we went to Chatsworth House, outside of Sheffield, and played HERE:

And that's just the stables.
I think. I accidentally picked up the children's tour guide and it's all cartoons.

The gates to the grounds we aren't allowed to enter. 

This is the Actual House, holding an absolutely magnificent display of fashion history, and the purpose of our visit:

The interior was stunning - apparently one of the Dukes did it up Big Style hoping a monarch would visit. Which it seems they never did. But hey! We liked it, Dukey!

LOOK AT THIS CEILING. Don't need to go to the Vatican now.

They also appeared to have a dark streak:

Just skinning himself, like a boss. (How sinister is the shadow of the scissors he's holding??)

This display was labelled 'Gothick Fashions' but I'm pretty sure it's just a simulation of a night out with my girlfriends.

We also got to see THE WORLD'S SCARIEST STROLLER. There was no placard explaining this, so we have no idea what its intent was, though it was clearly good:
Look at the snakes between the front wheels. And across the top and sides. IT'S PERFECT I WON'T SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS.

And it matches the nursery art!

I just went back into the pub's main room to get a glass of red, and the crowd of men has grown from four to twelve. All sitting - somehow, impossibly - separately - though there can't be more than six small tables - watching Venus Williams steal the tennis.

While we're on the topic of Fierce: THIS DRESS. It was worn at a fancy dress party (a costume party, mis americanos) a zillion centuries ago, where the theme appears to have been Dresses Made for Killing.

And below is another dress worn at the same party. (They did not do things by halves.)

 It's obvious that Sharp White is not pleased - just look at her - and Peacock will not be surviving the night. 
Once again, many similarities to a night with me and my girlfriends. 

THERE'S ALWAYS ONE OF THOSE. Gawd, Susan. Simmer down.

In addition to The Fashions of the Wild Ones, the museum had paintings and period rooms, reproduced parties populated by holograms and mannequins, and a complete history of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire, notably a Mitford, and a lot of Stella Tennant.

My favourite part - other than swanning about in the party rooms, pretending to shake the well-dressed hands of Feather-Headed Mannequins (if that isn't a metaphor for a dinner party, I don't know what is) - was the JOURNALS.


Then we entered the gardens. We knew our admission included access to them, but we were so single-minded in our focus on the House Itself that we didn't even consider what this might entail. 

Turns out it was dozens upon dozens of statues in the throes of naked self-admiration. Naturally.

 Just everywhere. 

Also a dining place for Fae.

The best part, though - other than the many, many marbled men and women having a frolicking good time in stages of undress - was the maze. We happened to enter it, very casually, in the middle of a conversation, and not paying much attention. We left it, an appalling length of time later, laughing with a tinge of hysteria and fear. 

As we finally approached the exit, we overheard an older woman saying to her companion, 'Oh, these things are easy, just keep going right,' which made us both nearly wet ourselves, as we had been going right for the approximate gestation period of a sheep and were nowhere close to getting out. Katie later voiced a universal truth: 'NOBODY LIKES A MAZE EXPERT.' 

Katie, in the center of the maze, doing a horrible job of figuring out which way we should go.

A smoker has found me in the courtyard. He's called Brian, has the ruddy features of a 60-something CAMRA man, and is keen to hear what brings me to this side of the pond.

We ended our day yesterday with some sushi (Yama Sushi, specifically, I write here so I don't forget) playing Cards Against Humanity with a new set of bffs. 

Sheffield, you are an excellent time. 

Headed back to London tomorrow! Stay tuned for our adventures today in Barnard Castle: there will be another museum, a Castle, and no doubt more Brian. 

Big hugs and lots of love,

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