Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cotehele House

On Saturday we also visited Cotehele House in southwest England in Cornwall County.
Located above the banks of the River Tamar, it was built between 1485-1539 by Sir Richard Edgcumbe. It was constructed of local granite and slate stone. In 1553 the Edgcumbe family decided to build a new family home in Plymouth, so even though Cotehele was still owned by the Edgcumbe family for nearly 6 centuries, they did not live at Cotehele. They did visit there and entertain there through the years. This resulted in the preservation of the original Cotehele, and it is one of the least-altered houses of the period. It contains original furniture, armor, and tapestries.

The windows on the outside of the property are interesting, in that they are very small and high in the outer walls. They were built that way for defence. However, in the inner courtyard, the walls have large windows.

The following is a pretty cool water reservoir. Rain water would comes off of the roof into the tank. Then someone could turn the tap at the bottom and get water.

There are still no electric lights in the house---so touring it is interesting! It is dark, and to see paintings or other things well, you must use a flashlight (torch, as the English call a flashlight). It really gives you the feeling of what it would have been like to live in the house! It was a cool, rainy day, so some of the fireplaces were in use------it felt good to stand close to the fire!

The Great Hall and the kitchen were the first rooms to be built. In fact, even though the family was very wealthy, they all slept on the floor in the Great Hall. There were no such things as separate bedrooms or beds during this time period (1400's). According to the traditions of the time, the head of the family got to sleep closest to the fireplace, then the rest of the people spending the night there were placed close to the fire according to their rank or importance to the owner. The stone walls were decorated with armor and weapons.

In the 1500's other rooms were added to the house, including bedrooms. Some of the rooms had tapestries covering the walls, for warmth as well as decoration. One room is called the King Charles Room, because he supposedly slept there in 1644. In 1789 George III and Queen Charlotte were visitors to the house one morning and ate breakfast there. There is a large bench-chair with seat pillows embroidered with their names----because they sat there! It was really a status symbol to have entertained the king, so the family wanted to be sure that everyone knew about the king's visit!

There were displays of how food would have been served during the time period. One interesting , but very unappetizing food, was a large pie with bird parts sticking out of the top crust ( head, wings, tail, etc., all with feathers!) ! I don't know the purpose of that---but it made me think of the children's song with the words "five and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie"! Other plates of food had whole fish wound around the food, or a fish-head sticking up in the middle. The centerpiece was a boar's head with plants and herbs sticking out of it.

The following photos are of the gardens, which are extensive and beautiful.

The misty/rainy day made the spider webs look beautiful!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Buckland Abbey

Ron finally got a Saturday off this past week-end, so we got to do a little sight-seeing. We drove southeast to Cornwall County and went to two National Trust properties. The trees are really pretty fall colors now, so the drive was really enjoyable.
The first place we went was 700-year-old Buckland Abbey, which was originally a Cistercian abbey, founded in 1278. It remained an abbey until Henry VIII discontinued the use of monasteries. In 1541 Henry VIII sold Buckland to Sir Richard Grenville, who began the conversion of the property from an abbey to a house. Grenville eventually sold the house to Sir Francis Drake in 1580. Drake lived in the house for 15 years, and then his descendants lived there until 1946, when it was sold and then, two years later, it became a National Trust property. It had been added to and changed many times over the years.

The next photos are of the barn.

Next is a photo of the cider press.

Next are pictures of the grounds.

The story of Sir Francis Drake is very interesting, especially the fact that some people view him as a hero and others view him as a pirate!
He was born very close to Buckland Abbey to a family of modest means. He spent his early years learning the skills of a sailor, and he became quite a famous sailor, politician, and slave trader. He was the 2nd person, after Magellan, to sail around the world. He and his uncle made fortunes by abducting West Africans and trading them into slavery in exchange for high-value goods.
He seemed to always be at odds with the Spaniards, and in one of his exploits, he captured a Spanish ship, which was full of riches from Peru. Drake took these riches to the Queen, and she was so delighted with the vast fortune, she made Drake a knight and gave him 10,000 pounds. He used 3,000 pounds of that money to buy Buckland Abbey and the surrounding land.
A few years later Drake was the second in command in the battle against the Spanish Armada in 1588.
He was definitely a man with an interesting story!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yeovil, England

Yeovil, England is the town where Ron is working. It is about 15 minutes away from the village of Martock, where our apartment is located. Yeovil is an old town---it was on the Roman road during the time of Roman rule in England. In 1205 it was granted a city charter by King John, and at that time it had a population of about 1000. (Today the population is about 43,000). The name Yeovil means "forked river", and it is close to the River Yeo.

In the 1800's Yeovil was the center of the glove-making industry. In fact, the very popular Yeovil football (soccer) team is called the "Glovers". (There is also a very small glove-making business in Martock, but they do not have a retail store or outlet.)

Later the defense industry became important, especially with the coming of Westland Helicopter, which, after a merger with an Italian helicopter company, is now known as Agusta Westland. Because of the defense industry in Yeovil, during World War II it was a target of German raids.
The following two photos are of Agusta Westland, where Ron is working.

The next two photos show the main shopping area, Quedam Trading Estates, which is where I rode to on the bus a couple of weeks ago. This area has many small shops and restaurants, many of which have familiar names---Burger King, Woolworth, Pizza Hut, Clarks Shoes, and others. The "Pound Store" is like our dollar store. There are 4 or 5, or maybe more, of the Charity Shops, which are all larger than the one in Martock. Part of the shopping area feels much like a shopping mall at home, except that you have to walk outside between the stores.

The next photo shows two of the guys that are from the U.S. that work with Ron. Tom is from Arlington, and Jack once lived in Arlington, but now works for Bell in Maryland.

The next two pictures are of the Church of St. John the Baptist, which was built in the 14th century.

Next are photos of one of the three major grocery stores, Asda, which is owned by Walmart. The second photo is of the gasoline (petrol) station.

Next is the laundry where we wash clothes. We usually wash only jeans (since I do the rest by hand), so that is only one load in one large washer. If we do not dry them, it costs $10 for one load!

There are not very many good restaurants in Yeovil---or in this part of England, for that matter! We have been out to eat very little in 5 months! (Our main eating out is when we are sight-seeing and we stop at a McDonalds, Burger King, or KFC--those are pretty easy to find at service stops on the major highways, but they are almost impossible to find in the small towns.) Yeovil does have a new Mexican restaurant, that is owned by a man whose wife is from Mexico. It is only open on Fri. and Sat. We have only been there once, and I thought the food was good, but Ron didn't like it. (The meats and cheeses just do not taste like home!) There are a couple of Chinese places to eat, one of which Julie, Matt, the kids, and I went to in July. There is a large Chinese buffet place that is fairly new, but we have not been there. The photo shows an Italian restaurant----really good food and reasonably priced. We have been there twice, and enjoyed it both times.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cornish Pasty

First the answer to yesterday's question, "What is a pub owner sometimes called?"
How about a "publican" ! In medieval times the word was used differently than in Biblical times. It came to be used when referring to a tavern owner. I don't know how common the word "publican" is used today, but it was in the title of a newspaper article about the retirement of a pub owner, and if you look up publican, it is one of the definitions.

Now to the Cornish Pasty (pronounced with a short "a" sound).......

A very traditional food from Cornwall, U.K., is the Cornish pasty. (Cornwall is a county at the most southwestern tip of England. It has the lowest income per capita of all of England.) The pasty is a type of pie, much like a fried pie, but baked rather that fried. It can be semicircular shaped with the flat edge crimped, or it can by crimped on the top. The traditional pasty is filled with diced steak and sliced potatoes and onions. Other common ingredients are swede (rutabaga) and parsley.
The pasty originated as an easy food for the tin miners of Cornwall to carry into the mines. They could even eat it with dirty hands--just holding on to one end of the crust and then throwing that dirty spot of crust on the ground. There was a superstition that throwing down a piece of crust would appease the mine gods, who would then spare the miners' lives while in the mines.
The crust was not flaky, but more tough, although today they are made with more of a flaky crust. One tradition is that one half of the pasty would be meat and the other half would contain fruit, thus making a complete meal for the miners! It has even been said that the miners would carry the steaming hot pasties inside their shirts to keep themselves warmer in the cold mines--at least for a little while!

Today the pasties are made with many different kinds of ingredients, such ones with minced beef (ground meat), ones with just onion and cheese, or ones with just vegetables. The people from Cornwall consider anything but the traditional pasty as inferior!
There are Cornish pasty stands at fairs, carnivals, etc.---- just like the hot dog stands in the U.S!
The photo is of one from the local bakery, the Royal Bakery in Martock. I think they are really good. (I guess I would like anything with that much crust on it!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

More New Words ---- and Pork Pie Hat

First, I finally found out what people here call our "jumper". They use the word "pinafore" for a ladies' or a girls' jumper. It does not necessarily mean a ruffled, dressy, or frilly pinafore, like we usually think of one for a little girl, but here the word "pinafore" refers to any type of our jumper.

I keep thinking that we must have heard all the interesting words here, and then, almost every day a new one crops up!
I was reading the newspaper, when I came across an interesting one. ---- What is the owner of a pub called? What do you guess? Answer coming tomorrow......

Tuesday night at Beryl and Alister's house they were mentioning a preacher who always wore a "Pork Pie Hat". They asked if we knew what that was, and of course, I didn't. The funny thing was that Ron had actually heard about one at work that same day! Alister brought out his hat to show us (I wish I had had my camera), and it is a very familiar looking hat, one with a small brim and the top part can be flat or slightly rounded. Alister's was made of plaid wool, but they can be of various materials. (I was surprised that Wikipedia tells about Pork Pie Hats----so go there if you want to see pictures---just type in "pork pie hat".)

The hat got its name because it looks similar to an English food, called a pork pie, which looks almost like our pot pies, with the crust around the edges being flat and the middle a little raised. Beryl said that traditionally it is made of very heavy crust, cooked with pork inside, and then injected at the top with pork gravy, which makes the middle even more raised.
The photo is of one from the local bakery, but it doesn't look much like a hat! It does not have the flat edge that I saw in some pictures.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our Transportation

Bell Helicopter supplies Ron with a rent car and gasoline while we are in England. This was our first rent car. It was a 2007 Ford Mondeo, 2 liter engine, automatic, 5-speed. It averaged 26 mpg around town and 36 mpg on the highway. In the Bell paperwork the car's new price was listed as about 16,000 pounds, which is about $32,000 U.S. ----so the new price of this car was not double that of the U.S. prices, like many products, but it was quite a bit higher. Gasoline is about $8.00 per gallon (costs about 1.97 British pounds per liter, and the exchange rate is about $2 for every British pound)!

Hertz did not want the car to get too many miles on it, so they asked that we trade that car for our current one. It is a Vauxhall (G.M.) Vectra, 2.2 liter gas engine, automatic, 5-speed. It gets 24 mpg around town and 34 on the highway. (Some of you will probably know that I had to ask Ron what to say about the cars----I basically knew we had a silver one and now a black one! However, I do notice that there are no automatic door locks, no back-up sensors, no automatic headlights, and that the cup holders are very inadequate! )

Since my name is not on the rental car agreement, I have not been able to drive in England. So, my only means of transportation during the day are my feet and the bus! I have actually taken the bus into the shopping area of Yeovil only one time, but I really enjoyed that day out! But it sure seems expensive to pay $10.40 for a ride (15-20 min. by car) to go window shopping, which is why I have only done it once! (I guess I did buy a few things!) I enjoyed it so much,though, I think I will go again!
The photo shows the bus pulling up to my bus stop, which is about a block away from our apartment. Notice the width of the street. The cars on the left are parked in front of their houses. No wonder so many cars here have damaged mirrors! (Most of the people that park on the streets pull their mirrors in when they park to avoid the mirrors being hit by passing cars.) In a road this narrow, which is quite common, cars have to pull over or back up to let oncoming traffic pass. The signal to tell an oncoming car that it can come ahead is two blinks of the headlights.

The ride home was a little less convenient, as I had to walk to the bus station from the shopping area (which wasn't far) and then wait for the bus, which was 15 minutes late. My total wait was about 30 minutes, which on a pretty day was OK.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shops in Martock

I have posted pictures of some of the houses and a few of the businesses in Martock in previous blogs, but I thought I would post pictures of more of the businesses.
The first is the library, which is small but nice, with a pretty good selection of books. (I need the names of some good authors, as I am running out of the ones I know! )
Next is a picture framing shop that also sells original art work and prints.

The next two are the craft store. There is a gift shop upstairs and a tea room downstairs, in addition to all kinds of craft supplies. (The craft store still has not judged the birthday card competition, and it has been about 3 weeks since the deadline-----things move much slower here, and nobody seems to mind! Maybe I will still win something.......?)

An art gallery and a shop selling woodworking equipment and supplies are in the same complex as the craft store. The first photo is the art gallery (really high prices!) and the second the woodworking shop.

Next is the second-hand furniture store.

Next is the pharmacy. In many of the small towns, instead of a sign saying "Pharmacy" it will say "Chemist".

On the left is my favorite store, the bakery!
Next is the local fish and chips take-out place.
The Newsagent store sells all kinds of newspapers and magazines. This is also where you go to find out about bus schedules and other information about the town.

Next is one of the local pubs.
The White Hart Hotel has a nice restaurant serving traditional British food. On Sundays, like many restaurants, it has serves roast and Yorkshire pudding. (This is Julie's favorite place to "lose" her purse! ---- I just had to put that in, Julie ! ))
The next two photos show the two grocery stores in Martock. I usually go to the second one, which is a co-op store and has a much better selection than the first. Prices are higher than at the big grocery stores in Yeovil, but in an emergency, it is nice to have one close. I usually check out the marked down merchandise when I walk by in the mornings----I can find some pretty good buys on meat that way.

There are two gasoline ("petrol" here) stations in Martock, but I haven't gotten photos of those. They both look like the ones you would have seen in the U.S. 40+ years ago.