2019 England Vacation

On January 24, 2019, my Uncle Peter died. He was married to my mom’s sister, Auntie Barbara. My sister Judy and I talked about attending his funeral, but getting it all together in time was impossible. We decided to wait a few weeks. That also gave us some time to plan properly and make arrangement with our cousins.

My original account of this vacation is done in plain black text.

Judy’s comments are in italic text.

March 12, 2019

I was very nervous leaving home. The flight I had scheduled only had a 90 minute layover in Atlanta. If the flight was delayed for bad weather or something or if it was a long way from domestic arrivals to international departures, I could have a real problem and miss my plane.

As it turned out the plane from Cedar Rapids arrived one half hour early and departure was only one concourse over. I was met at the plane by someone with a wheelchair and she got me to my gate in just a couple of minutes. So I had plenty of time. She was a very short woman and when she saw me I bet she just groaned at the thought of pushing me all the way up the jet way. She asked if I could walk up the ramp, which I could, and she took it away when we were on the straight and level.

Wheelchair helper in Atlanta

I noticed that a wheelchair was also reserved for my arrival in London and since I really didn’t think I needed that, I went to the gate kiosk and told the people there. They got it canceled so someone wasn’t in for fool’s errand. In the meantime they moved my seat six rows closer to the front of the plane and gave me a whole row of four seats in the center section of the plane. In the night I tried to lay down and sleep but it wasn’t in the cards. I watched a movie, “The Hunt for Red October”. It was an oldie but a goodie. I tried listening to some classical music and playing a videogame but my eyes were tired and though I tried to sleep I couldn’t. In the end I just leaned back and rested my eyes. I didn’t get any rest but I was able to relax a little before we arrived in London. All the way over I was able to keep track of my progress.

Route from Atlanta to London

My trip over was good and uneventful. I took Concord Bus Lines straight from Auburn, ME to the door of my terminal at Boston Logan, only one stop on the way. I couldn’t have asked for cheaper, more convenient transportation.

March 13, 2019

I take all my luggage aboard so I don’t have to retrieve any bags. The man at passport was friendly and passed me through and there was no customs. I suffered what seemed like a never ending walk to the exit were Tricia and Judy met me and we drove to Tricia’s house.

Never having traveled in England during any season except summer, I was struck with the naked hedgerows, all neatly trimmed and waiting to leaf out for summer. The blooming daffodils were also remarkable, since we still had a couple feet of snow home in Maine.

New daffodils

After dropping off our things and having a bite to eat, we went to the store and got some English money from the ATM and bought a SIM card so I could make calls in the UK without the high fees usually associated with international calling.

I don’t remember Tesco stores from previous trips, but I always love looking around regular stores in other countries. I began purchasing unique (to me) shopping bags!

Judy’s shopping bags

We unpacked some and had a lovely dinner.

About the time I was going down for the third time, Judy, Tricia, and Simon were playing Judy’s favorite card game and I went in the other room to catch my journal up to this point. I was all out so I went to bed about 9 o’clock.

March 14, 2019

We wanted to get on the way to the stone circles early, so I set my alarm for 7 o’clock to be away by 10 o’clock. I got my jobs done and had breakfast but we still didn’t get away till nearly 11 o’clock. Simon decided to go along and even bore the burden of driving. Tricia and Simon used to live in the area and knew the way to the stones pretty well. Because of this we also saw many interesting sites we otherwise would have missed.

Simon is a kind and gentle man who is smitten by his scrappy young pup, Izzy, a breed with a terribly unappealing name like liver-flavored lice dog (or something like that). She is a sweetheart though, and has been provided with an inordinate number of blanket covered couches and doggie beds, several in each room, in case she needs to “settle”.

Simon Bennett and Izzy

Simon is also a maniac on the road, flying through the speed traps without fear because we were driving Tricia’s car and the tickets will be sent to her.

We got to the Rollright Stones first. They are a circle of stones that had fallen over the years but were re-erected in the 1880s. There were smaller stones ranging in size from a foot or so tall to four or 5 feet tall. The bigger ones are more impressive of course.

Judy at the Rollright Stones

This ceremonial circle of stones dates from the late Neolithic Period, 2500 B.C. They are said to be a king and his army turned to stone by a witch. Makes sense to me!

Also on the site were three wicker sculptures of dancing figures.

Wicker Witch Sculpture at the Rollright Stones

Tricia and Simon had brought their dog Izzy and walked to a different part of the monument while Judy and I crossed the road to see the “King Stone”. This was a single stone that had been fenced off to help prevent vandalism. It is surrounded by an oval shaped ring of stones that have mostly fallen.

Robert Thorpe at the King Stone

From there we drove to Faringdon, a nearby village, and had a bite to eat in a 500-year-old inn. While pizza sounds like an odd thing to have in historical places, it was delicious. Judy and I shared a three cheese pizza with pears and figs. Tricia and Simon had some sort of seafood number.

The White Horse Inn
Tricia Bennett at the White Horse Inn

We drove the short distance to Wayland Smithy, but the access road was closed and at the White Horse of Uffington the access road was open but the climb was too daunting. We could see the horse from the road but not that well. We took some pictures anyway.

There was a great picture of the horse on the wall of the White Horse Inn, which is the closest we got to seeing it, but there were plenty of shaggy sheep on the hillside enjoying the ancient wonder.

Sheep on the hillside

On the way home Trish and Simon passed by the place they used to live when I visited them in 2012. I remembered it as being more remote but it was right in the village.

Back home we relaxed and transferred photos to the main computer and generally puttered around.

Dinner was salmon and was very good. After dinner the others played cards and I caught this journal up.

I went to bed early again because Andrew was due to pick us up in the morning.

March 15, 2019

We had breakfast and Andrew showed up about 10 o’clock. His wife Anne was busy in the morning. So we had a chance to see some of the sites. One of the first places we went was Stoke Bruerne. It is a small village that revolves around the canal boat trade.

It has a lock there and a small museum. We went but only looked in the gift shop, because to see the displays you had to climb lots of stairs. There was a little coffee shop where we had a drink and a snack and took some pictures of the ladies that worked there.

Andrew wanted me to open the lock for him, so I agreed.

Judy opening the canal gate

Across the street from the canal. We saw a thatched roof with interesting carved wooden animals running along the peak of the roof.

Cottage with animals on the ridge line

Princess Di is buried in Althorpe and we went by there. We thought we might get inside. They often allow tourists in and when we got there a car was waiting to go in. The gates opened and in they went. We queued up but they stopped right inside and didn’t move. We waited but they didn’t budge. Pretty soon the doors closed and we realized they were staff and it was not tour day.

We drove on and went around the back. You can sort of see the little island where she was buried.

After driving around a bit looking at little villages we stopped by at Andrew’s daughter Laura’s to say hi. She was there with her youngest son, Max who was having lunch.

Auntie Barbara called Andrew a couple of times while we were headed to her place. Since we would be there in just a couple of minutes he didn’t answer. Auntie Barbara lives in an independent housing development.

The administrators called him to say she had hurt herself so that was why she had been calling. She had ridden her scooter to the laundry room which is not really designed for scooters. It was difficult getting into it and she caught her wristwatch on the door handle and hurt her shoulder and hand. We got all that sorted out, thank goodness.

Auntie Barbara

Seeing Aunty Barbara’s dear face always feels like I’m with my mom again. I get weepy. We shared lots of good old hugs. We talked about the brass tray that was in Grandma and Grandad’s lounge at Gunthorpe. She still had it and she gave it to me. Thus began the long saga of getting it to America!

The 40″ diameter brass tray

The main reason we came to England was to see our aunties. Auntie Barbara’s husband, Uncle Peter, had just died and rather than rush to the funeral, we decided that waiting a few weeks to visit her would be better.

We had a nice chat with Auntie Barbara and left after a bit.

We went to Andrew’s house and Anne got home a little later, around 5 o’clock. Laura stopped by with Max and the other two sons, Harry and Jasper. They had some pizza while we all chatted.

Andrew Butler and Judy Hierstein

I don’t think any of our cousins speak like each other. Anne’s accent was quite different from Andrews. I asked him where she was from which was East London. Laura’s accent is far closer to Anne’s than Andrew’s. It was such a delight to hear how differently they all speak. We had a great dinner of chicken and veggies and finished up later with an Irish whiskey, Bushmills 1608.

March 16, 2019

Today we headed out to my cousin Claire’s, but before we left Andrew offered to lend me his father’s car. However, he insisted he give me a driving lesson which was okay by me. I’m not sure he was completely satisfied by my performance but I did okay. Luckily the first leg of the journey was undemanding but was enough to leave my mouth dry and my shoulders aching from the tension.

The car Andrew lent me

But Claire calmed our nerves and served us a delicious lunch, featuring Smoked Mackerel Pate, which was so delicious that I wanted to eat the lot with a big spoon, then lick the sides of the bowl, then lick my fingers!

Claire and Richard Williams

We got there okay and had a wonderful day with the Williamses. At one point Claire and Judy went to the grocery store for a few more bottles of wine. Richard is an interesting renaissance man. He and I have many interests in common. He built a stripper canoe, like Lance and I did. He is interested in astronomy and model building. After I talked with him for a while, Judy would take over and talk to him about his artistic achievements. And so it went back and forth throughout the day. A major point of discussion was a pair of elephant skin mittens and an ugly looking knife he had that were used to trim the hedgerows in days past.

Richard Williams with hedgerow trimming knife and elephant skin gloves

Claire and I took off for the shops in the afternoon at another wonderful Tesco’s, and we shopped for sweeties for my grandkids, more shopping bags, and wine. I looked for Hovis bisquits, which I had enjoyed at Tricia’s, but no luck for now.

Claire made beef stroganoff for dinner and asked what we would like for breakfast. I said I’d like the leftovers for breakfast. But mentioned that I liked bangers or sausages for breakfast and I hoped I would have a chance to have some before we went home. She said she had some of them in the freezer so sausage and baked beans for breakfast it was.

March 17, 2019

This would have been my Mom’s 94th birthday.

We left Claire’s and headed to Oundle. We had some ancestors that came from there but we didn’t have any specific information about what to see, so we had a look and went on to Peterborough.

Auntie Joan actually lives in Whittlesey so we went there next, but our Garmin couldn’t find her actual address, so we put in Martin’s address but he was out of the country. We put her address into our phones and that led us the rest of the way.

We went to lunch at a nearby restaurant that Auntie Joan liked, and she ordered fish & chips.

I decided to try what has been called England’s National Dish, Chicken Tikka Masala!

England’s National Dish, Chicken Tikka Masala!

Another dear old face that made me laugh and cry.

Judy, Auntie Joan, and Butch

We chatted with her for a while and in so doing she called her grandkids, Jamie and Sophia. They showed up a little later and what a delight they were. Jamie had just purchased an antique Allis Chalmers tractor and was restoring it. Sophia found a postcode for the parking lot of the Bull Hotel that we were staying at that night.

Sophia and Jamie Green

In England you can enter the postcode for something into your Garmin and it will take you right there. After a semi-white knuckle drive into town, we went right into their parking lot.

The Bull Hotel, Peterborough

After checking in we went out to eat at what we later discovered was a gay bar. No problem. Home again and I sent a text to Karen to text me if she saw the text. She pinged a little bit later and as we were going back and forth, I hit the video feed and we had a wonderful chat that we had been sadly missing in our disjointed text messaging and emails.

March 18, 2019

We were scheduled to go back to Auntie Joan’s but we called her and said we didn’t want to take the car out anymore than we had to. She was fine with that.

We decided to stay in town that day and see some of the things we wanted to see.

Judy and Butch enjoy an English Breakfast
Traditional English Breakfast

AFTER our proper English breakfast we left the hotel and headed down the shopping arcade that was right across the street.

First we saw a butcher shop that had quite a number of treats that we wanted to have. We said we would stop back later because we didn’t want to carry the delights around with us all day.

Grasmere’s Butcher Shop
Meat delicacies

On our way to the cathedral, we passed Miss Pear’s, a home erected by the feoffees and funded by Miss Frances Pear, for the use of the aged and infirmed of the parish of Peterborough.

feoffees | fi’fi: |
A trustee invested with a freehold estate to hold in possession for a purpose, typically a charitable one.

You can see the plaque on the side of the building. One of our ancestors lived there for a time.

Miss Pear’s Alms House

We walked around the square taking pictures and made our way to the Cathedral. From the past I remembered a picture of “Old Scarlet,” the medieval cathedral gravedigger. But it was sadly deteriorated. The docent said they were going to conserve the painting and when they took it down there was an earlier fresco portrait of him and that was what we were looking at now. The portrait I remembered was now hung on the left and had been exactly painted to cover the original fresco.

Portrait of Old Scarlet

I knew that Mary Queen of Scots had been buried in Peterborough Cathedral and we were determined to find her burial place. As we walked the side aisles of the nave we ran into a different royal burial, Catherine of Aragon’s. I started to doubt if I remembered things correctly. But a little later we found Mary’s burial site. It turns out Elizabeth I had had her beheaded nearby and then buried in an elaborate but secret ceremony in the Cathedral. When Elizabeth died, Mary’s son, James I, ascended the throne. Later, he had Mary dug up and moved to Westminster Abbey and buried right next to Elizabeth.

One time grave of Mary Queen of Scots

But perhaps the most stunning examples of artistry in the Cathedral were the radiators!

Heater at Peterborough Cathedral

We made our way back to the little butcher shop and bought some sausage rolls, scotch eggs and hazelet for a snack and crossed the street to the bar in the hotel. Judy had a Chardonnay and I had a pint of bitters. As we sat there Judy started to snack on my butcher treats and I helped her finish off the hazelet. Then she started on the scotch eggs which I was going to have no part of. We got back to our room and shut down for the day. We had picked up some wine and cracked that open. I had a lovely video chat with my sorely missed sweetie, Karen. She told me about the things she did that day, getting equipment for her upcoming operation to fix her damaged Achilles tendon. I told her about our sightseeing adventures of the day. I spent a little more time updating the journal.

March 19, 2019

I had set our departure time for 11:30, but we decided to get an earlier start. We had ordered full English breakfast for the last couple of days and today’s was as good as yesterday’s. When we left they validated our parking ticket but it was only valid for 15 minutes after check out. So by the time we got the Garmin all set, the ticket had expired. Luckily no one else wanted to leave while Judy went back in and had the ticket revalidated.

We took a couple of wrong turns heading towards Bourne but we did get to stop by at 1122 Lincoln Rd., the old family homestead.

1122 Lincoln Road, Peterborough, the family homestead

In 1960 the family visited and stayed in this house. The newspaper did a story on us and put a picture of us posing in the round window area. Auntie Barbara was behind the photographer making faces at me the whole time, hence the goofy look.

Thorpe family 1960

Bourne itself wasn’t that big a deal. We did get a couple of photos of the alms house that one of our grandmas lived in.

Alms House in Bourne

We left Bourne on the A1 highway and stayed on it almost all the way to Wormley. We did a little futzing around getting into town but we did get there and drove to the Queen’s head Inn where my great grandfather Frederick Thorogood was born.

The Queen’s Head Pub, Wormley

We went in and saw this young lady tending the bar and I asked her if she was the manager. She said no but this other fellow was. So we told him our story and that great granddad’s folks ran the inn from about 1865 to 1880 which he really liked and he showed us old pictures and then sort of disappeared. The barmaid insisted I try my hand at the beer pumps. I guess it must run in the family.

Robert Thorpe pumping beer

We were having a great time in talking to other customers and taking 3-D pictures and showing them around. A former manager came in later and we had a good time talking with him too.

We went to the graveyard where James was buried and went right to his stone. It was very hard to read because of the lichen. I tried scratching some of it off with my thumbnail but discovered that a coin worked much better. In a couple of minutes we had the inscription completely legible again and retook the pictures we had taken earlier when you couldn’t read it. Judy jotted down the transcription “In memory of James Thorogood. Who died August 10, 1880, aged 58 years and of Mary, wife of the above who died June 20, 1897, aged 70 years, rest in peace.”

Grave of James and Mary Thorogood

I believe that she is not actually buried here but in Chelmsford where she died. We will find out tomorrow.

After that we continued to Felsted. That section of the journey was a bit of a white knuckle affair because of rush hour and road construction, but we found our hotel and checked in.

The people were nice, the son Sean carried our luggage upstairs. Later we met his father Jerry who ran things and also the mother and sister who was visiting from Canada but we don’t remember their names. We didn’t go out again that evening.

March 20, 2019

In the morning we had another full English breakfast. We left our luggage at the hotel as we explored. It was only a couple of blocks to Rose Cottage, the house where my great grand mother, Emily Munson was born. Her parents James Munson and Mary Anne Thorogood lived in that house for 40 or 50 years.

Rose Cottage

We knocked at the door. We think someone was inside but they wouldn’t answer. We took some pictures but there are actually two households in the cottage with some obscuring landscaping in between so we had to photograph it from both sides. On the gray side there is this great old door and we have a picture of Mary Ann sitting in front of it. Here it is, then and now.

Mary Ann Thorogood Munson and door at Rose Cottage

On the way out of town we stopped at the Congregational Burial Ground and found James and Mary Ann’s marker. It was made of wood with a later plastic nameplate fixed to it.

Felsted Congregational Church Burial Ground, Munson graves

Next stop was Boreham. I didn’t have any clear destination there, just a town where some of our relatives were from. There was a fancy school there where the young women had a distinctive school uniform that they called clots, but we later found out was really “culottes.”

We went on to Baddow Road in Chelmsford where we were going to try and find the house where our grandmother Grace Carolyn Thorogood was born, but after we got to England I did a Google search and discovered that the address still existed, but the building had been torn down and a new commercial building had replaced it. We went on the Chelmsford Crematorium Cemetery and found Fred and Emily Thorogood’s tombstone. It was in sad shape.

Robert Thorpe at the grave of his great grandparents, Frederick and Emily Thorogood

The top had been broken off and reglued on and the once gleaming stone of white marble was now gray and lichen covered. In another part of the cemetery we tried to find Fred’s mother Mary’s stone. The cemetery said she had a stone, but all the stones in her spot were either gone or had fallen over and were now buried. There was a great big tree right where the grave should be so I had Judy take a picture of me standing by.

Grave location of Mary Thorogood

From there we had fairly major roads to our cousin Susan’s house in Maidstone.

She made a delicious fish pie for dinner.

Her house was her father and mother’s home, but she bought it from her mother, Auntie Edith, after Uncle John died

March 21, 2019

In the morning Judy and Susan went out to do some shopping while I stayed home. We went to Chiddingstone, a place we had visited on a previous vacation but the path to the actual stone was locked up so we couldn’t see it. The whole village is very old and is in the National Trust so we found a delightful old pub to have a snack in.

Inside of pub
Edith Bellamy and Susan Willmott

When we got back to Sue’s, we were thirsty, and Sue had the perfect brew for Butch.

March 22, 2019

When we were trying to think of our activities after we arrived I noticed that the channel tunnel was not that far and that we could drive to France in a little over an hour. Susan said she was game to go and booked a crossing for the morning.

Entrance to channel tunnel

When we arrived, we bought the ticket to cross. They marked the tag that hung from the rear view mirror with a little red squiggle which meant they were to inspect our car. They called it a “Charlie Pepper” which meant “Cash payment.” Apparently, people who pay in cash have a greater likelihood of being terrorists or something and so are given closer attention. We chatted with them while they were doing their inspection and had no trouble at all.

Charlie Pepper squiggle

When in France we went some places Sue was familiar with, among which was a nice little beach. Then off to the Bologne where we ate mussels and frites. The girls had them in a creamy onion sauce and I had a garlic broth.

Robert Thorpe eating mussels
Mussel lunch

Back home that evening Susan’s son James and his wife Nicola dropped by with their new son, Monty. He was asleep and tucked away in his car seat, so we never did get a good look at him.

James and Nikola Willmott and Robert Thorpe

March 23, 2019

Today was Tricia’s special luncheon and I followed Susan back to Tricia’s. I had been so careful to keep from hitting anything with Andrew’s car but in the Dartford Tunnel, a truck passed me. He crossed the centerline and it broke the left wing mirror as he passed. He was in the left lane and had a left-hand drive, so he probably never knew he hit me. We got his license plate and took lots of pictures of his truck but I hated the idea of having to tell Andrew. In the end there wasn’t all that much damage and Andrew said he would just get a replacement mirror off of eBay and would fix it himself.

Broken mirror

We were about the last ones to arrive at Tricia’s. My first job was to “fess up” to Andrew. On the way to tell him I passed Auntie Barbara who asked how her car was doing. I said I just have to talk to Andrew for a minute. And with that out of the way I told the tale around the party a few more times and put it to rest.

Besides mingling with the other family members, a big order of the day was group pictures. There was some discussion about the best way to take them. In the end, the group faced the sun for the best lighting which resulted a certain degree of squinting and eye shading but hopefully that that can be fixed a little in Photoshop.

Bellamy clan 2019

We had shots of everyone in attendance and some others of just the cousins which was to commemorate the photo taken in 1960. Only Bunny, Michael, and Lisa were missing.

Bellamy cousins 1960
Bellamy cousins 2019

After the luncheon Andrew brought us back to his place to stay the night.

March 24, 2019

In the morning we were off to cousin Jenny’s for her grandson, Griff’s baptism.

There was an Indian priest to perform the ceremony and while he got in everything he needed to get done, he did it with humor and lightheartedness. He had all the children, mostly Griff’s cousins come up to the front and have them participate in the goings-on. When the actual christening was done he splashed water on the kids and then the audience.

Griff’s baptism

Griff wore the traditional Thorogood baptismal gown. We know that at least Auntie Barbara was christened in it in 1931. We suspect that her brother and sisters were too, but we have no photographic proof. We think it was used in generations before that even. My sister Carol Lynne and I wore it in 1947 and 1948 and many of the Bellamy clan have worn it since then.

We drove to a pub for the party after. A few beers and hors d’oeuvres got folks in a good mood. We took a few more pictures of those we hadn’t met the day before. Jenny and Colin’s family was all together for the first time in this vacation. And so were Andrew and Anne’s. We took advantage of the photo op.

Colin and Jenny Clarke family
Andrew and Anne Butler family

Andrew drove us back to Northampton where we dropped off Auntie Barbara at her apartment and had a sentimental goodbye with her. Then on to Trish’s where we spent the night.

March 25, 2019

Today we went to Stratford-upon-Avon to do things Shakespearean. First stop was Anne Hathaway’s cottage. For it’s time it was no cottage at all but a full-blown affluent person’s home.
The age of it was very interesting and some of the furnishings and decorations were great.

Anne Hathaway’s cottage

On to Shakespeare’s birthplace. Again very interesting architecture.

Shakespears’s birthplace

The Shakespeare Museum was right next door. I especially enjoyed various artists portraits of William. All good!

Shakespeare Portraits
Graham Clark – Midsommer Night’s Dreame

Among them was a very detailed print of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Graham Clark, one of my cousins and my favorite artists.

After the tours we were a bit tuckered out so we had lunch. Trish had quiche, Judy had some kind of pie, and I had a ham/cheese/chutney toasty. Just a toasted sandwich. We met a group of Dutch women that we chatted with a bit and they corrected my pronunciation of several places we went while we were there a few years ago.

At home, Judy set about the formidable task of packing up the 40 inch diameter brass plate that Auntie Barbara gave her. I on the other hand gave my attention to transferring Judy’s photos onto the thumb drive. When I finished with that I worked on finishing up this journal.

Trish let me run a load of washing so hopefully my suitcase will work better than when I just bung the dirties in. I hit the sack about 9:30 pm but did not get to sleep right away.

March 26, 2019

We got up at the ungodly hour of 5 o’clock and went off to the airport by 6 o’clock. Trish was going to let Judy off first so she had time to check in her brass plate and if that didn’t work Trish would swing back to Judy’s terminal and take the tray home with her. It worked, as it turns out so Judy has a new family heirloom.

Judy with Tray

I had to wait around the terminal for a while because they had not assigned a gate yet, but they finally did and I made my way home.

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One Response to 2019 England Vacation

  1. Jenny Clarke says:

    It was so wonderful to see you both. What an amazing trip you had. Packed so much into those weeks.
    Love to you all

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