A Brief Summery of The Summer 2015…

To be perfectly honest, the summer of 2015 was a dismal affair.Hubbie suffered a severe shingles attack at the beginning of the August and the effect of it carried on almost towards the end of the month. As  the result, I was running around like a hamster jumping on / off from the wheel in her cage. The time whizzed past over my head while I administered bandages on Hubbie’s swollen-up hand and arm twice a day and kept eyes on a clock 24/7 so he wouldn’t unwittingly overdose on antibiotic or painkiller. There was no Instagram wothy moment during the August, I must say.

By comparison, the July was less melodramatic and more tranquil. I was reunited with my old friend from Japan and we visited Hatfield House together on one somewhat cloudy Sunday.
Our journey to Hatfield from Kings Cross was an unexpectedly cramped one. As we climbed aboard and trod through the carriages, we found most of the seats were already taken up by the fellow passengers. ‘Where are they heading to?’, we both exchanged a weary smile while we made ourself comfortable settling into the seats which we managed to secure for ourselves within the carriage further down. From our neighbour’s demeanour, it was obvious that they were festival goers. Booze, sunglasses, Dr.Martens, riders jackets, etc, it was unmistakably blazon across. ‘I’m sure they aren’t going to Hatfield for that’, I assured my friend…
Oh boy, how wrong I was.
Even before the carriage came to standstill, most of the passengers around us stood up and started to form a queue at the doors. As we poured over the platform like baked beans from a tin, security personnels with fluorescent yellow HV vests briskly herded us up and ordered us to keep on moving towards the exit. ‘What on earth is going on here? Their website didn’t mention anything about a festival business!’, my companion and I shook our heads in disbelief. As far as we could see, there were crowd-control steel barriers, police vans, tickets touts, empty beer bottles, rubbish and people with wristbands. Nothing like we expected of Hatfield House and the surrounding park in where certain well known historical events happened, such as a young Elizabeth I being chased by Lord Seymour and also being informed about her accession to the English throne as she sat under a (oak?) tree with a book on her lap! We fretted over our next move at the station exit. Should we stay? Or should we leave? My friend didn’t want to waste her precious holiday in London. ‘Do you know if Hatfield House is still open or is it closed because of the festival?’, we asked a policeman who was inspecting the steel barriers. He assured us with a smile that the house was open as usual and gave us a direction where to find the ticket office.

A boisterous yet good-natured crowd trickling into another side of the park. The sight made both of us feel very old…

After buying tickets, we decided to have lunch at an adjacent cafe…

I didn’t take any photo of my plate because the food wasn’t very good at all. I opted for their salad selection but it turned out to be over-cooked and under-seasoned. It was a great shame because the staffs were so charming and helpful.

Hatfield House…

A grand house though I found the forecourt rather bare and cheerless. My disappointment was compounded by an ugly fountain installed right in front of the building. The installation was too modern – all shiny stainless steel- and too out of place, I didn’t even want to take a picture. Why are they doing this to me? I was grumpy because this super blingy fountain and a distant but audible beat from the festival was definitely stopping me from enjoying a time warp to the Tudor period.
However, the situation was improved once we were inside the house.

A large portrait of Elizabeth I. The most famous occupier of the property…

Every bits and pieces of the woodworks were ornately carved and decorated and the ceiling and staircases were no exception…



The house was beautifully presented and their memorabilia on display helped us to imagine how daily life in the bygone time was used to be like…


  

I was not a big fan of Downton Abbey, as it looked to me like a modern soap opera in period costumes. However, the grand lifestyle portrayed in the programme, which was enjoyed by a privileged few in the olden days, did captivate my imagination. Umpteen family photographs in silver frames, which were scattered all over the house, portrayed the inhabitants of the manor in the various stages of their lives. One individual in particular who caught my attention was Richard Hugh Cecil (31 Jan 1924 12 Aug 1944), the son of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 5th Marquess of Salisbury. He was a young man in a black & white photograph which was displayed in the glass display cabinet by the corner of one of the drawing rooms. In the medium size rectangular frame, there were also his parents and his siblings, all of them smiling broadly towards the person behind the lens. It looked like any other impromptu family portrait which was solely there to record a happy occasion. Yet, a brief typed note placed next to the photo informed that Richard, a sergeant pilot, died during the Second World War. He was only 20 years old. The affable expressions which filled the portrait was a poignant reminder of the cruelty of armed conflict. And I was deeply moved by it.

In the library, we found a very intriguing piece of furniture…


We couldn’t figure out the purpose of “trays” around the chair. In which way the chair supposed to be seated? A hammer shark’s head-like backrest mystified us the most. It looked too stumpy and short to be a side wing of a normal armchair. What kind of a chair is this???

We managed to grab a guide and he showed us how it was meant to be used…

A chair designed for a hardcore bookworm! A large tray was for a book and two small side trays were for drinks. The contraption was not a beauty but the idea was ingenious, we all agreed.
The opposite to floor to ceiling bookshelves laden with countless leather bound books, there was a wall comprised of large old-fashioned paned windows which overlooked the West Garden. The garden was apparently adored by many gardening enthusiasts around the country…


Hatfield House is a prime example of early 17th-century architecture. The plan of the house forms a letter “E” – a typical of the style in the Tudor period.

The armoury / cloisters which ran east to west was the stem of the E. Striking features of this space were elaborately onate plasterwork on the ceiling and black & white marble squares which fill the floor wall-to-wall. In front of the each bay on the south wall with modern arabesque work, late 16th-century armour stood guard.

A rocking horse cut a lonely figure with a backdrop of a beautifully decorated chinoiserie screen…

The vibrancy of the blooming flowers in the garden was somewhat sullied by the  overhanging clouds…


Adjacent to the west garden was the Old Palace…

Originally, the property belonged to James I who ascended to the English throne after Elizabeth I. When it was constructed in late 15-century, the building was much larger – the remaining structure of the present day is only one quarter of the original floorplan.

The building was built with attractive red brick with tiled roof in the same hue…

The present structure is the remains of the former west wing of the palace. It housed the Great Hall with an open timber roof which must have witnessed numerous grand state occasions in its heyday. However, most of the palace was consigned to oblivion through alterations and demolitions over the time. Fortunately, the west wing was kept and it was converted to stables in early 17th century.

During our visit, the Palace was hosting a wedding reception. As we walked around the perimeter of the famed Knot garden, we caught a glimpse of the newly-weds answering a photocall with their guests.

The festival in the distance was still in full swing when we decided to head home…


As we boarded a London-bound train, we were confronted with a sorry sight, the entire carriage strewn with discarded booze bottles! Alas, the behaviour amongst the Brits when it came to being merry, it never seemed to have changed circa  Samuel Pepys’ Diary…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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