Sunday, 12 September 2010

Kent, that’s not a name – it’s a cricket team!

Apparently the glorification of the nation’s treasure houses and preserved follies, and no I’m not talking about Julie Covington and Rula Lenska, does not begin until 11.00 am which sounds fine until I realise I am in the unusual position of being in Kent at 10.30, in the am.

I’ve gone on holiday by mistake, and am heading down to Rye as I had decided to knock a couple of places I’d never been before on the head, visiting wise, and Rye had always held a slight quiver of interest, so I thought why not, why not indeed.

However I decided to make an unscheduled stop on my already re-routed Journey. First stop was supposed to be Hastings after a bolt of inspiration on the A20, what with being related to King Harold and all that, made me realise that there was no compulsion, neigh no requirement, to be in Rye prior to luncheon.

But not even in Hastings for 11’s – I saw a sign for the Trust’s Scotney Castle and having recently invested my support for the nation’s treasures in an NT membership I swerved, keen to see as many as I can and thus make the most of my £43 and free binoculars. I had pondered Sissinghurst, but it is closed – those damn Sackville Wests!

I don’t know anything about Scotney Castle and I still won’t for another 18 mins. But the sign tells me there is a house, a castle, a walled garden, a tea room and a shop. Well you can’t really go wrong with that now can you!

All in all it’s too early. I had come from a breakfast appointment with a 3 year old with chicken pox – yes I did, which meant lovely pancakes but far too much frivolity. I awoke at 6 am and had started some work on my latest tribute to Danny La Rue, it’s a life’s work – I know. But actually it is extremely liberating and exhilarating to be on the road so early – there is something quite free spirit about it and I like Kent.

So the clock strikes 11 and I meander up to the entrance gate, and there are so many old people queuing – does this happen at 11am outside very NT property across the land, everyday? Is this where the old people are when they’re not stopping to chat in supermarket doorways?

Anyway Scotney Castle is great and I’m very pleased I joined that queue of old people. The top tip I leave with is to put pine cones on chairs where you don’t want people to sit – so simple, so effective, and so sore if read wrong. It is a beautiful house with charming guides, although one was a little too overly scented. Also a nice Gay to chat with in the shop – curds galore!

Well I’ve the bug now so where next, the leaflet says Batemans – Rudyard Kipling’s place is nearby, so again, why not. A completely different set up I find, and a lot less of what I like; the guides are altogether cooler and a lot bossier. Apart from the nice lady in the bedroom - steady – well you know about ladies in the bedroom. From what I remember you have to make sure you have a clear run to the door.

And guess what the lady in the bedroom told me - I haven’t even been in Kent, after all, but in Sussex, even Rye, my destination isn’t in Kent, no Kent at all! They’ll be telling me this isn’t England next.

So the Batemans’ house is all a bit boring actually so I head for the gardens where I think I’m being followed by these two old blokes with their cameras and their suitcases! To be honest I’m pretty sure it’s the Chuckle Brothers ‘that Joe Godwin’ but I move on swiftly as only an agile athlete of my youth and good looks can. Hopefully I won’t be appearing in their next ‘calendar’.

I thought I might stay and have my lunch at Bateman’s - after all Mr Kipling is renowned for his exceedingly good pies. But no, the tea room smacked somewhat of coach parties and I have an avowed dereliction of that what might be a coach party or similar, so it’s best avoided. So it’s back in my trusty motor and onto Rye for lunch and adventure – never mind the cost!

Now I had my map, but what I didn’t have was the pensione’s address. I had my confirmation email but now I look, that seems not to have the address. So I pull myself off into a municipal car park and I dial in the hope of alleviation du quandary.  An Aussie answers and I’m given the address, i thank him, but realise I still have no bearings and I could not see a handy street sign for love nor money. Maybe we only have street signage in London, and maybe it is over rated, but for the love of the Jesus - where am I? Now for a postage stamp community with all of 10 streets you wouldn’t have thought directional traversation would have been problematic.


Key thing is I’m here now, and the Ship Inn is very SE22, and mucho pleasante du vacance. Only hitch so far is the owner’s accent, but the lady owneress is a delight. Having only been over her threshold for a moment she’s already succeeded in fleecing me for a Hoegaarden, a spinach, feta and spring onion pie and some minted news. Easily fleeced that’s all I can say.

OH MY GOD – it’s so nice to be away.

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