Friday Links

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.”
― Jack London

Happy Halloween!

My life got extremely busy, extremely quickly the week. I just picked up a short term gig as a project and marketing assistant coordinator for a luxury retail design company–no exaggeration, Russian oligarchs may or may not be involved–and two temp assignments in my field over three days. I’m very pleased at the unexpected good fortune, just trying to schedule it all in. I also had a doctors appointment, a venue scouting, a creative onboarding meeting, and a mass of brand new freelance assignments all at pop up at once on my To Do list for tomorrow.

Translation? There is a pile of dishes in my sink that are just going to have to wait and heaven help the rest of the flat. Jeff’s right next to me in the weeds too, this week, and has been waking up a 5am to get some extra hours in at work. I foresee grumpiness until Sunday naps can rectify the situation. In the meantime, here are your links and let me know what you’re getting up to in the credits.

The goal is to avoid this fate.

The goal is to avoid this fate.

In honor of the day.

The 11th Duke of Marlborough passed away just a couple of weeks ago, which news caught my eye since we were so recently at Blenheim Palace, the Marlborough seat. Apparently the 12th Duke and his father had a major falling out (due to a rather public drug addiction issue and other problems) and steps were taken in the 1990s to make sure that though he gets the title, he isn’t entirely master of Blenheim. Who needs Downton Abbey, I ask you? Tatler has a look back at the 11th Duke’s admittedly full life.

Oh, for hell’s sake

Say it with me: freedom of religion does not mean the ability to force other people to conform to your religion. In fact, it’s kind of supposed to protect against that. This sort of new genuinely frightens me.

Shut up and take my money.

Interesting piece on my generation’s trend of not buying the things that our parents and grandparents considered necessities–and that traditionally pull nations out of Recessions. Truthfully, I don’t miss having a car at all and it will be years before we even think about the potential of buying instead of renting.

The Quirks of Christ Church, Oxford

“None but the most blindly credulous will imaging the characters and events in this story to be anything but fictitious. It is true that the ancient and noble city of Oxford is, of all the towns of England, the likeliest progenitor of unlikely events and persons. But there are limits.”
― Edmund Crispin

Christ Church College, Oxford, is a unique one. It is the only academic institution in the world that doubles as a cathedral. It’s the seat of the Bishop of Oxford, but incidently in its charter the resident ecclesiastical overseer is the monarch. Which is, of course, thanks to Henry VIII and his truly staggering sense of self-importance. Reformations can be such messy things.

It’s also a really lovely place to visit and is chock full of fun historical odds and ends.

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Hideous grounds. How can any right thinking person work there? Horrible…

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If the Hall looks familiar, it’s because it was used as a model for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. The pictures don’t move, but Henry VIII looms (of course he does) from the place of honor above the head table.

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Sir Robert Peel was a graduate of the college but not always popular in elections. A later student tattooed his political opinion on a door of the college, which let it stand permanently!

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The cathedral itself is a beautiful building, but it’s hidden bits are easily my favorite parts. I mentioned that reformations are tricky, and nowhere more complexly than Britain. These might not look like much but they are the remains of a medieval painting that was whitewashed over when Catholicism went out. Since medieval era church art like this was often scrubbed away, stripped, and burned, whitewashing is practically a gift since in many cases it preserved the art beneath it.

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One of the most famous graduates was Charles Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Look closely in the windows of the Hall and you may discover a delightful tribute hidden away. See them?

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The Duchess is one of my favorite characters. Rare indeed is the cooking expedition in which pepper is called for and I do not belt out, “More pepper!” in honor of her cook as I rummage in cupboards. I’ve even got Jeff doing it, it’s officially a family quirk.

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The Mock Turtle is a delight!

The Pump Room

“Your father’s state of health must be a great drawback. Why does not he try Bath? Indeed he should. Let me recommend Bath to you.”
-Jane Austen, Emma

 

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After the Roman baths, the next best thing in Bath is the 18th century Pump Room. It features in Austen novels, Gillray’s cartoons lampooning the Regency’s main figures, and countless travelogs. Largely unchanged since it was built, it was one of the main places for people to meet and greet, see and be seen in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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And without doubt, the focal point is the fountain where do this day you can pay 50p to “take the waters,” as those who came to Bath over the years did to improve their health. On this visit, I was happy to just take pictures. I’ve tasted the water, and I’m convinced it’s more kill than cure.

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The restaurant is lovely. I heartily recommend taking tea if you get the chance.

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And those three performers? Apparently they are called the Pump Room Trio, and as an institutional group, they are the longest established residential ensemble in Europe. Knock back your tea (or mineral water, if you’re a masochist) and scones listening to beautiful classical music while feeling you most Austen-esque.

Bath

“Your head runs too much upon Bath; but there is a time for everything — a time for balls and plays, and a time for work. You have had a long run of amusement, and now you must try to be useful.”
- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

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Obviously the most famous thing in Bath is…the Roman bath complex! A combination of historic site and museum, it’s well worth the cost of the tour. Like most places in Britain these days, you pick up an audio guide that takes you around the museum and through the baths, allowing you to set both the pace and amount of information you want to take in. There are also options for children who might not want to spend hours staring into collections of votive offerings to the goddess of the hot water spring like, er, some people…

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The Baths are right next door to the Bath Abbey. If you love historic cathedrals like, er, some people again it’s worth a look in, but if not you can admire it from outside just fine and move on to other things.

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The Baths are still flowing and still heated by the self same spring that fed it in the Roman era. Look closely and you can see steam rising up above he water in certain places.

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This is the entrance to the spring itself, with a bit of Roman civil engineering thrown in for good measure.

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The thing about Bath that really makes it worth a visit is that it’s just so very pretty. It’s utterly picturesque. The primary building material is the iconic limestone that is quarried from the area that gives a light sort of feeling to the entire city. It rises up out of the dark green hills, with tendrils of creamy stone curling through the river valley. The elegant Georgian architecture doesn’t hurt either.

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It’s hard to explain how something like rock can be so alluring but I personally think Bath is at its best in twilight. The stone gives off a warm sort of glow that makes everything look like a Jane Austen mini-series. Ironic since she might be Bath’s most famous resident (and the locals trot her out at every opportunity), but she didn’t particularly like it there.

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It’s a very British thing to talk about the weather, but it must be said that the “green and pleasant land” pulled out all the stops for my in-laws’ visit. The weather was perfect throughout the entire trip, and I’m fairly certain I got more Vitamin D in their week visiting than I had in the previous six months!

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The other major site we took in was Number 1 Royal Crescent, a Georgian home that’s been restored and furnished to look as it would have in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Everyday items like hair scratchers (necessities for ladies who might have had their hair washed and set once a quarter) and mousetraps are displayed alongside formal dining and reception rooms. You can head up the main staircase, or tromp down the servants’ one to get a taste of life above and below stairs during the period.

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Last but not least: FOOD. Sally Lunn’s is a Bath establishment. It’s fairly simple fair, but there has been a bakehouse on this site for centuries (and some excavations have revealed there may have been one in Roman times as well!). The current house dates from the 17th century and got its name from a French Huguenot baker who set up shop who created the “Bath bun,” a large and fluffy roll of white bread. Sally Lunn’s serves all meals, with a side of her famous bun with each portion.

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We stumbled across The Circus cafe and restaurant on our way to the Royal Crescent and decided to take a late lunch there. A helpful sign informed us that it was ranked #4 in a nationwide list of “restaurants that only foodies know about,” and I can see why. My lunch of roasted squashes and vegetables with a pomegranate sauce and some magical concoction of goats cheese was easily the best dish I had on the entire trip. The food is locally sourced, season, and excellent–and most importantly, very reasonably priced for what you get.

Salisbury

“No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.”
- Magna Carta

My father-in-law wins, hands down, for finding accommodation for a trip through the southwest of England. We provided the itinerary and travel suggestions, he came up with the most wonderful housing finds. We did a five day loop through Salisbury, Bath, the Cotswolds, and Oxford  to take in the sights and he was armed with guidebooks and things to do at every step of the way. And with not a single miss!

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Salisbury is a small, but completely charming city. The center is a delightful hodgepodge of medieval through 20th century architecture and most of the historic sites and buildings are fantastically preserved. Unless you like history it might not be in your typical travel plans, but let me heartily recommend it as a stopping point on the way West from London. We stayed in a B&B called Cricket Field House that was very lovely and nicely appointed, and was just over a five minute drive from convenient and free/cheap parking near the cathedral.

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The Breakfast Room won me over for a very important reason: the liberal use of Blue Willow china. It may be ridiculous, but that’s what my family has always owned and used and nothing in the world makes me feel more at home. The staff is fantastically friendly and helpful. I chatted with the breakfast server for quite a bit, and the gentleman who owns the establishment, when he heard where we hoped to eat that evening made a quick call to be sure that we could be accommodated immediately, without even being asked. In the interest of honesty, I also feel compelled to report that as we were leaving after breakfast a tiny and fluffy black puppy made an escape from the home portion of the house and put in an appearance by dashing across Jeff’s shoes before being snatched up by me. Puppies have a rather alarming effect on my brain so even though I’d decided that Cricket Field House was a delight, she sealed the bargain.

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After parking the car we walked across the river and took in the views.

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The New Inn is a bit of a misnomer, since it was built in the 15 century and remains essentially identical today. But we’ll let nomenclature slide because it was a great place to eat. Traditional hearty pub food, with a very nice sticky toffee pudding it has to be said.

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The interior is tilted and uneven in the best possible way, with low beams and paneled rooms, open fireplaces and hidden corners.

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And the view from the garden? Not half bad!

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I took enormous delight in how the lowest beams have been altered to accommodate our modern heights with handy leather padding. It’s still about a foot above my head, but Jeff pronounced them not only useful but necessary.

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After dinner we went for a late night stroll by the cathedral, to which we returned on the following day to see the best preserved version of the Magna Carta in existence (the Magna Carta is celebrating it’s 800th birthday next year, incidently), to gander at the supposedly oldest working clock in the modern clock in the world, and admire the various medieval and Tudor minions and courtiers buried there. I got to study up on the 1st Baron Hungerford who fought in the Battle of Agincourt, and his grandson the 3rd Baron who famously got into a land dispute with a family named Paston–through the Paston family letters we have some of the best information about the life and experiences of the up-and-coming gentry class in the Middle Ages.

Virginia might be for lovers, kittens, but Salisbury is for history people!

Friday Links

“For Children: You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It’s quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a chicken.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Must dash, quite busy today. Here are your links, and let me know what you’re getting up to this weekend in the comments!

This story broke last week, but I still think it’s important. First of all this happened in the county where my parents live so it immediately caught my personal attention, and secondly I think this piece does a really good job exploring its title question. Thrill? Experimentation? Ignorance? And the question, “Will this not be as big a deal someday and therefore less frightening?” is both an intriguing and odd one. On the one hand, a world where girls (and let’s face it, we are mostly talking about female exploitation and exposure here) aren’t stigmatized, bullied, or hounded into self-harm and suicide but allowed to move on with minimal negative impact seems like a pretty good one. But that means it’s also a world where sexualized images of real, non-consenting children are even more widely available. Weigh in in the comments, please, because I’m really curious to hear people’s reactions and thoughts.

An article about a time capsule. Nice in and of itself, but the first comment (more specifically the response to it) rather made me chuckle.

Yep.

Where does your nomenclature put you on the political spectrum? There’s a site for that! (I laughed uproariously at my own results.  Jeff, incidentally, is apparently somewhere around here.)

Tumblr find of the week.

Interesting piece on BBC News about why Brits (and to some extent Americans eat and eschew the meats that we do.

Indeed, let us bring back the hat pin!

British comment sections are the best comment sections. The first two comment threads especially.

I need this because I am hell on umbrellas…

Great short piece on xoVain about the history of banning black hair.

There is so much still to find!

Girl power. (h/t Savvy)