Thursday, 17 January 2008
Right then. My esteemed aunt Heather tells me that everyone is done looking at the mixer and it's time for an update. And I suppose that since it's been a straight up month since I last put anything up on this blog we can't accuse aunt Heather of over-reacting.
So, since the mixer arrival day we have managed to stagger through the Christmas madness and have a whale of a time doing it, Ben finished his break (always a relief - break times can be almost more work than term time,) then we all got the flu . . . that was exciting. Skipping lightly over the flu portion of the last month, I will pass to happier things and tell you of our trip to Nottingham. It was absolutely and completely fabulous! Well, actually no. Let me rephrase that. It turned out to be absolutely and completely fabulous. It started out as a bit of a dud actually.
We started off the day at Nottingham Castle . . . which is 17th century but built on the site of the original Medieval castle of Prince John fame and all that. There was a Robin Hood exhibit in the castle that we were anxious to see . . . but wow. Not fun. Hilarious actually. The whole upper floor of the castle was devoted to the BBC tv mini-series, Robin Hood. Larger than life banners with pictures of the actors . . . telling us that in the tv show, the Sheriff of Nottingham's catchphrase is, "La-de-dah!" Then a mannequin dressed like Maid Marian would light up and she would tell us that "Robin Hood never understands the importance of my work for the resistance!" or something silly like that . . . it was completely pitiful and extremely un-techy to boot. One thing that I noticed while there was that, for good or ill, Americans can package ANYTHING. I'm pretty sure that in Idaho at least, if someone found as much as an arrow head we would have a sneeze guard constructed over the site of the discovery, and a darned good and extremely slick presentation about it . . . even if there was absolutely nothing to be said about it. But here we had NOTTINGHAM CASTLE for Pete's sake! And the best they could muster was a badly dressed set of mannequins that lit up in a freakish and eerie way and are supposed to look like BBC actors . . . it was a bit ridiculous and we were really hoping we hadn't driven an hour and a half to look at that.
So we walked down to St. Mary's church . . . where Robin Hood had once had a show down with the Sheriff's men in the sanctuary. It's also the spot where, according to legend, he married Maid Marian. But apparently the earliest accounts of Robin Hood don't actually mention Maid Marian at all and so historians aren't sure that she actually existed. However, since historians are notoriously spoil sports, we'll pay no mind to the fact that early accounts don't mention her. But Maid Marian or no, when we got to the church it was all locked up. (Picture #2 - kids standing outside the locked gate.) At this point in the day we were feeling a bit gypped. It was utterly frigid and we were freezing to death on the not-so-charming streets of Nottingham with nothing to look at. It was really a toss up whether we would go back to the castle for a tour of something called, "Mortimer's Hole" or go to Starbucks and call it a day. We decided to go back for the tour and oh boy. We were SO glad we hadn't opted for Starbucks!
Back at the castle they told us that the entirety of Castle Rock was riddled with caves . . . in fact, all of Nottingham is riddled with caves. They took us down a tunnel from the castle that led down and down and down . . . through all sorts of twisty passages and crazy caves . . . Judah's comment was, "There are caves under castles! I LOVE this place!" We stopped in a cave (blurry picture #3) that had been used as a dungeon . . . Robin Hood had spent time in there, and King David of Scotland had been there for 12 years. Prince John had even imprisoned and held hostage 28 young boys - sons of the barons - and kept them in the dungeon to insure the barons' good behaviour. However, the story ended quite horribly as all 28 boys were hung from the castle walls.
But then we went through a tunnel that led to Mortimer's Hole. This part gave me goose bumps actually. The tour guide went over the story with us - as we were all standing in the tunnel - of how, after the murder of Edward II by Mortimer and Isabella, Edward III had snuck through this tunnel leading his men (guided by a townsman who had grown up in the castle and knew a secret way in) and come out in the center keep of the castle where Mortimer and Isabell (his mother) were holding a council. They grabbed Mortimer and dragged him back out through the tunnels before anyone had even been able to raise the alarm. Mortimer was taken to London and drawn and quartered, and Edward III took the throne. It was really unbelievable to hear that story again, but while standing in the place it had happened.
She also told us that early Medieval manuscripts describe one cave under Nottingham Castle that has an enormous Passion of Christ carved into the cave wall, as well as full statues of the 12 apostles. This cave is lost somewhere under the castle - and they're hoping that they'll have enough funds soon to try and excavate more of the tunnels and find it.
After the tour of the caves ended, we went into a pub at the base of Castle Rock called the "Trip to Jerusalem." This really topped off the day. The pub was actually a series of caves in the rock - but it had a 16th century-ish pub sort of retrofitted into it. It was quite cool in it's own right - but the bit about it that was show-stopping was the fact that this was a pub where the Crusaders stopped on their way to the Crusades - thus the name! Richard the Lionhearted had summoned the troops for the third crusade (it was the third wasn't it?) and so they all mustered here. Since this pub had originally been the brewhouse for the castle (complete with 60 foot shaft up through the rock to the castle where they hoisted the beer up) this is where the Crusaders essentially stopped and had "one for the road."
All in all it was a complete blast, and we're going to have to make a separate trip back sometime for Sherwood Forest because it was dark by the time we finished the cave tour. The camera helpfully died before the pub, so we didn't get pictures of that unfortunately.