5 July 2015

heatwave_imagePhew! What a scorcher! We’ve had some blisteringly hot days this week but like all UK summers, I suspect this will all be but a memory in a few days time. Monday was good – temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius (upper 70s Fahrenheit) and Tuesday was even warmer. Wednesday, though, was the real scorchio! The thermostat in the kitchen reached the dizzying heights of 30 degrees C (86 F) which, for most folks around these parts is akin to sitting in a blast furnace surrounded by molten lead. Fortunately, it cooled down a bit on Thursday and Friday but is set to stay warm with only the occasional thunderstorm for the next few days. Enjoy it while you can!

We had a great afternoon with Nick, Lucy and Annabelle last Sunday at the Hornton Open Gardens. For those who don’t know, Hornton is a lovely little village just a few miles from where we used to live in Radway. Open Gardens are a bit of a summer tradition in the UK – villages with a selection of keen gardeners will spruce up their gardens and open them to the public to raise money for some worthwhile cause. Some of you will remember, possibly even with affection, the Radway Open Gardens when Ms Playchute would invite everyone she knew and all their friends for a picnic lunch & tea and then spend days, perhaps weeks even, catering for several hundred visitors. In those days, of course, the weather was always gloriously hot and sunny!

On Tuesday we enjoyed another little outing. It was a splendid day with temperatures nudging up into the 80s together with a bright, bright blue and clear sky. So, we bundled ourselves into the car and ventured out to Claydon House, a National Trust property not far away near Buckingham.


The present house was built between 1757 and 1771 and is only about one-third of its intended size. What remains today is the ‘west wing’; this at one time had an identical twin, which contained the ballroom, and other state apartments. The twin wings were separated by a huge colonnaded rotunda surmounted by a cupola. The 2nd Lord Verney ran into financial problems before the latter two wings were entirely completed, and had to spend the final years of his life on the continent to escape his creditors. Following his death in 1792 his estate was inherited by his niece Mary Verney, a parsimonious woman, unlike her extravagant uncle, she had the house reduced to its present size. She tore down the unfinished two-thirds and sold the building materials to try and clear some of the estate’s debts.

A painted reconstruction of what the house would have looked like when finished.
A painted reconstruction of what the house would have looked like when finished.

Elaborately carved ceiling made of wood, not plaster.
Elaborately carved ceiling made of wood, not plaster.

While the exterior of the house is pretty dull and non-descript, the inside is simply astounding – very elaborate and ornate. Much of the work was carried out by a chap named Luke Lightfoot, the most talented wood carver of the era and his mastery is on display all over the house and nowhere more evident than in the ceilings. At first glance they look like elaborate plaster works but they are, in fact, carved ornamentation.

One last little titbit – Florence Nightingale’s elder sister Parthenope became Lady Verney when she married Harry Verney, the 2nd Baronet and Florence often stayed at the house for extended periods of time in her later years.

While Ms Playchute and I were watching television on Tuesday evening we were startled and amazed when a swallow swooped through the front door (standing open because of the hot weather) weaved its way into the lounge and swooped out the open French doors passing about eighteen inches in front of us, as if on a low-level, below the radar training mission. Fortunately, since it made its way both in and out in a heartbeat, it apparently either didn’t have time or feel the need to crap all over the floor as they generally do when they mistakenly come indoors.

Polly Toynbee had a good article in the Guardian on Thursday about the way in which the government has decided to eliminate child poverty at a swoop as I mentioned last time. They’ve decided to simply redefine what constitutes poverty

To be poor will from now on mean to fail, to be poor apologies for human beings, people in error, in need of correction not cash. That means 64% of children formerly known as poor will now vanish from the government’s reckoning because their families are not failing, but “hardworking” – just earning too little to keep afloat. Morally they are just fine, so they are no longer poor even if they queue at food banks at the end of the week.

Woman Finds Hat in Tree!

There was a cute collection of local news headlines in the Huffington Post earlier in the week, several of which made me chuckle. My two favourites:

woman_finds_hat_in_tree mystery_blob_on_pavement

And finally, what did you do with your “leap second” on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Me? I slept through it.

Much love to you all,