Archive for August, 2017

After accidentally visiting Poundbury we made our way 6 miles north to the village of Cerne Abbas to visit the Cerne Abbas giant. He’s another of those figures that have been dug into the chalk across southern England. And he is emphatically male and very blessed.

Quite how old he is we are not sure. The first mention of him is in 1694 which indicates he was cut about then but there is no evidence of who did it or why. Another idea is that he is a representation of Hercules created in the period just before the Romans came in 79CE. There are pictures of Hercules from that age weilding a club like this figure. And, archaeological investigations have found evidence of a lion’s coat draped from his other arm under the grass. And that image of Hercules is found all over Europe from those times.

The style of the giant indicates that he is even older than that, being Celtic. Figures like him have been found in Celtic Art way before the Romans came. And there are all manner of Ancient British archaeological sites in the area and on his actual hill.

My personal theory is that he was created a long time ago but, because of the subject matter (if you catch my drift) he was allowed to disappear and become overgrown. Then, about 400 years ago he was recut. There have been calls for him to be removed recently but he’s now a protected ‘scheduled national monument’ so there’s no chance of that. I did hear a story that Nazi bombers used a part of him to guide them to Plymouth dockyards in WWII and a bit of him was covered up to confuse them. And postcards of him are the only thing of this nature, shall we say, that the Royal Mail will allow you to post. Unless you put it in a plain, brown envelope of course. 

What was his purpose? No one really knows but it was possibly something to do with fertility is my guess. He’s certainly a potent respresentation of masculinity. He attracts tourists by the bus load. He also attracts people who are struggling to conceive a child even today. A night spent on the figure is said to improve your chances. And, while I was checking up on him today to write this, only this weekend a guy was caught making an ‘offering’ to him in the very carpark we parked the car last week. The police are anxious to speak to this gentleman and enquiries are ongoing. 

It was raining by the time we got to the viewing point so the pictures are a bit fuzzy. And the slope of the hillside doesn’t help. Here are my pictures. The little white dots are sheep. They keep the grass down so the giant remains crisp. Click the pics to see him more clearly. 

So here’s a picture of the giant from the Internet so you can see him in all his glory. He’s best seen from the air I think. Thanks to whoever took the picture. In case you are wondering it is 11 metres (37 feet) long. He’s certainly the most blessed guy in the UK and probably anywhere else in the world. Unless you know differently….

Poor Prince Charles. His life has been mapped out since the moment he was born. He was always going to be King. However, the Queen has dedicated herself to being in her role until she meets her maker. She promised that at her coronation and, at 91, she is in great health and sprightly and shows no sign of moving on. While his brothers, Princes Andrew and Edward and the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, have been able to do other things, Prince Charles has never had that luxury. He’s gone from his youth, into middle age and, at an age where most people are thinking of retiring, he’s still waiting to to start the job he was born for. 

Its been hard for him. One thing the monarch can’t do is speak their mind. No one knows what the Queen’s opinions are on anything beyond being able to recognise a good race horse. She can never take sides with one government or another even if she disagrees with them. She has managed this with consummate ease for over 60 years. Prince Charles has had to do that as well. He has been less successful shall we say.

He does talk on certain subjects that are felt to be not controversial. He’s a great campaigner for different groups getting on, looking after the countryside, green issues generally. The kind of stuff there is a general consensus over. And he’s very interested in architecture and has strong opinions on how our towns and cities should look. 

Architectually he’s old school. His thoughts became public when there was a plan to build a very modern extension to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London. He didn’t like it one little bit, describing it as ‘a carbuncle on the face of a much loved friend.’ It wasn’t built and something more in keeping with the architecture of the gallery was. He doesn’t like modern architecture. What’s happening in Manchester at the moment must keep him awake all night. 

He’s gone further than talk about it by creating what he believes is a template for how a British town or city should look. He is the Duke of Cornwall and the Duchy of Cornwall is rich and owns land all over the country. One piece of land they own is on the western edge of the pretty county town of Dorset, Dorchester. Here he has started to build Poundbury, his ideas made concrete. Well not concrete, reconstituted stone and stucco is more like it. 

We hadn’t intended to visit Poundbury but, after leaving Lyme Regis and heading back to the hotel in Bournmouth, I remembered I hadn’t seen the Sunday Times that day and I do like to see a copy if only for the review section. A quick google revealed that we were near a Waitrose and it was in Poundbury so we went.

It is possibly one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever been to. You can see what it’s trying to do. There is a mixture of styles and building sizes that you often see in attractive cities like Chester, York, Harrogate, Oxford, Cambridge… But gets it wrong.

It’s a suburb of Dorchester but the buildings are way out of scale compared to the ones in the centre of Dorchester a couple of miles away. The styles of the buildings jar against each other. The kinds of towns and cities that Prince Charles admires have take centuries to grow and develop as each generation adds to what is already there. You simply can’t plonk a series of buildings down in a field and hope it works. Here, under the watchful eye of tha Queen Mother, is doesn’t work at all.

It looks more like a Disney version of how an English city should look or a movie set for a remake of ‘The Stepford Wives.’ That impression was reinforced by the absence of people while the centre of Dorchester will have been busy with visitors. And the idea that it was a movie set grew when you looked behind these big buildings and there was nothing. I couldn’t find the fire station that looks like an ancient Roman temple. I apologise.

I got my newspaper in Waitrose and on leaving was confronted by this building. It looks like the stuccoed palace of a minor Hapsburg prince in Vienna but only if the Hapsburgs had decided to do Vienna on the cheap. I have no idea what it does. Offices? homes? Certainly no Hapsburgs were living in it. They are trying to create the charm of a small English city. I’ve not been to Birmingham recently but I imagine Birmingham has more charm that Poundbury. And I KNOW that Manchester does. We left. 

The Mini Adventure continues…

On the Sunday of this trip we decided to explore the Jurassic Coast. The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site that covers 96 miles of the Channel coast from Old Harry’s Rocks to the west of Bournemouth to Orcombe Point near Exmouth in Devon. Rocks from the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic periods meet the sea in dramatic cliffs and everything from tiny fossils to actual dinosaurs fall out of them with regularity. Each tide brings new finds for you to discover.

If the Jurassic Coast has a capital it is the pretty seaside town of Lyme Regis on Lyme Bay. It used to be called just Lyme, it gained the Regis bit when Edward I (the one who hammered the Scots and made the Welsh miserable) gave it a charter. An interesting story I heard about it concerned World War I. A German U boat torpedoed HMS Formidable in the Channel off Lyme Regis. The Lyme Regis lifeboat was given the job of ferrying the dead to land. One of the dead was Seaman Cowan, or so they thought. As his body waited to be processed, a dog belonging to a local innkeeper licked the sailor’s face. He regained conciousness. The dog’s name was Lassie. She became famous and all the TV shows and movies about dogs with that name owe their popularity to the Lyme Regis original. 

But Lyme Regis is most famous for fossils. And that fame is much due to a woman called Mary Anning. She was the daughter of poor people who lived in Lyme Regis. She was poorly educated but was fascinated by the fossils that she found under the cliffs around the town. She collected them and sold them to visitors. She began to study them, draw them and write about them. She dug into cliffs and found larger ones. She became very famous and visitors from all over Europe came to her little shop to buy her fossils and consult with her. Eminent scientists came to Lyme to see her. Being a woman in the early Victorian period she wasn’t taken seriously as a scientist and wasn’t allowed to join the organisations that were studying the new science of Geology. But the people who came to talk to her were not above passing her work off as their own. Fossils she found are to be seen in the Natural History Museum in London and in collections across the world. She died too early of breast cancer, we think.

Today her work is recognised and the museum in Lyme Regis is named in honour of her.

Some random pictures of Lyme Regis. It was Sunday and, in spite of the grey skies, Lyme was busy.

This is where we had lunch. Fish and chips in a restaurant called The French Lieutenants Woman, named after the Meryl Streep movie of the same name shot partially in Lyme Regis. The picture below the restaurant one isn’t of strange lights in the sky but the view of the sea from the restaurant window. We didn’t eat outside because pterodactyls swoop down and steal food off your plate. Well not exactly but their distant descendants, the seagulls, have been known to. I once reluctantly shared a M&S prawn sandwich with one on the beach in Llandudno. I just heard the swish of its wings and then saw the face inches from mine and the sandwich was ripped from my hands! Absolutely terrifying!

This is the oldest fossil shop in Lyme Regis. The plastic dinosaurs are there for fun. Inside there are fascinating, ancient things on sale and to be seen, many found in the cliffs and on the beaches around Lyme Regis.

These are lobster pots. Bait is put in them. The lobsters crawl in and can’t get out. If the lobster is big enough he might find himself on a plate in a fancy restaurant in London, Manchester or even Paris. 

This is The Cobb, the wall that protects Lyme’s harbour from the waves in the Channel. Here people are channelling their inner Meryl Streep in the iconic scene from ‘The French Lieutenants Woman’ where she waits for her French lover during the Napoleonic wars. 

These cannons were set up to keep the French out during the Napoleonic wars.

While there weren’t any pirates working out of Lyme Regis that we know of in the past, this stretch of coast was famous for smuggling things in from Europe. With Brexit going on they might have to start doing that again. And the pirates were back in town. 

And I had no idea that Lyme Regis was on Route 66!

Back to my Mini adventure….

Winchester used to have a castle and city walls in times when England wasn’t as peaceful as it is today. Many places had castles. Manchester had a small one apparently but there is little evidence. To find it we would have to demolish the Corn Exchange to find the remains. So when you’re eating in Wahaca or Pho that’s something to think about. Stockport had one as well that disappeared as the town industrialised. Some, like Windsor Castle, grew over the centuries and became a royal palace or the home of a wealthy family. Some cities like York or Chester retained their walls and they are now used for pleasant walks about those cities. Some of the castles were repurposed as offices to run the city from. Others just fell into picturesque decline.

Winchester’s castle and walls have all but disappeared. Of the walls, all I could find was the West Gate. There may be more but I didn’t get to see all of the city.

The castle has all but disappeared as well. The medieval buildings have been replaced by newer ones. They are occupied as offices from where the city and the county of Hampshire are governed from. I noticed that the city’s courts are in the old castle precinct as well.

The only part of the medieval castle that remains is the Great Hall. In medieval times it would be where people would meet up to eat and celebrate and the like. It’s a grand space with huge oak beams holding up the roof. I imagine it’s still used for big events today but it’s more of a tourist attraction.

The Great Hall is impressive enough on its own but what the tourists really come to look at is King Arthur’s Round Table. It’s marketed as the round table that the mythical King Arthur and his knights sat around discussing knightly things. Of course it isn’t. If King Arthur existed at all, he was a late Roman warlord defending the Ancient Roman province of Britannia from invading Anglo Saxons. All the medieval add ons were invented later on. We think it was made in the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). He was one of our military kings who went about hammering the Scots and making the Welsh miserable. This table would have been built for some great celebration. The Plantagent Kings liked to connect themselves with England’s mythical past. In Tudor times, Henry VIII had it repainted putting himself in the position of King Arthur and a whopping great Tudor rose in the centre imposing Tudor rule on a Plantagenet symbol. 

Behind the Great Hall is Queen Eleanor’s Garden, a reconstruction of a garden that was here in the thirteenth century. Eleanor of Provence became Queen Eleanor when she married Henry III (1216-1272). He built the Great Hall at Winchester and this little garden was created for his wife behind it. It was built using materials from Provence in France and planted up with plants she would have seen in her home. Actually, the one we see now is a reconstruction. Back in Henry III’s time the capital may have been London but the Plantagent kings must have still been using Winchester as a place to stay, possibly in the summer where it would have been a lot cleaner and less disease ridden than London. 

The grapes are doing well it seems. Not many people know that England can grow grapes. We can and we turn them into wine which wins awards. In blind tastings English sparkling wines have taken on and beaten Champagne. There are a lot of vineyards on the chalk and limestone hills of southern England where the ‘terroir’ provides the right conditions for producing good quality white wines. We are too far north for red wines though which need longer summers and more heat. Although our vineyards are mostly in southern England, there are some as far north as Cheshire and Yorkshire now. And we have a vine in our garden in Manchester. 

One thing I forgot to mention that we’d witnessed at the Pride Parade was a proposal. One of the floats ground to a halt in front of us. A woman in the parade went down on one knee and proposed to her girlfriend. We all held our breath but the girlfriend said ‘yes’! The teen girls next to me went wild and the rest of us cheered. Could have been awkward if the answer had been negative. ‘No pressure love but will you marry me?’ In front of the 1000s lining the parade route. Risky!

Once I’d got the feeling back in my legs I made my way down to the cathedral. On the way I took these pictures of the stores decorated for Pride or Rainbow Christmas as it’s becoming to be known as. They include Marks & Spencer’s who put the lovely message in their window of rainbow umbrellas.

In the cathedral there was a sale of vintage clothing and not quite antiques from the 60s, 70s and 80s. There was also a DJ playing swing music for the 1940s and people dressed for the same period and swing dancing in the nave of the cathedral where the Bishop of Manchester sits on his throne on special occasions. To top it all there was a pop up gin bar selling artisan gins and Prosecco cocktails. Did I have one? Well the chance to drink gin in the cathedral was too good a chance to miss while watching the dancing while clutching my rainbow bee Pride flags that I’d been waving. I had some Robin of Locksley Gin (aka Robin Hood) from Nottingham and some pink grapefruit tonic. Delicious!

Outside the cathedral I spotted this rainbow flag bedecked motorbike against the background of all the new offices and apartment towers on Embankment and along Greengate.

Back to my Mini adventure….

Elisabeth Frink was a British sculptor. She lived, at the end of her life, at Blandford Forum which isn’t too far from Winchester. She was very popular while she was working but then her work became unfashionable as can happen. Her work was often displayed in those Modernist, Brutalist developments that we are tearing down now. She’s being rediscovered and reappreciated these days. She drew and painted but is most famous for her bronze sculptures. She liked to sculpt certain things. Birds and horses were a thing of hers. And she liked muscular, naked men as well.

On my walk from Winchester Cathedral to the Great Hall of Winchester I came across this sculpture of hers that brought together two of her passions, the horses and men. There’s an identical one somewhere in Mayfair, London apparently.

I didn’t see this one in Winchester but I’ve always liked this head that she did of this guy in his cool shades. Another theme she returned to many times.

It was sunny and warm on Saturday so I took myself off into Manchester city centre to watch the Pride Parade. The theme was ‘graduation’ as in leaving school and moving on. It’s a landmark one as it’s been 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men in the UK so I thought they’d make a bit of an effort. I wasn’t disappointed. They didn’t have to decriminalise sexual acts between women as that’s never been a criminal offence. Some argued that now there is full equality for people of different sexulities and marriage for all in the UK why we even need a Pride event. Well, there are still 12 (I think) countries in the world where a gay man can face the death penalty. Some progressive countries are still wondering about extending marriage to gay people. We’re looking at you, Australia. Away from tolerant cities like Manchester and London, gay people can still face covert, if not actually overt, discrimination. People are still attacked for being gay even in cities like Manchester. That happened to a friend of mine just a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately there was no physical harm but it was, doubtless, a distressing experience in what he regards as a safe city. So still work to be done.

But all was well in Manchester on Saturday and thousands upon thousands of people lined the streets to see 140 (didn’t count, each one had a number as it went passed) floats and organisations parade through the city. Away from the parade route the stores and businesses were decorated to celebrate. With people from far and wide in the city to party, it’s like a rainbow Christmas.

I was in to support some people from ASDA who were in the parade. I stood on Deansgate for the two hours that it took the parade to go past. When I went to move I could barely move my legs. I found myself stood by a group of young teenage girls. They’d dressed for the event and shouted and whooped, waved their flags, danced and sang along with the parade. But, when the gay water polo team came passed, dressed in their snug speedos, they made appreciative noises about which guy they liked the best. I think they hadn’t quite got what a ‘Pride’ event was about!

Coronation Street, the much watched soap opera that is made in the city always have a float in the parade. This year it was dedicated to Coronation Street superfan, Martyn Hett. He was an out and proud member of the LGBT community in Manchester and one of the 22 people who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena back in May. He lived life to the full and his mother urged people to be ‘#bemoremartyn’. He loved being the centre of attention apparently and would have loved this. Bees were everywhere in the parade. There was a large contingent of LGBT police in the parade led by the new Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham. There was an even larger contingent of police in the city keeping the parade and watching crowds safe. 

Here are some more pictures. There are a lot but barely cover what I actually saw.

Most people who visit Winchester make a point of visiting Winchester Cathedral which dominates the city centre. It’s been there a long time. A Saxon cathedral was built on the spot (almost) in the year 642. According to the Bernard Cornwell Uhtred of Bebbenburg books, Alfred the Great extended it. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 a new cathedral in the Gothic style was built next to the Saxon cathedral. When it was finished in 1093 (it was begun in 1079) the Saxon church was torn down. They did that a lot. The new invaders built churches and castles to impress on the local inhabitants that they were now in charge. It means we have few Saxon churches and no Saxon cathedrals left. The Saxon church may have replaced a Roman church which may have been put on top of a pagan Roman temple. That may have been built on an Ancient British religious site. That happens a lot as well.

Cathedrals are big from the outside but, to my mind, they look even bigger once you get inside. Winchester Cathedral is notable because it is the longest, Gothic cathedral in Europe. Unfortunately, at the moment, they are doing building work in the centre of the cathedral so you can’t see the full length of the nave. One day I will visit a cathedral that is NOT having building work done!

Always look up in a cathedral and, usually, you will be rewarded with a view like this. The architects and builders, nearly 1000 years ago, built this, holding up the weighty roof, without plans just using their eyes. The weight transfers through the struts of the ceiling tracery to the columns and on into the foundations. An amazing feat of building engineering that produces something so beautiful and strong. 

This is the Great West Window. In our civil war (1642-51) the fundamental Christian, Parliamentary army took Winchester and smashed all the religious statues and stain glass windows in the cathedral. They didn’t believe in all that decoration distracting people from worshipping God. Once the army had gone the people collected the smash glass and put it back in place but not in the right places so it looks like a jigsaw waiting to be done. We did something similar, but more planned, with the stained glass in Manchester Cathedral after the Nazi air raids in WWII.

This is the east window, it’s Victorian so missed the civil war and wasn’t bombed in WWII so it’s still intact.

In places the floor is covered with these decorated, Medieval, terracotta tiles. They are strong but after 900+ years, time will take its toll and some will need to be replaced. The new ones stand out but, over time, they will merge in with the older ones.

Ancient cathedrals, like Winchester, are used for the burials of the great and the good of the local area. It was difficult to walk through the cathedral without walking on someone’s final resting place. Alfred the Great was buried in the Saxon cathedral and moved to this one when it was finished. Later he was moved again to Hyde, just north of Winchester, not the one in Manchester. 

This is the burial place of St. Swithun. He was the Bishop of Winchester in Saxon times. I looked him up. He was a very good man and died of old age. I prefer my saints to have come to a nasty, sticky end. The present cathedral is dedicated to him as well as to the Holy Trinity and Saints Peter and Paul. We aren’t a Roman Catholic nation but our ancient cathedrals still carry a lot of the old traditions. There’s an interesting story about St. Swithun. St. Swithun’s Day is July 15th. In the UK we say that if it rains that day it will rain for 40 days but, if it is fine, we will have fine weather for 40 days. And, no, it’s never worked out like that!

I did want to see this memorial and grave. Both mark the spot where the author, Jane Austen is buried. She lived in the local area and wrote books like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ They are still popular today. She died tragically young at 42 in 1817 but her stock and reputation was so high that she was awarded a burial spot in the cathedral. People still bring flowers. 

This is the crypt of Winchester Cathedral under the nave of the church. The statue is by Sir Anthony Gormley who created the ‘Angel of the North’ near Newcastle and the wonderful ‘Another Place’, that series of 100 statues on Crosby Beach near Liverpool that I visited last summer. He also has a statue in Manchester Art Gallery.

Some random pictures of the cathedral.

From the Treasury, filled with the cathedral’s gold and silver religious artefacts, you can see down into the nave.

In the cathedral precincts, I did like the look of this rather grand house. I think I’d be quite comfortable here. 

We used a nice boutique hotel in the seaside town of Bournemouth as a base. Living in Manchester we don’t get to see the sea much. The nearest beach is about 30 miles away from the city centre but someone built Liverpool on top of it. I liked Bournmouth. The hotel wasn’t far from the sea and it was nice to walk along the promenade into the centre of the town. Inexplicably, I didn’t take one picture! I didn’t appreciate how big and built up the area was though. And the road system was a nightmare. I found the hotel easily the first time but other attempts to get to it were so difficult it had me swearing at the Sat Nav. 

On the Saturday we went to Winchester. I’ve been reading the Bernard Cornwell, Uthred of Bebbenburg, books and watching the BBC TV series based on them, ‘The Last Kingdom.’ They are written about an interesting time in the history of England when the King, Alfred the Great, had an idea of joining all the ancient, English speaking kingdoms like Wessex, Mercia and Northumberia into one nation to be called England. The country was being invaded by Danes and Vikings raided the country. At one point all the ancient kingdoms were nearly overrun. If things had gone differently I would be writing this in Danish. 

Winchester was the capital city of Wessex. London was the commercial centre and biggest city but Winchester was the seat of political power. They had a relationship like New York and Washington DC or Sydney and Canberra have today I suppose. Winchester, in the books, was a bit of a roughty toughty place full of churches and inns that also served as whorehouses. Sometimes the line between churches and whorehouses was blurred shall we say. The books tell the story of the establishment of the nation of England. Most of the characters in them are well researched historical figures. Only Uthred is fictional as he carves his way through Vikings helping Alfred realise his dream of a united England. 

The city in the books is a Saxon city but it has older foundations in the Roman period when it was called Venta Belgarum. And the Romans built on an ancient British site. When William the Conqueror invaded the country in 1066, he moved the capital from Winchester to London where it has stayed since. If history had been different Winchester could have been one of the biggest cities in the world and capital of England.

I wanted to see if there was much of the Saxon city left. Most of it has gone though built over by succeeding generations. Even Alfred’s beloved cathedral was torn down to build the Norman cathedral you see today (will get its own post). Today it’s a much more, genteel sort of place with well dressed ladies going about their Saturday errands on the well stocked high street and tourists come to admire the city’s, well preserved historical charm. We did go into an old inn for a glass of beer. As extras it offered good food, SKY TV for football games and wifi. If it was operating as a whorehouse we weren’t informed of that. Alfred, a very religious man, would approve of that. Though, if the books and TV series are an accurate portrayal of him, he was fond of the odd, comely serving girl himself. 

Alfred’s statue dominates the main street looking more the soldier than the pious, religious man portrayed in the books…

This is the Guildhall where members of the various professions would meet to do business in Medieval times. This is a Victorian building though…

A lot of the buildings were faced with flintstones. Flints are very hard agglomerations of minerals found in chalk. Ancient British people used them to tip their spears before we discovered how to make metal. There are a lot of these in quarries in the local hills and they provide an attractive and hard wearing façade for buildings…

We parked at the ‘Park & Ride’ facility south of the city. It’s always difficult to drive into new places so I like to use these where we can. A bus takes you into town and someone else, who knows the place, has the stress of getting you in. Near the station there was a car park full of Minis…

This is Winchester’s Buttercross. Large Medieval towns that had a market had one to mark the fact…

There was a market on the day we visited. It was a mixture of selling necessities and nice things that you don’t need but might like…

There were lots of quaint corners to the city…

Back to my Mini adventure…..

We drove through a tremendous rain storm to the Uffington White Horse. A few hours earlier I’d left Manchester in blazing sunshine and usually the weather improves the further south you get in the UK. If you look back at my pictures of the Vale of the White Horse you can see the storm making its way across the valley and heading to Oxford. 

Watching the storm I realised I’d left my rain proof jacket over the back of a dining chair at home in Manchester. So we decided to stop in the Wiltshire market town of Marlborough to see if I could find a cheap replacement for the trip. It’s a very attractive town, reputedly having the second widest high street in the UK. You can see it in the pictures. If I ran the town, I’d be banning the cars parking down the middle and using it for markets and the like. 

We found a Waitrose and made up a picnic for a late lunch. It’s a wealthy, little town and the high street has a good selection of shops of all kinds. It does have a famous school in the town, Marlborough College. It costs a lot to go there. Among the famous alumni is Catherine Middleton. She did well there and went to St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. It was a decision that certainly changed her life. There she met Prince William and, after a bit of an ‘on off’ relationship, she married him and became Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. At some point she will, all being well, become Queen. I think her original reluctance to marry William was nothing to do with William himself, but all that royal baggage and having to live a life permanently in public view. She does seem to be coping well with it now. And they do seem to be genuinely fond of each other which didn’t really happen with other members of the family did it? And I can’t believe that is 20 years since that dreadful accident in Paris.

As for my cheap coat? Well Marlborough doesn’t do cheap. I did toy with a ‘cheap’ £150 Barbour coat but it was too thick for a warm wet weekend. As it happens we were, mostly, driving when it rained, so I didn’t really need one after all.