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And they’re off…!

Today I was bored, so I stuck my finger in a socket.

This is Ngozi (not her real name) Fulani. She was born in London to Caribbean parents. She runs a charity for battered women. Yesterday, she was invited to a charity do at Buckingham Palace.

It’s unclear if she was dressed like this, but it would appear so.

While she was in the reception line, Lady Susan Hussey (eighty-something-years-old and Liz’s bestie) moved Fulani’s hair to read her name tag (microaggression!) and then asked, “where are you from?” (MICROAGGRESSION!) and kept asking until Fulani admitted her parents were from the Caribbean (HATE CRIME!).

Naturally, Lady Hussey has stepped down. No, seriously – she lost her job over this.

You can imagine the reasoned discourse on Twitter. Or perhaps you can’t – British blacks are insanely touchy, not least because when they throw tantrums they get big results from people like the BBC.

I’ve made a lot of bland comments in a lot of stupid threads today, but I’m watching one of them like a horse race.

The tweet, currently weighing in at 119 likes:

And the challenger, standing at 140:

I’ve been losing this race for hours. Twitter is a crazy place.

November 30, 2022 — 6:38 pm
Comments: 9

Yes, that Ragnarok

This is one of the doors to All Saints Church, Staplehurst, Kent. The ironwork depicts Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse.

The South door of Staplehurst church illustrates the Scandinavian myth of Doomsday, when the serpent which holds the world together will loosen its grip on its own tail, the world will fall apart, and chaos will ensue. The fish will jump on land. The gods will fight. Only one man and one woman will be spared to start the world again. Surt the sunwheel is top centre. Above flies Nithoggr, who eats the dead, and above him is the small cross which turns the pagan myth into Christian art.

The only door in England resembling this one is at Stillingfleet, ten miles south of York, in the middle of what was Danish-held territory in 1000 AD. Taken from Canon Walker’s 1938 edition of the Church Guide.

From A Brief History of Staplehurst from Acorn to Oak (pdf). (The Stillingfleet door is pretty special, too).

The door has been reliably dated to around 1050; the church was built in 1100. Perhaps the door came from somewhere else, or perhaps there’s enough wiggle in the dating that it really was made for the church.

The big-C Church – in Britain, anyway – was remarkably chill about mixing in ancient pagan-y bits. Remember this Mithraic altarstone in the little village church? Elizabeth I had a court astrologer (though Mary had him imprisoned once for the crime of doing math, the blackest of arts).

Not my photo, alas. But Staplehurst is close enough — just — for a day trip. Maybe when the days get longer again.

October 26, 2022 — 6:17 pm
Comments: 11

What it is to be rich

Oof! I’ve had a beast of a day. I know – I haven’t done a real estate post for a while.

Behold, Plumpton Place, a charming Elizabethan estate on 60 acrres. It’s on the market for the first time in thirty years.

Edward Hudson, founder of Country Life magazine, bought it in 1927 and spent his remaining years working with architect Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll to do it up (those names might not be familiar, but I guarantee you Uncle B read those words and started to drool).

It went through several hands before it was briefly owned by Michael Caine, who sold it to Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Several more hands later and George Harrison tried to buy it but, according to his ex, the owner said “she didn’t want rock’n’roll musicians buying her lovely house and sold it to the local doctor instead.”

Here’s how it works: Hudson bought it for £3,300. Ten years later, 1937, it sold for £9,000. Paige bought it in 1972 for £200,000. Ten years later, it went for £650,000 to a property developer who quickly flipped it for £800,000.

They will now entertain offers in the region of £8,000,000.

October 6, 2022 — 7:12 pm
Comments: 5

The most famous spider in history, y’all

An estimated five point two billion people saw this little eight-legged ham today. And almost no-one saw Meghan.

You can’t tell me that was chance. Nothing at these ceremonies is by chance. At every turn she was behind a candle or a pillar or a tall guy blocking her face. Also, spider bro got closer to the crown than she’ll ever get.

Seriously, however you feel about monarchy, if you weren’t part of the 60-some percent of the planet that supposedly watched this thing, do watch some of the footage. Brits do these pageants brilliantly, always.

Also, your girl got the day off!

September 19, 2022 — 5:49 pm
Comments: 8

It’s complicated

I know you can’t really read that. Click here for the graphic and the article that goes with.

The death of the queen triggered Operation London Bridge, the super-secret plan everyone knew existed but we didn’t know what was in it. They couldn’t really tactfully give us any hints in advance, could they? It’s released a whole torrent of ceremonies, regulations and suggestions upon the country.

So today was a wild scramble to find out if, like, our flag should fly at half mast.

Yes, today. No, tomorrow – Accession Day – then half again tomorrow night and it stays up at half mast day and night until the funeral. There is some sort of Accession ceremony tomorrow at town hall, but I don’t have to be there, so I didn’t bother learning more.

I keep trying to call Accession Day “Ascension Day” which is wrong. Funny and wrong.

Yes, BulldawgGirl wins another one. True story: yesterday – possibly at the very moment the queen passed over – I was at the post office, mailing BulldawgGirl a very overdue package. She will now go to the back of the shamefully long queue. I thank everyone for their patience.

Have a good weekend, and Happy Accession Day!

September 9, 2022 — 7:13 pm
Comments: 4

It’s going to be a rough while

At 6:30 this evening, the BBC announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Rumor is she died some hours before.

No, the picture is not a disrespectful Photoshop, it’s an actual portrait I found online. It’s a little eerie because the site it is from is mostly dead picture links. I can’t tell you the backstory.

I don’t know how to describe what this will do to British morale. Even those who were strongly against the monarchy will feel the loss of someone whose very public presence spread over eight decades – seven as queen, but she was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a teenager in WWII. She trained as a driver and mechanic, for real.

There have been storms all across Britain today. It’s suddenly cold. It’s symbolic as holy hell. We’re headed into what everyone expects to be a brutal winter of shortages and deprivation.

This is going to be hard.

September 8, 2022 — 6:05 pm
Comments: 22

Why do they call them bluebells when they’re purple?

What? Oh, I know. It doesn’t make sense in black and white. Here’s the same shot in color.

As I don’t think we have bluebells in the States (I don’t remember them and I grew up in forests), they’re kind of a neat optical illusion. You can look down and see individual flowers, but when you look in the middle distance they meld into a carpet of color. It’s extraordinary, though it doesn’t really translate in photos.

The picture is from the county council newsletter and they don’t identify the location, but I’m willing to bet it’s Hole Park. Family estate with an open garden, famous for bluebells. We went there once. It was amazing, but there were almost more tourists than flowers.

This is the peak bluebell season. I told you this was the best time of year.

April 28, 2022 — 7:42 pm
Comments: 6


Today’s Adventures in British Architecture: Chesworth House. It was the childhood home of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, but it’s much older than that.

The picture is the banquet hall. I love this about the Medieval great halls: it is simply a continuation of the ancient Viking long hall or Sussex round house. A big open room with a long firepit in the middle (well, it would have had a firepit in the middle) and a high peaked ceiling to draw the smoke away. It’s a design so successful it stretches back to prehistory and didn’t change much until late Tudor times.

The Clergy House in Alfriston is a much smaller house on the same plan. This was the National Trust’s first property, by the way. It was falling to bits and they paid £10 for it. A short but very cool day trip.

It’s also the plan of all the inns and Breezehome, your first house in Skyrim, though game designers didn’t have to worry about where the smoke was going to go so they put a floor directly above the fire.

Badger House was innovative because, you know, chimney. But the mantlepiece is a great beam of wood flush with the wall. They hadn’t figured out they could keep their Christmas cards on it if it stuck out a little.

Anyway, back to Chesworth. It’s a private home. In fact, it’s only Grade II listed – same as Badger House. Last time it was on the market, in 2018, it was up for £6 million. Do have a look around.

The beams! That kitchen!

I’d hate to have to heat the place, but I suppose whoever bought it is a creature made entirely of money.

January 12, 2022 — 7:13 pm
Comments: 6

Another choice bit of British real estate goes on the market

For a mere £925,000 English pounds, you can own Willy House.

No, that’s not its official name, but I didn’t make it up, either. Schoolchildren did, it says here.

It looks like a perfectly nice 17th Century house of some size. Five bedrooms, stable block, separate one-bedroom cottage.

But it is all rather overshadowed by the topiary. The shrubs are at least a couple hundred years old, though nobody knows how long they’ve been carved into giant tallywhackers. It predates the current owner, who’s lived there for 20 years.

It isn’t on the estate agent’s site, for some reason. Looking around, somebody paid £279,000 for this (guide price £60,000 – £70,000). That will be a property developer. Say farewell to Potato Cottage.


October 14, 2021 — 4:45 pm
Comments: 7

Body Part Heist

This lady rents out mannequins for a living. When she first advertized mannequins for rent, she didn’t actually own any. But calls began to come in immediately, so she ran out and got some.

No, I don’t get it, either.

Eventually, she amassed so many mannequins, she threw the excess in a heap in the yard. ‘Yard’ here is an industrial space, FYI. Like a junkyard.

She still rents them, but she also sells them in bulk. For £50, a customer can drive up and fill the trunk of his car with as many mannequin bit as he likes. She calls it the “Body Part Heist.”

This is in Lincolnshire, which is over 100 miles away.

To be clear, I don’t mean, “over 100 miles away, which sadly is too far for me to drive for a trunkful of fiberglass body parts.” I mean, “over 100 miles away, which is not enough clear space between me and that creepy pile of anthropomorphic plastic.”

I’m not sure why they didn’t run that story closer to Halloween. Good weekend, everyone!

October 8, 2021 — 5:53 pm
Comments: 11