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Wherein Weasel channels Madame Blavatsky

I feel a little mean poking fun at this enormous, shabby floral crown. It was undoubtedly done up for the Jubilee in June and I’m sure it was lovely and not at all huge and tacky. Something of the Delta Dawn/Miss Havisham about it today, though.

We took a picnic to Bateman’s today — the house Rudyard Kipling lived in for the last thirty plus years of his life. It’s a 17th Century pile built for an ironmaster. Kipling loved the place at first site. It’s all paneled in rough-hewn old oak paneling and stuffed full of beautiful period antiques (pretty much as Kipling left it).

And yet…I really don’t like the place. This is the second time we’ve been, and we didn’t like it the first time, either. I’m about as psychic as a potato, but there is something very sinister about that house.

So I was surprised and not surprised to read this in his Wikipedia entry:

[Kingsley] Amis and a BBC television crew went to make a short film in a series of films about writers and their houses. According to Zachary Leader’s ‘The Life of Kingsley Amis’:

‘Bateman’s made a strong negative impression on the whole crew, and Amis decided that he would dislike spending even twenty-four hours there. The visit is recounted in Rudyard Kipling and his World (1975), a short study of Kipling’s Life and Writings. Amis’s view of Kipling’s career is like his view of Chesterton’s: the writing that mattered was early, in Kipling’s case from the period 1885–1902. After 1902, the year of the move to Bateman’s, not only did the work decline but Kipling found himself increasingly at odds with the world, changes Amis attributes in part to the depressing atmosphere of the house.

No, I wouldn’t like to spend 24 hours in Bateman’s, either.


Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:02 pm

It looks like intestines.

Can’t be helped.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:14 pm

Actually potatoes are renowned as being the most psychic of root vegetables. Leeks, on the other hand, have not a shred of the eldritch about them.

Comment from Redd
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:24 pm

Looks fine to me. It even has a water mill on the property. What more could you ask for? Does it have a Great Hall? I need a Great Hall.

Year ago I read a story about his son dying in WWI and how he and his wife were devastated by his death and spent years searching for his remains.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:28 pm

Yes, there is definitely something wrong about Bateman’s. I rarely take against a house but that one has a damaging melancholy about it and I’m not at all sure the owners brought it with them – though they may have done.

A great man, of course, and hideously traduced by the Left, most particularly with the familiar accusations of “racism”.

And that about a man who wrote of his own induction into Freemasonry: ” I was entered [as an Apprentice] by a member from Brahmo Somaj, a Hindu, passed [to the degree of Fellow Craft] by a Mohammedan, and raised [to the degree of Master Mason] by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew.”

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:29 pm

Hm. Can’t argue about Bateman’s, never having been there, or about his having “found himself increasingly at odds with the world.” But–I can’t say I am impressed by Amis’s opinion about his work. Puck of Pook’s Hill was published in 1906, and some of his most mature, thoughtful poetry was written after 1902. If one judges solely by his prose work, well … I’m not really a judge because, by and large, I find his prose crabbed and irritating, hinting at more than it really manages to offer. Looking at this timeline http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/kip_fra.htm it appears that his work may have grown more experimental in that period, which can be off-putting.

And, given that apparently neither he nor his family found Bateman’s unpleasant, it could well be that the atmosphere you and Amis found disturbing was a result of Kipling’s occupancy, or even something which happened after it.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:33 pm

Puck of Pook’s Hill is one of the best. It was an awesome way to learn more about the place I will probably leave my bones. Where we live is mentioned in it, though not by name.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:36 pm

Is it on Google Streetview?

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:46 pm

Nevermind…here ya go: http://tinyurl.com/c3ph9zl

…now the rest of us can know what you’re talking about 🙂

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:47 pm

@ David Gillies

It’s because they have so many eyes to see into “the beyond.”


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: August 22, 2012, 11:53 pm

If you hover your mouse over the house, a little square photo appears…if you click it you can get a slide show.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: August 23, 2012, 12:11 am

Your reaction reminds me of Kipling’s story “The House-Surgeon”. The narrator meets a man who bought an old house, only to find its atmosphere intolerable for his wife and daughter. This although no one has ever died in the house (which wasn’t very old, I guess).

The narrator identifies the aggrieved spirit that hangs over the house, and relieves its problem, freeing the house.

A friend of mine visited Bateman’s once; I’ll ask him if he had a negative reaction.

I also disagree with Amis’ opinion of Kipling’s later work. Much of it is hackery, but some of is among his absolute best. And it’s not as though his early work was all brilliant either.

That’s for both prose and poetry. YMMV, of course.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 23, 2012, 3:59 am

What do a Weasel and a Badger pack in their picnic lunch?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 23, 2012, 10:52 am

Wellll…we were running a bit late, Deborah, so we didn’t pack our own this time. We stopped off at a Tesco’s. Which had sausage rolls for him and, surprisingly, sushi for me. You don’t find sushi much here and I was a big consumer thereof in the States.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 23, 2012, 1:09 pm

Sausage Rolls and Sushi. Sounds like excellent picnic food, although I secretly hoped you’d packed watercress sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. I have found some recipes/instructions for making clotted cream, but I am reluctant to try (just what I need: more fat calories). I’ve never tasted watercress—is it similar to cilantro?

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: August 23, 2012, 1:09 pm

Oddly, I just read this Amis book about Kipling, which contains pictures of this (in)famous house. It’s a shame that Kipling has gotten this “racist” reputation — in fact, from what I’ve read, people during the latter part of his lifetime were already springing onto that bandwagon, saying that he was out of touch with the tone in modern (ca. 1910) Britain.

Just because he pointed out the violence, dirt, and superstition of non-British peoples — violence, dirt, and superstition that actually existed — does not make him a racist. He didn’t come to India as a grown man and only then become horrified at how different it was from England. No; he grew up there, played with native children as a boy, etc.

As with Heinlein, a lot of the people who castigate him have never read him.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: August 23, 2012, 3:50 pm

Aren’t English picnics supposed to consist of: ham and turkey sandwiches, bags of lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, heaps of tomatoes, and lashings of ginger-beer?

Comment from Redd
Time: August 23, 2012, 4:20 pm

An English picnic is 12 pints at the local pub.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 23, 2012, 4:45 pm

Well, last time, when we packed our own, we had bacon sammiches, ham sammiches, boiled eggs, tomatoes and a flask of tea. Uncle B is one of those guys who doesn’t eat bunny food, so a lot of English staples are right out.

I used to get cress out of the creek back home, but I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten cilantro.

Clotted cream is absolutely to die for.

Comment from Redd
Time: August 23, 2012, 5:11 pm

Cilantro is often used in making fresh salsas. I love it. Many people hate it. They are weird.

Comment from nightfly
Time: August 23, 2012, 5:58 pm

Another eeeeenteresting bit from the Wiki entry:

Bateman’s was also used in the coloured 1966 edition of Tintin, ‘The Black Island’, as the basis for the residence of Müller, the ex-Nazi antagonist.

You see? Nazi house.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: August 23, 2012, 6:19 pm

Uncle Badger,

Help me out here. Please tell me that I didn’t waste my youth watching and re-watching episodes of “The Young Ones” for naught? If I can’t make obscure references to British tv shows on a mostly-British blog, then WHERE ELSE AM I GOING TO PUT THIS KNOWLEDGE TO USE?????

Sorry..got a bit hysterical there.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 23, 2012, 7:26 pm

Since watercress is sometimes described as having a spicy, peppery bite, I thought it might be similar to cilantro. If you want to start a fight on a food blog, just say you love and/or hate cilantro. Apparently there is no middle ground.

I don’t understand why clotted cream is not an American staple. It’s why cows make milk! I know you can easily buy clotted cream, but have you—Stoaty—or Uncle Badger ever made your own?

Comment from Pupster
Time: August 23, 2012, 7:39 pm

waste my youth watching and re-watching episodes of “The Young Ones” for naught?

I thought I was the only one.

“Oh, have we got a video?”

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: August 23, 2012, 8:13 pm

Deborah–nope. Watercress and cilantro (both of which I am quite fond of) have entirely distinct tastes. For watercress, think more in the “radish and radish greens” flavor category, although it doesn’t actually taste like radishes. Or radish greens for that matter.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 23, 2012, 8:27 pm

Ever since I took an experimental allergy medicine back in the 80’s, I’ve been unable to eat cress or any other nasturtium. I’m terribly fond of them too.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 23, 2012, 8:35 pm

Ever since I took an experimental allergy medicine back in the 80′s, I’ve been unable to eat cress or any other nasturtium. I’m terribly fond of them too.

But I’ll bet the laser eyes & the teleportation powers are totally worth it.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 23, 2012, 8:53 pm

Feynmangroupie – the tragedy is that the ‘lashings of ginger beer’ joke is almost too true to be funny! They nailed poor Enid Blyton to perfection! 🙂

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 23, 2012, 8:58 pm

And no, I’ve never made clotted cream, Deborah.

It did play a small part in the mustelids’ courtship ritual though (no, not like that!)

Before I enticed Her Stoatliness to leave her homeland I sent her some clotted cream by express post.

Amazing, the things you can use as bait in a weasel trap. 😉

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 23, 2012, 9:42 pm

Note outside North America, cilantro is called coriander. It was pretty much a staple ingredient of Indian food when I lived in Bradford, and of course it’s a sine qua non in Mexican food like Pico de Gallo. Some people find the taste soapy: I believe this is a genetic thing. Confusingly, the seeds are called coriander both in the UK and US.

I never much liked watercress, but the miniature grow-it-on-a-damp-flannel variety is much sweeter. Very good with fishpaste sandwiches.

Comment from kilroy182
Time: August 23, 2012, 10:02 pm

I think Kipling’s being “at odds with the world” is the result of the loss of two of his children, especially the death of his son in WW1. His poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” are some of the truest words ever written.

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