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No better than she should be

Today we took Clan Badger to Smallhythe Place, an early 16th Century half-timbered house in, of all places, Small Hythe in Kent. Small Hythe was once an important port and shipbuilding center, until the sea hiked her skirts and skittered away. It is now miles and miles from the water (making the boat launch look rather silly).

A National Trust membership for two cost us £84 and we’re by-god going to get our money’s worth this year.

The house is in much the same Tudor style as Badger House, but maybe a hundred years older. That room farthest away in the photo was held in place by iron braces, and the floors were so outrageously wobbly and wonky that walking around the room made us all feel a bit ill, like one of those state fair funhouses.

From 1899 until her death in 1928, Smallhythe was home to Ellen Terry — the leading Shakespearean actress of her day. For which read: scenery-munching hambone.

She gave the house to the National Trust on her death, and it doubles as a museum of her life and acting memorabilia. Pretty cool stuff. She was the model for this iconic Sargent painting — the dress is upstairs in the Wonky Room.

Terry had three husbands, a series of lovers and a couple of illegitimate children (the son made eight bastards of his own; the daughter set herself up in the house next door to Smallhythe in a lesbian ménage à trois). Pretty good going for a woman of the High Victorian age.

Mother Badger seemed deeply perturbed by this information, although she mostly viewed it as a schedule management problem. “How did she have time?” she kept asking, shaking her head.

The gardens were lovely. And Uncle Badger was gratified to see they were laid out and planted up very similarly to our own — obviously aiming for a lush Tudor cottage garden effect.

But this sign was his favorite part. He refused to budge until he’d seen the odd stoat.


Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: June 30, 2010, 11:07 pm

He refused to budge until he’d seen the odd stoat.

All he had to do was look at you then, right?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 30, 2010, 11:15 pm

Ever wondered why boarding houses used to have signs saying: ‘No rogues, thieves, vagabonds, tinkers or theatricals?’

All that and an ‘odd stoat’ too!

Even better, the lesbian menage a trois nested in ‘the priest house’, which is within a stone’s throw of the village church.

Now this is village territory. Real villages, with farmers and farm workers and other horny handed sons of toil. Seems none of them were minded to burn the witches’ house to ground. Indeed, their ‘handyman’ was quoted on a display, chuckling about the cat fights.

I’ve always thought we were painted a stupidly naive view of our Victorian forebears.

They were far smarter, and far better, people than the ‘progressives’ have pretended.

Clearly, everyone knew. Clearly, nobody cared.

And that in a tiny village, in deepest, rural Kent.

Comment from Deborah
Time: June 30, 2010, 11:25 pm

But—but—what’s a cobnut?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 30, 2010, 11:35 pm

Oh! It’s in the filbert/hazelnut family, Deborah.

Us badgers is very fond of ’em. 🙂

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: July 1, 2010, 1:17 am

I hope my kid has the time/resources to putter around when she’s across the pond for school. It’d be a shame to be there and not, right?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: July 1, 2010, 1:24 am

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have ‘got it’ when I was a kid.

It sort of grows on you. I do hope she enjoys it, though 🙂

Comment from Deborah
Time: July 1, 2010, 1:56 am

Ah. I grew up eating filberts—first cousin it seems, to the cobnut. We can only buy them at Christmas though, but I always do, and serve them piled up in a thick crystal bowl with English walnuts, pecans, almonds, and Brazil nuts.

I shall think if them as Badger Nuts from now on …

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: July 1, 2010, 2:41 am

I’ve always thought we were painted a stupidly naive view of our Victorian forebears.
They were far smarter, and far better, people than the ‘progressives’ have pretended.

There’s a phenomenon I think of as “You give your mates the break,” which I suspect is what was operating here. Not, in this case “mates” as such–but the folks you are bound to by various ties, of which mere familiarity can be one of the most significant. The community might not have treated intruders with non-mainstream relationships well. . .but these were, by God, members of the community, and if they wanted to be eccentric well, what the hell, they were entitled, yes?

I think this tendency to accept and excuse, in those to whom we are already tied, what we would condemn and even persecute in strangers is a constant throughout the ages.

So, um, why situations such as, say, the Salem witch trials? Well, even among those to whom we already have ties there will be those we resent for completely different reasons we aren’t prepared to admit. . .at which point their eccentricity becomes a useful lightning rod; and, too, there is the occasional whacko who uses the condemnation of the eccentric as a stepping stone to power, by whipping up dormant resentments and suspicions.

But, yes, the public face of the Victorian era may have been straitlaced, but that doesn’t mean that they stopped being as human as the rest of us. . .

Comment from Scott Jacobs
Time: July 1, 2010, 4:25 am

@Enas – I was thinking the same thing… “Until he saw? For God’s Sake, he MARRIED the frickin’ odd stoat…”

Comment from David Gillies
Time: July 1, 2010, 6:29 am

Nina, I spent three years in London doing my BSc and saw virtually none of it. It’s an abiding regret. You will have to badger (hur hur) your daughter to not let the opportunity pass her by.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: July 1, 2010, 8:04 am

The American Badger is an eater of cashews.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: July 1, 2010, 9:20 am

Forget the ‘odd stoat’ – did you see the ‘slow worms’? Were they noticeably slower than ordinary fast worms?

Comment from Scott Jacobs
Time: July 1, 2010, 11:42 am

Or were they just not very bright?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 1, 2010, 11:52 am

Behold the slow worm. Believe it or not, they’re lizards, not snakes. Don’t axe me why — they look exactly like snakes to ME.

Comment from Clifford Scridlow
Time: July 1, 2010, 3:18 pm

How does one tell and odd stoat from an even stoat?

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: July 1, 2010, 3:23 pm

I personally thought all stoats were a bit odd, given my relationship with the one who runs this lovely site, at any rate. I’d probably not frequent a site run by an ordinary stoat–likely be a crashing bore, actually.

And David, I sincerely hope she does take advantage of touristing whilst she’s there. I figure that the cost of her Visa alone demands that ($300)!

Odd stoats and slow worms. Who says you can’t learn anything on the internet?

Comment from Bill (still the .00358% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: July 1, 2010, 4:56 pm

I’ve always thought we were painted a stupidly naive view of our Victorian forebears.

Yup. By people who thought “The Jungle Book” and “Gunga Din” were the sum total of Kipling’s output, and who likely never really read either one because they were raaaaaaa-cist

Comment from Oh Hell
Time: July 1, 2010, 5:22 pm

Are there even stoats? Or possibly fractional stoats?

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: July 1, 2010, 6:45 pm

LOL… And here we all thought YOU were the odd stoat in the batch……. 😉

Or, at least, the INTERESTING one….

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: July 1, 2010, 9:19 pm

What does an odd stoat look like? Does it dance about more than normal? Is it painted funny colors like Lexi Bee? Does it have a fauxhawk?

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: July 1, 2010, 10:30 pm

I could not say if she is odd or even, but surely our noble hostess must be a Prime Stoat.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: July 2, 2010, 4:32 am

I lurve slow worms. When I was very young we lived in a wonderful house with about 1/3 acre back garden with fields beyond. Slow worms liked to lurk in the ditches each side of the garden. They are (like most reptiles) surprisingly heavy for their size, delightful for a small child to cuddle and very, very cute. I believe they’re one of only six native reptile species in the UK. Sadly, hedgehogs, despite also being ultra-cute, are not best friends with slow worms. Even way back then we knew that they were very precious and we had to look after them.

If the site’s proprietor identifies with mustelids, then I have a similar affinity with lizards (now I have geckos, which I adore). My favourite toy as a child was a little rubber lizard (called, natch, ‘Lizard’) which probably cost about 15p in those days. When Lizard got lost one day (in a 15 thousand square foot garden, remember) everything was put on hold until a minute inspection of the grounds was undertaken. And my father had been out on the disc mower that day. He was found, none the worse for wear. But believe it or not it’s still traumatic 35 years later even thinking about the time in between realising he was not in my pocket and the time he was again.

And if Weasel is a prime stoat, she’s probably an irregular prime.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: July 2, 2010, 8:12 am

Oh, those… Never seen one, but I remember reading about them back when I was an amateur herpetologist-type person. Very cool.

Comment from S.W. Massil
Time: October 2, 2012, 8:53 pm

I know that Smallhythe offers filberts in season. It has a collection of hazelnut trees and gives a collective word for these (not just an ‘orchard’) and I should like to know what the word is so I hope that you can publish it
With thanks

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 2, 2012, 9:56 pm

Nuttery, believe it or not.

You’re welcome.

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