Harris asked me if I'd ever been in the maze at Hampton Court. He said
he went in once to show somebody else the way. He had studied it up in a
map, and it was so simple that it seemed foolish - hardly worth the
twopence charged for admission. Harris said he thought that map must
have been got up as a practical joke, because it wasn't a bit like the
real thing, and only misleading. It was a country cousin that Harris
took in. He said:
"We'll just go in here, so that you can say you've been, but it's very
simple. It's absurd to call it a maze. You keep on taking the first
turning to the right. We'll just walk round for ten minutes, and then go
and get some lunch."
They met some people soon after they had got inside, who said they had
been there for three-quarters of an hour, and had had about enough of it.
Harris told them they could follow him, if they liked; he was just going
in, and then should turn round and come out again. They said it was very
kind of him, and fell behind, and followed.
They picked up various other people who wanted to get it over, as they
went along, until they had absorbed all the persons in the maze. People
who had given up all hopes of ever getting either in or out, or of ever
seeing their home and friends again, plucked up courage at the sight of
Harris and his party, and joined the procession, blessing him. Harris
said he should judge there must have been twenty people, following him,
in all; and one woman with a baby, who had been there all the morning,
insisted on taking his arm, for fear of losing him.
Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his
cousin said he supposed it was a very big maze.
"Oh, one of the largest in Europe," said Harris.
"Yes, it must be," replied the cousin, "because we've walked a good two
Harris began to think it rather strange himself, but he held on until, at
last, they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Harris's
cousin swore he had noticed there seven minutes ago. Harris said: "Oh,
impossible!" but the woman with the baby said, "Not at all," as she
herself had taken it from the child, and thrown it down there, just
before she met Harris. She also added that she wished she never had met
Harris, and expressed an opinion that he was an impostor. That made
Harris mad, and he produced his map, and explained his theory.
"The map may be all right enough," said one of the party, "if you know
whereabouts in it we are now."
Harris didn't know, and suggested that the best thing to do would be to
go back to the entrance, and begin again. For the beginning again part
of it there was not much enthusiasm; but with regard to the advisability
of going back to the entrance there was complete unanimity, and so they
turned, and trailed after Harris again, in the opposite direction. About
ten minutes more passed, and then they found themselves in the centre.
Harris thought at first of pretending that that was what he had been
aiming at; but the crowd looked dangerous, and he decided to treat it as
Anyhow, they had got something to start from then. They did know where
they were, and the map was once more consulted, and the thing seemed
simpler than ever, and off they started for the third time.
And three minutes later they were back in the centre again.
After that, they simply couldn't get anywhere else. Whatever way they
turned brought them back to the middle. It became so regular at length,
that some of the people stopped there, and waited for the others to take
a walk round, and come back to them. Harris drew out his map again,
after a while, but the sight of it only infuriated the mob, and they told
him to go and curl his hair with it. Harris said that he couldn't help
feeling that, to a certain extent, he had become unpopular.
They all got crazy at last, and sang out for the keeper, and the man came
and climbed up the ladder outside, and shouted out directions to them.
But all their heads were, by this time, in such a confused whirl that
they were incapable of grasping anything, and so the man told them to
stop where they were, and he would come to them. They huddled together,
and waited; and he climbed down, and came in.
He was a young keeper, as luck would have it, and new to the business;
and when he got in, he couldn't find them, and he wandered about, trying
to get to them, and then HE got lost. They caught sight of him, every
now and then, rushing about the other side of the hedge, and he would see
them, and rush to get to them, and they would wait there for about five
minutes, and then he would reappear again in exactly the same spot, and
ask them where they had been.
They had to wait till one of the old keepers came back from his dinner
before they got out.
Harris said he thought it was a very fine maze, so far as he was a judge;
and we agreed that we would try to get George to go into it, on our way
Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
Hampton Court gets its own post because it honestly kept me entertained all day.
This time I just cut to the chase and started by myself. A few members of our party didn't show up, and I volunteered to wait at the entrance for a while to see if they would. They didn't. So I gave the entrance stickers back to the ticket office and went exploring.
Hampton Court is a palace outside of London that used to belong to Cardinal Wolsey. He gave it to Henry VIII when it looked like Henry was thinking about executing him. Henry took the palace and executed him anyway. in the classic Tudor style.
William III (of William and Mary) added on a bunch of extensions in the Georgian white-pillar sweeping-staircase lots-of-air-and-light style, in neat contrast to the Tudor 'we have to put in windows so we don't run into things, but don't expect us to be happy about it' look. William had intended to pull down and rebuild the whole thing, but ran out of both money and interest when Mary (of William and Mary) passed away. So it's half Tudor, half Georgian, all history.
When you pick up your audio guide, you can also get a nice velvet surcoat, so you feel all medieval and swishy. I got a red one. The extra layer was no bad thing, because the day went from cool and humid to cold and raining, and neither the Tudors nor the late Stuarts were particularly stellar about heating. I decided to do the palace in chronological order, so I started with the exhibit on young Henry VIII and worked my way forward to the death of William, listening to the whole dang audio guide because I like stories and I had all day and there was no one around to tell me to hurry up because they wanted to go to McDonald's.
I ended up spending a lot of time in front of the very big fire in the kitchens, chatting with the fire-keeper and listening to him expound on the restoration work that needs to be done on the chimney and the cultural motivations for 1960s psychedelic music and King Henry's health problems and the fun the food historians have when they get the run of the kitchens on the first weekend of every month. (Must come back to see that, in honor of cooking guild.)
When I'd given the kitchens a thorough exploration, I headed up to the state rooms upstairs, where I got a little turned around, chronologically, and my BYU education held me in good stead.
I was just exploring this lovely gallery, where according to record Katherine Howard ran to try to meet the king and beg for her life, only to be grabbed by her guards and dragged away screaming, when who should wander by but Anne Boleyn, with a waiting woman in tow. (I knew it was she because of the round hood and the B pendant with the three pearls. Kinda hard to miss that one.)
Fortunately, years of practice in the Medieval Club has taught me the proper etiquette and skill for just this situation. I dropped into a courtesy (and did it gracefully and steadily, with no wobbling, and without stepping on my skirt [if I'd been wearing one]) and stayed down with my eyes on the floor until invited to rise.
I assumed she was the queen. She was strutting around like she owned the place, and had a waiting woman trailing after her, instead of being herself a waiting woman trailing after Katherine of Aragon. Maybe the waiting woman was Jane Seymour? I didn't ask. Kind of an awkward question anyway.
But, just to throw off my chronological bearings, about an hour later I ran into Thomas Cromwell, who escorted me and a few other tourists to the presence of the king (after giving everyone a quick lesson in the courtsey-and-stay-there rule, of which, as I have earlier demonstrated, I am already master). And Henry was in the midst of debating the scriptural authority of the pope. So he seemed to think he was married to Katherine. So I had no idea where I was.
|When am I? What year is it? And who's the bally queen?|
|Thank goodness I was backing into this enormous dining hall, and not out of it.|
They weren't in, but their various audience chambers were super pretty. Here's the guard room.
On the one hand, it's very cool to have all these decorations made of guns, and in theory it's handy to have them in the guard room where they might be needed, but . . . how exactly does one get up there to get them down? I have this mental image of soldiers trying to boost one another up to grab the low-hanging rifles.
|Mirrors seemed to have become a thing by this point, so here's a selfie in the withdrawing room.|
And here's a portrait of Charles I, which is a little creepy for an English monarch to be hanging on the wall. But take note of the carvings around the frame. All life-size 3-D woodwork. It was just psychotically pretty.
William also laid claim to the most comfortable-looking historical toilet I'd yet encountered. I kind of like how, if the lid were closed, it would just be disguised as a box, sitting in this tiny room for no particular reason.
|Royal velvet stealth toilet.|
Out the windows, I got tantalizing views of the grounds, looking utterly gorgeous, but by this time it was well into the afternoon and raining pretty hard.
So I unfortunately had to give the grounds a miss, saving for another day the legendary Hampton Court Maze of Jerome K. Jerome satirical fame. Instead, I found the palace café and had just about the nicest bowl of parsnip soup and cup of tea it has ever been my pleasure to enjoy.
|Curry and coconut milk, the waiter informed me. So yummy.|
As I finished my soup, the palace was really honestly closing for the day, so the staff cheerfully kicked me out and I cheerfully went, after surrendering my audio guide and surcoat. Only to discover that the trains were a mess all over the southeast due to a death on the tracks somewhere, so there would be no service to the Hampton Court station for the foreseeable future. Instead, I got loaded onto a bus and taken to a different station, where I was able to catch an express to Waterloo and wend my way home from there.
And now I shall get myself out of bed, this Saturday morning, and go find some more trouble into which to get myself.