Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Winston and Clementine -- posted by Mom

The Binkster, Milk and Honey Acres awesome foreign correspondent, alluded to Winston Churchill's letters to his wife Clementine in his wonderful and much appreciated guest post below.

The Thinking Housewife shared some insight into the relationship of the Churchills in her series on famous couples.  We were surprised and delighted Winston had it in him.

Winston and Clementine

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Guest Post by Billy Lane


Living in a country with so much heritage and history, one might forgive me for being somewhat blasé about all that is right there on my doorstep.  Allow me to explain.  Despite walking past numerous tourist attractions everyday on my journey into work in London, I never visit them.  I’ve yet to ride the London Eye, yet to visit the Houses of Parliament, yet to be enthralled by the Royal Opera House, yet to set foot inside the numerous galleries and museums housed inside impressive buildings.  The problem is, when it is on your doorstep and you see it everyday, in your recreational moments, you tend to avoid it.

That’s London, and that’s my excuse.  What I didn’t have an excuse for however, was not paying a visit to Chartwell - the home of Winston Churchill, Britain’s most revered and notable Prime Minister.  I had assumed, wrongly, that Chartwell was buried deep in the countryside somewhere, miles away from anywhere.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was a mere twenty minute drive from my house.  Imagine my further surprise, when I realised that during my jaunts in my car to stretch its legs and keep the battery active, the route I took narrowly avoided driving by it by about half a mile!

I joined the National Trust two years ago, with the intention of visiting some of the wondrous places my country has to offer.  Chartwell is one of the houses looked after by the National Trust, so I organised to meet up with some friends and make a day of it and see what it had to offer.

It had nothing to do with The Allen Family’s indignation that somewhere so historic and important and nearby was being ignored by me!

Chartwell is indeed buried away amidst country lanes and leafy surroundings.  You drive through narrow, twisting roads, lined with trees when out of nowhere you see the sign for the entrance.  The car park is situated a fair distance from the house, so as to not spoil the setting I suppose.  The walk is leisurely and comes with some impressive views of the surrounding fields and ponds (complete with black swans) that Churchill had put there.  Unfortunately, the gardens were not yet flowering, so all I saw in that regard was a bunch of twigs and soil, but I do intend on returning in the summer to see them in all their glory.  

The house is, of course, one very striking piece of architecture.  I took some photos from a vantage point in the woodland opposite, that show you how grand it looks.  Inside, it is very quaint, and kept as it was when Churchill lived there (even to the extent of having a fruitcake on the dining table).  The National Trust do not allow photography inside the house, as many of the items inside are personal artefacts of the Churchill family and not owned by the Trust.

The walls are adorned by landscapes Churchill had painted, each with their own attached story, and one of the upstairs rooms contains all his ceremonial dress and medals.  The kitchen is filled with the lingering smell of the spices that he was fond of, and the lower ground floor contains probably the most interesting and personal items one would hope to find - his personal love letters to his wife.  Reading through them, seeing their pet names for each other and how he would write to her to get things off his chest, or just to tell her something mundane, or to tell her how much he loved her, was heart warming and a joy to behold.

His studio is adjacent to the main house, separated by the gardens, and contains a large collection of his paintings.  The kitchen garden is nearby and continues to grow all the produce that Churchill grew in his days there.  Interestingly, the restaurant is seasonal and serves dishes based on what is grown in that garden.  I had a delicious cottage pie, so fresh and tasty - I can’t wait to go back in the summer and see what the menu has to offer then!
In the peace and serenity of the surrounding fields, you can look at the house, gardens and lakes and easily see how Churchill fell in love with the place.  It really is a sight to behold, and truly a remarkable insight into the life he lived there. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Meet Mr. Martin Smith -- posted by Richard

My sweet sister met a nice man from London named Mr. Martin Smith.  They emailed a few days and then all of a sudden on a Saturday night he said he would be here on the coming Monday. While Sarah and Mom were in shock, we raced to get packed to host him at Ma's house because there is more space, and we didn't want him locked in a hotel. He arrived on March 25 and stayed for 10 days. We had so much fun.

We wanted to show him Southern food so Dad, Mom, and Sarah took him to Mr. Friendly's, an upscale Southern cuisine restaurant, on his second night here. We tried to take him to as many places as we could to keep him entertained. We took him to the zoo and he fed the giraffes and Lorikeets, but he liked feeding the giraffes best.

Before Easter on Tuesday, we took him with us to put flowers on the graves in Florence and then we ate at Cain's BBQ. We played around at Ma's house and got to know each other in between times. He did an excellent job learning Catch Phrase, and he seemed to like playing with us even though he is 39 years old. He was not used to being around children but I think he is now. He was like Gru in Despicable Me but just like the movie, we grew on him. In fact, he got Despicable Me in his Easter basket. We all watched it together.

On Friday we took him to Charleston, gave him a tour by car when we arrived, and then we ate lunch at Fleet Landing because it is on the water. Then we walked around the market while we were waiting on our carriage ride. We had an excellent tour by a man with a horse named Barry. We saw Rainbow Row, and the Battery, and lots of historic houses and churches. That night we had Chick Fil A when we got home because he had never had it, but had heard about the controversy about the gays all the way in England. Apparently it was a big deal.

On the day of Easter, John, George and I raced downstairs to wait on the older boys. Finally, we walked in the living room and it was beautiful with candy everywhere. There was a Dove chocolate egg bunny trail and we were excited to follow it, but Mom said to hunt the Easter eggs first. Once we found the eggs, we followed the trail. It led to the umbrella stand where there was a note that said "NOT HERE!" Then we continued to follow the trail to a fruit tree where another note said, "NOT HERE EITHER." Mom was laughing while we did this. Then we followed the trail to the antique foyer drawers. We opened the top drawer and in it was a video game for the Wii called Indiana Jones Lego Wii game. We were shocked because this game we had wanted for a pretty long time.

He dyed eggs for the first time in his life.  Can you believe it?

The day after Easter Dad, Mom, Sarah Grace and Mr. Smith went to Savannah without us. They ate at Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House like we always do. They took another carriage ride and had cocktails on the rooftop terrace at a pub called Churchill's. Mom and Sarah want to take us there because we all took a course together on Churchill and they said we would love seeing all the prints of him and the look of it. It looked very Churchill-y.

The day he left he thoroughly enjoyed each individual Jelly Belly jelly bean he tried, and marveled at how much they actually tasted like the flavor they represented.  He was like a jelly bean connoisseur.

He's back in London now and he emailed Billy and said he would be meeting him.  We love Mr. Smith very much and we can't wait until he comes back to visit.  We hope he will always always be a part of our lives.