Ponder this:

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Last night I read a Vanity Fair article about the code, the lives, and the decline, at the hands of wicked stepmothers, of the landed European aristocracy.  It's difficult for me to feel sorry for them over the selling off of Holbeins and other chattels.  What truly enthralls me every time I get started on this train of thought are the images of the historic stone piles. Not their size, although the idea of a home with more than two hundred rooms boggles my mind. It's the age of the things that quickens my breath. Seven hundred years ago, people were living their day-to-day lives in these places. Places that have been reduced to mere single walls standing...in those places, people had headaches, petted cats, hummed as they worked, admired colors. Life went on in those places.
I know it's my American perspective that makes all this seem so exotic.  Europeans are accustomed to the immense age of their surroundings. 

One of the places mentioned in the article is Cawdor Castle. It's grand and the grounds are beautiful, but just look at the walls and the dearth of openings in those walls. Think of the drafts blowing through.  Think of standing in one of those rooms, looking out one of those openings. What would you see? What would you be thinking of? ...hoping for?
Cawdor Castle
Think of the servants fixing meals in Cawdor's kitchen.  Smaller than I would have expected, but there wasn't a lot of need for storage of blenders and pasta makers.  It must have been one of the warmer rooms.  Look at the curved ceiling. Somebody's hands made that ceiling.  Maybe he was hungry, thinking about lunch, while he worked. Maybe he was worried about a sick child at home.

If I had been alive in those days, I would have been fortunate to have had a dwelling as rich and solid as this cottage (image from Thistle's Scotland).  How dark, damp it was, smelling of wet wool and smoke and bodies.  I suppose they hardly noticed.
Picture of cottage

14th Century Dacre Castle is available for rent   The interior photos make my heart beat faster, despite some obvious modern improvements. Think of the centuries of hands that have touched the walls of this spiral stairway....
Dacre Castle

...which brings to mind Frederic William Burton's
Meeting on the Turret Stairs, Fredrick Burton

If I could travel in time, I would go back seven or eight hundred years so I could feel the places in their newness. I would hear the sounds of feet on stone floors, watch [and no doubt, be one of] the common folk at their backbreaking chores, trying to stay warm, living their lives. 
I'm sure I'd be glad to come back, but I have a feeling that that life would feel faintly familiar to me.

Wouldn't it be nice if the font were a uniform size in any of my posts?


Autumn Mist said...

Just think, when Shakespeare wrote, "Hail to thee (Macbeth) Thane of Cawdor," that's where he was talking about. And pretty bleak it must have been. And the men would have worn kilts, which can't have helped! I do love living in a land full of castles. Warwick has to be seen to be believed, but I adored Portchester Castle, very near to where I am from, and Southsea Castle, which is positively modern by comparison (Tudors). I have acted out Macbeth in Consiborough Castle with my daughter and watched a side saddle exhibition at Bolsover Castle, which is just up the road from us. We are very blessed to have such blatant history on our doorstep.

Von said...

Yes by all means a trip back in time and maybe we'd appreciate more what we have and just how dificult it was for the starving, the outcasts and the unaccepted.

Barb said...

Hi June, I'm thinking of that maze I see in the photo of Cawdor castle - I'm wondering what it would be like to walk through that manicured greenery and meditate.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting look at homes and places one would either love to hate or hate to love. The photos are excellent.

Carolynn Anctil said...

I'm a big fan of the Tudor period. Although, when I really consider what it must have been like, living in those times, I cringe. Those times are best viewed from a distance.

Joe Todd said...

In Coventry, England, the average amount of beer and ale consumed was about 17 pints per person per week, compared to about three pints today. Wherever they stored is probably where I would have been

Lord Wellbourne said...

I could easily have lived in just about any time period and dwelling providing there was indoor plumbing. I can live without central air but I really think indoor privies are the true mark of civilization.

June said...

The maze grabs me too, but it's the building that captures my imagination.
I figure if it's all I knew I wouldn't suffer so much from the fleas in my clothes and my teeth falling out at twenty years old.
I'm surprised, Joe, that the average consumption of beer and ale was so low...but then...it's an average after all... ;-)
I got a different perspective about indoor privies from an old old lady I knew once, who felt it was uncivilized to s**t under the same roof where she ate. So there's a different take on that!

Lord Wellbourne said...

It's actually an old Roman proverb: 'Don't s#*t where you eat.' Had something to do with either stealing from your employer or sleeping with your servant. Can't quite remember which.