I am looking at the excellent breasts of dead women whilst making polite conversation with retired genial couples.
I can see why people join the National Trust. My partner had a panic attack in the car park when seeing the amount of well groomed cars and the fact that some people were drinking tea from fold up tables by their car (surrounded by 30 acres of parkland)
A Land-Rover driver does not hold up a hand in the traditional thank you greeting when we swerve to avoid him which nearly sends us hurtling back to the nearest friendly working class ex industrial town but we resist. Then look at the entry prices and grimace. I was actually more interested in Levens Hall nearby but the entrance fee there made me want my name on the deeds.
There is a hard sell on the door which makes me grimly upgrade from eight pounds entrance fee to nine pounds due to ‘optional’ gift aid. A nasty hard part of me wonders why I am paying more to be charitable to an organisation which owns hundreds of lofty mansions dripping in ornate walnut carved four poster beds whilst I live in a small house with a bathroom with peach tiles we cannot afford to replace. Then I berate myself for my smallness of mind and am concerned how I keep adding up the extra cost of the gift aid whilst looking blankly and joylessly at the kitchen gardens hours later.
We are ever so politely but in a steely way told about the joy of being a National Trust member. I smilingly say we are poor and point to the baby currently chewing a wire which he has pulled out of the carboot pushchair but the woman at the counter still thrusts a flurry of papers at us saying that ‘circumstances might change’ in the grim determined voice that makes me think that my parents might be found dead tomorrow in mysterious circumstances next to a will that has been written in their blood.
And of course I am only in this for the ghosts.
I have heard about the unearthly screaming from the poor starved to death woman of yore locked in a tiny room and left to die. I saw there was a YouTube clip about ghosts at Sizergh castle although I may have not have been so enthusiastic if I had actually looked at it and seen it was a still photograph of an ‘orb’ with the soundtrack of the Ghostbusters theme.
The grounds to the castle are indeed splendid and if one can ignore the occasional incongruous hum of the motorway, would be a splendid way in which to pass away a day relaxing under the orchards, parkland, lake (maybe not under that to be pedantic) and rock garden. Unfortunately we still have the toddler. Two hours later and some excited people are even now telling people about the unearthly screams they heard from within the bowels of the castle.
It is a good castle as it goes. I just find the whole National Trust experience leaves me slightly cold. Nothing is left to the imagination. Everything is so well recreated, remade, well signed, and busy that you cannot let your imagination run riot and imagine the past because the past is there before your eyes in vivid 3D and whilst an over enthusiastic volunteer tells you about a family you don’t much care about and some rare but quite unpleasant sub B and M Bargains vases you had not even noticed.
There are portraits of rich dead people which make you feel a bit smug because when when briefly perusing the laminated sheets in each room you notice how brief their privileged life was compared to the antiquity of the building, something to reflect upon if your child was not trying to pull dBown a stuffed kookaburra off the wall. At least they didn’t have peach tiles in their bathroom.
Nothing on the laminated sheets mentions ghosts, death or murder. It’s lucky there are good boobs. It is a lovely building and I am glad I came. I would though quite like to see it smashed up and dishevelled, stripped of all its laminated sheets, eager knowledgable volunteers and chairs that have signs on saying if you can sit on them or not. I prefer a ghastly old hag of a ruin, plundered and piteous and without photographs of the owners beaming brightly and richly from the parlour.
I like the National Trust and am glad that this building is here and not owned by some oil magnate and kept private. I have had a lovely day in beautiful surroundings and am glad a replica of the past is kept to show people what used to be (unless you were poor of course, nobody wants to be reminded of that unromantic element of history abounding in dead babies, filth and servitude to the people of the manor, that is not nine pounds well spent when you could instead be admiring rhododendrons)
But next time I go somewhere I do not want a laminated sheet, just an old old memory and my imagination. Oh and that sells well priced house red.