Hello Wordpretzels, it’s been a while. What with the way the world is at the moment, with everything in danger of being run by fuckwits, I’ve lost the plot when it comes to writing rubbish on my blogspot. But I’m back.
Last weekend, along with Lady Barton St Mary, The Marquess and Marchioness, we took off for a long weekend in Northumberland, with an overnight stay at cousin Cath and her husband Mark in Leeds. The journey was a long one: 3 hours to Leeds then another 3 hours to Northumberland. I realise that a lot of my American wordpretzels would wonder what all the fuss is about, since you’re happy to drive 200 miles for a haircut. But there we are, that’s Brits for you, anything over 50 miles is a major journey for us and involves stocking up on drinks and sandwiches.
Anyway, the whole experience was wonderful. We saw lots of stuff, starting with The Angel of the North, a huge piece of metal in the shape of an angel, situated on a piece of council waste ground off the motorway. This was followed by a trip to Cragside House, then Bamburgh Castle the following day and then Holy Island and Lindisfarne.
But I’m not going to give you a travelogue – rather something that happened to me that may have changed my life forever. I became a member of The National Trust.
It all happened so quickly. We arrived at Cragside House, the former home of Mr Armstrong, the first to have electricity in the early 1900s, which he produced with water wheels and a staff of many. I assume he needed it to power his television and wi-fi, which must have been amazing in those days.
Now, Cragside House is owned by The National Trust, so two willing NT workers were lurking at the entrance when we arrived. One of them approached our car.
“Good afternoon, modom, wilkom teou Caarsaid Heys,” he said. He was very, very posh. So posh, only Lady Barton St Mary could understand him.
“Air hair lair,” she replied, falling into her native language with ease.
“Hello Sir,” said the NT worker, acknowledging me. He’d obviously realised I didn’t speak posh, as he reverted to simple Hugh Grant when addressing me.
He returned to conversing with Lady BSM. After a short exchange, she turned to me.
“Do you want to join The National Trust?”
“Why?” I replied, incredulous.
“Well, we’ll be doing lots of visits this weekend, we could save some money.”
“Are we going to see lots of old houses that need renovating and are full of old furniture? Because I could do that by staying at home.”
Lady BSM gave me a look that showed utter disdain.
“I think it would be worth it,” she said emphatically, opening the car door and following the posh man into his National Trust shed. He interviewed her for 5 minutes in fluent posh before she appeared holding a brown box with the National Trust logo on it.
‘That’s it! We’re both members!” she stated excitedly, peeling the backing off the car sticker and adhering it to the windscreen.
The reality of it suddenly hit me. I was a member of The National Trust. The following day I was playing golf. Life as I knew it was over. I was only one step short of watching Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday night. It was time to grow a wispy beard, buy an oilskin cowboy hat, festoon myself with binoculars and a compass on a string and yomp around old houses assisted by two carbon hiking sticks.
In a daze, we made our way to the restaurant, where I gazed upon my fellow National Trust members. Mainly grey, lots of dogs, but generally two factions. The oilskin/binocular wearer was one. The other was more surprising; a group of (mainly) men in loose fitting shirts, long flowing locks and little beards. I’m sure that at any time in a National Trust restaurant you could choose 4 characters, form a progressive rock band and record a concept album. As we all sat eating our broccoli and stilton soup, I distinctly heard somebody absent-mindedly whistling “Across The Universe”.
“We always stop at National Trust sites,” said The Marquess, “they do the best food.”
He’d also joined, using Lady BSM as an interpreter for posh NT worker.
I’m coming to terms with it now. There was something satisfying about marching through the turnstiles of other historical sites that weekend without paying a penny. At this rate, I may invest in a flask, a tartan car blanket and a small tin of travel sweets.
Whilst all this was going on, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny were at Bestival in The Isle of Wight. We hadn’t heard from them all weekend, but on the Monday, a message finally came through:
Have you really joined The National Trust?