We went to Hampton Court on Thursday – me, Mackenzie, Charlie and Charlie’s mum Eleanor. An interesting blend of people to say the least – me weighed down with the worries of a close friend, Mackenzie who was hoping to see “people with their heads off”, Charlie who was having a major crisis about her relationship with New Rich Boyfriend Jonathan (he’s started avoiding her calls, ignoring her texts and not contacting her at all) and Eleanor who, despite having brought up Charlie and her sister Catherine, doesn’t really like children but wanted to buy some historical books and some Mead. Charlie’s mum is rather grand and rolled up in twin set and pearls which threw the rest of us slightly – all in jeans and comfy shoes. By quarter to nine (an early start was deemed important by Eleanor so we got there before “all of the students”) it became patently clear that we were lost. I for once wasn’t driving and Charlie wasn’t paying attention, she kept checking her phone to see if Jonathan had texted or called. Unfamiliar bits of London kept flashing past me (Barnes featured quite heavily) and we went round a roundabout three times.
We arrived at Hampton Court (a journey that should take about an hour or so) two hours and ten minutes after we had picked Eleanor up in leafy Sydenham. Mac was grizzly and demanding something to eat, a headache was niggling nicely in my cranium, Charlie was tearful and Eleanor was rigid with disapproval. We parked up and decided on a refreshing cup of tea. The Privy Kitchen Coffee Shop was heaving with foreign exchange students but Eleanor managed to secure us a table between the French and Italian contingent. “Where are the heads mummy?” my all-things-gruesome son kept asking me which prompted Eleanor to tell him all about beheading. And how it was done at the Tower of London. Not Hampton Court.
His face puckered up and I knew we were in for at least a Force Five rant. Charlie diverted the certain explosion by offering to take him to the kitchen where they “chopped things up and cooked whole pigs in a fire”. Which left me with Eleanor who was daintily picking at a cherry muffin. The French students were getting quite boisterous by now and were making jokes (I presume) about Henry VIII’s, erm, girth. Cue lots of gesturing and funny walks. Eleanor shot them a look that has surely set Anglo-French relations back by about twenty years. I suggested we join the others in the kitchen.
Mac was quite happily playing with some bellows when we found them. Eleanor wanted to move on to somewhere that wasn’t Below Stairs. We headed off to Anne Boleyn’s Courtyard where we happened upon some people dressed in Tudor costumes. Mac was tiring of wandering around, Charlie was building herself up into a good old rage and muttering “why hasn’t he called?” and Eleanor was swatting foreign students away as if they were flies. I was beginning to think that it was nearly 50 quid wasted. “Oooh, let’s go to the maze!” someone squealed theatrically. The looks on the faces of my companions led me to believe that it was me that had uttered those fateful words.
Apparently, it’s “the most famous maze in the history of the world”. Naturally, we got lost. An hour and a half we were in that sodding thing. It may be the most famous maze in the history of the world but I’m not going back in there ever again. Eleanor spent the entire time wondering what “foliage this is?”.
We left at ten to four after a hugely expensive late lunch at the Tiltyard Café – very nice but hugely expensive although Eleanor took it in her stride and didn’t even bat an eyelid when she got about £3.25 change from a twenty pound note. We’d visited all four shops – Barrack Block, Base Court, Garden and Tudor kitchens and came away with enough books, cushions depicting Henry and his wives, terracotta pots, pewter and copper kitchenware to open up our own extension of the Palace. Mac was happy with his sword and singlet and pretended to be a knight all the way home.
I rang David as we were negotiating our way out of the palace gates (they open up onto a main road, it’s very weird – but am guessing all were fields during the Palace’s heyday) to give him a rough estimate of when we’d be home. An hour later I rang him again to ask him how to get out of Barnes. It’s very nice there though.