So this was one of the many humble abodes of King Henry VIII, and this is my favorite of all the places I've visited in England so far. There are only a few places I've been to that have a definite aura - a presence all their own - where you can feel the history oozing through the bricks. New Orleans is one. Coney Island. And Hampton Court. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of THE TUDORS, but I just couldn't get enough of wandering through the rooms and the grounds. I went through King Henry's apartments twice. This whole place was built by Cardinal Wolsey, Henry's most trusted adviser, until he fell out of favor and was arrested. What went down in history was that Wolsey gave Hampton Court to Henry as a gift, but it's awfully convenient that Wolsey gave this "gift" after his arrest. I found it very surreal to be standing in the very rooms where King Henry and Wolsey schemed the Crown's separation from the Catholic Church, changing history forever. The very rooms where they plotted Henry's divorce so he could marry Anne Boleyn, and then ordered her execution 3 years later. Wow.
When I woke up this morning I was feeling "off." Didn't really want to go out. The sky was gray. But I forced myself to venture outside. Took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get to Hampton Court because the directions say to take the "overground." There's an actual train line called the London Overground, but it didn't look like it went anywhere near Hampton Court. Then I figured out that the Brits must call anything that isn't the underground an "overground" - a train that runs above ground. Turns out I had to catch the Southwest National Rail Service to Hampton. Lovely ride. And as we rode along, the skies cleared and my mood brightened. I started getting excited. And I wasn't disappointed.
You get a free audio guide when you enter Hampton Court Palace, and it's beautifully-organized. You don't even need a map because they tell you step by step where to go. Got to explore the massive kitchens and learned a bit of food history. For instance, did you know the British pie was really just a cooking vessel? Most people didn't even eat the crust. They cut into the pie and ate the meat and veg inside. And the reason the King's court moved around from estate to estate so much was that they were a huge drain on the local resources! So they'd eat up all the meat and produce from the area and then move off to another place once it was gone. Nice.
I spent the morning going through the palace, and the rest of the day wandering the gardens. Had a bit of lunch in the kitchen where Elizabeth I had her meals prepared! A BLT and a delicious scone with clotted cream and jam. In one of the gardens I met two lovely ladies who it turns out live in an apartment building on grounds that once belonged to Sir Thomas More - another of Henry's friends who was executed when he refused to support Henry's divorce. On the grounds they also have the world's largest vine. It was planted in 1769! They harvest the grapes once a year in September and sell them, but when the court was at Hampton, the grapes were eaten only by the King and his guests.
I wanted to go through the maze before I left, but it was already closed, so I said goodbye to Hampton Court. Decided to take a bus back to London instead of the train. I remember Callie saying that it's better to ride the bus because you can see more, so I took her advice. Sitting in front of me was a lady who looked so much like Mom from behind - the same short salt and pepper hair, same ears. It made me miss her so intensely, just in that moment. I've been mourning her a lot lately. Not sure why, except I think saying goodbye to my niece and nephew might have something to do with it. Knowing that I won't get to see them everyday anymore. But I feel like I'm mourning two different people when I think of Mom - the person she became - fragile and helpless, and the mother I remember from before the Alzheimer's - strong and independent. After Grandma died, Mom used to always say she wished she could have her back for just one day. Lately I've been wanting Mom back so much, and at the same time I don't. Because I'd never want to see her so helpless again. And I know that when I do see her again, she will be as God made her to begin with.
Got off the bus in Richmond to catch the underground the rest of the way home, and it just so happened that I was standing in a historic spot of another kind! Right behind me was a cafe called One Kew Road that used to be a nightclub. Turns out the Rolling Stones had their very first performance here! And the Beatles traveled out to hear them! Later, Led Zep, Elton John, and Rod Stewart played here too! Unbelievable. Of course I took some pics, but it's just a building, after all.
What wonderful things happen when you decide to jump on a bus. :)
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.