I blame it all on Doctor Wraight. He’s a lovely man, and all that, but, as some of you know, he’s also something of a storyteller.
I happened to be sitting next to Chris at dinner one night, when he was waxing lyrical about his honeymoon. He and his new wife stayed in a Landmark Trust building in Dorset, and they loved every minute of it. He could not speak highly enough of the experience of staying in a beautiful, historic building on an unspoilt stretch of English coastline, and he painted quite a picture, but then he is quite a writer.
I was so enthralled by his descriptions that, when I got home, I looked up the Landmark Trust on the internet and started to search the site. The Landmark Trust is in the business of preserving old buildings of interest, and making them available for the public to rent for holidays and events in order to pay for their continued upkeep.
Chris had warned me that some of the buildings are very popular and have to be booked well in advance. He also indicated that ‘well’ might mean months or even years, so I was prepared for disappointment. What I wasn’t prepared for was the menu item that was headed “late availability”.
That was Thursday, and this morning, Tuesday, the husband and I woke up in a castle in Warwickshire.
|Astley Castle looking out
And... Yes... You did read that right.
After looking at the site for a couple of hours late on Thursday night, the husband got up on Friday morning and booked us a four night stay at Astley Castle. We arrived yesterday afternoon, around dusk, walked up the cinder path, past the church and over the moat. We walked through the Elizabethan ruins that make up the courtyard, complete with its vast slate table and huge open fireplace, and into the medieval castle. The castle, which has been occupied almost continuously for a thousand years, but which burned down in the 1970s, was rebuilt and modernised, while maintaining all of the original structures that were still standing, when the work was undertaken to preserve its remains in the Jubilee year.
We came for lots of reasons. We came on a whim. We came because it’s close to where our daughter is at dance college, so she can come to stay, too, and bring her friends. We came because we both have deadlines and there is no tv here, and no wi-fi and the mobile phone signal is illusive at best, and we came because we hoped the building and surroundings would be inspiring and romantic.
|Inside Astley Castle, and that's the husband down there
We came so that we could fit as much work and as much play into every day as is humanly possible without the everyday distractions that go with answering the phone and the door, and e-mails, and of sitting in our own offices in our own home, as much as we are happy to be there under almost all and any circumstances.
And we were right to do it. We were right to invest a little bit of time in the drive here, and a little bit of energy in careful packing, because this place is beautiful, and inspiring and energising, and extraordinary.
So thank you, Doctor Wraight, and thank you Landmark Trust.
As far as the rest of you are concerned, go take a look at the Landmark Trust’s website, and be amazed by the kinds of buildings you and your families, and your buddies might be able to stay in... We certainly were.