Powis Castle, Wales

It is ages since we visited Powis Castle, when we drove all the way down to Wales so that Jack could go to a football match, in fact it was over a year ago. I could have sworn that I had blogged about our visit, but apparently not. This often happens to me as I ‘write’ blogposts in my head, but get no further than that, and then I think it’s done and dusted!

Powis Castle from Approach Path

Powis is the only castle in Wales that I’ve visited, according to a recent TV programme I watched most of the castles in Wales are actually English as they were built by the English to keep the Welsh in order. Thankfully the same does not apply in Scotland, our castles are very definitely Scottish, and so different from those in England. Some Welsh people apparently have a bit of a problem about having all those English built castles looming over them, and I can’t say I blame them, but on the other hand – they are still interesting and historic structures. However, Powis is unusual in that it was actually built by a Welshman in the 13th century – Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn. Apparently he was given permision to build it by Edward I as he had been so loyal to him. As Edward I was also known as The Hammer of the Scots I can only imagine that Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn’s loyalty was rooted in fear.

Powis Castle, Courtyard and Equestrian Statue
As I recall it was very cold, well it was February, but the gardens still looked lovely.
Powis Castle Gardens
You can see the bones of the planting better in winter, but I would like to go back in the summer sometime, there are so many other castles in Scotland to see though, so I may never get around to it, Wales isn’t exactly handy for us.
Formal Garden Powis Castle 6

The peahens were patrolling around the grounds.
Peahens, Powis Castle
And when I walked around the plant sales area below they were all over the place, holding me up, but I did manage to buy a souvenir of my visit in the shape of a Sarcococca confusa (Sweet Box) but it hasn’t flowered this year. I live in hope!
Peacocks

You can see some fantastic images of Powis Castle here.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Notes From a Small Island cover

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson was first published in 1995. In it he tells of the grand tour of Britain which he took just before he left Britain with his wife and family. They were going back to his homeland the US for a time, to give his children the experience of living in his homeland.

I found this to be an amusing read, in fact Bryson now says of his earlier writing that he felt he had to have a laugh a page, which he just about has in this one. There are some parts which are quite hilarious, and others which are quite depressing.

For me it was a bit of a reminder of some of Britain’s past, such as the mayhem of the Thatcher years and all the industrial strife. It’s all history now, they study it in school!

The book begins with those sorts of pub conversations which I was amazed to witness when I moved down to the south of England, they might be still taking place for all I know. Those ones where men of a certain type witter on about the best way of getting from A to B – bizarre, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Over the last few years Jack and I have been doing road trips around Britain too, so I had visited a lot of the places which Bryson visited. I was surprised that he wasn’t all that enamoured with either Oxford or Cambridge. He can be a bit sniffy about modern buildings. He wasn’t at all impressed with Cambridge with its market place surrounded by concrete buildings, I wonder if he meant the art deco ones which we admired. He should have taken a closer look at the market too as it has great secondhand book stalls, I bought several, including a hard to find Angela Thirkell.

He does however love Durham and I agree with him on that, it was a big surprise to me how lovely it is – and nobody ever mentions it as a place to visit.

When Bryson gets to Scotland he’s surprised that it feels like a different country from England and Wales. I’m always amazed when people say that, I find it weird that they would think that Scotland should be just like England, with worse weather. He had some trouble understanding people in a pub in Glasgow, which is fair enough as I had no idea what two men from Fife who I happened to overhear talking today were saying, and I’ve lived in Fife for donkey’s years.

It isn’t all humour, there are some important observations too, such as the fact that the north of Britain has lost over 100 times the amount of jobs which the south of Britain has. He wondered what was going to happen to a country which had got rid of most of its industries, it worried him.

Of course we know now what happens when there is very little in the way of opportunities and work for people, it’s a disaster for the economy and for society. I could go on about that problem for a long time.

Bryson went back to America with his wife and young family after this book was published but they didn’t stay there long. It seems that England is where his heart is. I’m looking forward to reading his next book which is due out in the Autumn.