Sunday, January 30, 2011

The outside of the castle

We spent a couple of hours one morning wandering around outside the castle.  Here's the front of it.  (Can you see Alan and Coop down in front of the door?)
It may look familiar -- it was the setting for the 1999 movie The Haunting.

And a view of the gate, from the front of the castle.

Lots of lion statutes around:

This is the side of the castle.  The low part with white windows to the bottom right of the photo is the Conservatory.
(Cooper took this piture, which is why we're blurring and a bit off-kilter.)

This is the Gate House.  It spans the drive leading up to the castle, and it actually has two apartments in it.

From the other side of the Gate House, looking up the long drive to the castle:

And the Carriage House, which was once a home for horses, but is now extra living space for students and faculty.

Coop and I making the trek back up to the castle.

And a picture from a different day, when the sun was shining and the lawn was frosted over a bit:

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fire Station

During the first week of classes here, we had two accidental fire alarms (apparently the detector in room 503 is really sensitive, or the girls there are really careless) and one planned fire drill.  Coop and I were only in the building for one of them, but it woke us up!

We grabbed coats and shoes and headed outside.  I'm pretty sure we were the last ones out of the building -- we've got lots of stairs and one of us has really short legs.  But we made it.

And then we got to see the fire truck arrive!  The fire fighters were wearing yellow uniforms, just like Coop's fire fighter costume.  So as soon as the alarms were turned off, we rushed back up to our room, put on Coop's fire fighter costume, and ran back downstairs to show the fire fighters.  But alas, they were already gone.

So one day (probably a Friday -- have I mentioned that we don't have school on those days?!), we headed into Grantham, hopped into a cab, and asked it to take us to the nearest fire station.

Most of the fire fighters were busy that day, but one was available to show us around (and admire the costume).  Coop loved it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Burns Night

Last night, January 25, was Burns Night, a celebration of the life and poetry of Robert Burns. Burns, also known as Robbie Burns, was the national poet of Scotland, and January 25 was his birthday (the original one occurring in 1759).

Harlaxton, being close in proximity to Scotland, held its own Burns Night celebration. Students and faculty crammed into the Bistro for some poetry reading:

And some haggis, a traditional Scottish dish memorialised as the national dish of Scotland by Burns' poem "Address to a Haggis" in 1787.

What's haggis, you ask?   This:

It is (quoting wikipedia): sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

Alan tried some, and reported it good.  "Spicy, seasoned, savory.  Doesn't taste like chicken."

The students tried some, as did Alan's colleague Dr. Kim:

And his delightful daughter Christine:

Everyone (well, maybe not Christine, who's a bit underage) also enjoyed Scotch whiskey to celebrate the occasion.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Our weekday routine

So we three are getting into somewhat of a routine during the weeks.  At least for Monday-Thursday -- Harlaxton doesn't have classes on Fridays typically, so we have a three-day weekend to play!!

But on week days, Alan usually heads down to breakfast around 7:30 while Coop and I are (hopefully) still sleeping.  We finally get up and moving around 8am, and go down to breakfast.  (All of our meals are provided here at the castle!)

Coop and I have about an hour or so after breakfast to play in the room ("flat" if I want to be British) or clean or whatever.  We catch the 10:10am shuttle into Grantham, which is about a 10 minute drive.

[Try this link to google maps.  The A is Harlaxton Manor.  It sits at the end of a long straight drive that's the location of the Naked Mile.  (More on that at a later date.  Maybe.)  It's technically in Harlaxton Village, which is just a small cluster of streets and houses.  But the closest big city is Grantham, with maybe 40,000 people, just a couple of miles up the road to the northeast.)

Anyway, Ziggy the shuttle driver, takes us to the Grantham bus station.  Here's a picture of Cooper and his good buddy Jack, who also is at Harlaxton this semester, riding next to each other on the shuttle.  Jack goes to preschool with Cooper on Mondays.

From the bus station, we walk about 10 minutes to Puddleducks, Cooper's preschool for this semester.  It's a pretty sweet place, and this picture totally doesn't do it justice, but that's where the sign with the name was:

Coop seems to love it, and we've been blessed with a kid who's easy to leave with strangers as long as they have toys.  And this place has TOYS.  So he's done well there.   He's usually driving this tractor when I pick him up---"Just a minute, Mama.  I need to plant the field a little bit more."

Note the sack lunch in the picture with the sign.  Since our meals are provided by Harlaxton, if we let them know in advance, they'll make us a sack lunch for any day we won't be at the manor.  So Coop and I each take a lunch four days a week.  It really saves on our food budget (but I am getting tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches).

Coop's made some fabulous art at Puddleducks:
That's a picture of me, people.  Or rather "mummy"!  I love it!

Anyway, back to the routine.  I drop Coop off there around 10:30-ish, and then I walk a couple blocks to a pub called Wetherspoon.  They have free wi-fi, so I set up my laptop, order a Diet Pepsi, and do some work (I'm working part-time for my KC judge while we're over here, so this arrangement forces me to get those hours in).

And then when I'm tired or when the laptop battery runs out [update: I found an outlet -- drat, I don't have that excuse anymore!], then I walk around the town and poke my head in some shops.  Grantham has some really great thrift stores, called "charity" stores because they're run by and for specific charities.  I've found some fantastic bargains there, including a tan suede skirt for 1.50 pounds (about $2.25) and some pirate rain boots ("wellies") for Cooper for 1 pound ($1.50).  Score.

I also found this store, which I love:
It's the British version of the dollar store:  Poundland, where everything's a pound!  I stocked up on all sorts of random things.  And it's a great place to take Cooper on weekends because we can pick out a toy (or two! or three!) for cheap, which is nice since we sort of promised that we could buy "a bunch" of toys when we got to England.

And this store:
It's ASDA, the British version of Walmart.  Owned by Walmart, actually.  So it felt quite home-y.

One last thing that sort of ties into our routine. I'm getting better at being a pedestrian. It's still a little daunting because I don't have an innate sense of the traffic flow---I still can't predict which way a car is going or where it is allowed to turn from which lane. And I also don't like this:
This is how the stop lights look in between red and green.  So when the light is red and is about to turn green, it gives drivers a yellow as a "get ready" sign.  Which means they start revving their engines and are ready to gun it when the light turns green.  A bit disconcerting for a pedestrian.

I pick Coop around 2:15, and we walk back to the bus station to catch Ziggy's 2:30 shuttle back to the manor.  When we get home, we try to have a little Quiet Rest Time (what we've instituted since Coop's stopped actually napping) by watching some Blue's Clues videos on my ipod. 

Alan usually finishes up teaching and working around 4:00 or 4:30, so he and Coop play train or cash register or tea party or race car.  We head down to dinner around 5:30, and, barring any college event, start getting Coop settled for bed around 7pm.

And then, just like at home, Alan and I stay up way too late on email and Facebook and computer games and reading.  But that's ok, because we have a three-day weekend to recover!!

Friday, January 21, 2011


Last week, we attended a Ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee" of course) here at the manor.  It's a traditional Gaelic dance party.  There was a four-piece band (two guitars, a violon, and a drum set) who played Gaelic music (with a bit of Irish and English thrown in for variety) and taught everyone how to dance to it.  Think square dancing with a shade of line dancing added in plus a hint of jigging.

I figured Coop would like it.  What's not to like?  Loud music.  Crazy dancing.  So we headed down to the Great Hall for the 7:30 shin-dig (which, incidentally, is Cooper's bedtime -- we're bad, bad parents).

Here's how he started the eveving:

And then he took a break:

And we know he's really tired when it turns into jumping and growling:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fun photos around the castle and around town

The phone booth in the castle:

No seriously.  It really is.

A big snooker table down in one of the lounges:

The Bistro is the pub in the basement of the castle:

The fancy elevator.  It's amazingly quiet and slow. 
We got stuck it in once already, but it wasn't too bad because you can see out and can talk to people and can breathe without worrying about running out of air. And it only took 20 minutes or so for someone to handcrank the thing back up to the right floor!

At last!

We saw this store in Grantham and it looked familiar, and yet different at the same time...
(The US version is TJ Maxx.)

We found these fabulous ride-on toys in a shopping center near the Grantham bus stop:

A pirate ship!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


We didn't bring a ton of toys with us, so we told Coop that we could go to a store and pick some out once we arrived.  (There are tons of good thrift stores (called "charity stores") in Grantham.)

His top two MUST HAVE requests once he saw them were this cash register set (a play "till") and the small red tea set sitting beside him.  Usually when we're shopping, I can convince him to change his mind or sway him to some other (less expensive or less loud or less messy) toy, but these two were deal breakers for him.  And so far, they've been worth it.
(Except that now Alan and I have to sit and play grocery store or tea party.  They're not great toys for independent play!)

Last Saturday, the college held its opening reception and welcome dinner.  It's one of the few times that faculty wear academic robes and family members are asked to dress in "smart" dress.  Right.  We didn't bring "smart" dress for Cooper, unless his Santa costume counts.  So we quickly bought some corduroys and a sweater to go with the hat he got for Christmas (thanks Ellen and Grandma!):
(And his rain boots, of course.  "Wellies," they're called here.  They go with everything.)

Here's our little smartly dressed family:

The reception started at 7pm (which is, incidentally, Cooper's usual bedtime).  It was not a quiet affair with 175 students and 40 faculty/family members milling around drinking wine.  And yet:

Faculty members and their families had to march into the dining hall, lead by a bagpipe (also not quiet).  Coop slept through it all.  He finally woke up when his rainboot fell off as we were sitting down to the table.

After his power nap, he seemed to enjoy dinner.  At least the rolls and chocolate cake.  (That's my boy!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The pirate explores

Coop and I had some time to explore the castle a bit while Alan was in meetings.  He was a pirate that day.  (I have mentioned, haven't I, his costume phase?  We brought them all to England, so expect to see a lot of them...)

Admiring the view:

The swirlie on the Cedar Stairs.

Climbing the Cedar Stairs

Being a statute:

"I found a pot of gold at the bottom of the stairs!"

One of the staff members admired Coop's costume and then managed to rustle up this plastic sword, leftover from a previous child resident.  Coop loved it, but I think some of the other faculty members were a bit taken aback by Cooper's pirate regalia, particularly while he was brandishing a sword and growling at them.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Our castle

It's technically called a manor, but it's way more fun to call it a castle.  I haven't taken any pictures from the outside yet (it's an amazing looking building!), but here are some of my favorite interior places.

The may be my favorite room so far.  It's the Ridgway Great Hall---giant chandelier, cedar walls with lion sconces, statutes of men holding their heads (Coop suggested that perhaps they all had headaches), huge firepalce (the concrete looking mantel area on the left of this photo):

Looking back at the other end of the hall:

One of the reasons it's my favorite room:  it holds this gigantic Bosendorfer grand piano.  Gordon, the president of Harlaxton college, said I can play it anytime I want.  Sweet!

 Another lovely room (I don't know it's official name yet).
See the small basket on the left side of the fireplace mantel?  Yeah, that's a basket of wipey board markers and erasers.  That's right.  This is a classroom.

Another classroom with a fantastic angular bay window:

The view of the ceiling at the top of the Cedar Stairs.  The stairs themselves are amazing.  Giant cedar scroll work all along the stair case.  Ornate plaster work in the middle (all the white floofy stuff around the middle square of this photo).

Here's a close-up of the plaster work.
The big rope things with tassels?  They're really pieces of rope dipped in plaster.

The Jesuits owned the manor in the 1950s and 1960s, and used it as a home for novices entering the Jesuit priesthood (is that what it's called?).  The woman giving us our tour explained that when the Jesuits left, they took some of the fixtures and artwork in the manor (and left much, much more).  For example, there used to be something across the top of this mirror, because it's clear that it's missing something.
Right.  Because it's just so plain looking now.

I love the twizzly marble columns on this door.