The magic carpet has been neglected for some time, in hibernation, like its owner one might say! We shall have a gentle flight today taking off vertically from my courtyard garden being careful to miss the rooftop of the White Cross pub and we shall follow the River Thames towards London. Why have I chosen to show you beauty spots along this stretch of the river, wearing my small spotted silk kerchief? A neighbour died this week. He loved the river Thames.
Bamber Gascoigne was no ordinary neighbour. So many eulogies have been expressed about him this week, there is little I can add. Prince of quizmasters, benefactor of the arts, particularly opera, supporter of youth projects, etc, etc. I remember him as a Richmond man who loved the river Thames, swimming regularly until recent years in it with his wife Christina during the summer months, and of course rowing. I can see his first floor conservatory at the rear of his home from my bedroom balcony and I can watch the river flowing gently…..or surging wildly as a high tide floods our road and threatens Christina’s pottery workroom in their basement. So I shall pay my tribute to Bamber by flying along past his home today.
I’ll tie my purple, lilac and pink spotted silk scarf tightly around my neck and we’ll be away. Quick take off, then a right turn past the landing stage for ferries to Westminster and Hampton Court, lowering my head in respect as we pass St Helena Terrace. We are quickly by the site of the old Richmond Palace where Elizabeth the First died. I lower my head again as we pass my husband’s memorial bench behind the old Palace grounds. Imagine the ceremonial barges which must have docked there in past centuries. Today, herons have completely taken over the island opposite Trumpeters House standing on the old Palace land. This photo shows a live heron perched in my garden observing the fishpond… or was he fancying the plastic replica heron at ground level as a possible mate?
Now we pass Asgill House built in 1760 on the land which had originally housed the brew house of the Palace. The original palace was built in 1125 by Henry the First, maybe when the Gascoigne ancestors arrived in England? There are many myths about their appearance in Anglo-Saxon, Norman times…..who knows? It was certainly a long time ago. Now I see the silent homeless man by railway bridge. I offered him a chocolate one day. I was surprised to hear he had a Scots voice. He took it and asked for another!
Now we pass the King’s Observatory built by King George the Third, a keen astronomer, so he might observe the transit of Venus in 1769. I wonder how significant that was? Bamber would probably have known the answer! This is on the land within the grounds of my golf club, Royal Mid Surrey. The clubhouse burned down in 2001 and I remember playing club bridge in the Observatory. (Now since the pandemic I play BBO, bridge on line.) How privileged I am to live in such a historical area. To more recent times….the refurbishment of the footbridge by the lock and the opening by the Duke of York. I watched him shake the dirty hands of a grimy, sooty steam roller driver that day. I admired that, but now I feel sad for his mother, our Queen.
I will quickly banish that image and glance to the left and remember walking in the private River Grounds, part of the St.Margaret’s Pleasure Ground estates one early Spring day during lockdown. One of the houses had interesting carved plaques on the back wall representing good old Father Thames. It had once boasted a large boathouse and was famous for its parties. The early bluebells were blooming that day and the snowdrops just finishing. A natural beauty spot. The carpet is not pleased I am darting from one side of the river to the other. There must be a fabulous sight ahead. Yes! Round the bend in the river past houseboats stands the magnificent Syon House opposite Kew Gardens, home of the Duke of Northumberland. The carpet is aquiver. I feel it wants to turn around so we can fly back from palace to palace. We make the turn. We are flying over Kew Gardens and I see below me Kew Palace, a tiny red brick jewel within the Gardens dwarfed by the large glasshouses. It has been a lightning quick flight. I would have liked to have a peek at the Orchid Festival there. Why the hurry?
Now, I understand, I have to get back, change my flying gear and lilac scarf, for a black and white spotted dress for a soirée at my next door neighbour’s home. A flashback to 15th August 2016. Bamber, a true gentleman was not saying “Your starter for ten, Busy Bee” and quizzing me on local history. He must have known I didn’t have access to Wikipedia at a cocktail party!
Hopefully, I can fly the carpet up river another time to Hampton Court. There are so many beauty spots along the way. If the moths get at my carpet, I can always take the ferry on a round trip to Westminster, Kingston, Hampton Court and back to Richmond. Like our famous University Challenge maestro, I love the river.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!
Series 2, Blog 84.