Friday, August 28, 2015

Haddon Hall and Turnspit Dogs

View of Haddon Hall from the river bridge.

The grand houses that are built later may have lavish furnishings, but somehow I find the medieval manor house of Haddon Hall, even more enchanting. It was used in the filming of The Princess Bride, as well as The Other Boleyn Girl, the 1996 version of Pride and Prejudice, and the 1998 filming of Elizabeth. It does have a fairy-tale quality about it, doesn't it?

Medieval window at Haddon Hall.
The brother of the current Duke of Rutland lives there today, and the family sometimes entertains its guests in these rooms. Like many aristocrats, they open their home to the public for a fee, which helps offset the costs of maintaining these old buildings.

This detail in the ceiling of the dining room caught my eye...

It's a Tudor rose, the emblem of England that dates from the time of Henry VII, who united the white rose of York with the red Rose of Lancastershire when he took the throne, ending the War of the Roses between the two factions who had fought for the crown. 

The grounds and gardens, full of roses, lavender, and other flowers provide a picturesque setting for this medieval jewel. 

But what really captured my attention was the kitchen and, especially, the turnspit dogs.

Tudor fireplace and sign about turnspit dogs. I wish they had one of the wheels on display!

I had never heard of turnspit dogs! A sign on the wall told all about them. Although the breed is now extinct, in medieval times, the dogs were bred to run in a wheel at the side of a fireplace, not unlike a hamster wheel, but larger of course.  The wheel turned the spit where large joints of meat rotated as they cooked over the fire, hence the name “turnspit dogs.” They were also called  Vernepator Curs and “kitchen dogs." They had short, often crooked legs, and long bodies. You can see an illustration and read more about them here. (Talk about an underdog!)

The dogs worked in teams and ran in the wheel for a specific interval.  According to the sign, the dogs were very aware of how long their shifts were, and they would jump down if they thought their time was up.

This page shows a wheel and talks about how horribly the little dogs were treated. Of course, human servants were often treated cruelly then, too. The one good thing that came from the plight of the turnspit dogs was that their abuse helped inspire the formation of charities to prevent cruelty to animals, such as the ASPCA.

Our Walk Around Lyme Park

The Lyme Park estate is expansive, and the house is elegant. (Another white sky!)

An easy train ride from Buxton, Lyme Park is a grand estate, which includes a large residence and a deer park, now managed by the UK National Trust. Because we have visited several stately homes in the past, we did not go into the house, for which there was a charge, but instead strolled the grounds, which were free.

The tower, which is known as The Cage. (We did have intermittent sun
and, for once, in this photo, a partly blue sky.)

Views towards Manchester from our picnic spot.

Kevin standing in front of The Cage.

We ate a picnic lunch at the  tower on a hill, enjoying the sweeping views across the countryside. Once a hunting lodge, and later a park-keeper’s lodge and lockup, the current building dates from 1737.

The house, itself, a grand and imposing structure, has been featured in several films and TV shows, including Red Dwarf, and The Awakening. It also served as Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s residence in the 1995 BBC production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (Colin Firth rose to stardom for his role as Darcy.) I could happily live there.

View of the rear of the great house.
We particularly enjoyed our walk in the grounds behind the house, where we searched in vain for the red deer that hang out there. As you can see, the view of the house and gardens from here was majestic.  

Sadly, after our long walk, we craved an ice cream, but we felt the price was too high, so we, regretfully, saved our bodies from overindulgence. Nonetheless, it was a grand day out!

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Poignant Visit to Eyam

Street in Eyam

I've never been to a place like Eyam (pronounced Eem). It is impossible to know how many people owe a debt to the brave people of Eyam, and their story is a remarkable one.

In late August 1665, plague came to the town. Apparently, it arrived when the local tailor, George Viccars, received a bolt of cloth from London. Because the cloth was damp, he hung it in front of the fire to dry, unwittingly releasing the plague-infested fleas that clung to the cloth.  On September 7, George Viccars died, the first victim.  Before long, the plague begin to claim life after life, and by the end of October, more than 23 had died.

Today, when you visit Eyam, you can see the plague houses where so many families died.

But the deaths aren't what is most noteworthy about Eyam. When it became apparent that the plague was spreading, the rector, William Mompesson called the people together and proposed that the town quarantine itself to keep the scourge from spreading to nearby villages.  The townsfolk agreed, though some left before the quarantine went into effect. The rector, like many others, sent his children away to relatives. But for 14 months, the town kept its self-imposed exile until the plague had finally run its course. By then 260 out of 350 people had died.

During the quarantine, the nearby town of Stoney Middleton provided food and other goods to Eyam. The villagers left coins that had been soaked in vinegar (to disinfect them) in the holes of a boundary stone on the outskirts, where the people of Stoney Middleton left the supplies.

The boundary stone
One of the saddest stories is that of two young lovers, Emmott Sydall  of Eyam, and Rowland Torre of Stoney Middleton. They originally met in the village, but they soon realized that meeting there was dangerous and could spread the plague. So they agreed to meet at the boundary stone and simply look at each other from a distance, never touching.  Every day, the lovers came, until one day in April 1666, Emmott did not show up. Rowland, worried but unwilling to give up hope, continued to come to the meeting place until late 1666, when the quarantine was lifted. He was one of the first to enter Eyam, but he discovered his beloved Emmott had died in April, a day or two after he had last seen her.

In the church in Eyam, there is a stained-glass window that commemorates the plague and the villagers' sacrifice.  In the lower right panel of the window, Emmott and Rowland are represented, standing at a stream, looking across at each other.

The church in Eyam

All of Emmott's family died, except her youngest brother. The Reverend Mompesson's wife, who had stayed to nurse the sick, also caught the plague and died. The rector lived, later remarried, and moved to another village.

Maybe it's because these are not nameless people, or maybe it's because of their selfless sacrifice, but the humanity of those people who lived so long ago still resonates. I don't think it's possible to visit Eyam and not feel moved by their stories.

There is also some intriguing evidence that what infected Eyam was not bubonic plague, but some other fast-acting agent. But the evidence is still unclear.  Regardless, the visit to Eyam is something I will not soon forget.

This is a plague doctor's mask and cape meant to keep him from getting infected.
I seriously doubt that it worked! I'm sorry that it's not a little more clear, but it was taken
at the excellent Eyam plague museum and the lighting was low.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Beautiful Buxton

An inn near the Buxton Crescent, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was detained under Elizabeth I.

Buxton is an old spa town. Its natural mineral springs attracted the Celts and the Romans, and just as with its larger and more famous cousin, the city of Bath, Buxton was a place to see and be seen in Jane Austin's time.

Sadly, the baths and crescent of Buxton have fallen into disrepair. However, there is a bright light on the horizon, for new funding has been found, and the Georgian baths and buildings are to be restored in the next few years through public funding and development by the Danubius Group out of Budapest.

Buxton has a well-manicured park in its center, a conservatory, and a luxurious Opera House. My photos don't do the town justice.

The Derbyshire Dome, which once served as stables for the elegant spa attendees in the glory days, is the largest unsupported dome in Europe and today is home to the University of Derby.

The Dome is also a popular wedding venue.
Even today, townspeople draw water from St. Anne's Well. (Who knows, maybe it was the water and not the steroids and antivirals that cured me?) I don't like the taste of the mineral water in Bath, but Buxton water actually tastes good.

Buxton, which has good transport links to most of Derbyshire, is also a good location for walks. You can see a lot without a car, particularly if you have a senior railpass or get an all-day bus pass that covers the entire region.

Right on the outskirts of Buxton is an impressive cave and a walk up to Solomon's Temple, a 20-foot high, two-story folly, built in the 1890s. On a clear day, the views are fantastic.

And look at this great photo that Kevin took of a young girl who was sitting in one of the tower's windows:

I love this image! Check out the black-and-white version (and his other fascinating work) on Kevin's photo blog.

How the Cold Sore Virus Sent Me to the Hospital

The lovely little town of Buxton, where I recovered.

Note: I am fine. I  was lucky and did NOT have a stroke. It's a little embarrassing to admit when you have done something foolish--or just plain stupid--because I knew I should go to the doctor when my symptoms first appeared, but I didn't--even when the evidence that I should was literally staring me in the face. Please, if you ever have a paralysis anywhere, seek immediate attention. It could save your life. 

The morning before we were to leave Grassington, a Thursday, I looked in the bathroom mirror and noticed something was not right. One side of my mouth was droopy. When I tried to smile, it was crooked--the right side would not turn up.

I have a friend who once had Bell's palsy, so when I saw my paralysis and read online that Bell's palsy was often associated with herpes simplex I, the virus that causes cold sores, I thought I knew what had caused it. I had had an earache for days and a cold sore before I developed the paralysis.

I felt certain that Bell's palsy was the diagnosis. After all, I don't have high blood pressure or cardiac problems, I take no prescription medications, and I had no other symptoms. However, that was not a smart assumption. As I discovered later, Bell's is a diagnosis of exclusion, and even the experts can't tell if it's Bell's palsy or a stroke without a CT and/or MRI scan. Also, if you are having a stroke caused by a blood clot, you need to get to the hospital quickly to get the drug that dissolves the clot. If you wait too long, it could be too late. But I was in denial. If it had been Kevin I would have insisted he go to a doctor, but we were miles from a hospital, and Ms. Smarty Pants assured her husband that it would be OK to wait.

The next day, when we got to Buxton, in the Peak District, I went to a doctor's clinic. When I relayed my symptoms to the nurse, she made sure the doctor saw me within minutes.  I liked the physician, a woman who was thorough, professional, and compassionate. She, too, thought I had Bell's palsy, but insisted I go immediately to the hospital and wanted to call an ambulance for me. I demurred, and said we could go by train. But she countered,"No, I don't want you to go by train. You can go by taxi, if you like."

So we took a taxi to the hospital about 45 miles away, which cost us the equivalent of $65. (It turns out if I had chosen the ambulance, it would have been free. But I am glad I didn't tie up valuable community resources.)
At the hospital, I was examined by three stroke specialists. I had blood taken (a complete blood count, a check on clotting factors and inflammation, etc.). I also had an EKG and, finally, a CT scan of the brain. Doctors in the UK do not seem to want to communicate very much to patients, at least in my experience. While the doctors reiterated the diagnosis of Bell's palsy, they said nothing about the CT scan results, and told me I could go.  They gave me a prescription for steroids, a high dose tapering down over 10 days, and one for an antiviral for 5 days. That was on Friday.

Initially, when I saw the doctor in Buxton, she said the clinic would charge me, but when I went back on Monday to pay, I saw a different doctor, a male, who said the clinic would waive the charge. He also told me that after further review of the CT scan, the hospital wanted me to come back and have an MRI.  I reported that after three days on the steroids, my paralysis was nearly gone, and he remarked, "That's another reason to have the MRI. It's not typical for Bell's palsy to respond that quickly. It usually takes months, and at least two weeks, to get better." I began to worry that had suffered a stroke or had a brain tumor or aneurysm.

I think that in the UK, if you are part of the National Health System (NHS), your primary doctor coordinates your care. But I, of course, was not in the NHS, and I think that clinic doctor just wanted to wash his hands of me. He told me to call the hospital MRI department myself and advised me to get a blood-pressure cuff to check my blood pressure. (He never told me what my blood-pressure was; he only said it was "not bad.") He said if my blood pressure shot up, I should go immediately to a hospital A&E (accident and emergency) room.

Now I was worried. I called the hospital MRI department, but the receptionist said that the order had just come through and was being reviewed. She also said that the department was backed up for three weeks. Kevin said to me, "We need to get to the bottom of this," so I found an imaging center in London that would do the MRI for 250 pounds (about $391) a few days later. 

My one piece of good luck was getting in touch with a medical secretary at the hospital who began looking out for me. I explained the situation to her, over the phone, and asked if I could get my records faxed to the imaging center in London.  She tried that, but on Wednesday, by the time I had it all arranged, the hospital got back in touch and said that if I could come in at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, they could do the MRI.  

I cancelled the London appointment and continued to take my blood pressure, which was a little on the high side (about 140/80), but nothing scary. In the meantime, I didn't feel too bad, mostly just more tired than usual.

On Sunday, now more than a week since I had first been examined, I returned to the hospital for the scan. The next day I called the medical secretary, who began to call the MRI department on my behalf.  I waited two more days and called back, but the secretary told me she had not been able to get the report from the MRI department.

Finally, on Thursday, I got the news: everything on the MRI scan of my brain was completely normal! The medical secretary tried to fax the results to my doctor at home, but her fax machine would not let her send it overseas. So she emailed it to me, and I emailed the report to my doctor,  who said that looked good to her too.

What a tense couple of weeks! But all's well that ends well. Amazingly, the exams, blood tests, EKG, CT scan, MR and  medications--cost me exactly $0! In the UK, even today, everyone, citizen or not, is entitled to free emergency care at hospitals on an outpatient basis. 

I also found out that immediate medical attention is not only advisable in case of stroke, but with Bell's palsy, you need to start on steroids and antivirals within 72 hours of the onset of paralysis to help ensure the best outcome.  As for me, I was one of the lucky ones--no stroke, and I recovered from the paralysis  and the lingering viral symptoms (earache and fatigue) within two weeks.

Addendum: We do not have travel insurance because it is very costly when you are over 65 and you want to travel long-term. The best I could find cost about $6000 in premiums and had a $2500 deductible. Our Medicare supplement plan will reimburse us for emergency care in the first 60 days--and I would have been still covered at that time of this incident. After that, we just planned we would pay any medical expenses out of pocket, because in most parts of the world, you can get a lot of medical care for $8500. We do have a medical evacuation plan (Medjet Assist) that will airlift us to a hospital near home if we are admitted to a hospital.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Release the Sheep!

Not great, but the best I could do taking a photo off the telly.

Like "Dancing with the Stars"? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet! As the humorist Dave Barry often says in his columns, "I am not making this up!" Now they have a new TV show on English TV. Instead of celebrities dancing with ordinary people, England has celebrities herding ordinary sheep.  Seriously.  And do you know what they call this television spectacular? Flockstars.

That part is true. The TV show takes British celebrities, let's them train for several weeks, and then they compete against another celebrity to see how fast they and their sheepdogs can herd a flock into a pen. You can tell that they hope their signature line will catch on: "Release the sheep!"

However, after watching the first show, I have to say, it was probably much better as a concept than in execution.  Which unfortunately may hold true of my own feeble efforts below (click to play):

Yearbook of the 

Ewe-nu-versity of the Yorkshire Dales

The Ewe-nu-versity of the Yorkshire Dales (EYD) is a proud British institution. Once limited to female sheep, the ewe-nu-versity has evolved with the times and now accepts both rams and ewes. Recently, EYD welcomed its first foreign student, Bossie La Belle (lower row, far left), who says, "I'm moooved at how the students have accepted me, as a newcomer in their midst."

Top row, left to right:
Eunice: Our class prez
Eula: 4H queen, four years running (and can she run!)
Merlin Olsen: Most ram-bunctious
Shaun: Friendly as his namesake

Second row (middle), left to right:
Lani Lynn: Seeking her MRS in animal husbandry
Wrong Way William: Bill, are you three sheeps to the wind?
Lambie Pie: Majoring in horticulture
Aries: Winner of high jump in Yorkshire Games

Third row (bottom), left to right:
Bossie La Belle: French foreign student, oh, la, la!
Dolly: Studying natural medicine and genetics
Lucy: Member, Alpha Lambda Delta honorary
Emeril: Winner, Best Green Salad, Home Ec prize

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Kevin Imper for his help with this project.

OK, sorry about all that! But to make up for that nonsense, click on the link to take a look at my favorite commercial now playing on British TV (non-sheep-related).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Walks in the Yorkshire Dales

Here is a look at some photos from our hikes in the Grassington area and at Bolton Abbey: