Hampton Court Palace was the stomping ground of King Henry VIII. This was the charming fellow with the penchant for beheading his wives. I am fairly confidant that he was a serial killer who, in this odd version of the universe, found himself on the throne and acted out his bloodlust with all the impunity that his office afforded him. I’m not British, so I think I can say that without finding myself in shackles for dissing a king, but I suspect my next visa application might get turned down if the British High commission ever happens across this blog.
Hampton Court is, by definition, a palace and as such was one of the first places we visited when we arrived in London because really the only thing that boys my sons ages are interested in are knights, dragons and cars and all that goes with those things. So a visit to a castle was a foregone conclusion. It matters not a whit that there were no dragons in residence on the day we were there, the fact is that there was a castle (palace vs. castle is a difficult distinction to make to a child) and that means there was a chance, however slight, of seeing a knight or dragon or indeed a king. If I’m honest, I may have planted a seed or two about the possibility of seeing one of the aforementioned draw cards. So a little bit of a parenting fail there if we’re keeping score.
The palace grounds were enormous and stretched out in all directions with manicured lawns and sculpted trees and bushes along meandering pathways. There were however plenty of no-go areas, specifically no stomping around in the flower beds or walking on the grass except for the ‘front garden’. There were also plenty of areas cordoned off by the impenetrable and ubiquitous rope. A device which only works on people old enough to understand it means no entry as opposed to the far more obvious purpose which is to gauge your skill at the limbo or to grab hold of and swing about wildly. My boys paid the formal use of these impenetrable barriers no mind whatsoever. My afternoon was spent running after the little guys in many of the no-go areas and at the same time constantly telling them to use ‘inside voices’, also not a very successful undertaking.
Later that day, the temperature dropped by half and it began to rain and, at one point, sleet. My boys having just come from a Southern Hemisphere summer climate were all at once blue lipped and chattered teeth. Their acclimatized cousins, who were old hands at the Palace, seemed a little bemused by the hardy Africans quivering in the biting cold.
One day I’ll be able to show my boys pictures of themselves sitting in grand fireplaces, lying in their backs in the main courtyard and running wild down an ivy covered tunnel, not to mention standing in a four-hundred odd year old doorway in the freezing cold and rain completely oblivious to the history and opulence of their surroundings.
Perhaps the pictures I took will encourage them to make the journey again under their own steam and soak up a bit of the story behind the palace (sans knights and dragons) and possibly even take their old fart parents with them.