In The Neighbo(u)ring County

We had a friend from Ireland spend the weekend with us. When all know that when friends and family visit, we all have to play host. So, on Saturday, we headed a few miles over into neighbo(u)ring Cambridgeshire to Wimpole Hall – a stately home, now owned by the National Trust:

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

It is a magnificent house and estate. Its last private owner was Rudyard Kipling’s daughter. She bequeathed it to the Trust in 1976.

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

The statues outside of the manor house are covered by the Trust (perhaps to protect them from the elements).

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

“Good morning, Carson. The garden looks splendid, even in February.”

“Indeed, my lord.”

Just having a Downton Abbey moment. LOL!

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

Incidentally, the head gardener had his own private cottage. It has two good-sized rooms downstairs. (Visitors cannot go upstairs.) It was built, it is believed, around 1800.

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

No, no, that’s not in the gardener’s cottage! That’s inside of the main house. That is the “Yellow Drawing Room”…

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

…which, come to think of it, is probably larger than the gardener’s entire cottage. LOL! It had fallen into some disrepair, but was restored by the estate’s last private owner.

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

And naturally I could not resist a mirror selfie. LOL!

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

Its late 1700s-early 1800s owners: the 3rd Earl and his wife. Of course given that era, they caught my particular attention. Note too they were painted there by none other than – as I later underlined (on my photo above I took of that display case) – George Romney.

Romney (an ancestor of, yes, really, U.S. politician Mitt Romney) was a successful English portrait painter of the later 18th century and he immortalized many notables. His “favorite muse” of the early-mid 1780s was Amy Lyon, who later went by the name “Emma Hart,” and eventually married a Sir William Hamilton and so became Lady Hamilton; her face is seen repeatedly in Romney’s “artistic” efforts. (She was reputed to have been one of the most beautiful young women in England.) In the mid-1790s, she also became the mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson.

One of Romney’s many paintings also includes 1787’s “Miss Constable,” a still unidentified young lady probably between about ages 15-19… who is familiar to you…

…seen above on the bottom left of the cover of a certain new novel.

[Wimpole Hall Estate. Photo by me, February 22, 2020.]

Oh, and speaking of books. Talk about a library! Wimpole Hall’s accumulated centuries’ old library is at least 10,000 volumes in two large rooms.

That was Saturday.

On Sunday, before we planned to watch England play Ireland in rugby (which England later won, 24-12), we decided to head into central Cambridge – about 25 minutes’ drive away – for a walkabout, visit to the outdoor market, and maybe lunch:

[Outside of King’s College, Cambridge. Photo by me, February 23, 2020.]

Outside of King’s College is probably the most famous spot in the city. There were plenty of people around (although not in that photo above). However, one thing I did notice – and it may have been a coincidence, but I suspect it was not – was an absence of tourists from East Asia.

Central Cambridge on a Sunday is usually full of Chinese (and Japanese and Korean) tour groups following guides waving pennants. This Sunday, we saw not a single such group. Even individual East Asian faces seemed far fewer than usual.

American accents – usually easily overheard here and there too – were lacking as well.

[Red-dressed climate change protesters, Cambridge. Photo by me, February 23, 2020.]

At one point, evidently decidedly English climate change protesters did appear. Above, a group of women, dressed in red (the reason, I overheard, was to represent the overheating of the planet), roamed around the central area behind a man… who was carrying a flag. It was hard to tell if they were students; but they seemed – when I saw their faces – too old to be students.

Outside of Trinity College, we also saw the aftermath of a “protest” from last week:

[Outside of Trinity College, Cambridge. Photo by me, February 23, 2020.]

Other activists demanding the university divest itself from fossil fuel companies, had vandalized the lawn outside of the college’s entrance gate. A member of the group subsequently told local media:

“Too often there is a double standard at play in the condemnation of civil disobedience and direct action undertaken by Extinction Rebellion, or any other group fighting for justice. In popular culture and our long collective memory, civil disobedience (which by definition involves breaking the law) that happened in the past is held up as necessary and justified, even praiseworthy.

By contrast, civil disobedience that happens in the present is more often than not condemned as counterproductive, unnecessary and unjustified. Never more was this in evidence than following the digging up of the lawn at Trinity College, roundly castigated as vandalism and commented on by many as ‘a step too far.’

In response we say: if digging up a small patch of grass, an act of pure symbolism that causes no physical harm to anyone, is a step too far on the road to climate action and justice, will we ever have the courage and resolve to fully walk that road?”

First, in fact, that is not the issue, but rather it is that some obviously do not understand what “civil disobedience” is. For it is decidedly unclear how one advances a “green agenda” even an iota by vandalizing – and, yes, that is what that was – the only “green” space in the immediate public vicinity. Indeed that behavior could well lead the university to conclude it is simply easier now just to pave over the entire corner rather than attempt to repair and replant it – particularly if it believes such vandalism might well happen again.

Second, this is an example of “civil disobedience” in the past. Sixty years ago, beginning this very month (February 1960), four Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, black student protesters sat at the 66 seat Woolworth store “whites only” lunch counter peacefully awaiting service, and were prepared to return there and sit the same way day after day doing the exact same thing. Seeing what was happening, as the days and the weeks passed others joined them and the number of protesters grew (and even some local whites supported them). As the story hit the media, sales at the store declined over the following months, causing the store eventually to change its segregated lunch counter policy.

What did those desegregation protesters NOT do? I have no recollection of reading of them purely symbolically and physically harming no one tearing the seats, jumping up on the lunch counter, and seizing muffins and other food items – that they had NOT paid for – and flinging them around the eating area. They were entirely “civil” in their “disobedience”… and in being so helped genuinely to change the course of U.S. history.

Hope you are having a good week, wherever you are. 🙂