Updated: Jul 28, 2021
I hope this is not too boring.
After seeing friends and family in Devon, we now had to set off to Kent, on the business of another half-uncle—Surgeon-Commander Austin Sinclair-Loutit—whose grave in St. Augustine's Abbey we have been restoring: we had the final element with us: the 80kg memorial tablet of Orkney stone, with its lettering hand-cut here in Orkney by our local stonemason, was with us in the boot.
The stone had been ready and with our kind truckers McAdie & Reeve in Kirkwall for a couple of months. However, in that time, they had unfortunately never had a truck setting off to be reasonably near that destination, so it stood for those two months in their reception and tickled the interest of all their customers! We therefore had it dumped in the boot of the Peugeot the day before we set off on the LTB.
Now we were going to deliver it and visit Austin's grave, which up until now we had only seen in photographs.
The road from Devon took us through Dorset and since we had plenty of time, I took the boys to see Bryanston, where I went to school.
Although perfectly friendly, it was in many ways not the Bryanston I remembered. Today it looks like an ultra-manicured conference centre for the mega-rich, a sort Davos in Dorset.
All the lawns were mown in perfect criss-cross stripes and there were so many new buildings that even the basic geography was a bit confusing.
Entrance was controlled by private security in smart little booths but was quite friendly. I suppose the place is choc-a-bloc with oligarch brats from Russia and China who need to be protected from kidnapping on the one hand and on the other from poisoning by their respective KGBs should their fathers ever fall out of favour back home.
However, it was enough to say at the gate that I was an old boy who wanted to show the place to his kids for us to be allowed to drive to the front of the school. The guard was cheerful and slightly apologetic about it all. He told me we could not go inside and also to drive slowly as term was not over and there were pupils about. I promised I wouldn't run over more than two or three. His response—"The more, the merrier!"—was cheering.
We were therefore able to drive up to the front of the school, here (not my photo), and
walk around the main building and I was able to show the boys how I used to climb out of my study window to crawl along the top ledge to a good hiding spot behind a chimney for a smoke.
We were eventually able to get in, even though all the doors were electrically locked and needed a touch card to open them. At one of the rear entrances round the back, we saw a master just by one of the doors and I asked if he could open it so that I could show the main corridor. With only a very short hesitation, he said "I don't see why not" and used his card to gain us entry. I suppose that might be viewed (so long as one ignores the slight pause) as a touch of the old Bryanston!
So the boys did get to see inside briefly, which was nice. (The old headmaster's notice board where they used to post such notices as DSL being on School Punishment No.1 for the umpteenth time was gone. Instead, in the space in front of where it used to be, there was a grouping of posh leather armchairs and a coffee table. These were occupied by three female pupils, dressed Davos-fashion in slightly tarty clothes that stank of money, conversing with a teacher.
It's enough to compare Bryanston's old crest with its current logo (as it is called on their website) to know exactly what has become of the place. No regrets now about not having sent my children there.
After that, we proceeded on to Ramsgate, where we had taken an AirB&B house with 4 bedrooms for 2 nights. We needed the space as Katya was going to join us from London. The house was very nice indeed and fully equipped from kitchen to bedrooms. There being a washing machine available, we were even able to wash clothes after a week on the road (I hate having to put dirty clothes into a suitcase that also contains clean ones!).
Ramsgate was a strange town as it presents a grand waterfront, with suitably posh houses, while the side streets just one block back were very run down and clearly occupied by 'less than nice' people.
Our house had the magnificent street address of 66, Plains of Waterloo! It was just a few steps from this parade...
...while the view in the other direction was this
Parking in Ramsgate was hell on earth and the town's streets were terrifyingly narrow. The house on the right (3 minutes' walk from Plains of Waterloo) housed the restaurant we ate in that evening with Katya. We had a grand English meal, somewhat ruined by its English cook: rack of Kentish lamb—brown and crisp outside, pink and lovely inside—on a bed of young broad beans with smoky bacon pieces to destroy the flavour of the lamb! Sad!
We walked in a beautiful municipal square behind that grey house
and it was funny to think that less than a hundred metres behind them was a whole area known to be the 'bad part' of Ramsgate.
The next morning was reserved for Austin activities. First we delivered the memorial tablet to the stonemason. It was fun to walk into his shop and open the conversation with "Delivery from Orkney!". We had become acquaintances over the year the restoration had taken by them. After a little chat, we left him with the stone and went off to see the cemetery where Austin lies in his newly-restored grave in St Augustine Abbey. This was the sight that greeted us as we walked into the cemetery. It was not difficult to know where to walk when only one cross sparkled whitely!
click to enlarge
After the family pilgrimage, there was not long before Katya needed to catch her train back to London, so we went for a short walk along the Kentish shore, part of the White Cliffs trail. On the Ordnance survey map it is shown as where tradition has it the Saxons landed in 449AD and of St Augustine in 597AD. That gets a nod to 'Hun Son' William and to the purpose of our trip in one fell swoop.
White cliff walk (click to enlarge)
And that was it for Ramsgate. We saw Katya off and then went to Waitrose to buy ourselves the makings of a supper (since we had a full kitchen at our disposal in the rented house).
The next day was to be the start of our climb back up North, but with a 2-day stop in Lincolnshire in order to spend some time with friends Kym and Geoff.
But that's for the next post...