Jun 27, 2014

The Trifecta: Debenham and Helmingham

What the Australians tend to do whenever the number three turns up is to talk about a trifecta. Needless to say, being Australia, this is a gambling term - no doubt you'll be aware (as I have just had to remind myself) that a trifecta is a bet which attempts to predict the first, second and third place horses in a race. Obvious, right? And yet in the Australian media, if the number three comes up then it's automatically a trifecta (note: not a hat-trick).

So, to celebrate the misuse of the word trifecta - ahem:

Mum completed her trifecta of inspirational, or maybe even inspiral, Suffolk Tourist Destinations by taking us on a day trip to Debenham and Helmingham Hall.

See those tiles there? They are just one small part of the floor of the remarkable Debenham Church, which has a remarkable floor of ancient (or are they) parquet (if that's not a gross misuse of the term) or perhaps herringbone (though probably not) tiles which are quite striking for their warmth and complexity.

Honestly these churches are all over the place in England, they're absolutely everywhere, mostly built by the Normans back in the 11th Century, when (at the risk of repeating myself) money was real money and probably in short supply but it gone done anyway - and people built stuff to be beautiful not to turn a profit (at least the God-related stuff which is pretty much most of what survives from those days), compare and contrast that with the stuff they build these days when nothing gets done unless it's going to pay itself back within seven years and even then it's built as cheaply and craply as possible because the whole place is run by accountants!

Still, they could have done better on the insulation if you ask me.

Anywaaaay.... I'm sure I probably managed a wring turn on the way to Debenham; I certainly tried. But again Mum knew her way and steered us unerringly using only her voice and occasional waves of the hand to our penultimate destination. She wasn't much cop when it came to parking the car, but as she wasn't driving I suppose we can forgive her that.

First order of the day, having arrived, was to procure a Lunch of the Pub variety which actually involved a little shopping around as the first pub we went to whose name I don't recall for legal reasons had that feel to it, you know, that they're not really putting in the effort - that kind of faint Suffolk-pub-toilet fragrance that just sits around the upper half of your nasal cavity, in the background, sort of reassuringly rural and yet ineffably and subtly disturbing. And the menu was rubbish.

The second pub that we went to was much more promising. There was a very nice old barman who was very polite if slightly vague and had facial hair unfortunately reminiscent of Wobble-Board Rolf - but we didn't hold that against him. His Irish colleague stroke manageress was friendly also and after a while, once we'd placed our orders, they even began to give an impression of efficiency. Well, they probably couldn't believe heir luck that some Strangers from Out of Town should actually buy food in their humble establishment.

We went outside and the sun she was blazing again so in the pub sun-trap we resolved to respect the sun and hug the shade. There was only enough for Nicole and me so everyone else had to sit in the sun but they didn't mind, probably. They didn't seem to anyway, though I didn't actually ask.

The food was as delicious as reheated food could be and Nicole couldn't praise her enormous Yorkshire pudding full of overdone beef highly enough.

After our gourmet treat we walked up the road to visit the aforementioned church, dodging the graveyard artists and their finely balanced easels and measuring pencils to get a good look inside.

debenham church

Pretty. And then, having had our fill of gastronomy and religion, we went off to Helmingham Hall to once again sample the lifestyles of the rich and famous and in fact to support them by paying for the privilege.

We rolled up to Helmingham Hall after not very long to discover that the Lord and Lady Tollemarche would not be opening the house today but that the gardens were open to be viewed. I think that the house is only opened to the very select few if at all - you can't let the riff-raff in after all. But the gardens as I understand it are opened from time to time, and they must be for there is a tea-room and shop and all that fandango for the old people to enjoy.

And my goodness old people were in evidence all over the place, they were sitting on benches and ambling aimlessly among the flowerbeds, except when you got up close you could hear them talk to each other really knowledgeably about flowers and gardens and stuff.

So the Hall was pretty impressive: not a patch on Ickworth in terms of scale, but much older (Tudor) and in the middle of a lake. Well.

You'd have to say that a place that size was really big enough for anybody, but Eloise said that she would probably be able to find a use for all the rooms and once she moved in she'd be applying for planning permission to put up the extension right away. Of course, she didn't say that really, I just made that up.

In front of the Hall - though the Hall had four-fold rotational near-symmetry so it was difficult to say where the front actually was - was the Knot Garden where some hedges had been trimmed into knot-like sculptures with herbs growing in the interstices. Oh my Gord.

Eloise and Lyra made a bit of an impression on a lady how was dead-heading the roses and thankfully not the sort of impression where she might decide to dead-head them. She was quite posh and pretty soon we'd decided that she was probably the Lady of the Manor, Tollemarche herself. I'm quietly confident that we are right in that assertion though I haven't bothered to look up an photos or anything, I'm just working on the basis that she was a bit posh.

Around on the other side of the house was a Walled Garden that put Ickworth's sad effort to shame, and we spent a good long while wandering around that before falling asleep on the lawn and generally being indolent.

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