As I may have mentioned 1 or 12 times recently, summer has hit Oxford. It’s 70 degrees F and “roasting”; the elderly are at risk due to the heat, running is discouraged, and men walk around shirtless to mitigate the sweltering sun’s effects on one’s sweat glands.
So naturally, we’ve thrown caution to the wind and tried to get outside as often as we can. Heatstroke be damned! We’re living on the edge!
We took the Philosopher’s family to Blenheim Palace last week, Churchill’s childhood home. Having done the tour before, I chose to wander Blenheim’s extensive grounds instead in the sunshine.
And did the sun ever shine. I’ve never seen the palace look so good.
A man next to me on the bridge asked me to count all the swans. There were so many of them… but I didn’t know how to politely decline, so I just waited a few moments and then said, unsure: “um, sixty?”
I found what must have been a favorite old Churchill haunt. Perhaps he gathered conkers and piled them up in there. Or wrote those achingly sad letters to his absent father that are on exhibit in the house. Or played make-believe with his cousins, pretending to be a poised and ready army commander in the war that had not yet come.
After rejoining the troops, we trundled over to the Pleasure Gardens, which were an odd mish-mash of orchards, a modern playground, a giant chess and checkers board, a hedge maze, wire sculptures, and toilets. Pleasurable to be sure, in its own special way. We dove head-first into the maze, with our fearless four-year-old leading the way. There were many highlights to that particular experience, perhaps one of the best being when, about halfway through, he announced that he was pretty sure he was done with the maze now. Lost in the middle of it, we were pretty sure we weren’t going to be done with the maze for another 10 minutes.
Under duress from his wife, the Philosopher posed with this
statue sculpture piece of artwork of a lion. Can’t quite remember now why I thought that would be a good idea. Poor kid, he did his best to make it a good picture nonetheless.
The lion looked regally upon the miniature recreation of the village of Woodstock, where Blenheim is situated.
The maze and aforementioned blazing sun had nearly knocked us adults all out, but our youngest traveller’s eyes lit up when he saw the playground. My eyes, on the other hand, lit up when I saw a lush patch of grass to retire to and rest my eyes…. just for… a minute…
Thankfully, we were able to convert our single Blenheim day pass into an annual one for free — a “special deal” that’s been specially running for the last couple years now. I can’t decide if these cards make us look like honored guests or servants who have to enter through the back gate!
Back gate or front, Blenheim, we’ll be back.