Fitful Five Hours

September 5, 2014 | 1 Comment

county hotelThe UK honeymoon might be over. I’ve lost count of the slamming doors. I’m in a tiny hotel room in London. Shared bath and shower. A surprise. I thought for some reason I was getting a bath and a shower in my room. I woke to find a turd in the shared toilet. I could find a different hotel, spend a little more money. I could. I could. Or I could just stay put and try to deal with something a little less than perfect.

Even when the window is open, it’s fairly quiet outside. That’s nice, but there’s a constant noise of water gurgling through pipes in the wall. I’ll call it my babbling brook.

The luxury I’ve been swaddled in the last week is now more apparent that it’s gone for three nights. Gilded hallways. Gilded mirrors. Carpet runners. Polished woodwork. Statues and manicured, terraced grounds and acres of woodland. My room back at Harlaxton – and I do miss it so at the moment – is so large as to feel cavernous. I turn a fan on at night so the white noise will help me forget how high the ceilings are, how vast the windows facing the front lawn. 1st Harlaxton SunsetThe sunsets are glorious, the lovely golden orb winking out each evening just to the left of an elevated statue of a lion, which has just killed its prey and is busy ripping into flesh. On the other side of the gate, to the right, is another statue, only this one has two lions, a male about to mount a lioness. Quite beastly and carnal for such a lavish, ornate British manor house.

Gregory GregoryGregory Gregory, the man responsible for Harlaxton Manor, seems an unknown quantity. There is a tiny cameo-like profile of him on the ceiling of the “Cedar Staircase,” and his name is emblazoned across the front of the manor house, as are his initials on the many houses in the nearby village. But little physical evidence of Gregory Gregory exists outside the manor and the nearby village. There is little in the way of a paper trail, no diaries or letters to indicate what sort of man he was. His likeness, the tiny cameo, shows him a stooped, somewhat effeminate man with a large nose. What a mystery he’s left behind—so many gaps left to be filled, stories left to be told. He’s like the historic figures I tell my students to be on the lookout for—his imagined life would make quite a book, I’m sure.

I’m off to see the sights of London. A colleague is hosting a walking tour of protest sites. My fitful five hours of sleep (despite the slamming doors, flushing toilets and gurgling pipes) will be enough to last all day, I hope. Here’s a little protest music to leave you with–Jimmy Cliff and Tim Armstrong, “Guns of Brixton.”

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