Monday, October 17, 2011

Lost love at the castle

Who knew the tour I didn't plan on taking would end up being one of my favorite adventures on our England excursion?

Sparky the Owl and the World Owl Trust headquarters are on the Muncaster property, which is how we heard about the castle. It is the current home to the Pennington family and has been in their family for over 800 years. It’s said that Henry VI once stayed there - talk about history.

Muncaster Castle
Now, after a week of touring really, really old buildings, I must admit I didn’t have high expectations for this place; at some point, all the portraits and china and furniture start to run together. But as soon as we clicked on the first segment of the Muncaster audio tour, we knew this wasn't a typical tour.

The current owner, Patrick Duff-Pennington, and his children were the narrators. And as they walked us from room to room, they not only described the things, they told us of the family history behind the things. In the library, Mr. Pennington talked about several of the portraits, including one of a guy, “we aren’t very fond of.” Nothing like a little British honesty. At one of the bedrooms, Mr. Pennington commented that he and his wife were on different schedules – she likes him to dress in a different room so as not to wake her. He seemed pleased to do so; it was abundantly clear he loved her dearly.

We were, unfortunately, a little rushed getting through the many rooms because we had a date with the owls, and we had to skip several of the segments which was a true shame; Mr. Pennington is a fabulous tour guide!

As we were turning in our recorders, a sweet older gentleman approached us and asked what we thought of the house. We said, honestly, that it was amazing. He seemed pleased. He then asked us who we Americans planned to vote for; he was quite interested in our politics, and decided Michael should be a president one day because he had that presidential look to him. As he continued chatting, it became obvious we were talking to Mr. Pennington himself.

After a few moments, he said, “It’s not quite the same here anymore since my wife died three months ago.” Such sadness came over him. They’d been married 56 years.

He quickly caught himself and began talking about his grandchildren, one of whom was studying fuel cell technologies. Hearing Sean worked for GM, he was interested in Sean’s take on that issue.

He then thanked us again for coming and moved past us into his home.

We saw many amazing things and met great people in our eight days in England, but this encounter is the one I can’t shake.  Fifty six years is a long time to be married to your love; he seemed so lost without her. I find myself thinking about him and praying for him daily. 

It's amazing the impact a chance encounter can have.

The view from the front yard of Muncaster Castle (I'm sure I'm on some slope or something - I cannot be that short!)

In front of some of their hydrangea bushes - the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. I can only imagine what their gardens must look like in the spring and summer.