Bloody hell, I must be getting old! When Jon asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, rather than suggesting an all-day bender, I opted for an outing to a National Trust property, Powis Castle in North Wales.
Yesterday was exactly ten years to the day that we'd visited St George's Fort in Chennai, once the official residence of the Governor of Madras, Edward Clive (1754 - 1839). Powis Castle was Clive's British seat. Okay, Wales wasn't quite as tropical as Tamil Nadu but at least we didn't have to run the gauntlet of street vendors, beggars, pi dogs and Madam, Madam, just one photo, please.
First stop was the Clive Museum located in the old library, housing over three hundred Indian artifacts acquired by Edward Clive and his father, Robert (better known as Clive of India). I shan't go into the ethics of how a large part of the collection was acquired, if you've read much Indian history you'll already know that Clive was a complete and utter Tory bastard (William Dalrymple's essay is a wonderful starting point) . It was great to finally see Tipu Sultan's tent, previously on loan to the V&A for their Fabric of India exhibition, although I did think I could make a fab dress from it (it's massive, surely they wouldn't miss a tiny corner?)
The castle dates back to the 13th Century and, unlike nearby castles which were built by the English to subdue the Welsh, Powis Castle was the fortress of a dynasty of Welsh princes.
Like many properties, inside photos weren't allowed. It can be a good thing, I think. You can enjoy the moment rather than feeling pressurised into taking decent blog photos.
When we arrived there were deer loitering around the car park, like a gang of teenagers outside a chip shop. The volunteers told us that they get fed during the winter as conditions make it tough for them to forage for food, so they hang around all day waiting for tidbits. Of course, the moment we attempted to take a photo, the little sods did a runner.
The peacocks were also ridiculously tame. One of the volunteers had to keep chasing them out of the castle with a broom.
Pom-pom alert! Look away now, Frank!
In the month leading up to Xmas the castle's gardens are illuminated. I loved how even the tiniest of spaces were strung with fairy lights and wicker baubles, it must have taken them months.
It was good to see traces of India in the planting with banana trees and palms dotted around the more traditional foliage.
These yew trees apparently date back to the 18th Century. I love how they've been clipped.
Guess what? We had such a fab time exploring that we only went and signed up for a years' National Trust membership. Middle-aged respectability albeit in false eyelashes, 4 inch heels, junk jewellery and a psychedelic wardrobe.
Cultured out and freezing cold we made our way back over the border, home. Later on we met the gang in town and went for a bostin' slap-up dinner at Basil of Anatolia, Walsall's new Turkish restaurant, which led to a few too many in 'Spoons afterwards and not rolling out of bed until 11.30 this morning. (Don't tell my brother there's a photo of him on my blog, he'll kill me!)
Judging by yesterday, I think 50 is going to be fun.
Thank you so much for all the birthday messages, you lot totally rock!