Saturday, May 31, 2014

Belton House, England

Belton House was built by Sir John Brownlow in the late 1680s and is considered the quintessential country estate house. The house is well proportioned and is surrounded by formal gardens and 1300 acres of deer park. It's the good life, English-aristocracy style.

Belton House

The grounds include the standard stable yard with clock and a variety of exterior decorations.

Stable yard

Other side of the stable yard exit

Kids on the carriage mounting block

Bit of showy outdoor statues

Maybe the family crest?

Inside is just as exquisite as the outside. The Marble Hall is the first room visitors would walk into, and they'd see a bust of King William IV. The bust dates from 1838, the year after the king died. The family connection to the king is the Earl's wife, who was lady-in-waiting to the Queen.

Marble Hall

William IV

Oriental vases, another sign of wealth and class

The downstairs includes the Blue Bedroom and a chapel which was rather poorly lit. The chapel is two stories tall but begins a floor below the ground floor, so we were only able to see it from the chapel gallery.

Blue Bedroom


The main staircase leads up to more bedrooms and has a lovely bust of Sophia Cust who was lady-in-waiting to the Queen as mentioned above.

Main stairs

Sophia Cust by Joseph Nollekens

In keeping with the vases downstairs, one of the upstairs bedrooms is the Chinese Bedroom, stylishly decorated with wallpaper imported from China depicting a garden party.

Chinese wallpaper

The Queen's Bedroom is the centerpiece of the upstairs. The queen visited after William's death and stayed in this room.

Queen's Bedroom

The family china is nearby

The upstairs also has a nice library including a bronze statue of the third Earl Brownlow with his horse "Queen Bess." The statue is from 1871 so I'm sure the horse's name was not an affront to the royal family.

The library

The third Earl Brownlow

The final upstairs room is the Boudoir, another relaxing bedroom.

Sitting area of the Boudoir

The ceiling

Back downstairs, the Red Drawing Room leads into the Hondecoeter Room, where the family dined. The room is named after Melchior d'Hondecoeter who painted the landscapes on the walls.

Red Drawing Room

Hondecoeter Room

The Tapestry Room shows of more of the family wealth, as well as the stud with its second century bust of Roman Emperor Trajan.

Tapestry Room

Trajan Bust

When we visited, a silver smith was giving demonstrations, but when we got to the room, she was on a break! That's the way luck goes sometimes. The house is great to visit.

The church on the ground (which has many family tombs) will be the next post!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Movie Review: Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies (2013) co-written and directed by Jonathan Levine

Warm Bodies is, on the surface, a transplant of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet into a zombie apocalypse. Two young people seem completely incompatible when they meet because they are from wildly different groups: he's a zombie, she's a human. She is with a group of young people scavenging supplies outside of the humans' walled-off city that is attacked by a group of zombies scavenging for brains. He's with the zombie group but is immediately taken by the sight of her (but after he eats her boyfriend). He helps her escape back to his home at an airport, where a lot of zombies shuffle around like the humans did years before. She lays low there and starts to appreciate him.

His saving her is certainly odd for a zombie movie but the zombie mythology here is a bit different from the standard. The movie starts at the airport with him going through his daily routine of aimless wandering. While he does this, he provides a highly-articulate voice-over narration of his life and his memories, such as they are. He can't remember his name but thinks it began with an "r" so he goes through the movie as R. He can grunt and occasionally speak a word or two. He goes out with some fellow zombies on the above mentioned raid. Instead of his heart skipping a beat when he sees Julie, his heart has a beat. His physical heart grows stronger the longer he stays with her and he begins to speak more words, even sentences. Could this be the zombie cure?

The other big difference from standard zombie lore is the two classes of zombies. First are the high-functioning, still human-looking zombies like R, who do have an internal mental process (the voice-over shows it in R's case and zombies like him have similar behavior). Second are the bonies, zombies who are blackened husks of their former human selves. They are vicious and unreasoning and eat anything that has a heartbeat. They are too far gone to be cured and turn on the first set of zombies when they show signs of a cure, i.e. heartbeats. The bonies are generic bad guys who are scary enough for a PG-13 movie.

If you know Romeo and Juliet or one of its many imitators, the plot has no surprises. The departures from zombie lore are more surprising and interesting than the romantic plot. The performances are okay. John Malkovich plays Julie's father and he seems to be phoning it in for most of the movie. The two main characters are charming enough to keep the story going but are not outstanding. It was a mildly enjoyable film.

Parental advisory: some language; very brief scenes of zombies eating people; shooting of both kinds of zombies but not with much blood or gore; some peeling/wounded zombies; a quick shot of Julie in her underwear from behind; some kissing.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sudbury Hall Museum of Childhood, England

Part of Sudbury Hall is the National Trust's Museum of Childhood. The museum looks at children through the past few centuries but mostly as they play with toys.

Outer building of Sudbury Hall, now the Museum of Childhood

Museum entrance

The very first room has a lot of classical toys on display as well as some simple toys to play with. J tried his hand at a marbles game where he had to shoot a marble through an arch to score points. It was surprisingly easy for him.

Old time toys

Classics--diabolo and sticks, jump rope, balls

J shooting marbles

Life for children wasn't all fun and games. Further displays showed the various jobs children were put too. In one room, they had a climb-in chimney through which children could crawl to come out another chimney. The lady offered to blacken Js nose with some soot but he declined. Later, we caught up with Mommy and L and discovered that L was too afraid to go through on her own. J showed her the way and they had fun.

Another display--working in a wash room

The museum also has a mock-class room but it was full of other visitors so we did not go in. The kids didn't want to go to school on a Saturday anyway. Upstairs we found more displays of toys, including some fantastic doll houses.

More like a doll manor house

Other typical toys include castles and farm sets.


A detailed farm

The final room is a large play area with all sorts of games. J and L gravitated toward the tic-tac-toe (or naughts and crosses as it is known here) board that has brown and yellow snails for playing pieces. I won one out of four games against them. Not such a good record.

L gets a head start

We were sure it was an excellent museum because the kids protested when it was time to go. If you have little ones, don't skip this one while at Sudbury Hall!

Book Review: Bone: Rose by Jeff Smith

Bone: Rose by Jeff Smith

Bone: Rose is a prequel to the Bone series. It tells the story of two sisters, Briar and Rose, who are princesses and have a prophetic gift. They have a "dreaming eye" that lets them see the future, but not exactly. The younger sister Rose has a dream where she sees a baby dragon calling out for help while trapped in a river. Later on she runs into a full-grown dragon trapped in a river. The older sister has shown no signs of a dreaming eye. The queenship may pass to her younger sister if she does not have the gift. They are sent on a trip to Old Man's Cave, where they will be tested by the wise men there. Along the way Rose releases the dragon from the river. The dragon is possessed by the evil Lord of the Locusts and causes anarchy. Can Rose and Briar put that genie back in the bottle?

The story is very interesting and the art is nice. I do feel like there's a lot of mythology that I'd know more about if I had read the whole Bone series, so I suspect there's a whole other level of appreciation for this book. Even so, I enjoyed it. I may revisit this after I read the other books.

I do have to note that the font and printing of this book make reading the text hard at points.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sudbury Hall, England

Sudbury Hall was built by George Vernon in 1660. He also built the nearby town of Sudbury, leaving quite a legacy behind him. We visited the hall but not the town. The hall itself is an impressive work, full of amazing art.

Sudbury Hall, England

Closer to the front doors

Large sign for a small button

Inside, the first room is bright, spacious, and cheery.

The parlour

A mantel clock


The Great Staircase is one of the main attractions of the house. In addition to ornate carving, giant paintings are on the walls and ceilings!

Part of the Grand Staircase

A grand doorway

Upstairs various rooms are full of interesting items.

A comfy piano room

Another mantel clock

A modest study

Napoleon IV by Canova

A grandfather clock

J hanging out by the old radio

Another sitting room

Back downstairs, we saw the kitchen and the dining room. The kitchen has fun activities for children, including guessing the vegetable from the shape.

The kitchen

J at the serving window playing a sorting game

The dining room

Back upstairs, we saw the Long Gallery which is filled with lots of family portraits and sculptures.

The Long Gallery

A beautiful cabinet

One of the family members (I forgot to snap the label!)

Man behaving badly

Centaur behaving badly

A short hall leads past the family's copy of Nostradamus's Prophecies (I thought it was a bible till I looked closer) to the family library, with a spiral staircase in the corner leading to the upper shelves. I'd like one of those, please!

Nostradamus looking like a bible

The library

We saw the Red Bedroom, which has nice decorations as well.

Red bed

Painting built into the mantelpiece

After visiting one last room, we went outside to see the lake and the stable yards.

A servant's room

The back of the house

Back garden with a lake!

The stables (now a tea shop and gift shop)

Right next to the stables is The Museum of Childhood, which will be tomorrow's post!