It was a special weekend. The longest day of the year coinciding with Father’s Day. The gardens are slowly reopening but we had to book ahead as the number of visitors are limited. Saturday was predicted to be a better day compared to Sunday weather wise.
The lockdown is gently easing and we are trying to adhere to the two metre rule but it is not always possible. With the infection rates coming down, the panic we saw at the beginning of the lockdown is gradually dissipating. The lockdown started just before Mother’s Day and it is now time to celebrate the fathers. In between countless families lost their mothers and fathers. Families who couldn’t be with them in their final hours and days or give them a proper funeral. It was thus a weekend to remember the lost ones and to be grateful for those who survived the perilous journey although the road to recovery is long and arduous. The worry is not over yet wondering whether contracting the illness and surviving it was the better option in the long run with some immunity or staying illness free with no immunity.
The sky was turning a shade of grey as we left the motorway and followed the road to Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. As we got nearer to our destination the dark clouds dispersed and sunshine filtered through the woods. I tried to picture Henry VIII riding through the forest to meet his betrothed about five hundred years ago. As we followed the satnav instructions, I wondered how they travelled from London to Kent in those days without getting lost. Houses with lovingly tended gardens line the roads where the trees have been cleared with breathtaking views into the distance. We followed the road as it wound its way around the woods. At the entrance to the garden, the stewards directed us to the car park.
The castle is still closed to the public, but there is 125 acres of garden for us to roam and enjoy. We occupied an empty table with benches and set out the lavish picnic that Kavitha had brought. The children ran around playing tag and laughing to their hearts content in the bright sunshine as we tucked into the sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones smothered in clotted cream topped with jam. The treasure trove of goodies had more surprises as we dipped in, chocolate covered strawberries, macarons and iced biscuits to name a few. The ducks and swans lazily glided along the stream that edged its way around the gardens. Further along, Hever Castle stood proudly boasting 700 years of history. A castle which played a part in shaping the English history, royalty and church. Anne Boleyn lived here during the early part of the sixteenth century. Her marriage to the King was short lived culminating in her execution at the Tower of London. History will remember her as the mother of Queen Elizabeth I and the second wife of Henry VIII. We will have to skip the history part of the castle and come another day when it reopens.
The day ticked along nicely as we hired a boat and took turns to row around the vast lake. A walk around the various gardens with the flowers in full bloom dotted with Roman and Greek sculptures completed the day. A once marshland is now an award winning garden which took shape a century ago. Even though the gardens did not exist during Anne Boleyn’s childhood, it was heartening to realise that she must have had a happy childhood in such surroundings.
Sunday and Father’s Day was celebrated with a takeaway pub meal. A roast dinner ordered and brought by Kavitha and Huw, with Ale and Fosters in takeaway containers. It was a reminder that it won’t be long before we can experience the real deal. Some countries are coming out of lockdown and others seeing the number of cases rise. For those of us who didn’t have to endure the illness or watch patients, friends or family suffer, the lockdown was a special period. A time to reflect. A time the whole world felt as if we were part of one big family facing a deadly virus together. Now the roads are splitting, the goodwill vanishing, another deadly virus in the form of racism is being debated, Indo-Chinese border forces are evoking unrest, we are told to boycott Chinese produce and a recession is looming. I have told my Indian friends that I definitely am not giving up Chinese cuisine whatever happens, come virus or war.