Sunday, 4 July 2010

Happy July 4th USA!!!

Well, I'm home alone. Joe is off to London again this week. Meetings and a day of golf. He is traveling with Andrew (the GM) so I stayed home. Joe still gets his own room of course but will be spending all his time out with Andrew so it really wouldn't be worth it for me to go. He will be back Friday and mentioned that we could do something this weekend if I wanted to figure something out. Maybe we'll head down to the Cotswolds again and try that walk that didn't pan out last time. We'll see what the weather calls for.

I have been reading and reading online information for Ireland. We really want to go for a few days and it has been difficult to try and plan for some reason. First you have to take a several hour ferry ride. That's not a problem as you can bring your car, but it does take up most of one day to get to the ferry and across the Irish Sea. I have poured over websites about places to go in Ireland and my mind is seriously boggled at all the advice!! There is an abundance of places that are "the best" over there! First its Northern or Southern. (Northern Ireland is the only part that is included in the United Kingdom.) Then east or west. West sounds really beautiful but farther away. We don't really want to go to just Dublin (which is right across the sea from us and where most of the ferries land). It is very touristy. We want to see the REAL Ireland. I am starting to think that we are going to need like a week to do it right. But then we wanted to do a week in Scotland. Oh my, decisions...

Joe gets 4 weeks of vacation here. So a week home during the summer, a week at Christmas and then two weeks for us to travel. We haven't used any vacation days yet on our weekends, because we were using the holidays to make three days weekend trips. We still have one of them the end of August. Too bad we don't get the upcoming July 4th weekend!! Dang! Guess that's too much to ask for here in the UK! Ha!

We are expecting company next year as many of our friends and family wanted to wait until we had one year under our belts to get settled and find our way around. I will be the ready and waiting tour guide! My first rookie job is coming up October 1st when my two girlfriends Cathy and Sarah are coming out for 10 days. They are brave enough to come while my touring skills are still being finessed. They are well traveled, so if I can't find my way around, they will! We are very excited for their visit. They are our friends from Poolesville we've known for over 20 years. When the three of us girls get together we've been nick named "the volume sisters" so you can imagine poor Joe's jumbled brain by the end of their visit!

We had our hottest day here the other day. It got up to 86 degrees F (30c as they say here) last Sunday. There is no humidity so it doesn't even feel like 86 degrees. But you should have seen everyone! The papers were talking about a heat wave. People were getting heat stroke out in the sun at a concert in London. The hardest time I have is while inside. Outside is fine, but we are used to everything inside being air conditioned so it feels quite warm. We open the windows and there is usually a breeze but it doesn't compare to A/C. The stores don't really have much A/C either although the bigger ones do. But it's not very efficient. Joe tells me they don't have forced air systems because they don't have duct work. All the houses and buildings are built out of brick and stone and the walls are some kind hard as rock plaster, so there has never been any duct work and you really can't do it now, after the fact. They do have the option of a mini-split system that uses no duct work, Joe's company sells a lot of those systems. He tells me that his little company is only 50 or so units being sold behind the #1 company over here. So the manufacturer is really pleased with United. Theoretically, since the #1 company is about 10 times as large as United, they should be selling ten times more. For the most part it doesn't get up to 86 that often so people just wait it out. Plus, it cools off at night so that's nice. I am also having some hay fever which I had not had for several years back in the US. I had pretty much grown out of it. I was not happy when it reared its ugly head again!

We have a castle ruin in our village. It's called Kirby Muxloe castle. I walked down there after we first moved in but it is only open during the summer months. Joe and I went down there Sunday and went through it. It's only about a mile from our house.

In 1474 King Edward IV gave William Lord Hastings the land to build himself a castle and acres of land for hunting purposes in the village of Kirby Muxloe, county of Leicestershire. There were reasons for this generous gift. William Hastings was born in 1430. His father, Sir Leonard Hastings (d.1455) had served the duke of York in the dynastic struggle for the throne known as the War of the Roses. William followed his father's allegiance to the house of York and was knighted in 1461 by the duke of York's heir, Edward IV. Hastings was loyal to the King and in 1470-71 when the King was briefly deposed by the Earl of Warwick, Lord Hastings fled with Edward IV to plot his return to power. By March 1471 they had an army ready with Lord Hastings providing the first complement of men, 3,000. When Edward IV was back on the throne, Lord Hastings was given more power. Royalty were usually very generous with the nobles who proved their loyalty showering them with gifts of lands and riches.

Not only was Lord Hastings given land for the Kirby Muxloe castle, he was given three manor houses in the area to build great castles of. This was the heartland of the king's political power, the Midlands. (The area of England where we live). He became fairly famous then. The duke of Burgundy bought his favor with a gift of 1,000 ecus (French coins bearing the figure of a shield). The French king offered him a pension of 2,000 gold crowns. He was even respected by many of his rivals.

Lord Hastings started work on Kirby Muxloe castle in 1480. The castle was to be a splendid courtyard residence surrounded by a large moat. The moat was built with a medieval bridge that led to the gatehouse. A replica of the old bridge has been built as that is the only way to get across the moat to the castle. The gatehouse would have been the first thing you entered when you crossed the moat. It was just an entry hall with small stone rooms to either side. The castle was to be rectangular in plan with two towers, which only one remains. We walked up the circular tower steps to the top and looked through the little stone windows. It's just ruins so there aren't any floors between the levels anymore. We were able to get up to the top by the tower stairs only. Traced in the back lawn are stone foundations that are believed to belong to the old manor buildings. The accounts suggest that these were used while the new buildings were being built.

As is the way with history in these old countries, the ruling families last only as long as their lives (sometimes extremely short) or as long as they can keep their thrones from being taken. Unfortunately for Lord Hastings, King Edward IV was executed because he was an obstacle to the ambitions of the Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III in 1483. Shortly thereafter Richard III had Lord Hastings beheaded for treason, smoothing his way to the throne. The castle was never finished and fell to ruins over the years.

I am fascinated by the history and all the rulers of this country. Actually I have always enjoyed reading about the Kings and Queens of England for years. I can hardly believe I'm actually here! I need a good history of the whole country because I can never keep track of the years and names of all the dynasties. The Stewarts, the Tudors, the Yorkists, King Arthur in the dark ages, House of Windsor of course, just to name a thimbleful! I want to learn more about one of the fiercest battles for the crown, the War of the Roses, which lasted nearly a century. I just want to know MORE about all of it. And keeping with my personality, I am impatient to do so!

Kirby Muxloe Castle:  FRONT:



  1. Hey Kathy. We've been enjoying your blog and would love to visit the places you've seen. Curious though, a guilty pleasure of mine is looking at the blog for Post-Secret. Sunday's post mentions that after 500,000 postcards, thier postal carrier, Kathy, retired to England. Thought this was a real coincidence???? Is it you??

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Since you are anonymous I hope you look here for your answer, since I don't know who to respond to! Yes, it is me, I was the Post Secret mail lady. Since you know all about the Post Secret project I won't have to explain. I delivered that route from the beginning of Frank Warren's project until I moved here and it sure was an experience! I am planning on devoting a whole blog to it sometime in August, using examples of the cards from his books. Please acknowledge receipt of this answer so I know that you have read it! Thanks for reading my blog! Kathy

  3. Hey Kathy!

    I'm so impressed! A brush with greatness! While some of the postcards are painful to see, I feel that the worth of his project is to get help to those that are contemplating suicide.

    Thanks for answering, and sorry, I too timid to tell you who I am, but I'm a first cousin from Missouri. Does that narrow it down? LOL

  4. That narrows it down to about 34!!!!

  5. Thanks for delivering my secrets.

  6. Welcome to England! Does your husband have the option to stay beyond 3 years? I came on a "3-year contract" 20 years ago!

  7. We go through life on a pyramid of other people's labors. Rarely do we get a chance to say thank you for enriching my life, thank you for your service.

    Thank you for an opportunity to say thank you.

  8. Kathy,
    I know you've probably received many comments from people thanking you for your service and for being a part of something special. I cannot compete with other missives nor do I want to. I just want to say that without your diligence to make sure all the post cards (including some of mine which have never been posted) got through to Frank, many of us would never feel the liberation telling those secrets brought to us. For me, it wasn't the creating of the card that brought freedom but the mailing of it. That if for some reason, my card never got to Frank, someone else would see it, someone else could know my pains, joys, fears and hopes. So although I am grateful to Frank for his collecting and posting of cards, it is you that I hand most credit to. I know you can say it was a job to fulfill but I believe we are all in places we need to be to accomplish God's will. For me, it was you making sure my secrets got to where they needed to be. So thank you for being there when I needed you most. May God richly reward you for your diligence and dedication and I hope you and your husband enjoy being in England. Embrace not only your time there but your time there together.
    Kathy, Oklahoma City, OK

  9. I found this very interesting Kathy, I am also called Kathy, went to Ireland in 1997 and was afraid I'd be disappointed in the people because I'd admired everything Irish all my life. The people were better than what I expected, not worse, they were so funny. I did see a bit of poverty, but there's that in England as well as many other countries. Catch a bus from Dublin to Galway, Galway is also a bit of a tourist trap, but you'll hear the locals speaking Gaelic, wonderful language. And if you have the time, you can catch a boat to the Arran Islands, I didn't get there myself, but everyone I met raved about it.

    I am also very interested in English History, even though I come from New Zealand.
    It's the best soap that ever was, we all wait with baited breath for the next instalment. Seriously, I do like the Queen, she's never put a foot out of place, a really dignified royal.

    If you get the chance, go to Gloucester cathedral, inside is a grave of William the Conqueror's grandson Rufus. His effigy is carved from wood, but the amazing thing is...
    he looks like he's getting up, rather than lying there in repose.
    In Gloucester there is also a little Museum, just a wee house, but so interesting, inside is a display case of various things, among them is a real witch's curse, with the number 666 on it. Quite scary.

    Also, you must see York and especially Yorkminster, I saw many cathedrals when I was there but none so beautiful as this one, one side is completly done in leadlight glass, and the carved figures of the saints are well worth seeing. The crafts of the English were second to none. And in York, there seems to be a light atmosphere, it's a very old place with a lot of the original buildings there.

    I never got to see Leicestershire when I was there, but I did spend a lot of time in Museums and Art Galleries, there is a quaint building called the John Soames...most taxi drivers would know it, it's the collection of one man from the nineteenth century and his aquisitions.

    You've seen Windsor, which, to me is the best castle, but you must also see the Tower of London, there is the gate where Anne Boleyn was bought in by boat, it is called 'Traitor's Gate. And there is a small square of grass called Tower Green, it's where she was beheaded, and inside the church adjacent she is buried beneath the floor. I suppose she got her revenge On Henry by having such a successful and well-loved daughter. The English royal family keep a family of big black Ravens there, as there is a saying that when the last raven dies, there will be no more royal family in England. They're scary big sods, and apparently quite nasty, so don't go trying to shake hands with any of them.The birds, I mean, not the English, grin.

    Your comments on Post secret were very interesting, and the copies you kept show me you have a very good heart, some of them are so sad. When I get miserable, I just look up some Post Secrets then it perks me up no end.
    I'm 65, and, hopefully I will return to England, but I beg you, don't miss Ireland, the Irish are wonderful, and if you're in Dublin on a Thursday night, there is a pub called O'Shea's where the locals actually dance the real Irish dances, all ages, all kids, age is no barrier to the wonderful Irish music.
    Thank you for your comments, both in Post Secret and your impressions of England
    Kathy Himiona

    p.s. I've just tried to post this comment, but it wants me to select a profile, there are none that I can use from New Zealand, so I'll just choose anonymous but if you want to reply my email is

  10. Hi Kathy, I just posted a comment, it was chucked out because it was too big, but PLEASE go to Ireland, go to York...go the Albert and Victoria museum in London...Go to Galway and the Arran Islands if you can. Go the John Soames museum in London, and, of course Madam Taussaud's. Go to Gloucester cathedral, ask to see William's grandson Rufus, you'll get a surprise, there's also little museum in Gloucester with a real witch's curse. Go to the Tower of London.
    I can't select a profile as I'm a Kiwi from New Zealand but if you want to reply, my email is
    cheers, loved your comments

  11. duh, now I feel silly, it actually did print my first comment, so ignore the second one
    cheers, and thanks for your intelligent blog

  12. I discovered this blog through postsecret but I think it is wonderful for the memories of England it brings back. I lived there for three and a half years as a teenager. There are so many wonderful places to see and things to do. The National Gallery is a must if you enjoy paintings. Devon and Cornwall, the Lake District, Scotland and so many others. I am still love English history and have dreams of returning and taking my daughter to see it. Enjoy your time, it will fly by before you know it.

  13. Hi Kathy, I also followed the link from Post Secret to your blog... I lived in Ireland for a couple of years* and just wanted to say that you don't have to waste a day on the ferry. Ryanair flies from Birmingham to Dublin or Derry and from Liverpool to Cork--so there's all the regions of Ireland that you want to see all a weekend excursion away. A quick search for flights this week shows from B'ham Dublin starting from 1 pound (!) to go tomorrow or 45 GBP to go Friday and 30 GPB to return Monday. I'd recommend September or early October to go to Ireland though, they are the sunniest months. If you are interested in archaeological sites I can give you a heads up of touristy places or ones off the beaten track. Cheers, Jen Carroll, Ottawa, Canada.

    *and in England, near Durrington and Salisbury--STONEHENGE! for a few months, highly recommend a trip down there but read the book "Sarum" by Edward Rutherford first!

  14. Dear Kathy, my family and I just left our adventure in England to come back to the states. We lived there for 2 years and hearing about your adventures is making me so home sick! I was born and raised in Vegas, but England was home, its the home of my heart. I was so excited to see that YOU, the Postsecret mail carrier, was in my home blogging about it. I hope you fall in love with the UK like I did. The history is so rich, the stories are wild, and the ghost hunting is extreme!!! PS... IRELAND is everything and anything you could ever dream. Make sure you get a GSP thing for your car.. and turn it off. Getting lost in Ireland was the BEST adventure we had, and we had a lot of adventures in the UK.

  15. HI Kathy
    I am a PTF in PA and I have to say when I first learned of Post Secret a few years ago I was sooooo jealous of the letter carrier that got to deliver the post secrets. I thought to myself I think I would look forward to going to work everyday if I had an important an interesting job of delivering those secrets. I also thought I'd spend my breaks reading all of those secrets. :)
    It must have been hard to give up that route.

  16. Kathy, you are such a wonderful writer, and I feel I know you - keep it up xx

  17. I am amrried to a RRC. It's always something when he gets done with the route. I was hired as Vacation summer help to try and gain more knowledge about the post office. I threw mail that wasnt able to be machined. I was shocked at how many stop to read postcards.I truely thought that was FORBIDDEN. After sorting so many I said never again will I send a postcard!But I have even to Frank once or twice. I admire your dedication to your job but no idea how you got out on time or that your P.M. was so understanding with your sharing the cards.I feel exposed. The only odd mail I saw was JAIL MAIL. Now they took that away and the jails have email. What next Facebook? Be safe. Ohio, U.S.A.