The Warwick Battle:
© Copyright 2011 by Cinnamon Geppelt
We’ve sought out another castle. Britain’s greatest medieval castle—Warwick! It’s a two-hour drive. I started the morning grumpy as usual because the kids were not cooperating. Mark said, “Just chill, they’re only kids. Just let them be.” So I did. I slowly unwound as we drove through the country for two hours, two hours of boys bickering. I miss my van even if it is quite pretentious having only two kids. At least they had separate seats and I had an option of turning on a DVD. I gently viewed the rolling green country side with deeper green hedgerows along the motorway and bare trees in the fields. It’s going to be even lovelier in the spring. I just know it!
Mark, of the sage advice “just chill,” became frustrated. “Guys, this is quiet time!....If you don’t stop I’m going to pull over and give you both a big ol’ spanking!...I’m gonna pull this car over! Stop it!” Only he couldn’t, as Murphy’s luck would govern, for the next forty minutes he couldn’t pull over, because we were on a dual carriageway that had no shoulder. For the last forty minutes of our trip we had to hear whose coat was taking up more room and who deserved the extra space to rest their head.
Yea! We arrived. As we cantered through the entrance, we heard overhead whimsical flute and string music, painting an image of a medieval jester dancing around a fun dinner party. I was looking at the flying flags on the towers, but Devon spotted the gift shop before we even bought our tickets and exclaimed, “I need a sword!” Being in a good mood, I sweetly replied in unison with Mark, “No, not today.”
“We’re at a castle. I need a sword.”
“Sorry, no, not today.”
“I need you to buy me a sword and shield!”
“Sorry, not today.” Was that the end of discussion? Nay, my dear friends, it was only the beginning!
We barely walked from the entrance of the park to the wooden stocks where we should have left the kid, and up the draw-bridge to the actual castle. Devon had already whined seven times, “I want to buy a sword, can you buy me a sword? ...I don’t want to take a picture. I just wanna buy a sword.” I beckoned Devon to me, “Look at me. We. Are. Not. Buying. A. Sword. To-day.” Behind Mark critiqued, “Cinnamon, you need to just lay off these boys. We’re just all trying to have fun. Let’s just have fun.” “Okay, Mark,” I thought, mentally throwing my hands up and silently saying, “I’d like to see you deal with it.”
Maybe I did start the day short tempered, but sometimes I get tired of managing the boys, all day, every day; it’s exhausting. Fulltime motherhood means you’re never off duty; I didn’t appreciate how much my job at the hospital provided a therapeutic escape. Mark’s comment about laying off pricked my pride. Oh, I was more than happy to let him take the reins, secretly hoping he’d struggle, while I sat back and watched. And if I’m honest, on the flipside, I was relieved he was finally shouldering some of the parental burden. Our marriage was at its strongest, prior to coming to England, but the roles and responsibilities have unexpectedly shifted, placing us all under a little more stress.
We walked up the bridge and through the gatehouse, under the iron gates, to the court yard. The whole time in the background I heard, “I just want to buy a sword. I need a sword.” “Devon,” I heard Mark snap, clearly judging Devon was past ‘just having fun’ and being cute. “Mommy already told you we are not buying a sword today.” I shouldn’t have, but I secretly smiled, knowing his patience wasn’t all that superior to mine.
“Let’s start right here and go to Making a King” I suggested.
“No FIRST, I wanna buy a sword!” Guess who.
I ignored Devon (immaturely snickering inside a little) as we headed into the basement of the castle. It was intriguing! We went through the making of a King and a Knight. It’s a story told with music, mannequins and live characters in medieval dress showing how the castle prepared for battle and what kinds of people worked under the Earl, and the Earl and his soldiers were going to battle for the king. It was very enchanting. It captured your attention and made you talk in quieter tones. Mr. Pouty followed along, slapping his arms at his sides, and spouting in a whisper his impatient demands. Every scene, I tried to engage his attention by pointing out things of interest. Devon allotted me fifteen seconds of interest before he returned to his determined quest. For his safety, I had to leave him in Mark’s care. Ethan and I moved ahead, but I could hear the augmented whispers growing in volume behind us.
Warwick Castle has been inhabited and in existence since 1068 [A.D]. In 1978, the Marquis (future 8th Lord of Warwick) was something of a rake and since the castle had been given to him, the man sold it. The rogue took the money to Spain and played until he died there. He did manage to father an heir who only owns now a small piece of property in the south of England and lives in Australia, according to one attendant. The people who bought the castle turned it into an awesome tourist attraction! It encapsulates both periods often romanticized: the medieval, and the late 1800 Victorian era. We had a tour on how to attack and all the defenses of the castle by a guide dressed and characterized as a medieval armorist. He was even in the main hall restoring some of the armor.
Since I walked slightly ahead or at the back of our little group, I ignored Devon and took in the sights. Devon thus focused all his energy on Mark, only about half the time could Mark “let it go.”
We saw catapults, and cannons. Did you know cannon balls were originally hand carved out of a square block of stone? What a waste of a lot of time and effort! (In my naive opinion) We hiked up the castle walls, with every step I heard right behind Mark, “ …Can I have a sword now? How about now? When can we get a sword?...” Ethan was fifteen steps behind shouting, “Wait! I need a break!” We continued to climb straight up, up to the ramparts (top of the towers), via a spiraling narrow staircase. If I was nine months pregnant, I might not have fit. I’m sure we climbed, at least four flights, minimum. Mark and I decided, hunched over, gasping from the climb, “If any of the enemies managed to get up, (inhale,) that far with all their armor, (inhale,) and swords, (inhale,) they’d be totally out of energy to fight,” we puffed to each other.
I took a picture of the view downward to show the perspective. Looking over the wall, we saw lots of tiny people down below. Did that climb stop Devon? Only for three minutes.
At one point, awhile later, “Hey, how come you’re buying Devon a sword? That’s not fair!”
Mark: “I’m not.”
“Devon says you are!”
“I’m not,” looking straight ahead trying to put an end to this discussion.
“Dad says he’s not buying you a sword,” Ethan chimed, in the tattle-tale big-brother way, “so you’re not getting one.”
“IIIIIIIIIIII (crying) wanna sword! You gotta buy me one. (sobbing)…” We can always count on Ethan to launch the whiney sequence.
Out on the lawn, we watched a historical monologue and demonstration by the dressed up Falconer. He showed us the birds of prey used for hunting from medieval times to present. He showed us the golden eagle that only a king or queen may use for hunting, and also a hawk and falcon. The Harris hawk flew demonstrations directly over our heads, inches away! Mark felt the wind of the feathers flap as it went by! We had the best view! In the spring I hear they have jousting.
The Queen of England dined for lunch in this castle eleven years ago. There’s a wax statue of her in the formal dining room. Since Devon got pulled out by his father during the falconer presentation twice, we decided maybe he and the rest of us were just hungry. We tend to get cranky without food. If it was good enough for the queen, it was good enough for us, so we ate at the castle, which surprisingly was quite good.
We ate in the basement with the other medieval commoners. (Devon whined “This is taking so long!” “Just. Eat,” the father snapped.) We had scrumptious carved roast beast (family joke), the boys had ham, cooked carrots, roasted potatoes, this tomato-squash-pepper medley, red yummy cabbage. I don’t know what they do to it but its good, a Yorkshire pudding, and it was all covered in a thin gravy.
Full and happy, and before getting up, we all looked at the map and reviewed a plan to finish seeing everything. Dev slapped his hand on the center of the map and exclaimed, “FIRST, we are buying me a sword!” Mark sternly looked at him with his scary, sinking brows and burrowing eyes, and said between clenched teeth, “We are not buying you a sword!” The whimpering, crying, and pouting started, again.
The medieval stuff was fantastic! But my favorite part was, of course, the display of the great Victorian party of 1898. On the way while enjoying the view I contemplated the name Daisy for our future baby. I imagined all sorts of visions of a little girl named Daisy. The more I thought, the more I liked. So you know we’re having a boy. Because I have, once again, no boy name in mind. Anyway, the Countess of Warwick during this time period was actually a very lovely, naturally beautiful… Daisy. I was weirdly surprised. She was very socially involved and often entertained royalty. She was considered one of the most fashionable and hospitable hostesses, yet she was very unconventional and often did her own thing whether the Ton (highest social circle) approved of her conduct as respectable or not. She also enjoyed a rare relationship of love with her husband, the Earl. She was supposed to marry someone else higher up and chose him instead, and he was very tolerant of her unconventional habits. This was a real person not just one of those fictional characters I waste parts of my life reading about!—If this is a little girl, I’m pregnant with, at this moment you know I’m gonna name her Daisy! Which is why I know it’s a boy.
Our journey continued, “Can you buy me a sword?....” Devon just kept firing away like a machine gun. At one point Mark roughly grabbed him by the coat, had him backed up to the wall and got down on his level, practically in his face, “No, you cannot have a sword. No, you cannot have a sword. No, you cannot….,” Mark mimicking the broken record tactic. I walked away rolling my eyes. Next thing I know the two of them join up with us, and I hear, “So when are we going to buy my sword?!”
“I’m gonna kill this kid,” Mark said under his breath in exasperation.
Mark took the boys so I could enjoy the girly parts, and he headed to the guns and ammo stuff. Ah, peace at last. The mannequin displays and roving actresses in costume made it so captivating. While in Daisy’s room a small group of people, husband, wife and company started talking to me. Of course they were Americans, as only Americans are so bold and friendly to strangers, I’ve found. We started talking and walking, and to make a long story short, they are from Houston, Texas. They come to this castle every time someone visits. They were supposed to be here one year and ended up for three. Not my point, but interesting. The conversation continued and I found out the man works with a connection to Koch Industries in Wichita, Kansas. Neat-o!
Gets better, the wife is from Corpus Christi, Texas, and we talked about how neither one of us ever want to live there, again. They start to leave and before she walked away, she asked my name. I told her and she looked shocked and retorts, “I knew a Jim Geppelt. He was there when my grandmother died and either spoke or said a prayer at her funeral.” She remembered my mother-in-law. She then started naming people that I knew in Corpus! Amazing! She said, “I cannot believe I’m talking to Jim Geppelt’s daughter-in-law in Warwick, England!”
“Well, if you hang on,” I smiled, “his son is nearby somewhere. I can hear my kids.” As we left, we caught up with them and Mark talked with the couple.
Devon was in the background asking, “Mom, how many pounds do you have?”
“Let me see.” I showed him.
“I told you, I have no money. Daddy is the one with all the money. You have to be nice to him.”
He ran up, yanking on Mark’s arm, interrupting, “Dad, Dad, I’ve been really nice to you, today, can you buy me a golden sword? PLEEEEEEASE!” I just walked behind chuckling. Poor Mark.
Is it the parenting? Maybe the child’s in a funky phase of the terrible 4’s, or is it the result of adjusting to the move? We worried so much about Ethan and his adjustment, but he’s thriving. Has anyone else’s adorable cutie turned into a brat?
That night in bed, Mark asked me, “Did you know those golden plastic swords were only three pounds?”
“Yes, but it was just junk,” I responded, and my eyebrows furrowed in question.
“Well, I thought they were the same price as the wooden swords. If I had known they were only three pounds I would have bought the dumb thing and saved ourselves all the misery.”
“Huh,… and to think, I thought you were just trying to stick to your principles.”
beaten?—by a 4 ½ year old, I’m
a full-time mother of three kids, part-time nurse. Among other
things, I love to write and travel and have recently written a travel
memoir I hope to one day publish.
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Cinnamon