Tag Archives: travel

My name is Nick and I have a problem. I’m a history addict.

29 Apr

There comes a time when you consider that perhaps you should ‘give something back.’  No, I’m not coughing to having been a serial thief over the years with a penchant for stuffing boxes of Shredded Wheat under my sweater in Tesco (which would make me a cereal thief – with a very baggy jumper), I’m referring to doing something for nothing for once.  So far, I’ve spent 6 years at university learning the basics of my trade then the following 14 actually doing it.  For money.  Wouldn’t it be nice I thought, to undertake some form of voluntary activity to benefit the wider community?

Since January 2011, I’ve tried various different activities, some with more success than others.  It’s true that being a boxing coach at our local gym’ didn’t quite work out as I thought it might, teaching contemporary dance in the adult education centre in town wasn’t much better, and though I felt that organising the fashion show for our local sixth form A’-level textile and design group was somewhat more successful I’m informed that tweed might not be a la mode this year (or indeed this century) after all.  How was I to know?

Last year my sister-in-law invited us to accompany the family to Kiplin Hall, near Richmond to see the Victorian Christmas decorations.  We accepted and set off expecting little more than a relatively pleasant day out viewing a few sprigs of holly and a tired old tree with perhaps a cup of tea and a scone to liven up an otherwise adequate afternoon out.  We were wrong.

If you haven’t been to Kiplin, you should.  Built as a hunting lodge in the 1620s by Sir George Calvert (later first Baron Baltimore and founder of Maryland) the hall passed through purchase and inheritance over the centuries to the custody of The Kiplin Hall Trust on its final owner’s death in 1971.  There you go: four hundred years of history in a sentence.  I could go on, in fact I usually do but I’m thinking if you’ve made it this far then I’m not going to push my luck.

Today Kiplin is presented as it might have looked in Victorian times.  It is light and cosy, warm because of its conservation-grade central heating system and filled with homely furniture and paintings, all of which comes together to make the visitor feel as if the family are just waiting to welcome you in the next room (and if you believe the ghost stories surrounding the place, they very well might be).

I’ve been to other grand houses to view their Christmas decorations and been disappointed if I’m honest, but we enjoyed Kiplin’s so much we returned the following week with the other side of the family.  On this occasion, the Warden (Elaine’s) mother (a sprightly octogenarian called Pauline with a razor-sharp sense of humour and the upper-body strength of a professional wrestler) threatened me with physical violence if I didn’t request a volunteer application form before leaving the building.  In my weakened state (having been released from the head-lock) I acquiesced and after managing to find referees who knew nothing of my time ‘inside’ as an international country house art thief, started work on 1st April as a room steward in the library.

I admit to having found the whole experience of volunteering testing at times.  We’ve pestered Dawn (the Curator) for information on each room prior to our attendance (in order to avoid the embarrassment of not knowing that it was Bartolommeo Nazzari who painted the Venetian courtesans in the library – could you even imagine the shame?), learnt the secrets of Mary’s award-winning tearoom and I’ve wrestled with the intricacies of the till (an antique model collected in Livorno by Christopher Crowe and dating from 1734).

If like me, you could cheerfully live in a stately home, immersing yourself in four hundred years of history and would enjoy the pleasure of meeting others of a similar persuasion then you could do a lot worse than volunteering in your local historic house.  I’ve loved every minute of it despite all the revision at home over the past few weeks learning my Crowes from my Carpenters and my de Morgans from my Willements and in truth, I can’t wait to get back there on Wednesday for another fix.  If you’re in the area, do drop in and say hello – though I will sell you a guidebook and a piece of date flapjack because at Kiplin, Mary really does make exceedingly good cakes.

Kiplin Hall, near Scorton, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10  6AT. Telephone 01748  818178, e-mail: info@kiplinhall.co.uk.  Open: Sunday to Wednesday 2 – 5 pm until 31st October, 2012 (tearoom from 10 am for lunches and light refreshments).

Images of hall and library © Kiplin Hall.


What should the well-dressed GP be wearing in 2012?

10 Mar

There was a time when the rural GP sported little other than three-piece tweed suits, country shirts and ties bearing pictures of pheasants.  I suppose I must admit that in my case it might be more accurate to say that there are days when I don’t.

Clothing is important to patients too – only this week a professional wrestler attended full of apologies because “I’ve come straight from work and didn’t have time to change”.  I used to joke with clients that I was an expert in fashion until I noticed that I’d started to attract the odd look of incredulity – in short, some people didn’t realise I was pulling their leg.  One eleven year-old scoffed loudly and looked at her mother as if to say: “and who exactly does he think he’s kidding?” much to the embarrassed parent’s chagrin.

So this last Sunday fortnight when Feakins, my valet, was laying out my clothes following my morning tepid bath (I favour a warm dip in the morning to start the day and a longer, hotter one of an evening for purposes of relaxation) I asked him for his thoughts on the matter.  After not inconsiderable consideration, the following week he suggested one or two changes (which we trialled) and which I am pleased to exhibit here for your delectation.


“Might I suggest, sir that we don’t startle the patients unduly and simply begin the week, with a minimal alteration?  I was thinking perhaps of a little aural adornment.”

I grant you that it was an interesting concept, and it certainly caused something of a stir – after all the addition of a little facial hair following a fortnight’s holiday two years ago is still discussed around the village and its propriety remains a topic of rapt interest at coffee mornings for those of a certain age.

Several of my more discerning clients spotted the bejewelled ear immediately – the thinly-veiled looks of disgust telling me all I needed to know.  I dispensed with the item without further delay.


“Perhaps a nod to modernity might be in order this morning sir?” opined Feakins vigorously brushing my vicuña overcoat from last night’s trip to the operetta.

I must confess to having felt less than comfortable today.   The reasons for this being twofold.  In the first instance, Mrs Clarke-Harris (generalised OA and recalcitrant BV) made it plain in no uncertain terms that she disapproved by telephoning our local Department of Mental Health and attempting to arrange to have me committed to an asylum – fortunately nothing came of this since the Approved Social Worker had himself been Sectioned earlier in the day and was thus unavailable.  Secondly, resisting the tremendous urge to hoist the sagging pantaloons rostrally was almost more than I could bear.  In short, it was not a happy pairing.


My day off (and Feakins’ too – always a trial) and lacking help from my dresser I simply opted for a pyjama day.  All went simply swimmingly until the gamekeeper insisted I accompany him to the henhouse to witness at first hand the devastation wrought the previous evening by an especially vehement fox.  The ensuing cold in my nether regions being nothing less than vexatious to my flagging spirit.


“I regret sir, that my previous sojourns into the sartorial have caused you not inconsiderable discomfiture, but by fortuitous happenstance I came across a splendid outfit yesterday and took the liberty…”

Altogether more “me” I felt.  Indeed the day passed without incident until Mrs Templeton-Smethurst (terrible haemorrhoids – one could weep for the woman) berated me without mercy for offering her smoking cessation advice whilst being in possession of an especially fine cheroot myself.  Frankly, I fail to see the link, but there you are – and as I often impart to junior colleagues: patients can be unfathomable on occasion.  This, coupled with the somewhat embarrassing incident where the lighted cigarillo almost set fire to my remaining hair (owing to the flammability of the macassar oil) was sufficient to cause me to reconsider what had otherwise been a promising rig-out.  (Communicating my displeasure to Feakins that evening during his weekly removal of my omphalolith – look it up – I could have sworn that he hastily pocketed what looked like a letter of resignation).


Feakins said little as he wielded the pomander gently dusting my freshly-bathed and naked self with the baby powder.  Handing me my undergarments I fancied he was nothing less than furtive, his eyes staring blankly at the Italian marble floor.  Making my way through to the dressing room, I spied today’s garments freshly pressed and awaiting me on the bed.

I will not pretend that I was nothing less than relieved than that the week was drawing to an end and finally I was to be permitted to present myself to the world as I might wish.  It was true that  the plus fours resulted in a little chafing around the gatrocnemiae but in short, I was comfortable and more relaxed in this particular garb.

It has however, not been without its trials: I have not seen Feakins since and no-one in the village or on the estate seems to be able to apprise me of his whereabouts.  On the plus side however, in 2012 one does feel that this represents the image that the young General Practitioner ought to be presenting to those in his care: dependability and yet a willingness to move with the times.