Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blackthorn House and the trip to Blackthorn Castle

Kings Cross train station London

The Photo: Kings Cross train station where we arrived from Inverness.

Blackthorn House, Belgravia: Since it was going to take some time to reposition The Dragon to Euston station to connect it to the 23:30 to Caersws I decided to use the layover to pay my first visit to Blackthorn House while Charles, my Chamberlain of the Household (COH), was with me to make introductions. I even thought I might catch the staff unaware that I would be accompanying Anya and the girls. They had been alerted to the possibility and were formed up in the vestibule for introductions. Currently there are six staff who have come down from the castle to cook clean and chauffeur for residents.

I decided earlier to change my plan again. My wards, Anya and their escorts will continue on to Blackthorn Castle with me since we will all be in mourning until the 22nd Baroness is buried which will be this coming Friday so they wouldn’t have much time in London and would be in mourning clothes before they would have to come East for the funeral.

In Blackthorn House there are three main floors, the attic with the servant’s quarters and storage and the basement with the kitchens and HV/AC. The first floor has the formal rooms with the ballroom, drawing room, dining room a library and a parlor.  We were served tea from the Paul Storr George III 4 piece tea set from the early 19th C and scones that melted in the mouth made that afternoon by the cook, Mrs. Harris. The good silver and art works are kept at the castle and brought to town when the house is opened even though there is a caretaker in residence at all times.

Mourning: I wore mourning attire for the visit; a black 90 denier cashmere and Elastane catsuit that left nothing to the imagination under a calf length pleated jersey skirt that opens like a tutu when I twirl and a tailored jacket of the same material with black hard shanked Gaynor Minden pointes and a black wide brimmed velvet hat with the 1925 bespoke Van Cleef & Arpels gold and ruby dragon pin with emerald eyes, the Baroness’s badge of office, affixed to the crown that my COH had brought me from the castle vault.  I taped and padded my toes carefully before pushing my feet into the polymer blocks of my pointes because I knew that out of respect I was expected to stay en pointe for the duration of the visit while standing and with my feet pointed while sitting.

My wards all wore black wool skirt-suits, black tights, wide brimmed hats and low heeled closed toe shoes. We will remain in mourning clothes in public until the 22nd Baroness is laid to rest in the crypt below the chapel at Blackthorn Castle this coming Friday, January 9th.

Preliminary funeral plans: His Grace and Jack will be there as will all the villagers and their families who work at the castle. While there are a few members of the aristocracy in the area I’ve been told that Edith the 22nd Baroness was not close to any of them so I will have my work cut out for me mending social fences with the castles neighbors. The 22nd  Baroness was of the Anglican, Episcopal, faith while most of the surrounding villages are primarily Methodist. Her funeral will be from the Book of Common Prayer, but afterward my girls and I and His Grace and Jack will conduct a ceremony with offerings to Aphrodite in memory of the late Baroness.

The Auditors: The four auditors who will examine the financial records of the Barony met us at Euston at 20:00 and were settled in their compartments on The Dragon. And we all had dinner on The Dragon and got to know the individual auditors and they explained in general terms what they would be looking for which took us up to departure and bedtime.

Arrival: We arrived at Caersws, which is about 1,000 ft above sea level and on the Severn on time, at 8:13, breakfasted and ready for the trip to the castle. It was raining and cold. The shunting engine – belonging to the Barony - connected to The Dragon and moved us off the main line into a two track heated building belonging to the Barony and long enough to take three passenger cars and the switch engine. There were two Range Rover vans and a separate van for luggage parked inside on an elevated platform so we just stepped off The Dragon directly on to the heated and well lit platform.  Charles said the switches are heated so they don’t freeze since at this altitude there is often snow and ice from all the moisture that comes off the ocean just a few miles east of us. He said Edith had the Dragon shed built about fifteen years ago and heated switches installed when because of frozen switches she couldn’t get to London for a performance of Sleeping Beauty by one of her favorites, Darcey Bussell.

The trip from Caersws to the castle was another hour and another 1,000 feet higher and Charles says we get a lot of snow. The butler, Ellis, had the staff in the great hall to greet us as it was raining heavily when we arrived. Our things were unloaded and rooms were assigned for everyone, my wards with their escorts and I went to my private apartment in the ‘new’ wing, built in the 15th C., to bathe and change into yet another black cashmere and Elastane catsuit and black Gaynors as I find that demonstrates my being in mourning while displaying my body to let everyone know that we all must carry on. Being at home I dispensed with the black jersey skirt until the funeral. Fortunately Edith had had hot water radiators and storm windows installed years ago and the radiators were cleverly hidden for the most part so the castle is surprisingly comfy w/o the fireplaces going.

Charles took the audit team to the Barony Estate office and introduced them to the estate manager who will assist with any questions and retrieving records needed.

Ballet class: My wards and I and their POB male escorts hadn’t taken class in two days so it was with pleasure that I conducted my first ballet class in Edith’s ballet studio. It has been kept in excellent condition with a sprung wooden floor and Marley covering and a wall of full-length mirrors and windows looking east toward the Atlantic. Charles said Edith took barre here into her mid 80s when ger arthritis became too severe to allow it any longer.  

So a routine of sorts is being established, which I expect my wards to participate in when in residence. It was marvelous be in pink practice clothes and shoes after three days of wearing unreleased black no matter how well that color displays my body! Working up a good sweat at the barre and then a bit of PDD work with each of the girls escorts to keep their upper body muscles exercised with lifts with me in a practice tutu. It was so wonderful to be partnered by men with that level of talent. The Paris Opera men really are divine to dance with and such supportive partners!

I have spent the rest of the day going through Edith’s things with her Lady’s maid and there were some surprises though knowing what sorts of businesses she was interested in – especially the ones in London - I don’t suppose it should have been.

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Powys , Wales, United Kingdom
I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort