You can tell that I was feeling a bit better myself, as I actually took these photos myself from the platform. We had a few minutes to wait for the next train, so I got us a couple of coffees and brought them out to Hubby.
“No smoking,” he said, as he took the coffee from me.
“The sign,” he said, pointing in its direction with his chin. “No smoking. We’re outside on the platform and we can’t smoke. You can’t smoke in England.”
“Well, let’s not worry about it until you can’t smoke in France. Or Greece. Or Turkey. Then we’ll worry about it.”
“How long is the train ride to Windsor?”
Uh, oh. Here we go. “It’s about two hours. We, uh, we have to change trains though.”
“At Reading. And Slough.”
I could feel his pain. It wasn’t that long ago that I was myself close to death on a train. Only we had been traveling in the opposite direction.
“Reading is close to Stratfield Saye,” I sighed. Stratfield Saye, whose opening times never seem to coincide with my trips to England.
“I thought Apsley House was Artie’s house.”
“It is. He bought Apsley House himself. The country bought Stratfield Saye as a sort of thank you gi
ft for his having defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.”
“Yeah. Napoleon was seen as the Hitler of his day. A tyrant. He proclaimed himself as Emperor of France and then turned his eye on the rest of the world. He threatened democracies everywhere. And Wellington and his army and the allies defeated him at Waterloo. Napoleon’s army was notorious for looting and stealing whatever they needed, wherever the went. Napoleon’s troops were the ones who shot the nose off the Sphinx.”
“The Egyptian Sphinx?”
“Yes. Destruction wherever they went. On the other hand, Wellington went out of his way to make sure that people were compensated to some degree for whatever his troops requisitioned. Not that the British didn’t indulge in some looting and pillaging of their own, but still, Artie had a completely different mindset about it. Remember the story about the looted Spanish art I told you about at Apsley House?”
“There was this guy called Congreve and he worked at the Royal Arsenal, trying to perfect rockets Wellington had first seen at Seringapatam.”
“In India. Congreve worked to perfect them, but it took several attempts. He demonstrated them to Wellington, hoping he’d use them during his campaigns. It turns out that the rockets were unreliable and their trajectory uncertain. And then they’d set things on fire instead of blowing them up. And the things set afire were not necessarily the things one was aiming at. Wellington said that when he entered a town it was most often in order to liberate it, rather than destroy it. Wellington refused to use them because of the wholesale damage they caused and the destruction they left behind. In his own words, he had a bad opinion of them.”
“So Congreve didn’t get the commission?”
“Not from Wellington, but Congreve had gotten in tight with Prinny, who was pushing for the use of the rockets.”
Sigh. “Prinny, the Prince Regent. King George the fourth. They kept pestering Wellington to use them. When Wellington was in Portugal in 1810, the matter was again raised in a letter from Vice Admiral Berkeley. Wellington said that they wouldn’t answer for his purposes on land, but he allowed that every thing deserved a fair chance. So it was that eventually the Royal Navy used them and fired them from the decks of their ships.”
“How’d that go?”
“You’ve heard of `the rockets red glare’?”
“The bombs bursting in air?”
“Exactly. Those were Congreve’s rockets. They put on a great show, but weren’t very effective.”
Our train arrived and I helped Hubby get ourselves and our luggage onboard. I must say that Hubby was a brick, changes and all, up until the last leg of the journey, when a guy got on the train with a pit bull.
Hubby elbowed me in the side. “He’s got a dog on the train. A pit bull.”
Now, as you know, I pride myself on reporting this trip exactly as it happened. There was a pit bull on the train. Which now allows me to segue neatly into this photo of our granddog, Coco, the pit bull. Who believes with all his heart that he’s a Yorkshire terrier and who is constantly trying to climb onto my lap. But I digress . . . . .
“You’re allowed to bring dogs on the train in England,” I told Hubby.
“You can’t smoke outside on the platform, but you can bring a dog into a crowded train?”
“Look!” I said as I pointed out the window.
“What? What is that? Is that a castle?”
Part Two Coming Soon!