Honestly, you wouldn’t think that two grown, American women with quasi scholastic backgrounds could have such fun at Apsley House. Tell nearly anyone in the general population that you’re going to Apsley House, or The Wellington Museum, and they’ll begin to yawn – or give you odd looks. As did the cab driver who took us to the National Army Museum. “None of my business,” he said,”but do you mind telling me what your interest in the place is?” “The Duke of Wellington,” Victoria informed him. “Aha,” he said, apparently clueless, as he gave us odd looks in the rearview mirror.
Tell people that your visits to Apsley House have provided you with several good belly laughs and they’ll think you’re mad – it’s not the sort of place one automatically equates with hilarity. I’ve already shared some of these incidents in a previous post. During our last visit, Victoria and I had another funny experience, however this time it was more of the “odd” funny kind, rather than the belly laugh type.
Funnily enough, it was again in the Waterloo Gallery where this incident happened. (What’s up with that room?!) I was gazing out one of the windows that looks out over Hyde Park Gate, Rotten Row and the paved road in the Park. Then, I looked down and spied flowers. Standing on tip toe, I peered down to discover that they were pink roses, growing on bushes that stood in a narrow side yard of the House. I pointed them out to Victoria and later, in an off-hand manner, happened to mention to the docent that the Duke certainly had beautiful roses in his garden.
Well! You would have thought I’d said, “I’ve been sleeping with your husband for the past three years.” Or something equally as shocking. I cannot convey to you the outrage/offense/dismay, almost horror, my innocent remark about the rose garden occasioned.
“No, no,” the docent was quick to argue, “the Duke has no roses in his garden. Those roses are planted in Hyde Park not at Apsley House.”
Victoria and I glanced at one another. The docent’s adamant denials were decidedly odd. The roses were definitely not planted in Hyde Park. See the photo below – it’s dated, but the arrangement of the House, the Park and the Gate are unchanged today. Apsley House is at the right in the photo. The back of the side garden fronts the paved road of the Park. There’s no room at that location in the Park to plant roses.
“But the roses are right there, through that window,” I said, “you just need to look down to see them. They’re in this garden.”
“No, they’re not. They’re planted in Hyde Park!”
Hhhhmm . . . . I glanced around expecting to see White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Or perhaps Nurse Ratched. I decided to let the matter drop. You betcha. Never let it be said that I don’t know when to beat a retreat. Victoria and I sidled our way into the next room as un-obviously as we could and then began to whisper furiously to one another.
“What’s up with that? She’s telling me that I didn’t see with my own eyes what I just saw with my own eyes and expecting me not to argue the point.”
“I don’t know . . . that was the oddest reaction.”
“You saw the roses, right?”
“Yes! They’re right there, in the the side garden, big as day! In this garden. Not in the Park.”
“What’s up with that?”
“That was so strange . . . . “
“Listen, when we’re done here, we’re going around to that side of the house to see what’s there, okay?”
“Definitely! Even though I already know those roses are in this garden.”
Hhhhhhmmmm . . . so, of course, when we were leaving, Victoria and I hotfooted it over to the side of the House. And this is what we saw . . . .
And this . . . . .
as well as this . . . . .
Does the landlord forbid his tenants from growing roses on the property? Would the Duke of Wellington be breaking the lease and chancing eviction by growing roses?
Was one of the Dukes of Wellington once convicted of grievious rose abuse and thus all future Dukes of Wellington were subsequently prohibited from ever owning a rose again, on pain of incarceration?
Are they really contraband/prohibited/stolen/poisonous roses that are illegal to possess in one’s garden?
Surely it couldn’t be that this docent had never been to the west side of Apsley House and so was simply mistaken about the topography there?
Why were the docents’ denials so adamant, as if I’d accused the Duke of keeping a bevvy of under-aged harem girls out there in his garden instead of pink roses?