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As you might have guessed, I have figured out how to upload pictures from my new digital camera to the computer. Here are some pics from my recent trip to England — houses in Lavenham, Suffolk. I love the colors!!! I’ve never been a fan of the greenish-brown brick that so many English houses have, so I just adore all the colors in Suffolk.

And then the half timbering — there’s SO much in Lavenham that it’s amazing. It’s really like going back in time — except for all the cars, of course. 🙂 Though to be correct, I should mention that during my trip in Lavenham I learned that “half-timbered” is not the general term for these buildings — actually, “half-timbered” refers to the buildings in which the timbers are so wide that half of each wall is wood. (So most of the buildings people refer to as “half-timbered” aren’t. Perhaps they’re quarter-timbered? 32 percent timbered? 0.2119 timbered?)

Ahem. Sorry about that.

During the Middle Ages, Lavenham was a prosperous wool town. The wealthy merchants built these houses to live in — these were prestigious homes back then, and those with the most wood were the most admired. Even Queen Elizabeth visited Lavenham in 1578, bringing her whole court. (Wouldn’t that be nice, having folks like that drop in on you, expecting you to feed them all at your own great expense?)

By the end of the century, though, the wool trade in Lavenham started to decline (perhaps Elizabeth’s court ate too much?) Eventually, Lavenham turned into a quiet little byway, no longer important in the economy of the nation, or even the county. This meant that instead of tearing down all these beautiful timbered buildings to put up factories and more modern dwellings, most folks didn’t have the money for serious improvements or modernizations — so Lavenham is almost untouched. There are over three hundred buildings in Lavenham which have been listed as being of historical or architectural significance.

So: which of these would you want to be your house, or your Regency heroine’s house? (During the Georgian period, many of these houses were covered with brick — but our heroines, of course, can live in pink houses if we want.)

Pink, orange, red, yellow, beige, white — what color would you paint your house? Would you have white-ish timbers, as in the bottom photo here (which is apparently how they originally did them), or would you paint or stain them black or brown? Or would Lavenham just be too colorful a town for you?

Inquiring minds want to know!

MY LADY GAMESTER — Booksellers’ Best Finalist for Best Regency of 2005!

There are little things that pop into my head when I go back and forth between the US and England. Here are a few of them — and please share any you may have had! (Mine, of course, are affected by the fact that I’ve lived most of my life in Southern California. New Yorkers, for example, will have somewhat different impressions, I am sure.) 🙂


1. Wow, things cost so much here! (Especially books, restaurant food, and anything involving transportation!)

2. Everyone walks so much here! I should walk more when I’m at home. I really should. And I will, this time. I will really walk more when I get home.

3. The roads are so narrow! How can those drivers go so fast without constantly scraping things?

4. Okay, I have to change my vocabulary over now so I don’t make mistakes. (Mental reminder: wheat bread = brown bread, water = tap water, gas = petrol, pants = trousers, bathroom or restroom = loo or toilet or ladies’, eggplant = aubergine or courgette, I never can remember which one, the other is rutabaga I think, anyway I don’t like either one so it doesn’t much matter…)

5. Walk faster. Walk faster. You used to know how to walk fast. Come on, it will all come back, right?


1. Wow, things are so cheap here! (Especially produce, gasoline, books, and…everything else, pretty much. Except tea, which is cheaper in England.)

2. Waiters are constantly refilling my water-glass! That’s so cool!

3. Why can’t restaurants figure out how to make a decent cup of tea?

4. Wow, everything’s so big! And so empty! And the sky is so blue!

So, what thoughts have you had upon going to England, and coming back to the US? (Or, if you live in England, upon going to the US, and coming back to England?) All opinions welcome!

MY LADY GAMESTER — Holt Medallion Finalist for Best Regency of 2005!

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Right now, I’m in London. The high-minded (or higher-minded) things I like to do in London include going to the National Gallery (pictured) in Trafalgar Square, and staring at all the Canalettos and Gainsboroughs and Fragonards and Reynoldses and Corots.

I also love to go up to Hampstead, and see Kenwood House (pictured to the right), with its gorgeous interiors and impressive art collection.

But I like doing less high-minded things too. Like eating. I love having afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason (on the quiet top floor, not the touristy bottom floor) or Richoux. I tried tea at Harrod’s once, and wasn’t impressed with the service. (Perhaps it was an off day.) I had tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace, but it was like being in a crowded warehouse with mediocre service. So back I went to Fortnum & Mason, and Richoux.

I also like more simple fare. When Todd and I lived in the East End, we were near two different traditional pie & mash shops — one on Bethnal Green Road in Bethnal Green, and one on Roman Road in Bow. After we discovered them, we ate there a lot. I wasn’t a big fan of their “liquor” — i.e. the green parsley sauce that you can pour over your entire plate — but the pies and mash were scrumptious. Todd even tried the eels, and decided the stewed eels were eatable, but the jellied eels were foul.

This is the George Inn, which was a major coaching inn during the 18th century. Lovely, isn’t it? I think I’ll actually eat there this time. (I keep talking about food, don’t I? Perhaps I’m hungry. Or perhaps I really visit England for the food!)

My favorite part of London is just being there, walking around and looking at all the fantastic buildings. I never get tired of that.

And I never get tired of the theatre either. This time, I’m seeing Titus Andronicus! Then I will be further on my way to my life goal of having seen every one of Shakespeare’s plays performed live on stage. (If I fulfill that goal, and fulfill my goal of never reading Clarissa, I will have truly achieved something.) 🙂

Cara King,
MY LADY GAMESTER — read it, it’s good! honest!

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At the moment, unless something strange has happened, I am in Norwich, England. Norwich was the second-largest city in England at one point during the Middle Ages, but was subsequently passed in size and importance by many other cities. This may be one reason why Norwich is so beautiful today: the all-consuming drives of industry and modernity didn’t hit Norwich as hard as elsewhere, and so much of the city is old.

There are many medieval bits of Norwich, including its layout. I spent a year at the University of East Anglia (which is in Norwich, though off to the side a bit), where I studied creative writing (and Jane Austen and Restoration comedy and whatnot). I went into town nearly every weekend, and came to learn that even if you know the location of point A (e.g. the market), and the location of point B (e.g. the cathedral, or that neat little flea market-y shop that sold Georgette Heyer paperbacks for 20p), you can’t just head in the correct direction and actually arrive there. No, all the streets twist and curve and wind, and you’ll find yourself somewhere else entirely. Quite likely at Norwich Castle.

Cubical Norwich Castle (built during the time of William the Conqueror) sits atop a large hill, and all of central Norwich circles the castle. So do the buses. If you need to take a bus somewhere, chances are it will stop somewhere in the ring around the castle. (This is nothing like ring around the collar.) There are many medieval buildings in Norwich, and a lot of Georgian ones, too. Not much Victorian, though. (Which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your taste in architecture.)

It is said that at one time, Norwich had a church for every week of the year…and a pub for every day of the year. Many of the churches are still standing, though decreased attendance has driven preservation committees to find alternate uses for some of them. Now, you can find antique fairs and museums inside old churches! Many of them are made of flint, the shiny, hard, black local stone. (Though this church isn’t flint! This is St. Peter Mancroft, built in 1455, and located right next to the market in the city centre.)

The University of East Anglia is one of Britain’s numerous newer universities. This means, unfortunately, that it is modern. I do not much like modern. As far as I can tell, modern buildings win awards from architects, and drive the people who actually have to live in them absolutely batty. (I have lived in an ugly building or two in my time. I have also lived in much nicer-looking buildings. I strongly prefer the latter.) The odd building pictured here is a dormitory at the University of East Anglia. This, believe it or not, is one of the prettier buildings on campus. (I was not lucky enough to be housed in one of these. My dorm was much worse. And much less interesting.)

Cara King,

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Blogger has finally bowed to my will, and allowed me to upload my pictures. So here are the pics of what I hope to see! The half-timbered houses here are in Lavenham, Suffolk, which is reputed to be the prettiest village in England. (When you can see it around the tourists, that is.)

The bridge here is in Bury St. Edmunds, in Norfolk. I’ve never been to Bury St. Edmunds, so I have no idea what I’ll find — but it’s supposed to be quite beautiful.

This, of course, is Bath! I love Bath. Bath buns, the Assembly Rooms, the Pump Room…I love just walking around. I’ll even walk up to the fashionable residence areas of Jane Austen’s time — Cavendish Crescent, Lansdowne Crescent, Camden Place — though it’s a fair walk uphill!

Here we have the fantastically beautiful Norwich Cathedral — it’s a Norman cathedral, with massive round pillars. Very impressive — and much less touristy than Salisbury or Canterbury or Ely or the like. When I was a student I would visit the cathedral almost every weekend, and then eat sausage rolls for 30p in the little cafe that was attached.

And this is Elm Hill, a medieval street in Norwich. (Gorgeous, but painful to walk on in thin shoes!)

Well, those are my pics! When I come back, I’ll have pics of my own to share!


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