What We Did On Holiday

Well, we are back, and totting up the credit and debit sheet, Mr Litlove had 100% nice time, and I had an 85% nice time. There’s always something, it seems, that means I arrive back with a chronic fatigue relapse. But that’s much later in the story. For once, I took a camera with me, so given I’m still a little tired, we may be able to let the pictures do the talking.

I told you we were staying at Library Cottage, right. Well, this was it:


You can see we had big double doors onto a really gorgeous garden, and a huge skylight. The weather was excellent for most of the holiday and lying reading on the sofa with the doors open and the sun streaming in was pretty good. Apparently the current owners bought their house off of a barrister, and this was his work room, hence all the bookcases, which are now crammed with the most intriguing and eclectic mix of books:


We spent the evenings combing through the selection and reading out loud things that caught our attention. In fact, several evenings in a row, Mr Litlove read to me from Christopher Booker’s enormous tome, The Seven Basic Plots; Why We Tell Stories. The seven basic plots themselves were extremely interesting (tragedy, comedy, rebirth, overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return); the problem came when he started to tackle the past 200 years of story writing, most of which subverted or altered the basic plots in ways that Booker obviously thought were wrong and misguided, a form of cultural neurosis in a way. If you have to diss everything written in the past two centuries, the chances are good that there’s something wrong with the guidelines for judgement! Anyway, it was all very interesting.

On the Sunday we decided to visit a stately home and really we wanted to use our National Trust memberships, which we’ve got for the year. However, the owners suggested we visit the nearest to us, Parham House. This was a lucky break as it was by far and away the most amazing place I saw in the week, and so I was very glad we got to see it together.


This was the house from the approach – a long winding driveway through gently undulating Sussex grounds. It looked like an oasis and it sort of was.  Inside the rooms were full of the most amazingly beautiful antiques. The house had been bought in 1922 by a wealthy couple who enjoyed collecting; they renovated the place, restoring it to its original condition (the Victorians had papered over the panelling and so on) and then filled it with anything relating to the families who had lived there.

parham 3

The Great Hall – full of light from a series of high mullioned windows and cosier than most flagstoned halls.


The portraits were particularly astonishing. Mr Litlove kept asking the guides if they’d recently been cleaned, they looked so sharp and colourful:

susan villiers

The lovely Susan Villiers, looking a lot like Helena Bonham Carter.

In this room, the Green Room, you can just make out a picture of a kangaroo by Stubbs near the corner of the room. Apparently, Sir Joseph Banks brought the kangaroo back as a souvenir of his round the world trip with Captain Cook. Well, he brought back the skin of the kangaroo, and so Stubbs then reinflated it in order to paint the picture. This is perhaps why the kangaroo looks a tad… odd. Mr Litlove liked this story a lot.

parham 4

My favourite story of the visit, though, concerned this bed in the Great Chamber:

parham 5

It was bought by new (well, new in 1922) owner Clive Pearson for his wife, who was an avid collector of tapestry and embroidery. It was essentially one huge ornament, not intended for sleeping in as it was too precious and delicate for that. The frame dates from Henry VIII’s time and the canopy and bedspread date from c.1585, probably the work of French or Italian craftsmen – because at this point in time such needlework was a valued occupation and was therefore undertaken by men. I overheard the guide telling another visitor this and my first reaction was: of all the cheek! Now I wonder at my reaction and yet… well, okay, I just find that annoying. Mr Litlove said it was no different from male chefs, who had a status that your average cook did not.

And just as we reached the very top of the house, already overwhelmed by all we had seen, we found the Long Gallery, which almost topped the rest.


But we were a bit sated with beautiful objects by this point and so went out into the gardens. Guess what? They were gorgeous too.

Parham. Sussex. Cool colour borders in summer. Path with view through to dovecote

See more pictures of the gardens at this site here: http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/parham_house_and_gardens


So, that was our Sunday, and on Monday, Mr Litlove went yomping off across the fields to his Windsor chair-making workshop.


While he was there, I had some more adventures with stately houses and gardens, but we’ll do part 2 another day. That’s enough for now!



39 thoughts on “What We Did On Holiday

  1. What a beautiful place to stay for a holiday – I can’t imagine anything better than a holiday cottage full of books! Hope you’re feeling a bit more up to par now and look forward to part 2! 🙂

    • It was lovely, Karen! And full of really interesting books, not just the summer blockbusters other visitors had left behind. I’m definitely feeling more human again now – I need to come and visit everyone, though. I’m really behind!

  2. I always love it when there are well stocked bookshelves in holiday cottages. And those gardens look gorgeous. I have very fond memories of Great Dixter from a Sussex holiday a couple of years ago.

    Very sorry to hear about your relapse, though. I hope you’ll be able to take things a little easy over the next few weeks.

    • The gardens at Parham were really special. I must upload the other photos I took of other places. You’re right that Sussex seems to be full of glorious scenery! It’s really nice to be home and I’ve had a restful week. Now just got to catch up with everything…..!

  3. Lovely! Whereabouts in Sussex was the cottage? (You’ll think me a pleb, but given that I’m generally worn out by heavy-duty sightseeing and get my readers block on hols, but why do rental properties always have such small tellies!

    • You’re right – they ARE small! We did peer rather at The Good Wife (which I brought with me as I was not about to go without my nightly fix!). We were near Storrington and Pulborough, both very small, and the nearest town, about 30 mins away was Horsham. Though I think you could also hit Chichester if you travelled half an hour towards the coast.

    • That’s exactly the image I had!! And I couldn’t help but think of it deflating slightly as Stubbs was painting, its head drooping a bit to one side. The house was amazingly gorgeous – I think you would have appreciated its contents!

  4. Thanks for sharing these impressions with us. Wonderful places (cottage and national trust property) and great stories which made me remember wonderful holidays in Great Britain with lots of visiting stately homes (it was raining all the time so we saw a lot of them) and you made me think of the really enthusiastic and friendly staff there. Hope you can take things easy for the time being. All the best!
    Oh and referring to the needlework done by men: I found an interesting paragraph in Geert Maks history of Amsterdam:”Until the thirteenth century, women ground the grain by hand at home, made bread, wove garments and baked pots in the fire. By the end of the twelfth century, however, looms and potteries were beginning to be introduced, and soon these female tasks were taken over by male weavers and potters. This transition is clear from fingerprints found on earthenware dating from this time. […] During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the same thing happened with grinding grain, brewing beer, and medical care. Athe the same time, these new professions were protected by the emerging guilds, which were, almost without exception, exclusively male organizations.”

    • Buchpost, you are a STAR! That is exactly the information I’ve been looking all over the web for, but hadn’t been able to find. Thank you! How nice to think you have lovely memories of holidays here. We usually go to the NT houses on the days it rains, but we were lucky with the weather for once! The staff at Parham were very well informed – I often wonder if it would be fun to volunteer to be a guide, but I expect it’s actually quite hard work!

  5. Oh what fun! What an amazing house! Though you know I find the gardens to be much more interesting and impressive! 🙂 Library Cottage looks a lovely comfortable place. Sorry your holiday rating was only 85% but that is still pretty good!

    • Stefanie, I sincerely wished I could have popped you in my pocket for the gardens – I saw several gorgeous ones over the course of the week and you could have told me what plants I was looking at! Yup, I’ll take 85%, that’s still a first class mark! 😉

  6. The Long Gallery is gorgeous!! I want to read some books in there.

    I have read that Seven Basic Plots book. I insanely agreed to undertake it for an independent study in fall 2005, which meant reading the whole thing in a week, although it was right when the hurricane had happened and I was doing a 20-hour training for crisis intervention that same week. I remember feeling the same as you and Mr. Litlove — it was very fascinating in cataloging the plots, less good in talking about specific books.

    • How exciting to think you have read the Seven Plots book! Though those are insane conditions to have to read any book under, let alone that particular one. That’s really interesting – and encouraging – to think you felt exactly the same. The Long Gallery was amazing – I’ll bet you could sit there with a book if you wanted!

  7. Parham House is lovely. The colors on that portrait really do pop, even through a photo! I love the Long Gallery – all that light and the ceiling tiles are so interesting and classy. The garden looks amazing with all that purple.

    • I can’t remember when we were last at such an amazing place. I remember Lanhydrock House in Cornwall being special, but Parham felt cozy and loved and welcoming too. Do visit if you ever get the chance!

    • Heh, you are quite right! In all honesty, I’ve hardly read a sentence this past week. I did need a bit of a detox. I’m feeling much better, just a bit weary still and hopefully that will fade. It’s lovely to hear from you – I must visit! I am woefully behind, thanks to being away and the rest of it!

  8. Glad to hear that the holiday was mostly a success. Loved the photos. And the Library Cottage sounds wonderful. Although I know from experience that these holidays can also be quite tiring and however beautiful the surroundings, it takes time to get used to a place and feel completely comfortable and rested there.

    • You are so right! I used to underestimate how long it takes to settle in, and now perhaps I overestimate it a bit. Or at least, once you don’t have young children to settle, it becomes a bit easier. But even so, finding the supermarket and the petrol station and which places to visit are all more tiring due to the unfamiliarity. It was a lovely holiday, but I did enjoy coming home!

  9. Glad you had a good time and looking forward to the rest of the account. I have always wished to visit Parham, for the gardens, although the house looks amazing too. I have a cornflower named after the place, so I imagine it appeared or was bred there, which is flowering at the moment and goes on through the summer. Hope you are well again soon!

    • Oh Bookboxed! You really must visit Parham if you can – you’d love it. There are so many fantastic gardens in the area. I went to Nymans too, which I’ll write about soon. How cool to have a Parham cornflower! I wanted to bring plants home, but Mr Litlove was against having more difficult packing in prospect when we weren’t sure how we’d fit his chair in the car (though it was fine in the end!). I’m doing better, thank you. I’ve had a very quiet week!

  10. Parham House looks amazing! I want to go there. Sorry to hear you have come back with chronic fatigue 😦 I’m glad that at least 85% of the trip was a lot of fun in recompense.

    • The gardens were amazing and I felt we were there at the right time of year for them. I managed to enjoy a lot more of the holiday chronic-fatigue free than I used to (when the journey down was problematic too), so I’m moving in the right direction. Just need to crack that journey home now! 🙂

  11. What a lovely post! Parham House looks fab, just the ticket for a day out. I’m so sorry to hear of your chronic fatigue relapse…I can only imagine how frustrating and draining that must be. Wishing you all the best for a rapid bounce back.

    • Jacqui, you are so kind, thank you – I’m feeling better after a very restful week! Parham House was just lovely. We were both really taken with it.

  12. Looks lovely! Almost as good as a break, seeing those pictures. Glad that you are back 85% in one piece and wishing you all the best for recovery.

    • Denise, your comment made me laugh – yes, 85% in one piece was pretty good. I’ll take it. And I’ve had a quiet week, which was nice, but now I’m really behind again. You can’t win! 🙂

  13. That sounds like my kind of vacation! I want a cottage with bookshelves just like that….. 😉 And wow–what an industrious looking group of woodworkers–did the finished chair come home with you? It’s too bad the chronic fatigue comes back with you. I think there is something wrong with that equation–the holiday should be in response to it….so now you definitely need a home-staycation to get over it! I hope you are feeling better–lovely photos. Did you buy any books?

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