28/9/90

I drove Betty down to Wilton where she was taking a party through Wilton House, the family seat of the Earl of Pembroke. She has worked as a tour guide at Wilton for many years.

The tour lasted about an hour and the old house has a veritable treasure trove of paintings, antiques and memorabilia from its 400 year history. The most striking parts of the house are the Cube Room and the Double Cube Room. The Cube Room is exactly 30 feet wide and high, ornately decorated and with a large painting of Icarus on the ceiling. The Double Cube Room is 60 feet long and 30 feet high, also elaborately decorated with swags of fruit, flowers and foliage gilded in different shades of gold. 

The room remains the same today as when it was completed in 1653 and the walls are covered by large paintings of the Herbert family by van Dyck including a small portrait of the ill-fated King Charles I.1 

When the tour was finished we went for a walk in the gardens then I had a quick look at the elaborate model railway in one of the buildings. On the way back to Corton we stopped to take Betty’s dog, Brum, for a walk and carried on back to Corton. In the evening I went up to the Dove for a beer.

1 Avid readers of this blog will remember that my ancestor, John Blakiston, was one of the signatories of the Death Warrant of King Charles.

26/9/90

I caught the bus into town and went to Wylye Valley Meats Ltd and got a job as a labourer starting on Monday. The job pays £150 a week and the boss, Tony Coombes, said that if I want to have a go at boning, which can pay up to £300 per week, I can later on.

I was rather happy as I walked into town to do some grocery shopping and a few other things. While I was waiting for the bus back to Upton Lovell I wrote a letter to Mick and Roz [my cousin and his wife] sitting in the sun on the footpath.

A letter I wrote to my brother on this day.

23/9/90

I caught an early bus down to Salisbury and went to the Job Centre – nothing…
In the evening Ann dropped us off in Warminster and we went to one of the pubs then for a delicious curry. We caught a taxi back to the manor.

22/9/90

Spent the day doing more or less nothing. After Linda finished work we took our bikes up to the top of Burial Hill on the Wheatley-Hubbard Estate. We stood at the top of the hill and watched as a storm rolled across the valley, cloaking the land with grey and setting the trees around us swaying and roaring with its knife-edge wind.

21/9/90

I borrowed Ann’s car and drove up to Lydiard Millicent to pick up our stash of winter gear. John was away in Rome but Sally was there and she gave me lunch. We chatted for an hour or so and I did a small job for her tidying up some fallen branches in the garden under the weeping oak.

Back at Corton we packed away all our winter woollies and after Linda went back to work I spent the evening watching the black-and-white TV that Ann has lent us.

20/9/90

Linda and I both slept in and it was only a phone call from Ann at 10:30 that woke us up. After Linda went to work I borrowed Ann’s car and went into Warminster. I went to the Job Centre but there wasn’t much on offer there, then had a look around the shops and bought some groceries. Linda and I spent the latter part of the afternoon setting up house in our new flat in Cortington Manor.

19/9/90

The day dawned cold and grey, and the strong wind which had really rocked and buffeted the caravan all night was still blowing hard. Tim, Shane and I set off with the counter and measured the fence and we have ended up building a total of 3,491 metres.

Once we had done that, we fixed up a strainer post that it pulled out of the ground after the rain, then packed up the ute and left. I sat on the back under the tarpaulin and although it was cold, it was quite pleasant. I spent the first half an hour reading the smutty and tongue-in-cheek Sunday Sport newspaper then settled back to watch the scenery and the passing traffic.

It took about three hours to reach Corton and after I dumped my pack at Ann’s cottage I showed the boys the way out to the road to Salisbury then walked back across the fields to the village. I had a long bath and soaked off a week of grime then dozed in front of the fire until Linda got home from work. We went down to Cortington Manor¹, where our new flat is, and crashed.

¹Cortington Manor was the home of Diana, Duchess Newcastle, the widow of the Duke of Newcastle and a former champion steeplechase jockey. The manor itself had been built in the late 17th century and its attached servant’s quarters would become our home for the next year or so. We loved living at Cortingtom Manor so much that a few years later, we named our house in Geraldine Cortington.

Cortington Manor, Corton, Wiltshire. (screenshot from Google Streetview)

18/9/90

THE LAST DAY FENCING. The day dawned clear but with clouds building up over Dartmoor and a fresh cold wind blowing from the west. We spent most of the day finishing off the last fenceline and cleaning up junk. Duncan arrived about 5:30PM and after a meal of chicken and veggies we all went down to the pub at Morley for the evening.

12/9/90-17/9/90

WEDNESDAY 12/9 – MONDAY 17/9 We have spent the whole week hard at work fencing, living rough, and getting steadily more dirty. We haven’t had a shower since Wednesday.

The only thing of interest which has happened to us was being pulled up by the cops on Friday night. They would have done Tim for being drunk in charge of a vehicle, and with the numerous faults with the truck but because we were happy-go-lucky Kiwis and the truck was loaded up with fencing gear, they let us go!

Yesterday we borrowed Rob‘s (the farm owner) VW and went for a Tiki tour over to Plymouth. The weather has been fine and hot, but has autumn drifts nearer the nights are drawing in and getting colder. Today was the first really cold day with a chill wind and a few showers blowing through.

After we finished work we drove down to Totnes intending to have a shower but the officious old cunt at the campground wouldn’t let us in and the swimming pool was closed so we ended up going dirty for the sixth day.