Another day, another trip out.
Today we are visiting the Priest’s House, in the village of West Hoathly. I wasn’t
sure exactly where West Hoathly was so I made the mistake yesterday of telling Mr B airily that it was somewhere near Horsham. When he came to track it on Google Maps, he found out that it was nowhere near Horsham, being on the edge of the Ashdown Forest,
about an hour’s drive away from home. I defended myself stoutly, saying that all we really needed to know was that, on the map of West Sussex, our home is at the bottom and our destination somewhere near the top. Geography, you will remember, has never
been One of My Strong Points.
I also had to break the news to him that our Questers Group was gathering at the Priest’s House at 10 a.m. Given the hour long
drive, and the fact that everyone in the Questers Group always arrives early, this meant that we would have to be on the road by about 8.30 a.m. This in turn meant that there would be no lazy Monday wake-up for us today. Mr B said, stubbornly, that he didn’t
really want to go to the Priest’s House anyway, couldn’t remember ever putting his name down on the list (well, he wouldn’t, would he, because I put it down for him but I wasn’t about to own up to that) and was only making the effort
Come this morning, however, and he is all sweetness and light. We set off merrily, each sucking a Werthers Original, and marvelling at how wonderful retirement
is, enabling us to take trips out whenever we want to, wherever we want to. All goes well till we reach a particular T junction, only a few miles from our destination. “Which way? Which way?” he demands. I study the Google directions which don’t
seem to mention a T junction at this point. I remind myself that one of Mr B’s criticisms of my navigational skills is that I fail to provide confident directions. So: “Right!” I say, summoning up all my confidence. A mile along the
road, I have to admit that I must have been wrong. Mr B resorts to Sally Satnav to guide us to our destination. He takes great pleasure in recounting the tale to the rest of our group. “It was only one wrong turn,” I say feebly. Most of the
group nod their understanding (I think.)
The Priests’s House, built in the late 1420s, turns out to be a veritable treasure trove.If you are ever anywhere
near West Hoathly (now that, thanks to me, you know where it is) you must call in. We are shown around by Anthony Smith, who is the tenth, and longest-serving, Custodian of the building, now owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society. His pride
and enthusiasm for the house and its priceless contents make him an engaging guide. Apparently he lives in one half of the house. One of our members whispers that he can’t be married – can you imagine a wife wanting to live here, beautiful as it
is – but with its sloping floors and beetles falling into your bed as you sleep under its ancient beams.
Out in the garden there are 170 different types
of herbs. I didn’t count them but I was quite prepared to take Anthony’s word for it. At the top of the stairs, a rare find – a handkerchief embroidered with the names of members of the Women’s Social and Political Union imprisoned
in Holloway Prison in March 1912 after a window-smashing demonstration. This “Suffragette Handkerchief” was actually rescued from oblivion when it was spotted at a Jumble Sale in West Hoathly in the late 1960s. How it came there, nobody knows.
As we leave, Mr B tells our guide that he is really glad he didn’t miss this trip, he has enjoyed it so much. Result!
After a tasty lunch in a local
pub garden, Mr B tells me he is not about to trust me to navigate. Instead he relies on Sally Satnav to tell him, in that annoying know-all voice of hers, to carry on ahead for several miles. We drive along a narrow, single track, country lane,
with passing places which are rutted and muddy. Had I directed Mr B down this particular road there would have been complaints a-plenty and many a doubt cast on my map-reading. But he smiles approvingly, nay, almost affectionately, at Sally, perched
on my lap, and remarks, happily, that we are having “quite an adventure.”
Sally takes us on a merry dance around the country lanes before directing
us onto the A23 – a road we know well. At this point, Mr B switches her off.
It’s a good thing, I contemplate gratefully, as we swoop down towards
the sea and home, that he can’t do the same for me...