There’s No Place Like Home…

October 22, 2009 at 12:22 am (Uncategorized)

Oof. Nearly there. I worked on my story all day and night yesterday – no runs, no swims, no breaks, and I was still at my desk at midnight and back again at 7:20 am this morning – and filed at 9 o’clock. That’s what I call a load off. I immediately ran outside for some fresh air and kept right on running, and now I’m satisfyingly damp and salty, the scent of the Pacific still detectable in my hair. That’s better, my body groaned.

I’m not quite done. Because we fly out first thing tomorrow morning, and because my service provider doesn’t have a roaming option for broadband, I’m a little uncertain about my capacity to get online from the ‘Hai, so at the very least I have to write my final post for the Varuna Alumni blog and send it to Simonne in readiness for next week. Hopefully I’ll be able to find an internet cafe without too much trouble – it’s an international city of 18 million, after all – and post comments from there, but I don’t want to risk the post itself. Speaking of the Varuna blog, Llew appears to have been right as usual. When he read it on Sunday prior to my sending it over to Simonne, he was underwhelmed, casually dismissing it with, “It’s not as good as your other ones. I can’t relate to it.” This naturally set me to a manic panic, but he assured me he thought this was just because he’s not a writer so couldn’t possibly have had the same experience. “But you related to the other two,” I pressed, at which point Llew clammed up as though I’d asked if my bum looked big. So I sent it, it went up, and it’s generated a fraction of the response of the first two, which fills me with regret and an intense, long dormant urge to bite off all my fingernails. Ah well. You win some, you lose some. But you can see why I’m anxious to end on a high note with this final post. I have errands to run for the next couple of hours, and then I. Am. Into. It.

Anyway, the title of this post refers to something I discovered while writing my story yesterday, which is that England’s Alnwick Castle has been the family residence of the Percy family for the last 700 years. Leaving aside the fact there’s something preposterous about that, I’m personally intrigued by this little factoid because my maiden name was Percy. I always knew it was an old English name, and that there are Percys in line to the throne – way down the line, way, way down – but I’d never really looked into it. After going to the castle’s website on an entirely different mission yesterday, imagine my surprise to find this phenomenal spread is owned by…what? Relatives of mine? I find that highly unlikely. And to deter all comers, they’ve helpfully attached a family tree, including only those in the line of inheritance. Unsurprisingly, they forgot all about me.

Oh, the fantasies I used to have about a Little Lord Fauntleroy-style rescue from my life, so there’s something quietly hilarious about the near-and-yet-so-very-far fact of this shared name. Apparently my Nana Percy used to say there was some connection with the English toffs, but given she used to bang our heads together when we fought as children, and raised her ten kids in a tiny two-bedroom house in Bangalow, northern NSW (well before Bangalow became trendy and artistic), and from dim memory didn’t even own a full headful of teeth, I don’t think we can trust the veracity of her account.

In fact, one line I was repeatedly told as a child is forever burnt into my memory:

“In Bangalow, there were the poor, the very poor, and the Percys.”

Alnwick Castle, we hardly knew you.



  1. Fugitive Pieces said,

    Bloody hell. You’re a Percy? If I’d known I would’ve been more respectful, or something…

    Aaaand guess where I’ll be next week? Sadly not Shanghai, but about 2 miles from your ancestral pile. My folks’ place is really not on the same scale (only built about 1832, a mere dower house to a long-demolished stately thingummy, no battlements with fake defenders to scare invaders) but it still seems to have ceilings you can’t see without squinting. Come visit, and ambush your long-lost rellies!

    Alnwick’s gorgeous. Thanks to Harry Potter being filmed there, and the Percys capitalising on this with themed castle tours, you occasionally bump into a wizard wandering down a street on their lunch-break, clutching a sandwich and a Coke. It also has the most kick-arse secondhand bookshop ever – It’s the old Victorian railway station, and I luvs it. I would move in if they could figure how to heat the place beyond the front room.

    PS I think you meant “throne”, not “thrown”. Possibly not, in which case, kudos for the colonial snoot-cocking 😎 love your work. Have a wonderful trip.

  2. doctordi said,

    Wow, that is a shocking error! Written in haste before running out to a doctor’s appointment, and I’m exhausted, etc, but still – not a mistake I would ordinarily make. Thanks, Fugitive! Ghastly!

    And your parents’ place sounds awesome! Yes, indeed, I am a Percy, just not one of the Percy Percys judging from that family tree… And yet I do bear a strange resemblance to the ancestral portrait on the website… my nose is exactly like that.

    Drooling all over your homeland – there goes the neighbourhood…

    Have a fantastic trip yourself!

  3. litlove said,

    I’m not sure it’s THAT much of a delight to be descended from a long line of English aristocracy – endless inbreeding, madness, debt, dishonour, most aristocrats never had to work for a living and found it bewildering when society changed, and they are all left with huge crumbling piles that cost a fortune in upkeep with never-ending worries about the roof caving in, etc. Much better to be in sunny Australia and heading off on an exciting holiday in the morning…. 🙂

  4. Fugitive Pieces said,

    But Litlove, dearest – while I don’t think I’m inbred (Mum? did you think to check?), I too suffer from madness, debt, dishonour, persistent bewilderment over the enduring need to earn a crust, and my roof bloody near caved in under the weight of that possum. And I’m a prole, descended from proles all the way back to Oliver Cromwell. Frankly, the Australian weather is all I’ve got going for me, and that’ll be a distant memory this time next week.
    (Yes, since you ask, it has been rather a long day *snivel*)
    And Di, I went and had a look at the portrait. I can only say I’m sorry about the nose.

  5. Grad said,

    I have a dear and old (physically old – ancient actually) friend – a lawyer- who lives in Beaufort, SC in a house (well, mansion, actually) that his family has owned for over 200 years. I always thought that was amazing! One never hears of such things growing up in the Chicago urban jungle. Although he’s lived there all his life (and, by the way, the house has gone through many phases of disrepair, repair, disrepair, repair – it’s current state) – anyway, even though he’s lived nowhere else, he’s never gone into the attic!! Imagine that! I’ve begged to be let up there to snoop around (although I’m afraid of my own attic). But he’s fearful I’ll fall through the ceiling or get bitten by a bat or something and sue him. Where’s the trust?? But 700 years in the same pad?? Wow. P.S. If you ever see the movie, The Great Santini, there’s a scene where the kid is standing at a tree in a park-like square. You’ll hear a dog bark – that’s my friend’s dog! He just loves telling that story (over and over again).

  6. Lilian Nattel said,

    I have nothing to add, but I laughed at the post and the comments and want to wish you a wonderful journey!

  7. woo said,

    Well, they do say that America and Australia are full of ‘second sons’ and their descendants, so you’re probably connected through some chap who knew he wasn’t going to inherit the ancient pile and so thought “Sod this, I’m off somewhere where one doesn’t need a dog on the bed at night simply so one doesn’t freeze in one’s sleep.”

    Alnwick is lovely, though. 🙂

  8. Pete said,

    Just to comment on the Varuna thing – I think you have to remind people (like me) all the time what the address is otherwise we tend to forget it. So I for one didn’t check your post this week because I was overwhelmed by stuff going on here and also not prompted (maybe I was and just missed it). Hope you have a fabulous time in the ‘Hai and kudos to you (or is that commisserations) for your blue-blood-long-moved-on heritage!

  9. davidrochester said,

    I am quite sure that you are the descendant of some rapscallion whoreson bastard who was deported but kept the Percy name. I have faith in you.

  10. Grad said,

    I really do wish you’d get back, though.

  11. Pete said,

    Me too. I keep checking my reader to see if you’re back. Monday, right?

  12. doctordi said,

    I love all these comments, by the way, you’re all hilarious.

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