I’m now back in Norway, but I have some wonderful memories of my last day with Anna. We spent the night in Portsmouth. On Saturday morning, with blue skies overhead and a cooling breeze to counter the heat of the sun, it was the perfect day to walk to Portchester Castle.
We passed through the gate and paused for a milkshake in the outer bailey. It’s years since I’ve had a milkshake that was actually made from milk, rather than ice-cream, and it was surprisingly refreshing. But the castle was calling, so braving the determined friendliness of the gatekeeper (who came close to selling me fifteen months membership to English Heritage, even though I live in Norway) we started to explore the ruin.
Does everyone find peace stealing into their soul as they explore ancient ruins? I find the old stone beautiful. Empty window frames filled with blue sky, doorways leading to nowhere, that will never be walked through again. Standing in what used to be the kitchen, gazing at the gaping hole that was all that was left of the fireplace, my mind was filled with a childish wish that some magic would take me back in time and I could see what it looked like then, to see the people who lived and worked here. What was it like for them? Were they happy?
The great tower that dominates the landscape still has a roof and we entered in and found a spiral staircase. We climbed up and up and up and emerged onto the leaded roof with shaking legs, happy hearts, and a small queue behind us of people who were fitter than me!
Going down, we took different stairs, and found a few small exhibits, like this map and the birds flying above it.
There was also a notice about prisoners and nails hammered into the beams. The explanation about what the nails were used for had a very different ending than that I expected!
Having explored everywhere, we returned to the shop at the entrance and I bought gifts of castle keys and medieval shot glasses for John and Andrew, and a wooden bow and arrows for Anna. Then we returned to the outer bailey and wandered over to St Mary’s church, which stood in a corner, within the castle walls. In search of good British food, we decided on a cream tea and a curry pie. Sadly all the curry pies were gone, so we plumped for a corned beef hash pie instead. Never let it be said that English cuisine is not the best in the world!
It was almost Easter, and there were beautiful flowers in the church.
And beautiful flowers and trees outside too, where we waited for the taxi we had ordered to take us into Portsmouth. For me, having left the rather grim and dirty end-of-winter melt, it was a welcome reminder that spring really is on its way.