Mark’s brother Tom manages Chicheley Hall, an English country house built in the first quarter of the 18th century in the Baroque style situated about 55 miles north-west of London. It was bought by the Royal Society in 2007 and now is used for small conferences as well as being a luxury hotel. It is absolutely magnificent with all the rooms named after Nobel laureates and pictures of many others around the walls, with one surprising omission, no picture of Fred Sanger, the only English scientist, and one of only four, to have won two Nobel prizes – Tom is working to correct this!!!
We met Mark’s parents, Caroline and Jeremy and his 96 year old grandfather, Ron, over drinks in the garden and then had a memorable dinner in a private room. Also present at the dinner were Tom’s wife Caroline and their two children, Mia and Carrie – which meant there were 4 generations present. Mark and Tom had planned the menu and bought all the wine and food which was then prepared by Chicheley Hall staff – a really memorable night.
Next day after a hearty recovery breakfast we travelled to Warwick, this time staying at The Warwick Arms, which is managed by Tom’s wife, Caroline. That night we attended a 40th birthday party for one of Mark’s cousins attended by lots more family and friends – lots of dancing, eating and drinking.
Sunday was spent with the family, including Ron, visiting Warwick Castle, a medievil structure first built as a wooden structure in 1068 by Willaim the Conqueror and then rebuilt as a stone structure in the 12th century. There have been a number of renovations since then and the castle has played an important role in English history, due to its prominent position in the midlands. The highlight for us at the castle was the display by various birds of prey such as falcons, eagles and kites. Huge birds with massive wing spans and because of their size, have to use the winds and thermals to get high enough to hunt for food.
Our time in Warwick finished with a late lunch at The Warwick Arms where we said goodbye to all our new friends and then headed off to Luton ready for an early morning flight next day.
Meeting Mark’s family was delightful – we were made extremely welcome and it was great getting to know them, especially his parents. However, without doubt, Ron was the star of the show – a 96 year old with all faculties, great sense of humour and a delight to be with.
NB Avoid Luton Airport if possible, it is a disaster – congested, disorganised and inefficient.