Day 6
Longleat House 40th year celebration

Photos of the day at Longleat

Click on the pictures to see larger views, with captions.

Nothing to click on hereThe day has arrived. The day that started it all. The day that got me off my backside and on the path to this trip. The 40th year celebration at Longleat House. The day to meet the collectors.

The early rise we agreed to the night before was very difficult to live up to. The pace of the last 5 days was catching up with us all and the bed was difficult to say goodbye to on this morning. But up I got. It was still hot in the house from the night before so I opted for a cold shower. Boy did it feel good. Refreshed and clean I grabbed a big glass of Orange drink, clicked on the TV and punched up BBC2 to watch the weather report. Record heat! Hot everywhere! Just my luck, I hate hot! Where is this mild weather that I was promised. I can get hot at home. The A/C in the Vectra is going to earn its keep today.

Matt and Sarah made their way down the stairs well groomed but looking like a few more hours of sleep would not go unappreciated. Nothing a good cup of tea couldn't take care of. Matt set to the task of the tea as Sarah answers the now ringing phone. "Simon is running a bit late, we have about a half hour" Sarah announces as she replaces the receiver on their vintage telephone. You could see on everyone's face a half hour to relax was a welcomed break but no one said it out loud. I took advantage of the time to inventory the giveaway items I had made to give to the collectors I met today.
. Hats? Check! . Buttons? Check! . Cards? Check! .

Click for larger pictureSimon arrived promptly at the adjusted schedule and we piled the car with all our goodies and headed down the road. Time to fuel up the car and ourselves. Tea just doesn't qualify as food in my book. Simon hunts for the cheapest gas (petrol) he can find while I nag him to go for convenient not cheep. He relented in the end and we pulled into a nice station with a large store. "Breakfast orders?" I queried, "Simon? Matt? Sarah?" Like I had any clue what was available in the store. In the end we all went in and roamed the sandwich isle. Some pretty bizarre selections of sandwiches, but nothing compared to the chip (crisp) lane. So many choices. Spare rib, chicken soup, bacon, and beefsteak. Steak!? Where is the Nacho Cheese? We made our selections and I ended up with a sausage, egg and something on white bread with a tiny bag of chicken chips. Down the road we went. Simon was at the wheel with Sarah in the next seat doling him his breakfast between roundabouts. Matt and I in the back were happily noshing away on our food, taking in the sites along the way.

Click for larger pictureWe saw Stonehenge just off the roadway. Not stopping for a tourist excursion we snapped a few pictures from the car as we zipped by. Matt recalled that there is normally a traffic jam along this route on the return trip from Longleat and we may want to avoid this road when we go home. We arrived at Longleat with little trouble where we were greeted at the entrance with the smallest of signs announcing the significance of the day. Understated is a polite way to describe it. There was a short wait to get our tickets and in we drove. What a pretty place it is. You pass through rolling green lawns dotted with picnic areas and a fishing pond on your way to the main parking lots. Wait what was that? A Dalek on the sidewalk, moving in the direction of the house. We must be in the right place.

Click for larger pictureWe found a good parking spot close to the food pavilion under a shady tree. Opening the car doors you were hit square in the face with the heat. Almost knocked me down. I dawn my bright red Richardwho ball cap and button, as did Simon. The Parish's on the other hand could not be convinced to wear the hat. The button was OK but not that hat! We decided to have a quick tour around the grounds to give me a general lay of the land before my noon appointment in the food pavilion to meet the Richardwho collectors. I could explore the exhibits after the collector event. We followed a strolling Zygon to the main entrance of the Longleat House where we found hoards of Daleks scurrying about. Some in colors I had never seen before. There were children jumping about trying to get rides on the evil monsters as the Dalek handlers fended them off. I'm sure some of the operators were wishing for a functioning Dalek blaster. Billed as the largest assemblage of Daleks in one place ever, it was quite a site to see.

Click for larger pictureWe passed by the tent (marquee) where Sophie Aldred and John Leeson were signing autographs. The line (queue) to see them was huge, stretching out of site. I had promised my son Tristin I would get him a signed picture of Sophie if I could, Ace being his favorite companion. It was not looking very good though. I had soClick for larger picture much I had to get done that day and I could not afford to stop for a few hours and stand in line. Sarah offered to queue for me but I could not ask her to stand in the blazing heat for that long. We will see what the line looked like after my collector event. "There it is Rich" Simon yelled pointing in the direction of a large blue police box, "The prop exhibit!" We poked our head in the entrance, which was surprisingly next to the Tardis, not through the Tardis Doors as I expected. It was packed with people, shoulder to shoulder. After the Collector event! We went around the back of the exhibit where several Daleks, a Cyberman and a Zygon were milling about. They posed for pictures with us. "Where is the Dr Who Store?" I asked. "Back there by the Dollhouse museum" Matt answered back. "By the reproduction of Bessie". Lets give that a try. Sarah piped in with "It is time you were getting to the pavilion, you don't want to be late". Of course she was right.

Click for larger pictureSimon and I went back to the car to get the give-a-ways and Matt and Sarah set up camp in the food Pavilion where we all settled in for two hours of mingling. A slow start had the four of us wondering if anyone would show up at all. But my insecurity's were squelched as one by one the familiar names from my web site turned into flesh and blood people. Peter in Kent with his lovely companion. Andrew Hogg came down from Liverpool. Frank Xerri and Gary in Sussex (maduncledai) in costume even were all there. With the addition of the Trinity Matt, Sarah and Simon, we all had a nice long chat about everything under the sun. Derek Handley stopped by and we talked about some of his work. Many people stopped me to say they enjoy the website and wished me well. Quite a memorable event, for me anyway. It ended with everyone agreeing that we must do another very soon and broke up to enjoy the remainder of the park events on our own.

Click for larger pictureBack down to the original four adventures we set out to enjoy the parts of the park we surveyed earlier in the morning. We began by touring the house. As many times as the Trinity had been to Longleat they had never been in the house. Well it was one of the things I wanted to do so I was pleased we could share another first. Once inside it is exactly what I expected from a fancy English house. Old everything, with huge furniture and paintings the size of billboards. I was surprised by how decorative the ceilings were. I have never seen anything like them before. Not allowed to touch anything or take pictures I was not concerned about capturing the splendor with my camera because I figured I could buy a picture book about the house in the gift shop. There were house attendants stationed everywhere to answer questions and they were very quick to remind you of the "don't touch policy". Simon did insist on taking some photos of the gun collection for his Father so I played interference with the guards by asking questions about objects on the far side of the room as he snuck the photos. The tour ends at the haunted cellar next to, not surprisingly, the gift shop. I asked the clerk in the shop where the books on the house could be found. "Oh we don't have any, they are working on one but it won't be ready until next season. We do have some postcards", what a let down.

Click for larger pictureAfter leaving the house the heat was getting to everyone and Ice cream became the subject of interest. I'm not a fan of the drippy stuff so I left them to see how the line to see Sophie Aldred was. It was much shorter now but there was a sign at the end of the line that said "Sorry end of queue". Well that's it no autograph. Tristin will have to understand. I walked to the tent to see if I could get a few more photos of Sophie from the walkway. I stood there, outside the tent, not 50 feet away from her taking pictures as I watched the line growing ever shorter and the sign following up the rear. I thought to my self, "I came this far, I have to try". I ran across the courtyard to the Dr Who sales store that was still packed with people and pushed my way to the cash register were photos of Ace could be found. Picked out a classic pose and hurriedly paid the bill dashing back out the door. (Sorry to the guy I ran into as I did) Three people left in line as I run back across the courtyard. Arriving at the tent as one person was still visible out side. I jumped the rope fence (Don't get impressed it was only 2 1/2 feet high) as the last fan moves beyond the flap out of site. I slipped around the end of queue sign into the tent and sidled up next to the last person in the line of 4 waiting their turn to talk to John Leeson and then Sophie. "Look nonchalant". Just then a man stepped forward looking strait at me and said, "I'm sorry but the line is close, you have to leave". "Crap" I think to myself. "But sir I have come all the way from America for this. Please don't make me leave." I begged. "I'm sorry but you will have to go", the reply. Just then the man looked up at my hat (with my website on it) then he peered at the button on my shirt (with my website on it) and up again to my hat then looked questioningly at my face and said, "Richard?"

Click for larger picture"Yes I'm Richard", I quickly responded. The expression on the man face went for stern authority to a big smile and he introduced himself as Grahame Flynn. Grahame (Gray) and I have corresponded a few times through my website about our collections and possible trades. Gray looked at me with a twinkle and said "OK for you Richard but anyone else comes in the door kick them back out". "Thanks" I replied with deep relieve. Gray went back to packing up some of the items in the tent so I turned around to find I was next in line for John Leeson. John smiled up at me and asked what he could sign for me. I was so fixated on getting my son his Sophie Aldred autograph I had forgotten John Leeson was even there. I should have had him sign my hat or my Longleat tickets or something. Anything! But I just said, "Nice to meet you but I don't have anything for you to sign". He just smiled politely, nodded, stood up and made his way out of the tent. It was now my turn to meet Sophie.

Click for larger pictureIt has been record-breaking heat all day. Sophie has been sitting in this tent for hours looking after her children as well as signing autographs. I'm the last person she has to see before she can leave. Sophie was very pleasant, chatted with me a bit, posed for a picture and signed the photo for my son very carefully so as not to smudge it. A lot of people would not have taken as much time with me under the same circumstances. I was impressed; she is a real classy lady. Tristin got his photo and I got a great story to tell! (Thanks Gray)

Click for larger pictureExcited from the Sophie event I set off to find my other travelers to tell my tale. I found them relaxing in the shade of a tree, waiting for me (that's their story). "Its time for the prop exhibit!" Simon announced. You could hear every bone in my body creaking as we got up from the ground and made our way to the big blue box at the end of the path. I dug several two-pound coins from my pocket and paid our fees to get past the attendant. All the exhilaration of being inside the Longleat Dr Who exhibition was quickly replaced with anxiety. The heat inside was stifling and the people were packed in as tight as a Tokyo subway train. I have been known to get a bit irritable in crowded places. The shopping mall at Christmas time can make me fantasize about merry shoppers spontaneously combusting under the electrified missile-tow (yes I spelled it correctly).

Click for larger pictureWe clambered along the displays with the other cattle trying to take pictures through the sweaty glass that had a day worth of greasy face prints covering every square inch of the surface. The props were displayed very nicely with a bit more atmosphere and showmanship then Dapol. I really enjoyed the Morbius laboratory and the Click for larger pictureVirvoid display. The Tardis console at the end of the tour is very impressive and a great place to fiddle the knobs of time. Dripping with sweat we emerged again into the small retails sales lobby where the tour began. Richer for the experience but in need of a bit of cool air.

Having accomplished all we set out to do that day we decided it was time to head back to the car and find our way to Dorking. Matt navigated us back to the Vectra and we all just fell into our seats. "Kick that A/C to full!" I bellowed, "I want Ice on the head rests". Ahhhhhh. The drive was very pleasant, avoiding the sluggish traffic around Stonehenge. Did we talk? I don't remember much about the drive home other then the glorious air-conditioning. We arrived at Matt and Sarah's house Click for larger picturewell before sunset and the temperature in side was off the scale. We opened all the windows we could and the breeze started to cool the house down a little bit. (Very little)

Click for larger pictureFood became the topic of interest and Sarah said she wanted to cook a meal. "It is much to hot for you to cook", I protested. But she insisted. Bless her little heart, she slaved away in that historically sized kitchen in 120 (f) degree temperatures until her hole face was beat red. I must say the results of her labors were spectacular. She laid out a meal of pork chops, roasted potatoes, carrots and broccoli on their patio table surrounded by her well-groomed garden. The best meal I had on my trip. We lingered at the table until well after dark talking about the events of the past week. The evening was topped off by watching the "Kings Daemons" and a skim through of the "Curse of Fenrick" tape to prepare for the next days events.

Sleep came easy..

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