Today was DIFFERENT! Although it was still pretty cold (I was warm enough - vest and long-sleeve T-shirt and fleece and wind-proof jacket - I was even nearly warm enough having lent jacket to daughter. No-one else was as warm as they would have liked to be.) anyway, I'm still in the middle of a sentence, still pretty cold due to a fresh and bracing breeze, the sun was out and the skies were blue and cloudless.
We arrived early, started off with a second breakfast at what is becoming a favourite spot;
which is right next to a favourite shop;
and then set off for the castle. It has improved since the days when I decided it was too commercial and too expensive (to be fair, the last time we went into the castle was nearly 20 years ago). It is so much better that it will take several posts to share our day.
We set off for the castle keep - a steady walk up to the entrance, and then 131 steps of varying sizes, lengths of flight, twisty-ness and turny-ness. Well worth the effort.
The keep is just an open shell, with pictures and descriptions of how it might have looked in the olden days.
The final few flights were narrow spiral staircases leading through the guard room into the chapel, where a figure of a monk sat reading a manuscript (printed cloth, so people could touch it) and a lavishly bound manuscript lay open on the altar (thick paper, with prayers in Latin and illuminated initials, so we could turn the pages.)
At the top you could face into the sharp wind, and look across the flat land towards the sea, or across the river valley to the downs, for miles.
It made me realise how seldom I get the opportunity to just stand and look into a far distant horizon. There are brief glimpse across the river valleys as I drive round and round West Sussex; a sudden opening in the trees at the top of the first hill travelling home from Petworth, a gap in the hedge along the twisty back lane from Ardingly, across the reservoir, to Balcombe, the views over the fields from the A272 between Petworth and Midhurst...
I always look out for these moments, but fleeting moments is all they can safely be. A glance, and then a tricky blind corner, or sudden narrowing of the lane, or dastardly behaviour from fellow motorists will bring by attention right back to the here and now, to the close and imminent demands of the next few minutes.
Just "gazing" isn't something that happens often enough. Hurly burly, hurry, hurry, do this, do that, mind the gap, watch your step, consult the list, what's next....
Stop. Stand. Stare. Be still.
Look. Listen. Observe.
Get a sense of perspective. Step back. Look at the big picture.
There. That's a lot better.