Monday, May 26, 2008

The Repington dynasty

DID I tell you about my family seat? I am sure I did. I learnt about it when I bought a scroll mapping the course of the family name - Rippington - when Wren and I visited Portsmouth last year. Anyway, having a hard-earned week off, we decided to go on a road trip which would take in a visit to the Fat Kid and Wren's mum, plus a trip to the area in the Midlands to track down a mansion house synonymous with the family name.
The previous evening we drove from Lavenham in Suffolk to the Honily Court Hotel outside Warwick where we took advantage of a Sunday Times offer in which we were given a free hotel room in exchange for paying for two meals in the restaurant. It turned out a complete bargain, particularly as the rump steak with peppercorn sauce and a sharing platter to start was well worth it.
The next morning we went into Warwick where Wren devoured a farmhouse breakfast in preparation for our trip to Amington, a small suburb of Tamworth, where Amington Hall (the Repington family seat) was supposed to exist.
After driving around for ages in search of the house we came to a halt outside Repington Road (North) - surely a clue. Opposite the street was the parish church and when I entered the churchyard I asked a couple of helpful ladies where we might find the hall. "Oh, I think it's been turned into flats," said one of them.
When I explained my name and the reason I was visiting, however, there was a completely different response. "Oh, yes, you mean Repington Hall. We know all about Lord Repington - he built this church, you know. Our organist has written a book and has loads of stuff about his family history."
Not content with that she decided to ring him. And before long the historian in question, Michael Ackroyd, turned up to give us a tour of the church. There was even a stained glass window dedicated to his lordship and outside the grave of one of the Repington clan was still visible beneath a covering of moss.
Michael was delighted to impart his knowledge of what seemed to have been a lifetime's work and invited us back to his gaslit cottage in the village. Walking into the front room it was immediately apparent that his research had become his life. There were giant portraits on the walls, books written by Charles Repington, a war journalist, in the bookcases and hundreds of papers and documents that he had received from Charles' illegitimate daughter. It was quite a strange experience hearing this man waxing lyrical about someone who, quite feasibly, was one of my ancestors.
From there he gave us directions to the house and after driving through a village called Shuttington (interesting to see the Rippington's have always lorded it over the Shutts' of this world) we arrived at a narrow country lane. Driving down we eventually arrived on a small estate where one of the residents was unloading his golf clubs from the car with his wife waiting on the doorstep. The big house itself seemed crumbly but historic and I couldn't resist taking a picture out of the window of the car. The golfer, though, didn't seem too impressed. I got the idea he was mentally storing my registration number in case I was casing the joint. I felt like getting out and saying "get orf my land", but I don't think he would have appreciated it, particularly as he was armed with a driver and a nine iron.
So we quickly shot off down the lane and headed north for our exclusive press break at a magnificent stately home called Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire, complete with a spa, great food and entertainment.
When we finally got there after losing our way a few times trying to avoid the log jams on the M1 we found ourselves deep in Sherwood Forest, gazing up at a huge manor. After checking in we had dinner in the Bistro then moved on to the bar where we enjoyed the entertainment provided by Jeepster, a T Rex cover band who also dabbled in other popular 70s songs from groups like the Bay City Rollers, Mud and the Sweet. A great laugh, and there was plenty of people watching to be done with the future bride on a hen party taking to the floor dressed as Tina Turner and a couple who danced as if they were appearing on Strictly Come Dancing.
An interesting point about the Warner Leisure Hotel. It is completely children free. In fact, they're barred. So even though it has the feel of a holiday camp, all the fun is adults only. You imagine there might be a child catcher like the long-nosed geezer out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lurking somewhere in the shadows. Heaven.
The following day we took advantage of the Spa with a swim and a massage. Wren was particularly enjoying the chance to spoil herself, having a 40 minute manicure session and returning with pink nails.
That night we were treated to Mercury, a Queen tribute band who, although I am no great fan of that band, did a brilliant job in entertaining a lively audience. They had all turned Radio GaGa by the time it was over.
On Sunday Wren decided she couldn't return from a week's holiday without some evidence of her time away, so opted for a full body spray tan. How she will convince everyone at work that we had tropical weather just 20 minutes drive from Doncaster I'm not sure.
Oh and the most enjoyable part of the weekend? Sitting in the bar in my Bristol Rovers retro shirt watching Dean Windass score the goal that foiled that other Bristol team's chances of going into the Premiership. As the Barclaycard advert would say: Priceless.
On the way back to Cardiff I tried some scales at a local service station. Aaargh! After all the good eating and drinking of the week I reckon I've gained four pounds. Time for some exercise and a starvation diet, I reckon.
Anyway, to cut a long story from being too long, here are the other highlights of the week:
* A trip to see the fat kid, the vin monster and big boy in Southend. I treated them all to a bargain bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. That evening Wren and I saw the film Disturbia, which we thoroughly enjoyed. I've worked it out that while the Fat Kid has a flat screen tv, super duper Renault Clio and state-of-the-art washing machine (all of which I have helped to finance) I am living like a pauper in comparison (shurely, shum, mishtake)
* Tuesday and Wednesday: All the fun of the fair at Lavenham. Believe it or not, sitting in the beer garden of the local pub I managed to turn a gentle shade of red. On Wednesday night Wren and I watched Chelsea - the difference being she saw the flower show highlights on TV with her mum and I saw the Premier League giants being pipped to European glory by the mighty Manchester United in a nerve-tingling penalty shootout. After van der Saar saved the final penalty Smashy sent me a text explaining that he had just kissed the Prince of Darkness. What has been going on since I went away?

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