Friday, August 26, 2005

The Sign I Should Have Minded

Why are these historic home dwellers smiling?

Because they can stand up straight everywhere inside--unlike yours truly. (Top: Cousin Howard & partner Deborah, 17c cottage, Monckton, Kent. Above: Cousin Judi, Old Guild Hall, Sandwich.)

Way down below I commented on the sign "Mind Your Head" in the breakfast room at my first London hotel, and noted that it was good advice for life in general. Well, it turned out to be excellent advice in particular for tall people like me (6' in flat shoes) who are swanning about Olde Englande. News flash: People in olden tymes were shorte. And they built correspondingly low doorways and ceilings, with nasty thick beams. I should have worn my riding helmet indoors, not just when on a horse.

Along with having endless tolerance for leaks, creaks & eccentric wiring, the key to living happily in a centuries-old house is to be no taller than 5'6". The women above are maybe 5'3"; Howard is 5'8", and even he has hit his head on the doorway behind him. (The arch is the original 17c doorway; the current door is the shorter, diamond-paned one inside it.) Of course, he didn't tell me that till after I'd cracked my head so hard that I started crying. Once inside, I had to stay hunched over like John Cusack in Being John Malkovich to avoid the ceiling beams.

My head was sore for a week. Just when it had finally stopped aching I banged it on a beam in the sloping ceiling of another cousin's 18th century farmhouse--while I was putting away my riding helmet.

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