Near the end of my Barnsley-Derbyshire trip, I went to visit the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth House. There I finally found the bluebells I was looking for, after days of questing all over Chesterfield and the Peak District.
I personally preferred walks within the enormous landscaped grounds of Chatsworth estate over the grand house itself. However, there were things within Chatsworth House that were curious enough to take my fancy. They got me to contemplating the sheer subjectivity of what we consider as ‘treasure’.
The art exhibitions in Chatsworth Hall
At the time of my visit, the dining hall hosted an art exhibition that which involved a dining table with a tablecloth spread over it. The tablecloth was written all over with the names of famous people in disparate fields.
Arranged around the table were dining chairs, yet they did not match. Each of them were different, and each crafted to represent some luminary or other.
For some reason I adored the notion of having dining chairs that do not match. I guess, it felt as if the treasured people were all coming to dinner together – as chairs!
The parallel benches
In another room was another curious display.
Two benches were laid parallel to each other. One a matte, sooty black, absorbing light. The other a resinous slab lighted from within, but not completely clear.
I don’t claim to quite get it or remember what it was supposed to be, but the duality of it appealed to me.
They didn’t mind if you sit on them, by the way. I thought that was pretty cool of them.
The ‘Treasure Room’ of Chatsworth House
However, the best part was near the end of the tour route. I don’t remember what the room was actually called, because I’ve decided to call it the ‘treasure room’. Packed in here are all the miscellany arty stuff and eccentric collections of the successive masters of the house, i.e. the Dukes of Devonshire.
Immediately catching my eye was this resin replica of a fruit from my region, the jackfruit. It felt so odd and rather funny to see someone bother to make a likeness of the humble jackfruit and display it with such treasured prominence!
Doubtless once upon a time, it would probably have been placed in one of the main rooms and shown off. Perhaps as a sign of the possessor’s worldliness and knowledge of the exotic things in the part of the empire that was the Malay States.
Then there was this collection of rocks. One of the dukes, or a family member, had clearly been an amateur geologist, judging by this stash of semi-precious crystal and fossils.
Mind you, there were also many pieces of more conventional art, including Greek-inspired statuary. And yet what do I show you guys? A tropical fruit, rocks, and these awesome benches.
I don’t know why I like them. I just thought it was cool how the mosaic seemed to pour onto the floor from the seats. Especially the green pair, where the spill stretched out from one to the other. I guess I have different notions on what’s a noteworthy treasure.
To thine own self be blue.
After I was done with Chatsworth, I walked over to a hamlet next to it called Edensor (pronounced “En-ser”. Why? God knows. And the English have the cheek to complain about French silent consonants).
I will explain why Edensor gets special mention.
When I was planning this trip I was inspired by the colour blue. It all began in Sydney earlier in the year, when I had gone to the Blue Mountains. It led to me taking on blue as a theme for the whole year’s trip. Consequently, I wanted to do as many blue things in Derbyshire as possible. Hence the quest for bluebells despite the late season, my visit to the bluejohn cavern – and I even penciled in Blu Bistro for a lunch stop purely because of its name!
The strange thing was, the universe obliged.
When I arrived and we drove through South Yorkshire to get to Barnsley, I was gratified to learn that its flag colour is blue behind the white flower. There was blue decal on the planes that carried me, and on the trains.
On top of that, blue was popular trim on buildings all across the Peak District.
It felt like the place was giving me a hug and cheering on my Blue Period revival struggle. If ever inanimate things and places could root for you, this time and place managed to express it.
The blue-trimmed hamlet of Edensor
Then there was Edensor.
I looked it up after my friend suggested a stop there after Chatsworth (which he strongly recommended). I was smitten instantly, the moment I saw the photos on the internet.
You guessed it. The entire hamlet was trimmed entirely – and only – in blue.
He must have thought me mad, blubbering excitedly about blue buildings and his perfect aim.
Yes, it was a completely symbolic notion, my blue-themed revival period.
But at that time, it mattered more than can be explained that the whole trip played along with me – with a rhapsody in blue.
How the universe helped with my re-birth blues
I came to Derbyshire still feeling a little lost. It’s in travel that I get to sort these things at all, because work demanded a certain side of me, my public side, and it prevents me from focusing on myself.
Furthermore at that time, there was a project in particular where it really mattered to innocent people that I hold everything together. But no one was there to help hold me together.
I guess that’s when you are ready to receive directly from the universe. A comforting, homely pocket was opened to me in this place, healing like a balm.
Was the trip all pleasant? Well, if I think about it, no! I cut a finger at the Manchester train station on my own razor and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. I got mobbed by cattle on the Monsal trail. And swans mugged me for Jaffa cake in Ashford-in-the-Water.
But, I also got pampered by the nicest elderly station officer who put plasters on my finger like I was his granddaughter. And I have to admit, the local animals’ antics did force me to zoom into the rush of the moment – and in that moment I was lifted from the sluggishness of a wet-winged new butterfly.
The new wings flapped a bit. And I learned a little bit more about how being a butterfly is different from being a caterpillar.
That’s why blue will forever be the colour of treasure, for me.
Carbon offset information to the United Kingdom
A return flight between Kuala Lumpur and Manchester via Amsterdam produces carbon emissions of approximately 8,815 lbs CO2e. It costs about $44 to offset this.
What sort of un-treasurelike things have you seen as treasure?
For more on this Odyssey: