The castle walls were imposing, even from a distance. But a ticket could get you through. (And in days of old, wearing the right badge would get you through too). The fountains were impressive – but they only made you wet if you got too close. Which Little Person thought was hilarious. The carefully crafted hedgerow that created a little contemplative secret garden space was charming, but as a boundary it was an illusion. You could just walk through the gaps in the hedge. (Actually, that was kind of the point.)
We spent a day at Alnwick Gardens and Castle recently (which I would highly recommend, btw). The gardens were beautiful and interesting, despite it only being early spring. The Dude took photographs, Little Person explored, and I watched the whole thing unfold, astonished not just at the beauty of the place, but the beauty of the moment. So much so, that it was only later that I started thinking.
We went into the castle (after a brief pitstop for chocolate ice-cream. Because, chocolate ice-cream). We saw the big castle walls (and later climbed one of them), and then it was into the central courtyard, and into the State Rooms. Alnwick Castle is fairly unusual in that it remains in everyday use by the family that own it. And you can feel it as you climb the stairs. They watch television in the library on an evening, and then at 10:00AM the room is opened to the general public to gawk at the beautiful collection of artwork.
And after all the boundaries – the walls, and doorways and gates and towers and staircases, it is a little red rope, and a man with a lanyard hanging from his neck that keeps the treasures safe (and the hidden alarm system, I’m sure).
It’s not the big castle walls that keep us safe. (Although they can keep us hidden). It’s not the pretty hedgerows (although they also can keep us hidden). It’s the little red rope that says you may look, but you may not touch. Keeping things hidden doesn’t always keep them safe. Guarding them in plain sight can prove just as effective. Plus, you get to share the joy. If you know what I mean.
But then again, they didn’t put the whole castle on show, so maybe there’s a lesson in that too.
Put the right boundaries in the right places – hedgerows give you space to think, red rope lets your treasure shine, and castle walls, well they keep the private things private.
And fountains? Fountains are just for fun.