If you want to look at a mansion by yourself, you might need to cry, in public, even if you are not a public cryer. I love crying. I cry every day. I think it is just as important as laughing, and there are different types of tears. Anyone who has cared for young children will know that a cry for food sounds different than a cry of anger, or a tired cry, or bored, or hurt, or sick. Crying is communication, and maybe more importantly, it's a form of emotional release. Life can be frustrating, but honestly, most of my crying involves watching shows such as Call the Midwife, This is Us, Queer Eye, listening to songs that my little sister wrote, or laughing to the point of tears. Did you know that the chemicals found in emotional tears are different than those found in reflex tears (when dust or debris get in your eye)? Reflex tears are 98% water. Emotional tears are comprised of proteins and hormones, notably, leucine-enkephalin, which is an endorphin that reduces pain and helps to improve mood. Tears have a purpose! And sometimes that purpose is to explore a Victorian mansion.
I have a bucket list. A loose simple one for my life in general, and an ever growing "things I would like to see while living in the UK." I try to schedule a bucket list day once a month, it doesn't always work out with the kids/schedules/budget/energy levels/moods. There are times when the stars align and it all goes well and we have a lovely day out. There are times when I am dragging and forcing and being falsely positive to the point of cracking. The day we visited Bletchley Park was a day for cracking (just not codes).
It all started with lack of sleep. I live with 2 insomniacs. One is nearly 8 and one is nearly 36. The day had been planned and the tickets had been purchased, but there was not adequate sleep the night before. Oh well, we were going anyway. I was determined to have a good time. I am the primary driver in our family, and I felt awake enough to drive. We rely on our Sat Nav for directions so that was sorted. Snacks were packed, children were dressed and crammed into the back seat and we were off. There was a lot of grumbling, and as you know, grumbling is catching. If you are five, grumbling becomes full on fighting very easily. The journey took about twice as long as projected, as it always does in England. The predicted drive time is always incorrect. There is always traffic. Always.
My partner had visited Bletchley once before, on a work trip. He visited before the film "The Imitation Game," starring Benedict Cumberbatch existed. Apparently, there were less exhibits, but it was also free. The film has brought the life and times of Alan Turing's genius and the government's brutal mistreatment of him into light. I think this is a great thing, more people should know what really happened during World War 2. Many war heroes were not in uniform, some were highly intelligent early computer programmers. Most of these programmers were women. I enjoyed the film "Enigma" starring Kate Winslet. I also love"The Bletchley Circle," it is an excellent television program following the exploits of code breakers during the war. All of these shows have great opportunity for cathartic crying. I feel quite in awe of these people and was excited to honour their memory and learn more about them and what they did. Seeing the enigma(s) and the Turing Machine in person, was actually quite emotional for me.
My partner was anxious that I might be required to drive through the large roundabout in Milton Keynes, similar to the "magic roundabout" in Swindon. This is a roundabout comprised of 5 mini-roundabouts arranged around a 6th central, counter clockwise roundabout. Apparently, when visiting with a work colleague years ago, the colleague just drove straight through as he had no idea what to do. I am very pleased and surprised that they did not cause an accident that day! So, every few minutes, I was reminded that I might have to drive through the circles of hell in-between being reminded that everyone was tired, hungry, and wished we were not headed out for the day.
We pulled into Milton Keynes nearly 2 hours later than expected, and found our way to Bletchley. We missed the roundabout completely, there was ample parking and we were soon on foot ready to explore. It was lunchtime, so first we had to locate food. We found overpriced sandwiches, juice, coffee, and crisps. I thought surely the sustenance would rally my people. It did not. After laughing at inappropriate moments during film segments showing bombings etc. in black and white film... my children were quickly ushered through the first section. We had some success with the radio hut and enjoyed playing with the various communication devices. I must say that all the staff were very knowledgable and friendly. There were many more exhibits and buildings to go... the behaviour of my family continued to deteriorate. My oldest threw his straw (his favourite spinny stimming instrument), into the pond and then wanted to dive in after it. Jumping into the pond became the only activity that he wanted to do for the rest of the day. He is a very focused soul when he wants so be. My boys continued fighting and crying, eye-rolling, whining/whinging, yelling, and near full meltdown... I broke. I ran behind some trees in the absolutely beautiful garden in the historic Bletchley setting, with swans and daffodils all around, and I cried. It was a stress cry. My tears no doubt were full of chemicals, proteins, and hormones.
The crying, although not planned, did the trick. I received hugs. I had little boys giving me flowers, daisies and buttercups and some fancier varieties that I had to tell them to stop picking. I got to have a moment to relax on the lawn chairs and enjoy the view. My partner suddenly softened and took the kids on a walk, he even offered to take the boys to the playground so that I could explore Bletchley Mansion all on my own. The mansion was beautiful. And we did enjoy the rest of the day. We are still married and we all still like each other.
The moral of the story is, if you use your tears wisely, they can save a disastrous day out and at the same time cleanse your own mood by producing endorphins. I tell my boys that it is okay to cry. That it is good to cry. I am still working on my partner, he was raised in a different time when toxic masculinity was not challenged. If we learn anything from Bletchley, may it be to not underestimate, judge, or hide who we really are. We are all humans with feelings, all of us are brilliant at something, and all of us thrive with connection and kindness. Alan Turing famously said,"A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human." May we not loose our innate intelligence and may we stop trying to be computers.
Disclaimer: I have plenty of grouchy days myself. Maybe my partner could write about them one day. Guest post?