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Sunday, June 16, 2024

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NATHANIEL HALL: Let’s Go Outside

Writer and actor Nathaniel Hall waxes lyrical about the transformative power of escaping the city every once in a while


Last year my boyfriend and I took a momentous step forward in our relationship. We had met in that fleeting summer of 2020 when, for a moment, we all thought we’d escaped the shackles of coronavirus restrictions and were all eating out to help out in the throes of new passion, we certainly did a lot of that.

For all of us, navigating lockdown love (or lust) has been a strange experience. With socialising off the cards, we spent a lot of time together with just the two of us, listening to vinyl records, playing Scrabble, reading tarot, and cooking food. In a way, it sped up the dating process.

And then, in early 2021 as coronavirus restrictions eased, he turned to me and popped the question.

Do you want to get a joint membership to the National Trust?”

I swooned.
I thought you’d never ask.”

Yes, we’re National Trust Gays now, don’t @ me.

One of the only good things about England’s sketchy history is the legacy of great stately homes, castles, and gardens left behind. We sat in bed together eagerly marking off all the places we wanted to visit first.

For our first outing, we visited Erddig Hall in North Wales, a place close to my boyfriend’s heart after an unforgettable visit in his primary school years. He often recalls dressing up as a servant, making bread and lemonade, and polishing the brass candelabras. To be honest, it sounded less like an educational trip and more like a ruse to get the housework done with free child labour, but I don’t dare tarnish his rose-tinted memory of the place.

Erddig has a lot of really old stuff so they have to keep the curtains closed to protect it from falling to pieces in the sunlight (much like me with a hangover). After living out our Nicole Kidman in The Others fantasy in the darkened corridors, we explored the grand gardens where we discovered butt-plug-shaped topiary. All in all, a really gay day.

We decided to supersize on our second visit Hardwick Hall, built by the formidable Bess o’Hardwick, one of Lizzie I’s best mates and all-round badass bitch in the world of Tudor business. We discovered tapestries of men snogging (they could have been fighting, but still hot), a portrait of Queen Anne (a massive lesbian), and countless naked male statues with butts to die for. All in all, a really really gay day.

Our third outing was to Speke Hall, a more bijou Tudor manor situated right at the end of Liverpool John Lennon Airport runway so you can get your history in before slapping on the sunscreen and jetting off for a week in Maspalomas. Here we found carvings of men kissing (or maybe wrestling) and even discovered a priest hole, which was not as exciting as we had initially thought when we read about it in the guidebook, but still an education, nonetheless.

Since then, we’ve also seen working machinery that ate the fingers of Victorian children at Quarry Bank Mill and lived out our Mr Darcy fantasies by the reflection lake where Pride and Prejudice was filmed at Lyme Park.

And you know what? I’ve loved every minute. Reconnecting with history and nature has been restorative and rejuvenating. Visiting these places that have witnessed so many significant events, walking in the spectacular grounds, spending time in nature photographing highland cows with emo fringes that could rival mine back in the noughties it’s reminded me how important it is to get out of the city and away from the stresses of urban life.

Because as queers, we often flock to urban centres for safety and to connect with one another. And don’t get me wrong, I still love spending a night dancing with a load of other sweaty homos, weirdoes and still-don’t-knows, but escaping from it all these past few months has reminded me that life really is all about balance. And although we might have been written out of the official history of Britain, if these first few visits are anything to go by, I’ve been reminded that people like us have always been here.

nathanieljhall.co.uk / @nathanieljhall


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