Today we had another family gathering, this time with Michael, Becky, and Matthew and their families. We went to Winston Churchill’s former home, now a National Trust property at Chartwell and afterwards to Michael’s for a meal involving starters of barbecued sausages followed by chicken, salads and finally Eton mess.
A minor panic was calmed by the arrival of Matthew and his dog Oddie some while after the rest of us. The arrangement was that we would all congregate at Chartwell. Matthew was to ring Becky if he got lost. The only problem was that both Becky and I had left our mobile phones behind and noone else was sure of Mat’s number. In any event there was no signal at Chartwell. We are now so dependent on mobile phones that it becomes disastrous if anything goes awry with them. Anyway, panic averted.
Oddie is quite an old Jack Russell terrier. It has become more and more marked lately that this formerly black and white dog has hair on his head and face which is now almost completely white. Speculating about this it occurred to me that the same thing has happened to me. Why not also to a dog?
After a pleasant drive through the Surrey and into the Kent countryside, we arrived at Chartwell, near Westerham in Kent, on a fine spring afternoon and had an idyllic walk in the grounds before visiting the house. The greens of the trees, shrubs and fields are bright and fresh at this time of the year, as are the rape fields. Chartwell is set in a beautiful wooded valley in the Kentish Weald. The house itself is perched on the hillside offering stunning uninterrupted views of the grounds and the slopes beyond. It is easy to see why Sir Winston chose this spot. As in all National Trust properties the gardens are beautifully maintained, the spring flowers and shrubs, particularly rhododendrons and a magnolia, being now at their peak.
The house itself is a museum of Churchill’s life. We are reminded of his honours, his many talents, and his very exciting existence. He truly was one of the greatest Englishmen. In the grounds is a smaller building which was his studio and is still stocked with many of his paintings. I had an interesting discussion with one of the attendants about his painting style. This in fact was in the main house, rather than the studio. It was Heidi who accompanied me in the house and we spoke to the custodian of the kitchen about the recipe for Amber Apple pudding which she was reading in the open period cookery book on the kitchen table.
Back at Michael’s house we spent a pleasant while talking and telling stories. Inevitably these involve what are known as Soho stories. These are from the time of Michael’s years from 10 to 18 when we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard, SW1. Emily, Oliver, Alice and Flo know these stories off by heart, although they all took place before they were born. When appropriate I will weave some of them into these annals.