We had our friends Brandon and Will staying. Friday night was quiz night in the village hall. No-one was very good at the answers but as usual we were good at consuming vast quantities of the cheapest wine and beer and generally having a fine time. For once Charlie did not end up ripping his trousers dancing on the bar at 5am, but it’s always a close run thing. We woke to waves of rain sweeping in across the valley, and I imagine the whole village silently nursed hangovers of various severity. But as our heads cleared after breakfast, so too did the weather, and in heavenly autumnal sunshine – mixed with torrential showers – we made a trip up into Somerset.
Lunch at Hauser+Wirth, the oh-so-bang-on-trend contemporary art dealership that has made an outreach hundreds of miles from Mayfair to the sleepy market town of Bruton, was a weird and slightly curious affair, populated by a tribe of people who felt so far from the normal run of the mill of our part of the world that I couldn’t help but stare (much to Charlie’s horror). It’s a look you expect in parts of the Cotswolds or the Home Counties, but not in the muddy, dark West Country on the first weekend of October. I couldn’t love it, I’ve got to admit, and although lunch was delicious I resent being served by people who think they are cooler than you (it’s true, they were) and who pointedly refuse to smile. And I’ve also got to admit, (controversial, I know) that I am tired to death of that particular school of Dutch gardening made popular by Piet Oudolf, that says that dead grasses and drifts of perennials are interesting on their own terms. I don’t get it. Hauser+Wirth have planted an Oudolf field and in the 45 minutes that the waitress made us wait for a table (that was empty when we arrived, in a half empty restaurant, I think to prove a point that they don’t welcome ‘walk-in’s’) we wandered around the formless beds under overcast skies and looked at drifts of largely dead plants with occasional smatterings of broadly spaced perennials. At the far end of the field was a large fibreglass blob that I think maybe had been a Serpentine pavilion in a previous existence. Maybe I was ranting about it all because I was hungry, or maybe I couldn’t cope with so much smugness quite so concentrated all in one place. Maybe I am just not for here. I am sure that Hauser and Wirth rocks many people’s boats and I am actually honestly sure that visiting a Piet Oudolf garden, at dawn or dusk on a magical, completely still summers evening, alone, would be a transportive event. So I’m not blaming them, but me. I wasn’t in the mood. Maybe it didn’t help that the gallery itself was closed, although given my state of mind, perhaps that was lucky. And I’m afraid that I didn’t even open my camera – so you will have to take my word for it, rather than being able to judge for yourselves. Not a good reporter.
We left, chuckling gently about the whole experience, as yet more vast black and dark grey SUVs pulled into the car park, splashed with Somerset mud and decanting daintily clad ladies in gilet and men in statement glasses and Hawaiian shirts, and we headed the few gentle miles down the road to Lytes Cary Manor, which I am sure I will have written about before, the dreamy house owned by the National Trust and surrounded by a modest and perfect garden. Here is the view down from the front door to the Dovecot.
Even here the tentacles of modern art installations were not entirely to escape us. Dotted around the garden were little moments of this and that.
I don’t know why, but I would have preferred the view without the black and white forms on wobbly wooden stands, which I suppose the gardeners have to move a few inches from time to time to stop the grass dying completely?
There. I really was in a deeply cynical mood. Terrible!
The orchard restored my sense of calm for a moment….
Until I was confronted by some giant wicker pods, just podding around. All so meaningful.
But the apples, in all their varieties, were really beautiful,
And the calm simplicity of the stone sundial at the centre of this serene orchard garden showed really how to create a relationship between the man made and the natural. And we remembered the underplanting of fritillaries and pheasants eye narcissus that filled this grass in the spring.Yew hedges are being cut back and restored, a sight I always like.
Other glimpses of the garden:
The long border is one of the most delicately and skilfully planted that I’ve seen in years, really. I don’t know who the head gardener is responsible for this, but he or she deserves recognition.
Inside the chapel:
I am obsessed with this cushion on the chapel chairs:
The house is oaky and dusty and dreamy:
And I love the huge allotments across from the main gates.
Back home, we walked in the beautiful afternoon sunlight, with autumn pregnant in the cooling air.
Mavis and her boyfriend Lewis had the best weekend of all.
Saturday evening we were at home. Sunday was a sparkling day and we made another walk around the valley that morning. Everything glowed. I adore this time of year.
We had lunch in the garden, in real heat; amazing for the time of year. I snapped a photo and only realised later that Will and Brandon look like a presidential security detail, slightly incongruous amongst the dahlias.
Another stroll around the village after lunch.
And then it was time for Mavis to say goodbye to Lewis. for a little while.
On Sunday night we were all tired. Mavis slept by the aga all evening and Charlie and I had an early supper and headed up to bed at a ridiculously early hour (actually, you can never go to bed too early on a Sunday or a Monday night, I’ve decided). The next day, bright and early, I was heading to Devon for two days’ of looking at new projects, all of which was exciting, and only tonight did I head up the train from Tiverton Parkway speeding back to London. That bit of Devon I don’t know so well, and it is very beautiful, and very unspoiled. No contemporary art installations, I would say. And that is why the blog is a little late this week.
Charlie and I are off to Lisbon on Friday, a trip we were meant to make the weekend that – at very short notice – Mavis coincidentally arrived. At the last minute we couldn’t go – I got laid low in bed with genuinely insane flu, that kept me grounded for 10 days. So we re-planned the trip for what seemed like an age away, and now it’s here. Isn’t it crazy how time flies. But no more so than if you are Mavis. I thought you’d like to see a little photo of her and Charlie that first weekend.
And with that, good night, have a lovely rest of the week… how nice that tomorrow is already Wednesday, and that you are not, as usual, reading this blog on a Monday morning, drinking your coffee and pondering the whole week ahead.