England is going to the dogs we hear. In fact it is one of the reasons we left. I couldn’t face a life surrounded by yobs, litter, child molesters and people who can’t speak English. The horrific news last week that a mother goaded her toddlers into what basically amounts to human cock-fighting and then filmed them did nothing to dissuade me that we had made the right move in abandoning Blightly.
But whatever is happening to the rest of the country there is at least one place where the England of my childhood is alive and thriving. At Gravetye Manor in Sussex (www.gravetye.co.uk) you get the feeling nothing has changed for 100 years. Moreover there is a comforting sensation you get while sitting in the wood-panelled drawing room that things won’t change for the next 100 years.
We arrived Sunday just before lunch. My husband from Delhi and me from Montpellier. We were welcomed by a lovely girl who suggested we might like to have a drink in the garden before lunch. In fact one thing has changed at Gravetye over the last 100 years; the weather. We sat in warm sunshine looking over rolling hills down to the lake.
Lunch was a quintessentially English affair; roast beef and yorkshire pudding followed by the most orgasmic sticky toffee pudding which I ate with rather too loud enthusiasm. Another advantage of Gravetye is that all the other guests were well over sixty thus making my husband and I feel incredibly young and attractive.
After lunch we sat in the garden with our coffee enjoying the afternoon sun and the spectacle of a man in a straw hat sleeping with his mouth open while his wife pretended to look at the herbaceous border.
For how many years have people been snoozing peacefully in that beautiful garden? Long may it continue.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007
Ah yes, Gravetye Manor – both known and loved well.
Ah yes, England – ravaged by the post-war welfare state and institutionalised socialism, conferring rights without responsibility.
Is this the ‘freedom’ of which we are all so proud? A democratic distatorship.