Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Scratchy Brown Blankets and the Case of the Missing No 1

On the way to London on the weekend, Cathy and I diverted to drop a carload of Daughter Number 2's  belongings off  in her new abode and take her out to lunch.  We eventually settled on Hughenden in High Wycombe as a suitable destination, but before we hit the National Trust café, we stopped off in the Church of St Michael and all Angels, otherwise known as 'the Church in the Park', which is just inside the Manor gates.    

I felt a bit disappointed when I saw that it was almost entirely a Victorian rebuild, with the only parts of the original church still standing having been extensively 'restored' by the Victorians, but actually it was very lovely inside, being richly but tastefully decorated in the Gothic style. 




There were various items of interest in the church, including a rather finely sculpted memento mori, presumably of a priest as it is heavily graffitied with consecration crosses.  In a hollow in its chest there is a tiny figure of a man, supposed to symbolise the immortality of the soul.   And like the Delphic Charioteer before him and Peter Finch after, he has very beautiful feet.  




I suspect the casual visitor is supposed to marvel at what is billed as the only memorial in Britain set up by a reigning monarch to one of her subjects - ie Victoria to Benjamin Disraeli, for whom she apparently had the hots - but I was more interested in this beautiful and simple Early English font.  



Best of all, I liked the original church key, which is on display at the back of the church.  The purpose of the small iron ring incorporated in the design?  Well, it was for use during the wedding services of impoverished villagers who couldn't afford to buy one.  

Then, after a cursory glance at the Disraeli family grave in the churchyard and a wholesome and very reasonable lunch in the cafe, we went into the Manor. 


I didn't like the house at all, finding it very ugly and oppressive.  I also felt increasingly uneasy about Disraeli as we went around and he revealed himself to be a philandering and manipulative man of ambition who referred to women as possessions, idolised Byron and filled his rooms with portraits and busts of himself.  Ugh.  


I did like these light switches, though.
Far more fascinating to me was the basement, which houses a museum dedicated to the time during the Second Word War when Hughenden served as a secret intelligence base.  

I'm always taken aback by how nostalgic I feel for an era which ended 16 years before I was born.  I suppose it's testament to how deeply it affected my parents and grandmother; also to their relative impoverishment, since so many of the artefacts on display were so familiar.  It was all utility furniture and make do and mend in my 60s childhood, not swivel chairs and Habitat chicken bricks.
 

I remember these godawful camp beds; Cathy claims she still has two in her attic.  And those horrible scratchy brown blankets!


At least this one has the decency to be in the dog basket.


'Have you 2 or more children in your family? If so, remind your wife to ask at the Post Office for a claim form for family allowances'
This poster reminds me of my sojourn in the Soviet Union.  All very Socialist Realist.


No escape from government propaganda ... 


My mum still has knitting needles like these in her extensive collection.  



... and we had a very similar gramophone in a cabinet, though my parents' lifestyle wasn't racy enough for a whisky decanter.  
There was a Singer sewing machine, obviously ...


... and I learnt to touch-type on a typewriter like this.  (Daughter No 2 wanted to know why there was no number 1. Answer is because you used the lower case letter l.)  




Outside we had a wander around the grounds and a nice sit down and admired the scarecrow in the walled garden before adjourning for another pot of tea.






A bit of a patchy visit then, but no matter we were off to see Leonard Cohen at Wembley ... but that's another blog.   










1 comment:

  1. I didn't feel particularly impressed with Hughenden, either, but you've captured the best here, young D - and so much of the post-war and utility stuff forms a part of so many of our childhoods.

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