Art for arts sake

When I am away from London I often find things can be far too quiet. Without the chaps from the Club and the general hustle and bustle of the city, it can very quickly become tedious. Many of the people one comes across in the country just don’t have the same interests or outlook as fellows from town. That is one of the reasons I keep my visits to the old ancestral home infrequent and brief. But one thing that being on the country estate does have that London simply cannot match, is the landscape. The vistas from the house can be quite stunning, particularly when the weather is like it has been these past few days. With bright sunshine and the rich autumnal colours, there is nothing anywhere that can hold a torch to the Hampshire countryside.

It is views such as those I enjoy from the house and gardens that have inspired some of my favourite artists, such as Constable, Turner and Gainsborough. Capturing the majestic beauty of the English countryside is no simple matter and it is something that very few people have been able to accomplish well. However, I am not some kind of art snob. Certainly, the walls here contain pictures by some of the great, but there are also many in my own rooms that are by largely unknown artists. These I have selected personally, not because they have any great intrinsic value or because they carry any kind of kudos. That was very much my father’s approach to collecting art. Instead, I will choose to purchase a picture solely on its own merits. If I like it, that is enough reason for me to add it to my collection.

I think it is fairly well known both here and back in town, that when it comes to any of the arts, I am not exactly what one might call an expert or even an art lover as such. I like what I like, and that will just have to do. For me, much of what passes for art these days is actually rubbish. It has crossed my mind that this approach to art may be what has upset Hope so much. After all, she does run her own gallery and is trying to promote young talent.  Now, I know this sounds like I am rambling, but there is a reason for all of this waffle. You see, I had a telephone call on Saturday morning from my new friend Anne Fletcher who thought I might be able to help with a new commission she had been offered. Now I have to admit that I don’t really understand the role of an interior designer. Yes, I appreciate that they help to decorate rooms or houses, but I see that as a fairly simple task and can’t see how a woman like Anne could possibly make a lucrative career out of it. Surely one only needs to browse a few samples, point out that one likes the best then hire someone to do the work. Quite where the likes of Anne fit into that scenario I don’t really know.

Anyway, as part of her latest job, she has to source some original artwork. Of course, I immediately thought of Hope and passed her details on to a very grateful Anne who then accepted my invitation to come on over to the house and join me for a spot of lunch, which we took in the new conservatory overlooking the rear gardens. Whilst I have to admit that they are not exactly up to Capability Brown’s standards, the view is considered by many to be quite as good as that seen in many of the more publicly recognised stately homes. Shortly before her death, my mother was trying to convince my father to allow her to have a fountain installed, similar I believe, to one she had seen at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire when she was a young woman. My father, not surprisingly, would not go along with it, and I must say I am with him on that one. Although I have not seen the gardens myself, I don’t believe that anything so ostentatious as a fountain would add anything significant to the wonderful view I enjoyed on Saturday.

In the end, Anne stayed with me until the late afternoon when she had to leave to collect her youngest child from a birthday party or something similar. I did offer to have him collected for her, but she insisted that, kind as the gesture was, it simply wasn’t possible to send a complete stranger to collect a child from a party. After lunch, we had enough time for me to give her a very brief tour of the house. It is only when I show someone else around and talk to them about the history and events the house has seen, I am reminded that it is an integral part of my heritage and one I really should appreciate more.

As she was preparing to leave, Anne asked if I had ever thought of opening the house to the public. Obviously, this is something I would never countenance and was very surprised that she had asked the question. The thought of having total strangers wandering around my home is anathema to me. Whilst my visits here are brief and infrequent, it is still my family home and as such is not to be used as some kind of money tree. I know that for some families, their history and the building’s connections with history make opening them almost inevitable. But as this has always been a family home and has not seen the unfolding of historical events or been used as a hiding place for escaping royalty, I don’t think there would be much interest in the old place anyway. I think Anne was a little surprised by my answer as it is possible I may have been a little more vociferous than I had intended.

Yesterday saw the arrival of yet another unexpected visitor in the shape of my old chum Dorchester. His girlfriend has returned to America for a couple of weeks and I think that he has realised just how isolated he has become from his old friends. He had heard from the guys at the Club that I was out in the country so had decided to take a Sunday morning ride out to join me. We decided to make the most of the weather and took the guns out to do a little shooting. It is one of the few country sports I enjoy and is one of only a couple of activities I am actually any good at. That I think is largely down to my father’s insistence I learn how to handle a gun at a very young age. I am not sure why he thought it was important, but then I never understood a lot of things my father did.

During the course of the afternoon, I received two telephone calls. The first was from dear old Aunt Murdock asking when I would be back in town as there were some business related things she needed to discuss with me. The second was from Anne thanking me for introducing her to Hope. Apparently, Anne is travelling down to London on Tuesday to see some of the works in the gallery. I am sure they will get along well and both can benefit from the meeting.