Thursday, 3 October 2013

Every week when my godparents went to London I had dinner with my "god-grandfather", who was always called "Gaffer".  He was in his nineties then, spry and sharp.  He had been a missionary in India, and used to scold the dog Hannibal if he begged at the table, "Tashi deh leh!".  Then Gaffer would turn to me and say "D'you know, that dog doesn't speak a word of Urdu!"  He liked to tell anecdotes about "TS" (Elliot), whom he knew.  After dinner in that great dark kitchen he would always refuse help walking across the cobblestone courtyard to his apartment in the old stables.  I often thought of him as a living connection to the Raj, and a grainier, tweedier, and grander era of English history.  My godparents built him a summer house in part of their grounds, and Gaffer would very slowly walk there, and sit in the sun.  The summer house is there still, as you see; though the grass is longer now.  I miss Gaffer.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

When I was young and troubled and all Sturm und Drang, my Godparents gave me sanctuary in their incredible house in Berkshire-


 -where, at various times, I did house painting, groundskeeping, or working at a documentary film studio in the basement.  Somedays I followed the paths to the beech trees around the tree called "Some Old Boy":

and, although Some Old Boy is now just a stump, the beeches still form a lovely leafy space inside:

But for an even more secluded spot you can sit in the walled garden, surrounded by gently crumbling orange-red brick, greenhouses, and lush vegetable patches.