September 10th, 2007

Penshurst Place

I last visited Penshurst Place in the 1960s. My mother still has the guidebook we bought on that occasion. It contains a  photo of Viscount de L'Isle- all shiny faced and wavy-haired like the Tory politician he was- sitting on a sofa surrounded by his adoring wife and children. I suppose it was still quite a new thing then for a stately home to be open to the paying public and we- the aforesaid paying public- were meant to feel honoured that these gracious, aristocratic  people were inviting us into their home.

The cost of entry was three shillings and sixpence. Ailz tells me that translates to seven and a half pence in today's money.

Admission to the house and gardens now costs £7.00. I suppose we could have afforded it but we weren't going to and- besides- they wouldn't let us take the dog in.

Scratch around under all the titles the De L'Isles have accumulated down the ages and you'll find a family called Sidney. They've been on the scene- and bossing us around by right of blood- since the time of Henry VIII. The most famous of them was Sir Philip Sidney, Elizabethan poet, statesman, soldier, hero, who died while still a golden youth at the battle of Zutphen.   I grew up in a time when Sir Philip was still being paraded in front of the youngsters as the all time model of the gallant English gentleman. What we weren't told was that he was bisexual and suffered from ferocious acne. I don't suppose today's kids have even heard of him.

We walked the dog round the car park and then we drove round the perimeter in the car and I took photographs through the fence. 


My Mother

 My mother is in her mid eighties and has the enthusiasms of a child. She's so bright and cheerful. She owns all these race horses and it's like she's an eight year old who's just discovered ponies. I can't imagine being so near the end of my life and still so enthralled by the business of living.

She's beautiful.