I’d booked the lovely Cottage in the Garden back in January, calculating that summer self-catering was a safe bet whatever happened with Covid. It’s a delightful rustic cottage full of generous, thoughtful touches: fresh flowers from the garden and the table laid with a welcoming cream tea. It also comes complete with its own wildflower meadow and visits from the lovely Figgy who is an Italian Spinone and gorgeous.
We’d decided to break our journey at Chichester as H had had Pallant House Gallery in his sights for some time. The plan was to visit the gallery have lunch in its cafe then explore the town but such was the splendour of its permanent collection plus an excellent Ben Nicholson exhibition charting his artistic development that we didn’t have time. One of the most interesting permanent exhibits is a set of ‘houses’ showcasing artists’ work in miniature ranging from Barbara Hepworth to Grayson Perry in the latest addition commissioned last year. It’s a gem of a gallery and the cafe is spot on, too.
The nearest sizable town to the cottage is Tunbridge Wells, an elegant, leafy Regency spa town which got us thinking about all the lovely spas we’d visited over the years concluding that they were an excellent bet for a holiday, bound to have pleasure gardens and aesthetically pleasing architecture not to mention excellent places to eat. You’d have thought we’d have caught on to that by now given that we live in one. So delightful was the town, with its many smartly restored shop fronts, we visited it twice, incorporating a raid on Waterstones the second time around, plus another on Gail’s Bakery which rivals even our own Bertinet’s.
Our most successful day out was the last of the holiday which included a trip to the lovely Cinq Port town of Rye, full of cobbled streets and picturesque buildings. From Rye we headed off to Dungeness to see Derek Jarman‘s garden which surrounds the tiny clapboard Prospect Cottage he made his home. We both loved it – explosions of bright flowers, hardy enough to withstand the wind and salt air, and weathered pieces of industrial sculpture. It’s set in a starkly beautiful coastal landscape, full of birds and plants, reminding me a little of North Norfolk. I’d been wanting to see the garden for years after reading Modern Nature which charted its planting. Delighted to find that Art Fund had raised enough to buy it in 2020.
It was a mixed week for weather as any sensible person would expect from a British summer holiday. All those fantasies of breakfasting outside looking out over our cottage’s lovely garden evaporated but the area is pretty enough for that not to matter too much and I was also In Sussex to see much missed family which more than made up for the rain that bucketed down now and again, not to mention the storm that raged through Monday night. We rounded the week off with another lunch in Chichester followed by a wander around the beautiful Bishop Palace’s gardens.
And the books? Surprisingly little reading was done, much more in the way of catching up and chat. I finally got around to Theresa Enzenberger’s Bauhaus novel, Blueprint (translated by Lucy Jones), which follows Luise through her early student years in the movement’s Weimar home where she becomes involved with the ascetic Mazdaznan group, then in Dessau, wild partying against a backdrop of rising Nazism, where she smacks up against a brick wall of male prejudice. An enjoyable novel despite its irritating 2020s vernacular but no match for Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game.
My second book was Julia Blackburn’s jaw-dropping account of her family, The Three of Us, so dysfunctional that, as a teenager, Blackburn arranged to see a psychiatrist off her own bat, leaving him appalled by what she told him.
Time to catch up with the chores and bribe Mischief with yet more Dreamies after dosing her with eyedrops. Back to books on Wednesday.