Is it treasonous to have pulled for Andy Murray, a Scot, over Swiss-but-almost-seems-American Roger Federer in the Wimbledon finals? Is it wrong to wish for the rain they had? As we bake in the July oven over here in the Colonies I recall with more than a hint of wistfulness a recent cool and drizzly trip to the beautiful gardens at Sissinghurst, in Kent, England. As you know it is the the Duke of Kent who presents the Wimbledon trophies. Is that a coincidence or what.
His Grace (my sweetheart who is not a duke but a cowboy, even though His Grace is what you call a real duke, like the Duke of Kent; and also what you call a cardinal in the Catholic church, if I’m not mistaken–have you got all that?) and I spent a few days in London at the end of a biking trip in France. I had never been to the famous Sissinghurst and had been dying to go.
I realize you might not fall off your chair if I were to tell you this was not on the top of His Grace’s list. He likes to go to places like the Purdey gun store. And to dinner. But as usual he was a sport. A bonus was we were meeting his old Army buddy’s daughter, who lives in Kent and is adorable. He also liked the beer at the place she took us to afterward. So it was a win-win.
You can read the fascinating and often racy history (seriously…) of Sissinghurst here, and meanwhile enjoy this beautiful, cool stroll through the gardens… You will notice the skies are cloudy. All those postcard pictures in the gift shop are taken on one of the three days a year it is sunny. The rest of the time it looks like this. I don’t want to mis-lead you.
One quick story about the Delos Garden, above, which failed as a Mediterranean homage in Vita and Harold’s day but which years later was transformed into an informal woodland thing that is brilliant. From the National Trust guidebook: “In all this elegance, Sarah Cook decided to keep one searingly mauve rhododendron ‘because without it, the whole thing would have been too polite.’ It was a brave move. ‘Rhododendrons are to us,’ Harold had announced in 1946, ‘like stock-brokers whom we do not want to have to dinner.’ This one,” the guidebook concludes, “seems impervious to any criticism.” It was not in bloom during our June visit, but I’ll take their word for it. Is it treasonous to think only the English can say things like this?
*Lest there be confusion, in the original broadcast of this post I had inadvertently changed Roger Federer’s passport from Swiss to American, which could have been a major inconvenience to him at customs, despite the fact that he is famous and everyone (except me who temporarily inexplicably forgot) knows he is Swiss. I regret the error and re-state my gratitude to the night-owl reader who so gently pointed it out. Sometimes, it really does take a village. Passport Control and I thank you again. I corrected the original and the early comments can be seen here.