I was invited to visit a rather bizarre historical fantasy, constructed by a recently deceased Irish postman, Gerry Dalton, in his flat on the banks of the Grand Union Canal. He slept next door to a plaster model of Buckingham Palace:-
This is the Queen’s bedroom:-
The Green Drawing Room:-
St. Paul’s Cathedral:-
He was obsessed by history:-
He also was unexpectedly interested in modernism:-
Inside Chatsworth is a death mask of the Duchess of Devonshire:-
He made collages of the Battle of Waterloo:-
It’s a record of a strange and passionate historical obsession, recording palaces and their interiors in small-scale models during the winter.
One of the more fascinating bits of recent writing about Brexit was the piece by Andrew Roberts in the Mail on Sunday which compared the supposed heroism of Boris Johnson in his plan to thwart both the law and the will of parliament to the actions of John Hampden in refusing to pay Ship Money, the Sons of Liberty in opposing George III and, most unbelievably, Mahatma Gandhi, as if Johnson belongs to a long line of great opponents of state rule and historic injustice. But he is not an insurgent, nor so far as I can see a rebel. He is Prime Minister of what was Great Britain. I don’t see him as a great defender of injustice, but someone who has been, unlike them, conspicuously and consistently amoral, without very obvious values and almost completely self-interested.
I like Bruton, with its still medieval character thus far surviving the onslaught of metropolitanisation and its long, one way high street with old shops, occasional Georgian houses and a museum that is so seldom open that I have never visited. There are small passageways which lead down steeply to the River Brue:-
On the skyline is the dovecote, thought to have been built as an eyecatcher for the Berkleys, the local grandees:-
We have stayed in Durslade Farmhouse before, the eighteenth-century farm, although not at all eighteenth-century in style, even in spite of the possible involvement of Nathaniel Ireson. It lies at the heart of Hauser & Wirth’s establishment – gallery, Piet Oudolf garden and Roth Bar and Grill – outside Bruton, with murals in the dining room by Guillermo Kuitca.
We walked down to the courtyard of Sexey’s Hospital, where they were selling home-grown tomatoes, and were able to admire the fine space of the courtyard, built in 1638 on the instructions of Hugh Sexey’s trustees following his death in 1619. Sexey was a local boy made good, educated at the local Free School, who became a royal auditor in the Exchequer of Queen Elizabeth and King James, thereby accumulating a good fortune through fees, revenues and other property transactions. He is commemorated with a bust and inscription, both now worn:-
The chapel has wonderful seventeenth-century woodwork:-