Wednesday, 31 October 2007

IP Address.02 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Second

In which are discussed Treasure, Architecture, Birthdays and Pies. A Trumpet is Sounded, a Collie Exercised, and some Logbooks are Scrutinized by a Daughter of the Aristocracy

Friday, 24th August 2007

... So there we were at Ingestre Pavilion. A certain amount of unloading and unpacking took place and very excitingly Becca conjured up, from the depths of her car, a huge quantity of delicious Abel & Cole stuff. I'd actually been consulted on this but naturally had forgotten, due to my gnat-like attention span. So it was a lovely surprise all over again.

It was Deb's birthday and spending it travelling was a bit sub-optimal, despite doing all the usual breakfast- and present-jollity in the morning. This often happens to poor Deb: almost fifty years of observation, however, have convinced me that very few people have their birthday on the right day.

So, anyway, given the birthday and the drive and everything, the idea of low-effort but delicious food was highly welcome. I seem to recall that it involved pies: pies are, frankly, good. Pies bought from Abel & Cole are jolly good. Pies are good with wine. Beer and pies: that's good too. Pies - very nice they are. I trust I have made myself reasonably clear on this Matter of the Pies? Goodoh! Nice dinner, thanks Bec.

You can see the Pavilion's floorplan at the web page I mentioned before. Suffice it to say that, like so many houses, this one's heart is in its kitchen/dining room, a really snug and welcoming space that feels tucked away, because of its position and the trek that gets you to it; but the Pavilion's crowning glory is its living room, a spectacular double-height octagonal affair which pretty much takes your breath away at first sight. It has amazing tall windows and bookcases, niches that make you speculate about installing (or being) a statue, huge paintings, a rather glorious chandelier: the works. It's painted a stunning deep red and there's a first-floor gallery across one side. It is not an understated room.

There's something extremely satisfying about the design of this whole building, the restoration and new parts of which date from 1990 (like Martha). Once you accept as givens the original portico and the need to fit in behind it a set-piece, massive double-height living room, then everything else seems to fall logically into place. The remains of the original building have only small rooms, at two levels, either side of the huge arch. Similarly but on a larger scale you can fit another four rooms, one per floor per side, flanking the living room like wings and echoing how the small rooms flank the arch. Access and drainage routes must dictate a lot of the rest: it all seems perfectly obvious and logical when I look at it now but I bet that's only because a clever architect has been so inventive. So in the original right-hand rooms are the main door, staircase and landing and in the left, two bathrooms. The larger, new rooms either side of the living room have bedrooms up and downstairs on the right, and on the left have the kitchen downstairs and above it the third bedroom. It sounds so simple but it's brilliant. Among the side-effects is the snugness of the kitchen - by the time you're facing down the dining table you've been through five or six spaces, including the magnificent living room, and turned through 360°. Another is the wonderful gallery: it looks like an architect's spectacular conceit till you realize that it's the only sensible way to get across to the left-hand side of the first floor. Without it you'd need a second staircase or you'd have to spoil the living room and its relationship with the portico and garden by sticking a corridor in between, or going (horrors!) round the outside. Or whatever. I am sure that the architect contemplated hundreds of solutions but it feels as if there only ever was this one perfect design just waiting to be discovered, the only one which really fits. Very very clever stuff.

One useful result of all this is that you have a relatively accessible house, because you can get to a bedroom, a bathroom, the kitchen and the living room, all on the ground floor. Hence our being there! Yay, and woo, forsooth.

It should also be noted that the living room and particularly its gallery have a more-or-less built-in effect should you happen to have a trumpet about your person, to wit: the desire to play the said trumpet in the room and its rather nice acoustic; and especially to play it off the gallery. If you're not a trumpet player this could perhaps have escaped your notice, but the fact is that if you take a modern Bb trumpet and extend all the slides as far as possible, then hold all three valves down, then you're pretty much down to D and you can pretend it's a baroque trumpet and you're Michael Laird. Admittedly there are certain flaws in this, for example that it's not a baroque trumpet and, more seriously, that I am not Michael Laird. But you have to admit that there's something a little appealing about fake eighteenth-century playing (however ridiculous) in a fake eighteenth-century room (however sublime). I think my "The Trumpet Shall Sound" was especially moving and so, clearly, did the fleeing family and dog.

Still on the subject of trumpetism, but in a slightly less building-appropriate way, I seem to recall quite a long and amusing session during which Martha played pop tunes from her iPod and Lottie accompanied them on my trumpet. This was better than it sounds and was actually highly entertaining. History does not record whether the electronic device or the brass instrument were on the gallery, though it would be nice to think that one or the other was... but there I had better leave it before it turns into another "isn't Tamsin gifted?" blog (or log) entry and we need to give out wax-lined paper bags to sensitive readers.

You see, one of the great joys and great irritations of Landmarks, sometimes simultaneously, is the logbook. The Landmark make a very clear statement about what it isn't for and this is cheerfully ignored by many. At its worst it's a horrid braying competition and/or whingerama. How many Landmarks you've been to, how talented Colin and Tamsin are: they did a lovely play for the villagers (such simple, warm, appreciative folk), and here's a little watercolour of the building - Tamsin painted it between bassoon practice and finishing her Plutarch translation. This place isn't as nice as the Bath Tower. This place is nicer than the Pineapple. Why haven't they got a special balsamic squeezing attachment for wholegrain crumpets? And so on. (And yes, thank you, I am aware that I tread a fine line with these criticisms.) I've even seen a logbook with a very slow-motion row going on between repeat visitors, complete with b*tchy comments on others' entries: actually quite disgraceful.

At the other extreme the logbooks can be fantastically interesting, fun and informative. Fortunately, Ingestre's tended in this direction.

A particularly fascinating thread concerned a treasure hunt, which had been set up early in the pavilion's new life and has been kept going, with many additions and amendments, ever since. Clearly anything which risks damage to the building and contents, or injury to visitors, is to be discouraged, and strenuous efforts have been made over the years, sometimes with the guiding hand of Anne Andrews in evidence, to keep the hunt clear and sensible and to make sure that it doesn't get silly with people trying to look in foolish or potentially damaging places. As Anne points out, the Landmark Trust is likely to stop the whole idea pretty sharpish if it looks like it could cause trouble.

The treasure hunt instructions have grown and evolved in an impressively organic manner over the years, with modifications, commentaries and overviews, even schisms. This all attracted the attention of a certain Lottie who spent long hours poring over the several volumes of logbook in the hope of being able to specify a Universal Catholic Fully Canonical Version of Absolutely Everything. I'm pretty sure there'd be a dissertation in it for the keen researcher.

Armed with all this knowledge Lottie set off and, with only a glitch or two (and some completely accidental sabotage from me, oops) had pretty soon found most of the clues. The treasure itself evaded us a little longer (partly due to my "help") but was eventually captured and it is this that you see in the photo. There was some very nice stuff in there (excellent beer thanks!) and, as required by the Rules and Procedures, we took some stuff out, replaced it with some other stuff, and left a note. All excellent fun.

I think that's pretty much it for the first day. I know we had the Mad Collie out for a pleasant evening walk up the lane at some stage but most of the rest is a bit of a blur, albeit a happy blur.

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