How does one get interested in houses and gardens?
I am learning French. Partly because I speak to a lot of French and Swiss folk through work and partly because I want to be able to explore the gardens and chateaus of our neighbouring land. Monet’s Garden and Versailles are obvious targets, followed by a trip around the South of France.
When I was 13 years old, for six months my school put me into a single 45 minute French class each week. There was no follow up to these lessons and if I ever absorbed any teaching, I quickly forgot it once I was back to punishing German lessons (which I continued for another five years).
However, I do possess my 13-year-old self’s French school exercise book and I dug it out of storage.
The 13-year-old me did not tour many houses; I was not the child of National Trust or English Heritage card-holding parents.
Certainly by the time I arrived at university and spent two years living in a 17th century college before moving to London where I both lived and worked in Georgian buildings, I was interested but not overly actively. Alas, I hadn’t studied history of art at school or classics and only wish I had. If I won the lottery I would happily try an MA at the Courtauld studying the history of art & architecture with Italian (which I can speak).
I was certainly a history geek as a child – my old history exercise books demonstrate how the 11-year-old me spent many hours compiling an accurate history of the reign of English kings and queens from Henry VIII onwards, an interest which was sparked again when I worked at Buckingham Palace and was required to have a very good knowledge of everything royal from George IV onwards.
It was also in part my interest in social history and feudalism, property, land ownership, its devolution and ultimately the concept of trusts that led me to my job after university.
However, in my house there was never talk of the National Trust (it was even considered far too stuffy – the stuff of museums – to visit) and it was probably 2005 before I visited my first National Trust property: Bodnant Gardens in North Wales (we had free vouchers). It would be another three years before I returned to the NT, visiting Castle Drogo because we had a spare morning and it was near to where we were staying in Devon (yes, seriously, every National Trust property I have ever been to is since 2005).
I still have a love-hate relationship with the National Trust.
Getting back to the point.
I often wonder at what point people take up gardening, men start wearing trousers up to their middle and admiring architecture becomes an interest. Visit any property as an aficionado and you’ll notice that the average age is certainly 50+.
EXCITINGLY, in my French school exercise books are imaginary pictures that I drew when describing my ideal home (aged 13). Oh, how I smiled when I saw what I had drawn: 🙂