Sunday, October 28, 2012
The Country Life - Sunday
‘Not sure if this is for me either.’ I tell my wife hesitantly as we try something new. After so many years of marriage you need a bit of variety but this might be a step to far.
‘Just give it a go, or you’ll never know.’ She urges, as I wish I’d stayed in bed this time.
‘I just think I’ll feel uncomfortable.’ I tell her realising even as I utter the words I’m sounding like a spunkless bore with no taste for adventure.
‘God thousands of people do this every weekend.’ She informs me tersely. ‘Just relax and you’ll enjoy it.’
A grey-haired man in a hi-vis jacket waves me forward and we swing into a field.
‘We’ll get bogged down here.’ I grumble as the wheels spin and the traction control light winks on the dashboard.
Another officious looking character with a walkie-talkie and that zealot’s control-freak look about him, bids me join a raggedy line of cars disgorging more sparsely covered craniums and cellulite-blotted legs, plus several picnic hampers.
‘We’re too young for this.’ I hiss to my wife, as a couple in matching Berghaus jackets and sensible footwear ease out of a Volvo estate - onto the estate.
‘Nonsense.’ She corrects. ‘They’re probably all about our age.’
Now I’m depressed. As we walk towards the imposing country house I realise belatedly I spend my working week looking at homes I can’t afford - so this isn’t the best choice of weekend recreation. I know it’s rude, but I can’t help staring at the other crumblies around me shuffling towards the entrance booth of the National Trust property. I’m much younger than this lurching stick-carrying, premium-outdoor-clothes-wearing bunch of fifty and sixty-somethings. I used to pogo to The Damned I think angrily, as a woman in those lightweight travel trousers with more zips than my bondage pair used to sport, smiles politely at me, something that doesn’t happen much Monday to Friday. I decide not to spit at her.
‘If we join today,’ gushes my wife looking at the leaflet once we’ve gained access to the main grounds. ‘We get our entrance fee back and a pair of little binoculars.’ The woman behind the counter had been affably saccharine-sweet, the sort of gushing faux friendliness you only find in volunteers, Bible-bashers and estate agents short of new instructions.
‘I don’t think we belong here.’ I tell my wife in a familiar refrain, still scanning the elderly crowd for someone who at least I feel looks my age and doesn’t dress like some in-bred minor royal posing for a picture in Country Life. It’s the way I feel when I value a home that is usually the preserve of the top-end agents. The types of braying weak-chinned Charlies who have double-barrelled surnames, a minor public school education yet manage an understanding of how to milk the common agricultural policy grants. Where a home must have at least a Grade Two listing, a drawing room doesn’t have toddler’s scribbling pinned to a fridge by magnets and the livestock isn’t just a yappy terrier trying to shag your leg.
‘Oh my God it’s lovely.’ Coos my wife as we walk up to the grand Palladian-style mansion some long-dead industrialist built on the back of exploiting workers somewhere in the world. Coal mines or textile mills on this island, tea or cotton plantations once you get past the Isle of Wight. I can feel the old punk anarchist ethic still bubbling under despite three decades of conformity, several house moves up the ladder and the uncomfortable memory of all the worthless endowment mortgages I helped flog.
‘Don’t say, we must have it.’ I tell my wife mockingly. Echoing the cry of a hundreds of other females I’ve watched urge their partners to overspend on a flashy kitchen and newly installed sanitary ware.
‘Wow this is how the other half live.’ Continues my wife as we enter another high-ceilinged room, walls covered with paintings and tapestries pillaged from third world countries for little more than sparkly smoke and mirror tricks and the promise of a God that still hasn’t turned up.
‘We’re not joining.’ I say firmly.
As it happens the mini-binoculars are rather good…
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