On a recent golfing trip to Southern England, playing the unforgettable Rye and Royal St George’s courses, I discovered by chance Goodnestone Park gardens, three miles from our inn and unknown to the inn keeper ! It is “Sissinghurst without the crowds” as a garden critic puts it…
When we arrived, it was five to five and the staff was leaving. So no entrance fee to be paid but they kindly directed us to the walled gardens which were empty of visitors. It was like being Alice in Wonderland, to be alone in three different purple, pink and white gardens with a long narrow pool in the center. Huge trees were covered with climbing roses and the most fascinating cedar tree, probably three hundred years old, stood around the manicured grounds. We were told later that you pronounce Gunstun and that the estate is still owned by Lord and Lady FitzWalter, the 22nd Earl since the family arrived in England with William the Conqueror. The 15 acre gardens were brilliantly restored in the 1960’s by his mother Margaret Fitzwalter, who died last year at 92. She was also a pianist.
This and drinking pints of Pimms in the pub while watching the French win over Iceland, was just one of the delights we lived through during our three day trip to Brexit country.
I was fascinated to suddenly realize that most of my friends had voted for the exit and were nevertheless sipping French champagne with visible pleasure. We were far from the city, and the shockwave that took over the continent a few weeks ago was reduced to : shall we still be able to go to Calais and Boulogne to buy our wine ?
Prince Andrew was flying some clients in a loud helicopter over Royal Cinque Ports Golf club and we were eating scones with Devon double cream and strawberry jam after a franco British game with star golfer Linda Bayman, who led her Curtis cup team to victory at Royal St George’s in 1988.
It felt like the Brits had wanted once more to prove their insularity and were laughing about their great joke and bad behaviour. We were very near Hastings, where the French and William the Conqueror were victorious in 1066, and celebrations of the Bataille de la Somme (where so many British soldiers had died in the First World War) were taking place all over the country.
The channel tunnel was quicker than ever to get through and half of Wales was in France for the football game. How can we ever divorce from Great Britain, when so many passions bring us together ? I bought a few packs of chocolate coated Digestives just in case…
Back in Paris, I went to see the charming “Love and Friendship” film by Whit Stillman who used to live here with his delightful Spanish wife. The film based on Jane Austen’s novel, is like a touristic voyage around English countryside with a dark twist, of course. We visit three different castles and penetrate 18 th century stiff society. It brought me back to Goodnestone where Jane Austen used to visit her brother and which inspired “Pride and Prejudice” written after one of her stays there.
Again, how could we hate the Brits, even if in this case, they are filmed by an American?
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