I've been traveling recently. A couple of weeks ago, Sue and myself went to stay at her sister's house in a new-build village just outside Dorchester for a few days.
I am no expert on newly built villages. This one was well laid out in that it was not regimentally arranged in rows, but wiggled around the contours of the hillside it was situated on. And though the houses were all based on one of two designs, their sameness was disguised by variations in ornamentation; a circular window here, a balcony there; smooth rendering on this one, exposed brickwork on that.
The village is too new to have found its soul. And despite the good intentions of its architects, it stands awkwardly on the hillside, uncomfortable as a teenage boy in a new suit.
The inhabitants, too, are self-conscious of their new status, uncertain of the behaviour expected of one living in a place that has been imposed on the countryside and not grown organically over time. Because they are aware they are out of place, townies living in a hedgerow, they overcompensate. They will not set foot out of doors without first pulling on their wellies. They dress down, adapting a style suitable, in their view, to one who now resides among cow pats. They have adopted a strange, truncated form of speech, a mode they imagine one must speak with a straw permanently located in the side of the mouth.
And everyone has a dog.
Sue and myself received strange looks because we did not have a dog. We heard mutterings from the locals.
"You got a dog?"
"I got a dog. But them, they got no dog."
"No dog? They must be up to no good if they've got no dog."
We stayed in most of the time.
Last weekend I went up to London to see the girls. Rebecca booked tickets to see UP at the iMax 3D cinema near Waterloo station.
It was my first experience of a 3D film since the days you were handed a pair of cardboard spectacles with one red lens and one green one. The spectacles we were handed were clear with each lens being polarised on a different plane.
The effect was stunning. The featured film was preceded by a short animation by Pixar that took full advantage of what could be achieved. At times the image appeared to be sitting on your chest.
As for UP, everything you have read about it is true. It is a wonderfully scripted film, which takes you through the whole gamut of emotions without once being mawkishly sentimental. Male friends of Rebecca, young men in their early thirties, confessed to having moistened eyes for periods of the film.
Yesterday, Sue, Richard and myself went to a house putatively owned by William Morris - the putative bit was on Sue's say-so.
William Morris did not so much as have a cuppa in the house. Admittedly, he had been hired to paste up the wallpaper, but the house, Standen in East Sussex, was commissioned by a wealthy London solicitor, James Beale, for his large family. The architect, Philip Webb, was a founding partner of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., so Sue's confusion is easy to understand.
I am not very good going around the houses of the worthy, particularly on a Sunday. It smacks too much of duty, a religious duty, and, indeed, overhead was one lady who said, "Usually, I go to church on a Sunday, but…"
It makes me want to make inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. Unfortunately each room is overseen by a voluntary supplicant, more often than not a woman of certain years, keenly made-up and dressed in Daily Telegraph best, and keenly keen to impart their limited appreciation of the objects d'art in the room. I do them an injustice. They give their time freely and the National Trust would sink without them.
I just hate the middle-class genuflection made at the altar of anything deemed to be educational and of worth. You are kindly invited to leave your critical faculties and intellect at the door.