Well Christmas has zoomed past in a flash of parties, carol singing, pantomimes and the like. We did two main services very child orientated, one a full crib blessing service with candles, processions and children’s orchestra at Little St Mary’s in Cambridge. It is a very beautiful and memorable service. Some old gent, a visitor from Holland, in the row in front of us sat crying his eyes out for the whole event. The second was a carol concert in St Francis’ Church in Littleton, the estate church for Loseley Park, built as a school in the 1840s, where we sang carols and were visited in the church by sheep and donkeys before walking in the dark to sing carols in a farmyard. I was asked to read the lesson at the last moment, as the local squire was called away, not something I have done for while. My father and his wife are mulled wine monitors which they do rather well, and the guiding spirit is the local shepherd Chloe Dancey who said: “This service is just right and simple, how things should be in the country”.
Back to work this week, and a visit to a vast Jacobean country house undergoing a major restoration, my article will appear in early February. It was a huge old pile, but in the major rooms evidence of brilliant repair work that warms the heart. Which was fortunate as it was bitterly cold. Standing on the roof, looking at the 17th century timbers, my hands too cold to write, I did briefly think; this is heaven.
More Christmas preparations at work as we pass the designated ‘Christmas issue’ and prepare the things that will come out for the Christmas weekend itself. Also a great wave of invitations to book launches, drinks parties and Christmas lunches. On one level this seems quite frivolous, but I always amazes me how much business can be done at drinks parties: articles commissioned, authors reminded, and big name writers approached for contributions.
One such this week was the launch of the book, A Glimpse of Heaven in the throne room of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, a grave and stately room designed by J.F.Bentley. The book, illustrated with pictures by Alex Ramsay, draws attention to the riches of architectural design of specially designed Roman Catholic churches, the party swarmed with my conservation heroes, as well as various priestly figures.
Roman Catholic networks have always intrigued me since my long stay in Rome when I was 18 brought me into contact with an interesting gang of English/Irish Catholics who all seemed related to each other, and their families often had a nice old world flavour that I have often encountered since, a sense of belonging to the old Europe that is curiously attractive.
I also enjoy a drink with the young Georgians, an impressive gang of young thrusters of the world of conservation and the arts who are passionate about Georgian architecture and arts generally, organised into foraying parties by Oliver Gerrish, a young opera singer with a talent for giving parties. I only wished I could have stayed longer…