Red dawn at Castle Howard

At the end of last week I travelled up to York to a conference on country house research, with a good spread of scholars, curators, archivists, including people from the National Trust and English Heritage. York University and some of the great houses open to the public have founded a very productive partnership to encourage research and understanding. People presented an interesting amount of material on researching houses, contents, estates, railway, while others presented on interpretation and public understanding of the past. I was very lucky to be invited to stay with Christopher Ridgway, the curator of Castle Howard, and my early morning walk vouchasafed a view across the frost, of the silhouette of Castle Howard against a red dawn, like a mirage from another world. The picturesque estate village seemed a restful and fine place.

I was in a very bad mood with London having been pushed around on a bus coming away from the Geffrye Museum last week and relieved of my wallet, with scores of library cards and receipts and pictures of my children, and no cash. However, I saw a glimpse of the most fashionable London last night at the opening of the William Kent house, restored by the Ritz: everything done to the finest standard. I had a chance to admire again the magnificent panorama of events in the life of William Kent painted by Mao Wen Biao, that is really one of the modern wonders of London.

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