No travelogues, please
So said David when I told him I wanted to post about our Grange evening. But travelogues can be revealing, can’t they? This one was.
We reached the Grange from Shawford by driving narrow country lanes through the green by-ways of summer sunny Hampshire. My mouth dropped open.
We had left the motorway and there were farms and woods around us for mile upon green mile There must be an astonishing number of men and women who passionately love country and country ways because they have protected the land and the land survives. It was wonderful to behold on a hot afternoon. Abnormally, we were early for a change, so we made a detour.
We drove past the Grange to wend our way to the Church of St Mary in Itchen Stoke. Every village in England has a World War One memorial, a quiet but devastating reminder of two generations of men swept away by war – husbands, fathers, grandfathers never to be, their children never to be born. In St Mary’s church, we found a stained glass memorial created for one soldier, not of the village, who had been stationed there. The simple inscription read, ‘This memorial was placed by one who loved him’.
Be still, my heart.
We drove on to the Grange. Early in the 19th century the contradictory owner had clad the original Georgian brick house with Greek columns. Seized with disgust for the material world, he left it unfinished and moved to a bigger house.
We drove up the avenue, parked in a field and carried our picnic toward the house.
A subsequent owner had taken the Grange on, and decorated it within an inch of its life, but just as the First World War swept men away, the war and depression that followed swept fortunes away and the Grange was abandoned. Then in 1997 the Grange leapt into operatic life.
Wasfi Kani, OBE, and the Rt. Hon Lord Asburton KG provide the inspiring guidance. Hundreds of private individuals and businesses provide indispensable financial contributions. You could say they are helping to keep Western culture alive. It was unsettling to hear that notorious Gazprom had also underwritten Prokofiev’s Love for 3 Oranges, which we were about to hear. Unsuitable yet necessary sponsors are an old tale in the arts. Prokoviev composed the opera in 1919 as the First World War ended.
Picnic dining for the outdoor crowd. Note the original Georgian facade showing like an undershirt.
It was a fine day in the country.