What good is a grand house if you don’t share it? Lynn and Richard welcome a flow of house guests and host fetes such as their annual garden party.
But first, the permanent residents. Lynn and Richard come from working class London. Richard’s father, a butcher, died suddenly when Richard was 15. To help support his mother and sister, he lied about his age and joined the army. Then he worked his way up in HR at British Telecom and retired early. He is so well read and experienced in business and life that he would make a great philosophy or history or political science professor.
Lynn’s mother died when she was 16 and after being at loose ends for a few years, she landed in a training program at BT and also worked her way up in HR, which is where she and Richard met. She moved to Nokia, where she supported some kind of internal new business incubator. I recall being dazzled when I met her because she talked about routinely flying from her flat in Cambridgeshire to Helsinki, where she also had a flat, to Sydney or Hong Kong and back in the span of a few days. After leaving Nokia she’s worked off and on as a consultant for Oxfam, which is how I met her. She is the only person I know who has ever been to Red Sea State, or had her Landcruiser pulled out of mud by an elephant in Indonesia, or been the only woman at a funeral in the Sudanese desert complete with whirling dervishes.
In America, we admire people who are “self-made.” Lynn and Richard would quibble with this term, pointing out that they were born at the right time—after the war and happened to join a company that was set to grow. Lynn would say she was lucky to be born Anglo Indian in Britain instead of black in Zimbabwe.
It is kind of sickening that people admire Prince Harry, who was born on third base, and not people like Richard and Lynn. I think Richard would say he is a republican, which in Britain means throw the “blood suckers” out—meaning the royals and the lords—let’s have real democracy.
On to the other residents of Dunrovin. You’ve met Lord Parker. He’s second in line to the Top Dog, Cosmo. Cosmo was named for the young son of the Gordon’s who was a Royal Air Force pilot shot down in World War I. The other son married an Irish actress and was disinherited. As I wrote before, their sisters never married because so many men of their class had died in the wars and this caused the family to die out.
Poor Cosmo (the dog). I had always liked Cosmo, a black lab, because he was a dignified dog. Now he was elderly and hobbling around, his eyes had the blue aura of cataracts, and the other dogs were bothering him as though they knew their opportunity to take first place was at hand. Poor Lynn and Richard struggled all month with the decision of what to do, when.
“As long as he gets up in the morning and enjoys his food, and goes out into the garden and enjoys the fresh air, that makes a dog’s life worthwhile,” Lynn ruled. Hard to argue with that—I wish my life was as simple and carefree as eating and sitting in the garden.
The second black lab, Finn, is sort of like a middle child. He’s quiet and low-key and no one notices him until he’s grabbed a lamb chop off your plate.
Then there are the spaniels, Merry and Pippin. Sigh. I was there a few years ago when they arrived as puppies. I think the word “flibbertigibbet” could have been coined for them. Hyper, destructive, everywhere at once—normal puppies. There are some who think Merry may be a Special Needs dog. The spaniels had mellowed a little bit, but the phrase, “Nooo!!! Merry, you idiot!” was still to be heard several times a day. This is a rare moment of peace in the garden.
In the background lurked the two cats, Dash and Dot, seen here outside my window.