It’s grim up North. The North Cotswolds, that is. We whizzed out of our Gloucestershire village and were bowling north along the winding backroads when we hit traffic at Stow on the Wold. Suddenly cars were stuck bonnet to boot like a line of hungry slugs, inching through the Slaughters and the Chippings. Arms were hanging out of car windows, the temperature rising. Outside there were people on their knees trimming their lawns with scissors, as they obviously do in Oxfordshire. At the first turning I took evasive action using my primitive satellite navigation system. (A map held in my left hand against the steering wheel. I know it’s dangerous but we were going at 5mph.) Eventually the cars thinned out and we arrived at Hidcote Manor.
My wife’s parents very kindly enrolled us in the National Trust last year when we were with them at their local NT attraction and my face fell at the prospect of shelling out £30 for us to walk around looking at flowers and eat cake. So we are bona fide members, although I haven’t got round to affixing the sticker to the screen yet. Like many other National Trust destinations Hidcote reeks of middle age. Its car park is full of Hondas and MGs, everyone is polite and noone runs around.
It was an enjoyable day. The gardens weren’t crowded. The weather was good. There was no feeling that we should be getting the most for our money, since we hadn’t paid any. We had lunch, enjoyed tea and cakes and bought a few plants.
On the way back our daughter sings “I like to be-ee in the ca-aar!” into the dusk. I don’t know why. From my seat in the front all I can usually hear is back seat arguments. But very soon the singing has stopped. I crane to look back in the rear view mirror. Both passengers are sitting with their heads lolling at the same angle, mouths slightly open; both dreaming of gardens and scones.