Tuesday 24 September 2013

Two more pianos!

As expected we went back to Dunham Massey this morning to have a look at the house. In the morning sunshine it looked a lot better than yesterday.

I always feel ambivalent about such places. No room for sentimentality here – they represent a hierarchical, authoritarian, harsh society of a sort that has characterised our country since 1066 (not that I'm given to generalisations, of course). We are amazed and fascinated by what we see, the way they did things and what they used to do them with. Life for those at the bottom of the pile was extremely hard and, for those at the top, extremely worrying. But it's easy to judge with hindsight. And there plenty of examples of those for whom justice and mercy were priorities, who sought to serve, who truly understood which way is up.

Is it good for the National Trust to preserve such places? I think the answer must be "Yes", because they represent an unrivalled educational opportunity, and not just for the children who were dressed up as dairy maids and taken to make gingerbread. We only understand our culture in the context of its past, and places like Dunham Massey offer windows onto that. Meanwhile the work done in the grounds provide a wonderful leisure resource. And, next year, the house is going to be turned back into the wartime hospital that it was during the first world war. That's a colossal undertaking, being done in partnership with the Imperial War Museum, and if it sets the right tone could be an extraordinary event.

As we walked around, I'd begun to wonder what had happened to the music, until we got upstairs and found two pianos. One a Bechstein from around 1890, you're allowed to play, so I did (compulsive response).

So that was another to add to my collection of "pianos I have played". The other instrument you're not allowed to touch because of its fragile condition, but I would have loved to have been able to do so. It's an 1840 Broadwood.

So we said farewell to Dunham Massey, and came down the Bridgewater to Lymm, where we've tied up for the night. 

It looks as though it's got one or two really interesting places to have coffee, especially if the sun us shining again. So that's what we're hoping for.


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