An evening at Homewood is incontrovertible evidence that time has passed.
Samantha was my classmate at Princess Helena College in Hertfordshire. The original Queen Anne building was enlarged by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) in 1908. In 1935 the house and estate of Temple Dinsley were taken over by the school when it moved from London. At the top level under the eaves was the area called “Maids” as that is where the help once bunked down. Those rooms—luxurious singles—were allocated to us, the members of the Upper Sixth form.
That was 1969-1970. A few years later Samantha married and on April Fool’s Day in 1977, Robert was born. In 1980
she remarried. Stephen Pollock-Hill lived in Homewood in Old Knebworth, a house designed in 1901 for his mother-in-law-to-be, the Dowager Countess of Lytton. (Knebworth House, ancestral pile of the Lyttons, was once home to the writer Edward Bulwer Lytton who gave us the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword” not to mention “It was a dark and stormy night.”)
Their wedding, following restrictions imposed by the Church of England in those days, was performed in the registrar’s office, blessed in the 12th-century Church of St. Mary and St. Thomas of Canterbury in Knebworth and feted in the garden of Homewood. Sami wore a glorious hoop-skirted dress in peach and cream. I wore a green silk dress and a floppy-brimmed straw hat I decorated with a matching green silk band and a pink silk clematis. The dress is long gone. The hat is still in my closet.
I first brought my Dear One to Homewood in 1989 and a blue-eyed bit of sunshine named Talitha Louise had joined the clan. The elder Pollock-Hills had expatriated to Spain. Sami was in the process of making needed repairs and renovations—all under the scrutiny of England’s fuss-budgets at English Heritage. Now visitors from the UK, Europe and America can stay in those perfect Edwardian rooms in the Homewood Bed and Breakfast and feast on meals created from the produce of area farms.
We returned in 2008 for a night while en route to Canterbury. And we arrived shortly after a nostalgic detour to Princess Helena to be part of a family dinner the night before Robert’s wedding to Clare. Tali created a terrine of mousse enveloped in smoked salmon; Sami roasted pork and potatoes (fat crisped and crunchy, interior pale pink and juicy), and steamed carrots with lemon thyme and green beans. Stephen and Robert selected the wines.
Robert is now one day wed. Tali is twenty-five and an artist ready to take on the world. Sami and I, forty years down the road, are gray (at least I am) and contemplating the possibility of becoming grandmothers, no longer children, let alone grandchildren ourselves.
But Sir Edwin and the Dowager Countess would know Homewood and the unchanged warmth of its embrace.