A wet evening for William Dalrymple and his gang at Garsington

    17 June 2016

    Ah, the English at play. Miss Steerpike decamped to Wormsley last night to take in some opera – Eugene Onegin is the big draw of the Garsington summer 2016 season. As the clouds rolled above the sceptered landscape, an elegant crowd took in the perfectly mown cricket pitch (with its pavilion veranda made from bats and wickets), far-reaching views and modern sculpture dotted around the estate. ‘Bloody hideous, isn’t it?’ one well-heeled guest was heard to mutter of the angular Banksy on display.

    William Dalrymple arrived with a phalanx of literary luminaries, including Charlotte Hobson. Dalrymple was on typically flamboyant form, eschewing the black tie dress code in favour of an Indian-style Nehru coat and loose trousers. He pointed at the sky as the first trickles of rain came down and remarked delightedly that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, it will rain continuously for the next forty days. Never mind that St Swithin’s isn’t until July.

    Meanwhile attendees enjoyed their picnics under the safety of umbrellas while looking across the lake to the house. John Paul Getty II famously installed a library whose ceiling depicted the cosmos at the hour of his birth. Not much chance of seeing the planets last night; as the lights dimmed for the opening score, thunder trundled overhead. Another of Getty’s eccentricities was disguising satellite aerials in a purpose-built folly on the estate, so that he could enjoy watching the cricket from the depths of his sylvan paradise. Hurrah for the operatic drama of the home counties.