Even a beautiful garden can’t completely distract from the horror that is Brexit. Letter to the editor

All photos by Julian Andrews

Dear Editor,

“I so hate this f*cking government!”: my all-too-familiar comment on political events of the day  to Anna over morning tea and toast. The Today programme on Radio 4 announced that Sunak had emphatically rejected the EC’s tentative suggestion that a post-Brexit Youth Mobility Scheme should be put to member states. And Labour had poured a skip-full of cold water on what sounded to me like a very positive and constructive gesture too, which could enhance the life chances and experiences of some 18-30 year old Brits – and of their counterparts in the EU. Another dose of weasel words from Starmer’s team, feebly stating  that they would  “seek to improve the UK’s working relationship with the EU within our red lines”.

It all felt like yet another kick to the groin for those of us who have so vehemently opposed Brexit and who rage still against its utter stupidity; against those who devised and promoted the ‘Great British Con’; and against those who have wilfully overseen its appalling consequences for young people, many of whom never even got a chance to vote in the 2016 referendum. “Do you think you’ll still be shouting at the radio in five years’ time if Labour are in power?” enquired Anna, sounding a note of weariness at my-start-of-each-day rants.

It was a sunny Spring day, seemingly free of the threat of yet more rain and cold. Even the forecast looked promising, if it could be believed. We felt the need to escape from politically-induced depression, frustration and anger. A day out somewhere pleasant, preferably not too far away but definitely green and leafy, with gardens, half-decent coffee, maybe a pasty for lunch and a plants-for-sale stall for Anna. Reach for the well-thumbed National Trust book, the comfort-blanket for the over 60s. That’s us now.

We settled on Tintinhull House and Gardens, near Yeovil, a forty-minute drive from home. It ticked all the boxes as we wandered happily around the grounds. An assortment of delightfully designed and maintained garden ‘rooms’, colourful collections of tulips, graceful magnolias, an impressive ancient cedar. A quiet, gentle diversion from my earlier feelings of anger and frustration. As with so many NT properties post-Covid, the eating options were decidedly limited and – tragically – the pasty didn’t materialise. But the lady who brought us coffee was pleasant and talkative in a way which didn’t annoy, whilst a couple of Kit-Kats and a bag of crisps seemed adequate. I truly enjoyed the visit a lot. No bored, screaming toddlers, no sulky teenagers bemoaning the lack of ‘phone signal, no obvious attempts to make the place into something more ‘appealing’, with ‘exciting falconry displays each day at 2pm’ or ‘thatching demonstrations for beginners’. ‘Second-hand books in the stable block’  grates slightly, but that’s just me.

From time to time, we were aware of the presence of our fellow visitors to Tintinhull that day, as we walked on herringboned, brick paths between well-tended flower beds and freshly-cut lawns. On weekdays at any NT property the visitors’ demographic is fairly predictable. People who look like us. And you know how the game goes, I’m sure: “I wonder if they voted for Brexit?”. It’s still the big divide. It doesn’t go away.

Julian Andrews