Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lions in the Garden

With the sad tale of Cecil and the Despicable Dentist so much in the news, I thought it would be nice to check in with a far luckier lion.  This regal specimen lords it over the principal lawn of Hillwood, the resplendent home of the rather-resplendent-herself Marjorie Merriweather Post.

I am astonished to think that it's more than a year since my last (and that only my first) visit to this magnificent house and garden, and I'm glad that yesterday provided the chance to get there once again.  For sad reasons, on some level, for some dear friends are departing Our Nation's Capital for opportunities overseas - out in the Sandlands, in fact, although not in one of the principalities that we have graced, Mr. Muscato and the dogs and I, over the years.  They're going out with the their eyes open and few illusions, which is very much the way to approach that part of the word, and so I'm sure they'll do just fine.

It was a perfect day, warm and clear, and the estate was surprisingly uncrowded.  We had a lovely lunch at the charming and nostalgic Hillwood Café (featuring, the story goes, some of Mrs. Post's own recipes and, of course, offering a bracing cup of Postum (which I've yet, I must admit, to have the nerve to order - next time).  Then it was on to the house and a stroll through the garden to this year's special exhibition,  housed in the atmospheric Adirondack Cottage,  On the display at the moment are a number of Mrs. Post's gowns, ranging from demure Edwardian frocks from her debutante days to some truly glorious '60s frocks that reflect the great lady's imperious sense of her own distinction.

It was all heavenly, but at the end we sat in the comfortable chairs provided for visitors' enjoyment on the garden front's terrace, and of all thinks I almost most enjoyed the lion.  Although he looks very much at home, he spent the first half of his life quite far this sunny spot; he started out as a piece of sculptural decoration of Somerset House in Park Lane, London, a stately Georgian pile that came down around the same time that the-then Miss Post was first venturing out into polite society.  Here, at least, he's in no danger from dentists or any other kind of hunter.  We should all have such a serene fate.

As for me, I'm afraid that after yesterday's jaunt and a quiet day at home today, I'm setting aside the likelihood of too much serenity in the short term, for tomorrow it's back to the salt mines and my new duties in Human Resources.  Among other indignities, I've learned that the office - which I've not visited in many years - has been going through renovations of late that have put into place the recently (but, I understand, no longer - such poor timing!) fashionable open-plan office system, meaning that I shall in all likelihood have to occupy that most degraded of professional spaces, a cubicle, and possibly one even without full-height walls.  If it's all too appalling, I've decided to invoke my recent unpleasantness and state my intention to tend my scar in public unless given a space with a door (as it requires very little tending - none, in fact, - I'm not sure how successful this may prove to be).

We shall see.  Certainly a cubicle is nothing that Marjorie Merriweather Post would have endured; perhaps I can call on some of her more leonine qualities...


  1. Being a Leo, I do appreciate a sardonic leonine statue. Such a shame that this magnificent beast's former home was demolished - its site is now occupied by the Marriott London Park Lane. A nasty building. With no lions. Jx

  2. Stone lions always put me in mind of this passage from Isak Dinesen's immortal Out of Africa:

    After I had left Africa, Gustav Mohr wrote to me of a strange thing that had happened by Denys’ grave, the like of which I have never heard. “The Masai,” he wrote, “have reported ... that many times, at sunrise and sunset, they have seen lions on Finch-Hatton’s grave in the Hills. A lion and a lioness have come there, and stood, or lain, on the grave for a long time. . . It was fit and decorous that the lions should come to Denys’s grave and make him an African monument. “And renowned be thy grave.” Lord Nelson himself, I have reflected, in Trafalgar Square, has his lions made only out of stone.

  3. It always amazed me how blasé my cubicle neighbors were about sharing the most annoying or unappetizing bits of their sad little lives on their phones as if the rest of us had temporarily gone deaf, and as we all wished we had.