The Price of a Good Nights Sleep

Sundridge ParkLast week we found ourselves at the most beautiful private Georgian stately home in Kent. Outside the giant white-washed pillars guarded the entrance to one of the grandest private houses I’ve ever seen. It reminded me in many respects of John Lennon’s former home at Tittenhurst. Inside the large room’s screamed history with each of the high ceilings painted with their own individual masterpieces. I tried to imagine the coaches from another century pulling up outside, delivering their wealthy and well turned out cargo to yet another ball, dinner or fancy dress extravaganza. Yet, for all its magnificence this ‘house’ didn’t once feel like a home. It was a statement to the generations of a bygone age of the owner’s wealth and standing in society: a time when such things genuinely mattered. These days such opulence when expressed by ‘new money’ is somehow regarded as tacky: a bit Dell-Boy. In today’s celebrity culture this is usually reflects itself as a fear of inadequacy in some people spurning envy, even jealousy. So much so that the style of this amazing ‘pile’ is often copied by the wealthy of today as an outward sign of their success or wealth (for the two are not always linked). A Peacock show that lets you know that here lives a privileged person or family. Yet for all of its grandeur each of its rooms left me feeling alone, even isolated. It’s easy to see why, amongst other reasons, many of these mansions have since been turned into commercial enterprises, hotels or conference centres. I truly believe that a family was never created to live a truly harmonious life in a house that encourages such isolation. Even homes of state such as The Élysée Palace, the White House or Buckingham Palace purport to have a ‘family’ presence yet, at the end of the day, they are just places of business. Even the Queen or Bill Gates can only ever be in one room at a time. None of this detracted from our enjoyment of this magnificent building and its acres of grounds complete with its own 18 hole golf course. It naturally felt good sipping Champagne on the beautifully manicured lawns, swapping chit-chat in the sunshine on a Wednesday afternoon. How decadent. A taste of opulence. Yet there comes a time when enough is enough. A time when one craves a cup of tea or just sitting in one’s own garden wearing ones favorite old t-shirt and jeans. That place where one can be in a room alone yet still feel the presence of one’s own family nearby. Then there’s the craving that most folk have said they feel to me over the years as being the most important of all, even after a break away or an unforgettable holiday: that of lying in one’s own bed. Not a hotel bed, not the bed of a spare room after a party or weekend away: your own bed in your home. You can’t buy that feeling.

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