"I've never kipled so I don't know," was Mr N's reply to this question once, many years ago. I, on the other hand, enjoyed Rudyard Kipling's stories from an early age, preferring "Puck of Pook's Hill" and "Rewards and Fairies" to the "Jungle Books". It was, therefore, with great excitement that we visited Batemans, Kipling's house in Burwash, Sussex, last week. The interior reflects the English Edwardian middle class taste for polished oak and all things antique, and we love that too.
Kipling's desire to write never ceased, nor did his love of India - both are reflected in the interiors of the house.
The gardens are informal and romantic, just right for a bit of quiet contemplation...on the end of The Empire, perhaps?
Reminders of the our former colonies are all around, wherever we go we enjoy their colourful presence.
At Ardingly antiques fair.
In a Hastings antiques shop.
This wonderful elephant clock, in the "Bamboo Bedroom" at Scotney, might well have escaped from Brighton's Royal Pavilion, itself built in the fashionable Indo-Saracenic style in the early 19th century.
India is part of my family's story too...
A Bit of a Do in Dinapore 1933.
Here is Mohamed Amin, Proprietor of H. Kader Bux & Sons, entertaining the non-commissioned officer's wives and children of the Royal Berkshire Regiment before they set sail back to England after 4 years in India. My grandmother sits behind him, in a dark print dress, and my father is in the back row, looking quite at home, beside the blonde in the beret. For the rest of his life he never forgot this adventure - being followed by howling hyenas in the dark, finding geckos on the bedroom walls, giving silver rupees to holy men...
In the late 1940s he taught my mother, his new wife, to make an authentic curry and requested tinned lychees and guavas at the local grocer's shop. When he wanted us to hurry up he would say "Jaldi! Jaldi!" - Gujarati for quick or fast. Now there is a chain of Indian takeaway shops by that name - it makes me smile and remember!
Here is the little table that Granny brought back from Dinapore, now Dinapur. One day I will give it to my daughter-in-law - who is Indian.
On the way home from Sussex we stopped in Cambridgeshire to have a look at Wimpole Hall - the last owner was Kipling's daughter, Elsie Bambridge, his only child
to survive into adulthood. I was keen to see if her home reflected her father's taste for the Orient, but it is not a house full of memories - perhaps too many at Batemans were sad ones. She restored this classical house with a light touch, faithful to its origins.
Then we found her bedroom - "Full of Eastern Promise" don't you think ?