Friday, 27 August 2010

In memory of the Radletts

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Those of you who have ever read Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford will remember the great scene when the Radletts came to visit Fanny in her small house in Oxford. They did what she called exclaiming. Everything was of the most wondrous, in their eyes. They loved the little room, the Fuller's cake, the plain curtains.

I have been madly attempting to wrangle some order from the shaming muddle of my domestic arrangements, all week, in anticipation of my guests. I need not have worried. Here is what the two smallest visitors (aged five and seven) said:

We love your dogs.

We missed your dogs.

Can we borrow your dogs?

Can the dogs sleep in the bed with us?

We love the pictures on your walls.

Oh, oh, is that a picture of Daddy? That's Daddy.

I want to sleep in that bed. That's my favourite bed.

We like stroking the dogs' ears, because they are so soft.

I hear all this and I think:

What on earth was I ever worrying about?

Once the children went to bed, the grown-ups ate lamb medallions with red wine and quince sauce, drank 2005 claret, and laughed and laughed. Sometimes I do wonder about all the things I fret over, and wonder what is the point. Still, it is important that the visitors have water by the bed, flowers to look at, a pretty tin filled with sweet and savoury biscuits, in case they should awake, starving, in the middle of the night, twenty-three copies of old Vanity Fairs, and a discrete selection of diverting reading. I give a lot of thought to the books I put on their bedside tables.

But really, all that matters is that they are old friends, and I have known their babies since they were born.

Here is the house, at its most respectable:




And here is the lovely younger niece, who came to help me arrange everything at the last minute, when I was starting to panic:


It's late now, and my brain is a little fogged, from all that organising, but I do start to think that, in the end, it is all about family: both the one you are born into, and the ones you adopt and choose. It's about the small people you have known forever, and watched grow up, who rush into your still slightly muddly house and say: please, please, can the dogs sleep on our bed? It's obviously also about dark matter, and geo-politics, and the unmapped parts of the brain, but sometimes that sweet, touching stuff is what keep your heart beating. I hate to say it, because it sounds like a bumper sticker or a Hallmark card, but it really is about the Love.


  1. Just caught up on your getting ready for guests. So enjoyed your family photos and seeing your house - all gorgeous. Love you in the hat and the wallpaper in your spare room, the books and pictures. Everything says 'welcome'. So enjoy your guests who obviously have wonderful taste too. Who wouldn't want to have your darling dogs sleep on the bed...

  2. Your house is beautiful. It's always the way that we worry about appearances when expecting people, we forget they are coming to see US not the house.

    And another Hallmark cliche to remember - the best things in life are not things

  3. Hello Tania - my goodness you have made me shed a tear into my Earl Grey! It's only 8.40am! I love this description - I might have to print it out! The children's exclamations (!), the adults over dinner, the essence of good friends. Diverting reads by the bed - I am the same! I always always think about that. Honestly...could you be any nicer? Lou x

  4. I have house envy. All those lovely bookcases make it look like the perfect place to visit. You have such good taste.

  5. I love your house. It all looks wonderful and very welcoming. I go into a panic of tidying and reorganising whenever friends come to stay. I'm glad they do as it's only superficially tidy. The cupboards are always in a pickle. Have a fantastic weekend with you friends xx

  6. Niece is so beautiful!

    I hanker after biscuits in a tin (sweet and savoury!) when visiting, and I'm sure Sarah and family appreciate everything you've done, but it really is all about children, dogs and laughter - that's what you'll all remember. A lovely post. Happy bank holiday!

  7. PS. The lamb with quince sounds wonderful. As does the claret.

    I've tagged you over at mine, If you wish to do it that would be marvellous xx

  8. Wonderful article, gorgeous home. In some ways it is about our space (as well as the love!). Our space is a representation of who we are, so I think that's why we feel everyone else is looking at our home in the same way. And in some ways, I think they do. If you're home was a complete mess when your family arrived, your energy around your family I am sure would have been different (just my humble opinion).
    I also had house envy over your wonderful library and gorgeous red carpet.

  9. That cleaning thing; it's all about the 'celebration' of the guests' visit. Those books, the niece, those eyes...

  10. I love your bookshelves.
    Can I borrow your bookshelves?
    I love the bedside table arrangements!
    Can I come stay?
    And maybe stroke the dogs' ears?

    You don't know me, but I will be a very good guest...

  11. what a beautiful house- and you sound like the most attentive hostess- I am always thrilled when there are magazines to read, I can never quite settle down to reading a book when I'm staying over at a house, I'm not sure why.

    Dogs definitely help with little people- and big people!

    Love the Radletts and dear Fanny- she is a trooper

  12. I'm sorry did you just say that you provide biscuits so that they can eat them in the night? That's amazing.

    I once went on holiday with my skinny friend's to her aunt's house in Spain, little knowing that the rake thin aunt would be there, overseeing the food and portion control. I come from a fat Scottish family where it's not a proper meal unless you roll from the table. I went to bed each night so hungry I was ready to eat my holiday novel, until I managed to stash a packet of biscuits in my bedside drawer.


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