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This had the inevitable effect of making nearly all conversations strained and somewhat artificial.The author and politician Horace Walpole, after sitting for four-and-a-half hours in an agonising circle of fatuous conversation, declared, 'We wore out the Wind and the Weather, the Opera and the Play...This was Brian's way of explaining how a bucolic, lightly populated county could produce 27,000 archaeological finds a year.Indeed, just beyond the edge of our property, a farmer crossing a field in 1985 found a rare Roman phallic pendant.Some time after my family and I moved into a former Church of England rectory in a village of tranquil anonymity in Norfolk, I had to go up into the attic to look for the source of a slow but mysterious drip.In the dusty gloom, I was surprised to find a secret door in an external wall.
Looking around my house, I was startled and a little appalled to realise how little I knew about the domestic world around me. Why do all my suit jackets have a row of pointless buttons on every sleeve? So I formed the idea to make a journey around it, to wander from room to room and consider how each has featured in the evolution of private life.
and every topic that would do in a formal circle.' Yet, when daring hostesses tried to introduce spontaneity by arranging chairs into more intimate clusters of threes and fours, many felt the result was tantamount to pandemonium, and more than a few could never get used to the idea of conversations taking place behind their backs.
The light in the drawing room would have been painfully dim: a good candle provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100-watt light bulb.
I was perhaps 50ft above the ground, which, in mid-Norfolk, more or less guarantees a panorama of quiet, agreeable, timeless English countryside.
What gave all this a certain immediacy was that just the day before I had walked across a good part of this view with a friend, Brian Ayers.