It so happened that, even though I don’t consider myself to be of a certain age, we joined the National Trust with a family pass, our kids dragging down the average age of a visitor by at least thirty years.
Over the summer, we visited a number of lovely places – Thomas Hardy’s house, Agatha Christie’s summer home, Uppark House and The Vyne to name but a few. So determined was I to get our money’s worth that the kids would spot the brown signs with a leaf on it and start to rebel in the back seat, “Not another one!” Usually, the promise of an ice cream or a gift shop did the trick and the naked figures in the art at Petworth kept my 11-year-old entertained counting all the bits (and the bobs).
The volunteers did an admirable job in every location and the work that has gone into the houses is amazing – which is probably why they were so mistrustful. Not of the kids, they were fine; it was my husband and me who had so many bag rules thrown at us it was hard to keep up. Whether it was ‘leave your bag here’, ‘put your bag on both shoulders’ or, at one place, ‘put your rucksack on the front of your body’ we felt bamboozled. Leaving our bags in the car was not an option as our lunchtime picnic was invariably inside them and we had no chance of getting the kids round a house if we gave them lunch first.
Now I’m sure they can quote the number of artefacts broken each year by a protruding M&S tote but why all the different rules? They were as diverse as their houses and maybe that’s the point. Local treasures, local control.
And no breakages.