Tanya Gold Tanya Gold

Soho in Somerset

Babington House is a mirror of Somerset that Somerset itself does not recognise or want

It is summer and the listless metropolitan thinks of grass. It cannot afford to stay at Durslade Farmhouse, Somerset, a branch of the Hauser & Wirth art gallery that serves food and plays cow noises in a former barn as authentic country folk rip their eyeballs out. Locals talk about Durslade Farm as a child that died. I think it is a Holocaust memorial for cows, but oblivious.

Babington House is the country branch, and it is open to members, their friends, and hotel guests. There is a a spa called the Cowshed that sells ‘Lazy Cow’ and ‘Moody Cow’ beauty products (misogyny masquerading as irony), a restaurant and a church, which looks uneasy in the grounds, probably because it has to tolerate celebrity weddings. The famous haunt this part of Somerset because it offers a style of rural living that does not frighten them. It is anti-subsistence.

The house is golden, and Queen Anne. It was lovely once, but is now a crèche, surrounded by lawns filled with giant beds (for giant babies) and improbably large umbrellas. There is topiary near the swimming pool and the kitchen garden: miniature hedges for dogs to jump over in some mad dog steeplechase. The paths are covered with woodchip because the members cannot sully their boots by walking on actual mud; that would be too much reality for a class that values only things others do not have, even if they are stupid things such as electric Agas or a path made of woodchip.

Inside I find alarming coloured velvet sofas, strange light-fittings that look like tame space aliens, a rack of boots, presumably to facilitate walking on the woodchips, and a large pile of Vogues, GQs and Tatlers in the ‘library’.

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