The Hut is a little shack at the end of my parents valley, made of wood with a thatched roof. It is more than just a folly as inside there is a table that can seat eight for dinner and an open fire. It was designed by my father and built from scratch by my parents brilliant gardener the late Brian Lupton and his son Colin.
Eating in the hut is a special occasion, which requires a talented driver who can manoeuvre the hot food up the valley in the shortest possible time without spilling the gravy all over themselves. Come the end of the dinner you normally have a difficult choice to make, between a long walk home in the cold, or a daunting assignment holding to the back of the golf buggy, hoping that your driver really can remember where the lake begins as the dark settles in.
Katharine and I were meant to be getting married near here on the 18th April, with a party in the garden, which for obvious reasons could not happen. So instead my family put on for us a grand dinner in the hut, commencing with lychee martini’s looking out over the valley and a video call with my cousins who sang for us our favourite song (Wagon Wheel, which they were going to perform at our reception). Needless to say, it was wonderful.
The hut is filled with all sorts of interesting objects; it is a mini Wunderkammer of curiosities from all over the world. The creation of the hut was also a godsend for my mother as it meant most of my father’s taxidermy was moved out of the house.
This little albino hedgehog is my favourite object in the hut. He is a very rare being, as only about 1 in 100,000 hedgehogs are born without melanin pigment in their skin.
Here we have an mammoth tooth (left) and an elephant poo (right). The mammoth had the largest grinding teeth in the animal kingdom before it became extinct about 10,000 years ago and this tooth is about the size of a miniature dachshund.
Some objects from left to right: an antique swordfish bill, a shark’s jaw above the turtle, an etching by my sister in the black frame of the skull in front of it, a leopard skin and, above it on the ledge, a small pufferfish.
A reticulated python which my father bought in Paris. I would like to have seen this opened up at airport security.
In some respects the hut is a retreat for contemplation in the tradition of the sixteenth and seventeenth century kunstkammer, in which collectors would fill a particular room with works of art, geology, natural history and archaeology. I am not surprised that such rooms have had a recent renaissance. We are now in a position where most of us can see into space, view the depths of the ocean and study any animal up-close at the touch of a button. The world has been largely demystified. But because of this how much of its glories do we actually take in? How closely do we pay attention?
Taking my three year-old niece Indigo into the hut is a whole different experience. Every object is a source of wonder, nothing is left unquestioned. She wants me to undo the jar so she can touch the python. The elephant poo is gross, the news of the extinction of the woolly mammoth very sad indeed.
What these objects can do is to whisk us away from our ordinary and often very unnecessary concerns and reinstall an innocent thrill and lighthearted excitement at the small joys available to us in every corner of the world.
I recorded a video tour of the hut with my father for Instagram which you can view below:
If you enjoy my posts you can subscribe to the blog by following the link at the bottom of the page and you will be sent an email when I post something new.