Chevening, the stately home in Kent henceforth to be shared by David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson — and in a manner which hopefully provides the inspiration for at least one West End play — is a lovely house. I was last there 20 years ago when my father, as Foreign Secretary, had the use of the place. I had a ponytail at the time, and dressed like a hobo. My strongest lasting memory is of two policemen with sub–machine guns catching me smoking a rollie behind a bush.
My next strongest is of my first trip there, in the hot, hot late summer of 1995. We wandered the grounds, my sister and I, awestruck and finding things. She thought we might find a tennis court; it took us half a day. There was a boating lake, a maze, an ancient disused kitchen. In the cellar, there was crate upon crate of dried food; I suppose to withstand a siege.
Wikipedia tells me that Chevening has 115 rooms, which sounds about right. That first afternoon, though, my parents, sister and I all ended up sitting in a circle on the floor of the entrance hall. We told ourselves it was because of the heat, because the flagstones were cool. Thinking back, though, I’m not so sure. It was awfully big.