NPME

Tart.Childhood.Memories

posted by Natalie Paddick

ONION & SPICY TOMARTO TART

You can also do this recipe for a gluten free preference..

Inspired by my mother’s Quiche Lorraine …

 

I like to cook… Often I make my own recipes up to suit my tastes or those of my family or my mood at the time… I am a visual cook.. I take ideas from pictures, magazines, books, something I see on a plate in a restaurant or on the TV, anything that catches my attention… But often I cook based on an experience I have had … In this case:

Quiche Lorraine, this blog is based on a childhood memory from my childhood home – Dutch Gardens in Wraysbury or as I affectionately called it ‘Toilets-ville’ … Sunday lunch, come hell or high water you came home for the habitual, sometimes torturous family meal… It was obligatory… Like a lot of families, Sunday lunches could be more than a trifle tense!

Strolling in the house from my usual summer haunt, the local reservoir, where I had been swimming all day with my friends, I went out onto the lawns at the back of the house. There on the lawn was today's chosen spot for lunch. The round garden table had been set up for late lunch in the usual opulent design style by my mother; on this occasion the table was covered with a patterned table cloth in hideous bright green with large white Chinese flower design printed on it. Over the top of that was the ornately crocheted white table cloth made by my grandmother, with raised flower petals, which made it almost impossible to place anything down on the table as the protruding woollen flowers made the surface so uneven that anything you placed on the table was prone to fall over. Subsequently, this ‘heirloom’ spent most of its life soaking in water due to spillages and the like!Place mats had been laid out on top of this uneven surface, which were also themed in Chinese style thus in unison with the table cloth, placed on top of the mats were four white plates decorated with green ivy leaves, [aren’t they poisonous?]. The cutlery today had black plastic handles that could be hung on a centre piece when not in use like a table mounted chandelier. And the newest pepper grinder adorned the table, a huge out of proportion shiny black object. For those of you that remember the 70’s… Pepper grinders, ‘were all the rage’ and got larger and larger and became a design statement… How big is yours?!! The table as ever was the epitome of this month’s current fashion style of the moment as seen through the eyes of my mother.

My father Trevor was hovering around the garden foliage tensely, adorned in one of my mother’s aprons, he was bringing things from the house on the long journey to the table… Backward and forward he went. I have often wondered, why the British in good or moderately good weather set their tables up so far away from the house and kitchen so it becomes a marathon to just serve the table in an easy natural manner, at Dutch Gardens it could take ten minutes pending on where the dining table was placed, to go back to the kitchen to get another drink! Have you noticed in sunnier climes, the alfresco eating is simple and easy…. The barbeque, the table are all built next to the kitchen on the nearby terrace area, genius! As yet to be adopted by the British!


Trevor reappeared again on one of the far flung terraces carefully carrying new china jugs masquerading and modelled on lettuce leaves, filled with salad cream and mayonnaise. His tongue slightly out of his mouth as he concentrated on balancing the jugs on their lettuce leaf saucers, as he negotiated his way to the table with the jugs intact. Off he went again, this time he tried the route via the arched bridge over the pond, which in the winter was lethal, because the ‘hump’ was so severe that in the icy weather it was a death trap, you slid down it and if you were lucky ended up at the bottom of the bridge, if you were less lucky you went off the edge into the pond, which was less painful if it was not covered in ice. In the summer however, you could walk up and over the steep incline of the bridge, which had archways cut into the top wall through which you could look through onto the sunken garden, through two of the archways came the branches of the old Victoria plumb tree, a fine specimen that in the summer groaned with the weight of the fruit crop, if you lived at Dutch Gardens you knew not to take this route, so my brother and I watched with some interest as Trevor made his way back to the house on this path, and as we expected once he had got to the middle of this small bridge he took to running and hopping, the reason being that in midsummer the plumb tree was so laden with fruit that it would drop to the ground and ferment, which meant it was an intoxicating attraction to hordes of wasps, who would feed and gorge on the sweet flesh, rendering them incapable of properly taking to the air so they would stagger around on the ground in a drunken agitated bliss on the steepest part of the bridge, wings flapping but going nowhere in a state of what can only be described as mania. [Come we have all been there!] Needless to say they took acceptation to anyone walking on them or near them over the bridge!

Sometime later Trevor, having survived with only minor injury reappeared again this time via the morning room terrace, carrying a larger china bowl that was in the shape of what looked like cauliflower adorned with lettuce leaves, which was sat on a large plate decorated with a china tomatoes pattern. Deciding to take a safer route to the right, he set off… In his ‘piny’ pocket was a bottle of ketchup, reaching the table he placed them down… For a Sunday lunch these items were indeed unusual. The ketchup, I got, my brother was known to cover his plate in ketchup. But salad? Trevor did not do salad? And on Sundays we only ever had a roast? Trevor’s favourite meal, Trevor, being a war baby was a great believer in the theory that there was nothing healthier than a good fat ball around the heart to keep you healthy! How times have changed! Trevor does not even do vegetables except on rare occasions if they are pan fired in butter… So salad? It just did not make sense … My brother and I sat down, knowing this was not the time to ask obvious questions..

Trevor sat, he was quietly clearly brooding, something to be fair he excelled at! He fumbled with his napkin trying to tuck it into his shirt to stop what would have normally been gravy dribbling down his shirt… Finally, yonder, my exceptionally beautiful mother appeared at the door of the morning room, dressed on this occasion like Margo from the sitcom ‘The Good Life’, in plunging blue midi dress with matching head scarf and wrap around platform sandals, the attached gold medallions chinking as she walked. Holding a large tray with oven gloved hands she made her approach to the table via the terrace, down the York stone flagged stairs over onto the next terrace, down the steps and onto the lawn and then around the pond and across the lawn to where we were sitting.. Everything in my childhood was a production… Without exception and this was not an exception ….

She placed the tray on the table and immediately Trevor’s mood lightened… There was his favourite food … An enormous Yorkshire pudding, just for him, which was placed in front of him.. In the centre of the table my mother placed a Quiche Lorraine, which was the first time I had seen one and some butter new potatoes, which I had seen!… The Quiche was in a white sculpted edged, 4cm deep china tart dish, you know the ones that have the recipe printed on the bottom of the dish, so you can’t read it once you have started to cook it, this also always confused me as a child… My life was really a constant confusion! The tart was light golden brown and decorated with cooked sliced tomatoes all made with eggs, milk and cheese….. And my memory of it, was that it was delicious… There was no family ‘issues’ for a change on this occasion… However it was the first and last time that my mother ever deviated from the normal Sunday roast… But it made an impression on me… A very Happy One!

This is my take on an autumn quiche,is nothing like that simple but voluptuous number that my mother made on that Sunday, times change and so do recipes, but none the less it is a summer staple of my family… But now we are officially in autumn, for me that does not quite work, So this is my season take on a warm tart.. Without wishing to make a pun .. Everyone likes a warm tart! This one can be eaten hot or cold and can be frozen … Because it is spiced with chilli it retains a heat …

Either buy your short crust pastry or make it yourself, whichever suits your preference, white flour – I have also used corn flour for anyone with gluten issues… It makes the finish a bit crisper and flaky… A 26cm loose bottom tin will do, you will shout at me at first because, you will think that there is not enough pastry to fill the tin, but just roll it thin …. It works!

110g white flour

50g cold butter – [I used half butter, half lard… Why because I just fancied doing that way!] But whatever suits you…

Pinch of salt & a bit of cold water to bind …

 

You know how to make pastry … Right …. Cube the butter mix with the flour, salt and use your fingers or a mixer to turn it into crumbs, then carefully bind with a bit of water and kneed for a bit on a cold floured surface … Wrap in cling film and bung it in the fridge for at least 30 mins … When ready roll it thinly and place in the tart tins that have been lightly greased, then put the tins back in the fridge.

 

The oven should be switched on to 200 / 180 or there about’s … I used to use an Aga in another house so I am really a bit loose when it comes to oven heat! … At the moment until the kitchen is ‘done’ in this house, I have an ‘old bus’ that came with the house… It has a dodgy door and the dials have mostly lost their instruction symbols, and you can burn your fingers turning them off! It sort of looks like it came out of my Grandma’s kitchen from the 1970 and has been continually used since then without a break! Not easy but you go with what you have … Until the refurb! ….

 

For the filling ….

 

Sprinkling of smoked Paprikaor Cayenne, if you don’t have Paprika..

5’ish medium sized onions – I like red

Butter & a bit of oil to stop it catching for frying

1tsp or whatever is your heat kick of chilli flakes

7 – 14 cherry tomatoes or whatever you have to hand

2 eggs

300ml of cream or thereabouts..

Cheese, your choice, a cheddar or to be posh even a Parmesan, you choose how much cheese you like..

Parsley

Salt & Pepper ..

 

If you have time or are in the mood, slice the onions into rings, or whatever shape suits your knife skills… Pan fry them in the butter and oil .. You want them to have a crunch, but if you can try and catch the edges of the onions in the butter, it looks good… If I was a proper cook I would say, set aside the onions on a plate to cool, but I am not! So bung in the cut tomatoes with the onions and soften them down and let them catch a bit. too.. Tip… If the tomatoes are in any way ‘tart’ … Then throw in a quick sprinkle of caster sugar..

 

Whilst you are cooking the onion and tomatoes, bake the pastry cases blind.. Before you put them in the oven prick the base of the pastry and sprinkle with smoked paprika – put a bit of grease proof paper in the pastry cases and fill with uncooked rice if you don’t have any cooking beans … Cook for about 15 minutes, if you want to be a purist then you can take the pastry out of the oven after 15 minutes and paint the cases with some beaten egg and then pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.. This makes the pastry even more crisp..

 

In a bowl beat the eggs, add salt & pepper with some chopped parsley, the cream, cheese and chilli flakes and sometimes, Tip… I put a spoonful of mustard in the mixture for some background balance… Put the onion and tomato mixture in the pastry case and drizzle over the creamy mixture… Turn the oven down a bit to say 180 – 160 and bake for 25 - 35 minutes, until the tart is golden in colour… This tart can be eaten hot or cold, depending on your preference.. If you choose to freeze it, I like to re-heat the tart, when defrosted, with a bit of tin foil over the top to protect its integrity …

 

Tip… Be careful where you place the tart in the freezer… My nouveau riche parents, who built their own designer home in the 1970’s, [please see Voyage: Dutch Gardens – My Childhood Home], for some reason they decided to put a small freezer above the fridge at high level, which was strange; one evening whilst I was happily watching Crossroads on TV in the lounge, I heard an enormous thud and a sort of cry… I thought about ignoring it as unusual… Because things were always happening at Dutch Gardens and mostly it was best not to investigate..

 

However… curiosity pulled me away from the TV and I strolled through the house, scanning the large windows as I went to see if I could see what had happened this time.. I came into the large entrance hall at the front of the house and scanned the scene outside through the glass.. Nothing … As I span around to return to the TV, there on the kitchen floor was my mother spread eagled unconscious on the floor with a large bruise on her forehead and a dead chicken next to her.. Although being accustomed to unusual things, seeing a frozen dead chicken on the floor was a new one on me.. Contemplating my options, I decided to approach and see what I could do… My mother was now coming round and needed me to help pull her up, into a sitting position, and lean her up against the kitchen cupboard… I scanned the scene and realised that my mother had clearly opened the high level freezer, presumably to retrieve something out of the there, obviously a rogue frozen chicken had fallen out of the freezer and hit her square on the forehead knocking her out cold!

 

… For the record this was not the first or last time I had reason to be sceptical of the behaviour of a frozen chickens … Don’t get me started on my aunt and her frozen chicken … That is perhaps for another time! …

 

So an accompaniment to our spicy tart .. On this occasion I rather liked the idea of the last of the ‘new’ potatoes of the season, boiled and then rolled in olive oil, put them in the oven with half garlic crowns and roast for 20 – 30 minutes, sprinkled of course with salt & pepper for the flavour.

 

My husband loves peas, so for the veg, what about Warm Pea Salad… Peas, lettuce and cucumber… Warmed in olive oil, vinegar a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper…

 

Simple but delicious … Enjoy ….

 



DutchGardens.MyChildhoodHome

posted by Natalie Paddick

 

 

 

 

Dutch Gardens

 


 

My Childhood Home

 

The Reports of My Family’s Demise are Greatly Misquoted! 

I am writing this blog a bit prematurely, in fact it was not a story I would have under normal circumstances put on my site, but I feel my hand has been somewhat forced; by a newspaper article that went viral… About a poor old eccentric pensioner who tried to turn his drab bungalow into a Venetian Palace. You should know I am rolling my eyes right now! So here, I am going to “modify” the true tale to fit my sites demographic! The reality of my childhood is somewhat more complicated and resembles something of a black farce! I will tell that story another time… Here .. I feel the need to defend myself, my mother and brother who have once again been written out of our own history that was so ‘endemic’ to all our lives. I should point out that neither my mother or brother, have any part in this post it is strictly from my point of view … But I want to put the story of Dutch Gardens - ‘straight’ it is part of who I am and I refuse to be simply anesthetized from the equation that is/was my life!

 

 

“Just because a picture happens to be erotic, does not make it pornographic”

Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh

I was alerted by a family member to an article that appeared in a national paper about the house I grew up in, by the time I read the feature… It had gone viral.. How I turned my £13,500 bungalow in Staines into a £4 million Venetian Palace” … At first … I was shocked by the article.. I mean I know the story well .. And I never thought the old boy would sell the place as it is central to his life, his existence, nothing else matters to him apart from that house – Dutch Gardens, he has given up and lost everything to build this monument to himself… Some would rename it – The Hammer House of Horrors, particularly if you happen to be one of the neighbours! As he has been building there for the last 50 years relentlessly.. The man at the centre of this spin is Mr Trevor Wynne-Jones, how do I know him? .. He is my father… Although for various reasons we are very much estranged.. But that is another much more complex story..

“If you knew the power of the dark side .. I am your father… “

Star Wars – Darth Vader

Here is the original article which is very good by Fred Redwood for the Telegraph … I think his comment … A first class fake! Speaks volumes!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/luxury/turned-13500-bungalow-staines-4million-venetian-palace/

So let me tell you a bit about the current Dutch Gardens, which as the article suggests is as far away from Italy particularly in terms of a Venice location … It is stuck in between two large towns called Staines and Slough, that is not a particularly inviting start. Granted there is water at the property more than is required at times and the River Thames runs on the other side of the road, but it is not quite the same as Venice and you rarely see a Gondola! However this so called Venetian Palace, built by a self-obsessed megalomaniac, does indeed have its own versions of Tintern Abbey, Rapunzel’s Tower and Dutch Architecture, the Gothic windows which are newly sited next to French style doors, suits of armour and paintings copied from the old masters in oils in the style of fresco’s on the walls; not to forget to mention the hideous commissioned ill proportioned copies of paintings of monumental battles with Trevor sitting at the helm… I cannot tell you how funny I find these paintings.. Everyone that worked for Trevor is in these paintings including family members, even though some requested not to be in the pictures, that made no difference to Trevor you either bend to his will or you were fired! .. If you look at them it is obvious who is in Trevor’s favour and who is not.. I should point out that I am not in any of the paintings as I am Trevor’s least favourite and he had long since air brushed me out of his life!

The current decoration and design of Dutch Gardens is eclectic to say the least, whatever takes Trevor’s fancy he builds, whatever he wants he does.. Simple.. Trevor’s every whim is indulged, he has been building at this development continuously since he purchased it in the late 1960’s.. Trevor’s passion for knocking things down and rebuilding is legendary he gets bored of things/people and so just moves on to the next thing/person… Don’t get me wrong, Trevor has an ability to see and recreate architecture, but he spins from one design to another and thus creates a mishmash of designs all fighting for their place against each other… Losing any sense of style or cohesion and more often than not he will push these design conceptions to their limit so that it no longer works. Most things became a parody of themselves.

As a teenager teetering on my high stilettos, swearing under my breath as I tried to make it unscathed to the front door without falling or shredding the leather from my shoes on the London cobbles that Trevor had laid with such undulations and gaps between as to make the cobbles impossible to walk on … Really the only thing that was lacking in this particular phase of his design creation of the Dickensian London cobble streets was his impression of Dick van Dijk singing ‘Me ol Bamboo’ as he tap dances down the walkways chasing after Mary Poppins!

“Toad talked big about all he was going to do in the days to come”

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The property was purchased for £12,500, in 1968, by my young Nouveau Riche parents, they saw it as a massive stepping stone to improve on their lives and make a new base for their family, but most importantly to fulfill their dreams. And why not! They were up and coming and my mother was certainly nubile, they were taking on and embracing a new world of opulence on a scale that they had never experienced before. Prior to the purchase of Dutch Gardens, we lived in a two bedroom second floor flat in a house in Finchley, North West London. This was certainly a change in circumstances for us all.

 

When I first set eyes on Dutch Garden as a young child; yes it was a pretty dowdy pebble dash bungalow but it was surrounded by overgrown gardens that reminded me of the film Secret Garden, it was all very exciting and to me the house was enormous, full of dark corridors and rooms that smelt of rotting damp; it reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho; I speak retrospectively here as I had not at that time yet seen the film, my parents were ‘way out there’ but not that far, well not at that time anyway!! Dutch Gardens was owned by two old ladies…. I had no idea we were going to live in this place … I just saw it as another old house that my parents were looking at, it seemed to me, at the time that we spent an inordinate amount of time viewing old musty houses and having tea on the lawns with strange people, this particular tea party was not much different than the others except we had tea and sandwiches in the old ladies small sitting room.. Having got bored of the adult conversation … I was let out of the rickety old French windows into the gardens to explore on my own… My elder brother had been recently exiled off to a boarding school and so I was somewhat bereft and had to make my own entertainment…This I have never had a problem with!

 

The bungalow was set in the middle of the plot and there was endless paving stone walkways to follow through the rambling gardens. Eventually I came to the corner of the garden were there was an old wooden gate covered in cobwebs, it was clear that it had not been opened in many years, I peeked through the wooden key hole and there appeared to be a gravelled drive on the other side and a few houses. This drive was actually the back entrance to the property that had not been used in many years, but all was about to change and this little drive way was about to be subject to relentless building delivery lorries that would cause great controversy including punch-ups between irate neighbours and workmen, not least on one occasion a neighbour pouring boiling fat over a delivery lorry engine, which inevitable, started yet another punch up… All in a normal day at Dutch Gardens and the pattern of how we lived our lives.

 

After peeking through the old door, I forged my way between the perimeter fence and a thick high hedge and followed the route for a while until I could not stand being whipped in the face with any more sticky spider’s webs so I made a break for it under a hole in the hedge back into the main part of the garden. Utopia!! I came across a large collection of animal pens and even better a horse stable, every child’s dream even though all the huts and cages were empty. I could now hear my parents calling for my return, I chose to ignore their polite calls, I was not to be removed from my investigations! After a few more calls of my name,they seemed to be getting closer, I decided to continue on my quest and move forward along another path around the other side of the house away from them, I picked up speed in order to make sure that I saw as much of this property as possible, I was now running toward the most beautiful purple flowering tree with enormous tendrils dangling down the intertwining branches. In the middle of this beautiful creature was an arch and I made my way through it to find myself back at the front of the house.. I now know that this magnificent specimen was a very old and impressive Wisteria, which was kept in the gardens until the gardener over watered it one year and it died of those injuries.

 

“We all go a little mad sometimes..”

Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock

So, my bourgeoisie parents, having purchase their new property, went on a frenzy of major renovation. They knocked down and rebuilt most parts of the property within pretty much the same footprint of the original building but on a grander scale. They were creating their perfect dream home. And why not? The ‘new’ Dutch Gardens was in the style of a 1970 – 1980 Spanish Hacienda. I mean there is a theme going on here! How many other countries architectural influences can we include in this property? The old bungalow had an enormous ‘lounge’ situated next to the small sitting room that we had had tea in with the old ladies. The large lounge had a shiny polished wooden floor, which my brother and I made the most of before it was demolished, by sliding up and down on the floor boards, before we complained of being covered in splinters… This large lounge and its small sister the sitting room next door was kept and modernised fully, with floor to ceiling panelled windows and shag pile carpets and the ubiquitous 1970 style purpose built bar in the corner of the room… Which was slightly unusual as my parents did not really drink at the time although later Trevor became rather partial to a nice warm ‘little hock’ … Or even the odd bottle of ‘Blue Nun’ …

Like all houses built near the River Thames, the building regulations stated that the property had to be elevatedfour foot above ground level, to prevent flooding … This afforded an enormous amount of interesting opportunities for me when I looked down before the floor boards were laid, I would see large rats down there dead and alive. Very exciting when you are young, at the time I had not developed enough other hobbies to keep me occupied!

 

The rebuild took just over three years and we would travel backward and forward from our flat in London, to this large house set in three quarters of an acre of land in the country. We never once slept there overnight as back then the commute was largely without the traffic troubles that it suffers today so the journeys were easy. Whilst I was at Dutch Gardens I spent most of my time playing by myself in the large garden mostly in the water sprinkler that my mother had brought to the house to entertain me. On occasions the workmen played with me, throwing me in the air when no-one was checking on them and I ate more than my fair share of egg sandwiches sitting in the old horse stables in the garden.

 

When I got too wet and cold I was despatched by my mother to change in the old pantry which was small and three steps down from the level of the main house, ignoring the rules about the water table and potential flooding! This room contained shelves with chicken net fronted cupboards in which there were old empty jam jars with their lids in neat piles and other empty dusty containers relics of a life lead before we purchased the premises, the jam jars were repatriated to my paternal grandmother who was an avid jam maker. In the restyle this small room was converted into the boiler room, were I was again despatched some years later to do my ceramic enamelling on an electric kiln, with the washing hanging over my head. Considering the electric fired kiln issue and that I was only ten, by today’s standard there seems to be a health and safety issue here... But that was never a consideration for my parents.. I was out of sight and therefore out mind! But it worked for me … Nothing was normal in my life…

While the house was under reconstruction, one of the places that I was not allowed to go near was two very large barrels in the corner of the garden, behind the garage… My name is Natalie and therefore I am naturally inquisitive and rarely to be put off the scent, particularly if I was asked not to look…I had to look … Obviously!! ..Of course I was going to inspect the barrels when no one was there to tell me off… I realised as I got a closer to the barrels, not least because of the smell… That they were the workmen’s toilets… It occurs to me now that perhaps the budget could not stretch to a Portaloo? Quite disgusting!

 

“It was as though the world had had a fresh coat of paint, and every heart acquired a store of illusions that made the burden of life less hard to bear.”

Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier

As the house transformed in the very early years, and when my brother was occasional released from his new school, we would play together on what was a building site. Once, we were allowed to go upstairs into what was to become my parents’ bedroom. We were told that we were only to stand on the joists as the floor boards had not yet been laidand the plasterboard of the ceiling below would not be strong enough to take our weight. My brother being oldersprinted across the joists to investigate the rooms. I attempted to keep up, my only problem was that I could not span the joists as easily, being much smaller. Having negotiated yet another joist, without falling through, I glanced up and thought that my brother had stepped on the ceiling boards, brilliant I thought and immediately did the same. It was instant, the ceiling gave away with the most almighty crack and I descended through it, hearing my mother scream from below as she fled not knowing what was happening… I landed cross legged on the floor and looked up to see my brother’s face peeking through the hole I had left above, it was brilliant…. Despite the trouble I was in.… This accident created yet another explosive tantrum from Trevor, not because I might have been hurt, but because I had damaged the ceiling.. Trevor was and is the most incredible tantrum thrower on a spectacular level… To see his temper tantrums is to behold.. A man who is out of control in his rage! Quite terrifying at times, albeit we were used to it… I come from a long line of over-reactors!

On another occasion early one morning… My brother and I came across one of the many motorised diggers that were used in the landscaping of the gardens. My mother is the most wonderful landscape designer as you can see from what is left of the gardens in the newspaper articles. As luck would have it some kind person had left the keys in the ignition, so my brother decided that we should take it for a spin … I eagerly clambered into the back of the digger … As my brother took the driver’s seat.. We were having great fun doing a tour of the garden at speed, enjoying the moment then my brother came up with the ingenious idea of driving the digger up one of the large mounds of sand and building gravel, obviously to add a bit of extra excitement and danger to the fun! It was going quite well until the sand gave way under the pressure and weight of the vehicle and it flipped over sending me flying into the air out of harm’s way but trapping my brother underneath… You know those moments as a child when you hope that if you shut your eyes tightly for a second or two, that when you open them again very quickly all would be back to normal and the damage you had just created would have gone away.. This was one of those moments.. But it was not to be the digger was definitely upside down and we were in trouble! My brother then emerged with a bloody nose from under the digger, but otherwise unscathed, as he got to his feet, he let out any number of swear words to illustrate his feelings on the matter… Which secretly I was very impressed by, I saw this as being the height of growing up!…. However there was no way we could rectify this problem and I can assure you that this evoked yet another ’Mount Vesuvius’ explosive tantrum from Trevor .. Perhaps fair under the circumstances! To some degrees ..

“Anyone for a bit of Denis Roussos?”

Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh

When we finally moved in to Dutch Gardens in the early 1970’s, I had assumed we were going to live in a tent in the dining room as to me the house was so big, the dining room was about the size of our flat in London therefore a perfect fit, and I could not conceive in my mind that we would need all this extra space, apart from to play in … It came as a surprise that I had my own room, predictably painted in a revolting shade of pink, a colour I would never have chosen, then or now! … But this was my parents dream not mine… Mostly the house was finished, their Pantile Spanish Hacienda dream house was about to take wings, it was really quite “on trend” at the time, believe it or not, as my mother was involved with the design there was cohesion and a trendy flow to the house… Venice was “still” a long way off and there were no medieval suits of armour anywhere, and most importantly we lived above ground… Not in the subterranean dungeons that you see in some of the pictures in the article..

The outside rendered walls were painted white with floor to ceiling panelled windows in every room, some walls were just windows, all very on trend … It had 3 inch high white shag pile carpets in the big lounge and my parents’ bedroom, so trendy was my mother that there were shag pile carpets in their bathroom and that carpet went up the walls! .. As Austin Powers would say, Shagadelic …. Yeah Baby!!

This carpet however, later became the bane of my family’s life when I took up sewing and continually dropped pins on the floor … Never to be seen again until someone stepped on them with bare feet.. Mostly my brother was afflicted with this torture, usually on one of his exeats from school, on one occasion the pin had embedded itself so deeply into his heel, that Trevor was forced to remove it with plyers and I was banned from doing any further sewing in any areas that were carpeted.. Of course I ignored this command, as no one was ever there to inforce this new and in my view largely irrelevant rule. However the shag pile caught me out too, on one of many occasions when I sneaked into my mother’s dressing room to paint my toe nails with her red polish.. When I swapped feet to paint the other foot, I did not notice that I was wiping the polish from the first foot all over the carpet…When I saw the mess I had made of the white carpet, I came up with the genius idea of trimming the carpet with my mother’s nail scissors to hide the damage except I got caught in the act by my mother! Not so Groovy Baby!!

“Oh lovely” she says “Cos Laurence likes a drop of wine, actually. Oh it’s Beaujolais.. Fantastic! .. Won’t be a sec, I’ll just pop it in the fridge”

Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh

My mother, a traditional follower of fashion, saw my father at this stage in their relationship more as a Roger Moore than an Austin Powers, which when I think about it is quite sweet as he is only half the size of Roger and does not really have the same physique? It must have been love as she would dress Trevor in Roger’esque style Safari suits, with the same comb over hair style, albeit Trevor’s hair was sparser… Trevor would wear this suit with his self-styled pocket watch and chain which sort of spoilt the look! My mother’s style and costumes became the stuff of magazine articles, whatever you saw in Vogue or Tatler … You would see on my mum .. A stunningly beautiful woman, with her own agenda… Most importantly they were enjoying being the ‘it’ people of Dutch Gardens and so they should have been they had worked hard to get where they were… Every weekend they would be designing the garden or a part of the house or visiting country homes or stately gardens… This was their life and Dutch Gardens was at the centre of it…

All the mod trends of the moment were applied and added to the design, including avocado suites in the bathrooms, including bidets, which were never used, well not for their actual purpose … I found them a source of great entertainment.. The sprinklers in the bottom of the pans were so powerful that they would water the whole room, subsequently I was banned from using them! As it would drench the carpets in the bathrooms… Can you imagine carpets in a bathroom now …. Yuck … All the tapsand faucets were gold plated, which very quickly discoloured and corrodedcovering the metalwith unsightly lime spots, which ultimately made them hard to use…

 

In the morning room next to the corridor kitchen was a glass circular dining table supported by tripod chrome legs and matching black leather chairs, which were lethal if you leaned too far back as they would slide on the tiled black and white floor sending the sitter flying … There was a lurid pink wall, and the very height of modern ‘chic’ was the 3D handmade wall paper of different sized pebble protrusions all painted in white.. My parents understandably would go mad when my young cousins came to stay and delighted in punching and squashing the protrudingpebbles… It was my job, with the aid of a screw, to pull theegg box pebbles back into shape, then the permanent on site staff would come in and repaint and fill the damage … It was also my job to repaint the chips in black and white floor tiles in the morning room, the damage being caused by the movement of thechrome chairs legs rubbing backward and forward over the surface of the tiles.

The house was full of Casa Pupo items, there was at the time a shop in London which my parents frequented, the house was stuffed with their lamps, vases, object ‘dart including metal bird cages and waist height china wild cats and snow leopards, all dotted around the house, which after parties would need to be washed down as my young cousin insisted on feeding them with cake.. In the wooden panelled dining room, which looked a bit like a set from the programme Columbo, one of Trevor’s favourite TV series at the time. In the room there was a black and white synthetic floor with inlaid black dots, it was synthetic because my mother having seen a TV programme had investigated into getting a special treatment for the floor, which involved coating the floor with a substance that would allow it to be used on occasions as an ice skating ring! This was in the period when my mother had visions of turning me into a top British ice-skater.. My grandmother had been billeted into knitting me a red ice-skating dress, which was hideous and stretched when it got wet because I kept falling over! I was forced to take weekly skating lessons, which I was extremely bad at and hated particularly as it was not my idea in the first place! … Thankfully eventually my mother gave up on this plan and turned to other ideas and formulas to plan out my future! And there is another story!

On the top of the black and white floor was a large Casa Pupo vivid green and white fringed rug, placed on top of this was the massive wooden candy twist refectory table, purchased from Harrods, which was now fast becoming their new ‘go to’ corner shop… Trevor was making money by the bucket load… My ever more wealthy parents, were making their mark on the world and Dutch Gardens was at the heart of their lives? Good luck to them I say ..

 

“That is the last time I play the Tart for You – Jerry” Margot – The Good Life

Later in Dutch Gardens design progress we had a full time architect who had an office attached to the garage, my mother worked closely with him whilst the never ending gardens and house works continued, changed and progressed. My parent’s lives were beginning to take different routes but Dutch Gardens continued to be their great love and perhaps the only thing that now cemented their fracturing relationship. The landscaping was now on the most epic level, with diggers and machinery excavating / creating more waterfalls and ponds, into which, my mother was introducing Koi Carp shipped in from aboard at great cost. To my delight all had to be named!

 

One day a selection of mature trees was delivered to the end of the road because the lorry could not make it down the road as the trees were too tall and where knocking the overhead cables out, Dinky the gardener was dispatched to collect them, however my mother negated to advise him that they were full size and he turned up with a wheel barrow instead of the fork lift truck!

Everything was on full scale.. Bling! They never stopped working on the place, it was relentless, and the hammering, drilling, digging and sawing continued; the gangs of workmen, the endless changes went on and on. My parent’s design styles were beginning to rupture and they no longer saw eye to eye, on most things. And the neighbours hated us with a passion.. At this stage it had been over eighteen years of continuous building works .. Little did the neighbours know … There were many, many, more years of building to come… Which continues to go on to this day….

 

Trevor was sighted in two divorce cases, by neighbours due to the stress of them permanently living next to a building site. One weekend we were barricaded into the house by the neighbours who in their frustration erected concrete bollards to blockade the delivery entrance to the house. Undeterred but furious Trevor ripped them out and threw them back into the neighbours gardens, another quiet Sunday Lunch!… But to me it was all just normal …. Sort of … On the surface at least!

“There is nothing in human affairs that is a true subject for ridicule. Beneath comedy lies the ferment of tragedy; the farcical is but a cloak for coming catastrophe”

Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier

Trevor decided to close up the back entrance to the property and replace the gate to the back drive, it was time for him to seek his revenge on the neighbours. He built the base of the tower that you see in the newspaper article. A very large rockery was already built around the ‘Tower’ with stepping stones to the back entrance. The entire garden was flood lit in colour lights. It was the ultimate party house and it was at that time still alive.. Albeit that more cracks were beginning to show.. Trevor put in a planning application for a forty-five foot high‘look out’ tower which was to be constructed over the back entrance of the house, the prospect of which, understandably terrify and agitate the neighbours.. Once again! He wrote to every house in Wraysbury, the area, looking for support of his design and planning application, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope for their response! We were inundated with press attention, again! Dutch Gardens was once again on the national news, everyone had an opinion about it. We were door stepped by press as we left the house, everyone likes a nutcase …. The Telegraph article success proves that...

 

At the planning meeting to determine the planning application, which was held in nearby town of Windsor, police had to be called to deal with the crowds baying for Trevor’s blood and more punch up’s ensued between rivalling camps in support and against. We made all the papers and the press the next day! One Westminster MP who was interviewed by the press stated, “The whole thing is getting more like a scene from Clochemerle” – A French comic novel written about the battle between the Catholic and Republic locals over the erection of a urinal being built in the local square!” Very apt! Finally the planners decided that Trevor could have a 25 foot tower, much to the dread of all the neighbours and who could blame them! Once he had finally got permission, Trevor did what he always does and lost interest in the project, until some years later. …More divorces and new sets of neighbour replaced the last, like a never ending supply of new people for Trevor to irritate. My mother as ever was social climbing and moving on to her ‘new’ life seeing a better future for herself.. She wanted to move on to bigger and better things. Trevor saw this as a betrayed and refused to be moved and so the building went on … As the relationship faltered..

 

“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll … Is all my brain & body needs ….” By Ian Dury

Massive pumps were incorporated into the ponds to create the streams which ebbed and flowed night and day. Super powered switches were wiredinto a control panel housed in a cupboard in the house so at the touch of a button you could ramp up the volume of the water and the noise should you wish… It was very Rock & Roll! ‘Knock me down with a feather.. Clever Trevor…Ian Dury & the Blockheads’… As wild young things.. My brother and I took advantage of all the facilities whenever our parents were not there; although my mother did sometimes join in our partying.. The house continued to evolveand devolve as Trevor began demolishing finished area’s to create his new found artistic design tendencies, this was a cause of much tension between my parents … Amongst other things!

 

After a visit to a golf course Trevor noted the beautiful lushgreen fairways, despite it being a very hotdry summer, all made possible by the golf course irrigation system. He decided they had to have the very same “commercial” sprinkler system, installed at Dutch Gardens. Trenches were dug into the lawn and pipes were laid, at strategically placed intervals prehistoric lookingsprinkler headswould emerge from the ground whenever the system was switched on. The first attempt at running the sprinklers, which was all very state of the art as it was unforgettable… The ground literally vibrated with the power of the water, there was the most wonderful whoosh sound as the long neck sprinklers emerged from the lawn making ticking sound as they rotated backward and forward. All very exciting the only problem was, no-one thought to investigate the power of the sprinklers or the coverage of water they would emit.. They were after all designed to water the vast acreage of the golf coursenot asuburban garden… To late … So powerful were the jets of water, they were knocking the garden staff over like nine pins as they tried to run away from the soaking .. The sprinklers built up to full power… Pandemonium … The window cleaner who had just finished cleaning the vast amounts of windows, was nowbeingpinned to the window panes by the force the water. Leaks of water were entering the house as the sheer pressure of the water was now unstoppable. I watched from the large lounge as water smashed through some of the panes of glass. I could hear my mother screaming in hysteria… Eventually someone managed to get to the switch and turn the system off…. The water jets from the sprinklers slowly decreased in power, the ticking sound slowed up and then the spouts disappeared back into the ground… Dutch Gardens very own Tsunami …

 

It subsequently transpired that one sprinkler put on top of the house would have watered the entire property, Trevor had installed eight in just a quarter of the garden! More complaints filed in from the neighbours, as we had soaked them, one man had left his open topped sports car outside his home only to come out and find it filled with water! Another day with all the madness!Over time the sprinklers would periodically have a mind of their own or Trevor would take revenge on someone and my mother would issue further apologies to the neighbours as their barbeques were ruined.

 

In my late teens on the long summer’s evenings, my friends and I would sit in the grounds, smoking and drinking and just having fun, enjoying the environment with the haze of the outdoor lighting and the sound of the waterfalls all around us. Trevor would return home from work hear us laughing in the garden and set the sprinklers off to ruin our fun, he hated anyone enjoying the space.. Everything was only on his terms …. As the sprinklers rained down on us, we would attempt to run for cover…. Usually into the house … Dripping water all over the place, which would further enrage Trevor into one of his legendary tantrums…He would evict us all… I was glad.. The house was losing its glory… My mother had moved on to social engagements of her own and only occasionally lived or visited Dutch Gardens ….. Their relationship like the house was descending into the stuff of nightmares …

 

“The Madness of King George” By Alan Bennett

If He swears and indulges in MEANINGLESS DISCOURSE... He will be restrained. If He throws off his bed-clothes, tears away His bandages, scratches at His sores, and if He does not strive EVERY day and ALWAYS towards His OWN RECOVERY... then He must be restrained. George III: I am the King of England. 

As Trevor madness and megalomaniacal tendencies became more prevalent and the money continued to roll in, which saturated his wildest dreams, and now there was nothing and no one to restrain HIM. He was possessed by what he could create constantly changing what he had already created, turning what once had some cohesion as a fun ‘home’ and transforming it into a gauche pastiche of miss matching homage to Trevor’s ego. It was now the only thing that Trevor could fully control.. Things that were unfinished remained unfinished … My bedroom for example, had been subject to a number of my mother’s interior design projects, much to my irritation as I grew up. It was never finished, the new lighting now consisted of a half-finished florescent tube fittings all around the top of the walls, hidden behind a half finished pelmet that flashed on and off incessantly. When I switched it on the continuous strobing effect, was like living in George Orwells 1984…

 

We were all at war …. These were corrosive times.. Yet the building went on …There was no stopping the madness …

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

“You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs”

Trevor’s obsession with living underground had taken hold, he continued digging under the house now obsessively, 14 Irish labours dug and dug at any one time, more skips of soil were dispensed with, more aggravation for the neighbours. Inevitably the hole under the house filled with water. Trevor got bored again and works stopped and he started digging somewhere else… Where there was once a beautiful landscaped garden now half the garden was just a collection of big holes filled with water and half finished … Soul destroying for my mother..

 

I spent a great deal of time on my own in this property, everyone else was always out and about, I was used to my own company. One night, I was sitting in the big lounge with my stash of snacks ready for the evening, I did this so I didn’t have to venture back into the house, the two dogs who were with me were going mad, barking, growling, and digging at the shag pile... Dutch Gardens could be a very scary place to be inat night, particularly as my parents had an aversion to curtains, so you always had the feeling that you were being watched through these enormous floor to ceiling windows. Which I later found out was exactly what was going on .. But that is another story.

I was trying to ignore the dogs and watch TV but they were not going to have it, fussing and barking, this meant only one thing … I was going to have to make the very scary run, through the dining room into the hall then hang a quick left into the kitchen to get them some treats to shut them up, I was not keen … On the TV was a programme called Police 5, presented by Shaw Taylor, it was about catching criminals, this episode was a special on man dubbed, The Black Panther who had kidnapped a young heiress, it was all quite scary … Suddenly there was a massive whoosh sound and the floor gave way under me, I was thrown back onto the leatherChesterfield sofa by the force, the dogs shot out the room screaming and urinating in terror as they ran for cover …The naff 1970’s bar in the corner of the room moved and clunked as the glasses clattered together from their position on the shelves in protest, dust filled the room then the floor came to a short but abrupt halt and everything shuddered. Good old Shaw Taylor continued to give details about the Black Panther albeit that the TV had now moved position… I glanced around the room through the haze of dust nothing in principal had changed, but instinctively I knew it had. I pushed myself off the sofa; Shaw Taylor was doing his signature sign off of Keep ‘em peeled… Dust was sparkling in the light, looking up I saw a large gash in the wall above the bar, at some points at least four inches wide, the plaster that had fallen from the crack was now decorating the black bar top. On the other side of the room was even longer and wider crack, the sliding glazed panel door that separated the lounge from the adjacent small sitting room was hanging at a slight angle. Looking down at the floor line, there was now a gap were the wall and the floor had divorced each other, the skirting was splintered and cracked but still attached to the wall but not the floor, the black tile grout, that circled the bar was still attached to the skirting yet the tiles had remained unseated and scatted haphazardly to the floor. There had been a serious parting of the ways!

 

What had happened? The team of Irish navvies, Trevor had hired to dig the massive void under the house in order to create the underground dungeon’esque area, had not adequately propped up the structures and the floor under the house to sufficiently hold the house up! Only a minor detail, but as ever a crucial one! The water from the nearby River Thames had seeped into the void raising the level of the natural water table. The sheer force of the water whooshing and swirling around inthe large holehaddestabilised the stone and sand sides of the excavationthusdestabilising the foundations of this part of the house causing the groundfloor of the house to drop accordingly! Never a dull moment, but this, could not be blamed on me! But none the less there was the inevitable blood chilling tantrum from Trevor!

As the years rolled on Dutch Gardens imploded asTrevor’s obsession with living like a mole underground continued, digging endlessly under the house to create his own new space, creating issues with the water table and creating his own artesian well, the pressure of which causing theground water to increase to such a pressure that it forced the next door neighbours garage out of the ground. All in a day’s work! As you have seen from the article and VT on the net … Trevor has over the last thirty years created whatever has taken his fancy, with total disregard to some of the most basic design ethics and lack of care to many people … That said, some of his work is extremely clever … But to me none of it really works.. It looks like a theme park … The only thing that really works is the original bit of the garden and waterfall which was part of the redevelopment that both my parents undertook … But then it is not my house it is his and this is his baby – Dutch Gardens…

 

“Well, Clarice have the lambs stopped screaming..?”

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

This was a house that was once lived in, it was alive it had a pulse and a heart of sorts. Now in my opinion it has descended into one wealthy man’s mental health issue /disorder.

 

I hope I have given you a small flavour of what it was like to be part of Dutch Gardens, it was an amazing house of its time and its period, and it was a credit to both my parents despite the darkness that lurked in every corner. I have a lot to be grateful for, for a start … I got out alive with a story or ten to tell…. Dutch Gardens in its ‘hay day’ featured in a number of television adverts and was very on trend for its time despite its very odd location in Wraysbury or Toilets-Ville … Which was my pet name for the area as a teenager ….

 

My mother had moved on, as had I. Trevor became more entrenched and more obsessed in his madness like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, said. “I knew who I was this morning but I’ve changed a few times since then”… He has made his way through tens of millions of pounds, recreating a property that he loves and turning his back on all else … And in that vein … Everyone should be able to create their own madness …. To a point ….

“You would have to be half mad to dream me up”

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Having read the article Trevor has once again changed the facts, to me it was like we were all airbrushed out of our own lives. As the article pointed out Trevor has based himself on Napoleon, a man who was exiled from all reality; and was eventually confined to the island of Saint Helena to live in a rat infested house called Longwood. Napoleon managed to persuade the Governor of the island to allow him to build a new Longwood House, a new beginning, if you will, but like Trevor he negated to reflect on the past? Napoleon died just before the house was completed and after the Second World War … It was demolished…. Napoleon is remembered as a tyrant ….

 

I will keep you briefed on the full story …

 

 

 


Page 1
SIGN UP TO RECEIVE STYLE NEWS AND SPECIAL OFFERS