We took my mum on a birthday outing – she turned 70 last weekend – to Harewood House. Mum hadn’t been in about ten years, for me it was much longer and Carole had never been.
I have mixed feelings about Harewood now compared to Harewood then. I want to like it, I really do. But I also can’t like it because the bits I liked have gone to the dogs a bit.
The highlight for me was always the bird garden. You can keep your stately homes with their fancy carpets and expensive knick-knacks. Give me some owls to look at and I’m super happy.
Unless they look ridiculously sad, which they sort of did.
The bird garden, it appears, is in need to a lot of TLC. The enclosures are a combination of empty, overgrown, filled with dead or dying plants and just plain tatty. It used to be a lovely place to bimble round, with the kookaburras laughing, the parrots squawking and things generally looking as if they are enjoying themselves.
Not so much now.
At one point I was in pretty close quarters with one of the parrots. There was no-one else about – just me and a parrot. The parrot climbed down until it was level with me and we just hung out. And it looked at me. Now you wouldn’t think a black beady eye could convey much, but it that bird wasn’t telling me it was miserable as sin then I am no judge of bird’s eyes.
And the farm experience that they have there… well, that’s something else. It’s as much of a farm experience when you’re there as you’re having right now. Essentially you’re kept at a safe – for safe read no incidents leading to legal action – distance from everything. If I can’t feed a goat a mixture of food pellets from my hand then that is not a farm experience in my view.
You could buy food which you the rolled down a long piece of drainpipe to feed the goats at a distance. But pfft.
Maybe that’s what the parrot was trying to warn me about…