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China Girl blog 23rd October 2018

The magic of the past filters through Somerset, just as it has done for thousands of years. Nearly one hundred years ago in the early part of the twentieth century, Colonel Reginald Cooper first set eyes on magical Cothay and began, with the help of the architect Harold Brakespeare, to bring the decaying house back to its former beauty. Sadly, Reginald Cooper left no papers; we know so little about this tantalising, talented man and his rescuing of old houses, other than the brief mentioning by others of this period, known as the County House Set. Ma read that when he and Harold Nicholson were serving in the embassy in Istanbul, they dreamt of England, old stone houses lit by candles and hung with old blue-green tapestries. Mother has a faded photograph of Reggie standing with his Dalmatians outside the Gatehouse dressed in breeches and elegant knee-high boots, his hat set at a jaunty angle, and wearing his monacle. Years ago, Ma met an old man who told her he used to play the piano in the Great Chamber with the Colonel. Before beginning to play, Reggie would say “Let’s have a glass of brandy, you should never play classical music when sober!” The little that is known of Reggie is that he was the son of a wealthy tea merchant.

The historian Christopher Hussey said of Cooper, that English Heritage owes a debt of gratitude to him for his sympathetic treatment of Cothay, as we who live here also do.

This week we had two guests, unfortunately they had read Ma’s guide book, which she wrote over two decades ago. At one point there was mention that the Guest Chamber was haunted. Oh dear, Ma had quite a struggle persuading them that the ghost no longer appeared. They eventually agreed to sleep in the Guest Chamber, and in the morning they admitted to sleeping well!

It took Team Cothay all day to remove a rose which Ma had planted to grow up an apple tree twenty years ago, a lovely rambler, Paul’s Himalayan Musk. The rose grew over the trees, knocking it down, eventually becoming so huge, it obscured its surroundings. All things arise and exist and expire, or so I’m told.

The days drift by relentlessly, as we gather the falling leaves to prepare for the next season, and the search for Reginald Cooper goes on.

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