diamond geezer

 Sunday, October 19, 2014

When in Norfolk, you'll likely want to visit Brother's House. This homely attraction lies on the outskirts of Large Town, just down the road from the paper shop, near that field they might be building on soon. A regular bus service links the neighbourhood to the town centre hourly, except on Sundays when it's probably too far to walk. The railway also passes close by, except nobody's ever thought to add a station in the immediate vicinity, so best hope that someone with a car offers you a lift instead.

You'll recognise Brother's House by the defensive line of shrubbery in the front garden, and the seeming impossibleness of getting to the front door without walking over the grass. Step carefully towards the late 20th century half-timbered facade, raise a finger to the bell and await a warm welcome at the front door. Be sure to remove your shoes before venturing too much further!

The entrance hall is a grand split level space, with key pieces from the family's glassware collection on display in cases along one side. Look up, and the faces of the current ruling dynasty stare down from the walls in a series of colourful historical portraits. Some of these are by the notorious School Photographer Collective, while others depict a golden day of hired morning suits and flowing dresses.

You'll likely be spending much of your visit in the Magenta Salon. This long room features period furnishings from the trading estate just off the ring road, and a pair of candlesticks that must never be lit. When visitor numbers are high be prepared to squeeze into the last seat by the fishtank and sink deep into the cushions. Expect all eyes to be on the big screen in the corner, perhaps for a lengthy sporting extravaganza or else for an archived documentary from the upper echelons of the Sky Programme Guide.

Refreshments are provided in the adjacent cafe, which is open 24 hours. The young chef's roast dinner is a speciality, especially on Sundays, and advance booking for the Christmas luncheon is recommended. But there are meals to suit all budgets, including stacked-high sandwiches, beans on toast and a bespoke jacket potato option with your choice of toppings from the fridge. Expect to wait a little longer for tea, or for a granulated café au lait, while the heritage gas kettle fires up to whistling point.

On certain days each year the first floor is opened up and guests are invited to take a tour. Most of the bedrooms date back to the house's original construction, although the enlarged Skyblue Chamber is the product of a post-millennial knock-through. In the master bedroom the drapes may be closed, temporarily, to shield the more precious contents from excessive daylight. And listen out along the hallway for the ghosts of departed students, at least until Reading Week or the midwinter festivities when they return and the corridor sings again.

In better weather events often spill out into the grounds of the mansion, and in particular to the lawn between the Bird Bath and the Summer House. Your guide will be able to point out the ring where the trampoline once stood, and the corner formerly blessed by a rabbit-based menagerie. At this time of year, however, a carpet of slippery leaves covers the majority of the kitchen garden, right down to the ancient perimeter fence where the neighbouring property begins.

Admission to Brother's House is free, but must be booked in advance, especially if overnight accommodation is required. But warm hospitality is always assured, and a friendly reception from the team of volunteers guaranteed, almost as if you were part of the family.

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