ENTERTAINING: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? -Mind Your Manors ; the Jazz on the Lawn Party in Keevil, Wiltshire, Is a Chance to Witness England in All Its Eccentric, Traditional Glory. but No 'Swingers' Please
Husband, Stuart, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
We are erecting the mini-marquees for the annual Jazz on the Lawn evening at the manor house in the Wiltshire village of Keevil. Suddenly there's a bang as a window is flung open.
'I'm ill, you know,' calls Flavia, the house's formidable mistress, to no one in par- ticular. 'It sounds like you're building my scaffold!'
'It's traditional,' mutters Ian, the expansive Scot in charge of construction. It's unclear if he's referring to the imminent celebrations or Flavia's indeterminate malady.
Keevil is sequestered in the valleys between the Marlborough and Bratton Downs. 'It's the kind of place,' says one resident fondly, 'where if you get your heel stuck in a grating at 10am, the news has been round the village and back by 11.30. And they'll want to know why you were wearing heels at that time of the morning.'
One event has already rocked Keevil's repose today: the poster for the band promises 'Jazz... and swing.'
'We've never had swing before,' says a white-haired resident gravely.
'Will it be modern?' asks her companion.
'Everything's modern at our age,' replies the first, with weary resignation.
Flavia has lived in the manor for decades with her siblings, Christopher and Peter. Their benevolence is manifold " the organisation of the village fte, the loan of the manor's cricket pitch for local matches, tonight's always-hotly-anticipated bash " but they're unlikely to make a song and- dance about it.
At 7pm the sun breaks through and the village comes up the path carrying hampers and cool-boxes. Food and drink is BYO, and the tables are soon groaning with home-made treats. One table adjacent to the Twelve Apostles " a dozen splendid topiaried yews " boasts an extravagant centrepiece of silk flora, including some eye-catching blue sunflowers.
'She made them,' says a woman, indicating a woman in a chignon. 'She's very artistic.'
The band is easing through a gentle version of 'Come Fly with Me'. The dreaded swing has so far failed to materialise. …