I was in Petworth yesterday, which is a small inland town in West Sussex, rather posh. It's full of upmarket home furnishing and antique shops, and the odd boutique with clothes no ordinary mortal would wear unless they were dining out most nights at very nice places in the company of the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex.
Historically the town was dominated and subservient to the exacting needs of Petworth House, now in the hands of the National Trust. Petworth House is the home of one of the best collections of painting and sculpture in the country, quite apart from the splendour of its rooms, and the magnificent park. I usually visit it twice a year. Being a Life Member of the NT lets me get in for nothing. I noted with huge satisfaction that in 2015 the adult admission fee was £12.50 - or a little more if you wished to donate something to the NT via the national Gift Aid scheme. Being a thrifty Old Age Pensioner, paying anything at all - let alone a bit extra - is just wanton extravagance, and a financial no-no. I'm not a mean person, but they had my Life Membership money in 1996. They charged an arm and a leg. They are not having any more.
Petworth House is very grand, but the town itself is full of fine buildings. This residence is one of the best:
Well, I was walking back from my visit to Petworth House, and my route was taking me past the house above. As you can see, there isn't any kind of front courtyard. But off to the left (as you look at the picture) were gates set in a high wall. As I approached, a big dark grey Range Rover car came along, and stopped just before the gates (holding up the flow of traffic, naturally).
I guessed that the gates would open inwards on hinges, in response to some remote-control signal from the car. Oh no. It was far cooler than that. They retracted sideways, as lift doors do when the lift reaches your floor. Not only that. There was small courtyard inside (it was the first time I'd ever seen it), just deep enough to comfortably accommodate the Range Rover. And all the driver had to do was pull forward onto - get this - a turntable!
Now that was unexpected. No doubt the turntable, metal-edged but gravel-topped, and neatly set into the surrounding gravel of the courtyard, was electrically operated. So that once parked, and at the press of a button, and entirely at the driver's convenience, the car could be swivelled around to face the gates, ready for an easy getaway. No tricky reversing-out required at all.
I longed to take a photo of the whole set-up, but there was a queue of cars backed up in the street, and by the time they passed me, and I had the chance of a clear shot, the gates had shut again.
Well. That's a handy feature and no mistake! I wouldn't mind one myself.