After leaving Tangmere, we wondered whether we could track down Moses Farm House, of which I have long had fond memories, the family having stayed there on our way to Cyprus in the 1950s. I had called my parents this morning to see whether it was near Haslemere, as I remembered, but they couldn’t remember. So Elaine had Googled it before we left, finding a Moses Hill near Marley Heights. Then as we passed Lurgashall on our way south to Goodwood, I noted that it rang a strong bell.
In any event, once we had been to Goodwood and Tangmere, we prowled around the astonishingly beautiful lanes of this part of West Sussex, which represent one of my strongest memories of that era. Convinced that the house was just around the corner, we pulled up alongside an elderly – but sprightly – couple to ask for directions. Weirdly, they turned out to live in nearby Moses Hill Farm, where they have lived for some 50 years. They knew the name of the people who lived there previously and it wasn’t Tobin, as it would have been if it had been Tor and Marjorie, Pat’s mother and her second husband.
(Later in the day, Pat told us that Tor often over-stretched in terms of property, leaving with the bailiffs almost literally snapping at his heels, though that didn’t happen here. Still, he was good painter, if temperamental. At least once Marjorie spent hours stitching up a canvas of a stormy seascape that he had slashed with his palette knife in the midst of a drunken nocturnal rage.)
Then the woman told us about the other house in the area with a Moses tag, Moses Farm House. Turned out that it was a few miles away, very close to Lurgashall. So off we went, little expecting to find it. As we drove down the lanes, squeezing past oncoming Lamborghinis, Ferraris and the like, I told Elaine that I remembered that the drive hooked back to the right. My main memories of the house were of discovering and adopting a nest of pheasant’s eggs in the hedgerow that ran alongside the drive and, secondly, of Tor firing an air rifle out of the windows overlooking one of the lawns – showing me how the pellets ricocheted off the plumage of the guinea fowl that robotically pecked their way around the grounds. Pat remembers there being three, dubbed ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Tor – but in this case the musketry came from a different direction.
Then we found the house, with the drive hooking around exactly as I remembered it. We drove in, hoping to find the current owners, but the house was empty. Strange sense of homecoming to a house that was never home, more of a way-station between Northern Ireland, Dulverton (where Tim’s mother Isabel lived with her second husband, Carey Coaker) and Cyprus. But pretty much the perfect end to an extraordinary day out from London.
Childhood haunt – and where the guinea fowl used to roost