What a good life

We took last weekend out to pitch our tent in the grounds of Gladstone’s beautiful turreted house in Hawarden, north east Wales, for the Good Life Experience Autumn Camp. And what a pleasure and refresher it was.

The Good Life is a concept dreamed up by Charlie Gladstone, direct descendant of the Victorian Prime Minister, with his family and a wide range of eclectic, passionate collaborators. They’ve been running a small festival at Hawarden for a few years now, focussing on doing and making and creating rather than just sitting back with a pint and listening to bands (although they do a bit of that too). They wanted to create an opportunity to slip out of day-to-day tasks and responsibilities for a long weekend of exploration, and with this latest Camp they succeeded once again.

Between Friday and Sunday, we swam in the lily-filled lake; we pondered on whether Epicurus might have had the best of it amongst the Athenian Schools with Idler‘s Tom Hodgkinson and in-house academic Dr Mark Vernon; we listened to a simply gorgeous set of acoustic songs by Carwyn Ellis, effortlessly conjuring the Rio sound of Gilberto Gil and mixing that with Carwyn’s Welsh lyrics; we ate a feast of barbecued venison prepared by chefs James Golding from The Pig and Damian Clisby; we admired the passion and honesty of the signwriter Umberto (Robert) who talked to us of the years of struggle he’d faced to accept his own talent and achievements; we heard a truly fascinating talk by Professor Gavin Screaton, the head of medical science at Oxford University and the man who led and co-ordinated Oxford’s remarkable Covid vaccination success; we enjoyed Charlie Gladstone and Mark Shayler riffing on how to get the best out of people; we watched the dogshow on Sunday and applauded the winners.

There was plenty more. We drank lots of fine cider and beer, we lay in the sunshine and fell asleep, we noshed excellent homemade pizza. And just for two nights, we had the opportunity to forget work and duty and just let our minds potter about in whatever directions they chose. It was utterly lovely.