Town mouse on evocative smells

Whistable is not far along the Kent coast from Ramsgate, but whata difference 20 miles can make. Fashion has descended on the one, but we’re still waiting for it in the other. As a result, the lunch to which we, of Ramsgate, are invited by Whitstable friends each year has a flavour of the exotic.

Literary and artistic types assemble in an E. M. Forsterish setting: it’s a highpoint of the summer. The husband, an architect, has conjured a suite of elegant spaces, including a soaring first-floor gallery, out of an old, weatherboarded barn. Externally, the building has not been denatured, but retains its essential character. Behind the barn doors, the space remains open to the rafters.

A treat this year was to visit the shed. In the billowy garden, it was within an ace of being lost beneath honeysuckle and sweet peas. But we found the door, and opened it onto an interior worthy of the National Trust: certificates of horticultural prizes yellowing on the walls, hand pumps, chemicals that have long since been banned… If only the smell of earth and creosote could be bottled, I’d keep a phial in London: one sniff would transport me to an immemorial land of seed packets and homemade ginger beer.