June!

Thursday 13th July 2017

To Trooping the Colour, the Royal Parks Stand (invitation only) courtesy of Royston King. To two quiet suppers and an 80th birthday lunch. To Watts Gallery, Surrey for a Press View. To KP for the Englightened Princesses Exhib. To the Far West for a VIP Mine Tour, to another quiet supper in London, to Osborne House for the day and finally to West Horsley Place for Die Walkure given by Grange Park Opera (but that was July 1st in fact).

This tremendous heat – so much showering and laundry. Outfits challenged constantly. Gardening in the boiling heat induced heat stroke. Went mad. My outfit got stained in our Mine in the Far West – so difficult to plan an outfit suitable for a VIP mine visit. We had to wear special boots provided by the mining company and hard hats. We lunched in the Mine. Sandwiches thought good. The Gay Mother enjoyed the visit having not been looking forward to it. She had a special tour. No over 90s in the processing plant. But the processing plant was so dull. We’d been looking forward to it the most. It was wet and dirty with lots of pipes. The Gay Mother got her special guide to take her to see how the trees they’ve planted to heal the scars up to a point are getting on. Back home we watched TV. ‘I suppose Mary Berry has to be a moralist now she’s well-known,’ the Gay Mother remarked. Mary had just dragged family values or whatever into her demonstration of how to make Black Forest Gateau. Later the Gay Mother recalled a long-ago scandal in the village. One of the Totty boys broke into the post office and drank a lot of gin: ‘But not a hint of a drug,’ the Gay Mother said reassuringly.

Trooping the Colour is incredibly ceremonial. Also baking. A soldier down every ten minutes. Stretchered off with great ceremony. But there’s one bit where they start galloping and it looks like a real battle. Or how a real battle must have looked. Utterly thrilling. We saw her. So near yet so far somehow. Afterwards we were in prime position before Buckingham Palace for the balcony appearance. A Scottish bagpiper, in thick socks, several coats and capes, was getting really huffy in the heat. They had to stand there in full sun for 30 minutes or more. But army discipline not what it was, all the same. In our modern softer age they make their complaints visible even in the army. She appeared on her balcony with her family in droves. It seemed to me she surged out onto balcony then surged back in again very soon after. Such an impact made by standing on a balcony for 3 minutes.

Jeremy Paxman was in the Press core of only 4 for the Press View of the George Frederick Watts English Michelangelo Exhib at the George Frederick Watts Gallery near Guilford. Have you heard of George Frederick Watts? He was a Victorian artist who hoped to improve the Poor through vast allegorical paintings. The Bloomsburys couldn’t bear him.  ‘Hope’ is his famous work, showing a bound, blind-fold figure sitting on a cloud. Another is ‘True, Justice and Death’ – but which is which and what are they doing? ‘Definitely not the English Michelangelo,’ Jeremy boomed before we’d even started. ‘It ought to be in inverted commas on the posters.’ … ‘Like a lot of second-rate artists..’ So he capped some remark from the hapless curator. Later Jeremy sat on a chair, doing a lot of cod huffing as he flicked through the catalogue. ‘The more I learn about this man the more exasperating I find him.’ Of course I was desperate to get in with Jeremy. But I’ve never had the gift. Some can put themselves forward and rise up through connection. I tried a few confidential asides, backing up Jeremy’s poor view of the artist and intended to show a certain soigné know-how from me. But I wasn’t asked back to meet the family for further fascination. Somehow I don’t think I’ll see Jeremy again. Or in the near future at any rate.

All this So I can Have a Few More Antiques

All this So I can Have a Few More Antiques

This is the Actual Mineral, Awaiting Shipping

This is the Actual Mineral, Awaiting Shipping

The Gay Mother's Red Currants

The Gay Mother’s Red Currants

She Arrives at Trooping

She Arrives at Trooping

Really Does Look Like a Battle

Really Does Look Like a Battle

The Battle Scene at Trooping

The Battle Scene at Trooping

Our Private Stand for Trooping

Our Private Stand for Trooping

Hot Cross Bagpiper at Buckingham Palace

Hot Cross Bagpiper at Buckingham Palace

On Her Balcony

On Her Balcony

George Frederick Watts Museum: Arts and Crafts

George Frederick Watts Museum: Arts and Crafts

 

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June Circular Part Two

Thursday 6th July 2017

My garden opening under the National Gardens Schemes took place just after the General Election. There was a luncheon buffet before and a seated tea afterwards for private guests and 150 of the public were admitted. I’ve opened now for five years and this was the best because of the good weather. There was so much out – roses, alliums, delphiniums, Canterbury bells, day lilies, lilies, the tiny Persian rock cress grown from seed by the Gay Mother. One visitor asked what was my favourite thing. I said the campanula that grows as a weed in the walls and happened to be flowering for the opening – great sheets of silver blue as a background to the garden. Such luck it was out. Aunt Lavinia arrived at 4 and complained afterwards she hadn’t had any tea. ‘I saw the cucumber sandwiches under clingfilm…’ – this is Joshua Baring Art. He is the Rembrandt of the cucumber sandwich. But the seated tea was at 5.30 and she left at 4.30 to get back to her bulldog. Lord Arrowby arrived with ten minutes to spare before the public arrived but said nobody was to have any more lunch. He said he’d been on government business because of the crisis but in fact had come directly from the Dries catwalk. He had on sensational beyond-lemon, beyond even custard, yellow slacks in a clingy springy experimental fabric, a Dries hunting coat in a Jacobean wall-hanging pattern and embossed snake-skin slip-ons – no socks. Later on he got a call from the Government and had to leave. I expect the PM was deeply interested in his frockage because she loves frockage. Rufus Pitman ribbed Lord Arrowby mercilessly and Raj Zoraster was seen flitting about before whirling off, probably for a left-wing rally. Speaking of which, my seated tea was very crowded, although up-graded from previous years because I’ve now got three tea-pots instead of one small one. I said to the assembly, ‘I don’t know what more Jeremy Corbyn wants. This house is tiny. And I wouldn’t be allowed to install a B&Q front door like his because it’s a conservation area.’

A few days later I visited Merle Barr’s allotment at Highgate (not the same patch as tilled by Jeremy Corbyn). What a secret world of allotments hidden in prime London territory. It was boiling and we lunched off the remains of the buffet I’d done for the Opening – chicken salad, cold fillet beef with sorrel sauce, sea trout with samphire and radish, strawberries and gooseberry fool. Then we weeded, picked (Merle wouldn’t have it that the broad beans were more than ready: she wanted them bigger) and toured – all agreeably ramshackle and old-world. Even old men installed leaning on pitch forks complaining. On the way back we stopped off in Highgate to look at the shrine to George Michael outside his house there. He was quite prancing and glancing, wasn’t he? He would have thought it a bit ridic, people arranging little dolls under trees and terrible kitsch framed photos with overwrought messages. I wonder how it’s all kept going through wind and rain and possible dogs coming in. It’s just a little patch of park with trees.

Merle Barr's Allotment with Own Hut

Merle Barr’s Allotment with Own Hut

Merle Barr Allotment: Terrific Responsibility of Fruit Trees and Vegetables

Merle Barr Allotment: Terrific Responsibility of Fruit Trees and Vegetables

Merle Barr Allotment: Traditional Water Tank and Roses

Merle Barr Allotment: Traditional Water Tank and Roses

George Michael Shrine: HIghgate

George Michael Shrine: Highgate

George Michael Shrine: Highgate

George Michael Shrine: Highgate: Note the Picket Fence

 

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June Circular

Wednesday 5th July 2017

The following events took place in June:

The Canaletto Press View at the Queen’s Gallery. Actually that was May. What do we think of Canaletto? Royston King v. much lobbying for during curator talk. A whole roomful of them is striking. Classical rigour – he used a ruler and compasses.  Decidedly that part of the earlier 18th century. Restrained. They’re not postcards, as we were brought up to believe. The vignettes of people on street corners etc are charming and apparently authentic. Royston said it was ridiculous to claim that Guardi is better. V. cross.

Prince Dmitri Hersov held a private dinner for Ariana Kronicapoulous: she has retreated from Greece for the time being and is engaged at one of the Multis’ cafés. She has been suffering and the Multis have embraced her.

Robert Nevil’s birthday dinner was held at Quo Vadis, where Joshua Baring is deeply known. Robert Nevil said his new age is one where things go wrong if they’re going to go wrong – so he’d heard. There was much talk of people who’d got on for no good reason. Afterwards we retreated to an outdoor iron staircase so one of the party could acquire cigarettes from the ‘lads’ smoking there and spent an agreeable half hour ‘chatting’ with their lower bodies from two steps down. One of them was getting married in the morning but uncertain of arrangements for the care of his small daughter overnight before the wedding.

A visit was paid to St Georges Chapel for an superb organ recital given by a young American man in a jackette, known to Royston King. Afterwards Frogmore Gardens was open as it only is a few times a year. Royston, of course, was known to Royal staff within and we heard that she had been there only the day before. We trekked through a gale to see the summer house where she feeds the dogs. The young American man and his friend were a little bemused but thrilled. They felt they had come close to the Throne. Motoring through Windsor, Royston remarked on the lack of black people. I said, ‘Surely a good thing.’ Don’t misunderstand. Many of my best friends are black, including Royston. I sensed that the Americans were reduced to piles of ash in the back of the vehicle but they weren’t quite. They got it. Where would we be without banter? I should mention that at a previous jewellery opening which Royston kindly invited me to (where I met the editor of Country Life who was exactly the person I wanted to see at that moment owing to a gig with the Daily Mail) a lady beside one of the cases of jewels in the basement was explaining her brooch. It was huge, fan-shaped with many ribs. ‘You see,’ she said, ‘on the end of each stick – those are the heads of black men.’ Royston didn’t blink. ‘Oh yes – rows and rows of black men all the same – how fascinating,’ he said.

I liked Frogmore more on this visit than the last one. It is what it is. A formal park garden, with Victorian shrubberies, and various Royal graves and mausoleums as well as Queen Victoria’s guilt-ridden grandiose mountain of classical features, her monument to her not entirely satisfactory mother.

Frogmore: a Rare Opening in June. A Classic Park with Water. Fine of its Kind

Frogmore: a Rare Opening in June. A Classic Park with Water. Fine of its Kind

Queen Victoria's Monument to her Mother: Draws Attention to her Deficiencies in the End

Queen Victoria’s Monument to her Mother: Draws Attention to her Deficiencies in the End: She Wasn’t that Great

A Drawing Room at Frogmore: not Bad for Summerhouse

A Drawing Room at Frogmore: not Bad for Summerhouse

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Scotland – the Final Day

Saturday 24th June 2017

On the final day we came to Hill House, the Charles Rene MacIntosh masterpiece. ‘I’ve worked out how many dots there are in a set of dominoes,’ the Laird said at breakfast in the Premier Inn. ‘Do you know?’ I didn’t so he told me. Later, in the van, on the way to Hill House, he mentioned an acquaintance who’d possibly got stuck on the road bridge over the River Clyde. His vehicle might have broken down at the highest point, causing the fullest mayhem. ‘He’s got flat feet,’ the Laird explained.  When we were passing over the bridge ourselves in the van,  he pointed out a grim mansion far below, now a hotel, where he’d perhaps had one of his honeymoons, maybe even with the present Lairdess. In any case, the manager’s got flat feet. But the present Lairdess was preoccupied still with the micro-biologist who’d been wild for the Laird 35 years ago. She engaged in insulting speculation about the state of her intimate parts after all these years. It made no difference how many times one explained that the Laird had repelled the micr0-biologist and therefore could not have engaged in intimacy with her. She didn’t believe it. That micro-biologist was only 19 at the time. She’d been for a ride in the Laird’s Triumph Spitfire, acquired via the family fortune from installing cigarette vending machines in the toilets of pubs. Therefore the matter of her intimate regions  could never be laid to rest. Meanwhile, Laura Malcolm said that Matt Driver had taken to wearing patterned socks. ‘He’s trying to acquire a personality,’ she said. Moira MacMatron was constructing a water-proof wimple for her own wear.

Frequently we recalled the great seagull episode of the day before when Laura Malcolm had seized the abandoned scone fragment from the neighbouring table in the cafe at Culzean. Laura had only to do a seagull squawk and we were paralysed with hilarity. How we roared! It really was one of the most marvellous things that happened on the holiday, just as good in its own way as the Chippendale and the Robert Adam staircase.

It was blowy and wet when we reached Hill House, the masterpiece of Charles Rene MacIntosh. It doesn’t exactly beckon with loveliness. Moira MacMatron put on her waterproof wimple. From without, Hill House resembles in some aspects one of those ancient Scottish castles that are in fact a tower, mostly wall. It’s an unrelieved grey. But the juxtaposition of forms intrigues. It’s bare,spare and incredibly modern, although appearing to resemble to older building. Lutyens pulled off the same genius at Castle Drogo, which could be mistaken for a fake medieval castle but is really as daring and modern as the Bauhaus.

Within Hill House is austere with a glint of Klimt in the fireplaces – as well as ancient Egypt. A good wide hall, but beyond that too pared down and minimal to be comfortable. You can’t helping thinking of all the mean, pinched, dark stockbroker residences that are the bastard offspring of MacIntosh and Lutyens. The best room is the Library, which appeared to be still as originally intended. None of the other rooms were in their authentic state, as far as I could see. The Library is very dark, but the panelling is superb Arts and Crafts, Liberty – really good quality.

After Hill House, we took lunch on The Maid of the Loch, a retired paddle steamer now resting on Loch Lomond. Great things were promised of a beautifully restored paddle steamer but it was a choice of toasted cheese sandwich or toasted tuna – and no mustard, nor indeed condiments of any kind – in rusty surroundings. Of course we embraced the lack of restoration with enthusiasm but the Laird, who had organised our tour down to the very last detail was disappointed. Indeed I think I saw him slipping a small mine under The Maid of the Loch as we departed. Suddenly there was a sign: ‘Designer Outlet Store’. We begged for the van to veer in and it did. I did not allow a dirty cream interior and rack upon rack of anoraks to depress me. It must get better, I thought. At the far end of the Mall was a sign: ‘Leading Labels’. Oh joy! Balenciaga, Prada, Gucci, APC, Paul Smith. A Prada belt would be £75. I could see it all unfolding before me. With Matt Driver, I forged in. There was no noticeable decor uplift. ‘Roman’ is not a leading label known to me. Nor, unfortunately, is ‘Regatta’. But surely, surely.. with persistence, Balenciaga would emerge? On and on we battled, through more of Roman and Regatta until we reached ‘Non-Iron poplin shirts’… and could go no further. There was no more store. That was it.

Then it was time to leave Scotland. We sang hymns of praise to the Laird in the van.

Praise him, praise him evermore

He did laminate the itinerary cards

He did telephone the restaurants

And He did bookèd the Premier Inn

He selecteth all the Places

Oh so great, for evermore

Praise him, Praise Him

All Before

Hill House: Pure Mass and Form

Hill House: Pure Mass and Form

Hill House: Arrangement of Shapes with Minimal Adornment: Both Ancient and Modern

Hill House: Arrangement of Shapes with Minimal Adornment: Both Ancient and Modern

Hill House: Here More Like an Scottish Castle such as Blair Atholl

Hill House: Here More Like an Scottish Castle such as Blair Atholl

Glorious Library at Hill House

Glorious Library at Hill House: Cosy as well as Pared Down

 

Nooky Corner in the Drawing Room at Hill House

Nooky Corner in the Drawing Room at Hill House – Actually V. Nice

The Drawing Room at Hill House

The Drawing Room at Hill House: What do You Think?

Good Wide Hall at Hill House

Good Wide Hall at Hill House: A Bit Japanese?

Moira MacMatron's Waterproof Wimple for The Hill House Visit

Moira MacMatron’s Waterproof Wimple for The Hill House Visit

Designer Outlet Store on Loch Lomond: So Promising

Designer Outlet Store on Loch Lomond: So Promising

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Going Back to the Scottish Visit: A Staircase of Shattering Importance

Sunday 18th June 2017

Yesterday Royston King’s shaded private stand for Trooping the Colour saved me from oblivion – although it still might come. The world has been reigned back a little from chaos since Friday although Lord Arrowby texts not reassuringly from our Nation’s heart. On Friday I was rocked also by news from the Far West – our lands and minerals won’t last long in any case once Jeremy gets to hear of them; that’s if our operators don’t ruin everything first. But I had comforting confab with a co-owner on the phone on the way to the Trooping. All the same, the great fist of punishment looms, I feel certain.

At luncheon after Trooping, Royston said people like us, at the inner core, the tiny percentage in the know, spend much time alone, although often at functions. It’s true. I went home alone, absolutely plastered and slept in the boiling heat. Royston produced a old doctor friend as a further plus one for Trooping who confided in me but not Royston that he wished to treat us to lunch. Rather annoying then, as we were staggering along in full outfits in the blazing heat with the luncheon venue undecided that I heard the doctor mention Claridges and Royston said, ‘Oh no, you pay £100 to fart in there.’ So we ended up in a Mayfair gastro pub – very nice. Madonna used to go there when it belonged to Guy Ritchie. Apparently the doctor doesn’t eat anything that might cause a heart attack. He suggested a glass of champagne then ordered a bottle of wine, followed by another. So reassuring – doctors.

But back to Scotland. We went to Culzean Castle. I’d never even heard of it although I love Robert Adam, whose work it is. Nor of the staircase inside it which turned out to be as important as the staircase entrance lobby to the Laurentian Library in Florence by Michelangelo. Why has nobody ever mentioned it before? We know Robert Adam was a supreme decorator, an interior designer before such a thing had been heard of. But not as a manager of monumental rhythms and complication.

On the way to Culzean in the van, the Laird said, ‘This is the Electric Brae.’ We didn’t get it at all. You’re meant to get an effect of going uphill while in fact going downhill. It’s one of these freak things. We made the Laird turn round and drive along it again. Laura Malcolm got quite cross which may or may not have led directly to the seagull episode later in the day. I don’t know how, if you think you’re going uphill, you’re supposed to know that in fact you’re going downhill. I think I’d have to practice the Electric Brae many times to have any hope of grasping it.

Culzean was glorious but most of all the staircase with its rhythms and illusions within an oval. The Scottish National Trust do everything slightly dingy which I liked. Apparently they have no money, unlike the English National Trust. Damp in one of the bedrooms. But they’re harbouring this earth-shattering staircase. A stairs, you ought to know by now, even a simple flight in an ordinary terraced house, is about the most appalling challenge an architect has to face. Bruce MacBain taught me that. So a quadruple-height, multi-directional oval stairs at the core of a great mansion doesn’t bear thinking about. Robert Adam turns out to have been batting in the team with Michelangelo as far as stair-case design is concerned.

In the café after the visit, there was a sudden squawking. ‘What on earth are you doing?’ Matt Driver was saying. ‘I fancied a scone with my coffee,’ Laura protested. ‘But that was someone else’s…’ ‘I don’t care. They’ve gone.’ Laura had swooped, like a seagull, and seized the vacant scone fragment before it was too late.

This was before the Election result, of course. In future we’ll have to get much better at acquiring food in this manner.

We did manage to self-buy our lunch in Culzean Castle cafe before being taken back in the van for a rest period in the Premier Inn. In the evening, the Lairdess contrived to get the Laird out of the restaurant just as we were sitting down. ‘I’ve left my phone in the van,’ she said. When he came back we were all wearing masks of himself. The game had nearly been given away by some customers exiting the restaurant who’d said to the Laird as he was coming back in, ‘It’s you, isn’t it?’ Thus we celebrated his forthcoming 60th birthday in another way. It was strange how the masks all looked different according to wearer although they were all identical in fact. A bit like the Electric Brae.

You get the masks on Amazon. You have to send in a photo of your loved one.

Culzean: the Staircase: What Directions

Culzean: the Staircase: What Directions

Culzean: One of the Great Staircases

Culzean: One of the Great Staircases

Culzean: the Staircase Space

Culzean: the Staircase Space

Culzean: a Delicious Ceiling

Culzean: a Delicious Ceiling

 

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These Terrible Days

Friday 16th June 2017

Nobody feels they can carry on. This fire. No government. Protesters storming the Town Hall. Majesty visited this morning, only just in time. This afternoon it would have been impossible. I hope she won’t be attacked over her visit. There she was – the same as always. She does and says little. The poor man as she was leaving – calling out, ‘What about the children? Queen, Queen, I want to see you.’ She thought he meant, ‘Get a view’ so she paused before getting into her car. Diana would have rushed over and hugged him.

How could Mrs May have got it so wrong? After all that’s happened? To visit and not speak to the victims? I’m beginning to wonder whether Jeremy isn’t the only hope after all.

I was there yesterday. The tower is near my old home. I happened upon The Church of All Saint’s Notting Hill, some way away, further back up the hill in the £££££££s part of the Borough. They were taking donations. So I dropped off  the contributions of Genevieve Suzy, Robert Nevil and myself. Only just in time. They’d got too much. My friend who has a shop in Portobello Road told me later that one of the Vesteys was in that church, feeling guilty about her millions from Fray Bentos boil-in-the-tin steak pies. I got back in the Official Car and rounded the corner: the blackened hulk slammed into view, although nearly a mile away, a terrible accusing presence – and there it will remain for many months. Often I used to wonder, when I lived in that neighbourhood, peering out from my poor little rich gay life, what went on in those tower blocks, for Grenfell is not the only one.  Utterly alien. You can see them from many of the desirable properties. Your afternoon walk could take in one or two easily.

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Narrow Escape ….

Saturday 10th June 2017

…but for how much longer? I’m keeping that place on the sofa for Jeremy still. He could be here in only a few months. I’ll be re-housed.

She is ghastly and it’s all her fault. She had a 20-point lead. What happened to that?

Has the country really turned to the brink of Socialism in seven weeks?

I’ve always said it can’t go on: too many people with not enough to live on while the rich get richer. A backlash is inevitable. They’ll be coming after capital. There will be land taxes. But they’ll damage enterprise and wealth creation.

What’s to be done?

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Caledonian Days

Thursday 8th June 2017

Fateful day – possibly my last in the life I have known. Funny because in Scotland we toured Statelies – Dumfries House was the first – revelling in the glory of the old ways. But Matt Driver wants total inheritance tax. It was much discussed.  I had to explain that the Gay Mother keeps her nearby post office going in the Far West, buying a cauliflower or a lemon cake with inherited money.

My whole life has been inheritance, now I think about it and its shape becomes clearer as it draws to its twilight years. Otherwise, it would have been entirely different and possibly nothing.

I digress: I had to have check-in luggage because of all the tartan I acquired for the Scottish visit – two tartan jackets, a tartan frock coat and tartan trousers. We arrived at the Premier Inn Ayr. A middle-aged couple were leaving for an Abba Fancy Dress party. The Laird distributed printed cards explaining our next rendezvous. At 6.45 the van would leave for Troon. It did. Moira MacMatron, Laura Malcolm and the Lairdess, at this stage, were militantly occupying the back seat as women only. In Troon they wandered off piste, taking photos of Matt Driver in front of a branch of the TSB bank. He is currently re-shaping the brand of TSB in UK and throughout the world. If only the young woman locking up the Troon branch in Troon’s flat bare streets so far from anywhere had known… The Laird swept up with the van to where they were dawdling and put them in. Even so we were the last at MacCallum’s excellent Oyster Bar in Troon harbour. The Scots are in bed by 10. My outfit stood out a little less than it had done during the passiagata at Troon. Matt Driver said, ‘I don’t think they’ve seen Zara before.’

The fish dinner was excellent. We could have been in London it was so artisanal. The Lairdess wanted more bread and they said they’d have to make it, it would take 20 minutes. She wasn’t best pleased.

The next day I wore a rain outfit but it didn’t rain. Dumfries House was glorious – very simple and cosy. It was built by Robert Adam but not in his style as we know it. It is more of a 17th century type of house, a series of box-like rooms with windows on one side, one leading on to the next. The furniture is worth more than the house. It’s actual Chippendale, made by him. There are only 600 pieces he made himself in existence and Dumfries House has got a good chunk of them. One chair is worth £1 million. I was struck that Chippendale often seems to hark back to the late 17th century or forward to the Victorian period, with his curves and elaboration.  Except that some of the furniture is rococo. Granny always preferred Sheraton or Hepplewhite for their simplicity. We heard much about Lady Eileen on the tour. She was the last of the Butes to live in the house until her death in 1993, and outstanding.  ‘Paint it battleship grey,’ she decreed and the exquisite decoration in the Pewter Corridor was obliterated. Her poker night was Thursday and she smoked 80 a day. She achieved great wreckage plus ring marks on the furniture, still there, and dogs on the best Chippendale sofa.

We lunched at Brig o’Doon House in the Robert Burns National Memorial Park. ‘I’m sure I’ve seen that water jug before,’ the Lairdess said. ‘That’s because we’ve got one at home identical in daily use,’ the Laird said. The Robert Burns National Memorial Park was very extraordinary – very nationalistic. Laura Malcolm liked the museum, but I was shattered.  Returning in the van, the women-only back seat began to lose its solidarity. ‘Oh, I can’t get in there,’ the Lairdess said as if she’d never heard anything so preposterous. Being stationed further forward possibly made it easier for her to lob intimate enquiries at the Laird re: his former girlfriends if any, as he drove the van.

Back at the Premier Inn, Ayr Racecourse, there was but a short time before departure (more departure cards issued) for Enterkine House Country House Hotel for a dinner in a private room filled with antiques to celebrate the Laird’s forthcoming birthday. Incredible elegance and grandeur: a vast dining table groaning with antiques, and the seven of us mere specks amidst all the ware: which is how it should be. There was a rumour that the Laird had been there before with a previous wife or some mysterious molecular scientist, who aged 19, and all of 34 years ago, when he was 26, had ragingly pursued the Laird and, as far as could be discerned, never even got a ride in the Triumph Spitfire, let alone prosecco in the glove box as accorded to a true love. But the Lairdess was soothed by the antiques and not inclined to seize one of the firearms on the walls for an armed pursuit of any traces of former women.

Back in the van, the all-women back seat suddenly was revived and they gave a tremendous airing to the short-comings of the warm white wine waitress.

The Premier Inn, Ayr Racecourse

The Premier Inn, Ayr Racecourse

Abba Fans in Car Park of Premier Inn Ayr Racecourse

Abba Fans in Car Park of Premier Inn Ayr Racecourse

My Outfit for Troon Passiagata: No Socks Victim

My Outfit for Troon Passiagata: No Socks Victim

Troon: the Passiagata

Troon: the Passiagata

Our Van was Marked in Troon

Our Van was Marked in Troon

Dumfries House: a Charming, Simple Villa

Dumfries House: a Charming, Simple Villa with its Little Friends it’s Spawned

Dumfries House: So Manageable and Simple

Dumfries House: So Manageable and Simple

Dumfries House: the Blue Drawing Room. Furn by Chippendale. This is the Sofa Lady Eileen Used for Dogs

Dumfries House: the Blue Drawing Room. Furn by Chippendale. This is the Sofa Lady Eileen Used for Dogs

Chippendale Chair Worth £1m. To Me it's Quite Victorian in Feel. Legs v. Splayed

Chippendale Chair Worth £1m. To Me it’s Quite Victorian in Feel. Legs v. Splayed

Chippendale Rococo

Chippendale Rococo

The Family Parlour at Dumfries House

The Family Parlour at Dumfries House

The Family Parlour: Here Lady Eileen Played Poker

The Family Parlour: Here Lady Eileen Played Poker

This is the Corridor Lady Eileen had Painted Battleship Grey

This is the Corridor Lady Eileen had Painted Battleship Grey

Bed by Chippendale: Val would Love the Hard Upholstery

Bed by Chippendale: Val would Love the Hard Upholstery

This is the Actual Brig o'Doon

This is the Actual Brig o’Doon

A Wedding was Taking Place in Brid o'Doom in the Robert Burns National Memorial Park - but Wrong Nationality?

A Wedding was Taking Place in Brig o’Doon in the Robert Burns National Memorial Park. A Male Guest group – but Wrong Nationality?

 

 

 

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What’s Been Happening – Again

Friday 2nd June 2017

By this time next week I could be over. I’ve always said that the poor would rise up and now they will. I’ve tinkered with the garden this afternoon. But there’s little point if the Bolsheviks are due in ten days time.  I wonder where Corbyn will re-house me.

So these are the last days. Robert Nevil and I took ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ with Imelda. Decor’s come on since the 50s, at least. I like this play. To me, it’s perfectly normal – or just a teeny bit exaggerated – that they carry on like that. It’s not depressing. They’re fighting against the void like the rest of us. Afterwards Robert Nevil tried on a bit of George and Martha work in the street as we were waiting for our cars. But he won’t destroy me.

I fitted in the Hockney Show at the Tate. Luckily I knew most of the work so was not detained too long. But the impact of it massed together – the central room with the large canvasses – Celia Imrie and Ossie at Home, Henry on the Sofa, His Mother and Father, the Art Collector Lady and Husband. It was like the Raphael Stanze in the Vatican or the Arena Chapel. So monumental yet so light. Years ago I wondered about the flat acrylic quality of Hockney’s work from that era but now I see it has that modernity while the modelling of the faces is exquisite and classical.

I was bidden to Highclere on account of Dainty Lady TV. Genevieve Suzy was to have accompanied me but couldn’t because, at the after-party for the confirmation of the daughter of the Deputy Editor of the Mail on Sunday, somebody stabbed her foot with a stiletto. I had private audience with the Countess in the Downton Abbey library. Highclere is a much nicer house than appears. Not heavy and Victorian but light and carved and fanciful. There’s a delightful drawing room in the Ritz rococo style and very good tooled leather covering from the 16th century in what they call the Saloon which is really the hall. Once the Countess realised she was talking to a fellow decor enthusiast (I didn’t quite manage to work in that landed affairs are a little bit my province too – or were) she showed me the bedrooms. She’s got a fantastic silvery pink from the Paint Library in one of them. We also looked at the shutters she’s had restored but she left the scuff marks on the skirting.

On the way back, Robert Nevil suggested that I look at the Stanley Spencer chapel at Burghclere. So I did. Very good but the religious aspect is troubling. Funny how Michelangelo is not damaged by being religious but in a later painter it seems eccentric and limiting. Why is this?

Then there was a Wyndham Lewis tour: we saw the railings in Soho Square where he got hung up by his trouser turn-ups. It was some row about a lady. Quite an attractive figure but a bit grim. He liked to stir up trouble. Tremendous feuds and a phase of loving Hitler, later obliterated. Fearsome writings nobody but the wildest fan can read. Don’t really know what Vorticism is, do you? Everything swirling round with its own energy. Like a lot of things, it only lasted about ten minutes and very little work was produced but people are still taking about it 100 years later. He did that great pic of T.S. Eliot and the other one of Edita Sitwelliana. But they aren’t Vorti.  We were shown his war paintings privately in the stacks at the Imperial War Museum. Odd. I noticed how many old generals are stored there, glinting out side ways from their slots. An exclusive buffet was laid out in the private corridor of the museum and we consumed in the Orpen Room amidst his war paintings which some would kill to see.

Wyndham Lewis: his Idea of 1st World War. What do you Think?

Wyndham Lewis: his Idea of 1st World War. What do you Think?

A General Stowed Away at the Imperial War Museum

A General Stowed Away at the Imperial War Museum

The Private Corridor at the Imperial War Museum

The Private Corridor at the Imperial War Museum

Stanley Spencer: Oddball

Stanley Spencer: Oddball

Highclere

Highclere: More fun that Might Appear

Highclere: the Saloon

Highclere: the Saloon: The Countess Pointed out Some Marks on the Upholstery Here Which she is Rising Above 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s been Happening in May

Thursday 25th May 2017

I took 42nd Street and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I was at the Hockney Retrospective at the Tate and the Queer Art Exhib (joint ticket). Down at the Gay Mother’s we gave and took a lunch. I vac-ed and weeded. I schemed to get her to replace the pittosporum with a cypress such as marks a demesne in Tuscany – ‘Well, this isn’t Tuscany,’ the Gay Mother said. Otherwise she remarked upon The Archers: ‘Matt Crawford came back…. so why shouldn’t Rob Titchner come back… and his horrible mother.’

Val took sixty years at the Chiswick Cafe Rouge. It was a very restrained party of just two Oxford sewing and fabric ladies, plus me, Adrian Edge. Wayne Sleep came and sat nearby. It turned out he’s bought Nancy Mitford’s first married home, Rose Cottage, which is right next door. There was a flicker of recognition from that time Bruce McBain brought him round to see my stone worktops with a view to him having similar. I thought of hurling at him, but it was better that he hovered on the fringes, lending a glow. Nothing could detract from Val, who’d been watching TV. The film had simply everything: she was besieged by the Bolsheviks, stampeded by Red Indians, tied to a railway line and hung out of an upper window of the Empire State building. ‘I thought it must be “The Perils of Pauline” ‘, Val said. But it wasn’t. Pauline was tied to a railway line in sepia, of course, while frantic piano music played, and a sign flickered on the screen explaining her dire plight. Also of note were the hymns at a recent funeral of a rellie at Arnos Grove. ‘Might as well have been by Neil Diamond,’ Val said. Terrible, drifty mu, no tune, ghastly long-winded, crippled fervour of the words.

There was lunch before 42nd Street at Delaunay. Raj had recently undergone an interesting procedure and pretended to squeal at any approach to his chest area. Burna said he shouldn’t tell Rufus to clean his glasses and Rufus said semen gives you acid, just as the waiter was leaning over. He looked as if he’d had a rough night. The matinee audience for 42nd Street astonishing: the entire contents of Colliers Wood surely present. Glittery cardies and middle-aged women on the move in their seats throughout: the numbers! the tap-dancing! Raj said the Busby Berkeley floor work where the girls pulse and scissor as one was a mollusc or something worse. It was all completely thrilling of course. She only had 12 hours in which to become a star – as usual.  Rufus said no sense whatsoever could be made of the show in which she was to be the last minute replacement. Nor was there any hint as to why the whole piece is called 42nd Street. But one mustn’t quibble when you have show girls, tap shoes, hit numbers and stardom.

I’ve also taken a Wyndham Lewis Tour of London with lunch in the Orpen Room at the Imperial War Museum, had private confab in the library at Highclere with Carnarvon’s Countess and another private tour conducted by Bamber at West Horsley Place. ‘You’re the only one that keeps up,’ he said to me as the rest of the party straggled. That was because I was chronically keen to work in my own landed connections. At last we saw a rabbit so I was able to tell the story of Lord Seaton running up his bedroom window on a Sunday morning and shooting rabbits and that led very comfortably to the sash he kept on the hall table, mixed up with the current gloves and scarves, upon which Sir John More had been lowered into the grave at Corunna. Bamber didn’t quite cotton on actually but at last he knew the poem.  He never said, ‘Starter for ten’ or ‘I must hurry you’ but he did say, ‘We’re very short of time… you’ll have to be getting on… really very little time left…’ so presumably he’s permanently locked in the time-frame of an epi of University Challenge.

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