Height but no Depth

Thursday 17th August 2017

The next thing that happened was that Jonas Kauffman gave his Otello at the Garden. He wore his own jeans but was marvellous. Except he can’t be really frightening. But so supple and thoughtful instead. The lady was great as well. I was struck by how long the willow scene is – nearly 20 minutes, I should say, of just her. Incredible to enjoy the opera for itself, rather than the rich outer life of the opera. Forked massively for the seats and took Miss Belliver for her 80th birthday. Wore my Topman linen suit with short trews – didn’t get footwear right: had socks not sockettes with slip-ons. Glimpsed Simeon Bond also in the stalls who is easily £25 million. So I achieved the appearance of being on that level.

One house-keeping note for Poor Little Rich Gays booking the Rich Ladies Supper Tables in the Paul Hamlyn Hall for the interval – when it says ‘Any allergies’ on the advance online booking, don’t ignore. I chose a main course for Miss Belliver; it didn’t say it had cheese in it, which she doesn’t take. But when it came, lo and behold, cheese! V annoying.

So it was home with barely time for sleep before arrival at the Royal Academy the next morning for the Private Breakfast. I wore part of the Scottish trousseau. Great novelty – the brekker was given in the main gallery rather than the Reynolds Room as usual. All the great ladies present, including Aunt Lavinia, were discussing the buses in which they had gained the venue. What of the millions they were supposed to be giving the Academy? An exquisite elderly petal attached herself to us. She greatly admired some ghastly daubs of Venice, threw off the wrong artist’s name with great aplomb (I checked in the catalogue) but said the Legacy department had been simply marvellous. Aunt Lavinia and I escaped to a neighbouring room. But she followed. ‘That must be Tracey Emin,’ she said of something that couldn’t possibly have been. ‘I know her. Completely ghastly.’ We scuttled away again. ‘Just too many pictures; they ought to have narrowed it down.’ The lady was once again at our side. ‘Is this the African blanket?’ At least she had been partially listening to the curator’s talk. Suddenly she was animé and making a bee-line: ‘Oh do look. There’s that lovely lady who does the flowers.’ Elizabeth Blackadder. Aunt Lavinia and I did like some of things, as best we could. The Summer Exhib is always a trial because it’s so hard to know what to like without being told.

Summer Exhib: I have Many of This Artist's Work

Summer Exhib: I have Many of This Artist’s Work but This not my Fav

Cornelia Parker: Coffee Pot Suspended

Cornelia Parker: Coffee Pot Suspended: Better in Graph because you Can’t See Support

 

Aunt Lavinia and I Liked This

Aunt Lavinia and I Liked This

We Liked This Even More

We Liked This Even More: Broken and Smooth Like so Much of Life

Aunt Lavinia Loved This

Aunt Lavinia Loved This: Reminded her of the Puppet Performance of ‘Crow’ in Greenwich Which Caused a Member of the Audience to Have a Panic Attack in the Middle of It

Gorgeous Indian Work

Gorgeous Indian Work: So Many Doilies

More

Motor-Cyclists with Tinned Frame and No Faces

Brocade Ship

Ship: Pearl Over-Spill: ‘Those are Pearls that Were His Eyes.’ But I expect Artist Just Likes Pearls

 

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Socks and Sockettes Shape the Poor Little Rich Gay Summer

Tuesday 8th August 2017

Hampton Court Flower Show Press Day – couldn’t be bothered. Had enough of Flower Shows for the time being.

The National Garden Scheme London Owners’ Garden Party was held at Lambeth Palace this year. No sign of Justin. Garden only so-so although must be one of the oldest gardens in London. But gardens don’t last. Rather a muddy lake and inclined to peter out at the edges to heaps of weeds and rubbish. The whole thing had the modern C of E feel, earnest, nice but meekly in reverse as to ferocious elegance. Horror of unexpectedly being called up to be given a certificate for having opened for 5 years. Especially since hadn’t opened for five years but at length remembered to count in this year. Wore some stripy canvas Manolo Blanik sand shoes given me by Cousin Barley – very Côte d’Azur – but my first attempt at the sockless look was a failure. My sockettes were so tiny (Dore Dore from Harrods) they wouldn’t stay on. Later, at dinner under a railway arch in Hackney, Fergus Strachan said the Blaniks were not his favourite of my footwear.

Lord Arrowby gave a party of great lavishment with his usual waif-like wood-faery attendant. So many people knew me but I didn’t know them – it was awful. We discussed socks and hot weather management thereof. One lady said she was always quite without stockings in the summer. Someone told me to get sockettes at Uniglo rather than Dore Dore at Harrods – so at last there was hope I could get right the ridiculous new sockless look with trousers at half mast. It’s marvellous the way themes emerge linking one event to another.

The great revelation was the tremendous freedom and newness of Rufus Pitman and Raj Zoroaster. Raj’s new metal addition was much mentioned. Really they’re having a wail of a time in Europe, rising quite above the constrictions of marriage as usually known. Meanwhile, Lord Arrowby whizzed in and out, cat-walking a new outfit every ten minutes. Rufus also was re-thought several times and Raj suddenly appeared in a shirt showing many monkeys which couldn’t have been more suitable.

The Lord was either in electric blue and orange with yellow flashes, or violent yellow, snakeskin and heavy metal or extreme green, red and tribal accessories, all the time growing more and more bouncy and delightful. The Lord outfits he wore, the more bouncy he became.

Outfit swapping has been a major theme of the Poor Little Rich Gay summer, as we shall see. Outfit swapping is the latest thing. You have to try it.

I couldn’t stay long because the next day was Glyndebourniana. I only had one course to do which was duck with redcurrants, port and redcurrant jelly. The picnic went off well; Fabien-Boris and Archie bought the 1st course from the supermarket and Prince Dmitri’s suppliers were Jeroboam and Ottolenghi. We discussed bodies as much as possible and Archie showed us exciting pictures of himself doing the Iron Man Marathon. The weather was glorious for once. Hipermestra was the opera. It’s by Cavalli. Had never heard of it but there was nothing else much I wanted to see at Glyndebourniana this year and somehow one is condemned to go. Well, it was worth it, although, as with so many ‘rarities’, you could see how it had become so. V. restrained, high, pure mu, surely not hurling itself into the arms of the audience, tiny little orch consisting only of unknown pucky, scrapy instruments, no brass or wind. But beautifully done, faultless high pure singing and clever production re-locating creaky ancient story to the Middle East of today with good effect. Frightful War-lord ambience and pointless destruction with love the only hope. It made a touching story.

Glyndebourniana as Always

Glyndebourniana as Always

Laura Malcolm's Zara jacket as Also Worn by Fiona Bruce on Antiques Roadshow, who is Making Do on £350,000 a Year

Laura Malcolm’s Zara jacket as Also Worn by Fiona Bruce on Antiques Roadshow, who is Making Do on £350,000 a Year

Laura Malcolm on a Visit to Bordeaux in Very Hot Weather

Laura Malcolm on a Visit to Bordeaux in Very Hot Weather

 

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The Summer Cycle

Friday 4th August 2017

So it goes on, one year to the next, the radiant summer cycle, untroubled, unchanging, while beneath rage boils. Already my forthcoming 60th birthday has become a battlefield although it’s not until October; the Multis have sounded the first cry for blood, backed up, it would seem by certain unknown individuals. Genevieve Suzy, as often, is suffering from summer madness; she’s remarkably seasonal, utterly to be relied on. She blew up in the Viet Garden and wasn’t seen again until the cafe at the Buckingham Palace press view where she was coming to the boil re: lack of a traditional cream tea in that cafe. The Queen almost had to come back from Balmoral. I bought Genevieve a Royal teapot and cream jug (mezzo prix) to have in her suite at Dainty Towers. So at last the Dainty Lady TV  teapot drama is over. It’s almost two years since the lid of the 1940 English Chintz Royal Albert got broken and was sent to the basement to be mended, never to be seen again.

At the beginning of July Royston King took me as his guest to the new Grange Park opera at West Horsley Place. You may remember I went there in June for another reason and was desperate to get intimate with Bamber as we toured the ruined house he inherited. This new Grange Park opera is a major thing. Wasfi has built a whole new opera house. We’ve known about her since Uni days. Royston too; that’s how he got the comps plus she wants to do an opera in one of his parks. But no-one seems to have noticed the first new opera house in Britain since Glyndebourne was re-built. Wasfi is clearly aiming high. She wants another Bayreuth and may well get it. The house looks like Bayreuth. Die Walkure was given and was thrilling. The only let down was the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. One harp just isn’t enough. But in these smaller houses the singers shrine and are fresh and joyous, not booming and strained. Royston was utterly gripped, never having seen it before. We didn’t get private confab with Wasfi. In the interval she was selling cake and didn’t seem to know us. A.N.Wilson also was sadly at sea when hailed by Royston although suitably humble: ‘I’m sure I should know you.’  Royston addressed him as ‘Sir’ and congratulated him generally on his life with great gusto. A.N.Wilson is very shy and looked as if the wind would blow him away.

Glyndebourniana as Always

Glyndebourniana as Always

The Gay Mother's Flower Bed (one of them) This Year

The Gay Mother’s Flower Bed (one of them) This Year

 

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Don’t Get Me Wrong

Saturday 29th July 2017

Re: my previous, don’t get me wrong. Thinking back 50 years to 1967 and Gays getting partially decrim. We did our bit for Gays and were Gay, the first phase really. Anthony Mottram and I at Barrowborough all those years ago, from 1970 to 1975. In my case, class helped: when the Gay Mother and I arrived at the Gay Granny’s, Dinner was required to come out of the Lodge and curtsey as we went by in the half-timbered vehicle. Or so I like to think. Remember Blanche Dubois: ‘I don’t tell the truth.’ I carried grandeur whether you like it or not. Anthony Mottram, now supreme of Prague, was ten when the Master said, ‘Eat your custard. Think of the children of Biafra.’ And Anthony Mottram said, ‘Well, put it in a parcel and send it to them because I don’t want it.’ Oh the terrifying, cold, crystalline purity of AM! We loved the truth. Anybody who stood in our way – loathsome fat-arsed Clayton or seething, hypocritical masters of an unmarried persuasion – was subject to an onslaught of fashion, mink, Twinings Teas, Landed Gentry and relentless glinting truth pellets. Nobody dared even to try to get the better of Anthony Mottram. Many were on the verge of self-wetting in his presence.

We were not afraid.

Think of Robert Nevil and Eddie Sedgewick at the neighbouring school: their underground pamphlets and dangerous liaisons. Later the mohair jumper in the green blancmange shade. Gay, gay, gay. Then on the front line in Brixton in student days. Below them was a male brothel. They were burgled every 15 minutes; the Police blamed their choice of race amongst whom to live, whom they called ‘coons’ which behaviour of the police later gave rise to the burning down of Brixton by enraged black people and their supporters in 1982. The main advantage of Brixton for Robert Nevil and Eddie Sedgewick, though, was Morleys of Brixton, a department store where you could get ladies’ high-heels in larger sizes owing to the Afro-Caribbean lady clientele.  Otherwise they never failed to expose themselves every time a suburban train halted outside their windows at the back – so it really was ‘outraged of Tunbridge Wells’.

The world had never seen this before. Out gays being gay and atrocious and nobody being able to do anything about it. The more abuse they hurled, the more we ridiculed: it was great and it was history.

 

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The Gays Today

Thursday 27th July 2017

Today it’s 50 years to the day since Gays were decriminalised – up to a point. Not a happy day for many Gays. Curiously, official celebrations, such as on TV, look back to a time of suffering and oppression. Gays are all right now but ideally they should be respectably married and tucked up in bed in pyjamas. Unmarried Gays are another matter. What are they up to exactly? And do we want to know? Many Gays look back to the time after 1967 and before AIDS. It was fab causing outrage and being a screaming queen. With their waspish tongues and superior ways, Gays were ideally suited to conflict. But once you’ve started on that path it’s hard to give up. So now conflict has to be generated artificially: have the bi-sexuals, the asexuals, the non-binaries been included? Usually not, so let’s make a scene.

At the Queen’s Gallery the other morning for the Press View of the Caneletto Exhib, Royston King said, ‘Most Gays have got something wrong with them.’ He was regaling me with his romantic news while the curator was giving her talk. He’d got entangled with a gardener. He doubted he’d try another gardener.

It’s all very well liberating the Gays but is it not too late? Were they too early somehow wounded or set off on a higher, more difficult path? Even our younger Poor Little Rich Gays, as we know, are tormented just as much we ever were, regularly meeting trains from Bournemouth bearing a Grindr liaison who blossoms at once into nightmare.

It’s the other Gays, really. If you could get rid of them, everything would be all right. So competitive, particular, prickly, inclined to describe a loving if persistent suite as ‘sexual harrassment’, quietly running down, belittling the other Gays, not realising they’re doing it. Such a legacy of harm. Will it ever end?

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To Osborne with Prince Dmitri and Professor Krishna

Sunday 23rd July 2017

Professor Krishna we’ve known about for years. Robert Nevil lodged with his family on visits to Cal and now at last he was over here again after years and years and mad keen on Queen Victoria. So finally, finally, after a lifetime’s yearning, an outing to Osborne was planned. I’d yearned myself for Osborne, and Queen Victoria, for so long both had long ceased remotely to be real. Somehow that barrier of the Solent…. to cross to the Isle of Wight. Laura Malcolm always says it’s UKIP incarnate, the Isle of Wight. She’s been there. You do have to be a brain-box to work out the best route, especially there and back in the day from our Sacred Capital. But finally I managed to match trains and hydrofoils and taxis. Not cheap either. Only the privileged few could rise to it.

So we gained Osborne by taxi and took a yellow curry lunch themed for Osborne where Queen Victoria had her Indian phase. And then into the house. Just incredible. Why did nobody ever say? The level of access  – even her lav on view, her bath, the bed where she died. The bizarre nursery with rows of matching grandiose cots in maghog designed by Prince A. A sort of prison really. The whole place has this marvellous machine-finished, Great Exhibition feel of an institution or an hotel. Horrifyingly complete. No quoin-ed, painted ceiling unfinished, no set of bronzes or marble statues incomplete. Professor Krishna remarked on the incredible level of marble nudity in the drawing room. Oh quel drawing room! Swirly gilt sofas, yellow silk damask, matching, matching –  the absolute hotel feel. Paintings crammed the walls – copies of this and that, 19th century ideas of Renaissance paintings of the Madonna, ghastly but of a piece. And then the Durbar Room. Queen Victoria went mad for India. The Professor said, ‘It’s very odd being Indian and here.’ Preliminary photos and portraits of Indian persons in the corridor leading up to … finally the room itself like a wedding cake inside out. All whirled up in no time. Not quite sure how it was done. Real Indian people were employed but they used paper and moldings. The result resembles what one imagines some burgers of one of the Northern cities would have produced had they decided to have an Indian town hall. Again, devastatingly complete.

Down by the bathing place, we had general conversation. Prince Dmitri surveyed the great Steppe as always and regretted the debased modern world. The Professor said that India is horrifying – the caste system still rampant and intolerance coming steadily to the boil. But looking more to the West, he observed how offensive people are in taking offence.

We looked at the new bright yellow terrace brilliantly restored to alarming newness. At Osborne originally the budget was not unlimited. The walls are cement, painted to look like stone and there are, of course, the Italianate features – the belfries and loggias. So many civic buildings followed in the 19th century, built by the British all over the world, with the same quality of  ersatz fantasy run up in the machine age but marvellous.

Arrival at Osborne: a Lot of Asphalt

Arrival at Osborne: Municipal Vista

Osborne: the Newly Restored Yellow Terrace

Osborne: the Newly Restored Yellow Terrace

Osborne: Blissful Hotel Drawing Room

Osborne: Blissful Hotel Drawing Room

Osborne: the Drawing Room: Dividing Screen

Osborne: the Drawing Room: Dividing Screen

Corner of the Dining Room: Family Portraits at Osborne

Corner of the Dining Room: Family Portraits at Osborne

Osborne: the Level of Art

Osborne: the Level of Art

Queen Victoria her Lav: Osborne

Queen Victoria her Lav: Osborne

Her Bath: Osborne

Her Bath: Osborne

The Military-Style Nursery

The Military-Style Nursery

Ranks of Cots Designed by Prince A

Ranks of Cots Designed by Prince A

The Actual Durbar Room: Can you Believe It?

The Actual Durbar Room: Can you Believe It?

The Munshi: Queen Vic Mad Keen

The Munshi: Queen Vic Mad Keen

 

 

 

 

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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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