An Irish Visit: Walk-On Luggage Only

Monday 13th May 2019

I thought I was going for one night only but as soon as I got there I realised it would have to be two. My funeral outfit was the Topman frock coat in real wool (shaggy tartan). It had to double up as a travelling coat owing to being in a walk-on luggage only trap.  Otherwise I had only one extra day outfit and insufficient foundation garments.

Prince Dmitri had briefed me about Ireland beforehand. He lived many years of exile there. A cupboard is a ‘press’. They say, ‘I’m after buying a Wedgwood dinner service’ which doesn’t mean ‘I hoping to buy a Wedgwood dinner service,’ but the opposite: ‘I’ve just bought a Wedgwood dinner service.’ On the plane it all zinged into life on Aer Lingus. They were Irish. ‘I’m after getting a gin and tonic,’ one stewardess said to another. Thrilling. On the radio in the hire car from Cork airport to Waterford, a reporter was describing a court case going on in Dublin. ‘His mother lost the run of herself,’ he said. Can you be surprised?

Strange countryside – very green, of course, huge open spaces with fields, then mountains, bleak little villages, often hideous 19th or 20th century buildings. It looks like England but it isn’t. Much ruination. Any gentleman’s residence, such as might be a parsonage or a solicitor’s goodly house, almost certain to have been wrecked with replacement windows. And very few of them – good residences, I mean. The terrible history, I suppose. Really nothing but wretched peasant dwellings that fell down or were demolished. Somehow no sense of a peaceful rural life, but strife and wrong.

At Waterford, hotel not progressed since 1981. Amazing long-haired carpet with nylon sheen, the vast expanse of it the main feature of the room, obliterating the need for pictures on the walls. Spanish receptionist suggested a bistro in the town but when I get there crazy parking arrangements: there were parking spaces in the pedestrian zone and vehicle access permitted, but actual parking forbidden – or so they said when I asked in the restaurant. So had to re-park. But no provision made for getting out of zone again – i.e.no traffic light at the junction, lights only at the other three junctions of the cross-roads – so just had to drive out randomly. Terror of ticket.

In the restaurant there was an enormous woman saying to the waitress: ‘Can we have three puddings? It says here “3 courses for 25 euros”. But we only had one 1st course between us.’ She got her three puddings. I longed to lean over and say, ‘The last thing you need is 3 puddings.’

The funeral was to be of the Gay Mother’s oldest friend who passed at 95, always known as Miss B. This was because a very snobbish neighbour said to the Gay Grandmother in 1930,’ How fortunate the Gay Mother is to have Miss Bigby to play with, the charming little grand-daughter of General Sir Morgan Bigby.’ Miss Bigby at that time was only six, but still the grand-daughter of General Sir Morgan Bigby without escape. This same neighbour, when the air-raids came, announced that Hodges, her maid, was in her proper place under the kitchen table, while she was beneath some Sheraton in the drawing room. Sheraton did not design his furniture with air raids in mind. The same might be said of the kitchen table but I think we know which would have been the stronger. Also the kitchen was in the basement.

But I agree that placement and prestige should take precedence over life and death.

The funeral wasn’t until 2pm the next day so I was able to fit in Mount Congreve in the morning. Important Spring garden and fabulous Irish Georgian mansion (no inside visits), so bare and grey, the only feature an elaborate black stone front door portal. In fact Miss Bigby’s son-in-law had been the agent to old Mr Congreve who died aged 103 in 2011. Completely feudal set-up and carry-on so what has changed in Ireland? Trespassers all but gunned down and staff abolished at will.

I gained the grim Church of Ireland barn in a Cornish-type of sea-side town with golf links and knew no-one. Within it was pitch-pine lined. I was summoned to the front row by Miss Bigby’s daughter whom I last saw in 1968. Every summer they stayed in the 60s. Now for a moment we were revived and strangely thrown together at her mother’s funeral. And I hadn’t seen her since 1972. My placement meant that at the end of the service when the mourners filed by the family as is the Irish tradition apparently I was showered with condolences. But it was all for the Gay Mother who had known her the longest and could hardly be there herself at 95.

Miss Bigby had lived quietly without men mostly and in her mind had dwelt on Proust and the struggle to produce art in the emptiness of the 20th century. She left a body of hard-line abstract paintings which seemed less important on the day of her funeral than her lovely life of the mind. Awfully brainy woman vicar, explaining all this, full of culture and learning.  Miss Bigby’s void was full of light. Although her form was lowered brutally into the grave in its wicker coffin. In her day she had been whacky in a salmon-pink leather mini-suit on the train from London arriving in the Far West. Now laid in the earth. I’d not seen that before. In Ireland there’s only one crematorium.

We returned to the same nylon and rice krispies hotel where I was staying for the funeral baked meats which was a hefty sit-down chicken dinner on a potato base. Not much drinking. Then it was over.

The next morning I schemed to fit in Lismore on the way back to the airport. Much mentioned by Debo as the Devonshire branch in Ireland. Arrived in the town and at once a door in the wall painted in the same blue as at Chatsworth. The Estate colour. Marvellous Magnolia Campbellii towering over the wall – the King of Magnolias. I have never seen such a specimen before. The town of Lismore – well, really it might have been 1958. That red and cream scheme for the shop front. Just glimpsed the Castle high above the river. Debo and Andrew could never stay there because the IRA could have got them from the road. In church was glad to see that the Duke’s agent had been simply marvellous during the Famine and got a a big monument plus window.

Irish Hotel Bedroom at Waterford with Luxury Sheen on Carpet

Irish Hotel Bedroom at Waterford with Luxury Sheen on Carpet

Mount Congreve: Superb Irish Georgian

Mount Congreve: Superb Irish Georgian

Magnolia Campbellii at Lismore

Magnolia Campbellii at Lismore

Lismore Church

Lismore Church

Tablet to Curry, the Duke's Land Agent who acted so Admirably during the Famine

Tablet to Curry, the Duke’s Land Agent who acted so Admirably during the Famine

The Land Agent's Window at Lismore

The Land Agent’s Window at Lismore

Lismore Church Cat

Lismore Church Cat

 

 

 

 

 

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Tulips Still Came On

Wednesday 15th May 2019

The tulips have just finished. Somehow I managed to have them this year inspite of everything (not auto-correct, ‘inspite’ is not wrong!)

A little relief that they’re over,  for now the garden can calm down. Funny how the first flowers are the loudest, especially the tulips. There’s nothing like them. Just screaming, ‘I’m a flower so f..ck awff!’

Only a handful will dominate the garden. Two years ago the Gay Mother had 20 Appeldorn, bought for her by me. She was horrified at the quantity. Appeldorn is a very old variety, bright red. She contrived four clumps of five and they just glared. Her large garden was fully illuminated by twenty red tulips. I think it’s bad at Dixter where they plant billions of them in one pot, all crowded together. They must be separated.

As always entirely the wrong ones came up. Not what was ordered. A bit like Glawdys Cooper being simply marvellous in that play by Noel Coward except entirely the wrong lines.

Abu Hanza and Spring Green were Intended but the Third was Meant to be Light and Dreamy, not This Electric Orange Thing

Abu Hanza and Spring Green were Intended but the Third was Meant to be Light and Dreamy, not This Electric Orange Thing

The Tulip Gaudiness, About Three Weeks Ago

The Tulip Gaudiness, About Three Weeks Ago

How It Was Three Weeks Ago

How It Was Three Weeks Ago: Also Wrong Yellow Ones: I’d Forgotten About them 

Top Terrace Tulips: Entirely the Wrong Ones: Ballerina the Only Hit: Otherwise was Meant to Be Sapporo, which is an Interesting Primrose Yellow. No Third Intended so What's that Purple?

Top Terrace Tulips: Entirely the Wrong Ones: Ballerina the Only Hit: Otherwise was Meant to Be Sapporo, which is an Interesting Primrose Yellow. No Third Intended so What’s that Purple?

Dixter Tulips: Too Many at Once, Plus Weird kind of Anti-Tulip

Dixter Tulips: Too Many at Once, Plus Weird kind of Anti-Tulip

Tulip Carpet: I prefer them Dotted

Dixter Tulip Carpet: I prefer them Dotted

 

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Val’s Great Project

Saturday 11th May 2019

Val was given an old-fashioned kitchen scales 30 years ago by a school-friend. Restoration was called for, so they have remained in a cupboard this last third of a century.  Suddenly Val got to work, just the other day. Off with the cream enamel and turquoise piping, dismantle and re-colour. Racing green they were to be. Enamel spray. But some of the metal was rusted quite away. Val stuck. Also, how to re-assemble the device? Then some women came to tea, one of them an engineer. She got the thing back together in no time. Also recommended car filler, and even knew where to buy it: Val trolled off to Kar Krazy. ‘Huge place,’ Val said. ‘Nothing in it. The man was glad of some company.’ Then Val back home with filler and finished off the scales. Now to be used as a fruit bowl.

Val's Great Restoration

Val’s Great Restoration: Note also Val’s Three Graces to the Left. How Many have the Three Graces on their Kitchen Worktops?

 

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Quite a Lot Went Wrong

Friday 3rd May 2019

There was dog poo on the doormat. I thought that was the extent but no! Next morning traces tramped up the stairs. Then a pillow burst. Feathers. I was leaving for Althorp, to be received by Earl Spencer at a champagne tea at 3pm. My outfit hadn’t come through, hadn’t been imparted. Only minutes to spare. So difficult. Important not to be too town. Semi-travelling, semi-country, semi-afternoon but Earl Spencer and the Library at Althorp. Ants in the bedroom when I was already late for picking up Genevieve Suzy might have broken some. Somehow I was not broken but sprayed.  The pillow had previously been placed in isolation in an isolation room and carpet cleaner had been in stock, thank God. The Zara Admiral’s coat (navy, brass buttons, shoulder tabs, worn for the visit to the Catherine Palace last year) with the hemp breeches by Topman, the Prada brown brogues, the office-blue shirt by Balenciaga, White would have been too London. Blue was intended to give a Prince William feel – the outfit kind of crashed through the window of my poor shattered mind. At Newport Pagnell services I looked in the mirror and didn’t like it, not the Cambridge blue of the shirt, with the navy of the coat. Wrong. Earl Spencer would condemn. So we gained Althorp. Parked right in front of the house. I said, ‘It’s quite small’. Genevieve Suzy said, ‘You’re not to say that.’ We toured and were exclusive. It was divine. Then the champagne tea with Earl Spencer entering from elsewhere. So a button came off my Zara faux-naval coat. Such a mercy one of the party noticed and I was able to bag the button. It was like the time the button fell off my Prada mac in the Prada shop, onto the faun carpet where it could be seen. The thing about that button, you see, is it had ‘Prada’ incised into it. If lost, all would have been lost. No hope of replacing at Button Queen, which is a button shop in Marylebone. For all that, even when in Prada in the Prada shop, one was treated with contempt by the staff. Aunt Olive, of course, lost a button from her Hardy Amies suit in the car going to the Royal function for which it had been made – not very well, she said. Many re-fittings. The button coming off was the last straw. But she had a needle and thread with – luckily.

I did not have a needle and thread in the Library at Althorp but you would have thought Earl Spencer could have produced an effective maid. On leaving Althorp Genevieve announced that she wasn’t feeling well. She hadn’t taken bread for a while, she said. What about Newport Pagnell services? I said. No, she said, drive on. By Luton it was getting desperate and then too late. We didn’t reach London Gateway Services in time. Genevieve had to convert the Althorp going-away goodie bag for other purposes, remaining utterly regal throughout of course. Poor Genevieve, so wronged. She was abed all the next day.

Finally I gained my home and went up to change out of my outfit. A mouse was quivering by the bed with a certain charm and pathos. I reached to pick up and it ran away. Next morning it was dead beside but not in the trap I had laid.

Althorp: Not Very Big

Althorp: Not Very Big

We Were Allowed to Sit in this Reynolds Drawing Room

We Were Allowed to Sit in this Reynolds Drawing Room

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I Learn New Things

Thursday 2nd May 2019

The Gay Mother said that you can have a day off from Lent on Mothering Sunday. So sherry and chocs permitted on that day.

I never knew what Stabat Mater meant. Maybe something to do with stabbing? But, no, it’s the Virgin standing at the foot of the Cross or maybe outside the Tomb of Our Lord or both. ‘Stabat’ means ‘he, she or it stands’ in Latin.

The Gay Mother was asking about Fleabag. I tried to put her off. But she was cross because it was on too late. I suppose word had reached her because of the Vicar in it, even though a Roman. The Church Times has been abuzz, possibly.

The Gay Mother spoke about donkeys. When one donkey is wounded or ill, the other donkeys gather round it and care. There was a programme about a woman who’d devoted her life to donkey-rescue. I don’t think it was just an item on Woman’s Hour. Definitely a whole programme. She said she was inundated with donkeys in the early days. We wondered where they came from. I could only remember ever seeing a donkey at Carisbrooke Castle, on the Wight’s Isle (Brexit Central), being made to drive a wheel that hauled up water from a well for the amusement of tourists. It would never be allowed these days. Like the Chimpanzee’s Tea Party at London Zoo – abolished because disrespectful to make a spectacle of the chimps. Everyone of my generation saw that donkey at Carisbrooke though – or has heard of it. But where did all the other donkeys come from that had to be rescued?

There are a few fine points to be made about Resurrection, which you might like to remember for next Easter – if spared. It’s not the same as a basic rising from the dead. That’s just a dreary old miracle. A Resurrection is a new start; one is completely re-programmed to begin again. I’m not quite sure how this played out in practice. I’ve always thought Christ’s time post-Resurrection was a bit ghostly and unconvincing. The supper at Emmaeus; nobody knew whom he was. Not surprising he just evap up into Heaven. On the whole probably better to thoroughly die the first time and not come back. One wouldn’t want to be tiresome. Once you’ve done the big farewell, really that’s it. You don’t want to be like one of those legendary actors, always retiring, only to comeback.

Harry Rollo commented on rich people, among other things. He has a wide range of views beyond the narrow confines of performance. Rich people, Harry said, always want everything replaced at once if not working or not satisfactory somehow. New 3-piece suite not quite what was expected – get another immediately. This extends to people, of course. Even wives or husbands found to be lacking can be simply whisked away and substituted with what is hoped will be a better version.

Matt Driver was in an incredible outfit. Only once every ten years do you see an outfit that is just perfect and always it’s impossible to say why. Why is this outfit perfect and another not? Perhaps this explains that fashion people are usually unhinged. Nor does a graph catch it. This was a jacket by Folk (not a house I would have thought of) in a thick spongy wool, little slacks by Uniqlo and an under-jumper by ???, shoes by Hogan.  How it came together – colours quiet but surprising in combination, navy and grey, just a touch of pattern on the trews, the shoes just the right emphasis and the jacket, because in a thick fabric actually creating a barrel effect but just right. An ideal harmony of form and content, actually, so hard to achieve and why clothes are so difficult. Because of endless variation in the human form. Why oh why can’t we all be a standard shape to look fabulous in clothes at all times?

Matt Driver's Miracle Outfit: Graphs Don't Begin to do it Justice

Matt Driver’s Miracle Outfit: Graphs Don’t Begin to do it Justice

Matt Driver's Premium Outfit

Matt Driver’s Premium Outfit

Matt Driver's Outfit: So Fabulous

Matt Driver’s Outfit: So Fabulous

Matt Driver's Outfit: If Only I could Graph It

Matt Driver’s Outfit: If Only I could Graph It

 

 

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What does Easter Speak ?

Monday 22nd April 2019

I’ve been reading Debo’s old book of her newspaper articles, ‘Counting My Chickens and Other Home Thoughts.’ How far away she seems now although only 5 years in the grave. Her world is fading away – the Old Families, Old Money, the impatience with logos and re-branding and people saying ‘absolutely’ and ‘quantum leap’, her confidence that Chatsworth would go on, the public adoring and adoring that the Duke is in res and she being just a weeny bit casual with the truth (did she really never read a book?) and rather making things up to suit herself in the aristocratic manner. It’s not going on much longer – all of that. All soon to be swept away. Me, I don’t know what I’ll do. Will it be total confiscation, do you think? Or perhaps just Inheritance Tax put up to 80% above a certain limit under Corbyn. And Wealth Tax too – why not? There’s always the option of committing, of course. I’m too old now to begin again. But just general dread of destitution actually, with or without Corbyn. There’s no glimmer now. The days of prosperity are gone. Little tin cars for everybody. Maybe it will be better. Less to worry about.

So in one way and another I did not think that the Lord would rise again on Easter Morn as usual. Not this year. I was low. All through Good Friday and Easter Saturday, I was low. I went through the motions, of the Hot Cross Buns, the Easter Saturday tea so important. But I was low. We’ve had no visitors and I’ve had no strength. I’ve dragged through my tasks.

Yet, when it came – Easter Morn – there was a flicker. A small faint surge of the Lord rising. But today it’s gone again. Yet on Palm Sunday I was buoyant and alive at San Paulo for the Palm Sunday Service by kind arrangement of Genevieve Suzy.

Donkey lead into San Paulo for Palm Sunday Service with the Bishop (a Woman)

Donkey lead into San Paulo for Palm Sunday Service with the Bishop (a Woman)

Triumphant San Paulo - at Our Nation's Core for Palm Sunday

Triumphant San Paulo – at Our Nation’s Core for Palm Sunday

The Gay Mother found Three Daffs Remaining in the Garden for her Easter Church Flowers

The Gay Mother found Three Daffs Remaining in the Garden for her Easter Church Flowers

Paul A Young Obliged as Always: this Year a Monet Egg

Paul A Young Obliged as Always: this Year a Monet Egg

 

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The Luncheon of Lord Arrowby

Tuesday 9th April 2019

The Investiture Luncheon of Lord Arrowby took place at the Ritz Hotel. How could he go any higher, you might wonder? But he has. What a hotel and what a Lord. The assemblage was assembled in the private part of the hotel which isn’t like a hotel at all but a real Stately. It was a cream and gold anti-room. The Queens of Brixton were present and Conrad and Renee and Reggie and Rufus and Raj and  Ned Boule, and many others, all in their way pillars of our Nation, throbbing at the core.

Later that week I dined with Harry Roll0 and Mercury Mr Kitten. Those three great adjectives came up re: Emma, the opening line of the novel: ‘Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich.’ Three of the greatest adjectives ever assembled in one place. But there are others: ‘Rich, powerful and connected.’ Or even, ‘Not-so-rich, powerful and connected.’ Thus Lord Arrowby’s luncheon guests. I spoke with a neighbour from the Arrowby childhood. He’s big in the City, not the money side but the Alderpeople, the dinners, the committees. ‘You must know my Cousin April’s friend, April,’ I said. Yes, of course.. and Royston King, all the distributors, the holders of funds, the Trustees, known to me, Adrian Edge, known to me. I’m in the web.

Then the central party arrived direct from the Palace, Lord Arrowby looking radiant, in full morning dress, ablaze with decorations, stars and ropes, feathers and gold braid. With him, his mother, the splendid Dowager Lady Arrowby, the hot boy doc, Finn Magnus, and the Arrowby brother and sister. We were ushered into luncheon. A huge vaulted room, dense with red and gold, a great Venetian window looking onto the park. The whole aura was of Sybil Chomondeley as recalled by Cecil Beaton: ‘Sybil Chomondeley, always with an air of pre-1st-World-War luxury in the winter, a gardenia pinned with a diamond brooch.’ The table so vast you could hardly see from one side to the other. The menu pure pre-War! The Petit Marmite, the Zephyrs de Sole, the Beef Wellington…. On my right side I had a figure deep from the Underground, one who rages against poverty and injustice in shows at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, huge in that world but at luncheon more Vera Duckworth, very ‘Chuck’ and warm and loving. Lord Arrowby made a speech: his theme was I am nothing but My Honour has glowed through the generations of my own family and others. He welcomed Queer London, the deep Underground. The vast range of Lord Arrowby. Another Alternative Lady was present, named after a fabric. I don’t know her but she’s a famosa of outrage and subversion. On my other side was the friend of Cousin April’s friend, April, whose wife seemed to be the daughter of an Earl with a castle in Scotland. He had a meeting at 4 and another dinner that evening. But really we were beyond mere conversation. We were enthroned, purely being, figures set in the jewelled glory of the occasion.

Later it is said the hard-core party retreated to Gay Venues in Soho, and then Shoreditch and finally Vauxhall, Lord Arrowby in full regalia throughout.

Lord Arrowby: the Luncheon Setting

Lord Arrowby: the Luncheon Setting

The Vaults above Lord Arrowby's Luncheon

The Vaults above Lord Arrowby’s Luncheon

The Menu!

The Menu!

The Beef Wellington

The Beef Wellington

Lord Arrowby Himself: Ablaze

Lord Arrowby Himself: Ablaze

 

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So Many Launches and Homes

Saturday 6th April 2019

Up to the rafters in homes: I’ve taken Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, Croome Court, Worcestershire and Calke Abbey, Derbyshire (exclusive viewings, of course). But let’s take a moment to reflect on the National Garden Scheme launch at the Royal Festival Hall as well as the Antiques Fayre at Duke of York’s Champagne Reception (actually managed to get some). Mary Berry was fully Royal at the NGS launch i.e. block colours and brooch. Her speech was about her visit to the new garden at Stoke Mandeville. She encountered a man with no top on, quite bare. ‘Aren’t you cold?’ she said.  But no, he hadn’t been out for months, had been indoors with spinal injury or chronic. New garden a wonderful opportunity. The reception afterwards was abuzz with the Sacklers. You know they’ve been banned because of the opiates. Their money comes from opiates which is bad. But it was all 15 years ago. ‘I sent flowers to Theresa,’ a Museum figure said. That’s Sackler, not May. The latter was across the way, having a cabinet meeting with Michael Gove, whom was supposed to attend but couldn’t because of… But in that company, so high, one felt that really she was present. Theresa Sackler has given and given. Robert Nevil and I heard about her in September: she’d taken a garden tour in Europe with one of Robert Nevil’s Welsh borders friends. We took cake with him and his dog leapt up and marked my outfit. It was an enormous Arts and Crafts house. ‘It’ll blow over,’ Royston declared, but figures wouldn’t be calmed. I was more worried that the Sacklers might lose ALL their money. The figure forged on: the museums hadn’t stuck together, there had been ungraciousness from one Head without warning. As for a certain other figure who’d made a particular fuss…. well, don’t lets worry about their activities that result in people’s heads getting chopped off in Mexico at the slightest provocation…

I almost forgot: who should we run into at the Launch but Maximilian Camphorhoff, the Uruguayan-German publishing prince, very thick with Robert Nevil. He publishes the NGS Yellow Book.  ‘Give me £10,000 advance for a book,’ I said at once. But he wouldn’t. The impression of malleability and innocence is reinforced especially when his formidable matron-companion, twice his height, is at his side. But really he’s as hard as nails, especially when it comes to handing out advances for books. At Eton entirely special arrangements had to be made for him at every turn. They could do nothing. Royston said, ‘I’m a much better writer than you,’ and began an earnest confab with Maximilian Camphorhoff about the kind of book he might write about how Britain is a lot less racist than it looks from a black point of view, especially when Royston penetrated to the very heart of the Nation as he has done.

At the Antiques Fayre Champagne reception Prince Dmitri was taken with a white trouser suit going round, but when we got nearer it was a bit of let-down. The fabric… could have been artificial.  But other outfits slashed across the Fayre with tremendous Boudicca-like slash.

Mary Berry addressing the NGS launch, Royal Festival Hall. Now Royal

Mary Berry addressing the NGS launch, Royal Festival Hall. Now Royal

Mary Berry: Now Royal

Mary Berry: Now Royal

Sir Cliveden Swift Gesticulating a New Hospital Garden to Royston King

Sir Cliveden Swift Gesticulating a New Hospital Garden to Royston King

A Greatness at the Antiques Fayre

A Greatness at the Antiques Fayre

The White Trouser Suit that Didn't quite Stand up to Closer Examination

The White Trouser Suit that Didn’t quite Stand up to Closer Examination

A Pink Ensemble at the Antiques Fayre

A Pink Ensemble at the Antiques Fayre: Look at the Clucks 

Pink Ensemble in Action

Pink Ensemble in Action: Striding into Purchase 

Pink Ensemble in Retreat

Pink Ensemble in Retreat

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Sitting In the Closet

Saturday 30th March 2019

I’ve been closeted at home in private confab very much. That’s when not out at functions, such as two funeral/mems (one in Ireland), one Antiques Fayre, one Cosi, one Company by Sondheim, three Press Views of Historic Homes, and one National Garden Scheme Press Launch.

Mineral matters are improved. Assignation of the Lease was screamed for two Fridays ago. Then we heard that the other side had not completed. They did not complete for another 4 days. Very nearly all was lost. But it wasn’t. But Mineral Wealth will not resume. Now is the time for recriminations. I phoned up Russia yesterday and had a go at them.

Connor Cadeaux dined at my home and briefed me exclusively on the EU. It’s very bad. He had dinner with the Japanese ambassador who said they’d pull out (all their business). The EU won’t give us anything nice. Our side are hopeless. No ideah of how to negotiate. Business and banking offered to help but offer rejected. So deal negotiated without presence of those most affected. Another day Prince Dmitri came round and said that Ottolenghi have brought out a book of simple recipes. He described one which he had made a day or two earlier. The account took only about ten minutes. Later he sent me the actual recipe. All you need are special kebab sticks, a named sherry vinegar and burrata, not from a supermarket obvs. The marinade only has five ingredients, including fennel seeds. Clear the kitchen for the chargrilling of the grapes is hazardous. Couldn’t be easier.

The following week we were in Polpo, Duke of York’s plaza after the Antique Fayre when Lord Arrowby came in with a companion… I didn’t tell you that Lord A has been elevated. How is that possible, you ask? How can he go any higher? Well, he can. The great event is this coming week, followed by luncheon in Piccadilly. But there’s a chance he might be Prime Minister by then in which case the whole thing will be awff. At Polpo Prince Dmitri briefed me on how the Irish speak, in preparation for my visit.  He was brought up there in exile from White Russia.

My dinner for the Hurlings, Merle Barr, Miss Mini Miracle, Angus Willis and Fergus of course… roasted fennel trodden into the matting, chicken bones flying in all directions, Miss Mini entirely self-menuing and no wine. Lucky I had some old gin knocking around. Azure said the Hackney Council were trying to make him remove his Tete a Tete from outside his shop. ‘Tete a Tete,’ he said. ‘Can you imagine?’ It’s a kind of small daffodil, if you don’t know. ‘But I thought your shop was let as a Japanese Pornography outlet,’ I queried. ‘Oh it is, but I’m still doing street flowers.’ Meanwhile, Archie and Angus were recalling the days of their youth, spent together. Archie’s stepfather always toilet-ed before carving, which infuriated Archie’s mother. One Sunday he came back untidy from the toilet. ‘There’s a speck on your nose,’ the family informed him. He brushed at it and it flew onto Aunt Beryl’s plate whom never noticed. Did you ever hear a more revolting story? I would never have survived such an event. It’s even worse than the toilet scene in that Indian film, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ – on account of which I’m never going to India.  There was another woman they knew who always assessed any new face she came across: ‘Queen Anne face,’ she would proclaim. ‘Queen Anne face,’ tugging at the face also. Then they moved on to buckets. Merle came greatly to life: ‘My bucket blew away,’ she said. On her allotment, she meant, where she had placed a bucket upside down for the forcing of rhubarb. Terrible uproar and end-of-the-pier at the table. She and Miss Miracle were the only ladies present.

So that’s my private life for the time being.

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Aristocracy and Landed Gentry in PV Clash

Tuesday 12th March 2019

There was quite a scene at the Garden Museum opening last week. Before that, Conrad and Valery (it just won’t do the accent) ordered an incredible Indian lunch for 14 in a former bank in Kensington High Street done as a Moroccan palace. It was Conrad’s 56th birthday. I was one of the few that knew. Conrad said it was important to keep a grip on the years by marking even the smaller birthdays, as if digging a trench against the rising tide. Or something like that. I said to Reggie, ‘I’m looking towards the end. Suddenly it’s a different view. No need to endlessly horde (or is it hoard?) money. Why not release?  My curtains could see me out. Even my overcoat, if I only have another 5 years.’ ‘Or maybe another 40,’ Reggie said, whisking away to the champagne source. He was boarding the next morning at the crack for New York because Harry Rollo was giving a perf in Boston. It wasn’t just that neither he or Andrew Gold had even begun packing, they hadn’t finished their novels and ceramics either – writing and making, I mean, not mere reading and viewing. At table I was honoured to have both the Queens of Brixton in rotation. I can’t now remember how it is that some Lesbians got wrong with the Trans people – but they have. I think a certain Lesbian announced that she wouldn’t entertain intimate relations with a woman who was once a man, provoking terrible fury. The other Queen of Brixton said that if Mrs May had got Brexit right, then we’d be having it, so you can’t win. Rufus Pitman said something very important – was it a new writer to look out for? But my poor head in decline – it’s gone.

Also gone a top-class Debo story or maybe it wasn’t about Debo at all, at the Garden Museum opening for Emma Tennant last week. Can’t even remember who told it to me, if anyone. Quite a lot said about the Barclay brothers re: the Graph which they own but one doesn’t dare repeat. I do remember that.

There are so many people called Emma Tennant and they’re all Tennants and related to Debo. This one paints flowers and was neé Mitford possibly. ‘You look very like Nancy,’ I said and she didn’t seem best pleased. The Head of the Garden museum gave the speech in his own unique style, like a glorious firework going off, far from the usual dreary Vicar-like dreariness. Tolly or Tollemache had suggested the exhib. When the Head telephoned Emma Tennant she was delighted; they spoke for a while and eventually she said, ‘Would you mind awfully …  someone’s having a heart attack in the garden…’ But Emma marvellous, she captures flowers and plants at an exact moment, even in decay, the Japanese paper, they’re brimming on the brink of life or death.. the Head himself had a Saturday job in youth; now he has a son who’s a great strapping lad of 15; the Head spent all the money from the Saturday job on seeds. (the son wouldn’t have done possibly; anyway the son didn’t approve of something the father was doing or had done). Then it was back to Emma Tennant and her art. So a great cascade unfurls in the sky, a dizzying whirl that disappears as soon as it is seen but somehow something remains – unlike most other speeches. I was compelled into the exhibition room after hearing the Head.

Meanwhile Royston was talking to a Lord and I got into trouble for saying that in the Far West the aristocracy never know who we are. It’s because we’re Landed Gentry. Or they bolt out of their chairs mid-sentence if another title comes into the room. That happened to the Gay Grandmother who was talking to the Hon Mrs Parker, mother of the Earl of Morley when Lord Roborough made an entrance.  Royston said, ‘The baron doesn’t want to hear your life history.’ Later Royston told of how this Lord was walking along a corridor in his Stately (now partial National Trust) about to meet the public for some reason. He said, ‘You never know whether you’re going to get Trollope or Dostoyevsky.’ Royston is lunching with both Lord and Lady later in the month. Lady said she’d fetch him from the station.

We dined in the top class Garden Museum Cafe (skate). I said, re: the waiter/waitress, ‘She’s coming with a cloth…’ The Head Gardener of another of the great aristocratic houses nudged me… for we were plunged into a gender identity crisis. It was impossible to know what to do and ‘they’ were quite frightening.

My Place Card at Conrad's Birthday Lunch in a luxe Indian Restaurant in Kensington

My Place Card at Conrad’s Birthday Lunch in a luxe Indian Restaurant in Kensington

Emma Tennant: Artichoke. Quite Pricey but Good

Emma Tennant: Artichoke. Quite Pricey but Good

Emma Tennant: Magnolia Campbelli

Emma Tennant: Magnolia Campbelli: you see it’s so more More than a Botanical Drawing 

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