The Garden Museum Opens

Sunday 5th July 2020

Garden Museum completely the first to re-open. With an exhibition about Derek Jarman who always knew me but I don’t know why. Royston was buoyant. I arrived too, but wracked with fear and dread. The masks and visors.

So we re-start, if that’s what it’s to be, as we ended in dread March – in the museum world.

Reggie Cresswell, Robert Nevil and Eddie Sedgwick were at the same school as Derek Jarman but years later of course. Somehow he was meshed in. With great randomness I was taken to a flat in Newcastle in the early 80s. The idea was to meet a spectacularly yuppie Gay of about 19 who had already gained the best terrace in the city as well as black and chrome decor, all from computers. This person was Keith Collins, later the partner of Derek Jarman, and described upon his own recent death in 2018 as a train driver. So I do sometimes wonder if it was Keith Collins that I met in that flat. But who else could it have been?

The Garden Museum exhib is immersive: a total visit to Prospect Cottage, the unusual Jarman home on the waste sands at Dungeness where I visited with Val last year. Once again I was crunching on the Dungeness pebbles with Royston. That was noisy and Royston was noisier. We had our actual memories, the films, Royston at the 40th birthday party, me trying to say that I’d actually been to the place only last year and there were notices plastered all over the hut saying ‘Go away’ and why and Royston saying It was obvious and thus we were making so much noise an American woman said, ‘Can you keep your voices down?’ We didn’t like her. Inside the cottage, as I hadn’t been before, not least because of the signs saying, ‘Go away’, Royston said he was foremost a designer and look at his remarkable handwriting. It was the handwriting of a designer. Royston said the paintings were a bit gloomy. What with the strain and nerves, whenever I bent towards an exhibit there was a need to talk. All I could gather was a life with more suffering and energy than is usual in a life: painting, film-making, writing and gardening. But really Prospect Cottage was an anti-chamber to Death, where Jarman laid out his wares knowing he would soon be cut off. He was not diminished but braced.

Once I glanced at his autobiography and sensed humanity, not squeaky and political like some of the Gays.

It’s cost £3m to save the real Prospect Cottage – which is a lot for a small hut.

After bellowing in Prospect Cottage, we roamed through the permanent exhib at the Garden Museum. Who should be there but Edmund Haakon, the opera critic, horrified by the masks and the separation. We found from a display that Beth and C. Lloyd had been picnicking at Dungeness (extraordinary choice of picnic site) and by chance come across Prospect Cottage and its owner who was astonished to discover whom he was talking to. It ended up with Beth writing to D.Jarman for advice on plants for her gravel garden which she was planning.

In another hut in the perm exhib is a film of Royston talking to his sister in her garden about it. Charming. And important as a leading Black gardener.

Then it was lunch outside in the windy conditions. The restaurant semi-open. Screens, visors, masks, gloves. Royston and the semi-aquatic Head of the Garden Museum were above it all, eyes only on the future. The Head’s going to have that roundabout at the foot of Lambeth Bridge taken away and the Old Lambeth Road marked out in a new garden next to his Museum. Then there’s the September swim to Tresco. I was the only one wracked. Maybe it’s my time of life. Or my nerves.

Derek Jarman: Handwriting of a Designer

Derek Jarman: Handwriting of a Designer

Derek Jarman: Painting of Dungeness: Gloomy, Royston said

Derek Jarman: Painting of Dungeness: Gloomy, Royston said

Derek Jarman: His Books. A Lively Mind

Derek Jarman: His Books. A Lively Mind

 

 

 

 

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Diary Filling Up

Friday 3rd July 2020

Already a pressure of engagements. Back to normal. Not quite. O! the Performing Arts. I can’t bear it. The cruelty and wrong of it. Why can’t anybody see? I haven’t dared to turn on the BBC for fear of the Government line being spun: alarm, blame, ‘lock-down’ (I won’t hear that word: the correct term is This time of Wrong.  I’ve had to switch off Radio 3 because they kept saying ‘lockdown’), rules, droplets… But yesterday the Gay Mother happened to mention that she’d heard Matthew Parris on The World at One. She wasn’t pleased. So I listened on iplayer. Absolute Heaven. Professor after Professor, plus MP, a really glorious canter of common sense at last. On the BBC. So the message must be getting through. Not just the Graph and the Spec.

Royston says the theatres won’t open this year. I won’t have it. Agonising cries re: the death of the Arts. Never fear. The Government will have to give in. It’s the mass gatherings at the other end, as it were. There’ll be such a clamour to have them back. The Pop Concerts, the Magic Shows, the Boxing matches, the Graham Norton Show … They can’t allow one without the other.

I had such a soothing talk with Sebastian Archer last week. He said, It’s all a question of temperament. You’re either an optimist or a pessimist. Quite a lot of people get furious at the slightest hint things might not be quite so absolutely terrible. The cure for anxiety is more anxiety. Don’t I know it. The more anxious you are the more it won’t happen. So suggesting less anxiety is incredibly dangerous, an invitation for total infection and rocketing deaths, plus the end of the world from the economic point of view, which is also life, it’s worth pointing out.

Otherwise there’s the voice of doom, which is a role many like to play. These ones might be avoiding the nightmare of hope also but there’s the advantage of a tough front excellently combined with being able to look down on those not up to it: ‘I’m not a fool, I’m facing up to things as they are. Just you wait and see…. ‘

Probably it’s best not to think about it.

Today for the first time I felt I could breathe. As Mary Soames, Churchill’s daughter, said, of the summer of 1940, ‘You felt you couldn’t breathe’.

How long will it last? Being able to breathe, I mean.

Journeys are being planned. I’m going to a concert actually, on 21st July. Somehow there’s to be a concert, followed by a dinner. So the Performing Arts not totally cancelled. Pavel Kolashnikov – yes, really. Great coming pianist.  Terrifying at the piano. Saw him last year. Glyndebourne is to be out of doors. They haven’t even bothered to say what the programme is, but attendance is total. Well, that’s enough for two months. Plus visits, in this country and abroad.

Tomorrow is the Opening at the Garden Museum. My favourite Museum Keeper will be there. He’s to swim to the Scilly Isles within minutes of becoming a father for the second time – in September. As I’ve mentioned before he was born part-water-vole.

Already  – busy, flapping, worried, outfits, getting everything done. As predicted that trolley never got tortoiseshelled. I wonder now if I’ll live to complete it.

The Trolley and Headboard: have Been Docked here for 4 years at Least: Will they ever Acquire their Paint Finishes?

The Trolley and Headboard: at the beginning of This Time of Wrong there was hope they would be Finished. But not. The Gold Brackets are Up though. The Headboard has been Taken up to a Disused Bedroom and I’ve Managed 2 more Coats of Gesso on it. 

Brackets Up but Trolley Still not Tortoiseshelled

Brackets Up but Trolley Still not Tortoiseshelled. Ornaments on Brackets Stop-Gaps. But Will Probably be There for 10 Years – If I’m Spared. No Funds, Of Course, for New Ornaments, Thank you Very Much. 

I Made a Pizza with Dried Yeast Yesterday. A Recipe by Diana Henry from the Graph. Artichoke Hearts, Onion, Olives and Mozzarella. Finalised with Rocket, Parsley, Lemon Zest and Parmesan. Make Sure you have Your Wits about you to Remember all That

I Made a Pizza with Dried Yeast Yesterday. A Recipe by Diana Henry from the Graph. Artichoke Hearts, Onion, Olives and Mozzarella. Finalised with Rocket, Parsley, Lemon Zest and Parmesan. Make Sure you have Your Wits about you to Remember all That

I Forgot to Put This  Picture of the Fly-Past When President Macron Visited the Other Day. Buckingham Palace is the Fly-Past but they Fly Past Me First

I Forgot to Put This Picture of the Fly-Past When President Macron Visited the Other Day. Buckingham Palace is the Fly-Past but they Fly Past Me First

The Fly Past Flying Past Me First - for President Macron

The Fly Past Flying Past Me First – for President Macron

 

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Know Your Tiaras

Sunday 28th June 2020

How can Gays not know their Royal tiaras? I started off with a simple multiple choice on our Zoom quiz (oh never to see Zoom again. So many are going into Clinics, I hear, because they don’t like how they look on it). Which of the following is NOT one of the Queen’s tiaras? The Poltimore, the Vladimir, the Burmese Ruby or the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland? Not a clue. All Gays, Angus Willis, Fergus Strachan, Charlie Hurling, Bonnie Blue; Merle Barr and Fern Willis not strictly Gay but really – data neutral, shall we say, in the currency of these days. Not one of them picked out the Poltimore which of course is the non-Queen tiara. The Poltimore was brought for Princess Margaret on the occasion of her marriage in 1960 for £5500. Quite why, I can’t explain, when there were so many tiaras already in stock in the Royal vaults. None perhaps that suited her idea of a coiffure. The Poltimore is narrow in diameter, but high, so perfect to be lodged in a bee-hive. After her death it was sold at Christie’s. I saw it in person in the sale preview. It was destined for $1.7 million.

Back to the Quiz. It got worse. These Gays didn’t know where Cullinan I is to be found, let alone III and IV (Grannie’s Chips, of course). In the ensuing weeks, I fed endless pics from Insta to the Quiz WhatsApp group. No tiara was left unturned, I can tell you, even the lesser ones: the Brazilian Aquamarine, the Belgian Sapphire. I regaled with the prize story of how the Vladimir was sent round to the Queen’s Gallery for the Russian Exhib in 2018 with, according to the Head of the Royal Collection whom Royston and I met in the street outside, ‘an unprepossessing piece of elastic attached at the back.’ They asked if they could remove it but answer came back: ‘Certainly not.’ Without that elastic it wouldn’t stay on.

After four weeks or so I re-launched the Tiara Quiz, this time with pictures. All they had to do was name the tiara. They’d had the answers in advance to all intents and purposes. Would you believe it – still prone to error. Still straying. No perfect ten. Some plunging to six or even five.

The Vladimir, with its 'Unprepossessing' piece of elastic

The Vladimir, with its ‘Unprepossessing’ piece of elastic

Queen Alexandra's Koloshnik Tiara

Queen Alexandra’s Koloshnik Tiara

The Vladimir as Worn: Surely the Best

The Vladimir as Worn: Surely the Best

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara: a Tiara of Charm

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara: a Tiara of Charm

The Queen Mary Fringe: Not to be Confused with the Queen Alexandra Koloshnik. This Tiara was worn by the Queen on her Wedding Day. Just beforehand, it Snapped. In the Wedding Graphs a Gap can be Seen to the Left of the Centre where it had been Hurriedly Mended

The Queen Mary Fringe: Not to be Confused with the Queen Alexandra Koloshnik. This Tiara was worn by the Queen on her Wedding Day. Just beforehand, it Snapped. In the Wedding Graphs a Gap can be Seen to the Left of the Centre where it had been Hurriedly Mended

The Belgian Saphhire: All right but a Bit of an Everyday Tiara

The Belgian Saphhire: All right but a Bit of an Everyday Tiara

The Brazilian Aquamarine: Not Liked, except by Lord Arrowby. Lumpy and Awkward with Ill-Suited Bedroom Elements

The Brazilian Aquamarine: Not Liked, except by Lord Arrowby. Lumpy and Awkward with Ill-Suited Bedroom Elements. Lord Arrowby Deliberately likes the Coloured Ones

The Nizam of Hydrabad, Tragically Dismantled to Make the Burmese Ruby

The Nizam of Hydrabad, Tragically Dismantled to Make the Burmese Ruby

The Burmese Ruby: Described by Rufus Pitman as an 'Edward Heath Tiara' because Constructed in the 70s. Looks a Fire Guard. Fussy and Unimportant Stones

The Burmese Ruby: Described by Rufus Pitman as an ‘Edward Heath Tiara’ because Constructed in the 70s. Looks a Fire Guard. Fussy and Unimportant Stones. She is said to have Designed it Herself, which is a Shame

 

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The Challenge of Management

Saturday 27th June 2020

Incognito visits are important. Elevation must never equal remoteness. Those at the top have to know what’s going on below. Sometimes the only way is to mount a wheeled pedal machine and mingle. Royston King and I have paid visits to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regents Park and Hampstead Heath (for comparison), thus equipped. Nobody knew who we were – or rather who he is. A Trustee of the Royal Parks. There’s to be huge re-arrangement of traffic around Buckingham Palace, but that wasn’t our mission on these visits. Our challenge was Cycle Paths. ‘This isn’t a cycle path,’ Royston hailed a number of off-piste cyclists who sailed on. We were looking at signage which is often faded or peters out. My idea is that somehow it’s got to be made clear that there is only one cycle path through Hyde Park, from the Decimus Burton screen at Hyde Park Corner straight up to West Carriage Drive, where it rather awkwardly connects with the one cutting through Kensington Gardens to Kensington Palace. If it were understood that otherwise there is no cycling perhaps it might be better. But it’s not easy to convey the message. Bossy notices everywhere are disfiguring. Royston didn’t approve of the ones that have been put up temporarily saying, ‘This is a Royal Park not a toilet’. He doesn’t think this is how visitors to a Royal Park should be addressed.

Royston favours enforcement. What are the Parks Police doing? Nobody will take any notice of any regulation unless it is enforced.

We went up to Hampstead Heath which is not a Royal Park. We first of all toured on the west side where I’ve never been before. Quite extraordinary. Thickly wooded, with clearings. In the thicker woods, a larger number of lone gentlemen that statistics might have laid down for our guidance were walking but rather obviously not going anywhere. One part of this section is old gravel pits, now an eerie many-branched wood where branches writhe in the shadows, tormented possibly that they can’t be heard or get out. Underneath, the forest floor, is bare. It was there that a neurasthenic American woman in need of a square meal (don’t say ‘meal), flapping like a trapped bird, squawked at us that it was No Cycling. We got off our cycles at once but on she squawked. Royston got annoyed. We encountered her later on the edge of the wood by the road still squawking. This time the cyclist said, ‘Who are you?’, then, ‘It belongs to everybody’ – all this without stopping on his cycle at all. ‘Not true,’ said Royston. ‘The Heath belongs to the City of London.’ I lingered to have a little snobbish conversation with the American woman about who Royston actually is and how we were visiting quietly precisely for the purpose of reviewing Cycling Path Policy in the Royal Parks. You’d have thought she’d have dropped to the floor. Royston was signalling impatiently from further away by a bramble bush. He didn’t want that woman talked to.

He showed me another hidden corner of private houses on the left side of Kenwood Road. So much history. The gravel pits have history. The Heath was nearly built over there. We crossed over onto the Kenwood side. First of all the dairy where Dido Bello, the black great-niece of the Earl of Mansfield, supervised the dairy work. Royston had been involved in its restoration. There was something about the colour chosen… then on through enclosures to Kenwood House itself. At this time the Heath is taken over, and every secluded corner is occupied by youths with ghetto blasters. An unbelievable racket was coming out of a rhododendron. When we got there it was just three youths and no ghetto blaster. How do they do it?

We were perturbed by the state of Kenwood House, only restored at vast expense a few years ago, now with paint peeling and wooden sills rotting. Why aren’t they maintaining? Royston said they’ll probably let it all go then some grandees on the committee can seek another £35 million for works and that will be their legacy.

Otherwise, Hampstead Heath really is incredible. The central vale, the ravine, could be the wildest Yorkshire moors. Quite untamed. I’ve got been there for years. Then corners more manicured, with lawns, statues and specimen trees. Strange billionaire mansions to be glimpsed through fences, another world of tennis courts, swimming pools, statuary and a Georgian mansion. ‘What road is this one on?’ I kept asking Royston. ‘It’s not on any road,’ he said. How do you get in then? We descended to a row of Deco residences in a private road full of walkers then back onto the Heath by the ponds. Massive works there, Royston said, to stop them descending onto Kentish Town below. £50 million easily. Finally we racked down to the corner by the Royal Free Hospital and ended outside Keats’ house in Keats Grove.

The Former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

The Former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

Writhing Branches in the former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

Writhing Branches in the former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

The Dairy at Kenwood where

The Dairy at Kenwood where Dido Bello Supervised 

Kenwood: I'd Forgotten how Fancied and Doll-House Like the Facade is

Kenwood: I’d Forgotten how Fancied and Doll-House Like the Facade is

Kenwood: No Maintenance. Only Restored a Few Years ago for £MMMM

Kenwood: No Maintenance. Only Restored a Few Years ago for £MMMM

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Val Rang

Wednesday 24th June 2020

Val rang from Moscova, Hastings.

‘Cabin fever, or what?’ he goes. His main news was a cheesecake which might or might not be made, depending on whether certain visitors were definitely coming or possibly the cheesecake being made was the deciding factor that would determine their arrival. In any case, an ingredient was missing from his Co-op. Could it have been Yarg? What is Yarg? I said, ‘What about Philidelphia Cream Cheese?’ But that could result in a claggy cheesecake. The other thing would avoid that.

He doesn’t think much of this pandemic. Wild life will be just as much in danger afterwards as far as he can see. What is the point?

Speaking of testing, for which there is a tremendous vogue at the moment – drive-by testing, testing centres, testing, testing – Val said he’d gone down a different path. He’d taken a genetic test. ‘What for?’ I inquire. ‘To prove that I am Anastasia, of course.’ I was stunned. How perfectly ridic. All these years. How could I not have realised that Val is the tragic missing Grand Duchess of Russia?

It just goes to show how these things get overlooked. Anastasia would be 119 years old by now whereas Val is 63. But that’s a minor detail.

 

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Joshua Baring – I’m Taking a Running Leap

Thursday 11th June 2020

I’ve been tormented. I wanted to mark Joshua Baring’s cuisine, one of the great features to emerge, via Insta, from this Time of Wrong. But it required Research, in particular studying a text called ‘Patience from a Weed’ … no, that’s not right… ‘HONEY from a Weed’ by Patience Gray, Joshua Baring’s great influence.

Well, it’s impossible. I’m going to take the Nancy Mitford approach, who when questioned over certain omissions from her book about Louis XIV, ‘The Sun King’, said, ‘I suppose I could have brought in the peasants more. It’s all a matter of temperament.’ One must also remember that Harold Nicholson said that scholarship was just ‘middle-class pedantry and caution.’  Bedint, in other words.

So I’ll stick with what I know, which is colour, atmosphere and impressions. The colour of Joshua Baring’s cuisine is pale green. There has only been a tomato once in six weeks.

I was looking through my cookery books the other day wondering how to manage fish for one and ended quickly in despair. I don’t want great loud flavours, anchovy, caper, chilli, whole sliced lemon, olive, with fish, thank you very much, Jamie. Thank you very much, Ottolenghi. Where’s the quiet note, the gentle pale green or grey? Then I realised it was staring me in the face – on Joshua Baring’s Insta.

Joshua Baring’s cuisine is wrought; there’s a lot of tart work, detail and rigorous restraint. You wonder if anyone else has made a milk jelly this century. He says No to Otto, no to Jamie and no to Asia, no to noise and blare, no to scattering pomegranate seeds and slamming in the oven. The sources are Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David and Theodora Fitzgibbon (her memoir I once reviewed).  Also someone called Richard Olney but I’ve never heard of him as well as Alistair Little, in whose restaurant we all dined in the 90s. Joshua will be straining, sieving, managing stocks, building up flavours with care and attention. These delicate ingredients, lettuce, asparagus, celery, can so easily be ruined. Anyone can daub rose harissa or tapenade and call it cooking.

Remarkable to see a young person going back, pushing back into the past and making it new.

Joshua Baring's Lettuce Soup

Joshua Baring’s Lettuce Soup

Poulet au Sauce Concumbre by Joshua Baring: So Quiet!

Poulet au Sauce Concumbre by Joshua Baring: So Quiet!

The Asparagus Risotto: Alistair Little Receipt

The Asparagus Risotto: Alistair Little Receipt

The Pea Tart: Incredible puree-ing and detail

The Pea Tart: Incredible puree-ing and detail

The Cheese and Leek Tart

The Cheese and Leek Tart with Rare Leaf 

The Pasta (Self-Made) with Weeds

The Pasta (Self-Made) with Weeds

Milk Jelly (!) with Apple: Ghostly.

Milk Jelly (!) with Apple: Ghostly.

 

 

 

 

 

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Harry and Mega – I didn’t Quite Penetrate

Sunday 7th June 2020

I feel I didn’t quite penetrate why Harry and Mega are so absolutely gawn. We’re all agreed that being Royal is mystic, wondrous. Yet it rays forth from certain banal realities, such as NOT being in a Californian celebrity mansion? But rather residence on British soil, in something resembling a Royal residence.

Rufus Pitman is so brilliant. He compares H and M with the Winds: ‘… the only thing that went on being fascinating about the Duke and Duchess of Winds were the jewels and the fashion. Since Harry dresses from C&A and Mega hasn’t got two tiaras to rub together, we’re not interested.’

He supplied pictures to prove it:

The Duke and Duchess Fascinate with Beachwear

The Duke and Duchess Fascinate with Beachwear

Semi-Weekend - the Winz

Semi-Weekend – the Winz

The Duke of Winz - Suiting

The Duke of Winz – Suiting

Harry and Mega - Chronic

Harry and Mega – Chronic

 

 

 

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Joshua Baring in Pale Green

Saturday 6th June 2020

I was blasted suddenly to realise that Joshua Baring’s food, shown regularly on Insta, is all in the pale green range. There is also mention of celery which rarely features these days in the normal run of cuisines. In six weeks there was only one instance of a tomato.

Sensing a story, I began to sniff. But it’s so massive and will require extensive research. As you know, research is not what I was born to. I’m more of a colour artist: I do atmosphere, colour background, sensations and impressions, as well as visions. I always used to say that when performing extended travel items to camera from foreign locations for Dainty Lady TV.  I don’t me for the address of the lace shop.

Covering Joshua Baring’s cuisine will be years of work. For a start I’ll have to go over to Robert Nevil’s where he is ensconced with the Nizam and Sebastian Archer. At least they’re not busy breaking up the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara, as the Queen did in the 1970s to make the Burmese Ruby Tiara – an Edward Heath Tiara, Rufus Pitman says. I’ll have to examine Robert Nevil’s copy of an ancient cookery book by Patience Gray called Honey from a Weed (peculiar title), which is Joshua Baring’s bible.

But I must persist because it’s so important. Joshua Baring is only 34, but he’s resisted so many trends. Staggering.

 

 

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Harry and Meghan

Wednesday 4th June 2020

Royston King said previously that the thing about ‘Harry and Meghan’ was their Insta following. That would buoy them up through all eventualities, being loved by young people who cared little for Monarchy.

Now it’s all different. Royston says they’re finished. Prince William is having a good pandemic. Although his speaking is appalling. Consonants reduced to a minimum. But he is Royalty. There was a TV about his Mental Health initiative. Very timely. He didn’t bring himself in all the time. Only once was his mother’s death referred to. He remained a personage, even though speaking the opposite of posh. It’s so incredible really, the endless ways in which you can be Royal. Who’d ever have thought talking to male footballers about their inner tears and anguish would be one of them.

Harry and Meghan now are just people. Going to live in Los Angeles was the last straw. How can they conceivably be Members of British Royal Family there? They can’t even be Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There aren’t any Dukes in America. They’ll just be joke figures in exile, clinging on to past glory, like those dissolute aristocrats forced to sojourn abroad after sodomy or gambling. The pandemic has shut them down but they’d have been shut down anyway. I suppose they might grind on as celebrities at the unimportant end of the scale. Goodness knows how long that will last. Their Insta is shut down. If you search ‘Duke of Sussex’ you get a pub in Waterloo.

A huge Royal Authority at the Cecil Beaton opening on 10th March said that Harry would be back – alone.

They didn’t realise that being Royal mattered.  The title conferred on marriage meant something too, but only on British soil.  They went too far. They ceased to be Royal. They was all they were which is everything in one sense.

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At the Core

Saturday 30th May 2020

No sooner did I have my brainwave about how the Queen could be on Zoom while ordinary members of the public carry out her engagements on her behalf (Be Queen for an afternoon) than who should I run into on the way to Rufus Pitman’s for a doorstep visit than Marmion Beaufleasance who is so near the Throne as to be on it for all practical purposes (especially now).

Why should I run into him twice by chance during this Time of Wrong? It must mean something. It must mean Monarchy being near and that can never be a drawback.

‘Can you get through to the Secretary?’ I said. Marmion of course could, there and then if necessary. He was a little doubtful about my brainwave, just for the moment, I’m sure. As with all new brainwaves, the first response is bound to be shock and dismay followed by the penny dropping.

Rufus has been low but his spirits lifted sufficiently for him to use his App which tells you which aircraft are flying overhead. So we found out the first one to pass was arriving from Beijing. Then there was another and that had arched through the air from Shanghai. Rather worrying but you must be careful what you say.

The next day Royston King called and said, ‘Where near you does Dominic Cummings live?’ Dominic Cummings, in case you don’t know, is an odd-looking person nobody likes who advises the Prime Minister and is always seen in Downing Street in unsuitable clothes which are all part of the act. ‘I didn’t know he lives near me,’ I said. By chance I was collecting my order of country vegetables from the temporary depot (oh, in London one mimics village life) run by the son of an old friend of Robert Nevil’s and mine with whom we were at University (if you can call it that. I never had much patience with the life of scholarly retreat. Couldn’t wait for the sales to start in the shops). That old friend latterly worked for Reuters. So I asked the son, ‘Do you think your father would know where Dominic Cummings lives round here?’ A random person distancing in the doorway piped up, ‘I know where he lives but don’t say I told you.’ So there we were. Brilliant coup and penetration just like that.

It’s funny how the private address of a hate figure is still considered private. It was the same last summer. Guy Bostock knew where the Prime Minister was holed up throwing red wine about with his Carrie. Although supremely anti-Tory,  he didn’t like to reveal the name of the street.

I was round at Dominic’s in minutes. No sign of him. Big house, not in the best part. All the blinds pulled down. A bit like the Camerons living in that odd bit of North Kensington. A woman resembling Carol Thatcher (but not) came out of the house next door and approached one of the men in the street. I heard her saying, ‘It was in the middle of the night… I’ll have to check with my secretary the exact dates…. that’s important is it?’ Plainly she was offering a ‘story’. I’ve no idea whether she made the front pages.

 

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