Revving Up

Saturday 15th January 2022

As usual, the year always takes a while to get going. I’ve even experienced a few moments of boredom between tea and drinks.

Robert Nevil actually suggested an engagement which turned out to be incomprehensible.  This was the week before last. At a gallery in Fitzrovia, Just William either was or was not selling his art collection. The works were displayed and priced but the general idea was that they were not for sale. There were two Patrick Proctors for £3500 each. Tiny ones of Cecil Beaton on holiday. Robert Nevil took a dim view of them being of Cecil Beaton. Various people drifted in whom Robert Nevil seemed to know well enough to engage in complaining about the London Library. Departure was announced, I was cracking open with boredom out in the street but still departure did not take place because complaining about the London Library was not over.

When at last I could advance, it was straight to the tube station. No tea in a café.  Robert Nevil not especially interested in the Christmas visitors who’d gone on to die. Aunt Vosge was not actually a Christmas visitor but from accounts of her extreme state given down the telephone by Cousin Wilson she might as well have been. She was quietly gathered just after New Year as was old Commander Trahair Trelawn, whose accounts of naval equipment, semi-secret exercises and emergency planning  I’ve been listening to every Boxing Day for the last 50 years at least. This gone Boxing Day turned out to be his last, although not unexpected. He was able to self-propel to the lunch table with his walker and his attack on Queen Mary as mainly German was formidable.

Friday has been a bad day for meeting infected people and so it proved again when Royston suggested the Courtauld Gallery with Sir Kingston Fisher who is the Chief Accountant to the City of London Corporation. Sir Kingston enraged Royston by being constantly out of the gallery on the phone to John Lewis about a possible fraudulent transaction. But within the Gallery Sir Kingston on the phone to John Lewis could be heard perfectly well from without. Royston was fuming and threatening to cancel Sir K entirely who had previously been 1 1/2 hours late for lunch with Lord Crumble, an outrage with which Royston confronted Sir K whenever he came back into the gallery which wasn’t very often. I couldn’t grasp whether upon the John Lewis business depended the entire fortunes of the City of London Corporation or just Sir K’s private affairs. Perhaps it was both. Later we gained the café. The wrong sort of coffee was obtained for Sir K who presented a substantial thesis on how coffee was never served with milk already in it. But actually the server had brought the wrong coffee and another person elsewhere in the cafe was blasting in a parallel universe at the notion of coffee being black which was the coffee meant for Sir K. When at last the right coffee was before him Sir K left the room. Eventually he said he had to get to his bank before it closed. Royston said it was to prevent a melt-down of Sterling.

During the art part of the visit, I was so weak in the lower galleries I had to lean on the radiators. Marvellous works and a whole room of Rubens. When we got upstairs into the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Room it was as if Spring had come just like that. My invalid state fell away at once. That Monet of the vase of flowers is ecstatic. It’s just a picture of a vase of flowers in one way of looking at it. How bold it would have been at the time to attempt such a subject. Never is it more than its subject but the subject is so utterly itself and so ravishing and swirling with its own energy of flowers. Then there’s the Foliès Bergere by Manet. Manet is special to me, Adrian Edge, because he was so privately wealthy sometimes he didn’t bother to finish a picture when he couldn’t be bothered. All the same, the Foliès Bergere is one of the great paintings of all Art, along with Les Baigneurs by Seurat.

By Wednesday of this week, Sir K was found to be coughing. So it was lucky he was so much out of the room last Friday.

Monet: Vase of Flowers

Monet: Vase of Flowers

Manet: the Foliès Bergere. She stares blankly. Her reflection in the mirror seems to be an older, more matronly person who is talking to somebody in an intimate way. But the central figure is not talking to anybody. There's such a grandeur and blankness in this picture

Manet: the Foliès Bergere. She stares blankly. Her reflection in the mirror is in the wrong place and seems to be an older, more matronly person who is talking to somebody in an intimate way. But the central figure is not talking to anybody. There’s such grandeur and blankness in this picture

Van Gogh: Very nice but a Sunday Artist, hence so Popular. This fence going across the Picture is so Obvious

Van Gogh: Very nice but a Sunday Artist, hence Popular. This fence going across the Picture is so Obvious

 

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Normal Life

Monday 10th January 2022

‘I wouldn’t have wanted a full, normal life,’ said Ivy Compton Burnett. Before Christmas I had normal life as now known. Rufus Pitman and Raj Zoroaster dared to give a party. Really it was a buffet luncheon – so suitable for the older guest – with a palatial array of made-dishes. The work! All done without staff. Everybody was there. Sensational was the revival of Bruno France Bruno, emerging intact from a prolonged disappearance still equipped with priceless tickets for the opera. Then there was Bruce McBain, not often seen at parties, and Lord Arrowby, to an airy loveliness beat by the cares of State, or rather his new domain where he is absolute. ‘Stop saying “Woke”‘, Lord A snapped at one of the maharajahs, whose nails were done in turquoise. All the maharajah wanted to know was the degree of Woke in the Lord’s new demesne and the Lord said it wasn’t very much.

After that I had a delightful confab with the Maharajah, breaking off from academic matters, about perfumes and got a perfume tip: ‘Leather’ by Malin + Goetz. I bought it the next day.

The Vicar was there and asked me about the Harrison Birtwistle opera at which he said we’d met by chance. I felt I was lifting off and departing this life – absolutely no recollection whatsoever. But just in time it came back to me.  This opera was 3 hours of which one could make no sense whatsoever. Such an absence of sense while still having an opera was a staggering achievement, the experience of a lifetime.

I look The Nutcracker in Ed Jasper, the bedlinen expert’s, annual party. It was enchanting, an escape to a fairy world – The Nutcracker. Afterwards over sandwiches and champagne at Ed and Roland’s new mansion, Ed said, ‘People don’t realise how easily they could make their lives better – with enhanced pillowcases, for instance, or air conditioning.’ He invited me to his villa in Cephalonia for 2023. 2022 is fully booked with other friends. I admired the hall flooring in the yet-to-be-renovated mansion. ‘I hate it. It’s going,’ Ed said.

I hope I’ll be spared for Cephalonia.

Royston gave a luncheon on Friday 17th December in the new Spanish restaurant in the Royal Academy. It was thrillingly full. ‘Posh people don’t catch things,’ Royston said. But it turned out to be a super-spreading event. Royston and his whippy accountant friend both went down early the following week, while I was with the Gay Mother. But I escaped. Or appeared to. Lucky escape. Afterwards we peered at Late Constable in the Royal Academy. Royston insisted on ten minutes before each painting but it was rewarding. I saw Constable anew. How dramatic and mysterious, although plainly England’s green and pleasant scene. Slashes of paint on the canvases unapologetically paint as well as the lashing rain. The figures – ghostly somehow, not quite there, rather like the people in Monet. Odd perspective – disconcerting. The view of London from Hampstead Heath has a mound in the foreground which, judging by the tiny-ness of the nearby figure must be as high as Everest, but still impresses as a modest mound.

Royston insisted on the Summer Exhibition as well which nearly killed me and then we took seething Fortnum and Mason. I was too shattered to go on the whippy one’s club for dinner. Perhaps that’s what spared me.

My final engagement of the pre-Christmas period was Hastings to visit Val at Moscova. We completed the shopping of  his Christmas needs. Some miniature Christmas puddings. Then he mentioned Jackie Stallone’s honing of the art of rumpology. She was the mother of Sylvester Stallone. Rumpology is a method of divination from examining the arse of a person. We entered Alastair Willis’s Tudor House which was dressed for Christmas. But he, very grandly, wasn’t there. Val sat in a chair by the Tudor fire nattering with the former secretary of Fergus Strachan who had been left as chatelaine while I roamed the house, paying particularly attention to the Sid Ed Memorial Tudor Tin bath, which when he sat in it overflowed terrifically and poured through the Tudor House from top to bottom.

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Christmas – Is It Time?

25th December 2021

‘I wouldn’t have wanted a full, normal life,’ said Ivy Compton Burnett. But, as it happens, the drive-in to Christmas has been fully normal, this year, for me, Adrian Edge.

One Carol Service

One ballet

Two parties

One dinner

One lunch at the Royal Academy followed by Late Constable

Just the racking strain of how the Government might veer and the added interest of throat swabs and quaking for the results.

My car went forth loaded with Christmas junk. Fruit cake, mince pie… how one longs for the lightest of soufflés. The depth of winter, the Holy Family so reduced and alone, completely unrecognised in terms of what they would afterwards become. They would have had viral onslaughts then, since December is always the time for a surge. Now that they’ve been itemised, and Q-coded and heralded, they will be a feature of Christmas for ever more.

So now the time has come, first of all to shrink Christmas, then finally to vanish it altogether. No more tinsel, no more excess packaging, no more gush about ‘Loved Ones’, no more Christmas loneliness for the lonely (they can just carry on being lonely as they are on every other day of the year), no more ‘Call the Midwife Christmas Special’, no more Christmas stress and bird agony, no more grind of cards and guilt..

The maximum for Christmas should be a tiny brown memorial to the Stable, the rough brown weave of the Holy Family, the brown of the stable itself and the cows within, cowering in winter and suffering, alone, longing for better weather and jolly summer regattas.

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Carrying On

Friday 10th December 2021

The Lincoln Cathedral Messiah was three weeks ago now. What a cathedral! Royston and I nearly blew it down arguing about the Gothic. He said the decoration was highly systematic, based on numbers of religious significance reflecting the Trinity. But I don’t like to think of them doing it in that mechanical way. I feel that they were freer, driven by aesthetic imperatives. I suppose I could read a book about it, but I never will now. All my ideas are stuck in university days, when I managed to read a few paragraphs about how Ruskin thought of the Gothic as a community effort with everybody chipping in with what they were good at and the result a miraculous hotchpotch, the complete opposite of Classical. Royston said things have probably moved on now, since Ruskin. Well, maybe they have but nobody’s told me, Adrian Edge.

I’m not going back to university days, reading all those awful books.

Lincoln Cathedral defies Ruskin’s definition though, having very obviously a single design. That’s what’s so astonishing about it – incredible unity on a vast scale. I was driven to go by longing to see the ‘crazy’ vaulting in the Choir. Royston said it wasn’t crazy. But it is. At once symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Last week, I took Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park. We crammed into the Private Reception for Royal Parks staff and Trustees. Portacabin hung with red Christmas crepe paper. Mulled wine. Sausage rolls. Prawn vol au vents. Sandwiches.  Never again did I expect to be skimming people’s backs at a party in the winter or indeed at any time. The Queen was there, or rather a bean-pole man who runs her Household. Royston was talking to some other Trustees. They said they were planting 6000 tulips in Northern Ireland. It turned out they were an Earl and Countess! I could have screamed with thrill.  Royston’s great theme was ‘Whither the Royal Parks?’ and several people got quite cross.

Out in the main Winter Wonderland, very different clientele – shall we say Wembley and the like? Youthful, money to spend. Unbelievable scenes: people being flung in the air on strings or imprisoned in metal boxes and hurled along a vertical rail. They were queuing up in droves for this treatment. In fact the completely traditional fun-fare but now digitalised and with a greater range of colours in the lighting. There was a carousel. We had free rides and were tempted by the carousel but the other occupants were toddlers. So we took the Big Wheel – nice views. Had to squeeze into a pod with others. Then the Ice Show – minus 10 degrees in there. Couldn’t get out fast enough. Some idiot clambered over the fence to have her photo taken with an ice-sculpture, slipped and broke it. The Ice Show was extraordinary. Everything was ice. Whole parties of people in Christmas-type winter huts – all made of ice. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Tuesday was ‘Manor’ at the National Theatre. Show got zero stars in The Times. Somebody sitting in front of us actually had a cough. Packet of Stepsils proudly on view. But Merle Barr wasn’t bothered. I would have been furious to catch that thing for that. But ‘Manor’ did show the Landed Gentry in the good light. That was its message really. The main lady with the crumbling stately wouldn’t in the end falsely say that the black girl had shot the vicar to cover up that it was the alt right cult leader . He was offering her £6 million to do up her Stately which he’d got from a Just Giving campaign. No, she said, in the end, I’m not having it. I’m going on with the leaking roof, and the desperate attempts to raise funds. That’s England for you and why we’re a great Nation.

Wednesday was Die Walkure at the ENO. A whole Wagner in a Loathsome. Has anybody achieved that before? Superb Die Walkure. Brunnhilde was tiny and like a real girl.

Saturday we took Gucci film at the cinema. I thought it was boring and made no sense. Matt Driver sort of agreed. Laura Malcolm and Aunt Lavinia loved every minute.  Sunday to Hastings with Anthony Mottram to have fish and chips with Val. Val quite cheerful and anxious to shop his Christmas needs.

Lincoln Cathedral: Staggering Unity of Design

Lincoln Cathedral: Staggering Unity of Design

Lincoln Cathedral: Great Unity

Lincoln Cathedral: Great Unity

Lincoln Cathedral: Did they do things in Threes?

Lincoln Cathedral: Did they do things in Threes?

Lincoln Cathedral: Conventional Vaulting

Lincoln Cathedral: Conventional Vaulting

Lincoln Cathedral: Crazy Vaulting. Do you See the Difference?

Lincoln Cathedral: Crazy Vaulting. Do you See the Difference?

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park. View from the Wheel: Pretty

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park. View from the Wheel: Pretty

Winter Wonderland: View from the Wheel. So Much Construction Work. Hope

Winter Wonderland: View from the Wheel. So Much Construction Work. Hope

Winter Wonderland: General View. German Feel

Winter Wonderland: General View. German Feel. Or Swiss

Winter Wonderland: the Ice Show

Winter Wonderland: the Ice Show

Winter Wonderland: the Ice Show

Winter Wonderland: the Ice Show

Angus Willis: Christmas Window, Hastings

Angus Willis: Christmas Window, Hastings

 

 

 

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Marks and Crash

Wednesday 2nd December 2021

I just tugged gently on the dining room chandelier with my eco chandelier cleaning cloth. The whole lower section crashed onto the table below. Somehow the central part had come unscrewed.

A crashed chandelier – just imagine if the Queen’s car had been turning in to the enclosure at that moment. Can you imagine it? The wreckage nearly destroyed me. The frame was bent. The garlands were a mad tangle. But some core of faith sustained me. My nerves are terrible but I’ve an iron will. I bent the frame back and began the work of re-building. It took hours, is still not finished in fact. The extraordinary thing is the resilience of the chandelier. Only a few drops were broken, only one beyond repair. The chandelier rises again, its damage and inconsistencies absorbed in the great flashing festival of glass.

This chandelier was £25 on eBay and I had to fetch it from a dead man’s Grosvenor estate misery flat in Cundy Street, where the son was selling everything.

I’ve also found a product that gets ring marks out of furniture – or so far it has. Liberon Ring Mark Remover. Try with care.

Otherwise the washing machine has been making black marks in rows on the bed linen. Not on anything else. There’s been talk of the bearings of the machine leaking oil. If so, it’s a right-off. But I can’t believe it. It’s only 4 years old and a Smeg. My feeling is the difficulty is from the thing being built-in, behind its own door to match the kitchen. Not enough ventilation, mold (or it is mould) building up. So I’m the victim of my own decor ambition, for this is the first of my washing machines to be enclosed, paid for by mineral wealth. Until the age of 59 I lived with an exposed washing machine.

I’ve cycled it through with products. Gingerly I pray the worst is over. But still the tension of ironing. Just at the end of a piece, suddenly there they are – the black marks. A curse.

There is another worry but I can’t remember what it is.

My Chandelier Resurrected

My Chandelier Resurrected

Washing Machine Takes Revenge

Washing Machine Takes Revenge

 

 

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Getting Through

Sunday 28th November 2021

I’m like Nancy Mitford: ‘What time is it?’ ‘10.30.’ ‘No, better than that.’ ‘What then?’ ‘10.45.’ Me: ‘What date is it? 27th November?’ ‘No, better than that.’ ‘What then?’ ’28th November.’

We can only hope to crawl through time to a better place.

On Wednesday I took a Table Quiz at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill. Of the one hundred people present, 91 were not Loathsome Tolerant. Just one individual at our table in one of those advanced Loathsomes with numbers on it who caused farcical Loathsome carry-on amongst the others in our group. Three, including me, Adrian Edge, remained Intolerant. The other 6 were on and off with their Loathsomes the entire time. The full range of Loathsome possibilities were displayed in the most engaging manner. Off to whisper ferociously their idea of the answer to the question right in the face of their neighbour, then snap the Loathsome on again. This was the Loathsome champion doing this. Off to sip or eat, of course. Others became Loathsome weary: one actually said, ‘My ears hurt’ and took it off. Another smug old man had his lodged across the chin after a while, leaving the toxic orifices of mouth and nose hideously exposed.

Alistair Stewart the newsreader was the Quizmaster. Quite unrecognisable. Small, cross bank-manager manner with over-careful hair arranged in wings. It’s always extraordinary how badly middle-class adults behave at these occasions.

£1000s raised for a Prisons Charity.

Tuesday, Royston gave a discussion at the Garden Museum about Caribbean plant history. I never knew that the enslaved people brought with them from Africa their own plants such as the chocolate plant. Some of these got into the trading complex of the Caribbean eventually. So the enslaved people were not without agency, as growers. I wished I’d grasped better the list of plants brought from Africa. The man from Kew said African botany was neglected, although rich, and at dinner afterwards the Head of the Garden Museum said British native botany was amongst the most limited in the world. I was shocked. Robert Nevil greatly admired the matching Caribbean canapes taken after the discussion, including the breadfruit, tamarind and the ackee, which Royston had been hoping and hoping would come up on the slides and then at last it did. The discussion did not settle as to what it tasted like, though. The Jamaican academic who had a written a monologue in which an  enslaved woman in the 18th century has little patience with the white imperialist botanists giving the plants  names when they already have names, didn’t agree that it tastes of scrambled egg. Fabien-Boris Claude, not seen for years, re-emerged for the event, recruited by me as one born in the Caribbean. He engaged in a lively discussion of cutlasses, contributing from the floor in the ecstatic gospel manner.

How far from home these people are but how strong from the Caribbean their plants and way of life

The previous week I took the National Garden Scheme annual lecture with Rachel da Thame and Robin Hanbury-Tenison. Royston nearly retched on the coleslaw at the Polish Club afterwards but recovered to pore over the photo of the Queen dining there for the Duke of Kent’s 80th birthday.

On Thursday last week, the Multis dined with Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver. The Blond Multi wondered how long since they last dined – five years perhaps. We had a lovely little run of how we loathe it all. It was Matt Driver who pointed out the parallels with a totalitarian regime – fear, the dear leader flanked by ‘experts’, use of ‘science’, only the regime can save you, the regime knows best, propaganda, of course and finally, so delightful, ostracisation of ‘dangerous’ dissenters, protesters etc. 14 bottles consumed.

After that, I left for Lincoln on Saturday for the Messiah.

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Bleach Misery

Tuesday 23rd November 2021

My two-litre vat of thin bleach has lasted half a life-time. The label’s even fallen off, an unspeakable hazard, I suppose.

I tip a little into the cap of the bottle, then apply with a Q-tip to horrors on whites. Why, oh why does God allow inexplicable stains from nowhere that won’t come out?

Why? Why?

At least He created thin bleach and we must strive and strive to get stains out.

So I launch forth to get more thin bleach. Beginning at Waitrose, of course. Only thick, in every known flavour. I try bigger branches. I look online. Tesco appear to have it. Go to a Tesco. Same story. Only thick, limitless supply. I shout through the door of a Pound Shop. I lobby the stall in the market, also the DIY shop there. Then I think, maybe country branches. Huge out of town stores. Surely they won’t have abolished thin bleach. Sainsbury’s Hastings so hopeful. Huge premises. How could they fail? But they did. Then the Tesco in the Far West. Nothing. I rail in the aisles. A crowd gathers. ‘Get thick and dilute it,’ somebody says as if I were incredibly dim. No, no, no. Thick‘s got jelly in it. I must have thin. Only thin will do. To pour into the cap. How can I do that with thick and dilute? It would spill everywhere.

How could they have got rid of thin bleach?

The only possibility is buying an industrial-sized carboy from Amazon. But I don’t want five litres, I want two. Finally, finally a glimmer. Asda have a picture online of a 2-litre bottle of bleach. I hunt down branches and set forth. Arrival in Whitechapel is tremendous, although it’s one of those days in later life for feeling shattered. I home straight in on the bleach aisle and at once collapse into despair. Queue at Customer Services. Not a big enough branch. Try the Isle of Dogs. Another week passes before I can gather the strength for the bleak wilds of the lower Thames. The route threads through wastelands and along the banks of our grey slapping National River itself. Some of the streets indicated have been dug up to the extent they are no longer there. Sometimes it’s blocks of flats, even a park, then a Coronation street-type row, heavily veiled in the bay windows. At last, the usual super-store car park and dead trees. Within a 33-check out expanse and the bleach aisle. Sitting there, pushed slightly forward in expectation, one 2-litre bottle of thin bleach. 32p. Quite clearly it says, ‘thin bleach’ on the bottle. It might as well have been the Virgin herself manifesting. My gratitude was infinite. Also the price. I wasn’t sure how to pay so little. 32p.

Maybe they should up the price up and make it more worthwhile.

I don’t see this miracle happening again. Let’s hope my new bottle lasts me all my days.

Thin Bleach hope: The Old and the New which Will have to Last all My Days

Thin Bleach hope: The Old and the New which Will have to Last all My Days

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Keeping Up

Wednesday 17th November 2021

I can’t keep up.

The Gay Mother looked at her rowan tree, ‘Joseph Rock’. ‘That’s not autumn,’ she said, ‘that’s Death.’ Further on, she said that the Church Times is no good for lighting fires, the local paper much better. Speaking of the local paper, she was horrified that people take dirty clothes to charity shops, often dumping bin bags outside when the shops are closed. In The Tablet there was a big piece on conspiracy theories. Apparently some people refuse point blank to believe anything the authorities say. As far as they’re concerned, everything’s a conspiracy. I have a certain amount of sympathy.

I had so many pieces to camera with all the worry from Windsor. So it’s been a quiet home life with a few breakthroughs (come back later for more).

On 5th November I gate-crashed the Cruisings’ Firework Party after motoring to Hastings to attend to Val in the Conquest Hosp. The Cruisings have cleverly taken up residence in a block that resembles a cruise ship to match their cruising business. It’s got balconies and state rooms. Their cat fell out of it, just as some older cruisers fall into the sea and are never heard of again, it being the best way to go really for the dedicated cruiser, although the cat survived. The firework display was strange: we ought be told why one huge firework would go off in one place then another in a different place altogether a while later. So it went on. Each one must cost about £400.

We decided to have fireworks indoors. Laura Malcolm said, ‘The government told us to stay at home and we all did it.’ She meant, ‘Why? Why did we just do what we were told?’ Percy Cruising began to rave about Sweden. Matt Driver and I whooshed up incendiary at once but Percy could make more noise. There was no hope against his barrage. I tried to send him to his room but he wouldn’t go. Somebody said, ‘Nobody debates anything anymore,’ but her husband was fuming simultaneously that masks should be worn out of politeness.

That was fun. Next there was lunch, with Laura Malcolm and Xenia Zero. She’s a big-shot. Don’t mess with her. We’ve known her for 40 years. She’ll get you a big deal if she feels like it. Her new hip – she’s been in the Edward V11. It’s a dump. So is the continental property owned by a certain huge actress you’ll have heard of. Xenia said certain people had stopped talking to her for no reason. Laura said that had never happened to her but she wasn’t that bothered with anyone. Otherwise the topics were procedures, tests and results plus our ancient Loved Ones, whether dead or alive. Laura’s doing a new turn on certain requirements of her particular Loved One which causes any audience to catapult from the room. The details.

After that my schedule was earthquaked: Wisley with Royston was scheduled for Friday, then Saturday, then back to Friday, then Saturday again. Finally not at all. There was a cascade of last minutes, including a function for 30 somethings, a concert I’d clean forgotten about, a sudden manifestation at the Black Cultural Archive. Twice I left the home in a track suit, owing to having to do manual work. I suppose it’s a penance for my luck in birth, being born with a thrice-weekly cleaning woman and the Gay Granny having two coming every day.

Did I mention I went out to buy blueberries and ended up in the local Ralph Lauren Club with Genevieve Suzy and Merle Barr?  First of all, just champagne, then a caving in to three courses. All the time, I was in a cleaning outfit of black track suit from Asos. Luckily the lighting was low.

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Engagements

Tuesday 9th November 2021

Royston gave a talk to the London Garden Society. It ended: ‘We live in a wood by a river.’ His theme was maintenance. It’s no good having ‘projects’ costing ££££££££ if everything left to go to rack and ruin until the next ‘project’. We dined afterwards with our favourite museum director in the restaurant there.

Miss Mina gave a dinner. She said she’d died several times. On previous occasions, you understand. She didn’t die during the present dinner. I said, ‘What was it like? Did you see the Lord?’ She said, ‘It was utter Heaven.’ By the sound of it, the Lord held back but will be revealed at the last for sure.

Miss Mina launched an Ottolenghi salmon with tahini vehicle of great interest.

Frieze was so long ago. Never was water so firmly under the bridge. For the record Main Frieze was beyond belief. The real art was the people viewing who might inspire terror. What was on the walls not even horror. Frieze Masters better, particularly since including books, art of the ancient world such as Egyptian, Greek or Roman, so statues and vases, also maps  – such a range. Also Monets and all the usual.

I took Anything Goes. I realised I’d seen it before, in the 80s at the National. The mother-of-the-bride outfit was better in that version, being more buxom, flounced and mauve. The best moment this time was when Felicity Kendal came on wearing all her jewellery owing to a security alert of some kind. It’s an exquisite soufflé, of course, but I failed it.

The Sunday before last Santon and Lanyard were ‘over’. Can you believe it? They gained from New Orleans and gave a reception at the University Club. Aristocracy (Ducal, actually), old American money, carpets, mirrors, gilding and smoked salmon. Superb.

I’ve been confined indoors – so many pieces to camera for Dainty Lady and other outlets. Of course an emergency when she was found to have been in hospital. But now gone to Sandringham to organise Christmas. Well, we’ve all got our pieces updated, which is a boost to morale and even more of one that they won’t be needed just yet. Contradictory.

Then there’s been the saga of Val in hospital, on a more extended basis, unfortunately, than her.

 

Frieze Masters: a Cedric Morris: Yes

Frieze Masters: a Cedric Morris: Yes

Frieze Masters: Salomon de Ruysdael: Old

Frieze Masters: Salomon de Ruysdael: Old

Frieze Masters: Algernon Newton: the Discovery of Frieze Masters. A lot of his Work for Sale

Frieze Masters: Algernon Newton: the Discovery of Frieze Masters. A lot of his Work for Sale: this is Paddington Basin 

Two of These for Sale at Agnews: Thomas Baumgartner. Royston advised to which Institutions might Buy. Obvs: Black Lives Matter

Two of These for Sale at Agnews: Thomas Baumgartner. Royston advised as to which Institutions might Buy. Obvs: Black Lives Matter

The Best that Main Frieze could Manage

The Best that Main Frieze could Manage

Main Frieze Must-Buys

Main Frieze Must-Buys

Angus Willis has been Renovating at Hastings: Floor so Pitted his Spouse cannot Walk over it without Pain

Angus Willis has been Renovating at Hastings: Floor so Pitted his Spouse cannot Walk over it without Pain. This is the Finished Look

 

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Buildings Issue

Thursday 28th October 2021

I really preferred Syon but Reggie Cresswell put Osterley first. We went on a Robert Adam crawl including National Trust fantasy rustic lunch at Osterley. Reggie offered cerise cough sweets for pudding. He was transported fully back to the 18th century and simultaneously the time of Henry James who wasn’t 18th century but visited Osterley and admired the outside staircase, plus wrote a short story partly set there. Me, I’m rather common and loved the purring luxe and Northumberland millions (also signed Royal photographs on the side tables) at Syon. We were even allowed to peer into alarmingly alarmed non-Adam rooms there and imagine what the family might get up in them when the public are fully back behind the outside barriers.

You think of Adam as light and delicate, those just-bass-relief plasterwork panels and marvellous pudding colours. But he can be thunderous and terrifying. The hall at Kedleston is full-on Roman Temple, the Derbyshire marble violently streaked. You could never be cosy in there. Osterley is in a smaller scale. Reggie read out from Pevsner who said the entrance hall was ‘low’. Indeed it was. Not everybody would have four huge stone urns on plinths in their hall, let alone entire statues in alcoves and half-dome recesses but really this room is one of Adam’s quieter ones. Just two colours, white and grey, and the whole effect got with light relief plaster-work in profusion. There’s a terrific energy of ovals skimming within rectangles and a marvellous light harmony which is nevertheless not a bit bedroom and silly. In the library which is all white, not brown as libraries are meant to be, the bookcases are not as anyone else ever conceived a bookcase. The room is so delicate and satisfying in itself that a book would be an intrusion. Adam did total room. He designed everything, even the keyholes. So it’s a unique exercise in architecture on the inside. It hadn’t occurred to me before that he is also very versatile. At Osterley there is an Etruscan room and another fancified French tapestry room, but always the Adam delicacy and deliciousness. The dining room at Syon could be sliced and served for pudding. The faintest blush pink walls and alcoves lined in faux red morocco. That part might be a little chewy, but the colours and the contrasts are delicious: there’s no other word. What a suite of rooms at Syon: the library is Tudorbethan, the drawing room Renaissance with vaulted ceiling and coloured plaster coins, the dining room, I suppose, Greek and the shattering Anti-room the full Roman thunder lifted into a kind of dream of gold towards the ceiling, with gold statues surmounting the dark blue marble pillars  but the ceiling itself like a cake and the floor quite zany with bold contrasting colours.

What’s the secret of it all. Plaster has a lot to do with it and paint. Colours as not used before. Design drives the whole. Other rooms might be re-done in their history which is good. It’s good that a room accumulates and is strewn with the various lives that have lived in it. Not so with rooms by Robert Adam.

 

Osterley: French tapestry Room

Osterley: French tapestry Room by Robert Adam

Osterley: the Etruscan Room, another of Adam's Modes

Osterley: the Etruscan Room, another of Adam’s Modes

Osterley: Adam got the Owner to Agree to Demolition of Quite a lot of the House to Insert This

Osterley: Adam got the Owner to Agree to Demolition of Quite a lot of the House to Insert This

Syon: the Anti-Room. Could you Do your Pre-Drawing Room like This? Remember to Allow Room above the Pediment for Full-Height Gold Statues

Syon: the Anti-Room. Could you Do your Pre-Drawing Room like This? Remember to Allow Room above the Pediment for Full-Height Gold Statues

The Anti-Room Floor at Syon: Bizarre

The Anti-Room Floor at Syon: Bizarre

The Dining Room Alcoves at Syon: Edible

The Dining Room Alcoves at Syon: Edible

The Dining Room: Full View. How would you go about Having This at Home?

The Dining Room: Full View. How would you go about Having This at Home?

The Renaissance Drawing Room at Syon: Ceiling like a Box of Sweets

The Renaissance Drawing Room at Syon: Ceiling like a Box of Sweets or an Iced Biscuit

The Library at Syon: Suddenly Adam doing Tudorbethan, so Astonishing Flat. Great

The Library at Syon: Suddenly Adam doing Tudorbethan, so Astonishing Flat. Great

Radiator Cover in the Long Library at Syon: Just no end to Adam's inventiveness

Radiator Cover in the Long Library at Syon: Just no end to Adam’s inventiveness

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