Waning Powers

Thursday 30th June 2022

Acres of engagements since the Spring include:

But waning powers to record.

Bodnant Gardens – glorious, although an acid garden and not my usual inclination. The mysterious power of Bodnant. Harold Nicholson and Vita visited and remarked on the money. Huge wealth to create a dell. But vision. They can’t have hoped to see it grown in their time, whose who planted it. Staggering quality. Every plant the best of its kind.

Powis Castle again on the way back from Bodnant. Royston wanted it recorded in the Clive of India Museum that he’d not been offended, speaking as one of Jamaican origin.

Caerhays Castle Garden, Cornwall – a ‘stamp collection’ as described to me last week by Stoker Devonshire’s head gardener at Chatsworth. Bitty and messy. Muddy paths. The biggest magnolias ever.

The Isabella Plantation – a visit with Royston King who pumped money into this Richmond Park glory. Azaleas on a massive scale. How did somebody explode outrageous puffs of powder paint in furious shades into the glades?

A Blue Plaque unveiled for Fanny Wilkinson at the top of Shaftesbury Avenue or rather not unveiled. Rachel da Thame in attendance. They put a hoarding right in front of the building the week before so ‘unveiling’ had to take place in the basement of Baptist Church opposite. Typical. Whole point was Fanny Wilkinson had been forgotten. So they go hoarding up her plaque. A landscape designer, responsible for 23 of London’s parks. Speeches, but Royston felt that more effort could have been made to find out about Fanny. She got a bit more forgotten at her own unveiling. A quite hot man said before proceedings – ‘I’m the Mayor of Camden’s driver.’ It seemed the Mayor of Camden couldn’t be brought into existence (i.e. extracted from limo) until driver gave the go-ahead. So much for socialism as practiced in Camden.

Operas have included Carmen at Holland Park, The Wreckers at Glyndebourniana (had to drive all over the country to get smoked chicken for the picnic since was moved to revive Jane Grigson’s avocado with strawberry vinaigrette from the 70s). Oh the massiveness of the Glyndebourniana challenge!  The linens. Days of laundry after…

My Fair Lady was also taken.

Numerous private dinners. Reggie Cresswell gave an entertainment. Incredibly intimate.

Garden opening on June 8th. V. poor attendance. Another this Sunday. Poached a bird for the Ristorante al Carmine Insalata di Pollo to have at the post-opening dinner – Robert Nevil, the Maharajah, Anthony Mottram and Her Royal of Prague, American Prague Royalty who handed back the Blanquette de Limoux saying it had sulphates

Had only just forged through a Corrie Chicken done for Holland Park Carmen the Saturday before, with a lot left over.

All the usual estate work and visiting the Gay Mother. She slammed her Church Times on top of the Radio Times. ‘That awful face. I can’t have it.’ It was Joe Wicks in glamour shot on the cover.

People ask what I’ve been doing.

I washed my Topman dress coat, even though it says ‘Dry Clean only’. Total triumph. I wore it last week at the Garden Museum Literary Festival at Chatsworth, with Reiss slightly baggy slacks (horror! baggy) and Dries huge clucks and no socks. Result too dressy, even for Chatsworth where no clothes were worn at all, even by Lady Riblat. I saw some ordinary members of the public who’d paid to visit sniggering.

Parsifal was on Sunday at the Royal Festival Hall. Rufus Pitman created the engagement. HRH the Duke of Kent was once again present, as he had been at Peter Grimes in March, when Aunt Lavinia had somehow penetrated the Royal Box but actual Royalty was seated elsewhere. George Osborne was at the perf. He is my relation. Parsifal was glorious. Finn Magnus, the hot boy doc, was of the party. I didn’t have to pretend to have enjoyed it at all. Parsifal is completely mesmerising although nothing happens. I’ve seen it at least 15 times before but couldn’t remember how it ended. Not the point really. Just unbelievable tension and drama conjured in the mu. Wonderful. In a concert performance it glares how religious it is and the end of Act 1 is just the communion service as an opera. But it’s not really religious, it’s human. Toby Spence, whom we know, ventured as Parsifal himself. Not loud but such artistry in the phrasing. One of the secrets of Parsifal must be that the man parts such as Gurnemanz, Titurel and Amfortas on the whole the singers are able to sing, even though quite old. These massive great man voices last well. Unlike The Ring where nobody can sing Brunnhilde and Siegfried – or at least only once or twice a century at the most.

Did I mention that I was at Longborough for Siegfried? Lord Heseltine couldn’t find his car in the car park. Lady Anne was bellowing on sticks – ‘Where is it?’ This is the man whom brought down Margaret. Siegfried at Longborough fascinating. The craziness of attempting a Ring Cycle with no resources. Always worth seeing how they manage. Quite well. Some lovely tableaux. Staging highly agreeable and simple. Orch more than okay. Singing – Wotan (now the Wanderer) and Mime sounded as they always do. Mime not caricature, thank goodness. Woodbird great bellowing voice. Siegfried himself – odd. Australian singer. I don’t think it was German he was singing. Voice intermittent but I’ve heard worse in the great houses. None of that terrible straining-on-the-lavatory feel of the rock-bottom Siegfried one often sees. Brunnhilde was frightful.

I took the Tower of London press view for the new meadow. Boring. Only went to see what the Press Boy there would be wearing. Waxed jacket. Disappointing. His indoor outfits and accessorising are second to none.

The National Garden Scheme Garden Party for London owners was last week at Lambeth Palace. Garden there no better than last time. Frightful neglected corner said to be the Archbishop’s private garden. Gloomy 19th century palace (mostly). No sign of Arch peering out of the window. Random woman said slugs weren’t foxes top menu choice but they do eat them. I said, ‘Foxes go, “Oh no, not slugs for dinner again!” ‘ Royston said, ‘You’re quite funny sometimes.’ He was furious with me for saying Lambeth Palace was mostly 19th century. But it is. Looks like a dreary old girls’ school of no particular use to anybody.

Church is in fact at the core of our Nation. From the garden of Lambeth Palace you can see Big Ben and the towers of the Abbey, which Royston said are by Hawksmoor.

Afterwards he insisted on visiting some awful bit of park nearby. Sense of drug use and London going to the dogs.

Oh I forgot the Ramsgate Visit: Pugin House and Church/Monastery Complex, followed by tea with Hilly Bee, the famous Commie novelist. Novelist-like she asked me what I felt I’d missed out on in life. I didn’t dare say All I’ve ever wanted is to be Royal. Instead, I said, ‘I should have been Managing Director of Shell.’ But that was only because it was always remarked that that’s what the Duke of Edinburgh would have been if he hadn’t been Duke of Edinburgh.

On the other hand, if only I’d gone into business and made £150 million. Then one  would have been able to start to get on top of all the things that need doing in the home and begin to move towards getting frockage, decor, clothes, face and hair right at last.

Joshua Baring’s gone to Copenhagen for lunch, by the way.

 

Joe Wicks on Cover of Radio Times. Gay Mother Blanked Out with the Church Times: 'That Awful Face'

Joe Wicks on Cover of Radio Times. Gay Mother Blanked Out with the Church Times: ‘That Awful Face’

 

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So Soon Over

Sunday 19th June 2022

Only two weeks.. did the Jubilee even happen? Royalty are so soon over. I viewed the Pageant with Anthony Mottram. He’d loved the concert too and the Paddington Bear scenario but I’d been at Holland Park Opera for Carmen so missed it. The Pageant was a miracle of silliness and brilliant avoidance of any definite idea of what it means to be British. There was much worry in the highest circles that something would go wrong. So many people were parading, such crowds and a danger of crushing. But it was superbly managed as all British ceremonial and Royal occasions always are.

So when it was over, there was relief. Majesty managed one final, frail appearance on her balcony. Will she ever be seen again? I think so. She forges on. Some commentators predict her demise by October. This is the nature of commentary. One says such things. Royston was in a studio with someone taking that line and got cross. The person also declared she would die of a broken heart. Except because it was an obituary pre-package, she said, ‘She died of a broken heart.’

If said often enough with panache, these statements become hard to dislodge, although they remain untrue.

Royston says people like us must fight on to save the Monarchy. When we were watching the State Opening of Parliament by Prince Charles and Prince William, Royston suddenly said, ‘How wonderful to see a tall Royal person for a change.’ This was devastating, for she is tiny, of course. What could he have meant? What are Royalty? Mostly small and rarely tall? The main thing is they arrive and then depart.

Faith can suddenly collapse like a poor meringue mixture, dissolving into nothing.

But it is not nothing. Jubilee may have evaporated into thin air for us who lived through it but in History it will only grow and grow in magnitude the further into time it recedes, the crowds forever surging, the Royalties waving, the flags and parades, the singing of hymns, the hats, bags and gloves…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sadness after Jubilee

Saturday 11th June 2022

Samuel Beckett: ‘Happy Days’. In Act 1 she’s buried up to her waist in sand, in Act 11 up to her neck. Things are getting worse. Winnie her name, I think, although played supremely by Peggy, of course. At one point she bewails ‘Sadness after song’. Sadness after congress, she could understand. But Sadness after Song…

Now there’s Sadness after Jubilee. Also, a little, Sadness during Jubilee.

Royston, being at the core, feared catastrophe. The parks were afeared. The Pageant would be overstuffed. Too much. Something would go wrong. And Majesty Herself. Would she function?

At Sotheby’s on the Tuesday before Royston was ferocious in praise of the Reign, especially when sooty culture types suggested She is unimaginative.  All the premier Royal Correspondents were there, members of the Royal Household, past and present, leading figures of every kind. The event was diverse, which meant Instagram influencers, bevies of glamorous black men, not concealing that most of the serving staff as well as the Sotheby’s attendants, especially in the Tiara Exhibition Room, were of African origin. Lounging in the lobby, preparing to depart, we met a tycoon who was dressed for watching sport on TV on a Saturday afternoon. I’ve forgotten who he was.

Wednesday I dashed to the Cotswolds for Longborough and ‘Siegfried’. The Heseltines were present and couldn’t find their car in the car park. ‘Can’t you find it?’ Lady Anne barked as her Lord wandered. This was the man who brought down Margaret.  Now, unattended, he couldn’t find his car in the car park. Finally he did. It was a Jaguar.

Back on Thursday in time for the Coutts Beacon Party. I was stranded alone in the hideous atrium of Coutts Bank, the Strand because Royston was held up by Canada to whom he was broadcasting. I phoned him and got blown up for not being able to manage alone. Suddenly there was a tipping point. Does this happen at parties? A wary phase, and then, as if released from the starting gates, the guests are off. Brompton Cycles addressed me. A whippy dynamo of a man, like a heron in flight. After that, everybody was self-introducing like mad. Royston arrived. It was decided I should act as equerry. ‘Sir Royston King, OBE, wishes to meet you.’ In this way he secured quotes from London’s Bishop and Baroness Scotland to be broadcast to Canada the next day. ‘Who’s Baroness Scotland?’ Robert Nevil said later. Well, she’s only the Secretary-General to the Commonwealth to which a third of the world’s population belong.

I practiced being Royal. It’s very hard. I was too long with the representative of the Jain community and got a muddled impression of the new Jain Community Centre in Colindale because it seemed it wasn’t just for Jains. I didn’t have the Royal way of ending the encounter. Another man had a brooch and interesting hair. I said, ‘Are you a musician?’, wishing to avoid a direct, ‘What do you do?’ But it was probably the wrong question because he was black and racial stereotyping might have been at play. He seemed indignant and said he was an entrepreneur with four businesses. But then he had trouble remembering what they were. I suppose that’s a certain grandeur of entrepreneur, possibly. I certainly have trouble remembering all my interests and sources of income.

Even though we heard that the Queen was not going to the Service of Thanksgiving the next day, we surged out from Coutts on a wave of elation. Several more Heads of Communication to former Prime Ministers and Tycoons had been met.

Debo's Tiara: Sotheby's Tiara Exhib

Debo’s Tiara: Sotheby’s Tiara Exhib

Debo's other Tiara: Sotheby's Tiara Exhib

Debo’s other Tiara: Sotheby’s Tiara Exhib

Sotheby's Jubilee Party

Sotheby’s Jubilee Party

Sotheby's Jubilee Party

Sotheby’s Jubilee Party

Sotheby's Jubilee Party: Who is She? Why Selected for Graphing?

Sotheby’s Jubilee Party: Who is She? Why Selected for Graphing?

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Pre-Jubilee Experience

Thursday 2nd June 2022

Today is the 68th birthday of Robert Nevil. He is now 68.

Harry Rollo took Lundy for a week and had some last min vacancies. I could have had 3 nights but that would have meant cancelling a Hertfordshire Luncheon for the Hertfordshire Herbaceous Society. I don’t want to get into the way of cancelling engagements in order to carry out others. My aim is to carry on carrying out engagements, mindful of the teachings of the Church, in the manner ordained by the schedule. That is my duty.

So the only way of encompassing Lundy was by means of a Day Trip. Essentially I lunched on Lundy, having suffered the previous night in a deeply cardboard hotel in Bideford, where you have to be to catch the early steamer to the isle. Lundy has always been a myth for me. I never thought I would see it. If this opportunity was not grasped, Lundy would elude me all my days.

But Anthony Mottram, who landed there in the 80s, said it was just cliffs, and so did Miss Larkspur at the Hertfordshire Herbaceous Society’s Luncheon. Val, phoned as my car was going down to Bideford the day before, remarked that two people he’d known had fallen off Lundy in mysterious circs. Possibly they had committed. He warned me not to do the same.

Sitting on the rusting packet steamer (lucky to get a seat) at the crack, I feared that I would fail in my duty. Worse when the boat set out to sea and began to lurch. I had to keep my eyes firmly on the horizon. Lundy hove at once into view. It’s much nearer the mainland and much bigger than I had imagined. But a wracked queasy hour to reach it. Coming in, a woman who appeared to know what she was talking about identified a filigree whirl of bird above as puffins in flight. Harry Rollo was there in person to greet me. Mercifully there were no formalities. At once he sensed a seal and indeed there was one. He handed me the binoculars: ‘See the dog face,’ he said.

Lundy was looking up, almost before it had begun.

Trust Harry Rollo to seek out the only cream classical mansion on Lundy and occupy it. There, on the lawn, were the usual clutch of household names: Rufus Pitman, Mercury, Mr Kitten, Reggie Cresswell, Maud Queenie, Miss Pearl Cellina, a new name, Mr Puck, and Lord Broadcast-Services, of course. Maud Queenie was the most likely to be recognised but even though the public could peer in at the dining room window, so close was the public footpath, none of the public managed to do so.

Oh to be at luncheon on an island. Luncheon was dappled and glorious and free, as if it were already happening in the past, with Monet, or the Bloomsburys (just their atmosphere through painting, not their actual poisonous selves). Champagne Lundy, nestled in a cove turned out to be rather different from Lundy up above, where we forged in the afternoon. A huge upland, 3 miles long, 3/4 mile wide, sheep, not a tree in sight, a clutch of garrison-type buildings at one end and an unlikely full-on parish church, although no parish to speak of. We walked to the disused lighthouse. Mercury, Mr Kitten pointed out a dwelling further up the island, the last before emptiness where you could stay with no electricity or running water if you wanted the total organic experience. The party of household names had gone there and beyond the day before, trekking right to the other end. Returning they’d been caught in rain and drenched but rose above it. No attitude. No screaming for staff.

Is this the effect of the island?

‘Puffins!’ Harry Rollo declared without warning. Way below, tiny specks of black and white. Even through binoculars I could make out little more. But I believed the puffins. ‘They’re terrific snobs,’ Harry Rollo said. ‘They won’t mix with the other birds.’

I should mention I was wearing my mac by Oliver Spencer, where is always remarked upon for some reason. Harry said there were no police on Lundy, therefore no crime. He plans to be Lord of this Isle which is the real world, unlike the actual real world. He will have it as his own. It has to be. This plan is excellent and I see no possibility of Caliban nor his mother, Sycorax, bent by age and envy into a hoop. There would be nowhere for them to hide. Lundy is a domain fully visible all in one go – more or less. So ideal for total rule.

Back at the Mansion, Harry had been experimenting with the whisking area of cooking. Meringues. A meringue cream tea. Mr Puck revealed his past. He is fully non-compliant and superb. Expect him at any moment to blast onto the scene.

Then it was time for the return ferry. Maud Queenie still incog. In the queue to board Rufus Pitman announced that he was anxious about most things but climate change wasn’t one of them. I so agree. It’s just a theory. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like fossil fuels anymore than the next person. But human ingenuity will find a way. I’d been supplied with a sea-sickness tablet in the mansion. It worked wonders. The light was a pink wash, dolphins were seen, but not by me. The old-fashioned scene, the trippers packed onto the deck of the ancient steamer (belching the most frightful diesel by the way) reminded me somehow of half-term outings long ago in the 60s.

We came to rest at Bideford and rejoined the Official Car for the capital, Rufus Pitman, Maud Queenie and me, Adrian Edge. Rufus was uncertain as to the whereabouts of his husband, Raj Zoroaster. ‘I thought he was abroad but his texts imply a presence in London.’ I was reminded of Her Majesty the Queen remarking in a letter to Hardy Amies, ‘My husband is in San Francisco.. or somewhere.’ Maud Queenie’s phone had become uncharged. She borrowed my battery and then found herself speaking to a friend in Catalonia who said she had phoned him or her. But she hadn’t.

Lundy: Wild but Ideal

Lundy: Wild but Ideal

Lundy: Cliffs. Be careful Not to Fall Off

Lundy: Cliffs. Be careful Not to Fall Off

Harry Rollo's Cream Mansion on Lundy

Harry Rollo’s Cream Mansion on Lundy

 

 

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Not Matching..

Saturday 28th May 2022

The clasp of one of my bags came loose. A tiny bespoke screw was missing. In King’s Cross a bag repair shop couldn’t quite match it. The agony is whether to forge through to Lancel, the bag’s makers, in Paris and extract from them a true screw.

I haven’t used the bag since. My other brown one is fielded. On the other hand, the wrong screw is turned from public gaze and this bag carries particularly well, although when it first arrived I thought it too tan.

But knowing it’s wrong… in my heart can I bear it? To deceive and conceal, to parade a bag with a hidden error, tricking the public. How can that be right?

Then my superb maid sent me a photo of my washing machine while I was out. Error Code such and such. Men sent for to repair turned out to be clueless. Days of Launderette life, plunged back to the 1970s. Eventually the machine pronounced beyond repair. Only 5 years old. Pay £100 extra for new one to be installed. Two very fat men appear. No possibility of lifting it. One of them cuts himself at once. No first aid kit. Tended by me, Adrian Edge, he gives a lurid account of his finger hanging by a thread, all but severed, although before my eyes and his it is lightly grazed. His truth, though, although not true, cannot be contested.

I have to help them heave the thing down the stairs. It’s an integrated machine – or rather was. The new one won’t integrate. If properly aligned the outer door won’t open. Marvellous. Why? The hinges are in a slightly different place. £££££ on an integrated kitchen with machines concealed – a uniformity of cupboard achieved at vast expense. Surely fairly obvs that a replacement machine should be identical to the previous one, you’d have thought, wouldn’t you? But no…

A handyman is coming on Tuesday. He says he can put it right.

Hoping and praying.

My Lancel Tan Bag: Screw Not matching

My Lancel Tan Bag: Screw Not matching

Public View of the Clasp: But Can I Live with the Concealment?

Public View of the Clasp: But Can I Live with the Concealment?

New Washing Machine: But Integration's Failure

New Washing Machine: But Integration’s Failure

Integration Catastrophe: Not to be Borne

Integration Catastrophe: Not to be Borne

 

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Intense Florals … and Trauma

Tuesday 24th May 2022

Chelsea Flower Show Press Day!

Frockage: outsize shirt-waister, to the floor even; floral print more floral than ever seen before. What can have happened?

Menswear: suddenly the Norfolk jacket, pleated at the back. Still jackettes, crackpot suits in pink…

The Gardens: Care, Mental Health, Sustainability, Racial Equality, Sewing in Prisons… Oh for the old days when it was a rockery or a rose garden.

But the guests: and who would have thought trauma, arising, quite frankly, from Design. A garden was very nearly a killer.

Royston King hailed me from the RHS enclosure and ushered me in. I should say I was there on my own account on behalf of Dainty Lady TV. With my nerves I was scarcely not going to notice, once in to the champagne area,  a narrow stretch of water with no barrier between paving slabs, and Greatnesses packed around with champagne. The biggest worry was Gloria Hunniford, assaulting the invitation-only PV demesne from the rear, penetrating through a flap at the back. She’s over 80. But if she’d come in the right way, from the front, at least she might have seen the watery crevice and been warned. The Perrys were in evidence, he with the turquoise nail varnish which is now compulsory for men apparently. Otherwise dressed as a child’s idea of a garden. Mrs Perry said she’d been to Buckingham Palace and it was like a 1950s Golf Club. I said, ‘The wallpapers are mostly Queen Mary from the 1930s.’ ‘Well, yes,’ Mrs P goes, ‘but then a 1950s Gold Club would have been left over from the 30s, anyway, wouldn’t it?’ Clever. She said the only photo she had of Grayson to submit for the admission process, with the required white background,  showed him with a swollen eye. It was a selfie he’d sent his wife for diagnosis. His eye is now recovered, thank goodness, but she wondered, if, at the entrance gate, she’d have to duff him over in order to convince the authorities as to his identity. Only allowed in with swollen eye. Where was it?

Suddenly: ‘Hello, I’m Fiona Bruce.’ I wouldn’t have known. Blonde and outdoor-looking. ‘Hello, I’m Fiona Bruce.’ So she continued. Thin, long frock and denim jacket. By now the Treasures were piling up – Anneka, Nick Knowles, Ainsley Harriot, Angela Rippon. So devastating. All these gifts showering down at once. And the surge and brilliance of fame: ‘How wonderful,’ ‘Absolutely marvellous,’ ‘I can’t believe it’. Just giving and giving, the quality, the comments, the poise..

Then, horror: lady in the watery ravine. And sinking. Hauled out by Lady Salisbury’s head gardener. Royston’s friend, Noisette, at once in attendance. She’s a Goddess. Not Gloria Hunniford. She was spared. But Lady not moving. Even at that level, nobody sure what to do – carry on, soldier on with champagne reception or would that look bad? Agony of waiting for paras. Blank of nothing. Royston thankful his guests so much to the rescue. ‘It’s important that she’s comforted by another black woman.’ At last, trolleys, bags. Where there had been no doctors, suddenly there were two. You could tell: they are labelled on their backs ‘doctor’. Lady taken away. Living. Later heard of as being at home, in one piece.

Traumatised, we retreat to a bench with the Perrys. Royston left to fetch his National Treasure, only just in time for the President’s lunch. The NT had got the day wrong. Was still in bed at 10 am. At least fresh for the event, I thought. Royston fuming though. ‘What is the point of fame if you can’t get the day right?’ Noisette bonds instantly with Mum Perry. ‘I’m not doing another bloody degree,’ I hear MP saying. Grayson wants me to take shot of him and Noisette, in horror movie style as if they’d just been set upon by aliens. I’m a bit of a spare part while Mum Perry and Noisette bond. Finally MP declares that they haven’t found a common enemy yet but she’s sure they will. Noisette and I depart for the gardens and a snack. Much waylaid at the Swiss garden with full account of Switzerland and its flora. The harvest is otherwise thinner but still adequate: Rachel da Thame, Carol Klein, Dame Ester dressed as a daffodil, Dame Judi, who blessed my sneezing, Craig Revel Horwood in lemon.

End up by luck at foot of stairs where they’re coming out from the President’s Lunch. Royston and his Treasure… Then begins a phase of wonder as never known before. We begin to tour the ground. First of all, Stoker and Amanda, but no real sign of what is to come. With the Duchess, we discuss the Airbnb in Bakewell where Royston and I are to stay next month for the Garden Museum Literary Festival at Chatsworth. Next Philip Scholfield – ‘She’s a National Treasure,’ Royston bellows. ‘What are you?’ ‘I haven’t been dug up yet,’ Philip Scholfield goes. But PS is delirious for Royston’s Treasure. We can hardly advance. ‘How marvellous!’ ‘How wonderful!’ the Treasure goes, before retreating to the Ladies because her skirt is falling down. Out again, a crescendo must be reached: Sophie Raworth, Valerie Singleton and Michael Heseltine all at once. All the connections, going back years, light up at once, the pure sunny uplands of fame. But no, there’s more. How can this height be maintained? By one of the show gardens, the DIY man from TV – as good as on the floor before Royston’s Treasure. Leads her away to sit in the show garden on a bench where they can be seen in deep, intimate confab. When the Treasure returns I say I can’t quite remember the DIY man’s actual name. Neither can she, it turns out. But no matter. The glory, the moment, poised in perfection, progressing through the event…

Chelsea 2022. Norfolk Jacket feature

Chelsea 2022. Norfolk Jacket feature

Another Norfolk jacket: Chelsea 2022

Another Norfolk jacket: Chelsea 2022

Anneka

Anneka

Fiona, with background Grayson

Fiona, with background Grayson

Mrs P

Mrs P

Mr P

Mr P

Angela

Angela

Craig Revel

Craig Revel

Dame Judi with Finty

Dame Judi with Finty

Dame Esther as a Daff

Dame Esther as a Daff

Rachel da Thame: Floral

Rachel da Thame: Floral

Stoker and Amanda

Stoker and Amanda

Pink Suit

Pink Suit

Flap through which Gloria Penetrated the Event

Flap through which Gloria Penetrated the Champagne Event

Gloria in and with Champagne

Gloria in and with Champagne

Gloria's Personalised Tote

Gloria’s Personalised Tote

 

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The Welsh Visit

Wednesday 18th May 2022

The Welsh Visit took place. St Anselm was absent, even though it’s his house. We were received by Herbert Morrison who is still flirting with the Tories back in England, having tried the Communists, the Left, the Hard Left, Labour and the Lib Dems. Only the Methodists remain to be tried.

Herbert Morrison proposed a walk. ‘It will only be 40 minutes,’ he said, which meant 4 hours with danger of falling into a ravine. When Royston King protested, HM shook with glee. There was nothing we could do. We were trapped. Rather like the voters once they’ve voted him in.

I did some menus since it was given out that Herbert Morrison doesn’t cook. But Royston insisted on 4 Yorkshire Puddings in Tesco Welshpool. I thought no more of it until he began forcefully to heat them up to go with my Nigella’s Chicken with Orzo. I could have died. Why bother to menu if people are just going to do what they like?

Worse though was the incident of the fishy liquid left over from the cooking of the hake for Nigella’s Hake with pine nuts, parsley, tarragon and preserved lemons. Royston seized the dish from me just as I was about to wash it up and declared it would be tipped into the garden. I begged and screamed. I could envisage the whole garden and indeed the house having to be thrown away and start again from rotted fish vapour. Just like the horror of a prawn trodden into a carpet leading to a complete refurb, as it often does. Nothing would deter him short perhaps of my committing there and then, which I would have done had there been the means.

Herbert Morrison’s calls to St Anselm were broadcast on loud speaker. On the Sunday morning HM heard that an uncle had heard. The subsequent call to St Anselm was this being announced, followed by ten minutes of them arguing as to who had called whom. Then HM said, ‘My uncle’s died.’ St Anselm goes: ‘I’ve never heard of him before. Is there anything else? I’m in a hurry.’

Herbert Morrison is more finished in the house than I remembered. He remarked on my sweeping crumbs from the table into my hand to clear it. ‘Most people just brush them into the floor,’ he said with proper contempt. His Thai Green Curry was elegant and the rice was really meant to be sticky. I’d been screaming at the stove that it would be overcooked. But HM knew what he was doing.

On the way back to England, Royston pondered the future of the monarchy and took a call from a household name who is inconveniently getting married on the Jubilee weekend.

Welsh Scenery on Herbert Morrison's 40 min (i.e. 4 hour) walk

Welsh Scenery on Herbert Morrison’s 40 min (i.e. 4 hour) walk: in the Distance is the Sea 

Welsh Scenery: Styled by Sheep

Welsh Scenery: Styled by Sheep and the Forestry Commission 

 

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Purpose

Monday 16th May 2022

Herbert Morrison said to me the other day, during a country house visit to him in Wales, ‘With diminished stamina owing to age, how to do you see your life progressing from now on?’ It was an interview question, as if one had a ‘career’. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never been involved in the career world. But with different birth, I’d probably have had to become the Managing Director of Shell. As was always said of the late Duke of Edinburgh: had he not been the Duke of Edinburgh, he would have been the Managing Director of Shell. Except that I would have been too and you can’t have two Managing Directors of Shell.

As it turned out, neither of us were forced down the path of becoming the Managing Director of Shell, so at least we were spared that misery.

I said, ‘I aim only to carry out my engagements and dutifully perform my duties wearing clothes and with a face.’ One of my duties is to roll round with the seasons and garden. So now I present my tulips for 2022, just over now. And a glimpse of the present May garden.

My tulips this year came from Crocus. They came up the right colours but not always the right form. Coleur Cardinal was suddenly very tall and Prinses Irene was late although supposed to be early. Upon reflection, Brown Sugar, although listed as ordered, never seemed to materialise and instead a pinky one appeared in the front area. For the back garden and top terrace, I had two actual pink ones but I couldn’t tell you which was which: Synaeda Amor (yes, that’s the name) and Light and Dreamy.

Front Area Tulips: Also this year I tried a Crown Imperial. Big Success. These Tulips are Coleur Cardinal, Prinses Irene and supposedly Brown Sugar, but It can't be

Front Area Tulips: Also this year I tried a Crown Imperial. Big Success. These Tulips are Coleur Cardinal, Prinses Irene and supposedly Brown Sugar, but It can’t be. This pinky one Unknown

Front Area Tulips: Sparsely Planted to Reflect the New Normal

Front Area Tulips: Sparsely Planted to Reflect the New Normal i.e. Poor

Crown Imperial: Very Exciting and New for Me

Crown Imperial: Very Exciting and New for Me

Back Garden Tulips: Shirley, Light and Dreamy and Synaeda Amor

Back Garden Tulips: Shirley, Light and Dreamy and Synaeda Amor

Upstairs Garden Tulips: Shirley, Bello Epoque, Light and Dreamy, Synaeda Amor

Upstairs Garden Tulips: Shirley, Bello Epoque, Light and Dreamy, Synaeda Amor, Spring Green: I thought Aunt Lavinia was Supposed to have the Spring Green, but there You are

 

 

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Terror

Monday 9th May 2022

The Museum of Terror seemed the way forward for Budapest, newly opened 20 years ago or so and impossible to get into. Booked.

So at last we gained entry. It’s in the actual building where they tortured throughout the Bloc years (or did they?). The very opening of it as a museum was two fingers up to the past and a surge for the future, or so it appeared at the time.

The astonishing thing is these Gestapo-type headquarters were on the main street of Pest, just another front door of many, 19th century grand palazzo style but a terrace. A gloomy courtyard within and many internal windows, giving creepiness. An outsize Russian tank parked, overwhelming the space. It’s one of those immersive museums. The staff were unbelievably rude. Sound effects, film clips, photographs of those murdered and of those doing the murdering. It wasn’t just the Commies torturing but the Germans during the War and the Russians immediately after. Only one room was a replica of what it had actually been when the building was in full swing. I got separated from Anthony Mottram on the way round. Maybe he’d been removed by the authorities. No, I found him sulking in the vestibule. ‘It’s nationalist propaganda,’ he withered. ‘Nowhere does it say that actual Hungarians had a hand in all this.’

So that was the end of the Museum of Terror. I had my audio-guide snatched from me by a hysterical attendant. Working in the Museum of Terror is terrorising, evidently. We walked afterwards. That part of Pest has been renovated up to a point. But the dead weight of stone, apartment buildings posing as palazzos, lumber from the past. We didn’t see that we could do anything more for Budapest.

Budapest: Museum of Terror. Listening Equipment. Photos Not Allowed. I got This before Interrogation

Budapest: Museum of Terror. Listening Equipment. Photos Not Allowed. I got This before Interrogation

Budapest: Museum of Terror: Typing and Snooping Corner

Budapest: Museum of Terror: Typing and Snooping Corner

 

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What to do with Budapest?

Friday 29th April 2022

Budapest was our early Eastern bloc exposure from 1987. Anthony Mottram was installed in a flat and had more expenses than the Hungarian Prime Minister. A Nibelung hoard of money in a cupboard could be dipped into at will.

That was 35 years ago or more. In 2022, we arrived from Vienna at the new suburban station. First sight – a bus full of free people. No requirements. They were permitted their own faces. Irony: the Germanic people of Austria, no faces, not allowed. In the old Block, once ruled with iron, complete liberation of the face.

We were conveyed to a booming restaurant for a robust meat dinner. The next morning, though, Budapest in the light of day was revealed. A scruffy, rough feeling now, not unattractive, but uneven progress. Some streets as run-down as ever, not come on much since the War or 1956.

Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten arrived in the afternoon. We took a luxury full-meat restaurant but Harry had to see Bartok, Kodaly and the 21 Hungarian Dances first. The next day was his performance for which the entire troupe had been bus-ed from Vienna – hundreds and hundreds of persons, all to perform. The new performance hall in Budapest gave a tremendous spaciousness to the performance and was superbly received, with Bartok, Kodaly, Kandinski and Ligeti in the audience, as well as the 21 Hungarian Dances, all enraptured  – or as much as the pared-down ones ever can be. Harry performed some performances by others, I should mention. One was a massive work constantly eluding one’s grasp and the other was about the Waltz, so perfect for Vienna, although what is done to the Waltz is terrifying.

Afterwards, we saw some of the performers without trousers backstage as they rushed to change for the bus back to Vienna. Then we took a restaurant which Anthony Mottram said he hadn’t been to since the 1980s, when it was turistico. Not now. It stayed open just for us and the Roma players came to the table. Any requests? I had a brainwave: ‘What about the Hungarian Shadash Kiraly?’ It’s their Gilbert and Sullivan but sentimental. Unbelievable – the famous lady singer of the company for whom world-composers had composed – she began to sing, accompanied by the Roma band of course. The old stirring melodies of the Great Hungarian Plains, known to all Hungarians, poured forth, melancholy, but with hope in togetherness. The other important performer present suddenly had a pile of rather unattractive orange food in front of her. ‘Has she spilled or has she vom-ed?’ Mercury Mr Kitten enquired. Mercifully she had only spilled her Hungarian goulash soup. The waiters were the picture of disapproval in clearing. Their hair was so important.

Anthony Mottram and I sought out his old housekeeper. I said, ‘We’ll either visit her in person or her grave.’ Fortunately, she’s still in person – just. Still in the blocki where AM had his really significant Budapest phase in the 1990s and began to re-build the Bloc. She was found to be a neighbour who assumed right of entrance and employment and of menu-ing, such as when she arrived one morning in 1993 with about 100 eggs scrambled with paprika.

In that street the bullet-holes from the War or ’56 or both have been removed.

In the portal of the blocki, we encountered a former neighbour who remembered Anthony Mottram. ‘Vorouska will say she’s 94 but she’s not. She’s 88,’ this woman said. Sure enough, the first thing Vorouska did was announce herself as 94. All in Hungarian, of course. Not a word of English. AM had to translate for me. Val, when he used to visit in the 90s, held long conversations with her in German. Afterwards he would say he had no idea what language it was but it certainly wasn’t German. Her cleaning was questionable. Once she dampened the floor mop directly from the lavvie. But there was no arguing with these methods. Indeed as staff she dominated completely. Her main interest was gossip, especially any unexpected nocturnal arrivals.

I had to sit while Anthony and Vorouska jabbered in Hungarian, which isn’t a language where you can pick up the gist. It wasn’t exactly a joyous re-union. It came back to me that Vorouska never did have any expression on her face. I don’t know what happened to it. Afterwards Anthony briefed that her son had died, she wasn’t having anything to do with vaccinations and she believed Hungary is for the Hungarians. Her decor suggested a subsistence life. There’s still a dog whom she claimed to walk in the street. But how? She’s so grey and swollen and breathless – how could she get down the stairs?

Later we wandered the streets lined with massive palaces of apartments, which have not achieved universal renovation. What to do with this huge stony city, built for empire 160 years ago or so? How can the dwindling population of a small country support it? What’s it for now? Immigration would be a benefit, but that’s now allowed.

But the Opera House has been renovated. Obviously a huge priority. What a glory it is revealed to be, with exotic, jewel-encrustations on the underside of the arcades, carefully lit to best effect at night.

The Budapest Opera Renovated. So Exotic now. Before Black with Grim

The Budapest Opera Renovated. So Exotic now. Before Black with Grime

The New Performance Hall in Budapest. Otherwise the city rots rather

The New Performance Hall in Budapest. Otherwise the city rots rather

 

 

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