I Have Two Brain Waves

Wednesday 30th November 2022

But I’ve forgotten what the second one was. It was inflation-busting. That’s all I can tell you.

The first, though, remains vivid. You may or may not know, but Roundup Gel (it’s a weedkiller), essential for pasting on weeds that have got in amongst other plants and can’t be rooted out, has increased in price by 300% – from £12 to £30. So…. why not put ordinary weedkiller into a plastic cap and apply with a Q-tip to the leaves of those tricky unwanted invaders? Also bits of pyracantha etc that have seeded in walls and can’t be got out.

Sorry, organic fanatics, but weed-killer does need to be used from time to time but very sparingly.

It’s not exactly a brain wave, but I’ve abandoned Jeeves of Belgravia as my official dry cleaner. Not least because they no longer have any shops. But the costs were astronomical even in the fat years. I took my Prada black evening slacks to a very cheap establishment nearby. Believe or not, there are quite a few dry cleaners on streets. Not wrecked. My Reiss white velvet jacket okay but not clean. Then it got further marked at Harry Rollo’s gala in Milan. I wonder if I will be able to resist the powder blue velvet alternative Reiss are now offering once it’s reduced in the sales. The colour is superb. The garment could double up for day-wear and would in fact give day wear a much-needed evening lift.

 

 

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What’s It For?

Sunday 27th November 2022

In the morning Reggie Cresswell said, ‘Why would anybody want millions?’ Not a question I would ask. In the afternoon the answer came: to build the Villa Necchi. Coming up the drive of the Villa Necchi, I thought, ‘I know this place.’  It was a location in the Gucci film with Lady Gaga. A 30s, special order villa, built by the Necchi, a wealthy industrial family. We hadn’t been there five seconds and we were in Heaven. The Villa Necchi is absolute bliss. The best of everything, every detail thought of and the wonderful flaring space yet the rooms you can imagine being cosy in. The walls are veneered in fabulous woods; sublime craftsmanship. They started with the idea of a supremely Modernist interior, utterly pared down and minimal. But when they got the house back after the War (Germans had been there) they had a re-think. They couldn’t resist a few chandeliers, a few antique pieces, a monumental curving marble fireplace. More recently since the house has been open to the public, various people have bequeathed their collections so the place is now teeming with ornaments, porcelain, top drawer paintings and general gorgeousness and exactly how a house like this should be. Upstairs somehow a Princess of Savoy had got in and taken a room which was done over in gold damask with Louis Quinze abounding, a marvellous example of Royalty having their way and wrecking what was supposed to be completely – like that time Princess Margaret refused to go into the supper room at a private function and there was seriously the prospect of hundreds of little gilt chairs and an entire supper going to waste. But that time, fortunately the greatnesses assembled managed collectively to steer her in..

Finally was the total climax of Harry’s performance. He’s not tried Italy so much before and there’s the danger that if it’s not Nessum Dorma they’ll go mad. But they didn’t. They adored. It was new. They’d never known anything like it before especially not the fairy who’s not even human and although given by a human that person isn’t human either. It’s that new. Oh the miracles of the performance beyond performance and terrible loss at the end. If only it could have started all over again.

Afterwards there was a tremendous canapé reception with even some bruscetta for Reggie in a staggering Gustavian (but it can’t have been in Italy) reception room with huge width. The next morning Reggie cancelled the Brera while I was in transit for it and re-directed for the Ambrogian Library which only eventually had even an entrance. There was a highly unusual Caravaggio there – but doubtful it was intended as a complete painting. Other works were displayed but my nerves gave out. I was seized with pre-boarding tension and the visit was over.

Villa Necchi: The dining room. Meant to be Ultra Modern but they Couldn't Resist a Chandelier

Villa Necchi: The dining room. Meant to be Ultra Modern but they Couldn’t Resist a Chandelier

Later Fireplace after Modernism Abandoned

Later Fireplace after Modernism Abandoned

Villa Necchi: Superb Plaster Work Ceiling

Villa Necchi: Superb Plaster Work Ceiling

Villa Necchi: Reggie Loved this Floor Detail

Villa Necchi: Reggie Loved this Floor Detail

Fabulous Garden Room at the Villa Necchi

Fabulous Garden Room at the Villa Necchi: Plants between the Glazing Panels 

The Princess of Savoy got into this Room and did This

The Princess of Savoy got into this Room and did This

The Princess of Savoy's Room at the Villa Necchi: Royalty Present

The Princess of Savoy’s Room at the Villa Necchi: Royalty Present

 

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Longing for Rustication

Sunday 20th November 2022

Reggie Cresswell longs for rustication, almost as much as he craves vegetarian food with no cheese. In Milan we found a supreme example: a building rusticated entirely, from the pavement to the skyline. 19th century unfortunately but better than nothing. Otherwise the main idea of Milan seemed to be to have a traffic system so entwined that no road was going anywhere apparently, rather like a ball of string that’s got out of control. Buildings of interest occurred, but random and all grubby. Quickly the city dissolves into uniform outlying suburbs from the early 20th century, not unpleasant but boring. Harry and Mr Kitten had found a canal and an antique market which sounded more promising but we never saw that. Byzantine churches of huge ancientness in red brick with stone dressings are a surprise element. And there’s an enormous old castle.

Within though we saw world class items. I hadn’t expected that. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci was arranged specially. The public had booked it solid, so we were ushered in by other means. I’ve never thought much of Leonardo – the Mona and so on –  but this work is superb. I was knocked out. We were brought up to believe it so damaged as to be not worth bothering with. But no! The figures are full and dynamic and the impossible challenge of composition brilliantly overcome. How do you do thirteen people sitting at a table? It’s going to be too wide and they’ll just be in a row. Leonardo has the brain wave of making the supper room a dramatic receding vista with alcoves at the sides for emphasis and windows at the back looking out onto the landscape. Then the Apostles, although essentially in a row, are arranged with great variety, in groups of three, some standing or facing in a different direction. Christ occupies his own force field in the middle of the picture. It’s as Art should be – a design but real – and making little of the burden of being One of the Most Famous Paintings in the World. The room it’s in is remarkable as well – just a bare medieval barn really with high vaulted ceiling, uniform cream. And there it is, half way up the end wall, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The extraordinary thing is the building took a direct hit from a British bomb in the War. The placed was smashed to smithereens. But the painting, and another one on the other end wall, survived.

So it’s totally three cheers and well done to Art.

In its bare White Chamber

In its bare White Chamber

Rustication! Reggie Cresswell's Favourite

Rustication! Reggie Cresswell’s Favourite: Rare to find it Cap a Pe 

 

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A Moment of Madness

Wednesday November 16th 2022

In a moment of madness, I booked. It was when our friend Lynne Truss was threatening to wipe out simply everything; even pensions to go under her rule. All the same, crazed, I booked: short haul Economy bearable.

Mercifully in later life I’m not been seized with the urge to travel. Quite the opposite. Why do retired persons long to be tourists? It’s such a reduced status. Really one is nobody, unlikely to be on a guest list of any kind. I’d rather stay at home and be known.

But if there is an occasion I will board. Anthony Mottram and I toyed with Bulgaria in November because a film has been made based on the life of the theatre director in charge of the Orphans’ Drama Festival at Shiroka Laka and Bulgaria is entering it for the Oscars. But really it was too far to go for an event with no English spoken, even though one had met Kyril of Bulgaria at St Cyprian’s Clarence Gate. In Milan, on the other hand, Harry Rollo was to give a performance, or a series of performances in fact, at the highest venue of all.

So, in a moment of madness, I booked. Once booked you’ve got to go, and have outfits planned, in this case, four day and one evening.

I haven’t been in Italy for six or seven years. Recently of course it’s had to be severely avoided on account of you know what, and terrible measures. I was bidden to a grand bar to meet Harry Rollo, Mercury Mr Kitten and Reggie Cresswell. One thing hasn’t changed in 45 years – the reporting to the kiosk to pre-pay for drinks then the handing of the docket to the barman. Terrific grandeur of the barman, who looked ready to challenge one to a duel for the slightest infringement. I didn’t dare to touch the nibbles laid out on the bar. We dined very high in a modern restaurant called Langosteria, full of rich youth with a specific toilet maid but from another age- black dress, white apron trimmed with lace and cap the same. The food was fish, which poor Reggie can’t touch of course. The vegetarian policy was ‘make do with the vegetables’ which were quite high in fact. A uniform orange hue was achieved with all the dishes with a novel pasta recommended to be taken after the main course.  I enjoyed the dinner and the purr of money and outfits all round. Harry is very taken with Milan although the cathedral can’t be explained. Where they are lodged, in the fashion district, there are no food shops. This is because, Harry said, the fashion people eat their own gloves and hats instead. Frockage, in other words, is the food of life, as we have always known, but never before so perfectly realised as by Harry.

 

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Other Engagements Carried Out

Sunday 11th November 2022

Engagements are waning as our Nation declines and as my powers wane.

The Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Gardens Association took place at the Conway Hall, which was like a school. Basement room, unashamed strip lighting. Even a smell. The Lecture was about pollination corridors. Was dreading a climate change harangue but it wasn’t too bad. Just about establishing gardens in urban environments in sufficient proximity so insects can travel from one to the other. This is already happening in the City of London and needs to be got going elsewhere.

In another room, champagne and eats: a man was a dead ringer for Jeremy Irons in some of the best tweeds I’ve ever seen. But actually was a Bulmer, preoccupied with cataloguing drinking fountains. The other Bulmer (the cider family) lives near Robert Nevil’s country farm. In fact Robert Nevil was received there at children’s parties 70 or 80 years ago. It’s a very nice mansion.

There weren’t as many hot gardening gays as usual.

Royston King said he said some Windsor Venison in the oven so no dinner after. We only managed a short spell in a ‘pub’ worrying about the Monarchy.

James Stourton’s launch of his book about How we Conserve Our Heritage was at St Cyprian’s Clarence Gate. Three members of the Royal Family: Sir Timothy Lawrence, whom we’ve had before at Chelsea, the Earl of St Andrews and a third, spotted by Royston: ‘That’s King Simeon’s son. He was at Cliveden last week.’ Although I was tasked with securing the introduction, it was Royston who managed it of course. I got: ‘Hello, I’m Kyril of Bulgaria’. Extraordinarily nippy waist. Royston said Sir Timothy was free flowing about the death of the Queen but people kept interrupting. They’d been at Balmoral for two weeks beforehand. Her passing was ‘not unexpected.’ Separately Sir Timothy said that he’d ‘put my wife’ on the night sleeper from Glasgow so she could attend a wedding in the South. I’m not quite sure how you put a Princess Royal on a night sleeper. But that’s what he said he’d done.

These Royalties couldn’t be more normal and charming. Loyd Grossman also –  dynamic and ambitious, no holds barred wanting to know who was there,  although 72. Another man – a ringer for Bill Nighy – had a theme going of his immensely valuable manuscripts. No idea who he was.

One felt bucked up for Our Nation. My goodness, money, power and success is good for people and keeps this country going and the heritage preserved. The dear darling Heseltines were present, as well as Simon Jenkins, dear precious Tim Knox, head of the Royal Collection, and Joe Palin, son of Michael, who’s done tremendous work of conservation at Barts.

Dinner afterwards had been planned but was axed by Royston. He said the canapés were our dinner and in any case I appeared hardly able to stand from the champagne.

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An Arrival like no Other

Wednesday 9th November 2022

10 years ago Joshua Baring took 30 years. Now he’s 40. 40 years of Joshua Baring was marked with the total occupation of a Shoreditch restaurant called Lyle. Although a harsh industrial cement box, in it a menu flowered like no other. All the staff were men and not Gays. Indescribable. Seasonal, a foraging element, a pheasant broth, but honed and styled.  Usually this sort of food tastes of nothing, but miraculously robust flavour was retained. The chicken liver parfait with prunes was piped onto sourdough with all the flourish of the Bournemouth School of Icing – my Aunt Olive was once a week in Bournemouth on a cake decorating course. At Lyle seven courses of art and elegance were given.

Nobody else would have chosen Lyle, only Joshua Baring with his finger on London’s pulse, including the best dry cleaners and fabric sources. And the guests? 40 or 50 were received. Can you imagine the ££££? Easily £100,000, I would say, not including Joshua Baring’s jacket by Dior (of which more). But what of the guests? In a way they were subsumed into the menu. There was a whirl of flown-in Gays, some Netflix stars and at the other end of the spectrum Anne Glenconner, Princess Margaret’s old lady-in-waiting. What a range! The throbbing core of Our Nation was present: the money world, TV, the magazines, the books, then the old stalwarts, the Ducal Nephew, as well as Patrick Lockyer, who sues for Celebrities and doesn’t look a day older than he did at Joshua Baring’s 30th birthday party ten years ago – proving that pharmaceutical intervention works.

No question about it: this function marked arrival and no hint of departure. Joshua Baring has arrived and will be staying. It’s strange how long it takes to arrive. Few arrive before 40, I imagine.

I was seated with Bovver Baring, Joshua’s older brother. Heaven. We’ve got our thrilling secret underworld of denial and refusal. Also a woman from Channel 4 who might have been dreaders (Channel 4 – so ghastly) but is more at the fun, Arts end. In fact from what she said she is rarely at home because of filming and never watches the news. She made no mention of needing to cancel me, Adrian Edge. Finally Robert Nevil and myself had audience with Sir Akbar Framingham, a leading Parsee, a figure seen by me in the distance 45 years ago in Oxford’s golden gardens when I ‘hung out’ with Twirly Godfrey – of whom mention was made. ‘Is he dead?’ Sir Akbar enquired. I said he was not dead when last heard of. Katherine Duncan Jones, on the other hand, is dead. Robert Nevil and Sir Akbar had funeral and mem talk. ‘Nuclear war,’ Sir Akbar said. ‘Some people are most concerned about it. But I see no point in worrying about what you can’t control. If we all get wiped out, then so be it.’ ‘Quite a relief in many ways,’ I added. Despite the glory of the occasion, in these ‘permacrisis’ days, as one’s private strength fails, one falls more and more into a craving for the grave.

Outfits must be mentioned. I had planned a new grey suit by Sandro. It was planned, newly bought at reduced price, for months. But at the last min, like a fool, I had a wen for the Palm Beach look i.e. bare ankles, white slacks, blue blazer and loafers. This was because Laura Malcolm by amazing coincidence was weekending with Troy Banner and Lansdowne Reindorp (of Palm Beach) in Wiltshire. She’d never met nor heard of them before. Crazily, I thought I’d have the look in stock but didn’t really. So ended up in white tux by Zara and black Prada slacks. Disaster. Exactly what Joshua Baring was wearing. Except his white jacket was silk wool by Dior, bespoke, easily £8000. Horror! The contrast.

I do fear that with Rishi Sunak’s high frockage in charge, the high street labels are going to start looking cheap. He has no plan for a clothing allowance that I’ve heard of. In fact ferocious taxes for the rich. So what are we to do? Theft the only hope.

Disaster: Joshua Baring's £8000 Dior Silk Wool Jacket versus Adrian Edge in Zara

Disaster: Joshua Baring’s £8000 Dior Silk Wool Jacket versus me, Adrian Edge in Zara

 

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The Gay Mother Said…

Wednesday 2nd November 2022

‘Will they revive jumble sales?’ The next idea she had was British Restaurants. ‘Perhaps they’ll bring back British Restaurants.’ ‘Did you ever go to one?’ I asked. ‘I think, once,’ she said.

These revivals would help with the Cost of Living crisis, you see.

Otherwise the Gay Mother’s theme is apples. On windowsills, on posts in the garden, on shelves in the larder are dotted apples, both cooking and eating, from trees she planted 7 years ago at the age of 91. A friend of hers said, ‘What to do you think you’re doing planting apple trees at your age? You’ll never live to see any fruit.’ Unfort that friend was took (although hardly to be blamed, at 97), but the Gay Mother was not.

 

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Don’t Bother

Saturday 29th October 2022

My Nigella ‘Cook, Eat, Sleep, Repeat’ (or some such title) fell open one lunchtime at a recipe for frozen artichoke bottoms. That’s to say leaf artichoke. I was seized. Had to have it. None of the marts had them though, a drawback not mentioned by Nigella. She says her freezer is never without this item. In the end I had to go all the way to Panzer at St John’s Wood. A whole afternoon. The bottoms are baked with oyster mushrooms, chilli, garlic, lemon and thyme.  Thirty-five minutes of baking. Nigella’s slogan claims ‘crisp and creamy’ rather than ‘revolting’ which it was.  Tastes of nothing, despite all those additions, with the further advantage of being indigestible. There were acres of it left over which occasioned dread. As you know, after two world wars, a banking crisis, my mine going bust, a pandemic (or rather, as we now know, a pandemic response), a run on the pound and bombast in the gilt markets threatening everything, I never throw away food. But this time …. forcing it down might have finished me off. None of us can forget when Robert Nevil was kept in at Prep to finish his Curried Egg.

At least I’m spared the burden of forever going over to Panzer in St John’s Wood to get Frozen Artichoke Bottoms.

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A Function in the Country

Thursday 20th October 2022

I’ve been weeks on Raine. Huge piece to camera required, almost the size of her supreme coiffure.

And now Rishi’s outfits… I’m so used. But menswear in Downing Street! At last. This has to be a new beginning.

Charlie Hurling (he who thinks of the worst thing to say and says it) and Mr Blue Bluelove have been going for 100 years.  At 17, Mr Blue met Charlie. The first thing he said was, ‘I love you.’ And he did. That was 40 years ago. Recently Charlie took 60 years. 40 plus 60 is 100. So 100 years of Charlie Hurling and Mr Blue.

An event was spoken of for 18 months or more. So many WhatsApp groups came and went. A date seemed to emerge. And a venue. A manor in Sussex with extensive extra guest accommodation for sleeping. But I couldn’t see how all the millions in the WhatsApp group could ever fit in. That faded away until a few months ago, Merle Barr told me that some people had paid £200 in advance to stay at a manor. How had they known to do that?  Then only a week beforehand, another WhatsApp group was formed, asking who was coming.  The feeling of improvisation was terrifying.  Wicked Angus Willis was putting it about that Archie and Mr Blue had made off with the £8000 paid in advance and squandered it on foreign holidays.  Incriminating was that only a few days before the supposed event they were on a beach in Crete; no question of finalising placement, checking toilets and table decorations.

It was hard to have faith in a serious function. Nevertheless I boarded in my classic vintage suede jacket from Japan (reduced to £700 15 years ago: how did one ever have the money?) and came into the lawn of the manor. Well, everybody was there. What a miracle! Merle Barr, Olive Wildish, Fergus Strachan, Angus Willis, Cilla Pencil Pleat, James Dean, Dr Whipper, Little Miss Miracle plus numberless others assembled from the dressing up box, whirled together with pink hair, possible clothes, novel eyewear, never-seen-before lengths and widths. Incredible. The design world, the roaring core of enterprise in this country, unstoppable, unplanned, undiarised but falling inevitably into place exactly.

Risk. So important. Charlie put lunch back 40 minutes or maybe an hour. Who cared? I was attacked by Dr Whipper for being common. Olive Wildish loved my suede and suggested a different buttoning. Then there was a surge toward the marquee and luncheon. No placement. Just hurl yourself in and hope for the best. Some were not so lucky. Nowhere to sit at all. Mr Blue had to conjure extra furniture. More had come than hoped for or had said they would come. It was like the bond market on a good day. A great surge of Yes! Yes! Yes! for Charlie Hurling and Mr Blue’s function.

I struck gold with my placing: I had a carpet man who’d fitted at Buckingham Palace. Endlessly we discussed florals. Next to him was the owner of an event company. I’d been to several of his events, it turned out, including Anne Glenconner’s at the Richmond Theatre. These people are the engine house of our Nation.

Then there were the speeches: Mr Blue said he’d been very worried. Would anyone come to the function? Would it rain? They’d spent minutes planning it, he said. Literally. It was all so worrying. Charlie said it was strange that Mr Blue was worried. ‘Often I tell him at 11pm that we’ve got no money left. Then he wakes up in the middle of the night, worrying. So strange. Luckily a tenant paid twice this month by mistake. So that covers the function. We’ll have to give the tenant his money back – but that’s next week’s problem. ‘ So it went on. The roguishness.

Then people erupted from the floor to tell their tales of Charlie and Mr Blue. It was like a gospel meeting; those possessed of the glory of the Lord speaking in tongues to bear witness. The godchildren: one had got into trouble for repeating at school one of Charlie’s limericks about an exploding arse. Some others had had Charlie and Mr Blue living with them when they were small. But they never saw them. They were in bed when they left for school. When they came back, they’d gone out for the evening, not to be seen again that day. The climax was a woman compelled late to testimony, ‘Charlie asked me how big my husband’s penis was,’ she microphoned through the marquee. ‘ I thought: what kind of a question is that? I don’t know why but I answered. Maybe I hoped it would keep him quiet. “Moderate”, I said.  Well, it was hopeless. Now every time Charlie sees my husband he shrieks, “How’s Mr Moderate Penis?”. The husband in question was at home with cancer but recovering.

Later I toured the accommodation blocks outlying the manor. Reassuring: dormitories like a girls’ boarding school.

This function erupted into our universe like one of those comets that come around every million years. It was supreme.

The Venue

The Venue

The Guests Fore-gather

The Guests Fore-gather

The Setting

The Setting

Outfits

Outfits

 

 

 

 

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Remnants

Wednesday 5th October 2022

Anthony Mottram points out: if Prince Charles has become the King, and Prince William moved up to Prince of Wales, what about the rest of us? How have we been elevated? Because we have, for sure.

Day by day, we inch nearer the Throne.

Did I mention that the Gay Mother’s new cleaner served the King? Oh yes! The provenance… she saw to it that his ice cream was nut-less, having learned from his valet that he didn’t like nuts. This was years ago. He was visiting old Lord and Lady after they moved to the farmhouse but Lord was possibly still Lord Lieutenant.

The connections!

Anthony Mottram offered to annex a territory for me for my birthday, in the manner of Putin who adores to annex. Do you know I couldn’t think of anywhere I wanted.  Monaco? San Marino? The Suisse Normande? All with their pluses, but also minuses. And the strain and worry of trying to run them. What I’d really like annexed would be £150 million and a staff of 8. Then one really could begin to scratch the surface of everything that needs to be done in the home.

I went on the Elizabeth Line to New Rainbow Fabrics at Southall, which is a slab of South Asia put down near the railway line in west London. One was conspicuous there. I was only trying to boost hope by continuing with purchasing. A merchant enquired why I was taking photos. I said I had a friend in India and did he know where I could buy cushions? It’s so riotous and shabby and fabulous. Whole shops full of nothing but necklaces. Cloth of gold menswear abounds. I got exactly what I wanted – a length of orange silk organza to adorn my bed. But it will have to be edged.

Meanwhile Val is probably still standing to attention before his TV in his WRVS uniform. Has anybody told him the funeral is over? Dame Barbara did the same when Diana was married. She wasn’t invited to the wedding but absorbed the blow by saying she was too old to go. Instead she was shown on TV standing in front of her set in her WRVS uniform. Volunteering and loyal to the last.

Harry Rollo dined. Mercury Mr Kitten was knocked out by some vaccinations required by the Americans. He couldn’t even join by video link. Harry said the French Revolution should never have happened. Earlier there had been a debacle when he played Russian roulette with his calendar – and lost. He put all his chips on the Freud Opening at the National Gallery. Then the wheel spun. If he’d gone to the other event, there’d have been dinner with Tilda. Disaster.

If people say they’re Republican, Harry says, ‘No, you’re not.’ This is so profound. Do these people think Our Nation can have a different history, all of a sudden? Countries writhe to life from a terrible crucible of strife and devastation. We were fortunate that in the case of England, later the United Kingdom, that catastrophe occurred in the 17th century. We’ve had a Constitutional Monarchy ever since. So how would the new Republic of Great Britain be born? Not out of arid ideological theory, for sure. Really these people should move beyond the level of not even undergraduate debate. Do you remember the School Debating Society? Idly proposing the abolition of this, that and the other without a thought as to whether one could actually do those things.

Come to think of it, the ideal territory to be annexed to me would be one already set up with Harry as King-Emperor. It would be a benign absolute monarchy, which is really the best. So much less for everybody else to worry about.

Southall - Another World

Southall – Another World

Southall - Necklace Shop. Important

Southall – Necklace Shop. Important

My Purchase from New Rainbow Fabrics, Southall

My Purchase from New Rainbow Fabrics, Southall

 

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