I Saw Them

Wednesday 17th July 2019

…but unfortunately they didn’t see me. The Gay Mother read in the local paper that they were coming but it didn’t give the exact time. I went in on the off-chance, really to look at carpet samples, and they were there… considering flap-jacks on a flap-jack stall. They progressed to other stalls in the food and craft fair. The highlight was when they took wine at one of them. Camilla lingered, not putting the glass down, perhaps contemplating a second tiny sip not as the programme decreed. What if it were poisoned?

As a child I was bought down from prep school to the Square in the same town of the Far West to cheer the Queen Mother on her visit. She was in blue, and more obviously simply a Royal shape. She stood by her car and waved. Perhaps she went into the Town Hall and signed a book. There was no question of visiting stalls.

When I got back, the Gay Mother took an exceptional interest in Camilla’s dress and hair and jewellery. The undertow was: Is she good enough? I said the extraordinary thing was she wasn’t carrying a handbag. Also the incredible number of back-up vehicles. The Royal Party had been held up by a broken-down lorry on a bridge. He looked very red, she was heavily made-up.

Wickedness and dread: I even wondered who were these little dolly people with 15 back-up vehicles pretend-shopping at a Food and Craft Fair? Why? What was the point? It must have been the heat. I’ve seen the Queen in person before and not plunged, not been shattered. Tomorrow I go to Buckingham Palace. The wonder will return.

The Gay Mother liked Her Dress

The Gay Mother liked Her Dress but No Handbag!

I Couldn't Really Reconcile Myself to this Suit

I Couldn’t Really Reconcile Myself to this Suit: Here they Are at the Wine Stall

Now she is Looking at Lavender Bags

Now she is Looking at Lavender Bags

This is the Royal Car

This is the Royal Car

 

Leave the first comment

Barbra at Last!

Tuesday 9th July 2020

I had imagined that we would be seated in the VIP area with Barbra a few feet away. But no, she was a speck,  either a witch or a guru in huge draperies by Zandra Rhodes with built-in gloves. One of the Lesbians from Brighton standing next to us asked, ‘Is it really her?’ As for the 50,000 or so kettled behind a fence, stretching as far as the eye could see into Hyde Park….

Beforehand we met an important Royal Parks person and next to us in the cafe was a young Guards officer to whom important Parks person gave some comps for the Barbra concert. This officer was an asset to the Parks, I can tell you – Insta, Love Island and posh, dream blend.  He said two soldiers had broken their backs falling off their horses in the park because of cyclists, which was high level information of great interest to the Trustees and Executives. With his girlfriend he departed in the opposite direction,though. Maybe Barbra was not his thing – or hers.

Royston had the VIP tickets, of course, probably some the greatest of all time. I still can’t believe I lived to see Barbra. Her greatness surpasses all fleshly existence even when seen in the flesh. All you can say is that, beside her, Bryan Ferry, the previous ‘act’, was as nothing, just a dreary businessman with a guitar. Suit needed several yards of fabric hacking out of it.

So at least six times a crescendo in the orchestra – surely the Star was nigh. But no Barbra. Tremendous shuddering in the crowd. Gays of all ages and superbly air-brushed women over 50, with no natural aspect to face or hair whatsoever, skin a perfect peach smoothness. Had Barbra not turned up it would have been enough. Just the idea of her would have been enough. Her actual person – little dark glasses and long tresses – caused a complex dip. Really it was a late psychedelic hippy look, but tidier. She launched at once into a song about fish and chips, somehow working in Meghan Markle in a rhyming ditty. She was reaching out to London and Great Britain beyond. But the voice! Still there at 77. Oh yes! That sound which nobody else can make and which ought to be showy and annoying but isn’t. Then there was banter.  ‘Well,’ Barbra said, ‘on the way here, the driver asked me if I went to Gay Pride. I said, “Why would I, when I’m going to see them all here tonight?” ‘  It was to be a Cabaret show, songs and patter, not the kind of thing normally attempted in a field with an audience of 65,000.I spied Zandra Rhodes herself just behind us atop the Celebrity Box where celebrities were kept. Nicky Haslam was there too, and the Beckhams, but we didn’t see them. Barbra, meanwhile, was purporting to be drinking tea at her tea-table and looking through old photos which were blasted up on to the vast screen. ‘I seemed to like the Cossack look,’ she remarked of a photo of herself in the Funny Girl days where she was furred beyond belief. Another showed Prince Charles eyeing her bosom: ‘I missed my chance,’ Barbra quipped, ‘to become the first real Jewish princess.’ It was at this point that Royston noticed that her spontaneous chat was in fact rolling by on an enormous auto-cue. You only had to turn round to see it. There were even instructions such as ‘cockney accent’. It was very strange because she appeared to be saying all these things for the very first time. Then more songs. All the favourites. Lionel Ritchie brought out to accompany and Kris Kristoffersen – who was shoo-ed away by Barbra after he’d done his bit possibly because too palpably clapped out and not up to it. Somebody came to fetch him from the stage. He’s 83. Barbra thanked the trees then gave ‘Silent Night’ as her contribution towards the environment. ‘But it’s July, Barbra,’ nobody dared to say.  A few bits went wrong. There was a deleted scene from A Star is Born and a song to go with it which got out of synch, apparently. It was all so confusing, I don’t really know.  Barbra kept saying, ‘We haven’t rehearsed this,’ and ‘Poor you, having to listen.’

It’s a lost world really, or is it? People like Barbra don’t exist any more, or not on that scale, the great star of stage, screen and recording studio, selling 165 million records. Yet 65,000 had thronged to see her and she was carrying on as before. Her little white dogs were wheeled onto the stage in a contraption. They were cloned from a favourite dead dog. It’s really true. Barbra took more tea. She sang ‘Send in the Clowns’. You wouldn’t say that there was a terrific finale nor tremendous pathos. Barbra is is just so incredibly great and thrilling. Nothing extra is required. Her show was completely riveting from beginning to end. ‘Why do Gays love her?’ Royston asked.  It’s not obvious. She’s not the drag-queen type, not outrageous and sexual, like Bette Midler, nor greatly beautiful, nor tragic like Judy; by her own account, nothing much has happened to her except Wardrobe made a Guard’s uniform for her son when she was filming in London in about 1967 (‘So cute!), she wasn’t deranged by fame; she is said to be vulnerable and stage-shy but doesn’t appear so. She became a huge star overnight 50 years ago and has remained so ever since. She’s indestructible. That’s it. That’s her story. Her voice is so absolutely her own in a way nobody else’s is, it soars and plunges. No matter how vulgar her octave leaps and other vocal gymnastics, it’s totally great. Whatever she does, it’s totally great. It just is. So the auto-cue rolling on with all her little quips and asides fully displayed as scripted and contrived – it didn’t detract from her glory, it added to it. That’s how it is with Barbra.

Sir Bryanland Ferry: Terribly Drear

Sir Bryanland Ferry: Terribly Drear

Sir Bryan Ferry: Retired Businessman: I'd Like to See that Suit Reduced to a Suitlette

Sir Bryan Ferry: Retired Businessman: I’d Like to See that Suit Reduced to a Suitlette

Barbra with Princess Diana

Barbra with Princess Diana: You can See her Tea Table 

Barbra with Lionel: They did 'Memories... Water-Colour Memories of the Way we Were'

Barbra with Lionel: They did ‘Memories… Water-Colour Memories of the Way we Were’

Barbra: by Zandra Rhodes

Barbra with Kris, Before He was Led Away 

Barbra Says Goodbye -for the Time Being. Note the Change of Frock.

Barbra Says Goodbye -for the Time Being. Note the Change of Frock.

 

 

Leave the first comment

Massive Programme in Norfolk

Friday 5th July 2019

Sandringham was just the final visit. We took Felbrigg, we were at the Garden Museum Literary Festival at Houghton, we visited East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden; we viewed a horrible property for sale; Igor Cripps, my old Leninist friend (now with the Lib Dems) and Anselm Anderson gave two dinners, one after the other, with no sign of breakdown. Very good menus. As in the original Lenin household, Anselm did all the work. The pair of them were due to set out for Ilfracombe in their camper van shortly after our visit. Like all good Leninists, Igor is much preoccupied with property and social order. ‘Who are the A Gays in London these days?’ he asked me several times. Upstairs we were entirely absorbed by perfumes and the rather intimate toilet arrangements. ‘Creed?’ Igor enquired. ‘Is it A Gay?’ This was before the horrible property we viewed induced an onslaught of toilet need in Igor and we had to regain his cliffside Cromer villa at break-neck speed. In fact the A Gays were all downstairs at his dinners, on the first night at least. A couple with a tech fortune and, possibly, specialist dogs requiring hired care (I can’t quite remember) – but I don’t think they’d ever encountered quite so much bum talk in their lives before. Oh how we roared! The goings-on in Norfolk, especially at the highest level. Igor has already been Mayor of Cromer and now is going for Leader of North Norfolk Council, like his friend Nigel Cossack before him. The second set of dinner guests were straight but distinguished. He is to be the Head of Our Lady of Walsingham, she runs a well-known independent publishing house.

Anselm is managing a small Leninist fortune from previous property and wants to open a caravan park. That’s why we viewed the horrible place for sale. Royston was dead against the whole thing. The real thrill was the knot-weed. We all wanted to see that above all else. £10,000 was the price named for its eradication. ‘What nonsense,’ I huffed. The estate agent was Australian and squeezed into a suitlette. Royston insisted he’d come over specially from Australia just for the morning viewing. ‘So good of you to come,’ he said several times. Two builders were also viewing (with an eye to development, no doubt) and having trouble getting it across that they were just ‘mates’ or even business partners in the face of so many Poor Little Rich Gays. ‘Which one wears the trousers?’ Royston bellowed. In the end the more manly of the two said, ‘We’ve got a big budget’ and stumped off down the lane.

 

Leave the first comment

Gay Pride Day

Saturday 6th July 2019

I thought Gay Pride Day was off this year in the sense of to be boycotted – owing to sponsorship from homophobic quarters. But at lunchtime I got a message from Raj Zoraster: ‘Where are you? We’re lunching at Browns.’ It turned out Emily Thornberry is his new Best Friend from Gay Pride. From the photo I thought it was Clare Balding.

But it can’t have been because she’d have been doing her show at Wimbledon, wouldn’t she?

Val messaged also, bursting with Pride. He enclosed the photo below. ‘This year,’ he said, ‘with Babs and Carol, we’re celebrating Female Beauty.’

While we are on the subject, does anyone understand why Andy Murray is not competing in the Women’s Doubles at Wimbly? He’s in the Men’s and the Mixed, so why not the Women’s? I heard he is v. keen on women’s rights etc. So why isn’t he identifying as a woman? I fear a diversity outrage is about to burst upon us.

 

Celebrating Female Beauty on Gay Pride Day

Val Celebrating Female Beauty on Gay Pride Day

 

Leave the first comment

The Terror of Sandringham

Thursday 4th July 2019

I went once again to Sandringham.

Were you to be walking in Norfolk and suddenly to come across Sandringham, you’d be frightened. There’s something frightening about this great long house lying low behind vast lawns. It’s hard to say why. Is it the thunder of Majesty? Or the curious double-time warp? Or the foreign feel you get also at Buckingham Palace?

I went to Sandringham last in 1988, at the end of a long hot summer.  It’s been open to the public since the 1970s. I thought it perfectly ghastly, like a public library with municipal gardens and inside like an Edwardian boarding house. Terrible hard-wearing fabrics from John Lewis in the television room.

This time it was different. The whole place is frozen in the 1880s. The park is a magnificent example of its kind – faintly gloomy, conifers, Cedar of the Leb, rhodos, weeping trees and rocks around a lake. The house itself weird – every known architectural style crammed in with the bold carelessness of the era, dirty red brick and yellow ochre, one wing in another style and colour altogether. No attempt at beauty but not fun either. James Pope-Hennessey (In Quest of Queen Mary currently on loan to Royston King, so I can’t quote accurately) thought it wretched. Really it’s that great last period of Royalty when they were mostly German and all related to each other and totally Royal but also suburban and mad keen on Maples in the Tott Court Road and all the latest gadgets and having masses of everything. Inside, Sandringham is just so utterly bedroom – except for the so-called Saloon which is really the hall, where they watch TV. The Drawing Room and small Sitting Room are like being inside a meringue. Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary’s jade collections in glass cases on the walls – as if it were a shop. Just like at Van Cleef and Arpels. And the colours of the jade, a really horrible pink and even worse clashing green. But marvellous and everywhere marquetry and swirling ormolu and fragile porcelain flowers. Royston King interviewed the attendants of course who said it was a nightmare trying to shut the shutters without smashing everything to bits. I noticed in the small sitting room a row of electric plugs and a telephone socket unused on the skirting. Maybe this is the place where her desk is put when she’s in res. Just to think – that could have been the actual telephone socket into which her private telephone is plugged. And in that room she would be telephoning. Certainly in the dining room she takes her Christmas dinner. Queen Mary had it painted green to obliterate the gloom of dark wood and the extraordinary built-in sideboard with little twisty pillars which is really quite common. ‘Next time this room is done,’ I said to the attendant, ‘they should pick out the mouldings in different shades to give depth.’ Attendant looked furious.

The ballroom with  laurels pressed against the windows was just perfection of Victorian heaviness. Oh the immaculation of Sandringham, the condition, the polish, the superbness – they said the Royal Family play cards at a certain table but how could they with its sheen? The fabrics are not a bit John Lewis in fact.

We walked in the grounds and saw York Cottage into which Queen Mary and King George were crammed until 1925 when they could finally get into the big house on the death of Queen Alexandra. It’s actually quite enormous but the rooms must be small. Then the Church. How well we know that lychgate. Every Christmas. Just an ordinary little lychgate in a wall but here the glory of Majesty is known. The church itself tiny, the humblest parish church, but crammed with monuments to monarchs and royal princes and with a massive silver altarpiece given by some pushy multi-millionaire.

So bizarre and strange and not really making sense – this is the terror of Sandringham

Sandringham Parish Church: How Well We Know that Gate

Sandringham Parish Church: How Well We Know that Gate

Sandringham: Every Known Architectural Style

Sandringham: Every Known Architectural Style

Sandringham: the Grounds: A Certain Gloom

Sandringham: the Grounds: A Certain Gloom

York Cottage: Not Quite So Small

York Cottage: Not Quite So Small

West Newton Parish Hut: Here the Queen Attends a Meeting of the WI every January

West Newton Parish Hut: Here the Queen Attends a Meeting of the WI every January

West Newton Parish Hut: Leakage

West Newton Parish Hut: Leakage

 

Leave the first comment

The Public are Admitted

Saturday 15th June 2019

There’s been the visit to Frogmore Gardens (where she walks her dogs and in whose Cottage Harry and Meghan live – bored to death, I should imagine, alone in the Cottage, being Royal), the Private Breakfast at the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhib, a Queen Victoria Event at KP, the Leonardo Opening at the Queen’s Gallery climaxing in a superb encounter with the Head of the Royal Collection just as he was coming out the Palace (I mowed him down with all my Queen Mary stories ever and worked in that Cousin Paquita’s father was the Royal Librarian through four reigns), a 2-hour piece to camera on the Royal Jewels (Dainty Lady TV), a meeting actually in the mine pit in a hut (the man on the gate said into walkie-talkie, ‘There’s an Adrian Edge here to see the Director’. ‘An Adrian Edge…..!’ I wore my Topman dress coat which was suitably quite filthy). Moira McMatron had a barbecue, and I took two plays, ‘Our Town’ at Regent’s Park and ‘White Pearl’ at the Royal Court. This week I took a Brexit Play at the King’s Head, Islington. Val said, ‘Do you still have to endure the terrible school dinner sit-down before the play?’ We went to the King’s Head in the 80s specially to see how Jill Bennett was getting on with her new teeth. Val had witnessed their poor start previously in another venue. Her progress was minimal and she didn’t live much longer, full stop.

I’m sure I’ve left something vital out – oh yes! Glyndebourniana. I opened Glyndebourniana with The Damnation of Faust. Amusing encounter with the butler at the next door German table on the lawn. He said, ‘Is it just Richard Jones wanking?’ re: the production. He was a Cambridge grad, of course, filling in. Born within Glyndebourniana’s sacred brow, enjoying same view, he said, from his parental cott in Glynde. Degree in Old Norse and something .

I also took Longborough Opera for the dress rehearsal of Rheingold. Will now have to go there for the next three summers (if spared) to see the rest of the Cycle. Damn you, Wagner. The expense. Rheingold rendered much nicer than at C Garden last Autumn. Never realised before that the lovely yearning, tragic motif that goes all through the last act of Walkure, when Wotan and Brunnhilde are in such agony, is first sung by one the Rhinemaidens or rather played by the orch the very first time the Ring is mentioned in Rheingold.

The public were admitted to my garden last Sunday between 2 and 5.30 as every year. Nine lunched privately beforehand and ten took a seated tea afterwards. A new baby was possibly coming. Thank goodness he didn’t because the milk was one-day past its sell-by date.

One young man of the public wanted to know what to grow on the balcony of his flat so I took him up to my own terrace which involved entering my private bedroom. Much sniggering from Robert Nevil and Bruce McBain, needless to say. Prince Dmitri and Joshua Baring had an encounter with two fierce women. Joshua said, ‘It’s a very small garden, so I’m afraid you have to wait to get into it.’ ‘Oh, how precious,’ said one of them. The other’s idea of a contribution was: ‘If it’s so small, why are they taking so long to see it?’ Clever. Otherwise the public were delightful and admired my alliums as always. My theme this year was Decay in the Garden. I had a dying euphorbia in a central position, to demonstrate that in a garden something is always dying. Gardens have death just as much as life, even ones where life is encouraged. But nobody took much notice of my dying euphorbia so I never got a chance to mention my main theme.

I was quite pleased with the cold collation for the private luncheon – even though the tomato, basil and parmesan tart spilled out of its pastry case in the cooking and the salmon trout – I’d not thought that it was quite small (cost-cutting exercise this year) and left it in the kettle a little too long. But Joshua Baring pronounced it not over-cooked. If it was good enough for him…. Do cook your summer salmon trout (never a salmon, please, always a salmon trout) in a kettle though. Otherwise your summer will be plagued by hard, dry salmon trout flesh. The same with chicken for the cold table. Must be poached. Otherwise hard, dry chicken will thread your summer.

For the seated tea, this year I overrode Mary Berry entirely (she really doesn’t like me, that woman. Always glares whenever she sees me. It’s because I had the effrontery to address her directly about her gardener, Keith. I said, ‘Is Keith going with you to Henley?’ Ever since, she has always glared at me with unlimited loathing at every encounter). Anyway, I didn’t put any extra baking powder in the Vic Spong and it was perfect. The only disadvantage of the seated tea was the milk one day past its sell-by date.

During the seated tea, Joshua Baring revealed that two members of the public had peered into my dining room during the afternoon, both elderly, probably a husband and wife. ‘It’s very old-world,’ said one. ‘Just like your mother’s,’ said the other. Thrilling.

My Garden: Actually Quite Nice

My Garden: Actually Quite Nice

My Quite Nice Garden

My Quite Nice Garden

My Garden Looking Quite Nice

My Garden Looking Quite Nice: Note the Half-Dead Euphorbia 

My Old World Dining Room: 'Like your Mother's' one elderly person said to Another

My Old World Dining Room: ‘Like your Mother’s’ one elderly person said to Another

My Mine from Within

My Mine from Within

Leave the first comment

Poor Little Rich Gays Make Remarks

Wednesday 12th June 2019

In Leipzig where I attended recently, somebody attempted to interview Harry Rollo. This is unheard of. ‘How do you juggle your dual roles of performing and creating… which makes extraordinary demands …. on the one hand…. but on the other…. and as I know from my own experience……? ‘ V. long question. ‘Well,’ said Harry eagerly, ‘the important thing is to make sure the diary’s in order and that I’m not doing one thing while I’m supposed to be doing something else.’ It’s hard to imagine a more Nancy Mitford answer. In other words, Mind your own business.

At Frogmore gardens the week before last ( a rare opening under the National Garden Scheme, this year with added security because of Harry and Megan being in Frogmore Cottage. You weren’t even allowed to peer over the fence at them) Royston King said, ‘This is so much better than Chelsea. I thought Chelsea was rather silly.’ I like Frogmore more and more. It’s a landscape garden, not a flower garden, which you have to get used to.

The Gay Mother is much preoccupied with the over-mowing of verges and roundabouts. Insects are desperate for habitats apparently. She also mentioned that she only had one email on 15th May, which was about Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell. She doesn’t like the Cotswolds and it served the Leader of the her Council in the Far West right that he got voted out. That disgraceful scheme to build a hotel where Bond’s Garage used to be… a lot of councillors didn’t even know about it. There was an inner cabal. At last it’s rained.

Frogmore: a Landscape Garden

Frogmore: a Landscape Garden

Lawns and Trees: Frogmore Landscape Gardens

Lawns and Trees: Frogmore Landscape Gardens

Frogmore: the Lake

Frogmore: the Lake with Public Dotted

A Tulip Tree at Frogmore: I've Never seen its Flowers before

A Tulip Tree at Frogmore: I’ve Never seen its Flowers before

Marvellous lawns and Choice Specimens Trees at Frogmore. When not Open to the Public, She walks Her Dogs Here

Marvellous lawns and Choice Specimens Trees at Frogmore. When not Open to the Public, She walks Her Dogs Here

Leave the first comment

Tiara Heaven

Wednesday 5th June 2019

Text from Rufus Pitman: ‘The Cambridge emerald brooch this morning – the Burma ruby Tiara this evening – I can’t work out if it means anything… I can’t STAND the Burma ruby tiara…’ I wondered if it was a crap tiara for a crap president. Soon there was a massive flowering of tiara talk, with some of the greatest of the land piling in on Facebook medium, where Rufus re-launched the topic. One of our leading Vicars revealed that in his time at St Paul’s Knightsbridge, parishioners were encouraged to bring in their old tiaras so that they could be broken down and attached to sacred vessels for diamond uplift, but the tiara shards could be dangerous especially when priestly arms were raised to elevate the Host. Rufus said he couldn’t find any use for his old tiaras except to strain peas. The Queen Mother’s tiaras – could we recall them? The Oriental Circlet and the Glamis Tiara, like a fender for a fireplace. But the Vicar said it wasn’t the Glamis Tiara, it was the Greville Tiara, made by Boucheron for Mrs Ronnie Greville and bequeathed by that lady to Her Late Majesty. I never knew that. Mrs Ronnie Greville – Lady Desborough said she’d rather have an open sewer in her drawing room. It seems to me that the Queen Mother borrowed tiaras and never gave them back – the Delhi Durbar tiara, for instance, she never returned to Queen Mary. The Strathmore tiara also, borrowed for her own wedding and clung on to thereafter. Now worn by Princess Kate Middleton. Rufus thought that the Girls of Great Britain tiara had been broken down – but it hasn’t. Where, though, is the Boys of Great Britain tiara? Surely now its time has come. Come on, Boys of Great Britain, you’ve really got to crowd-fund a tiara. It would be a perfect leaving present for Mrs May. But Rufus said, In that case it’ll have to be made of string. The Vicar wants the Princess Katharina Henckel Von Donnersmarck Tiara to wear for gardening and the Countess of Aberwristwith agreed that the Burma Ruby tiara is rubbish – such tiny rubies, not even the size of peas. If £100,000 came his way, Rufus said, he’d buy a emerald and diamond necklace to wear for eating spag bol on a Tuesday. But I don’t think £100,000 is enough. Grannie’s Chips are supposed to be worth £40 million. What are we to do? A glass substitute wouldn’t get you anywhere. You just can’t get cut-price diamonds. Debo came up, of course and how she arrived at Windsor to find nobody in tiaras, not even the Queen, so she took hers off and left it under a chair. Her view was that only at Windsor could you be sure of finding it again later. And also how Debo started her article about the Tiara Exhib at the V&A (greatest exhib ever), ‘What are tiaras for?’ Alternative uses for tiaras, other than as headgear, should be considered. How about a Christmas book – 100 Ways with Your Tiara Round the Home? You could place a tiara, for instance, in a chair you didn’t want anybody to sit in, instead of a tiresome dried teasel like they do in National Trust homes. Or you could put your cake tin inside your tiara and put it in the oven. Ideas on a postcard please.

Oh the Royal Tiaras! Will we ever grasp them? The Greville Bequest is shrouded in mystery, Rufus said. Nobody knows its extent. Suddenly Princess Eugenie appeared in the Greville emerald bandeau for her wedding, which had never been seen before ever… The Vladimir Tiara, though, we do know and indeed I gazed at its actual self in the Romanov Exhib last autumn, its greatness unsurpassed. In a delightful chance encounter with the Head of the Royal Collection outside Buckingham Palace last week, it was revealed that when the tiara arrived for exhib there was an unprepossessing piece of elastic attached to it. Could they remove it?  they asked. Word came back: Certainly not. Without that elastic there was no hope of Majesty being able to keep it in.

Can I say, though, how this State Visit has shown the enormous prestige of the British Royal Family and supremely of course Her Majesty the Queen? Trump at last required to behave and subsumed totally in his inept white tie into the greatness of our ways.

The Vladimir Tiara: the Greatest of All Tiaras

The Vladimir Tiara: the Greatest of All Tiaras: You can See the Elastic that Holds it On 

 

Leave the first comment

Chelsea – the Last Gasp

Wednesday 29th May 2019

I didn’t take Chelsea Flower Show Press Day this year, owing to being in the Far West, which is far from Chelsea. So there was nothing for it but to attend on a public day with the public. Not encouraging that the first sight was my favourite Museum Head still wet from swimming (he swims any river from beginning to end), equipped with champagne, actually ‘on’, as they say only at Chelsea, the Best in Show garden and not so much in the mood for waving at me. Crushing to be fenced out as a member of the public.

I was wearing an Instagram girls dressed-down look for brunch in Beverley Hills – light grey jeans by Replay, a brief Tiger of Sweden black jackette and a cream Prada shirt with double row of blue stitching. Laura Malcolm homed straight in. She’s an eye for quality of stuff, always has had. ‘Look at that stitching,’ she said. ‘One row is slightly different from the other. And the fabric – the weight! ‘ Matt Driver was in an unstructured black suit by Folk, with white shirt with extra-broad button strip feature by Margaret Howell. But not even he, despite a salary exceeding Robin Smallmeal’s (who is Head of Refuse for the entire Nation), is not permitted to spend £175 on a shirt, which is what mine cost in the January sale. Poor Little Rich Gays whirl in a vacuum, with minimal dependents and only themselves to think of, no heirs, the future a blank after death, so all resources able to be drained in advance.

Laura Malcolm said, ‘Every time you wash that shirt, you’ll be thinking how it’s declining little by little.’

We quite liked the Best in Show garden. It wasn’t without flowers in fact despite promotion claiming otherwise. But a pleasant rill, with varied textures but not a mess and an interesting tree like a hawthorn called a Southern Beech. The slabs of burnt wood were quite attractive although in a real garden they’d look silly and have to be removed. But at Chelsea you’ve got to have something like that or everybody will say, ‘But it’s just a garden.’ As they did about the Lock garden, which was just a copy of any lock but at a cost of £1 million. The garden opposite the lock was perfectly horrid – great lumps of garish flowering plants and shrubs. The usual ghastly ‘hard landscaping’. One of the other efforts had only scored ‘Bronze’ which apparently means ‘Poor.’ Laura Malcolm was full of how disappointed designers being given their rubbish medals had spiced up the Chelsea coverage on TV.

There were only 5 show gardens in Main Avenue this year. The other one we liked was the Dubai Garden. It was dusty and Bedouin, in orange and silvery grey. The designer was a friend of Aunt Lavinia’s son and we struck lucky. Aunt L was taking an interest in some Frink-like sculptures ‘on’ the garden. ‘We must get a closer look,’ I said. ‘There, isn’t that the friend?’ Before I knew it, Aunt Lavinia in the fray. ‘I’m Laver’s mother,’ she was saying. ‘Now those sculptures… I’d really like to see them close up. Do you think…?’ Already the rope was being lifted. We were in! Or ‘on’. We were ‘on’ a Chelsea Garden. Just no champagne.

So that was the main thing at Chelsea really.

By the way, we decided not to wait 30 minutes to get inside Kate Middleton’s caring environmental complex. You could see enough from the outside.

One of the Artisan gardens round the back (where I met Sir Timothy Lawrence with Royston King on Press Day one year) was the third thing we liked. It was made of old bits of scrap iron and rubbish with orange flowers. Very touching and loved it.

After two and a half hours bolt upright at Chelsea, it was a relief to get the weight off for a private supper at Laura and Matt’s mansion home. Aunt Lavinia was very taken with the lentil and salmon salad with red onion and wrote to the Gay Mother describing its every aspect.

Best in Show: Andy Sturgeon with Burnt Wood Dividers

Best in Show: Andy Sturgeon with Burnt Wood Dividers: Nice 

Morgan Stanley Garden. Chris Beardshaw, What were you Thinking of?

Morgan Stanley Garden. Chris Beardshaw, What were you Thinking of?

Morgan Stanley :Chris Beardshaw: Prison Horror Booth

Morgan Stanley :Chris Beardshaw: Prison Horror Booth

The Dubai Garden: Loved It

The Dubai Garden: Loved It

The View of the Public while 'On' the Dubai Garden

The View of the Public Penned Out while ‘On’ the Dubai Garden

The Public: Without Hope behind Rope

The Public: Without Hope behind Rope

Display of Lupins Doesn't Look Real

Display of Lupins Doesn’t Look Real

V Bad Planting in the Trailfinders Garden: Berberis just Makes it Look a Tangle

V Bad Planting in the Trailfinders Garden: A Tangle 

Forgotten Quarry Garden: Artisan Garden: Loved It

Forgotten Quarry Garden: Artisan Garden: Loved It

Forgotten Quarry Artisan Garden: Great

Forgotten Quarry Artisan Garden: Great

An Interesting Shorts Suit at Chelsea

An Interesting Shorts Suit at Chelsea

 

Leave the first comment

An Irish Visit: Walk-On Luggage Only

Monday 13th May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Hotel Bedroom at Waterford with Luxury Sheen on Carpet

Irish Hotel Bedroom at Waterford with Luxury Sheen on Carpet

Mount Congreve: Superb Irish Georgian

Mount Congreve: Superb Irish Georgian

Magnolia Campbellii at Lismore

Magnolia Campbellii at Lismore

Lismore Church

Lismore Church

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

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

The Land Agent's Window at Lismore

The Land Agent’s Window at Lismore

Lismore Church Cat

Lismore Church Cat

 

 

 

 

 

Leave the first comment