On the Mountain Side

Saturday 1st August 2020

We stayed up a mountain in Snowdonia with Herbert Molotov and St Anselm. A turkey was spoken of as likely to be removed from the freezer. Despite communism on the part of Herbert, St Anselm has acquired a substantial extra Welsh premises, a handsome farmhouse with grounds and marble bathroom. We couldn’t have been more comfortable. Royston was inclined to appear nude which couldn’t be stopped. The great thing was building up to his appearance on TV (not nude) in a Royal documentary on the Saturday evening and in the meantime whether he should appear in some left-leaning productions from Channel 4. Herbert Molotov confused the issue by insisting that the late King was romantically involved with Anthony Blunt which he had on reputable authority from a Cambridge don whose wife is not unassociated with appearing on TV very often. The conversation had an odd background of sheep and mountains. One of the sheep was dead and lying just beyond the boundary fence. Herbert Molotov thought he would saw it up for the table. He described his routine dismantling of found pheasants in repulsive detail and thought nothing of advancing to a sheep.

Quite honestly Herbert had that look on his face while menacing thus but this was the merest flicker while the foreground surged on of Royston’s TV contributions and the Royal Family. As we settled to watch the show finally Royston was still talking in fact and in the end we had to shout him down so we could hear what he was saying on the TV.

The turkey was understood to have been withdrawn, never removed from the freezer. I thought this a step in the right direction, sensing that the bird would be overwhelming and it wasn’t Christmas. Royston thought that somehow Herbert had prevented it although St Anselm was the martyr of the kitchen with Herbert working unseen to cause his companion eventually to explode. Herbert loves to light the touch paper and run, shrieking with glee. St Anselm fumed that were left to Herbert there would be nothing but pasta with pesto whereupon Herbert said he didn’t care about food in any case. Royston thought it was a vigorous lusty power-play between the two that might extend to all parts of the house and times.

So gammon steaks were the upshot. Does anybody know what it is to cater for a weekend house party? The strain and worry, for the deadlines of breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner are the deadliest of the deadlines.

We walked in the mountains, a good climb and offered unwanted advice as to how the grounds around the farmhouse might be cultivated. Herbert has already built a folly and cleared brambles on a monumental scale. Royston recommended Acer Griseum, then  offered a novel view of the Abdication which was the Royal Family’s great knack of getting rid of undesirable elements, aided as necessary by the Establishment. Edward VIII was thought no good. That was the real reason for refusing his marriage to Mrs Simpson and forcing the Abdication. A simple ejection exercise. Prince Andrew has met the same fate by a different means.

Later we returned to London by car. Last year, returning from the other, Cromer, residence of this pair was the occasion of the great gunboat incident re: tomato feed which Royston said he could not get it into my head was not just to produce leaf growth, but flowers also. My mistake was to try to say that I had always thought otherwise but I could never get as far as to indicate that I was not unwilling to be persuaded differently because Royston became exasperated all over again and told me that it really was time I had a proper look at the directions on the bottle.

This year saw an advance.

The subject inevitably arises, whether bidden or not. Have you grasped it yet? Royston inquired. Tomato feed to induce flowering. Suddenly I thought, sudden wave, it would be just the thing for those Verbascums that never flower.

The Welsh Background: Typical of a near Communist to Secure such a View

The Welsh Background: Typical of a near Communist to Secure such a View

St Anselm's New Welsh Setting

St Anselm’s New Welsh Setting

St Anselm and Herbert Molotov - Their New Surroundings

St Anselm and Herbert Molotov – Their New Surroundings

 

 

 

 

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Breath-Taking

Thursday 30th July 2020

As you know I suffer some chronic not-enjoying-things syndrome brought on by chronic worry-and-strain scenario plus always worrying and easily bored as well as worn out. But when I came round the corner and beheld Powis Castle gardens I was knocked out by their glory. These gardens I have always heard of and many plants are named after them but nothing was as foreseen. The experience was equal to my first exposure to the Grand Canal at Venice which is the only other time that a spectacle was beyond expectation. Usually upon first encountering some world-famous site there is a dip as one adjusts from advance imagination. Maybe peeling paint or grubby marks have to be accommodated. One gets used to it.

But Powis Castle gardens were a violent assault of immediate perfection. You round a corner and there before you the whole vista is laid out. It is a hanging garden with a large newer addition, as if grown as an arm from the older garden above, sitting in the valley below. Never was a garden more ruthlessly exposed to its natural surroundings. You see for miles along the valley. Yet the contrivance of clipped yew hedges, giant man-made terraces, borders and lawns is the perfect highly-wrought compliment to the unaltered setting. Ravishing how it fits in.

The history is enchanting. Originally an actual castle on a rock, in the 17th century somebody thought: Let’s build terraces all the way up the sheer rock-face and make a garden. It’s easily 50m in height if not more. All the soil imported. Can you imagine? Yews were planted to be precise pyramids. Now, after more than 300 years they are huge, carefully clipped clouds spilling over the edge. At the side of the terrace is a massive hedge, also yew, also now wavy, which must be one of the wonders of the world in terms of yew. Yew and bricks and stone are the drama really. Nothing else. So bold and simple. The borders are a moveable display that provide more intimate interludes.

The glory of this garden is its age and how it has evolved of its own accord over 300 years and come to rest as the ideal design in the landscape. One of my favourite parts was the great blank rectangle of grass below the terraces. What a masterstroke, I thought, to have a space of nothing below all the concentration above. But it turned out it was just a happy accident. In the 17th century there had been a knot-garden there which had been cleared away by later generations who didn’t like knot gardens.

Powis Castle Garden: Graphs do Not do it Justice. You see the Great Blank below and the Newer Garden Extending

Powis Castle Garden: Graphs do Not do it Justice. You see the Great Blank below and the Newer Garden Extending

The Drama of Yew: Powis Castle

The Drama of Yew: Powis Castle

A Quieter Border Moment

A Quieter Border Moment

The Great Yew Hedge

The Great Yew Hedge

 

 

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It’s Life Versus Death and Life will Win

Sunday 26th July 2020

I see it as Life versus Death and Life will win.

Life is coming back.. I don’t think the Government will be successful in stamping it out, this time.

Gardens for a start – I’ve two gardens to give you. Here’s the first.

I visited Wildside two weeks ago. It’s rarely open. Perhaps you don’t know it. Keith Wiley, who was Head Gardener at the Garden House in the Far West for 25 years, took some fields nearby 16 years ago and began a garden from scratch. It’s been seen on TV and gained the cover the RHS Garden magazine last summer. His mentality is to dig. I don’t mean a spade, I mean earthworks. He looms with a JCB and goes down 8 foot. Some have questioned his sanity. The last time I saw the results I thought it dank and messy, although wonderful in photographs. Now it’s quite different. Paths and hillocks – it’s an exploring garden, hollowed out of fields and sunk down although you’re not specially aware of that when in it. You’re trekking and discovering rather than taking tea. The paths are rocky. Really it’s very bold and simple. Vistas on a certain scale, waves and dips of grasses, acers, with astonishing outrages of bold colour from crocosmia, lilies, various yellow daisies. I liked it. The inspiration might be South Africa, but the Veldt, I imagine, is flat and high and this is low and concealed from the surrounding landscape which is right because sitting conspicuously in it it might glare. The areas are different but there’s a remarkable unity to the whole considering its size. Unpretentious and confident.

Keith Wiley and his wife sacrificed everything to make this garden. To begin with they had no home and it was made clear that they wouldn’t be allowed one. They were crouched illegally. Eventually the planners relented. Now there is a fine wooden dwelling. Last autumn his wife died unexpectedly which as the doleful notice explained, apart from anything else, halved the workforce. How two people, let alone one, could manage this huge (and expanding) garden, I just don’t know. So if you possibly can, you must volunteer or give money.

This is an important National garden.

 

 

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Harry Rollo Writes and Rufus Pitman Comments

Saturday 25th July 2020

I think a bridal trump for Beatrice – the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara. The other brides had to make do with unworn Queen Mary tiaras. The Fringe was not only the Queen’s tiara at her own wedding (although broken and hastily mended just before: you can see the gap in the graphs) but still worn by Majesty. And Beatrice had the beauty of it properly repaired. Then her gown: Rufus Pitman comments, ‘an old frock that Granny wore to the pictures.’ Incredible that these things are kept. The little added puff sleeves were odd with the shoulder straps and why was the skirt altered to hang just above the ground? Conservation perhaps? To keep it off the stones when worn outdoors. Originally it was a great puff of silk with no hem. The Beatrice skirt was quite different with a band of different fabric at the bottom.

Funny how women often wear each other’s clothes. Men never do. Merle Barr visited Hastings this week. Genevieve Suzy supplied her with a dress for after sea-bathing and then said, ‘Keep it. It suits you better.’

At least, from this Time of Wrong, Poor Little Rich Gays here and throughout the World, have acquired a sure grasp of the tiaras.

Rufus told me that Conrad (a novelist) wrote a novel called Chance which is about how a family lost both their tiaras at once but rose above it. I must read it.

Meanwhile Harry Rollo writes: my entire world has been murdered – no perfs, no tours. Nothing but tiny pathetic shoots, weeds in a scorched landscape.

In normal times I would have circled the world twice so far – two trips to America, Japan – also perfs in Amsterdam, Paris – and every night would have been a different scene, friends, colleagues, bores, other people.

Instead: just family circle and interior of own homes month after month. Of course wonderful and totally grateful but I not being a nineteenth-century lady novelist am increasingly tendu.
Mother took to National Gallery yesterday to see the seven Titian poesie reunited for the first time in 550 years.
Worth it for the dogs – all the different expressions of dog in each story – sometimes, it can now be revealed, the same dog in different moods.
Worth, but only just, the dark, dystopian atmosphere! Herded into queues by demoralized guards in plastic vizors – Member or Non-Member? (Awful shades of schwitz.)
Neither! Trustee!
But VIP ticket not recognized by them until it was too late and precious time already lost in queuing.
Then inside – more queueing – only twenty allowed in room at once -people getting arsy “why then give us times…” . Much masking.
One-way system – directions all over the floor and art routes with timings (25 minutes baroque, 35 minutes if you add Impressionists…)
Then suddenly on the dot of four all the walkie-talkies explode into life – closing time! and we are abruptly thrown out – all at once, from the same exit – so all that strenuous separating is thrown away in a moment.
Surely reform is needed. Why not finally go the whole hog and make it VIP only again? – As in the days of Titian.
E.g. one has to know the director (or c.1 degree of separation) to gain.
It was clear from their dress that many were the opposite of VIP.
VUP – very unimportant person.
We live on in the ruins…
We will prevail!

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve Been to See the Gay Mother

Saturday 18th July 2020

Luckily she hopes that hugging and kissing won’t come back. Still terrible dread of contamination – but as of today we’re in the clear with the time lapse all being well. Greatly encouraging is that she’s shrunk and hooped so much now that I’m a good 3 feet above her, so not breathing into her air space on the whole. Maybe this is how older people protect themselves in general, by diminishing and thereby getting out of the main airwaves.

We found some old basins that hadn’t been used since 1956. The Gay Mother said they were in the house before she came. I never knew that. I always thought they’d been put in in 1956, when the Gay Mother and Father bought the house. One of them was convenient for my room so I pressed it into service. The tap worked better after application of WD40. Suddenly I’d got an ensuite up to a point. It’s incredible how much you can do with just a basin if that is all you have. It was also available for W.H.Auden-type activities.

For years I’ve been wanting an ensuite at the Gay Mother’s. Strange that it’s taken This Time of Wrong to jolt one into life that was already there.

So often do we overlook our gifts and in seeking more, especially more and more bathrooms, not know that already those things for which we yearn have already been conferred, although not quite in the expected form.

The Gay Mother has rejected television in almost all its forms. Her book, by Mungo Park, didn’t arrive from Abe Books. There was a parcel addressed to her but it was my new foundation garments from Harvey Nicks whose arrival was just in time because I’d left all my pants behind, as well as all my shirts. Only had T-shirts, which just lasted the week.

The Gay Mother couldn’t believe that the parcel of undergarments had been directed to her.

The next day her book arrived from Abe Books and she set to reading it at once. She is much concerned about BlackLivesMatter  and the solution seems to be to read an account of an 18th century visit to The Gambia. There was also the matter of the cover of The Tablet, featuring a black sculptress from the Victorian Times.

One day the Gay Mother found a Fritillary butterfly in the garden. On another a different butterfly settled on the kitchen windowsill resulting in the toast being burnt. But she said it wasn’t a butterfly of any importance, unlike the Fritillary. The pizza which was being re-heated also got not quite burnt but high-baked to a biscuit but that wasn’t because of any butterfly but from trying to meet a furniture polishing target at the same time.

A Sculptress on the Cover of The Tablet

A Sculptress on the Cover of The Tablet

A Less Important Butterfly. But a Butterfly is Always an Event

A Less Important Butterfly. But a Butterfly is Always an Event

 

 

 

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I Become a Monster

Wednesday 15th July 2020

It’s all about me. It’s worse for me. Others are suffering more. But they don’t have my nerves. You see in extremity how different are the temperaments. Others don’t suffer from nerves. They settle comfortably to the News on radio or TV. No sick dread. I can’t bear to turn it on. They settle to the whole horror. This is not a presumption. They must be settled for why else they would be cheerful at all?   All my life my nerves have been bad. At Prep the school spaghetti made me sick at the table. Matron (horrid, cruel woman) was furious. Her car had no brakes. She had to drive round and round until it stopped. It was propelled by wound up rubber bands.  I was used to proper Neopolitan at home with tomato sauce that included a bay leaf and cloves. Not radioactive orange waste and slimy tinned worms.

The other boys were not wracked like this. They were better adjusted.

People have folded into themselves. Those in couples have ascended without fail to a sunny upland. Suddenly the intimate companion is wholly satisfactory, when there is no chance of a preferable alternative or even a playful diversion.  A permanent Time of Wrong might resolve permanently those tendencies in domestic life – the roving eye, the 7-year itch, the signal of the buxom secretary immeasurably lesser in age or the lusty Scandinavian au pair, readily available in the laundry room. But whose left alone in their drawing rooms with nothing but their nerves have little chance as terror stalks the carpets.

Perhaps I am nursing Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. You can get that from little things, as well as large. You don’t have to have been blown up in a tank. Muriel McGlorian suffered the loss of her earrings, stolen by a wicked neighbouring girl, the first time she went out to play at the age of 3 or maybe a little older. She never recovered.  She didn’t know that she had never recovered until shortly before her death. I can well believe it. If some are blown up in a tank and not afflicted by Post Traumatic Stress disorder as is known to be the case, then it follows that it is not the severity of the event that causes it, but the severity of the reaction.

I have gone back. Progress has been overturned. I dread the return home after company as the return to school after the holidays but with the waiting added in that nothing bad as come from company.

 

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The Garden Museum Opens

Sunday 5th July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Jarman: Handwriting of a Designer

Derek Jarman: Handwriting of a Designer

Derek Jarman: Painting of Dungeness: Gloomy, Royston said

Derek Jarman: Painting of Dungeness: Gloomy, Royston said

Derek Jarman: His Books. A Lively Mind

Derek Jarman: His Books. A Lively Mind

 

 

 

 

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Diary Filling Up

Friday 3rd July 2020

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

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

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

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

Probably it’s best not to think about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brackets Up but Trolley Still not Tortoiseshelled

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

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

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

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

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

The Fly Past Flying Past Me First - for President Macron

The Fly Past Flying Past Me First – for President Macron

 

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Know Your Tiaras

Sunday 28th June 2020

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

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

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

The Vladimir, with its 'Unprepossessing' piece of elastic

The Vladimir, with its ‘Unprepossessing’ piece of elastic

Queen Alexandra's Koloshnik Tiara

Queen Alexandra’s Koloshnik Tiara

The Vladimir as Worn: Surely the Best

The Vladimir as Worn: Surely the Best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Challenge of Management

Saturday 27th June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

The Former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

Writhing Branches in the former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

Writhing Branches in the former Gravel Pits on Hampstead Heath

The Dairy at Kenwood where

The Dairy at Kenwood where Dido Bello Supervised 

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

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

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

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

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