At the Communion Table

Wednesday 4th December 2019

The Gay Mother is giving up the weekly task of laying out the Communion wine, a job from which she retired 20 years ago at the age of 75 on account of being too old. But somehow she resumed the mantle. I used to have one conversation with the Vicar or rather the same conversation on each meeting which went…. ‘My mother gave up… 75…. and now she’s back on….’ It was clear from the Vicar’s glazed look that it was the Will of God and that was that. If she were to fall in the chancel trying to lift the Cross from the windowsill, then be assured God would be styling the event in every detail.

Laying out the Communion wine is not just laying out the Communion wine. There is a great deal of linen work, ironing and cloth ritual involved, as well as altar fronts to be changed according to the religious season and of course the more priceless cup got out at Christmas and Easter.

The thing is: what is really happening? ‘I’m giving it up,’ the Gay Mother told me firmly in her drawing room. ‘Who is going to do it instead?’ ‘I don’t know. Nothing to do with me. I’ve handed over the key of that iron box in the vestry.’ But what about the other paraphernalia?  The wafers she seems to be holding hostage in the tulip cake tin. ‘You’re rather fond of that tin, aren’t you?’ she said. My God! Fond! I’ve rescued it from the rubbish tip once.It was a weeny bit rusty inside but nothing a Brillo pad couldn’t deal with. The tin is otherwise a masterpiece – huge Rembrandt tulips on a black ground. That’s it. So bold. ‘I don’t think I’ll give it to them,’ she said. Torment. Just imagine if that tin fell into the hands of the Church!

At all costs that fate must be averted.

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The Director is Named after the Greatest Known Diamond

Sunday 1st December 2019

To the National Portrait Gallery for the Director’s Reception. All the people who really run Britain, so much so the least significant figure was Matt Hancock, a mere Government minister without tenure. V unimportant grey school suit. Sir Robin Janvryn, on the other hand, once Private Secretary to Her Majesty, had that supremely Royal way of terminating a conversation after two minutes maximum. One Pin was leaving her post at the National Portrait Gallery. Her speech was entirely about the Royal Family. Her Late Majesty the Queen Mother visited in her 100th year. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ they said, banking on her saying No. But she said Yes. So up to the Portrait Restaurant they went. It turned out she didn’t want tea, she wanted Gin and Dubonnet so someone had to sprint on foot down the Mall to Clarence House to fetch it. Others in the restaurant appeared not to have noticed the presence of the most radiant Majesty of all time but when she stood up to leave there was a standing ovation. She insisted on going into the kitchen to thank the staff, even though they had not supplied the gin and dubonnet. Many of them fell to the floor at the honour.

There was another figure of shattering importance at the Director’s Reception but I can’t remember who it was. Royston was worried about the Director’s attitude to the Victorian portraits amongst which we were situated. Several were by Sargent, so you wouldn’t think they’d be thrown away. There was a fabulous portrait of the leader of the GLC in 1880 (or equivalent body). A fiery, wiry small man. Of course nobody now has a clue who it is. But the picture still worth looking at.

We left the reception having very satisfactorily found out that the Director’s suit was by Paul Smith and went underground in a nearby street. Here Miss PussycatBangkok was performing her delirious cabaret with scantily-clad gay boys. She announced further engagements at Elephant and Castle and Cheltenham. It seemed unlikely that anyone would dare not to go.

 

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Irish Georgian – Where are You?

Monday 25th November 2019

At last there was hope – the  visit to Waterford was a start: we lunched in the Bishop’s Palace which is a Georgian mansion. Its museum is guide only, so we didn’t take it. Even though the Gay Mother’s friend had given things. Much talk in the car, driving round Waterford looking at ancestral properties now gone, about all the Generals who were her ancestors. Waterloo, of course, and Corunna. Her General, as it happens, was amongst those who lowered Sir John Moore into the grave. Now, our neighbours in the Far West – their ancestor was one of the others. The Gay Mother remembers the blood-stained sash mixed up with the everyday gloves and scarves on their hall table in the 1950s, before it was whisked away to a museum eventually.

On the final day at last full Irish Georgian was possible. We drove to Russborough in the Wicklow Mountains. Immediate thrill with the Irish Georgian which has fascinated since I took Mount Congreve in the Spring. Incredibly bare and austere with sudden lavish outbursts. This one isn’t flat, but so long it won’t fit in a graph. A main block and two dinky wings connected by curved arcades, none of the individual elements on a grand scale particularly but the whole ensemble of such length, although low. The features in the main facade are in fact not pronounced, appear to be receding and the windows are small, leaving expanses of grey stone. Eccentric and not conforming. Within coved ceilings and much bizarre plaster work of great craftmanship, strong colours. The great thing is the house was owned by the Beits from the 1950s. Sir Alfred Beit – diamonds. So even now lashings of heavenly money and lovely things, as a country house should be, secluded with lovely things and no other dwellings in sight. Twice the Beits were robbed; they were thrown down the stairs by Rose Dugdale and her accomplices, on behalf of the IRA, and their Vermeer removed. They got it back. Their rate of recovery from both burglaries was good. Now bollards have been placed to stop just anybody driving up and removing all the best things. The finest paintings have been taken to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

The house was heaven, like a really good fruit cake with royal icing. The Gay Mother grilled the guide about the original builder of the house, one Leeson from Dublin. Was he a good landlord? Did he treat the tenants well and did he drive out alien species?

We drove on over the Wicklow Mountains which were pure mahogany at this time of year. But the Gay Mother wasn’t one hundred per cent behind them, I could tell. I think she was thinking they were like Scotland. Then we got to Glendalough, mainly to see the hotel where we nearly stayed, which I booked and then, having a sudden vision, a bit like that of Mary and Joseph who were told in a dream to go back home the long way, I cancelled. We’re barely got a few feet into Glendalough and the Gay Mother was saying, ‘Oh I’d have hated it here. So low down. All you’d be thinking about would be –  how to get out.’ We chugged on through Glendalough. ‘It’s a place where people go on Sundays,’ she said. Well, it was a Sunday. Such was her aversion to Glendalough that when I said we’d have to turn the car round and go back through it, she said, ‘Oh no!’

Back at our actual hotel, the Gay Mother was much pre-occupied with Rose Dugdale. In the orange drawing room/pub she said loudly, ‘Was she sorry they threw the Beits down the stairs?’ I consulted Wikipedia which said she’d been the guest of honour at some kind of Heroes of the Republic dinner in 2014 in Dublin. So presumably not. Luckily none of the gin and jigs crowd noticed our conversation and there was no subsequent bomb outrage mercifully. We rested in our rooms. The Gay Mother’s book was crumbly, though. It was about India, a paperback, some years old.

For our last night, the Gay Mother chose to sample the third eating option of the hotel; we’d exhausted the possibilities of the orange pub/drawing room. Fine dining was only available on Fridays and Saturdays. We’d had it on the Friday and the Gay Mother had survived all the courses. All that day beforehand she kept saying, ‘Do you think you have to have all six courses?’ In the end we managed to wangle one of the courses on a sharing basis. And some of others weren’t really courses at all but bites.

So the third option was a shed across the car park called ‘The Haggard’. Here you could have an ancient Irish peasant experience in a bare white barn, none too warm, with log fires and no other guests. Jigs playing,  of course. You ordered from the boy then self-collected from the hatch. Half a chicken and chips, burger and chips or fish and chips. I said to the boy, ‘How about a light red wine?’ He had quite a selection of bottles. I could see them on a shelf behind him. He said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t drink wine.’ When we were summoned to the hatch, the essential Irish experience was delivered by two beaming Filipino women, thankful to have any trade at all, I should think.

Being in the Haggard was quite thrilling and we managed to keep warm by huddling up to the log fire.

The last thing of significance in Ireland happened the next morning in the breakfast room where a mournful old Irish tenor poured forth sad old Irish songs from the wall. ‘What are you doing?’ I said to the Gay Mother. ‘That napkin,’ she said, ‘I didn’t like it. Not nicely ironed.’ She’d flipped it away and got hold of another one.

After that, we left Ireland and returned by air to the Far West.

Russborough: Eccentric and Not Conforming

Russborough: Eccentric and Not Conforming

Russborough: So long it Won't Fit in a Graph

Russborough: So long it Won’t Fit in a Graph

The View from Russborough House: As it Should Be

The View from Russborough House: As it Should Be

Russborough: the Dining Room. Weird Fireplaces throughout the House

Russborough: the Dining Room. Weird Fireplaces throughout the House

Russborough: the Dining Room: We've got Silver Like this

Russborough: the Dining Room: We’ve got Silver Like this

Russborough: the Drawing Room

Russborough: the Drawing Room

Russborough: the Library

Russborough: the Library

Russborough: a Cosy Corner: Glorious Woodwork

Russborough: a Cosy Corner: Glorious Woodwork

Painting of the Beits by Derek Hill, friend of James Lees-Milne. Not Awfully Good

Painting of the Beits by Derek Hill, friend of James Lees-Milne. Not Awfully Good

Russborough: the Stairs

Russborough: the Stairs

Can't Remember who This is: Something to do with the Mitfords, I think

Can’t Remember who This is: Something to do with the Mitfords, I think

 

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I Long for Irish Georgian

Friday 22nd November 2019

First thing the next day, the Gay Mother says she wants to visit New Grange – the Megalithic place. So that was the end of Irish Georgian. The Visitor Centre was closed and the temporary toilets were sodden. ‘Look, it says 600m to walk to the bus,’ I said encouragingly. Only the day before the Gay Mother had been wheeled at Dublin airport. All the other tourists dashed past. I thought that somehow we would be subsumed in their slipstream into oblivion. When finally we gained the bus stop though, the drivers magnificently had the air of not being in any hurry and not because of waiting for the Gay Mother either. The bus then wound though miles and miles of Irish countryside, although you could see New Grange up on the hillside. They make a drama of getting to it for effect, I suppose. New Grange is the Irish Stonehenge, Val had said. But it’s not a Henge, it’s a Grange.

It was a fair old walk from the bus to the Grange, after all that. As Val had promised, the guide was excellent. These Megalithics – well, they’d done decorative stonework for the outside of their grange, which is really a huge burial mound, although nobody seems to have been buried in it. I bucked up a bit at the decorative stone work. The scheme is really very attractive and the Megas had gone to great trouble to get the different stones. Definitely an inspiration if you were thinking of doing some grand-scale landscaping of your own, maybe some tiered terracing in the Megalithic style.

The great thing though – the mystery of the Grange is when you go inside. It’s almost a crawling entrance, tiny narrow passage to the inner sanctum, so well-built no damp ever penetrates. The Grange is twice as old as the Henge, by the way. Were it not for electric light, the chamber would be in complete darkness. No light penetrates from the entrance. Except … at the Winter solistice. For some days in December, at 9 a.m. a beam of light shines in. They reproduce the effect for you artificially. Only the very great of Ireland are allowed in to see the actual thing.

‘They must have been very clever,’ the Gay Mother said. There was quite a surge amongst the visitors towards the Ancients. We were thrilled with them and their Grange. So much so we walked all round it after the interior visit. They made their mark, these unknown people who left no other mark. It’s encouraging, isn’t it? All is not lost – quite.

On the bus back the great ancientness of the Gay Mother was beginning to sink it a bit with the Ukranian-Americans who let her barge the queue. But of course they were ruthlessly scheduled for their coaches so we slowly made our way back along the 600 metre path alone. Catering was reduced to a caravan in the carpark. ‘I hope you’re not going to be in here all the winter,’ I said. Mercifully the Visitor Centre was soon to reopen, so at least we haven’t got to worry about those catering people being outdoors all winter. We had a hefty ham sandwich to eat in the car before departing New Grange. The Gay Mother didn’t want all hers and took in back to the hotel wrapped in a paper napkin where she had it semi-legally at tea.

New Grange: the Sacred Entrance which isn't Easy to Enter Through Deliberately

New Grange: the Sacred Entrance which isn’t Easy to Enter Through Deliberately: they did those Stones too

New Grange: the Decorative Stonework: All Their own Work

New Grange: the Decorative Stonework: All Their own Work

New Grange: a Bigger View

New Grange: a Bigger View

New Grange: Round the Back

New Grange: Round the Back

The Gay Mother's Ham Sandwich from Lunch at New Grange, Smuggled into the Pub/Palm Court at Barberstown Hotel at Tea-time

The Gay Mother’s Ham Sandwich from Lunch at New Grange, Smuggled into the Pub/Palm Court at Barberstown Hotel at Tea-time: There weren’t cakes or fancies for Tea in fact: only Biscuits

 

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Suddenly Ireland Twice in One Year

Sunday 17th November 2019

I’ve only ever been to Ireland once and that was Dublin about 3 years ago with Reggie Cresswell to see a perf by Harry Rollo and Bertram DiBantry with another world-known performer who carries rocks from one of his homes at all times, which the airport security people find troubling.

Then suddenly this year I’ve been twice – to rural Ireland. But not the West. How I long to see the West and follow in Reggie Cresswell’s footsteps when he traced Yeats’ footsteps there with his mother. Lissadell. I schemed and schemed to get there but in the end it was just too far with our schedule. The Gay Mother wanted to see her dead friend’s daughter – her friend Miss A who died in March which was the occasion of my going to Ireland then. Funny though how she didn’t think of going to Ireland while Miss A was still alive. In the end they could only communicate by letter because Miss A was too deaf for the telephone.  As always, though, Death spurs a lot of activity that wouldn’t have been thought of otherwise. It’s one of the advantages. Miss A was a hard-line Abstract artist, who enjoyed late success. Much influenced by HH. It was my idea to visit Ireland and I developed mental health issues trying to arrange it. We had a v. narrow escape with a hotel. How to cover Ireland in 3 days with someone of 95, flying to Dublin from the Far West Airport, and the central purpose being to visit Miss A’s daughter. I consulted Val and Prince Dmitri, I booked and unbooked so many hotels, surely giving rise to comment on the platform.  Irish Georgian was my great goal. New Grange was mentioned by Val – megalithic. No thank you.

I thought the Gay Mother would never accept the assistance at the airport because it was a wheel-chair. But she did and was wheeled and rather loved it. But you could see how once in a wheelchair as far as everyone else is concerned you’re fully incapable. The Gay Mother in fact is self-driving, self-cooking, self-shopping, self-walking, with all her faculties. One of the wheelers, on the return journey, possibly the Head of the Far West Airport, looked as if she was about to commit the Gay Mother to a Twilight Home on the spot.

Anyway, we gained Ireland and went straight to Barberstown Hotel, about 20 miles from Dublin to the west, near Munooth, where there was a lot of trouble in the 1840s re: the British gov funding the Catholic priest training school there. Barberstown was once the residence of Eric Clapton. It became apparent that the wing where we were was new, so it was really Country-House-Style, rather than actual country house. The corridor was thoroughly common, sadly. Antiques, antiques, antiques though. ‘I’m not a great fan of four-poster beds,’ the Gay Mother said later. There were two of everything including sofas, but only 3 very dim table lamps. If you wanted to find your clothes, you had to face the horror of the full over-head glare from the chandelier. As you know, I’ve fought all my life against over-head lighting.

After resting and settling in to hotel life, we took an evening drive into Dublin which the Gay Mother had never seen in all her life. Tremendous traffic, but we saw St Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square and the Custom House by the Liffey which I never saw when there before – all without getting out of the car. Ideal.

Back at the hotel, we had fish of the day. The hotel didn’t have a restaurant as usually known. It was brasserie type food in an extraordinary newly-built conservatory-like structure with music piped and people who should probably be described as drinkers. The fish of the day was a modest sea-bass filet in a bowl with pototoes and huge qualities of tomato and pepper sauce. The Gay Mother didn’t approve. Wine by the glass was like what you get in a pub that hasn’t gone in for wine in an important way.

Barberstown Hotel Corridor - a bit of Giveaway

Barberstown Hotel Corridor – a bit of Giveaway. MDF and Blue Carpet with Fleur de Lys

The Room at Barberstown Hotel

The Room at Barberstown Hotel

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What About Prince Albert?

Wednesday 13th November 2019

I’ve been in Ireland. Otherwise at the heart of the Establishment. The launch of A.N.Wilson’s biog of Prince Albert was some time ago. I was imported by Beamish O’Halloran of the Mail and expected to know no-one.  Need not have worried: the people who really run Britain were wall-to-wall, such as Ann Leslie, the editor of Debrett’s, Marmion Malfeasance, and, of course, Lady Magnesia. Only Royston King was missing. It’s unusual to actually read a book whose launch one has been at, but I’m making progress with this one. After 62 years on this earth, I’ve finally grasped not just what the Repeal of the Corn Laws was all about, but the Corn Laws themselves. Is this too late? Why does it satisfy to acquire knowledge when one may have only a few years left knowing it? The Corn Laws were a bit like Brexit apparently, although Jeremy Corbyn will be worse if you ask me.

By the way, I’ve been wondering what Jeremy Corbyn’s drawing room is like.

A.N.Wilson says that Victoria and Albert were really two women. This is because Prince Albert was gay in all but sexual preference. The symptoms are:  ‘…. obsession with interior decoration, painting, music and desire for order and control.’ This is a bit of cheek but I like it.

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I Need to See Improvements

Thursday 24th October 2019

We went to Urbino after 20 years. Raphael’s House – loved the heavy wooden ceilings, white walls and streaming tiled floors. The arrangement of the house slightly skew, allowing surprise outdoor cloisters; essentially an enclosed house but with light cutting in at dramatic angles. The textures the best thing – plaster, wood and tiles. Very satisfying. And old.

Then after a simple lunch –  the Ducal Palace. The courtyard one of the glories of the world surely, although not by a big-name architect. Without the Palace is a massive medieval-type ruthless fortification. Within the courtyard must have astonished in its day, the colour of strawberry fool, the living geometry of the arcades and the huge mass of the palace above cleverly stepped back so as not to weigh down. The art museum the palace contains though – oh dear! Room upon room of dirty boiling primis, and later works, absolutely no apology, really screaming, Don’t bother to look at these. So great build-up to the grande opera del Museo. I’d completely forgotten that the Flag of Christ by Piero was there. But utter horror, it’s been taken out of its frame, put into the grip of intrusive steels claws which hold it up for view and encased in glass. Also surrounded by a huge display explaining all the different interpretations of the work. So just reduced to nothing more than a scientific specimen really. Similar treatment for their Raphael, La Muta – although at the National Portrait Gallery event on Monday I was informed by Cousin Lancing, who is huge at Christie’s, that the Urbino Raphael is questionable as a Raphael.

I’d like to see these provincial museums making more effort to engage visitors with the less well-known works. Otherwise nobody will ever look at them and what is the point?  In the end, they’ll just be thrown away. And then, in the opposite direction, don’t overdo it with your opera famosa. Let them speak for themselves

The day before we went to San Marino because we’d never been there. Strange: you could tell somehow that it wasn’t Italy. Not just the joke policepersons in tangerine and blue. All these toy places, such as Monaco, have joke policepersons. Nor the special number plates. San Marino is really just a high-up small city, perched on a rock. You can see why it remained independent. So it’s all very miniature and just a bit silly, but there’s this undertow of huge amounts of tax-free money, summed up by the number of young men in business suits prancing about in what otherwise appears to be a resort and the sublime international princess waitress at luncheon – skinny jeans, bronzer, nails, hair and cleavage. Quite useless as a waitress but no doubt essential for the glamour side of the tax-free money.

We crawled about the ancient fortifications before going back to the hotel at Pesaro.

Raphael's Dining Room at Urbino

Raphael’s Dining Room at Urbino

Raphael's Drawing Room with Wooden Ceiling

Raphael’s Drawing Room with Wooden Ceiling

Unbearable Greatness: the Courtyard the Ducal Palace at Urbino

Unbearable Greatness: the Courtyard the Ducal Palace at Urbino

Pillar Work at Urbino Ducal Palace Urbino

Pillar Work at Urbino Ducal Palace Urbino

Horror! The Flag Imprisoned in a Box

Horror! The Flag Imprisoned in a Box

La Muta by Raphael (??) Also Horrid Display

La Muta by Raphael (??) Also Horrid Display

The Staircase of the Palazzo Ducale at Urbino. This was how Stairs were Done before Cantilevering

The Staircase of the Palazzo Ducale at Urbino. This was how Stairs were Done before Cantilevering

The Inlay Work in the Duke's Study: Heaven

The Inlay Work in the Duke’s Study: Heaven

San Marino: Blue and Tangerine Policeman

San Marino: Blue and Tangerine Policeman

More San Marino Police

More San Marino Police

San Marino: the Fortifications

San Marino: the Fortifications

 

 

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I Went to Italy

Sunday 20th October 2019

I visited the Marche and Abruzzo with Aunt Lavinia and Cousin Lavinia and Cousin Mathew. The best bit was trying to explain at the filling station that the petrol gauge of the car wasn’t working, then that we wanted more Screenwash. At one point we had three garage attendants attending, wielding mops. I was determined not to descend to Franglais or rather Italinglese. But finally had to give in. ‘Ah, Screenwash,’ they went. The second best bit was lunch with the Marchesa who didn’t speak English. We were taken by my cousin who lives in Italy. The Marchesa had self-cooked the lunch. Beforehand we viewed a papal lily pond with gazebo where the Pope in question had engaged in contemplation. There was strict placement at the lunch, arranged by the Marchesa who had to have two men either side, so that was two men who didn’t speak Italian necessarily. But it was amazing what could be done with minimal grammar and no tenses and quite a few prepositions missing. I wasn’t bored at all. I caught that we were having the ‘ultimi pomodori’ so I go, ‘Quando il stagione di pomodori commenca…?’ Not the right word for ‘begin’ but never mind. Had to make it up. Marchesa proceeds as if I spoke perfect Italian. Gives full account of the cultivation. Later remarked that her father had lived to 90 after a by-pass procedure or something like that but her mother had died young. In the drawing room I relayed all this to her husband who was English to check my comprehension. ‘Nonsense, her mother was 84,’ he said. The Marchesa must have said, ‘Piu giovedi’ and I only heard ‘giovedi.’

After that I had banter with the ticket seller in Raphael’s house in Urbino re: the number of Italinglese words that are creeping in. He had a sign above him which said, in English, ‘no concessions for over 65s’ (mean) then in Italian ‘niente di concessionze per over 65.’ ‘E les stesse parole,’ I go to the young man who wasn’t that bothered. I was explaining at lunch back in England the other day how Val worked out that ‘stessa’ (agreeing) must mean ‘the same’ when we overheard some people at Milan airport in about 1992 who were looking for a suitcase. ‘E la stessa coloure,’ they said gesturing to another case. Someone at the lunch remarked that it was such a boring story. Other Italinglese manifestations I came across are: ‘checkout’ and, as already mentioned, unfortunately, ‘Screenwash’.

We got some fab new recipes. The Marchesa did a risotto with peppers which she’d made up, she said. Peppers cooked to a puree, no skins. Her main was squid casserole which was excellent but I’d never attempt it myself. Her pudding was a baba, very light, just with cream. There was cheese course as well. Another day we had a superb artisanal lunch near L’Aquila. Three new pasta concepts: with basil cream (not pesto). Basil cream is with potatoes and onion to give body; with saffron and roasted tomatoes. Saffron is huge in Abruzzo. I also heard of a chicken with saffron. Finally flat strips of pasta which I’d never seen before with a mushroom and truffle sauce.

So that was Italy with Aunt Lavinia and Cousin Lavinia and Cousin Matthew. I’ll get onto the art and historic visiting later.

Nice Views near Pesaro in the Marche

Nice Views near Pesaro in the Marche

Sunset with Gas Cloud Effect

Sunset with Gas Cloud Effect

Gazebo Where a Pope Sat

Gazebo Where a Pope Sat

 

 

 

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Parsifal and Tristan

Friday 18th October 2019

Up the slope from Bayreuth Festspielhaus is a little neighbouring cottage with a vegetable garden, near the rustic beer garden and pizzas place we found this year. I did think: Hitler was not 100 metres from this simple scene, as was Mrs Merkel.

The Bayreuth Parsifal – who would have thought that the best way to treat Parsifal was as if it had actually happened just the other day in contemporary Iraq?  Amfortas and the Knights of the Holy Grail are some blood-loving sect walled up in a ruined church somewhere. Lovely colours too. It makes such a difference if you do Wagner in yellow-ochre and such shades with sunshine, rather than black or general murk. The Glyndebourne Meistersinger was the same. I haven’t know such a zing of horror in the theatre for a long time as when the Grail was revealed and Amfortas’s entire body somehow provoked into terrible general bleeding. We were mesmerised and thrilled. Musically outstanding in every way as well, even though the orch nearly ground to a halt at one point near the end, because, according to Anthony Mottram’s brother, the brass came in early. Plus the message finally was a little reductive; just anti all organised religion. They finish by handing in all their religious junk, opting instead of universal love of some kind.

But Bayreuth washes away all error.

Tristan was quite bizarre. Horrible black production, hideous to look at and incomprehensible. Isolde didn’t die at the end. General idea seemed to be to drag Tristan down and make it not about the things it’s obviously about. King Mark was a great singer, but required to be horrid and cruel. There was some idea Tristan and Isolde were merely specimens being observed. Couldn’t make head or tail of it. Or, put it another way, not inspired to bother. Petra Lang, as Isolde, really rather past it. I thought she was supposed to be utterly great. But that was some years ago. Time has flown. I hadn’t realised how much. Now she’s well over 50. Stephen Gould okay as Tristan. Huge great bear. Anthony and the others liked the last act. I liked the middle one with the actual love music. That was thrilling. Don’t tell anyone I said so, but Tristan is a bit of mess. All that complicated back-story in Act One. It’s been explained to me so many times but I can never grasp it. It would be much better if they just took the love potion and got on with it. Except it was Braners who swapped the death potion for the love potion, wasn’t it? Oh yes! I’d forgotten that. Anyway, the main idea is surely this intoxicating dangerous raving love brought on by the potion. We don’t really need 80 minutes building up to it and how Isolde’s got it in for Tristan  (why? can anyone remember?) and is insisting on a death pact. Although the general notion of love and death being intertwined in this romantic way is important. But Wagner should have thought of another way of doing it.

All this wrong with it, even Wagner himself. There was quite a lot wrong with him. But Bayreuth. The magic. The orch was sublime for this Tristan, which closed the Festival for 2019, in fact.

So we left Bayreuth, probably not for the very last time, and returned by car to Prague. In the Czech lands there was an incident. We stopped at a filling station. When Anthony Mottram started to rebuild the bloc after Communism, there were no filling stations, such as we know, that sell flowers and sweeties and have a café. One of the earliest things to appear after 1987 were beautiful sleek brand-new filling stations, fuelled by oil money. So you would have thought that Anthony Mottram, of all people, could be sure of an excellent reception in a filling station of his own creation. But no. Would the dug-in ex-Communist cafe lady open one of the milk bags openly displayed so he could have cold milk in his tea? No she wouldn’t. Those bags were for the coffee machine only. For no other purpose could they serve. Furious, Anthony Mottram sought revenge. After warm-milk tea (loathed) he carefully placed his soggy tea-bag right in the middle of her cleanest shelf nearest the window where all could see it. We drove on.

At the car-hire return station, Anthony said, ‘What about that dent the car had when we picked it up? If it’s not still there we’ll have to put it back.’

Why were these People Specially Graphed by an Offical Bayreuth photographer

Why were these People Specially Graphed by an Offical Bayreuth photographer?

Another Selected for Official Photo. But Good Variation on Men's Evening Wear, don't you Think?

Another Selected for Official Photo. But Good Variation on Men’s Evening Wear, don’t you Think? I would Much Reduce the Slacks of course. Make them Stretch Skinny

Good Youthful Wagner Wear Here

Good Youthful Wagner Wear Here – More in the Stretch Skinny Line 

Enfant Given Early Wagner Start

Enfant Given Early Wagner Start

 

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Can never get anything done

Tuesday 15th October 2019

Just desperate. Thought stopping up some gaps on the front steps (water pouring in when it rains: such worry with the boiler fusing all the time. But it’s been 15 days since it last erred. Modern living. Fingers crossed) would take one hour. Took 3. Could have killed killed killed tin of wet rot solidifier (it does what it says on the tin. But will the tin open?)

Can’t remember how much not blogged, how many not telephoned. A man keeps passing. I’ve been trying to take snoop photos to send to Robert Nevil: Is this Duncan Fallowell? Finally today he passed for the thousandth time and I was on my steps: ‘Excuse me, you are Duncan Fallowell?’ I go. ‘No,’ he snaps and crosses the road. So where is Duncan Fallowell?

Sweeping up concrete droppings from pavement and clambering down area steps. I made a special mental note to remember to duck to avoid the iron bar when coming up again. Only a few moments later: crashed straight into it. Glasses flying. Luckily not broken. Mind must be shot to pieces.

Must now pack for 4 nights in a country house hotel in Ireland. Then dash to the Garden Museum for the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Gardens Association followed by canapes. Hope I won’t get into a fight with any aristocrats again.

The last thing I need is any more experiences. Am overrun with the ones I’ve had. As for the colour washing of the woodwork in the dining room – job has been semi-started for over a year. Just tragic.

 

 

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