Oceania x 3

Friday 14th December 2018

Thrice I have been: once to the PV with the Duchess of Sussex and twice to Private Breakfasts, as Aunt Lavinia’s plus one then as Royston King’s. Oh dear! Have I really grasped Oceania? My other pre-occupation this autumn has been the Romanovs, where again I was shown exclusively and could have reached into the open cabinet and plucked some Fabergé … and dear darling Buckingham Palace itself, over whom I have poured for hours – more of that later.

So my world really now is the Royal Academy and Buckingham Palace.

The Romanovs v. Oceania. Compare and contrast. One highly frocked, jewelled, enamelled, the other quite nude but also keen on craft, maybe art. The first time at the Royal Academy one was taken up with Royalty, canapés and getting on to dinner. We viewed briefly and Royston said it was marvellous that the things were there, in the Royal Academy, not in some anthropological museum. Thus they were elevated. The third time we were quite busy cornering the Secretary to congratulate on his knighthood plus putting him right about the new extension. He even changed direction and followed Royston to the new rear entrance, once the gateway to the Museum of Mankind, to hear his criticisms. I thought it was horrid, I’m sorry to say. Royston said more had been spent than on any other museum in recent times. And there was nobody there.

I think the Oceanic peoples were/are fun but clever. Picasso and Brancusi adored their wooden gods as sculpture. So did Henry Moore. So not primitive but the essence of form. The trouble is missionaries chopped off the wooden stiff willies which were a great feature. Some pictorial decoration for a house tells the story of a woman who was dis-satisified with her man’s member so sought another. Her reward was great for she found a penis on such a scale it arched all the way across the bay where the fish pranced underneath it and the birds flew above. What could be better? Royston said the great donating ladies, grande dames of Belgravia and SW7, were strangely thrilled. It’s true there was a distinct change in their purr. I couldn’t grasp how the square pieces with wires going in various directions and where they cross a white blob are maps. But that’s what they are – maps. Too brainy for me.

Val said that the whole of Polynesia was incredibly noisy before Western man arrived. It was the beating of bark to make cloth. Going on all the time, according to Val. They also did incredible feather work. Hours and hours stitching in red feathers one by one. Had to be red feathers because they’d only got one bird that had any and even then that was only about three. After that they liked yellow feathers, again there was only one bird with any but it had a few more than the red one.

So they made things hard for themselves. Plus they carved away – carved feast troughs, carved entrances for the hut-home, carved boats. Frockage also was attended too. The Chief Mourner’s outfit has to be seen to be believed

All in all, it seems that they honed and shaped and sculpted every aspect of their lives. That’s art.

Bruncusi and Picasso Admired this One: Blackened Shoulders is Where Worshippers Rubbed in Oil

Bruncusi and Picasso Admired this One: Blackened Shoulders and Head is Where Worshippers Rubbed in Oil

Fabulous Coconut-Matting Lady

Fabulous Coconut-Matting Lady

Royston Liked this One Best

Royston Liked this One Best

Some People

Some People

The Work! Incredible

The Work! Incredible. Don’t Tell me this is Primitive 

Not Quite Sure what This is despite 3 Visits

Not Quite Sure what This is despite 3 Visits. I think It’s Man and Woman 

Bark Cloth: so Fine

Bark Cloth: so Fine

Polynesian Idea of Western People with their Little Outfits

Polynesian Idea of Western People with their Little Outfits

Modern Polynesian Bottom

Modern Polynesian Bottom

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Robert Nevil Launches

Thursday 13th December 2018

Robert Nevil’s On the Naming of Ponies (fearfully brainy but aimed at the Christmas market) was launched at a City bookshop. I wore my faux linen dress coat by Topman, as I did at the last launch of a work by Robert Nevil – Some Lovely Treks Through Shropshire on Your Pony. This was to emphasise the rate of production which has gone up as RN advances in years.

Classic ladies, such as are to be found at a Robert Nevil luncheon party – well-born, art outfit, brook no nonsense, fairly terrifying – were present. ‘I’ve read your book,’ I said to one. ‘I’ve written more than one,’ she goes. ‘I mean the one about your father. Where he goes off on his pony all through the night…’ ‘Yes, that’s the one everybody means.’ I didn’t mention, although she wrote it… accompanied by an assortment of delinquent young men. So that was her. There were some no shows, on account of the Pony Club not sending out invitations. On the whole, it’s important to send out invitations if you want people to come. No Reggie Cresswell nor Rufus Pitman (although I think they were both on tour on the sub-continent) no Lord Arrowby (massively over-functioned that eve), no Laura Malcolm, no Bruce McBain. This was a benefit in a way, for the pre-historic hard core was exposed. The pioneering flat-mates from 45 years ago. Oh the damp in Streatham and the early Gay Life going on without central heating! Mr Algonquin, the original ideal straight flat-mate in a Gay flat-share, interested in hair. I’ve only seen him twice since and he always confirms responsibility for several children. Eddie Sedgewick of course – tiny little jacket. All still there. Madame Sosostris was a later addition and never in residence. Ronnie Ronnie also – but stellar at the Blitz Club, totally Gay even in the late 70s, blazing a trail. Now he was a bit offended when I explained to Troy Banner, who looked in from Palm Beach, that Ronnie Ronnie’s front hair is Winter Mink. It’s additional, you see. He always points it out himself, but I suppose it is not the province of others to do so. He said it wasn’t Winter Mink anyway. Maybe it wasn’t yet time to switch from whatever the autumn hue is – Misty Fox, perhaps.

Troy and I were watching out for the Multis, who haven’t been seen for months. They were due but no show – colds, apparently. I fell into conversation with someone who said she worked for Arriva. ‘The bus company?’ I said. ‘How unusual?’ But she meant RIBA which is something to do with architecture. Ponies and architecture often unite. Bruce McBain knows the couple that ran the bookshop there for years and years, although one half has passed sadly, so there’s only one left.

Finally the MP for Whirly and Lorraine (Labour) came in direct from the House. He said Mrs May’s deal would get through. The DUP only wanted more money. Well, let’s hope for the best. I mean we’ve got to have a deal, however much we may dislike it, than no deal at all. That’s what he thought too.

Our transfer to the restaurant was record-breakingly swift. No interminable good-byes. We were styled into a Trat in the shadow of St Pauls by Joshua Baring. I thought it was enchanting but Robert Nevil and Joshua were sniffy.

 

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We Go into Suffolk

Sunday 9th December 2018

The Gay Mother said she didn’t know Suffolk. Even though it’s about as far from the Far West as possible to imagine, off we went. Nooky, wooky, beamy hotel at Lavenham – nightmare for the over 90s, i.e. most of the guests. The first afternoon I had to leave the Gay Mother in the hotel lounge while I did a piece to camera for Dainty Lady TV.  There she acquired tickets for the Endellion Quartet who were carrying out a festival of quartets in the hotel with dinner (we didn’t have the dinner) and she read the Daily Mail. ‘I’m very cross,’ she said. ‘Why are people lonely? There’s so much to do.’ This was re: a news story that Mrs May was offering dance classes for the lonely. Otherwise the Gay Mother said things are going downhill at Tescos – superior products being phased out or put on top shelves where she can’t reach them. Tesco’s Finest yoghurts a distant memory. Those cardamon biscuits vanished. The big mission was the Three Hares. She’d heard there was a church in Suffolk where the Three Hares were to be found. I said that 20 years she was in quest of some other peculiar symbolic items in churches and it wasn’t the Three Hares. I thought maybe it was the Green Man but she said the Green Man was everywhere. On retiring to her room, once it was gained over and under the endless beams, up and down the endless steps, she was reading The Golden Bowl.  ‘You read it before,’ I said. ‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘Yes, you did . You said it was a marvellous story about a bowl that was cracked.’ ‘Really?’

We went to Lavenham Town Hall and Lavenham church. The Gay Mother wrote an enormous cheque because the church was so huge. Lavenham is incredible; you must go there but you have to stay overnight to get the idea of it. It’s so medieval. The footprint of the town unchanged from medieval times. No modern outskirts. Totally medieval. Then it was the 13th richest town in England. Now it’s little more than a village. No new buildings, although many have been Georgianised. Much Farrow & Ball, of course.

Privately I thought the Endellion Quartet a bit … well, it said in the programme it was that Schubert one movement piece …  But all the subscribers to the three-day hotel, dinner and quartets plan were thrilled.

The middle-classes were simply glorious in Suffolk. At Lavenham Town Hall they were actually sat there spinning and carding with olde worlde spinning wheels etc. Hideous cloth the result. But they were busy which was lovely for them. One was claiming more knowledge of the medieval wool world than the others so it was all teetering on the brink.  We went over to Flatford Mill where you can just about make out the scene of the Haywain. The usual National Trust soup kitchen. Two fantastic SUV-driving Middle-Class women emerged from a residence – skinny jeans, yoga written all over them. They were carrying a bowl and started chirruping and bouncing because they were going to gather berries. So organic and wonderful! ‘What on earth are they doing?’ the Gay Mother said. They plucked at any berry then sprang back from the thorns. ‘Are they going to make rose hip syrup?’ the Gay Mother wondered. I do hope they weren’t disappointed.

We found the Three Hares at Long Melford – absolutely tiny. Came from China, the Gay Mother said. Along the Silk Road. Possibly Buddhist. Really Long Melford could have done with the Gay Mother’s massive donation rather more than Lav which seemed to be purring with money. On the other day we went to Ickworth but the main rooms were closed. We had to make do with the kitchens – and the usual National Trust soup kitchen. I adored Ickworth in the 1980s on a visit with Twirly Godfrey. Thought it rather grim from the outside this time. Massive great looming rotunda. Cheltenham feel to it.

The Gay Mother reported that The Golden Bowl is simply extraordinary. ‘It’s all about what people are thinking,’ she said. More recently she announced (spoiler alert) that someone had smashed the Golden Bowl. ‘I can see how it’s going to end,’ she said. We also gave quite a lot of time in Suffolk to our ancestry. There were two great Victorian families of nine or so brothers and sisters. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that one’s knowledge of who belongs in which is kept fresh.

Lavenham Town Hall: Beams

Lavenham Town Hall: Beams

Lavenham Church

Lavenham Church

Lavenham Church Inside: Rather Purring with Money

Lavenham Church Inside: Rather Purring with Money

Long Melford Church: Not so Monied

Long Melford Church: Not so Monied

The Hare Window at Last: Long Melford

The Hare Window at Last: Long Melford

Beamy, weamy: the Hotel at Lav

Beamy, weamy: the Hotel at Lav

Flatford Mill: the scene of the Haywain. Can you Make it Out?

Flatford Mill: the scene of the Haywain. Can you Make it Out?

Berry-Picking Ladies at Flatford Mill

Berry-Picking Ladies at Flatford Mill

Ickworth: a Bit Grim this Time

Ickworth: a Bit Grim this Time

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Some Good Things Happened

Sunday 8th December 2018

Yesterday I found my hand fork on the top of a wall. I’ve been looking for it for weeks. The missing sock – it turned out it had got left behind on the drying rack. The sock brand is Doré Doré but this particular sock has been a disappointment, having a wooly finish. Even so, it’s important not to have a lone sock in the drawer. When I phoned Apple Support, I got support, even though they said my warranty had run out. Eventually the missing Word doc was found on the back-up disc. After much ag. I got to the gym today – no padlock. It had gone missing from my bag. I was facing not being able to lock away my Waitrose shopping. I enquired at the office and the hunk there said, ‘Here’s a spare one but I don’t know the combination.’ I fiddled with it and it was mine! Must have left it behind after last visit.

But the main agony…. will our Mine be picked up?

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How Marmion Beaufleasance Wove a Pattern

Friday 7th December 2018

Marmion Beaufleasance took 70 years but it was all all right because there were so many connections. He addressed the throng: there were household names present but very quiet. Marmion has woven this web for fifty years. Never is a stitch dropped, nor a thread pulled. Now he’s weaving in young Gays, some of whom he’d not met. But the Ducal Grandson of course with a lover who could play Puck… The Old Gays were still going strong. Up from the country were Miles Kent and Leon de Veer. They’ve not been seen in London for years. Robert Nevil, of course, who was present in Westminster Abbey when I first met Marmion through RN’s then fatal lover at John Betjeman’s Memorial Service where we also saw Debo and Lady Moseley and Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street, the TV programme, as well as Philip Larkin, who was explaining that he had left his car at Watford.  It turned out that Marmion knew everyone that one knew, as well as many more, such as Jennifer Paterson.

One of Marmion’s hobbies is going to Memorial Services.

Some of these grand Gays have rather had their day, A.L.Rowse and Raleigh Trevelyan even to the full extent of sinking into the grave. Those that remain are undeterred, pursing private projects, perhaps an occasional monograph or private charity work, or committees in a quiet way, lunches of course and outings. Still grand, still great, despite that world of grand people having given way now to Instagram and the like. No more Norah Smallwood.

So Marmion made a speech, which he’d not done before in the 40 years, to the day, of giving parties in that room – in the presence of the Queen’s cushion. Twenty-three of the original guests were still there. That party 40 years ago marked Marmion’s elevation to the Royal Household proper, so that was the second link. It was exactly 40 years since he took up his position at the foot of the steps to the Throne, where he has been ever since although now on the top step, of course. 50 years and 4 days before he had begun his apprenticeship at the Institution and the previous day had been the 50th anniversary of George Lazenby (playing James Bond) and George Baker (a better actor, Marmion says) playing a member of the Royal Household, coming to that place on a research mission. The James Bond thread had cleverly been kept going too, since Marmion had been involved in a small way with the latest production of the James Bond adventure series, ‘Spectre’.

So it all fitted together and was marvellous.

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation: Not in Plastic Bag as Usual 

Marmion Beaufleasaunce: Letter of Engagement from the Queen

Marmion Beaufleasaunce: Letter of Engagement from the Queen

 

 

 

 

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Some Speeches

Saturday 24th November 2018

Poor Little Rich Gays are against speeches on principle. ‘I must thank the Committee…. generous support… without whom nothing would have been possible… indefatigable work… tireless efforts… ‘ Anyone eager to make a speech must be prevented. That’s the Poor Little Rich Gay point of view. But somehow Poors are forever on their feet, addressing a throng. Why is this?

The speeches of the Head of the Garden Museum will be studied for many years to come. ‘Be quiet!’ he goes. ‘Now look here, the Mellon Foundation.. the late Bunny, the late Gwatkin, my tutor in Cambridge days, thank you very much …. ‘ Lady Egremont, Lady Riblat, all the Foundation people, all the Christie’s people fall silent. Also the Head of Crocus who is just back from Umbria for the olive harvest. We’re at the opening of the Repton Exhib at the Garden Museum.  ‘So…’ the Head of the Garden Museum continues…. ‘have you looked at the Red Books? You go through that little door over there. Now Gwatkin, he taught me how to look. And Repton, he looked and altered. You must look too. Repton was a genius…. ‘ Then follows a passage of scholarship and insight of great interest.When that comes at end a canon goes off: ‘NOW, these sites near here. I’ve got to have them. We must garden in Vauxhall. The canon is discharged. It’s back to the Mellon Foundation. ‘You wouldn’t believe the safeguarding involved. These Red Books, they’re so fragile. The insurance…So the Mellon Foundation… ‘And finally the Head of the Garden museum, holding the audience under thrilling rapid fire, conjures a miraculous web of patronage, expertise and institutions, a ferocious jewelled panoply of influence of which many present are a part.

The Head of the Garden Museum’s address to the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association took place earlier, in the presence of the Marchioness of Salisbury. At the end of it he was presented with a spade. ‘I’ve been swimming,’ he says, accompanied by slide of himself in a pool possibly at London Fields. This is exciting for he is a champion swimmer and raised money by swimming the length of the River Thames. Many would find pixs of him in swimmers very acceptable. He shows some other parks he frequents, one apparently in front of his present flatti in Hackney. These aren’t high-born parks which is the point, as far as I can remember. But there’s a sense of impending crisis. The Head of the Garden Museum grips the lecturn but it’s only a slide of some rose beds. Finally he bursts out: ‘Why couldn’t they get the roadsweepers to do more weeding?’ (or something like that). ‘Why did that initiative fail? Why can’t more be done?’  It’s not without bounds that he might fling himself, there and then,  from the side of the Nomura Building directly into the Thames. But on he battles, for better gardens, not just middle-class pretty swarming with middle-class gardening and conserving and greening and loving it. But hard-line gritty youth too, real rough types, wielding rakes even in Elephant and Castle.

Then we had canapés.

Marmion Beaufleasance made a speech also at his party for his 70th birthday. The Queen was present in all but fact. Come back later for that. For Marmion is a Member of the Royal Household. On State Occasions he accompanies her in an ancient role. He is so close to the Throne he could reach out and touch it. Find out how he wove James Bond into the historic herald weave.

The View from the Nomura Building Where the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association was Addressed by the Head of the Garden Museum

The View from the Nomura Building Where the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association was Addressed by the Head of the Garden Museum

The Nomura Buidling: Roof Garden

The Nomura Buidling: Roof Garden

Roof Garden of the Nomura Buidling

Roof Garden of the Nomura Buidling

The Nomura Buidling: Roof Garden with Cannon Street Station

The Nomura Buidling: Roof Garden with Cannon Street Station

 

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I Forgot to Mention Woburn

Tuesday 20th November 2018

The other thing I forgot to mention is what Harry Rollo said while we were out chandelier shopping about how when he was subject to a full-scale goosing by a v. famous actor in his youth (he’s now in late youth) it wasn’t #metoo but #atlast.

But Woburn: Royston King suggested an outing and we were accompanied by the Marquis of Salisbury’s Head Gardener, the Marchioness being met at the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association at Nomura International plc a week or so later where the Head of the Garden Museum made his terrifying speech. She was charming. I’ve never been to Woburn although the other book I read at Prep, in addition to James Pope Hennessey’s Life of Queen Mary, was Born with a Silver-Plated Spoon in My Mouth by His Grace the 13th Duke of Bedford. And of course, the Russells were around us in the Far West, their estate there being Endsleigh, and the Gay Granny knew the 12th Duke who committed in the drive which she never liked after that. In the 19th century the Russells were fab (did so much for the Poor) but they went downhill.

At least they’re Dukes of the county they actually live in unlike most of the other Dukes, even if it is Bedfordshire. You enter a vast park by Repton, of whom we’re hearing quite a lot this autumn, the most enormous swathes and undulations with deer and tree clumps. Kind of lunar and alarming, not least because it’s about six miles from the lodge until there’s a glimpse of the house or Abbey as it is properly. Then you have to go round another six miles to actually get near it, Royston King whipping me on as I manoeuvred the Official Car all the while. Garden-centre-type entrance system with room perfume and potted orchids to buy, then asphalt,mono-planting, more huts containing The Duchess’s Tea Room etc and the poor house struggling for life in the midst of all this junk. You’d have thought the War had only recently ended and the place was still in the throes of having been requisitioned. The mansion house has also the misfortune of being at the bottom of a slope. Very poor garden door entrance. The real entrance got pulled down in the 1940s or something. Then weave through corridors and up a little stairs to 1st floor suite of rooms – early 18th century, one smallish cabinet after another, quite nice but hard to overlook the awful 60s square-block parquet provided for the visitors to walk on.  Royston was very taken with Henry Flitcroft, whose work they were. He rose from nothing. I was glad to hear from one of the guides that they’re shutting next year for a complete re-think. Finally you get to the Caneletto Room which had clearly been Raine Spencer-ed in the 80s – those dining chairs with high backs and a loose-cover with dainty skirt extension to the floor for full hotel effect. You could have burned the lot and lost little. Finally there is a great wide corridor going along the back of the suite of cabinets where the Armada Portrait of the first Queen Elizabeth is to be found. Some evidence of Raine Spencer here as well but the corridor did amount to something all the same.

We went round the garden which was mostly dried up and dessicated but marvellous trees. A sign said, ‘This way to Ashna and Ed’s Wedding’ which was in the Stables. ‘That’s modern Britain for you,’ Royston remarked. The Salisbury Head Gardener knew the names of all the trees.

A Spotted Laurel at Woburn: In fact Not a Laurel at All but Some Other Plant. I Never Knew That

A Spotted Laurel at Woburn: In fact Not a Laurel at All but Some Other Plant. I Never Knew That

IMG_4262 (1)

Woburn: An Evergreen Garden

 

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Oh My God!

Friday 16th November 2018

Amazingly I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Gardens Society then the Opening of the Repton Exhib at the Garden Museum, followed by the Dedication of the newly restored memorial to Chelsea Pensioners at Brompton Cemetery after which a plaque to the Park dead of both World Wars was unveiled in the Colonnade, followed by a tea.  Loyd Grossman thought he was reading the poem but he wasn’t. It was given by a schoolgirl. Then Lord Heseltine gave a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society, demonstrating his immensely rich garden. After that I flew to Bulgaria for Cosi was on in Plovdiv. Mid-October I was in Suffolk with the Gay Mother because she said she didn’t know the county. She was reading the The Golden Bowl. She’s read it before but denies it. About 20 years ago she said it was the most marvellous story about a bowl that was cracked. Now she says it’s rather extraordinary with the roundaboutness and it’s all about what people are thinking. All the same, ‘I can see how it’s going to end,’ she says. I must find out if she’s finished it yet or given up. I mustn’t forget I was in Brittany for a few days and Marmion Beaufleusance gave a party. Oh, and I’ve been up to the eyeballs with the Romanovs (the Science Museum and the Queen’s Gallery) as well as the Royal Corgis and the Travellers’ Club. At the Queen’s Gallery I had to be let in early owing to being in the air for the proper press preview. The press person was rather clingy and when we rounded a corner and the glass case full of Fabergé was open I could see why. I could have slipped an egg into my bag and nobody would ever have known. Unlike at Oceania where I’ve been twice (neither times with the paying public) where all the cases are closed.

Amazing because all the time I’ve been riven with worry and grief and could go down yet for millions at the hand of the Environment Agency. Things have gone badly wrong but might be put right but not one thing that can never be put right.

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation

My Lodging in Brittany

My Lodging in Brittany

The Queen's Gallery: the Vladimir Tiara, often Worn by the Queen

The Queen’s Gallery: the Vladimir Tiara, often Worn by the Queen

Poor Alix Russia not Looking Well

Poor Alix Russia not Looking Well

Nicky and Alix: Their Brown Decor which They Loved

Nicky and Alix: Their Brown Decor which They Loved

 

 

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Cyclical Thoughts: The Ring

Tuesday 16th October 2018

One thing: when you complete a Ring Cycle, nobody gives you so much as a matinee tray. Yet, before Rheingold, in the great lobbies of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a black wing swept the throng. However Wagnerienne, there is always the dread: will I live up to the Cycle and …will the Cycle live up to me? Rheingold terminated and Anthony Mottram said, ‘Really. So ridic. The Tarnhelm and people making themselves small or large and Alberich going so small to show off that he got seized by Wotan. What a lot of nonnie!’  Rheingold: everybody’s horrid or silly except the Rhinemaidens. Before Gotterdammerung, Anthony Mottram plunged in the Paul Hamlyn Hall: ‘Oh no, we’ve got all that Tarnhelm business to face again. Siegfried casting himself about… such rubbish.’ Why do we bother? Why do we keep Cycling?  150 years since Wagner and here we all are, forking out massively, cramming into the Garden, beginning again on another Cycle. What is it? How has Wagner reached so far into the future? Why is he still making us Cycle? And go to Bayreuth, which is utter madness?

Years ago, at the very beginning almost of our Wagner time, 44 years ago, Anthony Mottram said, ‘Yearning. That is Wagner.’ The followers also yearn: yearn to know whether it’s any good. Great tracts – is there something wrong with them? It’s no use saying, ‘Oh but the music changes everything..’ Well, it does and it doesn’t. As a whole, the structure… so clumsy, buckling under the strain of an overwhelming weight of massiveness. One yearns to follow the plot, or to be able to recount it a few days after seeing a Cycle for the 4th or 5th time. And one yearns for performance: is this work actually performable? can anyone sing it? I’ve always longed for a perfect Siegfried who would be ringing and marvellous. On this Cycle I reached a conclusion for the time being, until the next Cycle. Siegfried is never going to be ringing and wonderful. It’s a dud part. The idea of him is a failure. He’s just delinquent and unattractive and useless. A lot of his mu is dull. Our Siegfried was the same one I had at Bayreuth when I went with Prince Dmitri. Stephan Vinke. Anthony Mottram said he was good but occasionally out of tune. So that’s as good as Siegfried’s going to get.

At least we’ve got that settled – until someone has a better idea, or a new singer comes along who is suddenly ringing and wonderful. But by then we will be bankrupt, likely as not, from so many Cycles. Rather like Wagner himself who always assumed somebody else would pay, he being a blinding genius.

Don’t get me wrong: this Cycle was marvellous. By far the best of its ‘outings’ of which I’ve seen all three. It’s impossible to say why. The great thing was Nina: unsurpassed as Brunnhilde. At least in my life I’ve seen the greatest Brunnhilde, more burnished and god-like than the wonderful Catherine Foster at Bayreuth. The production I cannot adore although it is bold to bring out the farcical elements in Rheingold and to be uncompromising about what a half-wit Siegfried is. Is this what Wagner meant? Or if he didn’t mean it, is it still right? Was Wagner off his head – his notion of an innocent ‘hero’ who would save the world as misconceived as Wotan’s yearning for Valhalla? At the heart of it all is the endless surging of the human mind, the great heroic wreck of regret, compromise and failure with nothing being what’s it’s cracked up to be. So marvellous when at last Brunnhilde threw the Ring back into the Rhine (it was her who threw it, wasn’t it? Well, somebody did). But I’ve always thought the idea is that another Alberich will come along at some point and the whole thing will start again. On and on it goes – human life.

A Greatness on a Cycle: The Ring Cycle Covent Garden October 2018

A Greatness on a Cycle: The Ring Cycle Covent Garden October 2018

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I Knew It

Monday 15th October 2018

I did wonder. We saw her at the Royal Academy Opening of the Oceania Exhib. I lobbied Genevieve Suzy for admission and it was granted. Then Royston King invited me to be his plus-one. What it is to be at the top. This was when she caused a sensation by shutting her own car door. Nobody could believe it. So busy were they with this event, plus her departure therefrom they missed the main thing. But I saw. She was not absolutely flat in the middle regions. There was definitely a bulge. Really astonishing that nobody noticed, when you think of it. When the outfit is the main point of attention. We were stood so close (thanks to Royston for foreseeing exactly where we should stand) I could see the shoulder seam of her Givenchy. She was brought in from a neighbouring room where super-Greatnesses had been presented. Her heels were so high she could barely walk. ‘Will she make a speech?’ Royston wondered. I said, ‘Only one small enough to fit into that tiny box clutch.’ But ultimately she simply stood while others made speeches. So simple. Then she rubbed noses with the Maori musicians. That was her wow-factor. But all the press had scurried out beforehand, desperate to get the departure. Only Arthur Edwards, the veteran Royal photographer, refused to budge. He knew. Then vultured on the event when it happened. Really all that Royal couture and outfitting to be off-set by a figure such as Arthur Edwards, the Royal Photographer, who is well past retirement age and at the extreme end of unfinished as to frockage.

The other thing is she’s quite small. Delightful of course but complexion just a little worn in reality consonant with age, as they say on eBay.

We also viewed the Oceania Exhib. It was great.

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