More Things Happened

Monday 13th August 2018

Did I mention that Merle Barr went to the Soviet Union for three weeks? It was specially put back for her. The countryside is glorious. Mountains and lakes like Switzerland but not tidy. Georgia features most adventurous modern architecture as well in its capital which sits in a picturesque rural spot high in the mountains. Merle travelled by pre-War sleeper train to Armenia. Upholstery and samovars.  At some point she acquired very strange snacks which she offered on her return to London – see graphs below. What on earth are they? The outer coating was chewy and derived from fruit. I can’t recall what was within. Most remarkable was the cherry wet-look face-cloth or drapery fragment. Good tangy flavour.

Later in the month I visited Val in Hastings. The incredible news is he’s made Porc aux Pruneaux. And eaten it. I just couldn’t believe it. Val once blasted all over Bulgaria when Robert Nevil was there his loathing of fruit with meat. His pain and intellectual effort were tremendous. The anguish: he could barely get the words out for the frustration of explaining the blindingly obvious. But he was gifted a packet of pruneaux, and fell into the pit of fruit with meat at last.

Val was nostaglic. His new home in Hastings is yet to progress. He is pre-occupied with memories of Milk Tray, especially the coconut choc that was always unwanted in his home.  ‘Loathsome finger-nail parings!’ he raged. ‘Just… ‘ Getting redder and more and more speechless until at last gasping, ‘so… revolting.’ It was rather a disaster when we went down into the town and someone tried to give Val a coconut macaroon. I do so agree: dessicated coconut has always held horror for me too. We looked in the shop windows. There was a handbag that resembled a piano accordion, Val said. Then we took a table at a Moroccan restaurant on the street. A male football supporter went by wearing a tiara, then a portly gentleman of later years with hair done to resemble a budgerigar – bright yellow and tufted.

Naturally Rufus Pitman was in the West End at the same time as me, Adrian Edge. So we lunched. He’d been shopping with Lord Arrowby the previous week. They’d gone to Liberty. Lord Arrowby was at once surrounded by staff, who swished with pieces. ‘Now, can we go back to 2013?’ Lord Arrowby declared. ‘Which pieces from the Dries collection did I take for Autumn/Winter that year?’ Staff rattled off the pieces Lord Arrowby had taken from the Collection.  They didn’t even have to consult their card index.Presently there was much keenness that Lord Arrowby acquire a glittery jumper threaded with actual silver and priced according to the latest metal market index. i.e a lot. But Rufus was against it and it wasn’t taken. Later I visited Liberty and saw the exact same thing. Rufus said that some of the new Dries items resembled one’s efforts in the art room at school with the ink-splatter blowing thing.

Some of Merle's Strange Eats from the Soviet Union

Some of Merle’s Strange Eats from the Soviet Union

Merle's Edible Cherry Dishcloth from the Soviet Union

Merle’s Edible Cherry Facecloth or Drapery Fragment from the Soviet Union

Man with Budgie-Yellow Hair in Hastings: You can Just see Him

Man with Budgie-Yellow Hair in Hastings: You can Just see Him

A Young Man in Evening Outfit: Hastings: July 2018

A Young Man in Evening Outfit: Hastings: July 2018

The Same Model was Worn by Sophie Wessex at the recent Royal Wedding. Seen in the Window of Susannah behind Marble Arch

The Same Model was Worn by Sophie Wessex at the recent Royal Wedding. Seen in the Window of Susannah behind Marble Arch

Important Knitwear by Dries Threaded with Silver, not Acquired by Lord Arrowby

Important Knitwear by Dries Threaded with Silver, not Acquired by Lord Arrowby

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These Things Happened

Sunday 5th August 2018

On the way back to our domains in the Far West (J. Corbyn: keep out), we stopped at a motorway service station. The Gay Mother took one look at the range offered by Costa: ‘But I don’t like any of these things,’ she said as if Costa ought to have thought of that.  Finally I persuaded her to share a Bakewell. But she ate the whole thing plus one of my ginger biscuits, almost doing me out of a sweet finish to the meal.

At Glyndebourne for Pelleas et Melissande, Rufus Pitman’s picnic encompassed all known foods, including Nigella’s lamb cutlets cold (a genius’s stroke: Nigella didn’t think of cold), the Provencal grilled tomatoes, the speciality sausages, the rare grain salad, the tarte au abricots, and Ottolenghi’s grilled aubergine salad with pomegranate seeds and saffron yoghurt. Great minds think alike for Laura Malcolm had offered the exact same dish the night before when I dined. Raj Zoraster had been to Bangladesh. So he had a box of sweet delicacies for the interludes between the courses. His complaint was lack of black people at Glyndebourniana, so we tried to find some. When I told Royston about this later, he said, ‘Well, they can buy tickets.’ He’s black himself, as you know, so can say these things.

As for the opera: Pelleas et Melissande.  I only went to try and get used to it. It was the same with Mahler Symphony of 1000 at the Proms (terrible gibberish of the libretto for that: fearful windy religiosity). But P&M – quite nice mu, vague, drifted by pleasantly like a feather on the air. Of the story I could make nothing. Who were they all and how related? Somehow P and M managed to die at the end. A day or so later, at Don Giovanni, at the Garden with Reggie Cresswell, I said, ‘Is Melissande a sorceress or a witch even?’ ‘No,’ he said. At least we were at a Rich Ladies Supper Table in the Paul Hamlyn Bar. Reggie’s artichoke thing was inedible. Donna Anna won that opera by the way: she finished miles ahead of the others. Rachel Willis-Sorensen – except it’s got a bar through the ‘o’. Reggie said Don Giovanni was ‘Not rubbish.’ Mariusz Kwiecien: not seductive, voice lacked charm.

So that was that. Simeon Bond had a party. It was luxury’s height with staff and an incredible canapé rate. Extraordinary number of people there one knows in other ways. Simeon, of course, has strange powers. How had he conjured so many former friends of the Multis? Oh those Tuscan villa days, all gone now as I predicted. Yes, there was a price to pay. Wilma said she’d been scrolling through her texts. But Lady Newell is coming up for 90. Still going strong despite breaking all the rules. Totally not under Doctor’s orders.

I went to Kew. It’s the second time I’ve been to Kew this summer. The first time was for the opening of the Temperate House when I wore my new Tartan frock coat. They’d just spent £150m or something. I said to the Head of Kew, ‘Our viewers like DIY.’ He was frightfully cross. Then we had the Head of Glasshouses and the Head of something else for a tour. ‘What’s the Temperate House for?’ I kept on asking. Royston got v. cross too and said it was obvious what it was for. But I still don’t get it. For the second visit, I took the Marianne North Gallery. Never heard of it before. Stunning. And the Japanese Garden: no flowers of course. Rocks, grass, trees and shrubs, plus gravel that has to be raked every day into a water pattern. Alarming gateway thing at the top of it, hugely ancient, but it might be a copy. Heavy, dark wood.

There could have been a third visit to Kew, for the Pagoda’s Opening, but it would have meant going twice in one week. They’ve put the gilded dragons back on the Pagoda, which were removed to pay George IV’s debts. Instead I opened at Buckingham Palace for the press view of the Summer opening. Genevieve Suzy was there, took one look at me, screamed and went away. I did think Queen Charlotte looked quite African in her portrait in the Green Drawing Room, but Royston said her black ancestry was remote if it existed at all. We met someone from Country Life who questioned the wall coverings: 1950s? In fact 1920s. Queen Mary put them there. The rose-pink flock in the Picture Gallery. Well, I love it. I love Buckingham Palace. I think one could be very cosy there. The state apartments are hardly on a grand scale. The private quarters must be miniscule. The Queen’s Head Gardener took coffee and advised watering birch trees in this drought. So I told the Gay Mother to water hers and that the Queen’s Head Gardener had said so. She said she would at once.

Kew The Temperate House Opening: Yes, But what's It for?

Kew The Temperate House Opening: Yes, But what’s It for?

Glyndebourniana: Ottolenghi Aubergine, Pomegranate and Saffron Yoghurt Salad by Rufus Pitman

Glyndebourniana: Ottolenghi Aubergine, Pomegranate and Saffron Yoghurt Salad by Rufus Pitman

The Marianne North Pavilion at Kew: Fab

The Marianne North Pavilion at Kew: Fab

Queen Charlotte at Buckingham Palace

Queen Charlotte at Buckingham Palace

My Royal Cake: Buckingham Palace Opening Press View

My Royal Cake: Buckingham Palace Opening Press View

 

 

 

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Royston King Launches a Cemetery

Thursday 2nd August 2018

Brompton Cemetery – it’s been launched. There was a tea. And tour of the catacombs where shelves are stacked with coffins so decayed they could burst and display their contents at any moment, except they are lead-lined.

By 1840, the parish burial grounds in London were full up. So statement cemeteries, seven of them, known as ‘the magnificent seven’ were established, great swathes of death on a grand scale, to solve the problem. There was also a commercial aspect.  Brompton, along with Highgate and Kensal Green, are the premier of the collection and all subject to regeneration and restoration in recent years. Under Royston King and others, Brompton has acquired an entrance cafe and the chapel in the middle of the site, built of Bath stone and indistinguishable from a bathing building in fact, has been done up. Royston has been in correspondence about policy on bramble clearance. In one way and another the whole place was been rescued from undesirable outdoor gays and needleworkers whose haunt it was before. No nice person would go near it.

Sir Henry Cole, first director of the V&A, is present as a buried corpse, along with Robert Fortune, who smuggled tea plants out of China, and took them to India, whence the great tea-drinking movement of today sprang. Speeches were given before the splendid bathhouse/chapel; it was a swirl of greatness. Royston himself, of course, Lloyd Grossman for the Royal Parks, Tristram Hunt, our friend, for the V&A (the museum to be linked in the new venture: funds to be raised from new recruits also. Yes, there’s still space. Hurry to get in. It’s well-worth it, as will be explained), the Heritage Lottery Funds’ Head, the Head of the Friends of the Brompton Cemetery, an elderly gentleman who recently had visited his daughter in Australia where nearby fortunately was another cemetery in need of rescuing.

Once you’ve rescued one cemetery…

We took a Friend-led tour of the place, except that other Friends kept chipping in, hoping to win the Best Knowledge prize and defeat the tour leader. As a leisure destination, Brompton Cemetery could overpower those not devoted to Death or recognising its bracing terrible glamour. The huge central area, modelled on Bernini’s Piazza San Pietro in Rome, was not supposed to have graves but somebody managed to get in and now it’s crammed. You couldn’t sit there enjoying your sandwiches and not be awed by the numberless dead, the endless grey graves. It’s a battle-field of the defeated. Except.. on the other hand… I say this to you, Poor Little Rich Gays here and throughout the word, money goes a long way. All you need is £20,000. Everybody’s got that, surely. You must fork for a grave in an important cemetery, but that’s not enough on its own. You must also have an interesting grave. Who’d have thought it? That’s all you need. No point bothering to write novels or stride in the highest corridors of power. All you need for immortality is an interesting grave in an important cemetery. Putney Vale – forget it. For example, get Burne-Jones to do your tomb. He didn’t normally do tombs or even sculpture, but some rich people made him. So now they’ve got immorality with Burne-Jones’s only tomb. Or, if you’re a general or equivalent, have a grave piled with cannon-balls. Then you won’t be forgotten. An important mistress got a whole house, with front door. The man’s family were enraged and to this day are still arguing about the cost of maintaining her monument. Another, cheaper, option is to have interesting writing on the otherwise normal headstone: an American lady’s got her whole life-story. She wasn’t any good at anything she did but now she’s immortal.

Not quite sure

I think she Tried Opera Singing and Novel-Writing: No Good at Either. But Here She is! 

A Good Grave Option for a Military Person

A Good Grave Option for a Military Person

Emmeline Pankhurst: Her Grave

Emmeline Pankhurst: Her Grave: But the Already Famous don’t Really Need a Grave 

Not sure

The Family Still Polish this Grave 

The Mistress's Tomb: Caused Outrage

The Mistress’s Tomb: Caused Outrage

The Burne-Jones Grave: I Mean By Him

The Burne-Jones Grave: I Mean By Him

The Numberless Dead in their Field: Modelled on Piazza San Pietro by Bernini, Rome.

The Numberless Dead in their Field: Modelled on Piazza San Pietro by Bernini, Rome.

Sir Tristram Hunt Addresses the Throng

Sir Tristram Hunt Addresses the Throng

The Catacombs: They didn't Take Off as a Burial choice In fact

The Catacombs: They didn’t Take Off as a Burial choice In fact

Stored on a Shelf: Not a Success Commercially, the Catacombs

Stored on a Shelf: Not a Success Commercially, the Catacombs: One can See Why 

 

 

 

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We Cometh Unto Bruern – Privately

Tuesday 24th July 2018

Robert Nevil accompanied me in the Official Driving Car with Xenon driving lights. The National Gardens Scheme had offered superior entry to Bruern Abbey gardens in the Swolds for £25, tea included. It was a nice day out for Robert Nevil who insists on working way past retirement age. His lastest venture is a catalogue of ponies for the Christmas market. Scholarly but jolly. It was boiling hot. Bruern isn’t actually an abbey at all. It’s a Palladian mansion with grounds, not quite a stately, but not an old rectory either. The owner is a gay Lord who used to own British Midland Airways. On Google it said his private fortune is £260 million. So imagine the horror! You couldn’t see in at the windows! They were too high. The whole place had recently been renovated to the hilt. £260 million! But, the desperation, you couldn’t see in! Only by leaping up, which Robert Nevil wouldn’t allow.

We had to make do with the gardens. Which were a perfect example of a millionaire’s garden i.e. done by a designer. There are three gardeners, but they don’t know that much about gardening. Even at that level, £260 million, you have to get by with gardeners who don’t know that much about gardening. I was terribly worried that the other attendees, all retired but not on sticks, therefore well set up to raid the tea-table. You know what they’re like, these pensioners. I was having visions of the tea-selection pecked clean as by vultures. We slogged to the end of the lake. There was a new gay statute in the water with bum, of course. You couldn’t fault the garden, but somehow … it reminded me of Robin Smallmeal’s place, where poor Simon Limpey wept and wailed in the groves. Sort of anonymous and bland. Roses used as bedding plants, tasteful colour schemes, lavender, roses, parterres, formal beds with hedging planted in a wild manner for contrast. The usual sort of thing. Only a kind of raised section with nothing in it but swathes of stumpy cosmos was declared by Robert Nevil actually to be horrid.

At last we gained the tea department but not before an agonising phase where we could see the tea through a glass door. Mercifully the tea buffet selection had been replenished by staff in black trousers or skirts. One was reluctant to return to the table to ensure that one had covered all the options. But did anyway. The tea-room was a mystery. A kind of very grand village hall in a wing at the back of the house. But what could the millionaire want it for? Rotary dinners? You could sense what the rest of the house must be like: immaculate, new mahogany loo seats, Farrow and Ball, expensive repro furniture. Out in the courtyard we met a couple who said they were friends of the Multi: had known him since he was 4. Jaguar type of people from the North. They said they were there on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis.

Abbé Bruern: Millionaire's Paradise

Abbé Bruern: Millionaire’s Paradise

Bruern Abbey: new Gay Statue

Bruern Abbey: new Gay Statue

Bruern Abbey: The Parterre

Bruern Abbey: The Parterre

Bruern Abbey: Hedge Work

Bruern Abbey: Hedge Work

Where They Actually Sit

Where They Actually Sit

Bold Gay Statue

Bold Gay Statue

Bruern Abbey: A Border

Bruern Abbey: A Border

Bruern Abbey: the Cosmos Prairie: 'Rather Horrid': Robert Nevil

Bruern Abbey: the Cosmos Prairie: ‘Rather Horrid’: Robert Nevil

 

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An Important Tea-Tasting

Monday 23rd July 2018

To Conduit Street in boiling heat. Ed Jasper, the bed linen expert, organised it: a formal tea-tasting at the East India Company. Three ladies made up the party, a soap star, a therapist to TV’s Big Brother and a publisher of magazines. Who knew that two of them would have tiny frocks with Tudor sleeves, in different colours, of course, and superbly difficult clucks? The soap star was in unobtrusive neutrals. She said she didn’t really like tea. Some of the tastings she thought ideal to be flung in any nearby flower pot. It was hard for the younger Gay in whippy business attire to conduct the tasting when the women were so anecdotal: the publisher lady, her man had insisted on a boxing match in the East End and got fearfully bashed up. There was very little left of him and he had to be prevented from another such venture. The soap star – I found out later from google-ing she’s got a ‘toy boy’. Well, the ‘toy boy’, actually about 39, had found something to do possibly. I couldn’t quite follow. When an American young woman came in to introduce the gin (after the teas were all sampled), Ed Jasper thrust out a glass and said, ‘That’s enough explanation.’ Meanwhile the therapist was saying how she’d had a regime of lemon juice in hot water every morning for healing and cleansing until her dentist said, ‘What on earth have you done to your teeth?’ She was so beautifully therapised herself, and yoga-ed and techniqued she carried out only the most minimal swivel of her head while relating horror, carrying her smile perfectly all the while. The great highlight was the production of the matcha powder. At once there was a swelling bubble of murmur amongst the women. They knew about matcha, all right. It’s new and it’s great. When mixed with water, a viscous bright-green slime occurs of the purest evil and tasting the same. But they all said, bar the soap star, you get used to it.

We removed to Sketch next door and were kindly entertained by the young Gay from the East India Company. At first we were put in a room at the front of the building. Ed Jasper had to be held and soothed. We hadn’t been put in quick enough. The room was like a bedroom but was actually a front room crammed with gold Lloyd loom chairs and the walls enamelled in bedroom pink. ‘It smells of sea-weed in here,’ the soap-star said. Ed Jasper was threatening to go home. The publisher lady said she knew the Maitre d’. There was tremendous thrashing of the hopeless reservation and showing to table girls in their ludicrous uniform frocks with the possibility of the maitre d’. ‘He was at 192,’ the cry went up. ‘In the 80s and early 90s he was at 192.’ Well, so was I, Adrian Edge. I was at 192, Kensington Park Road. We all were. Then our saviour appeared, the maitre d’. Yes, it was him. Grey now, a little smaller, but still French and divine. Ed Jasper really having to be carried, near to the end, the party moved to another room. I couldn’t understand Sketch. You must have heard of it.  It was the middle of the afternoon, yet the place was crammed with fashionables in rooms with no windows stuffed with a terrifying bombardment of chaotic decor. The requirement for attendance was legs at least six foot long, tiny denim shorts, vest, arms, blonde head and a huge handbag. We were transferred by the maitre d’ to an extraordinary kind of green and brown ancestral cave with no ancestors and a tremendous sense of encroaching vegetation. The carpet had grown tufts and even hillocks and Dougal-like falls of wool. But at least it didn’t smell and I had a cream tea. The soap-star said she was appearing in Hastings at Christmas and had turned down the chance to be the face of vaginal moisturiser. Another soap star, she said, always contrived to get arrested before the panto season to attract publicity.

 

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Norfolk Again! What a County! A Commie 60th Birthday

Friday 13th July 2018

Igor Cripps ‘s 60th birthday with Communist overtones was given in his private garden on the cliff tops of Norfolk. Incredibly exclusive venue with private sea view, although, as we shall see, the fence became compromised. Years ago, Igor had the bust of Lenin removed from the Islington Council chamber but still he craves the good old Communist days. The DDR is his idea of Heaven. His mother was vital at Greenham Common. Igor hasn’t changed a bit since first encountered by me 35 years ago in the British Library – still as youthful, and up to no good, quietly winding up and waiting for the explosion, just with Herbert Morrison glasses added. The Leader of the Council was present with his chain of office. Of course Gays have got huge in Norfolk. They have surged up with only the smallest curtailment of their normal activities. This Leader was once a Tory, I believe, and arrived in Norfolk at a low point. Then his home was flooded. Then he rose up. It’s so hard to follow the labyrinths of the Powerful.

I arrived from London with Royston King.  Igor was in his hall contemplating his valuable art collection with someone important from Radio 4, but not Jenni Murray. A magnificent tea was spread out. There were speeches. Most of Igor’s brothers and sisters were present. It was announced that none of them are married. Really? Gays were twitching. Igor himself is not married but has recently been in a camper van with his long-time companion who made a few lovingly exasperated remarks. Whatever happens, they’re never going to settle for quiet domesticity, thank God. Suddenly the tea-party was whirring with the notion of a private member being inserted into the fence beside the property. It was Igor’s hot masculine brother, Boris, who launched the idea. He runs a builders’ merchants. How had he ever heard that such a thing was even possible? Gays were in fever. Maybe at last the dream of hot manly straight gay would come true. One of the sisters though – she’d got a new boyfriend. Dead ringer for the swimmer, Mark Foster. Bronzed all over and said to be a fitness fanatic. I made sure I was watching the World Cup on TV near where he was later.

The next day, Royston and I went to Holkham Hall. We had quite a discussion about Tomato Feed or Tomorite which Royston said had a lot of potash in it. I’d always thought it was predominantly nitrogen. How wrong can you be? Holkham Hall – it’s by William Kent. Outside it’s yellow bricks and so severe as well as sitting in a lunar vastness, it’s almost ghastly although glorious. The Gay Mother said when driven past it on a previous occasion, ‘I’m glad it’s not open and we don’t have to go inside.’ But inside is wonderful. Surely one of the most successful and fully realised suites of formal rooms anywhere, somehow intimate and domestic although strictly architectural, purely design – chairs against the wall, soft cushioning comfort not the point, rooms where ‘levees’ might have taken place, whatever a levee is. I imagine they were very rigorous and ceremonial.  Yet, William Kent’s riotous inventiveness with the classical forms  – what a marvel, inducing delight.

The Entrata at Holkham, Surely Unrivalled in England, of World Stature, Easily in Complexity with the Staircase Hall of the Laurentian Library in Firry by Michelangelo

The Entrata at Holkham, Surely Unrivalled in England, of World Stature, Easily in Complexity with the Staircase Hall of the Laurentian Library in Firry by Michelangelo

The Entrata at Holkham: Incredible Ceiling, Impossible to Photograph

The Entrata at Holkham: Incredible Ceiling, Impossible to Photograph

With Coving Like this Who needs Soft Furnishings

With Coving Like this Who needs Soft Furnishings

More Coving of Great Sumptiousness at Holkham

More Coving of Great Sumptiousness at Holkham

They even Gilded the Skirting Board

They even Gilded the Skirting Board

 

 

 

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The Public are Admitted

Friday 6th July 2018

Yes, I have been watching the football. Mid-June on a Sunday I opened my garden for charity. I must say one hopes somehow to be part of the Heritage, like Longleat or… of course… Chatsworth. Will the Public gawp and say, ‘This is how they lived… can you believe it – this is where His Lordship sat in the afternoons… Here is his TV… and his shoe-shine kit..’ ?

Robert Nevil, Lord Arrowby, Joshua Baring and Bruce McBain were on door or in charge of kettling in the kitchen. But this year there were fewer visitors so less call for kettling. Astonishing number on sticks or even actually dead. I suppose it’s a dying breed, the garden visitor. I nearly got caught making faces at one whose viability seemed barely credible. Perhaps I was caught. None of them would buy any plants, for fear of depriving others. I was raving in the end: ‘The mixed-colours Cosmos were reared by the Gay Mother. SHE’S 94! Buy, buy, buy!’ Finally there were sales then outrage. Someone who bought two complained that the next person had scooped up all that remained. But it was nearly closing time.

14 lunched in the drawing room. It was a lions’ den. I realised too late that Moira McMatron was the only lady and she and Beamish O’Halloran the only straights. The fish kettle results were excellent and René said he’d got to have one – fish kettle, that is… Archie Armitage was looking unbelievably fit. Joshua Baring was thrilled with him. For once Joshua didn’t have to go on to a One Direction concert. In fact he’d come on from a Beyoncé concert the night before. So wasn’t going on but coming from. Archie stained the powder blue Queen Mother chair but no matter – turn over the cushion and you’d never know. One day, maybe in the autumn, if the constant flow of engagements and travel ever dies down, I’ll get Val up from Hastingsakoff to replace the panel. I see he’s left a supply of replacement fabric in the chair, under the cushion.

Insalata di Pollo alla moda Ristorante del Carmine Firry was also offered. This was first taken by Robert Nevil on a visit there in 1974 (approx) when he was accompanied by a fatal lover. ‘It doesn’t have olives,’ RN said. ‘But radishes you’ve omitted.’ I’m sure it did have olives but RN said he’d written it down. The agreed ingredients are raw carrot, lettuce, artichoke hearts and mayo, as well as bird of course.

The cold filet of beef (£48) was barely touched and the horseradish sauce boycotted completely. It’s always like that with a buffet. There’s a massive unconscious collective surge against one item always. In truth, the horseradish was uncertain. I got it from a shop that’s about to be turned into a block of flats. It wasn’t a good colour when grated.

10 took tea in the dining room after the opening. That Mary Berry – she’s really got it in for me. Her recipe said 2 teaspoons of baking powder on top of self-raising flour which has already got baking powder in it. I told you before, she glared at me at Chelsea on Press Day. Result – cake was gassed and raised to a dusty brittle state. Owing to icing error, it was iced underneath as well as on top so slices couldn’t be prised off the plate without collapse. Joshua Baring described his Tinder date for that evening: ‘He’s so unattractive!’ he lamented, waving the photo about. Quite hot, I thought. Joshua said he’d rather roast a duck and have it for the week. He’s also having a tapestry for his new abode. It’s either a Goeblins or a Mortlake or both. Lord Arrowby was in floral-print slacks and couldn’t wait to get away. I commanded him to the tea-table (‘So bossy,’ he said) but when there was a slight delay in the kettle coming to the boil, he bounded away and couldn’t be caught.

Joshua Baring Brought Sorrel from his Garden at Sandringham St Kil for the fish-kettle-cooked Fish

Joshua Baring Brought Sorrel from his Garden at Sandringham St Kil for the fish-kettle-cooked Fish

Archie Stained the Chair but It was a Light Matter

Archie Stained the Chair but It was a Light Matter

Archie Stained the Chair but it Was a Light Matter

Cushion Turned Over: No Stain

An idea of How Joshua Baring's New House will Look when Hung with Tapestry

An idea of How Joshua Baring’s New House will Look when Hung with Tapestry

Joshua Baring: Tapestry Concept

Joshua Baring: Tapestry Concept

Laura Malcolm: Her Cruise

Laura Malcolm: Her Cruise

Laura Malcolm Cruising: She has Returned but Apparently not Re-thought as to Personality. Cruising hasn't Changed Her

Laura Malcolm Cruising: She has Returned but Apparently not Re-thought as to Personality. Cruising hasn’t Changed Her

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Rudi Growing in Importance

Sunday 24th June 2018

It must be 3 or 4 years since Royston King began the epic retrospective and posthumous sales of Rudi Patterson’s paintings. The first was at Leighton House, launched by Moira Stewart herself. She said No graphs because she’d been up all night on TV. The work sold like hot cakes: you could see why. It’s decorative, apparently charming and pastoral, the scenes of Jamaica from memory as imagined in a council flat in Notting Hill near Grenfell Tower. Also inexpensive. Further exhibitions followed: Rudi painted and painted. There’s no end to his oeuvre. Then in March of this year, an event took place at the Garden Museum. Talks were given by experts. By the end of an hour, Rudi was… well, something else. The tiny figures in his paintings, the buildings, often churches or possible plantation houses, the flora, the vegetation, almost always in the background the Blue Mountains… what does it all mean? Rudi wasn’t thumping away but there’s a brooding presence, an ambiguity. The blue hills are the unchanging and unchangeable element before which the humans cultivate the land and beautify it with flowers which in some of the pictures appear about to encroach and swamp the humans who are about. The little black figures are doll-like yet in control, going up the drive of the would-be plantation house, now in ownership perhaps. Yet the buildings themselves are flat and sinister with their past. These churches also: what are they like? They have the same silent faintly threatening presence as the houses. Rudi was a supreme painter of flowers and plants: immaculate botanical but with artistry. But something more galvanised Rudi and it’s hard to say exactly what it is. He has advanced into death about five years, growing in significance all the time.

A Rudi: the Longer he is Dead the more Important he Grows

A Rudi: the Longer he is Dead the more Important he Grows

Rudi's Flowers: See the Lady in the Drive

Rudi’s Flowers: See the Lady in the Drive

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Glyndebourne on the Stage

Friday 22nd June 2018

Getting through the summer. Can breathe again now that my garden opening is over – more later. Two things went wrong with the buffet menu. 14 lunched in the drawing room and 10 took tea in the dining room only partially restored after the lime re-plastering of the ceiling in part.

I was thrilled with the play about Glyndebourne by David Hare: The Moderate Soprano. Thought it would be political and narrow. Can’t bear David Hare whenever he opens his mouth. Know nothing of his plays. His frockage is ghastly as well, although he is married to Nicole Farhi. Why?

But The Moderate Soprano is open-minded, discursive and fascinating. The central figure is John Christie himself, the founder of Glyndebourniana, played by Roger Allam  Marvellous opening. Christie goes:  ‘The gardeners are very knowledgeable, they have much skill and training… but I own it.’  At once I felt at home: ownership is at the core of my life. I was born into ownership and have remained there ever since, gradually owning more and more without lifting a finger. But who really owns is a question in the play. Later on the eminent musicians and stage directors who pitched up at Glyndebourne in retreat from Nazi Germany get quite uppity with Christie: ‘You had some ideas for the garden once,’ they say. ‘What became of them?’ ‘Well, I told them I don’t like pink,’ Christie replies helplessly. Then they inform him that Glyndebourne opera won’t be Wagner as he had wanted but Mozart (‘Is he any good?’ Christie goes. ‘Don’t tell me, not The Marriage of Figaro‘). Yes, The Marriage of Figaro. After the War, Christie soothes his sickly wife with a recital of the programmes for the first six seasons before the War. They love the names but Cosi they could never be reconciled to. It was their life’s work, although really the creation of others, most of all German refugees who fashioned the dream of English country house opera we all crave today. Christie is left to pay for it, while jumping up and down on the side-lines saying, ‘ It’ll take them all day to get here. They’ll spend the morning cleaning their shoes. I don’t care if it costs them their life savings. They must pay the price for art. And once they’re here, I’m not having them leaving. I’m going to switch all the lights out.’ Well, thank you very much, John Christie. Thank you for giving us the agony and thrill of Glyndebourne, the conveyance there, how to pack and heave the picnic in evening clothes, how not to crease in the car, finally the lawn and house which must be the burning golden essence of the English country house in its setting, itself a kind of stage looking out onto that perfect fold of sheep and farmland, enclosed yet open. But how to get a good place on it?Although the house is a Victorian fake.  Then the drive back and the anguished unpicking of the picnic the next day.

Don’t forget the opera. Royston King says Glyndebourne never again. Too much trouble. Acis and Galetea, which we took in West Hampstead a few days ago, a better substitute. Up to a point; Glyndebourne got an audience originally because it was good. Only six people came to the 1st performance of Cosi in 1934 or thereabouts. But then came the notices. I’ve never been let down by Glyndebourne. It’s always been worth it. Except I wasn’t mad about Madama Butterfly, which I saw at the beginning of June.

Christie, for all his martinet carry-on and craziness, knew that. He knew that it had got to be good. It isn’t just that for £250 you can have, for the evening, the feel of ownership, of drive, house, gardens and grounds.

My Glyndebourne Department

My Glyndebourne Department: in Storage 

Lord Arrowby at Glyndebourne: Jacket Made Specially

Lord Arrowby at Glyndebourne: Jacket Made Specially

The Glyndebourne View: England's Essence

The Glyndebourne View: England’s Essence

How Well We Know that Lawn

How Well We Know that Lawn

Joshua Baring's Vit Ton for Glyndebourne

Joshua Baring’s Vit Ton for Glyndebourne

 

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Toiletless in Norfolk

Friday 15th June 2018

To Norfolk to stay with Charlie Hurling and Mr Azure. I’d thought it would be like a hotel purring with maids. It took about half an hour to get my outfits in but then… well, there wasn’t much room for anything else. My possessions were immediately absorbed in a sea of items in the summer house. Endless stock, boxes and boxes, rolls and rolls. Goodness knows. I didn’t think to see my things again. The toilet in the summer house was well, frankly… Mr Azure explained.. in fact later he had a supremely masculine moment flinging up a lid in the garden to reveal the pump which couldn’t to be got to pump more … well, the toilet wasn’t for back toilet, only front. Fergus Strachan was in an ancient tracksuit arrangement in the drawing room in the main house. He didn’t seem to have any outfits planned. The party were lying on a suite that had belonged to Charlie’s grandmother. It was fabulously squashed. The loose covers were cafe au lait with huge flowers in colours. The home was extraordinary. Elfin. Criss-cross windows, concealed behind hedges. A tiny elfin dwelling, very private, very concealed. Every window-sill heaped with ornaments: the world-collection of brass cow-bells in one, all-known green glass balls in another. The cleaner fortunately has obsessive-compulsive disorder and does one sill a week. I think upstairs there were cow-jugs and possibly a huge assemblage of spent mortars. Just room for a bed in the midst of it all.  You’d expect to find little creatures sewn out of moleskin or perhaps the rose-hip fairy living here; not two bold gays of manly build, one quite capable of wearing checked fuchsia slacks and a lime-green jumper.

The thing was I went to the toilet – the other one in the main cott that was fully functioning – but wrenched a little too hard on the handle in celebration of a functioning toilet. Disaster. Something gave in the cistern. We were toiletless in Norfolk. Mr Azure, who seemed to be i/c drains of the two, instituted a bucket regime and Angus Willis complained later of the water all over the floor.

I thought I was going to die actually. No emergency plumber. But somehow the great pluck of the Poor Little Rich Gays, their endurance and fortitude – we got through. We lunched at Great Massingham on the Saturday in the room where Prince Harry had a birthday party once. It was black plates and foams. Very nice. Charlie Hurling bellowed about the anus at every opportunity. The people at the next table first of all covered their children’s ears then turned into little heaps of ash.

On the Sunday I visited Rayham Hall privately. ‘Are we coming?’ Charlie enquired. ‘No,’ I said. This is a big visit in the end. You remember the book launch in March. After which, naturally, I longed and longed for the house. The Marchioness showed me everything; she’d Farrow-and-Ball-ed the Saloon herself. There’d been a terrific amount of plaster coming down in the monumental entrance hall , leaks in bathrooms above, workmen nearly killed but all put right in the end. Huge place. Much bigger than it looks in photos or than gathered from the Christie’s launch. We ventured up all sorts of staircases and into unending attics. The Marchioness had been sanding and filling a massive round window. A great house, though, which nobody knows about, remodelled by William Kent. Very important.

Mr Azure said it would be lunch when I got back. But they were all lying on the three-piece suite. Then they went out for a walk and came straight back again. Fergus Strachan was still in that tracksuit. They watched some trash TV deliberately in a specialist channel. At 7pm lunch was served. Charlie is very devoted to Paxo sage and onion stuffing so the bird was stuffed with Paxo Sage and Onion stuffing which was incredible from the style point of view. There was no sign of any of them going back to London. They went and lay down again on the three-piece. Charlie Hurling insulted Angus’ hair. He said, ‘You’ve got ash die-back hair,’ which isn’t a compliment. I, unfortunately, was wound up for the capital. I had to board. With difficulty I packed. Would I be able to identify my items from the great array in the summer house amongst which they had disappeared? Finally it was done and my Official Car was underway after a remarkable weekend visit.

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