Transported to Tuscany for the Wedding

Friday 24th January 2020

We dined outside in January. The mother of the Groom, Cousin Venice, was come upon in the front row in the ceremony area beforehand: ‘One has been dressed like this since 2 o’clock,’ she declared in an English manner. It was then 5pm and sweltering. She was graciously swathed in Old Blush crepe with a clutch hat and sprays with many jewels. The Bride was of Fort Lauderdale and had always dreamt of a dream wedding. The Princess Diaries is her world. She said so herself later on. Her other dreams have come true. The man of her dreams she’s been living with for several years. They have a child of nearly three. So only the wedding was left to be dreamed of. The ceremony took place out of doors in the piazza of the Tuscan hilltop village with a church tower as a backdrop. There’d been hours of rehearsal. The wedding manager may have driven Cousin Sabine up the wall, but the effect was tremendous – the army of Matrons of Honour, Groomsmen, Bridesmaids marshalled to perfection and drawn up on either side of the wedding dias, facing the seated guests, not to be trifled with. A wedding with a warrior aspect. The Flower Girls had barely been born so were just about able to zig-zag half-way up the aisle, before running away. Then the Bride herself – a triumph. I discovered later she’d had Gays working on her, as well as a Grandmother with a sewing machine. Such a good brisk ceremony, only 15 minutes, no music, then on to a champagne reception with lamb chops or a cheese table before the full-sit down on the glorious lawn of the Tuscan hilltop village. I should mention that the hill was real. There are no hills in that part of Florida except for there. The speeches, the courses, a kind of DJ with a microphone master-minding the whole thing from under a canopy in a corner, the young people all in love or hoping to be with their lives before them. It was perfect. Nothing went wrong. A few feature to me was the removal of the Bride’s garter which was then tossed for a single man to catch. I sat with Connie and Alf from Middlesex who rent 4 months of the year in Florida and their grandchildren visit.  They’re in cold storage. Connie was dripping with emeralds and diamonds. In the closing stages the Bride and Groom played the shoe game: how well did the new husband and wife know each other? ‘Who’s got the smelliest feet?’ ‘If he says it’s me, it’s over,’ the Bride remarked. Only the next morning, at the Farewell Brunch and Breakfast at another dream venue did I realise that the Gays were actually present. Little hats and spray-on jeans. Married, one a stylist, the other a jeweller. Utter heaven. We had such a good run on Grannie’s Chips and other important stones. They liked my suit. ‘I love your style,’ one of them said. I was wearing a red burgundy suitlette from Tiger of Sweden with Paul Smith Chelsea boots in vole suede which I could only just get into (the suitlette, that is) and then certainly couldn’t move. At last it was about ME. All the other guests had reverted to the Florida uniform of beach shorts and flip-flops, even though it was the Ritz Carlton. I departed the wedding in an Uber flurry: 3 mins to pick-up location. Flights to catch, outfits to reassemble…

The Tuscan Hilltop Village

The Tuscan Hilltop Village

The Tuscan Hilltop Village: Entrance Point

The Tuscan Hilltop Village: Entrance Point

Saying Goodbye to Tuscany in Florida

Saying Goodbye to Tuscany in Florida

Last Farewell to the Tuscan Hilltop Village

Last Farewell to the Tuscan Hilltop Village

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I’m Touring America

Thursday 23rd January 2020

So I arrive in Florida by air. A family wedding is to take place at La Bella Collina which is in Tuscany near Orlando, Florida. Just so extraordinary. Florida is Paradise. Nothing disturbs its faultless Paradise. There are no hills. Just an unrivalled smoothness of forest with intermittent glories high towering above, such as the Ritz Carlton Elysium, the Marriot Towers of Heaven, the Hilton Choirs of Angels. Uber-ing through, you see the residential complexes – lawns, dream homes, blinds down, no sign of a person, such is the paradise. I sent a photo to Cousin Smurry in England of the view from the hotel. She said it looked like one of those pictures you get online when you have to prove you’re not a robot. Select all the windows with no traffic lights. Well, that’s rather wild. Persons are conveyed by car. They do not get out. But our little pre-wedding party went walking. It was boiling, boiling hot. Perfect for mad dogs and Englishman. What a struggle it was to make Florida. We learned from a display and park with pioneer village. Before it was a swamp with crocodiles. Within 20 years they’d got nearly all known industries going. First of all, logging from cutting down the swamp cypresses, then cattle, water, oil, oranges and feathers. Also fish. And hammering.  One placard said, ‘Minnie Moore-Willson Plume Hunting Heroine’. Thrilling. Think of all those hats. Heroine indeed, I thought, enabling truly feathered hats in abundance. But no, it turned out, on reading the placard, that she’d fought to put a stop to feathers for hats. So disappointing. In the pioneer village, they had Georgian windows even if the home was barely a hut on brick piers. People were living like this until the 1960s, although they seemed to have acquired extensive land and cattle.

The View from the Hotel Window: Cousin Smurry said It's like one of those Prove You're Not a Robot pics you get Online

The View from the Hotel Window: Cousin Smurry said It’s like one of those Prove You’re Not a Robot pics you get Online

The Plum and Brown Scheme in the Hotel

The Plum and Brown Scheme in the Hotel

The Hotel Exterior: It's a Castle

The Hotel Exterior: It’s a Castle

Georgian Windows even Though a Pioneer Hut

Georgian Windows even Though a Pioneer Hut

A Pioneer Hut

A Pioneer Hut

The Simple Life: Someone Lived Here Like this until 1965

The Simple Life: Someone Lived Here Like this until 1965

This Hut has this Wide Open Corridor for Ventilation

This Hut has this Wide Open Corridor for Ventilation

Not Quite the Heroine I would Have Hoped For

Not Quite the Heroine I would Have Hoped For

 

 

 

 

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All That Struggle

Friday 3rd January 2020

Here we are. Back in the 20s. The Gay Mother was born in 1924, in the first lot of 20s.

Christmas is never so over as when it’s over.  Have you noticed? Nothing could be more passé now than Away in a Manger. All that struggle for Christmas. In a puff it’s gone.

Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten had a function. Two brown hounds arrived of their own accord, surging all over the function room and leaping up at the eats. ‘This means She is here,’ Mercury Mr Kitten explained. Not the absolute premier She, you understand, not Sandringham She, but one almost as high and known to millions best as a Queen. Who then entered and fell into confab with Miss Lamore Cellina and later with me, Adrian Edge. Our topic was deceased department stores: Bourne and Hollingsworth, once at the wrong end of Oxford Street where the Gay Mother bought her wedding dress in polyester in 1956, not wanting to waste money on a wear-once item, and C&A which was of great horridness but a nationwide chain. The topic arose because a massively sought-after bistro (or something) has opened near the Harry/Mr Kitten residence and is called Bourne and Hollingsworth because of being in the former warehouse of that store.

But Bourne and Hollingsworth was dreary. One darkened not its door. Swan and Edgar la meme. In another 60 years will someone open a ragingly cool destination café called Primark in a former Primark warehouse?

I kept trying to get near Reggie Cresswell but could not for the fury of those mobbing him. I was in the middle of telling Lord Tanza about Lady Glenconner’s wedding night when he wandered off to help Mr Kitten arrange some dishes. Later I started again, this time with a world-class film director of republican leaning.  Rufus Pitman appeared. ‘Anne Glenconner,’ he said at once. His favourite bit is when Anne was staying with Princess Margaret for a year while her flat was being done up and never got any sleep.

Anne Glenconner: it was hard to summon any other topic after her appearance on Graham Norton for the publication of her memoir.  I’m taking ‘An Evening with Lady Glenconner’ at the Richmond Theatre of 29th February. Do let me know if you want to come too. I’ve two tickets.

Harry and Mr Kitten came up with a brilliant new hostess wheeze: have different glasses from your guests so you won’t put your glass down to do some hostess task and not be able to find it again. In fact they had gold goblets, by great coincidence from Angus Willis’s shop in Hastings. Just fancy that.

We all went up onto the roof. Bruce McBain, who designed the roof, wasn’t pleased. In fact he refused to mount the stairs. But then he did. He said it was not wise after drinks to cavort on a roof terrace. He feared being blamed. Poor Little Rich Gays are always being blamed which is a sad side-effect of whipping up into action. One could always not design a roof terrace but lounge all day on benefits on a sofa in trackies and a hoodie. Then you would have no risk of being blamed.

But it was Heaven on the roof with all vast London laid out before and so many cranes with red lights and hope could not be held back: the Greatness of our Nation. Who could deny it? Nearby is the great barrel of a church nave, dominating the surrounding buildings just like Santa Caterina does in Siena as well as some other churches there. So that was nice too, to have the feeling of Siena.

Back down, off the roof, Harry said that Bertram Dibantry has allowed no time for costume changes: persons must transform from a playing card to a prune but how with no time allowed? And the whole perf only lasts 40 mins. So typical of Bertram who had the entire Royal Festival Hall commandeered for a massive organ experience. A leading figure was brought in to play the great organ of the Royal Festival Hall. But that person only thundered two chords and the main attraction was a terrible old wheezy church organ near the front bellowed by foot pedalling which Bertram had there because he had so greatly disliked it from childhood when he was an altar boy.

Miss Lamore though was worried about the Queen, who left after 30 minutes as is normal, for further engagements. Miss Lamore was sure she had driven her away. ‘I didn’t provide the right food,’ she cried, ‘for her mentality.’ She was convinced the stars need special mental food, not the same as everybody else and she had not given it. I tried to console. ‘They’re normal,’ I said. ‘Just treat as if they were anyone.’ ‘Oh no,’ said Miss Lamore. ‘That won’t do at all.’

I still couldn’t get near Reggie Cresswell except to say it was just like trying to get near Rachel Johnson at the Literary Review party. Then it was time to leave.

 

 

 

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The Final Days

Tuesday 24th December 2019

Two family parties, two Festivals of Nine Lessons and Carols, three intimate dinners, one ballet followed by Ed Jasper and Roland Mainflower’s reception on Election Night, Burna’s private party with masks (Rufus and Raj in matching Christmas kilts) … Ed Jasper, the bedlinen expert, had all these young people who’ve got flats and are in  ‘events’. One of them even organised a fly-past of Buckingham Palace for the Queen – not a normal responsibility of a Poor Little Rich Gay in a whippy spray-on outfit, you’d have thought. It’s impossible to keep up with their configurations. Last year I’m sure they all had different boyfriends. But how can you be sure? I was sure they wouldn’t have voted Labour.

To the Daily Mail – the Chairman’s entrance, no less – at the invitation of dear Beamish O’Halloran of that publication. Party in an atrium. Retainers born to their posts surely circulating lavishly with bottles. Beamish full of a gatecrasher. I couldn’t grasp it owing to already being smashed, within seconds of arrival. This person has been gate-crashing for years. Possibly came back from Dunkirk and started gate-crashing then. Not only gate-crashed but had to sit down.

Had long confab with Michael White, former political editor of the Guardian. He said Long-Bailey might be the one. I advised on political matters extensively, rather as I advised the Governor of the Bank of England some years ago on Central Bank matters: For instance, that if there were PR, I advised, political alignments would be quite different. It’s no use taking the results of the present election and translating them directly as if there were PR. Michael White quite agreed. I felt brilliant. Laura Malcolm wasn’t surprised by the election result: ‘Nobody wants to be told how poor they are.’

Genevieve Suzy entered. She’s now left Dainty Lady TV, leaving me there alone in front of the cameras, and taken a huge role elsewhere. Her up-do is a foot further up. Moira McMatron longed to meet the columnist who is a household name. So we bowled up and she couldn’t have been more charming or appreciative of Moira MacMatron’s appreciation of her. I couldn’t believe that she remembered the time we went to the Ivy with Genevieve after the Constance Spray lesbian play. At a previous Daily Mail party I’d photographed her handbag, which she’d left on a table. It was a quilted clutch with gold clasp.

‘Look, there’s the gate-crasher,’ said Beamish, excited. Sitting down as promised: grey suit, red face and teeth made of chippings of elephant tusk. The crasher had that puffy way of sitting as if unlikely to get up again for a very long time. Air of a stick even if not actually one.  What a relique! Couldn’t be anything other than the most important person present.

On Saturday I took a day off. No card-writing. No present-buying. No outfit planning. Down to see Val in Hastings and get lightly Tudorised at Angus Willis’s Christmas Tudor House. Val was full of notions and schemes: he’s discovered that the microwave that came built-in with his Los Angeles-style Hastings bung is perfect for re-creating café creme as offered in France. Don’t ask me how. But café creme is Val’s ideal coffee. I happened to mention that I was lunching the next day in Ealing. ‘Ah Ealing,’ Val proclaimed. ‘Queen of Suburbs.’ Later on returning from the town, Val inspected the tarmac on the drive outside his residence. His balance isn’t too good but he managed. Down in the town, he’d required an arm to cross the road. ‘It seems to be holding up quite well,’ he said. ‘Does it belong to you?’ I enquired, since it is in fact outside his perimeter. ‘Oh yes,’ Val said. ‘My tarmac belongs to me.’

What a moment, echoing ‘Cabaret’ when the Hitler youth boy sings ‘Tomorrow belongs to me’ in the outdoor café. It would have been funnier if he’d sung ‘My tarmac belongs to me’ instead.

Robert Nevil's Book Christmas Tree Created by the Nizim

Robert Nevil’s Book Christmas Tree Created by the Nizim

Afforestation of the Tudor Kitchen

Afforestation of the Tudor Kitchen

The Sid Id Memorial Bath in the Tudor House Hastings

The Sid Id Memorial Bath in the Tudor House Hastings: Sid Id Bathed Here

This Very Orkney Chair snagged My Cardy 9 Years Ago

This Very Orkney Chair snagged My Cardy 9 Years Ago

Christmas Brussels Sprout Stick Must-Have

Christmas Brussels Sprout Stick Must-Have

Christmas Ironing Challenge Agony

Christmas Ironing Challenge Agony

Ironing Challenge Completed

Ironing Challenge Completed

 

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The Wedding of the Century

Friday 20th December 2019

At last I dare to approach… it was supposed to a low-key wedding of Conrad and René, flung together last min. Very nearly I didn’t wear an outfit. But rounding the corner at the back of Lambetta Town Hall, there was Lord Arrowby. Total frockage! Swaggering hat, pointy shoes and … coat! A knock-out blow. I was flung back into oblivion by the force of the outfit. ‘Is it a Christmas coat?’ I said desperately fighting back. ‘What a horrid thing to say,’ Lord Arrowby murmured. There was raving over his coat, though. It was a tapestry coat by Dries. Later I had occasion to lift it onto a hanger at the venue. The weight of work, the layers, the years of tailoring expertise that must have gone into it. Such coats are only worn by the Queen usually. But no sooner had we just about come to rest over Lord Arrowby’s coat than who should hurl into view but Rufus Pitman – in full fur, with a Tyrolean hat and feather mounted high. Even Lord Arrowby’s Dries shook a little and as for my little Topman Limited Edition honey-beige frock coat. It was nothing. Luckily Burna, in lilac champagne fur, slipped in quietly later on. Another important example of outwear could have finished us off completely, before the ceremony had even begun.

The wedding itself had a noble simplicity with the glorious pared-down plainness of Poulenc, one poem by John Donne and words otherwise laid down by Lambeth Council which were very well-meaning. So they were married and it was such a triumph really, even though in reality they’ve been married for years. Then we were in the venue. Roof-top, exclusive, purring glass and shiny burnt chestnut, swarming with champagne and canapés. Conrad made a speech in French. It was all utter Heaven. Just one poem, just one speech, no waiting around for photographs or agonising sit-down dinner. We agreed that Lord Arrowby should become Royal. He agreed too. I said, ‘Let’s do Royal relations greeting,’ which is my contribution to the Christmas run-up this year. Peck, peck, curtsey. Lord Arrowby said, ‘What if an heir to a throne is meeting a Queen Dowager? Who takes precedence? I think we should know.’ Thus the administrative mind. You can see how he rose so high. Then I was rehearsed in Handel’s ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ by Harry Rollo himself. The pauses, he said, are as important as the notes. Silence shapes the mu.   Harry would have liked Handel to have had more than one thing happening at once but there’s not much that can be done about it now. I think it was probably the age. Mercury Mr Kitten had a brain-wave for a group photo of the WAGS, which I was desperate to be in as were quite a few others regardless of qualification, such as having a big-time footballer-equivalent intimate companion with masses of money, or indeed any companion at all. I can’t think of anything better than WAG-dom apart from being Royal of course. So much less worry and strain that the big-time footballer role. Finally Reggie Cresswell said that Sophia Loren had taught herself not to groan every time she bent over once she reached the age of 60. This is the secret of eternal youth.

 

The Sacred Tapestry Coat by Dries of Lord Arrowby

The Sacred Tapestry Coat by Dries of Lord Arrowby

The Furred Greatness of Rufus Pitman

The Furred Greatness of Rufus Pitman: Hat in Hand with Feather 

The Dress Beneath the Coat: Lord Arrowby's Celebration Jacket

The Dress Beneath the Coat: Lord Arrowby’s Celebration Jacket

Another Exclusive Collection Item

Another Exclusive Collection Item

The Cake: Not Quite Sure why There are Three in the Marriage Chamber

The Cake: Not Quite Sure why There are Three in the Marriage Chamber

 

 

 

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December At Last Can Happen

Wednesday 18th December 2019

December did begin of course but this year there was no moment as if a bell had rung and at once Christmas sprang forth from the place where it had been lurking all year. That happened several years ago as I was leaving the British Library one lunchtime and an amateur group were playing The Shepherds’ Lament by Berlioz in the vestibule and Christmas began.

This year the election kept Christmas at bay. Plus I’ve been wracked in the final stages of property negotiations re: my lands in the Far West. In short mineral interests are back on the cards and the terrible devastation of the Earth that I might have more face, hair, outfits and antiques. Others benefit too, of  course, in different ways. Not just me, Adrian Edge. From that perspective you will understand that the final hurdle was to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn.

But now Long-Bailey looms with her fearful specs. I’m a little trembly. How long can it go on? I was born with Mrs Dinner rushing out from the lodge to curtsey every time I passed with the Gay Mother in the half-timbered car – well, not quite. She remained indoors carefully putting away all the linen and tea-towels the Gay Grandmother had given he. Keeping for best – in other words, never.

What to do about those less fortunate while those born to lands and minerals thrive?

Meanwhile, the glory of December has been the Conrad/René wedding. How can I even dare approach such a wonder? I do not dare. I’m putting it off.

Rufus Pitman had already given, early in the month, a fabulous function to mark the visit of German Royal Relations. That means a long-standing German friend from the university world if you look at it from a non-Gay point of view. We were also honoured with the presence of Parisian Gay Royalty.

Everyone’s Royal if you try hard enough.

What an evening! Harry Rollo did a magical impression of a friend of his aunt being asked where she lived. Much of it was pure sound conveying the Upper Class occupying space. ‘Where do you live, Mrs Courtney-Wildman?’ So she goes: ‘Well, you see…..had to find somewhere with trees… no 11 bus.. simply marvellous… 1942… Dunkirk absolutely ghastly… . really out of the question… lawst a leg…. got rid of the laurel hedge… perfectly awful War…. ‘ Somehow all this culminated in ‘East Putney.’ As rendered by Harry it made perfect sense. He and Mercury Mr Kitten had been in Helsinki. In fact they were in transit from the airport, hadn’t even been home. In Helsinki there were many factions and there’d been a failure to appoint a viola player. A new line is being taken on Sibelius which is that he didn’t compose for the last 50 years of his life in order to remain sober. It was the composing that drove him to drink.  Who knew?

Rufus and I were v. busy picking over the goings-on in Darmstadt c1876. Will anyone ever get to the bottom of how the Battenburgs and the Hesse-Darmstadts are related? As a going-away present Rufus lent me Hugo Vickers’ Life of Princess Alice, mother of the Duke of Edinburgh. Her mother was Hesse-Darmstadt. Her aunt was the Tsarina. It’s the Coburg story all over again. Someone should look into it. These small-time German Houses had an amazing knack for getting onto all the best Thrones, sometimes with not entirely pleasant consequences.

In parting I did Royal Relations parting (or greeting) which is peck, peck, curtsey in one continuous movement. V.difficult to do. Especially after 3 or 4 bottles of champagne. But it’s my contribution to  Christmas 2019.

I should add that this event was vegetarian. But still radiant. Because Raj Zoroaster has gone vegetarian. I’d got it into my head he was born vegetarian but he can’t have been. I’m afraid it’s racist, one’s ignorance of the sub-continent. Anyway, Reggie Cresswell and Lord Tanza were pleased. They’ve been touring endlessly, a bit like Elton John but much rarer venues.

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I Shall Say as Little as Possible

Saturday 14th December 2019

Our great Nation. I know many, even Poor Little Rich Gays, are bitterly disappointed by the events of yesterday. Joshua Baring foresaw a hung parliament, Royston and Prince Dmitri were in trepidation. The Multis (oh yes, there’s been speaking) had no doubts whatsoever – which I suppose is why they became what they afterwards became. Never any doubts at least as far as the Nation’s shape is concerned.

All I can say is: there must always be diamonds, and cars at the door and Greatnesses going forth towards them. People can do better than a B&Q front door.

I feared being wheeled in a cart to Brent Cross, where I was informed the first guillotines were to be set up – just to get started in guillotining. Or at least a family billeted upon me who would burn all my furniture.

Our Great Nation. Our glory has always been huge change without bloodshed, destruction or upheaval. Hence we got ahead in the 19th while other countries were still having revolutions. Now we must face another change with nothing to fall back on but the greatness of our Nation, We fought to halt it. Nobody can say it’s a sensible thing to do. But, in truth, the battle was lost some time ago, probably in September when the opposition parties failed to unite to oust Boris Johnson.

By the way, I longed to have confab with Rachel, the Prime Ministerial sister, at the Literary Review party last week. She was much involved with Dainty Lady TV, you know. Her husband does pieces to camera for Dainty in the same way that I do. Yes! I’m that close to Downing Street.

But I couldn’t get near her for toadies.

We must try to insert Poor Little Rich Gays into Downing Street – to advise, for ££££… general thinking, clothes, hair, curtains… Poor Little Rich Gays have so much to offer.

I suppose, should anything happen to ‘Boris’ – it is a worry because he’s very fat and hunched. I do hope doctors are crawling all over him – that funny old father will take over.

One year ago, Royston door-stepped the old father at the National Portrait gallery announcement event for their new refurb – and got a coup. The reason ‘Boris’ had to stand down in the leadership election in 2016 was Nick Boles hid his phone.

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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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