The Private Dining Room at the Ivy

Thursday 16th November 2017

Anthony Mottram and I took the Private Dining Room at the Ivy to mark jointly our 60th Birthdays, a venture never before attempted by me – I mean a private dining room for 60 where you are the host, or one of them.  ‘Are you enjoying it?’ Merle Barr inquired. She was in an incredible burnt orange top, geometric, self-supporting techno fabric. ‘You’re looking worried.’  Well, it’s worrying looking worried Genevieve Suzy was in an incredible 40s evening housecoat, bought especially. She was not the only Greatness present. How the staff poured the drink. I was in a new Topman weekend check suit, with lengthened jacket (a departure from the jackette) but with spider trews. My shirt was lace in a teal shade, also from Topman.  There was much comment. I tried to get a ‘body’ to wear underneath it. But none were to be had. ‘It’s like sitting next to Jayne Mansfield,’ Robert Nevil remarked. He referred to that film star’s revealing decolletage in her day. Eventually she was decapitated in a car accident. Robert Nevil had a book years ago with a photo purporting to show the actual gruesome scene, over which he used to pore for hours. It could have been anything really.

Anthony Mottram and I made speeches: the great thing is we think alike. Without collaboration we had concocted matching speeches – praising and embracing each other’s brilliance and utter hell and nightmare; down with gush and lovely people. I added in a bit about not being Robert Peston, after the Polperro incident and then catalogued our great contribution to life as she is known – Anthony Mottram and I over 46 years. Front syllable lopping, that’s lopping the front syllables off words,  inserting ‘lady’ into sentences unexpectedly and turning into typing refined speaking as practiced widely in the post-War years by those aspiring socially. Afterwards Rufus Pitman and Reggie Cresswell passed up a note which I thought very grand, as if it were a real pre-War dinner with Emerald and Wallis and the King. It said, ‘But we think your greatest achievement is the reconsideration of the genitive pronoun, as in ‘Lady’s Portrait’ and ‘Evesham’s Vale’ ‘Devonshire’s Duke’ etc’. I’d quite forgotten. How could I? Actually it was Val who started that. He heard of someone in India who said, ‘Lady’s Portrait.’ Also, come to think of it, we’ve translated the London tube stations into French, German and Italian without system, plus some just having ‘Ma’ added as in ‘Mapiccma’ or ‘MaBond’ or simply lopped as in ‘Farm’, or pronounced as by a foreign speaker as in ‘Lie-cester Square.’ When you’ve done so much, I suppose it’s hard to remember it all.

Plots and undercurrents of course. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been a proper Poor Little Rich Gay occasion: only that morning certain people had attempted to contrive a massive weather storm to wipe out the whole event. They failed. The week before there had been further hiss and spit over the fence as it were and rivalry and conduct: Poor Little Rich Gays are not given to agonising as to where their loyalties lie but found all the same that it did not suit them to cross the bridge. Then to the actual dinner: Matt Driver had been shopping at Margaret Howell. Laura Malcolm’s level of outrage at a £200 shirt increased rapidly, as staff continued to pour. ‘I’m earning so much money,’ Matt Driver proclaimed. Meanwhile Genevieve Suzy was trying to penetrate the Ivy Club next door. That’s the place to be: as you may remember, I moved heaven and earth to get in there when it first opened, only to recoil with horror at the decor. Angus Willis accompanied Genevieve in her assault: ‘But I’m Dainty Lady TV‘s Chief Executive,’ she hissed. ‘I’m known! I’m known! I must ascend to the terrace.’ On absolute stoney ground did her words fall. Back in the venue staff were busy pouring. Some young ladies were found to be of interest to the older men for possible club drinks elsewhere later on. Merle Barr acquired a stain. A Brexit spat was brewing between Royston King and Fergus Strachan. They thought each other morons. Joshua Baring and Finn Magnus, the hot boy doc, were sharing boyfriend wisdom: I mean, you know how young people talk: a sort of living agony aunt combined with Jackie magazine but as it happened to you. Joshua also covered Elizabethan embroidery. Matt Driver appeared: he seemed to be crawling on the floor. There had been so much pouring by this time. The topic still Margaret Howell: or maybe it was me, worried that Topman wasn’t good enough. ‘What’s wrong with Topman?’ I wailed, gesturing to my own new weekend check Topman suit. ‘It looks cheap,’ Matt Driver said flatly. Poor Little Rich Gays were delirious actually. They were in their element, making a terrific racket.

Picking over the party afterwards with Anthony Mottram, we agreed it had passed in a blur. One whirred round the room, attending to the guests. But Poor Little Rich Gays were fired up, doing a noble impression of never having been to the Ivy before: the panelled room was agreeable and friendly, or became so by the time our guests had finished with it. A friend of Anthony Mottram’s had said me, ‘I must see more of you. You’re quite crazy.’ 76 bottles had been consumed. Suddenly a thought occurred. How extraordinary! ‘Isn’t it strange how quickly we’ve lost sight of the main purpose of the party?’ ‘What was that?’ Anthony Mottram asked. ‘Why – a display of wealth and power. We’ve quite forgotten.’

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On Foot in Cornwall at 93

Thursday 2nd November 2017

Landhydrock was the object for the second day in creepy Cornwall. It’s an Elizabethan National Trust home, in fact burned down mostly in the late 19th and reconstructed lavishly with central heating and every known comfort. The Robartes family had money, thank God.

The National Trust have re-located the car park to somewhere outside the estate boundary and not provided any road signs. So the Official Car was whirring round in something of a temper to begin with. Once, finally, able to park,  a buggy was spoken of for conveyance to the house, but the Gay Mother wouldn’t hear of it. It was easily half a mile. A good approach although wearisome because you got the full experience of the demesne of Landhydrock and its commanding position at the head of a valley which you wouldn’t do if just zooming up in a motor. I suppose you could call it ‘slo-Stately visiting’ like ‘slo food’. The house of course is low-lying. ‘It’s very manageable,’ I said. The Gay Mother didn’t agree. ‘It looks huge to me.’ I always like to reach out to a Stately and make it my own as well as establish that as people we are rather more upstairs than down. The Gay Mother has no interest in this approach which is disappointing. I like it to be known that I’m one of them, landed, lodge and gates etc.

The Gay Mother paraded all 50 of the rooms, fraternising with the guides who were determined she should take the lift as well as being often considerably older than her. She was allowed to keep her stick which prompted her to recall the Rokeby Venus episode. But there was nothing like that in the house to slash. It’s hideous really but incredibly great in its completeness and thumping top drawer craftsmanship in the endless panelling and wooden archways. Everybody says it’s a happy house, even though it burnt down. By irony it was in the creamery that we made the biggest connection with our own family for there were butter balls displayed. The Gay Granny made butter balls. I said loudly, ‘That was all she did. Apart from knitting dishcloths.’ Otherwise she sat in the Study in the mornings and lay on the sofa in the drawing room after lunch, except when doing committee work of course. Which she did a lot.  Once she found her coffee cup under the drawing room sofa where she’d parked it the day before. Staff, failing to crawl on the drawing room carpet, had not discovered it.

While in the creamery somebody mentioned clotted cream. ‘No such thing,’ the Gay Mother said. ‘There’s cream or ream.’ Well, that was something new. I never knew that. Did you?

We went into the Steward’s Room. ‘This is …. ‘s room,’ she said at once, referring to our own ‘steward’ although we call him a land agent and he doesn’t have a room in any of our properties. I sent him a picture of ‘his’ room, though which he liked.

So we were linked after all.

Then it was the National Trust soup lunch in the old stable or wherever, with tiresome mummies belligerently changing their toddlers’ nappies all round as we lunched, before the half mile walk back to the car. We passed the buggy by the porch and the Gay Mother waved her stick at it. ‘I haven’t been to Polperro for 85 years,’ she said, so off we went. Awful car park, madly expensive and aggressive re: not being allowed to give your ticket to anyone else and cameras watching. No information as to how far to walk. We rounded a corner – massive vista stretching as far as the eye could see, no sign of nooky wooky Cornish fishing village. ‘How far is it?’ the Gay Mother enquired but battled on. It was .75 kilometres. Polperro – why not knock it down and re-build with more space between the buildings? So nooky – and wooky. The boiled down essence of nooky-wooky, although not beamy.

A member of the public approached in Polperro: ‘Excuse me, are you on the telly?’ ‘No, I’m not Robert Peston,’ I said, trying to keep pleasant. But really, it is likely that Robert Peston would be in Polperro on a Wednesday wearing Topman fun slacks in tartan (spray on), a faux linen dress coat also by Topman in silver grey and carrying a second-hand Designer clutch-cum-brief case by Lancel?

So that completed the Cornish visit.

Landhydrock: Not that Big

Landhydrock: Not that Big

Nice Carpet in the Dining Room at Landhydrock

Nice Carpet in the Dining Room at Landhydrock

Light-Switches at Lanhydrock: Aiming to Vintagise my Own Light Switches Soon

Light-Switches at Lanhydrock: Aiming to Vintagise my Own Light Switches Soon

The Steward's Room, Landhydrock. We have a Steward too, but We Call him a Land Agent

The Steward’s Room, Landhydrock. We have a Steward too, but We Call him a Land Agent

Classic Boudoir at Landhydrock: Complete and of Its Time

Classic Boudoir at Landhydrock: Complete and of Its Time

Landhydrock: One of the Drawing Rooms

Landhydrock: One of the Drawing Rooms: Odd Arrangements of Furniture 

Landhydrock: the Butter Balls as Made by the Gay Granny

Landhydrock: the Butter Balls as Made by the Gay Granny

Polperro: for Heaven's Sake

Polperro: for Heaven’s Sake

Polperro: Taking Nooky Wooky a Bit Too Far

Polperro: Taking Nooky Wooky a Bit Too Far

Goodbye to Cornwall: the Pre-Dinner View

Goodbye to Cornwall: the Pre-Dinner View

 

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Three Days Near Looe

Sunday 29th October 2017

Astonishing range of topics from the Gay Mother within minutes of arrival in the Far West: Edwina Mountbatten much to the fore; how wizened and aged she was when seen at the garden party shortly after the War – the biog reveals that the Royal Family were displeased with her over the Paul Robson affair but she was displeased with them; the frozen prawn cupboard at Tesco in a terrible muddle and remained so despite complaint; the marauding pheasants, of course, and the connected visit of the friend of Prince William’s who’d wanted to know about her Euphatorium Ligustrinum (it is the most sacred bush); not to mention, the Iron Age settlements on the Moor and Pendle Moon’s book about Partition, which had to be ordered specially.

We took a gruelling tour of horrid, creepy Cornwall with its poison icing of money and pedigree dogs. But first was a small rellie lunch for my birthday at the Gastro Pub, a visit to the garden of the ancestral home, a harvest festival evensong and Cousin Teddy’s memorial exhibition of paintings followed by outdoor windy lunch. All that branch of the family were eccentric and buried themselves in their house (talk about rambling, but only one generation back in fact) far down in the river valley, writing novels, constructing works of philosophy and painting pictures, caring nothing whether anyone took any notice. Cousin Lunetta got so that she wouldn’t leave that fastness even for a family funeral, let alone a wedding. Yet Cousin Paquita’s father had been intimate with two kings and it was said her mother corresponded privately with Her Present Majesty in her capacity as a White Witch. Cousin Teddy’s Italian grandfather is buried at San Miniato and was a grandee of Firry. One of the Italian aunts was granted the privilege of being able to copy at the Pitti. So they were in the world once but left it. Cousin Teddy’s paintings are covetable when in pewter and sea shades, the green not so good. Too yellow. Landscapes of our beloved places in the Far West. I’m angling to get 4 in the auction, the Gay Mother was given one. In gilt frames, they’ll give the home an ancestral feel and importance at reasonable cost.

So on to sinister Cornwall. We’d quite forgotten Toilet (or Looe) is a big place. The hotel was strangely impenetrable. There was a howling gale and I was anxious to get the Gay Mother, at 93, in. But there was no front door. Just a glassed in veranda full of people having afternoon tea. It turned out you were meant to barge through the door in the glass and manoeuvre selves and luggage around the tea-takers. I got a bit snappy. I’ve never known a hotel more difficult to get into or out of as a matter of fact. A back door was revealed but to get to it you had to pass through the dining room and many passages with squeezy fire-doors. It took me three trips to insert my outfits into the hotel. Trying to hang them up in the room I became overwrought and thought I couldn’t go on.

The one thing the Gay Mother wanted to do was walk in the garden with its sea view in the gale. So that meant another great blast of air for the tea-takers. A wag had been at work. There was a fat man in plaster sitting on a seat; although quite unbelievable as a human being and not a surprise after the first sighting we still jolted every time we saw him. A watering-can watering glass droplets and a cement pig also featured as optical illusions. The next day the Gay Mother announced that we were to visit a church visible from the hotel across several valleys. She said there might be some tablets to some of our remote ancestors. We set off across a terrific field sloping violently towards the sea. My bootees were soaked through. Then there was a stile, cruelly configured so that one of 93 couldn’t climb over it. The desired church was still in view but there was nothing for it but to go back the way we’d come, except the Gay Mother cunningly worked out that by tacking along the bottom of the field and up the other side from the one we’d come down, it would be less steep. When we got back to square one, it turned out we were to walk just as far in the other direction, down an abandoned lane, past an abandoned farm, then all the way back again. No explanation given. At last lunch but the hotel was packed with vicious retired so we had to perch on drawing room arm chairs. Now we attempted the church in the Official Car. But it was brutally locked. We sat in the churchyard for a bit wondering how there could be so many dead in such a tiny place right by the sea. The ancestors with their tablets (if indeed there) will have to wait, possibly for ever, for will the Gay Mother ever go back? Then it was on to the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery to get another Euphatorium Ligustrinum for one of her neighbours plus a silver birch for where the box used to be and one other plant – can’t remember what.

 

Wicked Stile, Impossible for One of 93

Wicked Stile, Impossible for One of 93

Path Along Which We Walked

Path Along Which We Walked

The Longed-Off Church

The Longed-For Church

Yes, But What if you Just Want to Visit the Church?

Yes, But What if you Just Want to Visit the Church? 

Creepy, Menacing Cornwall

Creepy, Menacing Cornwall, From the Hotel Bedroom 

Sea-View

Sea-View

 

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Reggie Cresswell’s Triumphant Ceramic Launch

Wednesday 18th October 2017

Constanza Elford, Reggie’s Publicity Czar, said Reggie had been seen swaying graciously up the street, bearing his new ceramic, or part of it. Would it crash to the ground? Agony. But just right for the new ceramic which everybody agrees pushes to new boundaries including the boundaries of its own existence, as has never been done before. How can a ceramic be so vividly there yet disappear at the same time? All the rules are broken. Reggie has been telling everybody that a village in Berkshire with a peculiar name was to feature somehow, but in the event there is no sign of any village, nor indeed any artistic anchorage such as is normally found in a work of art. Yet the rhythm of assembly and dissolution somehow resolves into a shape and an elegant harmony. Some have clamoured for more ceramic, for a sequel as it were, but Reggie’s ceramic is complete in its incompleteness.

All the world assembled in the same suite of rooms by Robert Adam as the last time Reggie launched a ceramic. ‘Princess Galitzin, do you know Joshua Baring?’ ‘Guinevere Pelham, do you know Joshua Baring?’ So I seemed to be saying more than once. If I could remember who anyone was. Rufus Pitman made brilliant remarks. Joshua Baring disappeared. Robert Nevil was with Lady Eastbourne, who always leaves early. Guy Bostock appeared looking v. spruce in a spray-on jumper. He was accompanied by a charming young man who knew me. I felt completely at home although I didn’t know him which was awful. I don’t remember what he said, but someone people ray out enthusiasm and interest. The content isn’t important. Rufus thought this man is the one Guy is going marry but it wasn’t. But maybe now Guy will switch just because Rufus said… Lord Arrowby was telling Joshua Baring that he’s a nice person. They’ve never got on since the affair of the teeth, but who now remembers what Joshua said about Lord Arrowby’s teeth? It can’t have been that bad. And the lordly teeth are universally acknowledged to be outstanding. It was Lord Arrowby’s birthday that very day. So he deserved special treatment. I explained to him that he’d been talking to a Graham Sutherland owner without knowing it. He doesn’t like that kind of thing. Despite rationing as to drink, I was soon deranged. ‘But you didn’t mention Reggie’s ceramic on television,’ I said to a leading ceramic buyer, with what was supposed to be a playful upward glint. ‘And you are?’ the leading ceramic buyer said. There were various other things that went wrong.

There was another key in which the party played which was all Reggie’s friends from beyond the world of ceramics who might just have heard of the North Circular Road even if they’ve never seen it. There’s Basil who was an early mobile phone user, later dealt in vintage American cars with wings and teeth and now is a film agent; also has a wife, possibly. Basil is absolutely marvellous, endlessly invigorated and renewed, reality completely at his command. Marcel had come all the way from San Francisco, where he is wistful and dreamy. It was like a miracle, seeing him again after all these years.

At this party I became entangled with Kernow Hellizon re: the next party i.e. the launch of Kernow’s latest work. Rather like discussing the menu for dinner while having lunch: very wrong. But I couldn’t grasp that it’s not to be at the Notting Hill Guinness lady’s but another Guinness manifestation in Holland Park. W14 as a matter of fact. This went on and on.

Finally Reggie made a speech in rhyming couplets. He always does this and it’s perfect because the problem of a pre-written speech sounding stilted is overcome. Besides Reggie’s brilliant at rhyming couplets. You can see the rhymes coming without being at all sure what they’ll be nor quite believing them when they come. Incredible anticipation.

 

 

 

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Otherwise in Crete

Sunday 15th October 2017

We had the moonlit beach barbecue and it was magical. Even Charlie Hurling stopped sending surprise film clips of fornicating trees and a mystery penis that sprang from nowhere and whacked some American 1950s cherry-pie jivers to the ground. Merle Barr was concerned. ‘He spends a lot of time looking at pornography,’ she remarked. Merle was i/c the kitty. But on the beach, the kitty melted away in the moonlight. I was wondering how much it would cost not to be in the kitty. Merle’s head for figures was alarming. Once she commanded millions, as Head of Children’s Speaking. ‘I know money,’ she said. She had to fight in her corner. With male gays at her night and day, making lewd remarks at every opportunity. Even a ordinary bush beside the road provoked a lewd remark.  It wouldn’t have gone down well on TV. There’d have been complaints but Charlie Hurling can’t help it.

Walnuts were Angus Willis’s main theme for the Cretan food this time. Walnuts were huge. Chopped into the yoghurt dip for the barbecued aubergine whip, for instance. A close second was octopus, of which Angus is the world leader in cooking. Freeze, then boil then barbecue. Nobody else knows this. Third was rabbit. Fourth was Beans Gigante: no not butterbeans. Incredibly rare and local. The grilling and detail on the beach was a marvel – not least as there’s absolutely nothing in the Cretan shops.

Another day, Charlie Hurling said he only wanted to go to the place on the cover of the guide book Merle had. But he didn’t come to Arani, where Merle pointed out a prospect of two apses at the back of a church – very simple, off-white, absolutely no ornamentation. Just like the picture on the cover of the guide book although not exactly, but near enough. ‘He’d never have known,’ Merle said.  Then Charlie left early for London, saying the rabbit was off, and his beloved Cloudless had been writhing all night and back and forth to the facilities. Later from London he lobbed more penis pictures while enquiring after the wedding equipment of Fern’s husband. Luckily she was once a nurse and has seen everything.

After the barbecue, Angus’s dog bowl or possibly a vintage metal container for chicken feed, missing its handle – anyway it went missing. Had been brought specially from London for styling, Angus was raging round the other Cretan village houses, when word came from his own Cretan village house that it had been found. So that was a mercy. I showed Cloudless Brahms the arrangements in my bedroom, especially the curious half-doors of the wardrobe that made the clothes look like horses stabled. Also the socket mounted out of reach half way up the wall. I knew he’s be interested being in the style world.  In the middle of the night, The Archers theme tune followed by an actual epi of The Archers blared from Charlie and Cloudless’s bedroom. Their feet could be seen through the unclosed door. But no sign of bed socks to match the matching iPhone cover, hat and sponge bag with which Archie was equipped in the daytime. We lunched on the last day at the Fontini Restaurant hard by the sea. Upon arrival I found that I had no clothes for lunch. No trousers, no top, just beach wraps and towels. Miss Miracle kindly lent me a cardy. It became apparent from the stiffness of the button holes that she’d never done it up. ‘I see now the advantage of clothes being unmarked,’ she said, for the first time from the outside, as it were, being able to view the full extent of how her cardy was marked. She was kind enough to add: ‘And how you are never marked.’ I was pleased. Because, as we know, I am afflicted by marks most terribly. I’ve got two at the moment in fact.

Later, as we lounged on the beach in the tragic, thrilling last rays of summer sun before London and the winter, Merle confined that she’d had a dream. Dinner guests were arriving but there was a hippo in her garden. The guests peered out and discovered further wildlife such as not normally found in Islington – lions, tigers etc. ‘It’s rather hazardous in your garden,’ they said, making light of it. But Merle was in a bind trying to think of how to get rid of the hippo. It could crash through the wall and straight into her dinner party. I suppose this was a hostess-anxiety dream. Even so, it would be frightful to find dangerous animals unaccountably on the premises just as one was about to begin service, especially hippos which crash through walls and are really horrid.

Once the kitty was settled up – I owed €97.42 – we all returned to London by air.

Beach Barbecue: the Actual Barbecue

Beach Barbecue: the Actual Barbecue

Beach Barbecue: Peppers to be Barbecued

Beach Barbecue: Peppers to be Barbecued

Octopus in Final Stages of Barbecue

Octopus in Final Stages of Barbecue

Beach Barbecue: Pre-Styling

Beach Barbecue: Pre-Styling

Angus Willis's Dog Bowl that was Lost then Found. That which Was Lost was Found

Angus Willis’s Dog Bowl that was Lost then Found. That which Was Lost was Found

Moonlit Beach Barbecue's Magic

Moonlit Beach Barbecue’s Magic

Charlie Hurling: Matching iPhone cover from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Charlie Hurling: Matching iPhone cover from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Charlie Hurling: Matching Sponge Bag

Charlie Hurling: Matching Sponge Bag

Charlie Hurling: Hat to Match iPhone cover and sponge bag. Taken from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Charlie Hurling: Hat to Match iPhone cover and sponge bag. Taken from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Typical Charlie Hurling whatsApp photo shocker

Typical Charlie Hurling whatsApp photo shocker

Curious Stabling for Frockage in my Room at the Cretan Village House

Curious Stabling for Frockage in my Room at the Cretan Village House

Socket Half Way up Wall Required Upending of Vase which had Formerly Held Those Lovely Flowers

Socket Half Way up Wall Required Upending of Vase which had Formerly Held Those Lovely Flowers

 

 

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It Was a Perfect Day

Monday 9th October 2017

So finally it came. On Sunday 1st October, in a simple Cretan Village House, I took 60 years. It was a great relief, after much dread, when it came. Cloudless Brahms did a special flower arrangement. He is one of Shoreditch’s leading flower arrangers, amongst many other things and no longer buys Designer Labels, although with finger brilliantly on the pulse of fashion. It was incredible. I felt more alive, not less, as logic would dictate.

Merle Barr suggested a gorge. ‘It’s your birthday,’ she said. ‘You must decide.’ Well, I was quite decided on the gorge. And what a coup it turned out to be. I took the wheel and only ladies accompanied, Merle herself and Fern, Angus’s sister. Both played brilliantly the role of ladies in a car being driven by a man. ‘You’re too close to the edge… I feel queasy… why have you slowed down?…. you’re going too slowly… you’re in the wrong gear… I feel queasy… go faster…’ At journey’s end, Fern said she was beginning to recover. I was not sure how we would get back, me having started out more or less able to drive. In the cement village before the gorge, Merle said, ‘There’s a tourist bus outside that restaurant.’ So we went to the other one, which was cement that had once been painted yellow ochre. There was a Cretan boy playing with a puppy and several fat men way off fitness’s peak having Sunday lunch, one also blotchy. A woman was on her feet and serving but spoke no English so the blotchy man had to be consulted, as well as the puppy boy, who howled ‘No’ very firmly in English when asked if he could speak English. Greek salad was agreed upon, despite absence of English, as well as water and beer. The woman appeared with a huge bowl of the salad which we set about dividing between us when she appeared with two more – one each. Then she loomed with beans of various kinds. I said, ‘She’s going to bring an uninvited rabbit next.’ Luckily she didn’t because we were facing a huge Angus Willis dinner (only one of Britain’s leading chefs) back at the Cretan Village House. But she did bring water melon and raki. There was talk as to what it would all cost. Merle and Fern betted on €12 – and they were right.

Then we went to the gorge. It was like Germany or Scotland rather than Crete. Dank and ferny although there were no ferns or conifers. I had high outfit satisfaction. I was buoyant enough on my 60th birthday for the Prada flower power t-shirt (I didn’t get the matching shorts from the Prada Factory shop in Montevarchi, Italy – regret. I could carry them off now, in my 60s. What an ensemble that would have been for the gorge!). Merle had mentioned suitable hiking wear but I had taken no notice. She had a rucksack. But it was just a muddy path, although very gorge-like with rock veering above. There was a little chapel with many icons. Val would have said it was a Chapel of Love, as, so he claims, Barbara Cartland proclaimed of many chapels that she saw with a particularly sincere and moving upward purr in her voice. But I wonder, in retrospect, whether it wasn’t a Last Chance to Be Spared in the Gorge Chapel. Further on we met a Polish couple from Harlesden. We wondered, out of earshot, whether he was Roma. Then suddenly they weren’t there. There were many interesting plants in the gorge, which at home are choice garden specimens. ‘We must climb down,’ said Merle. The whole tempo of the gorge suddenly changed, as if someone had changed the points on a railway line. Ladders, scree, precarious bridges. On a precipice some Spanish people wanted their photo taken. They were insistent as to angles. I had to stand near the edge and put my brief case/clutch bag by Lancel down. ‘Throw off that bag if you stumble,’ Merle commanded, thinking now of danger. ‘Save yourself, not the bag.’ As if…  a violent final push and we were at the bottom of the gorge.  It was like a river bed. But how to get out again? The path was not clear. To go back the way we had come would have been tedious, if we could find even that way. A cleft between boulders possibly had been trodden before, offered hope. To get to it an especially smooth rock slope had to be conquered, unlikely to be fatal, but tricky. With my Designer bag by Lancel (2nd hand from Vestiaire Collective), I was limited to one free hand so the only choice was to take a running leap. My new Zara slacks in honey beige made full contact but by a miracle weren’t marked. Paul Smith’s bootees slid and yapped with their own life. Only by my fingers, such as were not employed in keeping the bag by Lancel clear, did I cling on and without quite knowing how reach the top more or less horizontal. Then it was Merle’s turn. What a drama! It was more that we might not get out rather than die. On we forged, the clambering pathway continuing mercifully until a sign in Greek pointing the other way. But hope and excitement were mounting. How utterly thrilling to be at the bottom of a gorge without warning, in Crete, in an outfit, with a Designer bag, on my 60th birthday.

We got out and went to a particularly good Cretan village picked out by Merle. It was styled as tumbledown. In the cemetery Hitler had apparently been buried. Growing in the wall was a Marvel of Peru, as grown this year by the Gay Mother. Back at the Cretan village house we had a rabbit dinner by Angus Willis, outdoors with a big gale getting up and Miss Miracle, the daughter of Fern and niece of Angus, getting more than usually stained at the table. The last throws of summer and my birthday. It was a perfect day.

Cloudless Brahms - one of Shoreditch's Leading Flower Arrangers

Cloudless Brahms – one of Shoreditch’s Leading Flower Arrangers

The Cretan Birthday Gorge: Very Gorge-Like

The Cretan Birthday Gorge: Very Gorge-Like

The Gorge Chapel of Love

The Gorge Chapel of Love

My Bag by Lancel in the Gorge

My Bag by Lancel in the Gorge

Fern, Merle and Me, Adrian Edge, in Prada Flower Power, in the Gorge

Fern, Merle and Me, Adrian Edge, in Prada Flower Power, in the Gorge

The Village of Arani, Styled

The Village of Arani, Styled

HItler's Grave at Last? Buried in the Cemetery at Arani

HItler’s Grave at Last? Buried in the Cemetery at Arani

A Marvel of Peru Growing Wild at Arani

A Marvel of Peru Growing Wild at Arani

 

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Missing Pink

Friday 29th September 2017

Pink’s been and gone – or has it? Pink looked huge in the Spring.  Couldn’t be missed. Rack upon rack at Zara and elsewhere. But I didn’t catch it. The Summer flew away and with it pink. I didn’t even signal to dear readers the necessity for pink.

The horror of baggy and sacky still looms for the autumn though. The high houses are trying to push it. Let’s pray and pray the High Street doesn’t follow. How could they? The spray-on slacks and jackette look is the most flattering of my lifetime. Slim, slim, pared down and slim – we’ve seen it off once before, the threat of baggy. Prada is beyond belief. Gucci is loud blankets held on with belts. Barely even clothes. I went to Dover Street Market, now not in Dover Street. Completely mystifying. Grey, navy or black. Awful textures, cheap-looking. The idea is baggy trousers to just below the knee, giving the effect of a skirt, from which emerge starving stick legs ending in big boots. A tragic sack of a jumper hanging from emaciated shoulders. It’s a depression look for self-loathers and non-eaters.

Spring Pink Which I Missed at Zara

Spring Pink Which I Missed at Zara

More Missed Spring Pink at Zara

More Missed Spring Pink at Zara

But Autumn Sees Dirty Plum - Liberty

But Autumn Sees Dirty Plum – Liberty

Even a PInk Shoe at Liberty

Even a PInk Shoe at Liberty

Gucci Horror

Gucci Horror

Prada Sitting Down - Hiking Outfit

Prada Sitting Down – Hiking Outfit

More Prada Nightmare

More Prada Nightmare

Prada - What Can They be Thinking of ?

Prada – What Can They be Thinking of ?

Prada - I Don't Think So

Prada – I Don’t Think So

Wooly Plum for Autumn - Liberty

Wooly Plum for Autumn – Liberty

Someone Actually Wearing Tom Ford in Albemarle Street Pret

Someone Actually Wearing Tom Ford in Albemarle Street Pret

 

 

 

 

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Moira McMatron Left Normandy

Friday 15th September 2017

Nobody has ever left Normandy before. But Moira McMatron left Normandy although not until she’d sung her song about Miss Pineapple, charming, innocent and being worked off the back axle by her mother to lure paying men. Moira twirled her imaginary parasol and was a perfect picture. Then she left Normandy. Her sister’s back was broken at Jerez. She had to fly out.

The Laird and Lairdess also left but they were scheduled. Moira McMatron was put in the back of the Laird’s Toureng for transport to England, whence she would connect by air for Jerez. Through the back window she beamed and waved, still the perfect picture. Prior to departure, the Laird asked what is the difference between a warranty and a guarantee –  the answer is none. Before even that, at the day’s opening, he announced that he had bulimia and amnesia, which worked out well, because he ate then forgot to throw up, although it is questionable whether in that case he had either, because most people forget to throw up after eating.  The Lairdess was confined to her room without fail in the mornings until, at 11, she emerged completely finished and assumed a lounger. On the other hand, the Laird was underway much earlier; he said, Why does all left-wing food stick to the roof of the mouth, such as lettuce and peanut butter? In Waitrose, he’d asked for the Left-Wing Food section.

But they left Normandy. The Lairdess’s prosecco stock had been replenished in the glove compartment for the journey. Matt Driver was still marked as  ‘Matey Matt’, though, by the reduced party of me, Adrian Edge, Beamish O’Halloran and Laura Malcolm herself, of course. So ‘Matey Matt’ decided to age his chateau fragment by daubing it in cow pat and milk but Beamish took little notice. In the afternoon we found that a nearby supposedly whole chateau was open and couldn’t resist. But a country house visit in France is nothing compared to what it would be in England. This one had nothing in it. It was a modest family home. We were shown one medieval nook in a bedroom. ‘Et le salon?’ Laura snapped at the hapless girl-guide, as we were bundled off the premises and into the cider-selling department. Like yappy dogs, Laura and I jumped up in protest at what might have been the salon windows, to get a glimpse.  Ikea within, by the looks.

Later Laura’s cardy caught fire at dinner. ‘That’s my favourite cardy,’ she cried. But it was saved in time and continued in service, although slightly charred.

It was the next day that ‘Matey Matt’ began to dig a grave outside the front gate. Or perhaps the day after. The sun shone as he dug, but it didn’t shine when we went over to Villerville for a restaurant lunch with one who’d been a guest at the fete champetre. That’s how it is in Norman life – one function spawns another. The previous guest now hosts. We had canapes in her parlour. After the restaurant lunch she encouraged us to raid the town allotment. My designer handbag was stuffed with runner beans and we scuttled for the getaway car, just in time. Furious French allotmentiers were rumoured to be looming.

When the sun came out again, ‘Matey Matt’ continued his digging while Laura was in the kitchen. She said,  In London you can have tomatoes in entertaining different colours. There was a bizarre collective mis-memory as we watched Up Down after dinner. Roberts arrived back in Eaton Square, still dripping wet from having gone down in the Titanic. She might have been saved, but Milady was lost and there was only her jewel case to cling on to at all costs. Eventually Roberts had to be put away from the trauma. Rose said she’d been put away. A Seccie was got in to answer the letters of condolence and began stepping out with Captain James. Very wrong. Especially as she lived in Putney. But we were all quite certain it was Mr Bellamy she married in the end. We persisted with this idea even at the extremes of her courtship at the Café Royale and all through Captain James’s proposal of marriage and no sign of Mr Bellamy marrying her instead. We’d only viewed this epi a year or two before as the highlight of a classic Norman evening.

A New Bucket Donated by Me, Adrian Edge, to the Norman Chateau Fragment is Immediately Pressed into Unforeseen Service

A New Bucket Donated by Me, Adrian Edge, to the Norman Chateau Fragment is Immediately Pressed into Unforeseen Service

'Matey Matt's Pot Corner

‘Matey Matt’s Pot Corner

'Matey' Matt Digs a Grave - Right by the Front Gate

‘Matey’ Matt Digs a Grave – Right by the Front Gate

Laura's Cardy Caught Fire: But Saved in the Nick for Further Wear

Laura’s Cardy Caught Fire: But Saved in the Nick for Further Norman Wear

 

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En Normandie

Friday September 8th 2017

I took the Newhaven-Dieppe crossing this time to make a change: never again. No wifi and filthy food. Spent six hours in Samuel Beckett brown lounge of death. The Official Car was piled high with bagged outfits, some of which have subsequently gone missing. Where is my Paul Costello grey jumper, bought from TX Maxx last autumn for £9.99?  Also the Zara sub-Alexander McQueen black T-shirt with skull and roses print, about the same price? I think left at the Gay Mother’s. I feel like a desperate washwoman at the clothes’ line in a gale, outfits flying away in all directions, no ideah what’s going on re: wardrobe.

I’m going to go back to TX Maxx and see if they’ve got any more merino jumpers by Paul Costello for £9.99. It was a lovely little thing. Such a shape. But had lost its efficacy, gawn fuzzy, by March, if the truth be told.

Wools are such a trial.

The weather forecast for Normandy was dubious but a fete champetre was achieved regardless. But I never thought I’d be close to the Throne. All the white European British of the neighbourhood plus one American and one actual French who had to leave for New York, had been summoned. The table stretched as far as the eye could see and groaned with the famous pate de Usk, self-made by the Laird, an imperial salmon and all the tarts and elegances that grace the summer outdoor luncheon table at summer’s height in France.  Monet achieved the same at Giverny. It was not on this occasion that Laura Malcolm’s cardy caught fire, her favourite cardy. Beamish O’Halloran of the Mail gained 65 years at luncheon but said it would cost him dear. ‘I’ll be paying 40% taxes,’ he cried. Two other men at the table were considerably older than 65; one had purple hair and the other is living in an old factory heaped around with disused London buses. ‘Are you well off?’ Beamish said to one of them, causing a sensation. Beamish often causes a sensation. Was it a woman Sky TV presenter who often said, allegedly, stepping off the set, to any nearby cameraman, ‘Take a shower and report to my dressing room in ten minutes?’ She only wanted a little donation to her favourite charity when this story appeared in the Mail, or one like it. Such a nice lady, completely enthralled by Beamish, of course.

But can you believe who was at the lunch otherwise? Introduced by the man with purple hair? Yes! Close to the Throne. The sister of one who has fitted the Middletons!  The Gay Mother’s got a cardy by the sister, from when Cousin Barley worked there and we gained the sample sale, Aunt Lavinia and I. And also saw, while at the sample sale, the mega purring perfectly honed and very respectable German Euro-Gay who was the business head of the sister’s couture house and known to Joshua Baring. I could see he sensed danger and took on a very German look of imminent world war when I mentioned the name of Joshua Baring. Why? Anyway the Euro was dressed for duck-shooting, although in Upper Berkeley Street.

And that’s just the half of it. I gushed the story to the sister of the Gay Mother’s cardy and how one of its buttons fell off in the drawing room and we almost couldn’t find it which would have been disastrous because it was faceted jet. Otherwise it wasn’t necessary to speak to her, just to gaze. It never is necessary to speak to a connection. The connection is all. She throbbed with Royalty and the core of English life.

Then there was her husband. Blue-eyed, almost blond, weather-beaten, posh, plainly given to manly pursuits out of doors. ‘What do you do?’ I purred. ‘I’m a conservation builder,’ he said. Utter heaven. My favourite thing, light-touch conservation building work. I was fully engaged. Lime-plastering, reclamation yards, tongue-and-groove…. He knew a lime-plasterer in the Far West. I was sure they must exist. Such a thrilling confirmation. ‘What are you doing at the moment?’ I inquired. ‘We’re working at Windsor… must be finished before she comes back…’ ‘Who?’ ‘The Queen.’ I was on the floor. He was mending some steps for the Queen, in her private garden at Windsor.

I’m not surprised she chose him.

So double throne in one day and looks.

The Samuel Beckett Lounge of Death, Newhaven - Dieppe Ferry. Never Again

The Samuel Beckett Lounge of Death, Newhaven – Dieppe Ferry. Never Again

 

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Catapulted Straight to the Remote Marches from the London Bowl in London

Tuesday 5th September 2017

Harry Rollo gave a children’s performance at the London Bowl in London. He’s never deployed children before, particularly en masse. They stretched as far as the eye could see. I had high outfit satisfaction although in an old Prada factory shop white summer short-sleeved and Zara spray-ons in black. But nobody knew I was there. Not even Reggie Cresswell, who knows everything, so Harry says. It didn’t help that I couldn’t do backers nor the pre- in the Prince Gloom Room nor the interval in the Prince Gloom Room – owing to pressure of engagements. If it goes on like this, I’ll disappear altogether. On the other hand, rarity can be successful, but you don’t want to push it too far.

The children performed a fertility rite with Harry, under strict supervision of course and it was art. Some of them had the most incredibly challenging banging to do on a high platform in full view of everybody. It was vital that they wacked at the right moment. Harry was incredibly caring and they felt they could manage their tremendous roles. Then there was a perf of Harry’s own devising (the fertility rite was by another), about the stars and how the world started and what it was like in the early days – just so pure, floaty but rigorous. Princess Irina, Prince Dmitri’s sister, said she preferred it to the fertility rite. She’d devoted the day to watching Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 9 on Netflix, having never heard of Rupaul’s Drag Race at all until the day before.

I couldn’t even go to the hotel for the eats afterwards. I had to cavort directly to the remote Marches for Anneli Dumbarton-Nevil’s Sixtieth Birthday the next day. She is Robert Nevil’s sister. I changed into the Topman Limited Edition Queen Mother Powder Blue suitlette on arrival. As you know, (and what could be more topical with this new film out, God’s Own Country, about farming) farms are not especially tidy. In Robert Nevil’s mother’s day, cats swirled in the sink, and Morgan la Fay, the femme de menage, had never been known to penetrate beyond the kitchen whose floor she washed miserably only for it to be instantly churned with a 1st World War of gumboots and labradors. No wonder she died before her time.

But on the occasion of Anneli Dumbarton-Nevil’s Sixtieth Birthday the first thing you saw was a horse-box converted into a luxury toilet-block and then a massive marquee flung up on the lawn. It was to be a seated luncheon. I had no idea. The equestrian glamour element, brought in by Anneli, had prevailed although the raw drive of the farm persists, of course. Respectable relations had been summoned from Budleigh, with good braying voices, and the 104-year-old mother-in-law remained in her place for 8 hours. She said the first thing they taught her at school (this would have been in 1919) was how to knit. She’s remained a champion knitswoman ever since. Still knitting today but only small projects in case, as she says, she doesn’t live to complete them. Her grasp of the outlying villages of Birmingham is complete as well as which of her relations are not on speakers. They all speak to her.  She does not crave death but will take it when it comes. As she said last year, when it seemed there was nobody to look after her while Anneli and Dale were on holiday: ‘If I fall, I fall. Maybe nobody’ll come for me and that’ll be it.’

Anneli’s school friends were all at one table. Once they had each had their own pony. Anneli herself went to school on her pony. They may not have their own ponies now, but there was a distinct equestrian roar of hooves in the air, a sense of rears being whacked as mounted women took to the field in hot pursuit. Robert Nevil made an impertinent speech. He described the Clubhouse at the nearby airfield as a wife-swapping opportunity. He said that Anneli, aged 6 or so, had driven her pony right into the path of the cine camera that was supposed to be filming him and made horrid faces.  But it did no good, possibly merely provoked the horsewomen to drive their animals on even harder. Even, I, Adrian Edge, was not spared.  My tiny powder-blue suitlette, straining at the thighs, so commonplace in London – well, it had to be conquered. Later another horsewoman emerged, a key player in Anneli’s stable. She was up for knocking back until late into the evening. Her man was securely strapped to her side; he’d been living undiscovered in her street for years apparently and appeared to be reeling still from the thrilling shock of her discovery.

The other guests were neighbouring farmers and the tenant farmers, in the distinct Sunday best of the farmer, outfits gained from those country outfitters only found in country towns and unwillingly worn most intermittently. Their faces were red to begin with from their lusty farming and animal spirits transmitted from the animals and soon were even redder as Anneli administered the fizz. The statement pearls of the farmer’s wife spoke of a good tax-free easement to an electricity company, a sudden squirt of thousands. The tenant farmers were bulging with money, a father and two splendid sons; you could see it when they stood up and advanced gleaming on the buffet with frank, manly strides.

In the end, only the Budleigh cousins were upright, although growing less respectable by the minute, and ready for a second assault on the buffet. Returning the next day to London, the Official Car with Zenon driving lights was several times to be seen lurching to a sudden halt in gateways and lay-bys for the emergency emergence of Robert Nevil.

 

 

 

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