Public and Private

Sunday 22nd January 2023

In January the duties of the home come first although more engagements have been carried out than might appear.

Fabrics in my private bedroom have gone into a decline. Val is supposed to be edging the new piece of orange silk organza for the top end of the bed but the light bulb on his machine has gone.

We fight on. We fight to win.

The curtain has frayed in the sun and must be cut down.

Meanwhile I’ve been repairing the Indian cut-work bedspreads myself. Dreadful worry about the people who made them originally – such exploitation. All hand-stitched for which they would have got nothing. I’d forgotten about the white one in the drawer. It looks as if, about seven years ago,  I abandoned the task of sewing on new pieces of organza where the original backing had split. Well, I’ve got over that and it’s now back on the bed, but requiring constant vigilance. Where oh where are the white work specialists of yesteryear, especially in the Dutch 17th century – all those ruff-makers? Where are they when you need them?

The other, mauve cut-work bedspread will have to be re-edged. It’s taken about 3 weeks just to come up with a plan. Originally I thought to get more cotton organdie from Mucculloch and Wallis and have someone do it. But the hardest part of sewing, you know, is the cutting out. So some poor crone would have had to cut pieces on the bias (for edging this is vital) then sew them on by hand. Impossible. The cost. So my new direction is to acquire ready-made bias binding which is easily available and then see, believe it or not, if I can sew it on myself using Aunt Olive’s sewing machine which is in the dining room, posing as a table on which the TV rests.

The mauve cut-work bedspread is rather more robust than the white one under which I am lain at night now, feeling as though romping with the Turin Shroud or those 3 3/4 yards of black lace said to have belonged to the Madonna.

The beauty of fabrics – in so many ways the sacred part of the home.

But I tell you, it’s not easy to juggle all by oneself, with no staff. Acquisitions are still looking for bronzes and gilt-bronze for the hall shelf. I give hours to trawling the-saleroom.com then forget to bid. Or if remembering, go wrong. On Thursday I left a bid for an Empire inkstand – incredibly swirling, the main slab held up by winged horse-ladies etc. Now I’ve got to go to Hazlemere to fetch it. Just praying it won’t be horrid. Like a fool, I failed to bid for the pair of plain bronze vases with a single putti on each half way up which would have looked superb on my gilt brackets in the conservatory. They went for a manageable price. The previous week there was an obelisk in Ashford state with flowers inlaid I thought too much at £300 plus taxes. But now I find they go for £1000 plus from a dealer.

Anthony Mottram said, ‘Why do you want any more items for your shop?’ I said, ‘I’m thinking about a new sofa, or rather a George Smith sofa from eBay.’ Shopping never ends.  The more the home resembles a shop, the better.

I mustn’t forget the front bedroom (main guest) where new windows were installed and horrible thick white gunge put to fill where window meets wall. All that’s had to gouged out and it’s been a two-week battle to get a good straight edge. In fact I’ve had to settle for not entirely straight.

Marmalade production has also begun. Clothes, needless to say,  could not be overlooked while the sales in progress.

Looking back, I just don’t know how I’m getting through it all.

Hall Shelf - Acquisitions Still Struggling to Acquire. That Climbing Man £17 from National Gallery Shop, down from £26 in post-Christmas sale

Hall Shelf – Acquisitions Still Struggling to Acquire. That Climbing Man £17 from National Gallery Shop, down from £26 in post-Christmas sale

Hall Shelf Challenge

Hall Shelf Challenge

Front Bedroom (main guest). Best I can Do. Don't like the way new windows Stick out Into the Room like This. Edge Conspic

Front Bedroom (main guest). Best I can Do. Don’t like the way new windows Stick out Into the Room. Edge Conspic

Indian Cut-Work Bedspread - Frayed Edge Challenge

Indian Cut-Work Bedspread – Frayed Edge Challenge

My Private Bedroom: Frayed Curtain Horror

My Private Bedroom: Frayed Curtain Horror

My Other Indian Cut-Work Bedspread, Brought out from Storage

My Other Indian Cut-Work Bedspread, Brought out from Storage

Repairs to White Indian Cut-Work Bedspread. New Piece of Silk Organza Sown On

Repairs to White Indian Cut-Work Bedspread. New Pieces of Silk Organza Sewn On

 

 

 

 

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I Forgot One Thing…

Saturday 14th January 2023

 

A first in world history, the first human Christmas Tree. How could I forget? Created by the Maharajah, what’s more… not even in the European tradition of Prince Albert.

 

The World's First Living Christmas Tree. You too Might like to Spend Next Christmas LikeThis

The World’s First Living Christmas Tree. You too Might like to Spend Next Christmas LikeThis

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I Thought There was Nothing…

Saturday 7th January 2023

You may have noticed that this year my Christmas message was: no Christmas message.

Things aren’t the same since She went. Harry Rollo’s theory is that the whole world will now unravel starting with Margrethe Denmark who blundered with her younger son the minute Lilibet was gone, having never put a foot wrong for 50 years. Then there was Lady Susan…

But there were events, Despite the thick Christmas blanket, this year with added strangulation effect for fear of being struck down or even ‘restrictions’ as many crave.

For instance the Gay Mother bought a swede. She bought it herself from Tesco and was helped to carry it to her car in which she self-drove the swede home and made a soufflé out of it with the rest mashed and baked. With the swede she was well pleased.

After all we did have a Christmas tree. I found actual pine plants for sale in the Far West. The seller had had the brain wave of spraying fake frost on them. Only about 10″ high but a tree all the same and a living plant so can be planted out for growth. Four or five baubles were fixed to it by the Gay Mother which was as much as she could manage with her ancient fingers.

So that was Christmas. The bird came off all right.

Really Christmas is Nothing going Wrong – especially with the bird.

Another event was in France, where Laura Malcolm enquired where Frankie-Doreen kept her Fleur de Sel. It turned out she didn’t. Didn’t have any! Laura in meltdown. The Fleur de Sel outrage was re-enacted every day of the visit. On the way back, Laura Malcolm, Matt Driver and I, Adrian Edge, were in a cabin together on the over-night crossing – i.e. sleeping.  It was their cabin in which I was a hanger-on. But Laura liked the boarding-school effect and we built up a whole boys’ boarding school scenario in that cabin because Matt Driver was also at a boarding school. Poor little boys either hoping nobody would hear their sobs or else amusing themselves after lights-out, both singly and in groups.

The incredible thing is Matt Driver’s salary exceeds or equals that of any major CEO in the United Kingdom, Laura Malcolm is a bestselling novelist and as for me, Adrian Edge, I am Landed Gentry. Yet, there we were crammed into that cabin. I hope the public will take heart.

 

 

 

 

 

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Back to Back

Saturday 24th December 2022

Teetering even more on the brink in this season – will one be struck down? Will outfits be right? Will food be right? Will one meet present and card deadlines? Will one be joyful and glorious? Will the home be sparkling for Christmas?

Functions have been numerous and behind closed doors. At one, some arrivals from America caused love to break out amongst the native guests, helped by the minimal dress and massive gym build of one of them.

I took back to back Carol Services, so Once in Royal…, Oh Come All Ye… and ‘Hark…’ twice in a matter of hours. At St Bartholomew the Great, the Vicar announced that they’d switched on the boiler but it said, ‘No’. So conditions were polar. Not even the warmth of the manger could warm up that church.

But this is Christmas. I’ve said it before – there’s nothing joyous about Christmas and never has been. It isn’t just the Victorian sentimentality of Once in Royal or the melancholy cadences of almost all the carols, the whole thing is more a huddle around a tiny candle in a snowstorm, a glimmer of light seen far off in winter’s depths, a new beginning, but what will begin? As yet unknown…

Cars had been organised by Ed Jasper, the bedlinen expert, to convey the Gays to the North London restaurant from the Church, where the dinner was funded by him and Roland Mainflower. Ed is renovating and scheduled for the Greek house in January.  All the talk was of £1000s on restaurants, suits and holidays. Unbelievable. As if the 80s had never ended, as if Margaret still lived. I was thinking: the cold snap is ferocious, all the waiting staff are ill or dead, it’s impossible to get hot food to the table in one’s own home, let alone in a commercial setting. But Ed was having none of it. ‘I’m very disappointed,’ he barked at the waitress. ‘Stone-cold, the whole lot. It’s not good enough.’ Marvellous. This is the spirit that will save Our Nation if nothing else will.

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Joshua Baring in Dinner-time Sensation

Monday 19th December 2022

Joshua Baring was sensational at dinner. I managed to get hold of some shin of beef, ideal for cold weather but not likely to be popular with vegetarians, let alone vegans, or indeed Hindus. The 1st course was No First Course and the pudding was Nigella’s Cherry and Almond Crumble – whoops! Almonds – out, out,out. For Joshua Baring, nuts are horror. He must never have them.

Narrow escape there.

On arrival, Joshua Baring was in an important new coat by Comme des Garcons with a huge, fully boned, fluorescent orange skirt to ward off Wokery, while the upper part of the garment was a more conventional charcoal wool.

Curiously the coat had a Trans aspect. We plunged straight into money. Joshua said the idea that Rishi Sunak is rich quite ridic. I do agree. With £30m, you’d be lucky to get £750,000 a year net income.  No hope of a collection or race horses, probably two homes at most (one of them might even be a flat) and barely any staff, certainly nothing like an entourage. You might very well have to self-cook and self-shop from time to time. There would be clothes, bags and entertaining to be kept up with. £50,000 a month might sound like a lot, but when one bag costs £10,000, knits start at £850… well, it would be very challenging.

The huge event was Joshua’s time in A&E with his cleaner. The Royal London Hospital. Joshua did all the voices as only he could do. Ambulances were called to Joshua’s radical home while he was out but the cleaner was in. She, an operatic Brazilian, was overcome, in and out of consciousness, when in quite wild and calling for her son to come from Brazil. There was no choice but removal by ambulance to Casuality. Joshua was somehow summoned to sit with her. She became confessional. While cleaning, she raved, often she became peckish. If her clients had been baking, she would root out the results and eat them. ‘I know, Purificacion,’ Joshua exclaimed. ‘Don’t think I haven’t noticed the disappearance with my madeleines and my mille-feuilles.’ Purificacion was thrilled at the truth before lapsing into delirium once again, and as suddenly recovering: ‘How should I know? I never… Now everybody will think… I drug addict…’ Gradually the truth emerged. While in operation in another house, of some friends of Joshua’s as it happens, she had been seized by hunger. Poking about amongst their possessions she had found a zipped-up bag. Unzipped, oh glory, it contained biscuits. She ate two of them. The drawback was that they were cannabis nibbles. The maximum dose was one eighth of a biscuit. Two was more than even the most advanced ‘user’ would attempt.

It went on and on – the waiting on A&E. There was a young woman nearby rabbiting into her phone to a friend about how she couldn’t breathe and Would you believe it, the doctor told her to go home. Not fucking likely. I mean, like seriously, I can’t breathe. Who do you think you are?’  She’d got Netflix and a multitude of snacks. She was dug in for the duration. Purificacion was surfacing in increasingly belligerent mood, threatening the Police. The damage to her reputation was insupportable. Drugs! Unthinkable! She’d never taken drugs. How could this have happened? In the end Joshua was provoked beyond endurance: ‘You stole the biscuits, Purificacion. What will the Police say about that?’ At last she was quietened and apparently in retreat from the door of death – so Joshua left her there.

 

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One Week to the Next..

Wednesday 14th December 2022

One week it was The Messiah at Sa Paulo di Londra, the next Winter Wonderland… My friend Miss Carlisle sings in the choir at San Paulo for The Messiah and kindly gave tickets. Afterwards, Royston King said, ‘Do you think Handel was Gay?. He was a big beefy chap, after all.’ Miss Carlisle stood up well to this in Pizza Express as well as other statements. She had Royston all the way home as it happened, their residences being proximate, and was thrilled with him.

The Messiah in San Paolo di Londra… I said, ‘This cathedral is so foreign in feel.’ Royston said, ‘Not a bit of it. It’s the only purely Anglican cathedral.’ The Messiah kind of shimmers and trembles under the dome. It’s the echo really but magical all the same.

Next week it was Winter Wonderland. The Royal Parks have a delightful village hall type of party at the Venue in Hyde Park. One is reminded of Her going to the WI at Sandringham. Red Christmas napkins in paper, mulled wine, a cheese board, sausage rolls and other pastries. The former Leader of Greenwich Council was full of the Funeral. It was the main topic really. I couldn’t believe it. All these weeks later. But there was also looking forward to the Coronation. The member of the Royal Household present and the Civil Servant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are huge leaders in planning it. The Queen is considering crowns, as we speak. It was absolutely finger on the pulse, in at the core, totally central – as a party.

We got a free ride on the Big Wheel. This time, unlike last year, Royston managed to VIP the queue out of the way. It’s lovely to ride round on the Wheel. One has no idea where one is except in a bizarre neon toy world. Then we went in the ice show. Last year somebody broke one of the ice sculptures trying to take a selfie. You’re not supposed to go near them, of course. The whole thing is really hateful, being exactly what Death will be like, i.e. minus 3 degrees, and everything frozen and dead.

Dear Precious San Paulo di Londra, England's Baroque Masterpiece

Dear Precious San Paulo di Londra, England’s Baroque Masterpiece

San Paulo di Londra: Inside. Sorry to Me it feels Foreign

San Paulo di Londra: Inside. Sorry to Me it feels Foreign: Maybe I’m Wrong 

Winter Wonderland: the View from the Wheel. Is this the Future?

Winter Wonderland: the View from the Wheel. Is this the Future?

Ice World at Winter Wonderland: a Horror Show really

Ice World at Winter Wonderland: a Horror Show really

Ice Horse in Ice World at Winter Wonderland: Wonderful but in the Wrong Way

Ice Horse in Ice World at Winter Wonderland: Wonderful but in the Wrong Way

 

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Still Functioning – A Lecture and Dinner After

Thursday 8th December 2022

The National Garden Scheme Annual Lecture was given by Arabella Lennox Boyd. Lovely gardens she’s done but with that hard edge of the designer, always having to use ‘reliable’ plants i.e. a small range and few rarities. That Rose, ‘Felicia’, and certain kinds of Nepeta. But deeply lovely. Her main aim has been loveliness, not a profound insight into cultural identity or anything like that. An audience member asked her what to do about squirrels. She said, ‘Get a gun.’

Afterwards was the dinner for a selected few at Mossiman’s in Belgravia. I was taken by Royston King. The Chairman and his husband arrived by bicycle. Mary Berry was in Royal Blue with a sequin event at the shoulders. Luckily she never saw I was there so I escaped the special glare she saves for me, Adrian Edge. Mary Berry really doesn’t like me. I was placed with the Gardens Editor of Country Life. She turned out to be the wife of James Dellingpole, who promptly removed her just as the main course arrived. He said they had to catch a train to Northampton. What kind of conspiracy was that? I wonder. Nevertheless his wife clearly had no doubt of the train need. After all the courses, by contrast, Rachel da Thame left by taxi.

The talk was of how to save everything, including poultry. Money was swirling so you couldn’t tell if people were actually gardeners or had it done for them. The pinnacle though was that Royston was cornered by a Baroness who said, ‘You must get into the House of Lords and here’s how to do it.’ This Baroness, by remarkable coincidence, is a neighbour of the Gay Mother’s who once saw her in Church. Val wanted to be elevated to the House of Lords at one time. My worry is: will there be a House of Lords in the future to be elevated to? There’s talk of dreary elections to get into the Upper Chamber, which will never do. The whole point is elevation.

The Bicycle of either the Chairman or his Husband parked Outside Mossiman's for the After Dinner

The Bicycle of either the Chairman or his Husband parked Outside Mossiman’s for the After Dinner

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I Have Two Brain Waves

Wednesday 30th November 2022

But I’ve forgotten what the second one was. It was inflation-busting. That’s all I can tell you.

The first, though, remains vivid. You may or may not know, but Roundup Gel (it’s a weedkiller), essential for pasting on weeds that have got in amongst other plants and can’t be rooted out, has increased in price by 300% – from £12 to £30. So…. why not put ordinary weedkiller into a plastic cap and apply with a Q-tip to the leaves of those tricky unwanted invaders? Also bits of pyracantha etc that have seeded in walls and can’t be got out.

Sorry, organic fanatics, but weed-killer does need to be used from time to time but very sparingly.

It’s not exactly a brain wave, but I’ve abandoned Jeeves of Belgravia as my official dry cleaner. Not least because they no longer have any shops. But the costs were astronomical even in the fat years. I took my Prada black evening slacks to a very cheap establishment nearby. Believe or not, there are quite a few dry cleaners on streets. Not wrecked. My Reiss white velvet jacket okay but not clean. Then it got further marked at Harry Rollo’s gala in Milan. I wonder if I will be able to resist the powder blue velvet alternative Reiss are now offering once it’s reduced in the sales. The colour is superb. The garment could double up for day-wear and would in fact give day wear a much-needed evening lift.

 

 

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What’s It For?

Sunday 27th November 2022

In the morning Reggie Cresswell said, ‘Why would anybody want millions?’ Not a question I would ask. In the afternoon the answer came: to build the Villa Necchi. Coming up the drive of the Villa Necchi, I thought, ‘I know this place.’  It was a location in the Gucci film with Lady Gaga. A 30s, special order villa, built by the Necchi, a wealthy industrial family. We hadn’t been there five seconds and we were in Heaven. The Villa Necchi is absolute bliss. The best of everything, every detail thought of and the wonderful flaring space yet the rooms you can imagine being cosy in. The walls are veneered in fabulous woods; sublime craftsmanship. They started with the idea of a supremely Modernist interior, utterly pared down and minimal. But when they got the house back after the War (Germans had been there) they had a re-think. They couldn’t resist a few chandeliers, a few antique pieces, a monumental curving marble fireplace. More recently since the house has been open to the public, various people have bequeathed their collections so the place is now teeming with ornaments, porcelain, top drawer paintings and general gorgeousness and exactly how a house like this should be. Upstairs somehow a Princess of Savoy had got in and taken a room which was done over in gold damask with Louis Quinze abounding, a marvellous example of Royalty having their way and wrecking what was supposed to be completely – like that time Princess Margaret refused to go into the supper room at a private function and there was seriously the prospect of hundreds of little gilt chairs and an entire supper going to waste. But that time, fortunately the greatnesses assembled managed collectively to steer her in..

Finally was the total climax of Harry’s performance. He’s not tried Italy so much before and there’s the danger that if it’s not Nessum Dorma they’ll go mad. But they didn’t. They adored. It was new. They’d never known anything like it before especially not the fairy who’s not even human and although given by a human that person isn’t human either. It’s that new. Oh the miracles of the performance beyond performance and terrible loss at the end. If only it could have started all over again.

Afterwards there was a tremendous canapé reception with even some bruscetta for Reggie in a staggering Gustavian (but it can’t have been in Italy) reception room with huge width. The next morning Reggie cancelled the Brera while I was in transit for it and re-directed for the Ambrogian Library which only eventually had even an entrance. There was a highly unusual Caravaggio there – but doubtful it was intended as a complete painting. Other works were displayed but my nerves gave out. I was seized with pre-boarding tension and the visit was over.

Villa Necchi: The dining room. Meant to be Ultra Modern but they Couldn't Resist a Chandelier

Villa Necchi: The dining room. Meant to be Ultra Modern but they Couldn’t Resist a Chandelier

Later Fireplace after Modernism Abandoned

Later Fireplace after Modernism Abandoned

Villa Necchi: Superb Plaster Work Ceiling

Villa Necchi: Superb Plaster Work Ceiling

Villa Necchi: Reggie Loved this Floor Detail

Villa Necchi: Reggie Loved this Floor Detail

Fabulous Garden Room at the Villa Necchi

Fabulous Garden Room at the Villa Necchi: Plants between the Glazing Panels 

The Princess of Savoy got into this Room and did This

The Princess of Savoy got into this Room and did This

The Princess of Savoy's Room at the Villa Necchi: Royalty Present

The Princess of Savoy’s Room at the Villa Necchi: Royalty Present

 

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Longing for Rustication

Sunday 20th November 2022

Reggie Cresswell longs for rustication, almost as much as he craves vegetarian food with no cheese. In Milan we found a supreme example: a building rusticated entirely, from the pavement to the skyline. 19th century unfortunately but better than nothing. Otherwise the main idea of Milan seemed to be to have a traffic system so entwined that no road was going anywhere apparently, rather like a ball of string that’s got out of control. Buildings of interest occurred, but random and all grubby. Quickly the city dissolves into uniform outlying suburbs from the early 20th century, not unpleasant but boring. Harry and Mr Kitten had found a canal and an antique market which sounded more promising but we never saw that. Byzantine churches of huge ancientness in red brick with stone dressings are a surprise element. And there’s an enormous old castle.

Within though we saw world class items. I hadn’t expected that. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci was arranged specially. The public had booked it solid, so we were ushered in by other means. I’ve never thought much of Leonardo – the Mona and so on –  but this work is superb. I was knocked out. We were brought up to believe it so damaged as to be not worth bothering with. But no! The figures are full and dynamic and the impossible challenge of composition brilliantly overcome. How do you do thirteen people sitting at a table? It’s going to be too wide and they’ll just be in a row. Leonardo has the brain wave of making the supper room a dramatic receding vista with alcoves at the sides for emphasis and windows at the back looking out onto the landscape. Then the Apostles, although essentially in a row, are arranged with great variety, in groups of three, some standing or facing in a different direction. Christ occupies his own force field in the middle of the picture. It’s as Art should be – a design but real – and making little of the burden of being One of the Most Famous Paintings in the World. The room it’s in is remarkable as well – just a bare medieval barn really with high vaulted ceiling, uniform cream. And there it is, half way up the end wall, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The extraordinary thing is the building took a direct hit from a British bomb in the War. The placed was smashed to smithereens. But the painting, and another one on the other end wall, survived.

So it’s totally three cheers and well done to Art.

In its bare White Chamber

In its bare White Chamber

Rustication! Reggie Cresswell's Favourite

Rustication! Reggie Cresswell’s Favourite: Rare to find it Cap a Pe 

 

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