The Sun Shone Briefly

Monday 20th September 2021

The forecast was for grey but suddenly the sun burst forth before lunch and beamed down on Chelsea Main Avenue. Everybody was there. Lucky for Vanessa de la Feltz whose frock was flimsy. Sophie Raworth had a plastic bag for her trainers which she swapped for her killer clucks in between takes. Otherwise, Alan Titchmarsh, Victoria Coren and her husband who is also well-known, Ben Fogel (good green tweed suit, obvs made to measure), Craig Revel Horwood, Carol Klein, Monty… all the usual crowd.

Royston wondered if our party was sufficiently diverse. We decided definitely yes. One Landed Gentry, one aristocracy (the Lady E), one Black, one under 40. The Black and the LG both ‘Gays’. What more could you want? I wasn’t in the main Royston party which was lunching with the President, then taking Tea with the Royal Family before an Evening Reception.

Jackettes and tiny trews are still going – but oh dear the population has stoutened during the Time of Wrong and evidently not re-frocked. Titchmarsh looked very much the worst for wear, I’m afraid.

As for the Show – Main avenue, one really good garden – it turns out the designer known to me vaguely through Matt Driver and Laura Malcolm, who are also associated with Keith Weed, the President of the Royal Horticultural Society. So, as usual, an incredible rich web of connection. This garden is the M&G Garden, intended to be an industrial site re-purposed for various public uses. This meant no awful hard-landscaping, although there were stylised pipes to give the idea of the previous use. I fell to bantering with an visitor who said, ‘I’m a chemist and I can’t imagine what these pipes would do but there we are…’ Otherwise this was a proper garden rather than an installation. Plants beautifully arranged with a haze of grasses but robust contrasts, something not achieved in any of the other Main Show Gardens.  The smaller stands made more impact – the Bible Society Psalm 23 Garden and the Balcony Gardens, for people who live in flats, with very good notions of what to do in tiny spaces –  in a nutshell, put very big, rectangular planters all round the edges, with maybe two large shrubs or trees, then underplant with perennials, bulbs, annuals for colour and seasonal interest. My favourite border for colour was in the NHS Tribute Garden. The artisanal and container gardens in the woods at the side of the main show  – a first for Chelsea, ideas that you can actually put into practice at home: can you believe it? The emphasis on up-cycling, making do and having a small space.

The Tree of the Show is Heptacodium Miconioides: never heard of it before. Very good tree with white foamy flowers in September and good dramatic leaves. Was on many stands.

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Vanessa de la Feltz: Complaining of Cold

Vanessa de la Feltz: Complaining of Cold

Dear Precious Carol Klein

Dear Precious Carol Klein

Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly

Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly

 Mother and Daughter: Mother is Famous Model, 77

Mother and Daughter: Mother is Famous Model, 77

A Classic Suitlette

A Classic Suitlette

Sophie Raworth: Those Clucks straight into a bag and Trainers out the minute the Take Done

Sophie Raworth: Those Clucks straight into a bag and Trainers out the minute the Take Done

Ben Fogel: Made to Measure, for sure

Ben Fogel: Made to Measure, for sure

Tree of the Show: Heptacodium Miconioides: Flowers in September

Tree of the Show: Heptacodium Miconioides: Flowers in September

Crazy Container Garden

Crazy Container Garden

My Favourite Colour Border: NHS Tribute Garden

My Favourite Colour Border: NHS Tribute Garden

Queen Bee on a Balcony Garden

Queen Bee on a Balcony Garden

The Bible Society Psalm 23 Garden: I Lay Down by Still Waters

The Bible Society Psalm 23 Garden: I Lay Down by Still Waters

The M&G Garden: Best in Show for Me

The M&G Garden: Best in Show for Me

M&G Garden: Superb Plant Arrangement

M&G Garden: Superb Plant Arrangement

M&G Garden Actaea: like Insects Floating in the Air

M&G Garden Actaea: like Insects Floating in the Air

M&G Garden: Can't have Enough of it: So Well Modulated

M&G Garden: Can’t have Enough of it: So Well Modulated

M&G Garden: Superb

M&G Garden: Superb

 

 

 

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Functions

Thursday 16th September 2021

I visited Val at Moscova, Hastings, and he said there was someone in Madama Butterfly called Toyota. First of all he didn’t want any vac-ing done but once I’d inveigled Mr Henry from the Official Car into the Los Angeles-style bungalow,  he was pleased be vac-ed. He even said Mr Henry was able to do more than his own machine. Next time we’re going to do his cupboard fronts.

Bruce McBain had a terrifying birthday dinner. 14 bottles were consumed when only six dined, three women, three men, none of them quite right in the hand, thank God.  Prince Dmitri dined another day. He doesn’t like the new woke world. Neither do I. In fact, I’m just not having it.

Then last Friday I boarded for Deal with Royston King. Our hosts took us to a paying Supper Club in a wood nearby. The chef was Rashleigh Rashleigh: you remember him – huge in the 90s. Loved by all who lunched, as everybody did, at the expense of others, in those days. His place was in Kensington: Sid Id was there and all the best authors, being lunched. As for the Supper Club, it was an incredible web that had created it. I couldn’t pass an exam in it. The scene had only been bought a month or two ago: there was a goody gentleman’s farmhouse (no farm of course), outbuildings, cottages and an arboretum. Royston King came across a prize specimen of Acer Griseum and was in Heaven. A mother-in-law had sold another property which paid for this one, which hadn’t been in fact for sale, but they just had to have it. Not clear where the mother-in-law is now housed, but not there for sure. There’s to be a restaurant, an hotel and probably a swimming pool. No planning permission but why worry? There was money, perhaps not quite enough, but obstacles were not on the whole tolerated or even acknowledged. Royston was deeply quizzing of the bar arrangements but the youths pouring had incredibly tight trousers. We found out later that Rashleigh Rashleigh has a wizard who has somehow managed to double his money for him during the recent unmentionable. It was that sort of world.

At the end of the table was a wan handsome woman with a small dog. This was Rashleigh Rashleigh’s present wife but Sid Id’s first. What a coincidence. Also she’s the sister of Duckface. The man I sat next to was in Wine and Spirits. The week before he’d been in Corfu. He said, ‘I can get you wine, no problem. What I can’t get you is ships. I can’t get you containers.’ Luckily I didn’t want any of those. He was facing a 120ft pyracantha hedge the next day. Incredible to think, only a week before he’d been in Corfu where you could do anything apparently. His wife being away with her opera-singing sister was a good opportunity to get on with cutting the hedge. The funny thing about the sister was how small she is. Opera singers are supposed to be huge. On the other hand, in Corfu, where he’d been the week before… There was no escaping that he’d been in Corfu the week before. There was a strong Lockdown Skeptic undercurrent, not perhaps its most scientific manifestation but the Gin and Jag version. The whole party, I would say, was the entrepreneurs of the South East in revolt.

The menu was Sea Bass ceviche in her chilli sauce (Sea Bass tasted of little), Cep Risotto (delicious), Rose Veal, Cheese Romesco, Roasted Plum Tomatoes (very good, but too pink for some. Superb herbal gravy. But Royston said tasted of nothing; our hostess found her romesco hard) dessert Damson Fool with cream piping and a triangle of cake (I liked, but some found it sour and unambitious as a dessert).

The Raw Sea-Bass 1st Course

The Raw Sea-Bass 1st Course

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I Forgot to Say

Tuesday 14th September 2021

I had an accident at the Gay Mother’s. Peter’s Yard Spelt and Fig Sourdough Crackers – do you know them? Ferociously artisan – so much so I was stabbed in the roof of the mouth by the corner of one of them. It hurt for several days

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Not Good Enough

Monday 13th September 2021

The Gay Mother launched an extraordinary attack on the apricots at luncheon. Tough. Even after six hours in the bottom oven. I thought of that other remarkable luncheon outburst which occurred at Braemar Mansions when Ivy said to Margaret Jourdain, ‘But it was agreed at breakfast that you would finish the already opened bottle of Cydrax which has gone flat.’

The Gay Mother set to to sieve the apricots, achieving a small bowl of silky purée for later use. She had already found some raspberries from Waitrose in need of improvement such as maceration and was later to condemn the onions to the compost heap for going soft on the outside. ‘What’s more, the Prince of Wales’s,’ she said.

A small box of Daz had been ordered but a huge one turned up.  ‘Far too much,’ the Gay Mother said. ‘Won’t it keep?’ I said. ‘Oh no, I don’t want all that.’ She’d already tried to get the land agent to take the carton away. But it wasn’t his brand. Or rather his wife’s. The box is still waiting in the lobby in case any passer-by will have it.

As a sausage dinner, the Gay Mother styled apple sauce, carrots and runner beans on the plate. The sausages were Howells’ best. All the other elements were self-grown and superb.

Daz: Does anybody Want it?

Daz: Does anybody Want it?

The Gay Mother's Sausage Supper with Self-Grown Apples (as sauce), carrots and Runner Beans

The Gay Mother’s Sausage Supper with Self-Grown Apples (as sauce), Self-Grown carrots and Self-Grown Runner Beans

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Royston Went to Winchester

Monday 30th August 2021

We went to Winchester to confirm that the cathedral is a low croft, white-washed, and very narrow. Approaching, the truncated tower looked promising from the point of view of possible disparagement. But we were at once in a situation of patronage, before entrance to the building, encountering the Head Gardener, a hot hunk whom Royston had brought on from the Royal Parks and whence, Royston suggested, he should now return. But he’d got the lawn to mow first, despite its being due to be dug up for the Christmas Fayre. So the infestation of plantain, pointed out by me merely as a means of getting into the conversation, was of no consequence. I only meant to say that plantain is tiresome in a lawn but hardly worth bothering about. Needless to say, my remarks were viewed as incredible grandeur and white supremacy.

We entered the cathedral. So strange. I’ve definitely been there before and it was for sure a low dingy croft. Perhaps it was somewhere else but it was Winchester Cathedral for sure. At least that’s what I was told. Well, now it’s high soaring, light and incredibly long. Also on several levels. No, I couldn’t fault it – fine-boned, taut and astonishing. The light pouring in to the English cathedrals, as opposed to the Gothic gloom of those on mainland Europe – that’s what makes them so superior.  Winchester is thunderous yet dancing. Also intriguing with many accretions. Royston explained. As a boy he was everywhere – changing for Choir in this room, processing down that passageway or careering round a cloister with a tea urn. It was so complex – galleries, romanesque parts, suddenly a library up a stairs, an enormous apse behind the main altar with medieval patterned tiles on the floor. Extraordinary – I thought they were Victorian. But they weren’t. They were medieval.

The only thing I would say – Winchester Cathedral is narrow. But that’s probably the effect of its being so long. The floor tiles were my favourite accessory within and I’d love to have them at home.

We lunched well at the Wykham Arms and discussed racism. Then we continued the tour. So Winchester’s got a cathedral and a school. As a Wykhamist, Royston is permitted to enter the school premises unaccompanied. Only a lanyard is necessary. So enlightenment at the first stage. No police check required. You might dread a school, especially if you didn’t care for your own schooldays. But this school is something else. Ancient. A lot of the time you could have been at Knole. Courtyards just pure, pure medieval. The Scholars’ Dining Hall is up a stoney stairs. To think scholars have been dining here for 500 years or more. It’s a cream scheme, pitch black wooden roof, panelling across the back wall, stone dressing to the window arches, stone floor. So wood, plaster and stone. Very appetising. The refectory in a monastery would be much the same. Although austere, in its day and still today, it is a luxury building, airy and high. Otherwise the school has two of everything. Two cloisters, one of which is a War Memorial, in the other is the second chapel, making this the only cloister in Britain with a chapel in the middle of it. So two chapels, two halls, one modern and the other by Christopher Wren, possibly. If you count the dining hall, that’s three halls. The premises flares out into riverside playing fields, gardens for summer drinks parties, sanitoria, Victorian boarding houses, a parish church for the juniors. In the Christopher Wren hall, Royston practiced the piano in a quiet hour. James Lees-Milne’s friend, Derek Hill, had done one of the portraits of a previous Headmaster. Even when empty, I could tell that this school is a haven of brain power, not showing off, no gushing, even when dead of the 1st World War, as many were on the tablets in the War Cloister, welcoming and egalitarian, although immensely rich.  We encountered only outdoor staff, who can be Hell. But these were charming, so delighted to see us. Royston complimented a gardener passing on a sit-down lawn mower: ‘What an excellent beard you have, Sir.’

It’s that kind of place. Royston came to Winchester on a county scholarship and became what he afterwards became. Winchester took him in and they were made for each other. What a wonderful bosom of quiet unassuming power that has lasted him for 50 years as well as Winchester sending out a wondrous web of the best who work together ever after. Rishi Sunak, of course, who might save Our Nation yet.

Winchester Cathedral: Manx style

Winchester Cathedral: Manx style: This is the Lawn the Head Gardener was Mowing. These are His Stripes

Winchester Cathedral within: High Soaring Above. Incredible

Winchester Cathedral within: High Soaring Above. Incredible.

Jane Austen's Grave: a Pack of Lies. Trying to Make out she was a Nice Person. No Mention of her Novels

Jane Austen’s Grave: a Pack of Lies. Trying to Make out she was a Nice Person. No Mention of her Novels

Winchester Cathedral Medieval Tiled Floor. Wow factor. You too could Have One at Home

Winchester Cathedral Medieval Tiled Floor. Wow factor. You too could Have One at Home

Winchester College: this is Where Patrick Gale sat in the Choir stalls

Winchester College: this is Where Patrick Gale sat in the Choir stalls

Winchester College: Pure Pure Medieval

Winchester College: Pure Pure Medieval: Marvellous Lack of Garden: So Bare

The Scholars' Dining Hall at Winchester College: Somehow Sensual, as if Made of Cheddar Cheese, but such Restrained Ornament as Well

The Scholars’ Dining Hall at Winchester College: Somehow Sensual, as if Made of Cheddar Cheese, but such Restrained Ornament as Well

The Wren Building: Winchester College

The Wren Building: Winchester College

Winchester College: The Other Chapel

Winchester College: The Other Chapel: Almost All Window

Chief Air Marshall Dowding

Chief Air Marshall The Lord Dowding in the War Cloister.  General Wavell, also Viceroy of India, is Buried in the other Cloister, quite Alone.

 

 

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We Try So Hard

Saturday 28th August 2021

It turns out the Nizam isn’t a Nizam, he’s a Maharajah – so that’s racist for a start. Robert Nevill and the Maharajah dined with Rufus Pitman and Raj Zoraster a week after the Kaffe and Kooken party to meet Fräulein Greta Wilgefortis Baloubet. The Fräulein also dined, or rather attended, having already dined. At the K and K event there’d been much talk of the Kate Clanchy affair. Raj was very suspicious of ‘almond-eyed’ but I said it was exotic. So that was me being white imperialist and supremacist, knowing better. At dinner the white people recalled old Cockney racists we have known and the time Robert Nevill spent embedded with the white racist police in Brixton. It was quite a wave of racist recollection, not ideal for the non-white guests present. The Maharajah thinks very little of the British in India, I know.

Somehow we’re always picking at it and getting it wrong. Royston said re-Kate Clanchy a day or two later – ‘What about if you describe the nose or mouth of a person,such as myself, of Afro-Caribbean origin?’ As far as we know, Dame Clanch didn’t do that. But she refers to the ‘fine Ashkenazi nose’ of one pupil whom she confronts about his denial of Jewish origins and the ‘narrow skull’ of a Somali boy. Well, we’ll have to read the book. It seems odd, to say the least, that a teacher is writing about her pupils in such a personal way, if not racist. My hunch is that she harbours the delusion of being in some kind of wonderful ‘love-in’ with these students and didn’t think how it would appear to outsiders.

On Monday there was a dinner for Raj’s birthday in a Portuguese restaurant at Vauxhall. I sat next to that young man, who, this time last year, said, ‘We’ve all been rent boys at one time or another.’ Lord Arrowby was present. ‘We’ve bought so few clothes this season,’ he said. His jacket was a salmon-pink suede from Paul Smith, but a previous season. I was so worried about it getting splattered with Portuguese seafood stew. Suede is agony to run and the piece was in superb condition. Lord A and I chatted about how it might be cleaned if it needed to be.  He’s having a house re-wired for when he re-locates to a supreme position in the autumn (one where you get your portrait painted and it’s hung in a corridor) and was looking incredibly finished and coiffed, despite no clothes. That institution is not going to know what’s hit it when the vans draw up from Liberty packed with all this latest Dries. His frockage and accessories will be of intense interest, far more than they were before in the ‘Westminster village.’ When I got home, I thought: actually I’ve bought three new handbags and some blue jeans. Last summer I got the last of Topman. I’m building up to buying some perfumes. But a lot of my clothes have got lost in the archive. Lord Arrowby came and sat with me towards the end of the dinner. There was a space after the ‘rentboy’ went home. It was v. cozy. Raj briefed us on Afghanistan where he was stationed for 4 years, which, as Lord A said, ‘is very puzzling.’ I couldn’t grasp it at all, I’m afraid. It’s not really one country. It emerged that another of the guests had had a thriving eBay business, selling used socks to fetishists. There were different degrees of ‘used’ available, 1 day, 2 days etc. It all sounded very well organised and efficient as well as lucrative. But eBay closed it down – the bastards!

 

 

 

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I Forgot to Say + Why Such Staining?

Monday 23rd August 2021

I forgot to say that Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver have let out their basement.  The agency said the new tenants were a father and son. I think there was a mix-up. The young man’s in handbags and is on Insta. The goings-on in Kelm’s former bedroom are remarkable, at the nude limits of Insta, including suggestive drapery, just skimming the forbidden parts, bolstered underpants, post shower with minimal towel, actually in shower. Thirty years ago would we ever have imagined that we’d be able to view the antics of a lodger in this way? In the first place the technological miracle, in the second the election to share in this manner. What a gift that raineth on our twilight years!

I’ve been plagued by stains. I do find they come in outbreaks. My door seal has gone bad, to put it bluntly. Stained black and can’t be cleaned. I wipe and wipe. Still black muck comes off. Never stops. Why oh why did they invent a washing machine with a rubber part that doesn’t get cleaned with every wash but actually deteriorates into filth and ends up marking the laundry? What a crazy way to invent a washing machine. It’s washing things all the time. That’s all it does. So every part ought to be getting cleaner and cleaner. I can’t believe the idiocy and wrong of it.

What’s more my heritage drying racks have started staining again – it’s where the wooden part has contact with the damp laundry. There was a phase of this some years ago then it stopped. To coincide with the door seal crisis, the heritage drying racks decided to start playing up.

Confession: one of the drying rack stains I left on an under-sheet. Just couldn’t face another trip to the bathroom and the Vanish bar. I was in danger of blisters from scrubbing. I thought: ‘It’s an under-sheet.’ I won’t see the stain.

This is the path to Hell. Once this sort of short-cutting starts, it won’t be long before I’ll be in the street with a stained outfit leading to removal by the authorities and confinement to a care facility.

This is what I tell the Gay Mother when she won’t tidy her piles of the Church Times. 

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Still Going On

Sunday 22nd August 2021

I forgot to say that Leila, the Fruit and Veg War Lord of Shoreditch (fork out £35 for two peaches and a tomato or be forever banished from her domain), said to Joshua Baring, ‘No, I won’t get you any apricots. I don’t know of a reliable apricot supplier.’ So no apricots for Joshua Baring.  I said, ‘Try Waitrose Essential.’ Apricots have been quite big this summer although vegetables mostly ghastly – old and tough. You could do Lamb Polo, but Val wouldn’t hear of it. Can’t bear meat with fruit, ever.

Laura Malcolm gave a dinner: me, the Cruisings, Moira MacMatron and Beamish O’Halloran. Sydney Cruising more terrifying than ever, while Percival Cruising has been handing out fines to violators of the Coronavirus Act March 2020 by which society was destroyed. But you’d have thought his coal-black, basilisk stare would be enough to quell anybody. The Cruisings always have the effect of a bomb dropped in to any social gathering. Other guests either start vomiting or shouting. All hell breaks loose. Nobody could know how it’s done. Beamish launched an enquiry as to how trans, lesbian or gay we all are. ‘If you were approached…’ he kept saying but never got any further for wails of derision. In fact very few sentences of any kind were completed at the dinner. At some point Percival Cruising had lit the touch paper and retreated. But you could never put your finger on the exact moment.

It’s marvellous how we’ve kept up with the Cruisings throughout although for me they’re what Nigella would call ‘weak ties’ – that’s not absolute bosom friends. ‘Weak ties’, as Nigella explained, are massively important in one’s life, all the same.

I went over to be introduced to Rufus Pitman and Raj Zoraster’s incredibly important new dog, Fräulein Greta Wilgefortis Baloubet. She’s a miniature Schnauzer. We had caffe und kooken which is also German. Rufus has done so much for Germany especially their outdoor attire and headgear at its most angular and elaborate.  Fräulein Greta is superb, very much keeping her own counsel which makes me wonder whether she isn’t part-German royalty, but not Hohenzollern who were so loud and militaristic. Maybe she’s one of the Wurtembergs or a Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

The only drawback is having to do German spelling which is hell.

Raj and Rufus are so thrilled with Fräulein Greta. She has instantly become integral to their suite and goes everywhere with them.

Fräulein Greta Wilgefortis Baloubet: Never was a Puppy Dog more Up to Her Titles with which Born

Fräulein Greta Wilgefortis Baloubet: Never was a Puppy Dog more Up to Her Titles with which Born

 

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Going On

Thursday 19th August 2021

The Gay Mother had a brain wave to grow King Edward’s as a new potato – and in a corner of the shrubbery. She was given some by a neighbour in February when there appeared to be a shortage of seed potatoes which there wasn’t quite. Otherwise she is looking at new omelette ideas and launching into courgette flowers. The outside world continues to be beamed in via The Tablet and the Church Times and not liked. It turns out that the duck breast we had last September with Laura Malcolm’s recipe for plum sauce she considered under-cooked. I took five days with the Gay Mother after escaping from the Norman quarantine adventure. We motored down to Flushing to visit Aunt Lavinia’s son and daughter-in-law who have recently moved there. They were wiped out by the strain of renovation.  Their view is of yachts moored and Falmouth over the water.

The King Edward’s as a new potato were simply superb.

Back in London I had the London Openers Garden Party at West Park Lodge, which is an arboretum hotel (yet another category of hotel) at Hadley Wood. It was shattering to have to wear shoes and stand up at a function. Royston refused to attend. On the way back my shoes were killing me. The next day I ambled on Hampstead Heath with Miss Mullholland who said the Mendelssohn Quartet were easy except for the piano part. We lunched at Kenwood and prodded at the facade whose £££££ restoration is already falling to pieces. Royston and I did the same last year. Why hasn’t someone painted that windowsill?

Then Harry Rollo gave a performance except he wasn’t there. Nor were any of the circle. This was the performance that was supposed to have taken place in June but got exterminated. The performance involved the loudest sound I have ever heard made. It was incredible.

Joshua Baring dined. His week had involved a ramen episode in Kentish Town followed by a night in hospital – well, until 3 a.m. when kicked out. The proprietor of the ramen is refusing to take responsibility but there’s no avoiding it – nuts got into that ramen. Joshua did a pitch perfect imitation of the whole episode including the emergency answering lady. The doctor who received him said the same thing had happened to her the night before. I showed Joshua my new pieces of Royal Worcester Gold Lustre – the casserole and the vegetable dish – arrived from eBay.  He revealed that this range was Margaret Thatcher’s favourite. I got the idea for it after Joshua inherited about 4000 of its soufflé dishes from his grandmother – all that remained after the carers had stolen so much.

Joshua had that purified, beatific look brought on by suffering. Which suggests that if beauty salons could administer bereavement and anaphalactic shock to their customers they’d make a killing.

At a Function: The Arboretum Hotel, Hadley Wood

At a Function: The Arboretum Hotel, Hadley Wood

Acer Griseum at Hadley Wood. A Shame Royston King wouldn't Come because Acer Griseum is one of His Favourite Trees

Acer Griseum at Hadley Wood. A Shame Royston King wouldn’t Come because Acer Griseum is one of His Favourite Trees

The Henry More at Kenwood: From this Angle it's a Bear and a Woman

The Henry More at Kenwood: From this Angle it’s a Bear and a Woman

The Kenwood Henry More from the Other Side: It's a Woman with a Cot

The Kenwood Henry More from the Other Side: It’s a Rabbit 

Royal Worcester Gold Lustre: Right after Joshua Baring dined this Soufflé Dish came up on eBay. Slightly smaller Size. Just what I wanted. Now need a larger Gratin Dish

Royal Worcester Gold Lustre: Right after Joshua Baring dined this Soufflé Dish came up on eBay. Slightly smaller Size to add to Larger One I have.  Just what I wanted. Now need a larger Gratin Dish. Am Thinking of Raiding Joshua Baring’s store: he Knows his Royal Worcester Gold Lustre is Under Threat 

 

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D-Day All over Again

Thursday 5th August 2021

At last we were released for travel to Normandy for the usual Norman fastness at Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver’s Norman fastness. Racked with strain in the Eurotunnel, I had the thought ‘What if France is put on the Red List?’ mainly as a way of preventing that thing from happening. But the second I gained Normandy, rumours were flying: France to be put on the Red List. If only I hadn’t thought it, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I spent the first night writhing, engulfed by the prison-hotel prospect especially the pellets left outside the room supposed to be food, even though you’re paying for it. It was as if one’s whole life had turned against one, when you think of all the struggle I’ve had to get into the best hotels. Little comfort that after 14 days confinement one would still be alive. By morning, the Red List was receding, the threat stoked by the so-called media needing clicks, perhaps. Although the story originated in the dear precious Graph which has been such a consolation in this agony.

After that, mere 5-day quarantine and 5 costly tests was as nothing. Damnation, we were going to forge ahead with Normandy, as in ’44, hurling out of the way the Panzer divisions and all other filth. Beamish O’Halloran and Moira McMatron arrived. They’d received the threats at Portsmouth and could have turned back. But no, they went bravely on, having none of it.

Matt Driver went out in the daytime, to a devastatingly anonymous hotel on the outskirts of the nearby town, barely any stars at all. The idea was to get better wifi in order to carry on his thrusting as a world taste-shaper and purchasing-patterns controller. But a man alone in a hotel room in an establishment run by a woman with no apparent husband to keep intruders at bay… you can imagine the ribaldry. Meanwhile Laura Malcolm menu-ed to new heights with a courgette spaghetti carbonara and pork cutlets (yes, in July! So bold) with her mustard and cornichon sauce. But one morning I looked out of the window and Laura Malcolm was passing through a gate without opening it. She was disembodied. It was literally a miracle. What can this mean? Perhaps she’s got the idea of becoming a Saint from nearby St Therese of Lisieux.

We drove to Abbaye Bec at Bec-Hellouin. In the car, Moira McMatron came over queer. It was ferociously hot. We feared Covid-19 induced by nausea or nausea bringing on Covid-19. But, as it turned out, what Moira McMatron needed was ice cream for tea which quite drove away her Covid-19. Abbaye Bec was enchanting, incredibly secular and scented entirely from one flowering lime tree. The monk serving in the shop was absolutely maddening.

Another time Laura tormented poor Moira about her pugs, how their eyes not only bulged but actually came out and their highly-bred respiratory struggle she imitated without mercy. Moira’s got a new pug, with longer legs than usual. Tremendous price.  He’s really very charming but Laura is not giving in. Rollup de MalBouys and his wife, Hall, dined. He’s descended from particularly boundary-free knights who came over with the Conqueror and some centuries later acquired a Van Eyck. So now he’s back from whence he came, as it were, resident in Normandy. Needless to say, Rollup is the only living person to have had three vaccinations. ‘Nobody likes Hall,’ he said casually. It’s quite an unusual remark to make about your wife when in company. Not true either. I adore Hall. ‘I just say what I think,’ she said. Exactly. The next day she texted to condemn all the rubbish Rollup talked. ‘Too much about old families,’ she said. That was my doing. Rollup and I have much in common, a loathing of inheritance tax in particular. Rollup speaks in blasts. One can never get to the bottom of things because by the time one canon has been let off, it’s too late. But somehow the Van Eyck has gone. Quite where it was in the first place I can never grasp. Speaking of ‘letting off’, Beamish was quite astonished by Rollup’s fart gas, and the way it was carefully directed, first one way and then the other so everyone had their turn in the firing line. Only fair.  Rollup was awfully cross about his outfit and in one of his blasts condemned his own bare legs. Which were quite good in fact and very brown. Mainly the talk was of the sex lives of the married French, which are quite different those of the married British. Laura and Matt had just had a French couple to stay, plus his best friend with whom she had had an affair. All forgotten about now.

The next day Beamish explained his method of hiring a car in younger days.  You order the cheapest in advance, which would be a Ka, known not to come in black. Then at the desk you say, ‘The thing is, it’ll be a funeral I’ll be going to. My nanna’s old bridesmaid. She’s sadly passed. Now would you by any chance have a Ka in black?’ Result: immediate free upgrade to superior funeral car. One time he was eager to demonstrate to a friend the brilliance of this ploy but, can you believe it, suddenly there was a Ka in black. It wouldn’t have been very convincing to say, ‘Oh, I made a mistake. It’s a wedding we’ll be going to, come to think of it.’

When Beamish was on the Express, the editor, a greatness who once did the TV commentary for Royal Ascot and said, ‘Royalty are marvellous. They never crease or stain,’ wanted her staff to promote the paper on a Saturday night LBC radio show. Not a friendly time, as you can imagine, especially for the hard-working newspaper person. The journos decided on a competition: who could be the most drunk on air? The aim was to get kicked off it for good, which was achieved.

L'Abbaye Bec at Bec Hellouin. Great Spiked Entrance

L’Abbaye Bec at Bec Hellouin. Great Spiked Entrance

L'Abbaye Bec: Secular and Scented with Lime from a Tree

L’Abbaye Bec: Secular and Scented with Lime from a Tree

L'Abbaye Bec: Actual Church seemed to be been Disposed of

L’Abbaye Bec: Actual Church seemed to be been Disposed of

L'Abbaye Bec: A Range for Monkish Accommodation Perhaps

L’Abbaye Bec: A Range for Monkish Accommodation Perhaps

 

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