Glyndebourne on the Stage

Friday 22nd June 2018

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

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

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

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

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

My Glyndebourne Department

My Glyndebourne Department: in Storage 

Lord Arrowby at Glyndebourne: Jacket Made Specially

Lord Arrowby at Glyndebourne: Jacket Made Specially

The Glyndebourne View: England's Essence

The Glyndebourne View: England’s Essence

How Well We Know that Lawn

How Well We Know that Lawn

Joshua Baring's Vit Ton for Glyndebourne

Joshua Baring’s Vit Ton for Glyndebourne

 

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Toiletless in Norfolk

Friday 15th June 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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Laura Malcolm Shapes the Summer

Tuesday 12th June 2018

It was back in February. The outlook looked totally different. Angus Willis summoned me to his cott in the woods near Hastings. The menu was lamb with dried limes. Iranian. It was the same night that Genevieve Suzy refused to leave, then packed Lord Suzy and myself into the wood at dead of night to face our fate. Only by luck did we encounter no bears. There are many bears in the woods around Hastings. It’s well known. But that’s by the way. Dried Limes were the thing. There was such hope, indeed near certainty, as certain as could be, that dried limes were going to be huge, dried limes were going to be crucial for Poor Little Rich Gays in the coming season. We said so at the time. We set the course for dried limes. How could it fail?

Well, who was to know that Laura Malcolm would give a Sunday lunch in early May, a terrace lunch in sunshine? The menu: courgette fritters and beetroot fresh lime salad with yoghurt. It was quiet at first. Somehow I was compelled to re-make the beetroot salad for Glyndebourniana. Robert Nevil was actually thrilled. Unheard of. He even required the recipe. Lord Arrowby quite keen as well. I launched on my second beetroot salad with fresh lime last week when Angus Willis himself and Fergus Strachan dined. I had a packet of dried limes to show him. I’ve not forgotten dried limes. They will have their day. I’m now on my third beetroot salad with fresh lime and just a wheeny bit poisoned by it – but never mind. It’s the signature Poor Little Rich Gay dish for Summer 2018.

Strange how it started with dried limes and ended up being fresh ones.

Laura Malcolm has furthermore condemned as dull renovation of the home, which is my staple as you know. Just now I’m colour-washing a wall for the third time.

And she’s to cruise. From Thursday she’s cruising with Percival and Sydney Cruising, who have their own cruising company, as you remember. The Croatian coast is where they cruise to mark Percival Cruising’s 60th birthday and he has gifted the cruise to 6 particular friends. So it is that Laura Malcolm will board, and cruise. One of the greatest anti-cruisers of all time will cruise. The only hope for other cruisers is that they will be turned into little heaps of ash. Laura Malcolm’s no time for their limited cruising lives, drinks parties and mono-topic of other cruises they have been on. Yet, there’s a danger. You know how it is that those most completely against are the most completely converted in the end. Already she’s acquired a cruising kaftan and statement necklace. ‘I’ve been cruising,’ I said weakly. And I have, twice. ‘Yes, but this is only 67 passengers and 90 staff,’ she sniffed. ‘Is gin extra?’ I whimpered. ‘Certainly not. I think you’ll find everything is included.’

Who would have thought it, that Summer 2018 would be beetroot salad with fresh lime and cruising with no renovation of the home?

Beetroot Salad with Fresh Lime - the Poor Little Rich Gay Signature Dish for Summer 2018

Beetroot Salad with Fresh Lime – the Poor Little Rich Gay Signature Dish for Summer 2018

Laura Malcolm's Cruising Kaftan: Could be a Sign

Laura Malcolm’s Cruising Kaftan: Could be a Sign

 

 

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I Won’t be Silenced

Friday 8th June 2018

My cavalcade for the National Gardens Scheme London Owners’ Garden Party on Monday collided with Royston King’s for the Royal Academy. ‘Shut up about Russia!’ he bellowed from his limo. ‘It’s so dull.’

My garden opening hasn’t happened yet, by the way. It’s 17th June.

But I won’t. Russia’s back in the news anyway, owing to football. Who would have thought that football would save a Poor Little Rich Gay? Footballing types are taking an interest in the Russian mentality; I heard on TV a football intellectual saying Russia is very defensive. They worship goalkeepers. It’s because of their history, having to defend themselves on many fronts, having so many borders. Also why they have to have dictators like Putin. Well, Putin isn’t a dictator exactly, but I don’t like to criticise.

It’s just too bad. Puskin’s flat, the Dutch Room at the Herm, that final surprise visit: you’re not going to escape. Come on! You know you love Puskin’s flat, and the Dutch pictures and Rembrandt and the St Petersburg metro on which we travelled for the surprise visit. I was in my Topman pearl grey dress coat. It wasn’t quite warm enough. Oh and I forgot – Lenin’s train. The Finland Station! That was a special journey on the St Petersburg metro as well.

I can’t remember whether I mentioned the Romanov tombs in the Fortress Church of St Peter and St Paul? Quite charming and 18th century in feel. Petite. Not the usual booming grandeur of the Romanovs with people like Nicky Russia and Alix rattling around inside it with little idea of what to do and wrecking their country.

But the Finland Station is quite different. Here Lenin arrived by special arrangement with Germany. The plan worked. He took over Russia and took it out of the War. How he managed it nobody will ever understand. And really they might just have been better off carrying on with Nicky.

The Finland Station was re-built in superb 70s Soviet style. We had to ask where the train was that Lenin arrived in and were taken through the office part of the station by an official who looked near death. It was just an old steam train in a glass box at one side of the station. Nobody seemed that bothered with it, to be honest. Later, when we were outside the station again, we saw an appalling truck draw up at the gate just beside the sacred train. Really that truck was on the brink, more of a former truck in fact. The gates were opened and the truck entered the station area. Hardly an advertisement for Lenin and his achievements.

Oh the Dutch pictures in the Herm. And the Rembrandts. K said his ‘Return of the Prodigal’ was the greatest picture ever. The Dutch pictures are the glory of the Herm which is odd because they’re not a bit like Russia.

Puskin’s flat – you must listen. It’s not use thinking you can ignore Puskin’s flat. Have you ever heard of Puskin? He’s a tremendous hero in Russia. Absolutely adored. I think it’s because he fought a duel with a loathsome Frenchman who thought he could colonise his wife, and died. He died in the flat. We were so lucky. In the guidebook, it said Tours in Russian only. But when we got there not only was there audio guide in English but they said it was international something day and we could come in free. Guide was fabulously tragic re: Puskin’s terrible dying in the flat. It appears the horrible Frenchman cheated in the duel (on top of everything else) and fired early. But guide made little of this. All a terrific orgy of gloom and dying. Moral of the story (if you’re not Russian): if ever there was a case of Rise Above It, this was it. Why ever did he do it? He had wife and kids. Don’t ever get drawn into having a duel. I suppose these days it’s sue-ing. Best to walk by on the other side.

Anyway the flat was perfectly charming. Equiv of William IV decor only Russian. Quite domestic, unlike the Herm or the Cath Palace.

Our greatest visit was yet to come. But we didn’t know it. Prince Dmitri wanted to take a river tour but it was too early in the year. Instead, he found in the guidebook a suggestion to visit a Stalin-era complex in a remote suburb. So off we went. Six or seven long stops in the metro. We got to be the only foreigners. I was in my Topman pearl-grey dress coat. With bag. It was so far, there was a serious drop in temperature. Well, the Stalin-era complex was quite thrilling. Especially since we were the only foreigners. I wondered: Would it be so bad if not associated with Stalin? If in New York, for instance, would probably be praised. It is architecture in fact.

Then we ventured up a dual carriageway to the Monument to the Siege of Leningrad which is in the middle of a vast roundabout: incredible Russian traffic, blocks of flats and dismal shops. Then Prince D consulted the guidebook again and it said Catherine the Great had happened to be somewhere near when they told her she’d conquered Turkey. So she ordered a church to be built on the spot. Church still there and we were ravenous for it. Although more walking and cold. Picked our way through a housing estate. And there it was. Absolutely charming cake church. Pink and white. My favourite thing is all Russia more or less.

So that ends the Russian Visit.

Lenin's Train

Lenin’s Train

Beside Lenin's Train: Unloved

Beside Lenin’s Train: Unloved

Dutch Pictures in the Herm: Jan van Goyen, The Shore at Egmond-op-Zec

Dutch Pictures in the Herm: Jan van Goyen, The Shore at Egmond-op-Zec 1645

Dutch Pictures at the Herm: Jan van der Heyden: The Goudestein Manor on the Vecht

Dutch Pictures at the Herm: Jan van der Heyden: The Goudestein Manor on the Vecht

Puskin's Flat: the Lounge Area

Puskin’s Flat: the Lounge Area

Puskin's Flat: Curtains

Puskin’s Flat: Curtains

Puskin's Flat: Sofa

Puskin’s Flat: Sofa

Puskin's Flat: I've Got one of These

Puskin’s Flat: I’ve Got one of These Metal Lampstands 

St Petersburg Metro: Long Descent

St Petersburg Metro: Long Descent

The Stalinist Complex

The Stalinist Complex

The Stalinist Complex: But Is it So Terrible as Architecture?

The Stalinist Complex: But Is it So Terrible as Architecture?

Alone in the Suburbs of St P

Alone in the Suburbs of St P

The Dear Precious Cake Church of Catherine the Great

The Dear Precious Cake Church of Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great's Cake Church, the Rarest Find of our Russian Visit and the Greatest

Catherine the Great’s Cake Church, the Rarest Find of our Russian Visit and the Greatest

 

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The Summer is Nearly Over but Russia Goes On

Thursday 31st May 2018

I feel that summer is nearly over yet it’s barely begun. It’s all the diarising and being in a terrible jumble, not able to keep up. All the summer jackets have sold out at Tiger of Sweden. And the summer is fully diarised, right into September really. So it’s as if one has already had it.

And I haven’t even finished covering the Russian visit. There’s the 20th century department of the Hermitage (incredible: v. complete, going right through from the Impressionists to Picasso), the second visit to the main Hermitage to improve grasp, the Pushkin flat where he died, and the surprise final visit to a remote suburb when I wore the Topman silver dress coat. Oh… and the Finland Station. We mustn’t forget that. And the Marriage of Figaro at the Marinsky Theatre.

In the meantime, my new Topman frock coat (Black watch tartan from Lochcarron tartan mill. 100% wool) has not made the impact I would have liked. I wore it at the family wedding when we united with Peru and had 10 courses at a Peruvian restaurant in Marylebone. The Gay Mother was in Alice Temperley and Aunt Lavinia in a dress coat by Hobbs. Their silhouettes were incredible at 86 and 94 respectively. But my Topman frock coat in tartan from Lochcarron (100% wool) – well, why bother? It was the same at the funeral of Robert Nevill’s sister’s partner’s mother who died at 104. So quickly gathered in the end. Had motored to Tamworth (where the pigs come from) only a few days before. Then went. Her final knitting was placed on her coffin. A burgundy red wool with two needles sticking out. At 99 she knitted The Queen Mother from the ‘Knit-Your-Own-Royal-Family’ set. Incredibly complex knitting. She got the brim of the off-the-face hat rolling back just right. I have the wooly QM in my proud possession. She said she wouldn’t knit another member: too difficult. But it seems that she did. The exact history of her knitting has become blurred even after a few years. Robert Nevill and I were mistaken for an item by the caring vicar newly arrived in the remote Marches from South Africa and equipped sadly with a dead wife. Quite good looking and I should imagine inundated with oven-ready lasagne made by eager ladies as all widowers are.

Reggie Cresswell gave a function last Saturday and a few days before Harry Rollo gave a perf. I hadn’t expected to be present but was bowled over. Bertram Dibantry also created a performance at top speed in which one nation was overcome by another. It was incredibly heroic and gigantic but the soldiers involved where all either not of medium height because short but not short either, or given over to Lust. It is not clear whether this terrible conquest ever happened in history. We knew about the soldiers because a Latin person from the Middle Ages dictated about them to Bertramus de Bantri who lived from 1194 to 1242 (approximately). Such a coincidence that he should have the same name as Bertram Dibantry himself, only done in Latin. But that’s Art for you. Everything comes together and makes a shape.

Reggie Cresswell’s function, the press opening of the Temperate House at Kew, Absolute Hell given at the National Theatre, The Moderate Soprano given at the Duke of York’s theatre – oh, and we mustn’t forget the toiletless weekend in Norfolk and my private visit to Raynham Hall where I was received by the Marquis and Marchioness quite privately – all that will have to wait. Not to mention my ventures in lime plastering and quest for summer slacks.

In the meantime, here are some graphs from the Hermitage, General Staff Building, where the art from the Impressionists onwards is stored. One of the glories of St Petersburg. And free of all association with Revolution, Terror and bad Tsars. Except I don’t know how all these paintings come to be in Russia.

So Strange: I thought this was by Manet but it's Degas. Really Great Picture though

So Strange: I thought this was by Manet but it’s Degas. Really Great Picture though

Didn't know Seurat did This Colour: Incredibly Great

Didn’t know Seurat did This Colour: Incredibly Great

Wires on this Seurat

Wires on this Seurat

I think This Cezanne Totally Great: A Picture of Nothing but so Braced

I think This Cezanne Totally Great: A Picture of Nothing but so Braced

Even the Van Gogh is Good

Even the Van Gogh is Good

Picasso Blue Period: Yes. No to Later Picasso

Picasso Blue Period: Yes. No to Later Picasso

Bonnard on a Rainy Day

Bonnard on a Rainy Day

This Bonnard is Buckled: Lots of Bonnard, Whom I Didn't know. Splotchy but that's the Point

This Bonnard is Buckled: Lots of Bonnard, Whom I Didn’t know. Splotchy but that’s the Point

Now this Matisse you Do Know

Now this Matisse you Do Know: Why Has She got no Eyes? 

Also this One: Incredibly Well-Known in Red

Also this One: Incredibly Well-Known in Red

Another Classic Matisse

Another Classic Matisse

A Pastel Matisse: Rare and Great

A Pastel Matisse: Rare and Great

 

 

 

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Return to Russia: The Catherine Palace: True Rococo

Saturday 26th May 2018

Prince Dmitri had had enough of palaces by the time we gained Tsarskoye Selo, which is to St Petersburg what Windsor is to London, in the Royal sense at least. Nothing would persuade him that the Catherine Palace is more than bling. I tried to explain how the elements dissolve on closer examination, the pilasters aren’t really pilasters, just the outline of a pilaster, and don’t even pretend to support anything; the doorways appear to be emphasised by heavy gold pillars on either side but these are at some remove from the actual opening which is so swathed in disconcerting decoration going every which way.

On the outside the Catherine Palace is in the frightening monumental bedroom style, the same as the Winter Palace. A massive great terrace of plaster massiveness ; some summer palace for Catherine the Great. Not in the slightest bit pastoral, or even summery. But within I thought the rooms some of the finest sights we saw in Russia and free of the later associations of tyranny, bloodbath and incompetence. Catherine the Great wasn’t a perfect dear, I know. Really I know nothing about her. But I’ve got such a feeling she was enlightened and simply charming, deep down.

I should mention the Amber Room: it’s so famous and was stolen by the Germans from the Catherine Palace during the War, subsequently to disappear. In fact the whole of the interior of the Catherine Palace has been extensively re-constructed after war damage, but superbly done. Now the Amber Room has been re-created at a cost of 19 million euros. You’ve not allowed to graph it but we thought it looked like sick.

The Alexander Palace was closed for restauro. No hope of seeing Nicky and Alix’s rooms… but one day. This is the second palace of Tsarkoye Selo. Really, all these palaces. The Romanovs seemed to accumulate them in a way that couldn’t have been good for them. Why not make do with one? In St Petersburg they had a clutch too. The Alexander Palace was supposed to be nice and plain and simple, because Nicky really liked the style provided by Maples of the Tottenham Court Road. Swirly gilding was too much for him, poor thing. Alexander Palace is a great yellow thing, from what we could see by leaping up beside the builders’ fence in front of it. Not hugely friendly.’Nicky and Alix,’ we screamed, ‘Come out now. We know you’re in there.’  It was that visit to the Beth Chatto garden all over again, when Robert Nevil and I saw England’s national gardener doing the washing up in her bungalow in the midst of the garden: ‘Come out, Beth,’ we megaphoned, ‘we know you’re in there.’

The grounds are bleak. Here the Imperial family were held under house arrest before their removal to the fateful house in Ekaterinburg. Apparently they trooped off each day to the kitchen garden for enthusiastic veg gardening and Nicky chopped logs in the miserable thin woods. There was quite a lack of loveliness.

The Catherine Palace: Not Exactly Summery

The Catherine Palace: Not Exactly Summery

The Catherine Palace: Main Reception

The Catherine Palace: Main Reception: See how That End Wall is All Dissolving Away

Those Pillars Support a White Blank

Those Pillars Support a White Blank

The Catherine Palace: Architectural Elements Dis-Associated

The Catherine Palace: Architectural Elements Dis-Associated and Almost Dis-ordered

Catherine Palace: Doorway Treatment

Catherine Palace: Doorway Treatment: where is the Doorway exactly? 

Is this a Pilaster?

Is this a Pilaster?

Fireplace: All Upside Down

Fireplace: All Upside Down

The Catherine Palace: Pink for a Change

The Catherine Palace: Pink for a Change

The Alexander Palace where Nicky and Alix Lived

The Alexander Palace where Nicky and Alix Lived: Could be an Institution

We Leapt Up to Get Better View of the Alexander Palace, Closed for Restauro

We Leapt Up to Get Better View of the Alexander Palace, Closed for Restauro

The Alexander Palace: Unimportant Entrance

The Alexander Palace: Unimportant Entrance

The Alexander Palace: Wretched Grounds

The Alexander Palace: Wretched Grounds

The Alexander Palace: Frozen Pond where the Imperial Family Played at Boating

The Alexander Palace: Frozen Pond where the Imperial Family Played at Boating

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Chelsea – I Plunged Then Soared: Exclusive Preview

Tuesday 22nd May 2018

I had high outfit satisfaction: an old Prada shirt in pink lawn and stone chinos by Acne Studios with a diamond studded belt. It was a standard look, not quite Prince William, not quite Hooray Henry. It ought to have been all right. But on arrival at Chelsea, I plunged. I was celebrity-hating. I hated Esther in tiny raw silk woven pink suitlette with white flower embroidery. She had a friend with to take pictures of her. I hated Sir Maxmillian Hastings, Michael Gove, Mary Berry, Sir Edwin Balls, Sir Benjamin Fogel with Boho wife, Sophie Raworth, Sir Nigel Havers, Sir David Walliams (good suit but brown not summer, indistinguishable from a Gay, and with Mother) Sir Clary, the Man off the DIY show. None of them cared for me. People were doing radio interviews all over the place, putting on their best radio voices. What a waste of time! What a load of self-seeking rubbish.

As for the gardens. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Worse than ever. So weary of prairie planting and now they’re plonking great lumpy rhododendrons and lumpy lupins just to have something new.  Sir Beardshaw – what were you thinking of ? The South African Garden – actually burnt. Horrible common modern infrastructure as usual. Then these awful symbolic efforts – garden full of lumps of concrete. Something to do with skin. The plants are the various conditions of our skin. The concrete nonsense is how strong we are inside. Oh and cancer, of course. And HIV.

Bring back Percy Thrower, I was thinking.

I was texting Royston King. But no reply. The Jamaican High Commissioner is here, with Floella Benjamin; who is Aston Taylor-Benjamin (v. whippy)? That Queen’s Chaplain also in the Windrush corner – the one from the Royal Wedding. Hot hunk, Ed Burnham from Burnham Landscaping by the HIV garden. But no reply. After a vegan slice and coffee, I felt a little better. And there, at last, was Royston, in confab with the Deputy Chair of the RHS… then he had to stop off with the Australian entrepreneur who got the Queen’s new coach built. Now that man, he’s organised a new Fabergé egg worth £1m with the Queen and the Duke of Edin on either side. He’d got it there with him, on a stand otherwise devoted to hostas. Royston was advising him as to how best to lure the Queen to his egg when she visited later in the afternoon. ‘That’s Arthur Edwards. Over there. He’s a Royal photographer. He’ll know her route. Ask him.’ The only thing is, I forgot to say, the Queen doesn’t like hostas. We went on to the Help for Heroes stand, hailing as we went: more big-wigs from the RHS, the Garden Museum, Kew… But Help for Heroes Royston knows from it being near his ancestral home in Hampshire. Now this was a symbolic garden, but I liked it. Round the back were horrible prickly plants and grey shale for when they’re first wounded, then down the side were troughs at wheelchair height where they could grow veg and finally they got a nice tranquil garden at the front when they were better or coming to terms with their injuries. Wounded soldiers do actually do gardening for therapy so it made sense.

Royston said the South African garden was marvellous. But first we had the Chair of the National Trust who’d never heard of the Gay Mother’s friend Selina who was on the Properties Committee and gave them a jar of marmalade at Castle Drogo because the damp was so awful (Lutyens messed up). Now they’ve spent millions. Rather more than a jar of marm.  ‘I don’t like the gender neutral toilets at Sutton House in Hackney,’ I snapped, ‘and you don’t need this LBGT and Women’s Stories stuff…’ ‘Well, it’s all been rather exaggerated,’ the Chair wove diplomatically. He’s also Chair of Samsonite Luggage. On to the South African Garden? No, not quite. Chair of Historic Royal Palaces: Royston had to be firm with him re: Fountain something or other at Hampton Court. ‘You don’t need it. You won’t get any more visitors.’ Royston also said that Hillsborough was a waste of time. The Chair said that Hillsborough was his main purpose in life. I tugged at the leash. It was no use. The CEO of Historic Royal Palaces was now present in addition to its Chair. A full set? At least I think that’s who it was. ‘I’ve done a lot for you,’ I squawked. ‘On Dainty Lady TV, you know. I love all your people who publicise… and they love me.’ This CEO, if that’s who he was, was charm itself. At last we were underway, but we had to knock up Plumtree who was just trying to get backstage on his stand. He runs the National Gardens Scheme, you know. Royston was at Cambridge with him. ‘Plumtree, Plumtree,’ Royston bellowed. ‘Come out now. We know you’re in there.’ Then we ran into Floella. I got into trouble later, at tea in Peter Jones, because I thought Floella was that runner who is actually dead. Floella never had anything to do with running. That needs to be made clear. Her son, Aston, is very whippy and was in a Prince William get-up.

So we were on Main Avenue and beside the South African Garden with Sophie Raworth. Sophie was charming. I loved Sophie. We’d managed to get more than 3 feet without encountering a Head of something who needed to be knocked into shape. Only the gardening correspondent from the Times, who was wondering what to make of Sir Beardshaw’s rhododendron. I told him what to make of it. But Royston said he must have peace and quiet. We saw him later trying to get away from us.

The South African Garden is great. Also its designer, who was in the army. V. self-effacing, unlike many garden designers but clearly will of steel. ‘You were in the Army,’ Royston said, ‘you know how to get things done.’ Royston and Sophie were talking about how she was to avoid the fate of Moira about whose fate questions were asked in the House of Commons. The general feeling seemed to be that Sophie and Fiona and Huw were ticking along nicely and not really under threat. Sophie really loves gardening and knows about it. Her own garden she said was ‘sweet’ rather than important. Close to she’s like a stage-artist. Massive make-up.

Finally we went round the back to the Artisan Gardens. There there was less forward-planning and distribution of millions to be considered. By the Japanese garden a lady … now was she Head of Chelsea Physic Garden formerly? I don’t think so. Anyway, Royston and she were chumy and agreed re: the Physic Garden’s application for £6 million.

Loved the Children’s Cancer Garden. Royston v. jolly with man in charge of it whose wife started painting the shoes for children with cancer. He’ll talk to anyone. They don’t have to be Chair or CEO.

So it was all incredibly great and marvellous.

I revise Chelsea on a paying basis tomorrow. I haven’t decided on my outfit. And I’ve wrecked my stone chinos by Acne Studios. But they had done two seasons and didn’t sit well on the hips. Always moving about.

Royston, by the way, was at the Garden Party this afternoon and then again at Chelsea this evening on the Faberge Stand

Esther: the Mother of the Nation

Esther: the Mother of the Nation

Esther: Her Wedges

Esther: Her Wedges

Compressed Earth Garden: Actually Quite Nice: Pointilist Planting, Tom Stuart Smith Said Privately

Compressed Earth Garden: Actually Quite Nice: Pointilist Planting, Tom Stuart Smith Said Privately

Sir Walliams: Val Always Says it Must be a Made-up Name: Mother in View

Sir Walliams: Val Always Says it Must be a Made-up Name: Mother in View

Sir Havers

Sir Havers: Esther’s Wedges in View and Her Friend who Graphed Her

Horrid

Horrid

Sir Maximillian Hastings

Sir Maximillian Hastings: Could I suggest a Suitlette?

Sir Beardshaw: His Rhododendron

Sir Beardshaw: His Rhododendron

Sophie Raworth: at The Core of Our Nation's Loveliness

Sophie Raworth: at The Core of Our Nation’s Loveliness

South African Garden: Gorgeous

South African Garden: Gorgeous

Sir Fogle: His Boho Wife

Sir Fogle: His Boho Wife

The DIY Man: Royston Asserted Knowledge of His Assets

The DIY Man: Royston Asserted Knowledge of His Assets

The South African Garden: Only Silver-Gilt Medal: So Wrong

The South African Garden: Only Silver-Gilt Medal: So Wrong: Designer in Corner of Shot

Another National Queen: She Gave me a Sharp Look. She doesn't Like Me

Another National Queen: She Gave me a Sharp Look. She doesn’t Like Me: Her Frock: Ted Baker

She's on The Archers: With Monty

She’s on The Archers: With Monty

No, No, No

No, No, No: A Very High Source said: ‘Why Can’t he Dress for Summer.’

Chinese Garden: Horrid

Chinese Garden: Horrid

Sir Nyge and the VC Winner

Sir Nyge and the VC Winner

Madame Eclair

Madame Eclair: Major Section of Outfit Missing

The Fogles

The Fogles

Sir Fogle

Sir Fogle

Who is this? Remember Laura Malcolm can't Stand the Chelsea Pensioners

Who is this? Remember Laura Malcolm can’t Stand the Chelsea Pensioners

Me, Adrian Edge, in my Ensemble

Me, Adrian Edge, in my Ensemble: I’ve Now Wrecked those Slacks: Three Spots in a Row on Cuff of one Leg: Tried all Stain Devils: Finally Bleach: Wrecked the Trouser: Thinking of Stopping Off at Tiger of Sweden Tomorrow to get Replacement: They are Doing a Super Slim Chino

 

 

 

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O! Royal Wedding. And Sadness after Wedding

Sunday 20th May 2018

What is a wedding and a Royal one especially? There are arrivals and the revelation of outfits. Later on departure therefrom. In between the ceremonies in which the couple are removed to a new state of permanence which only death can end and sometimes not even that.

Months of work and couture. The outfits! The Grand Duchess Fergiana was whippy and clucky – but navy blue? She strutted well and waved and beamed in the chapel, putting off the moment when she would sit down into obscurity. Her gloved hand, her black gloved hand, was a tremendous prop, waving, and gesturing, greeting and being au fait and au courant. Then she was seen no more. Other outfits arrived. Mrs Clooney in Stella. A terrible dread that the bride would be in Stella. One of the fashion x-rays (awful unimportant nasty green sleeveless frock) on one of the TV sofas snapped categorically that she was in Stella. It must have been the strain of having to talk for hours on TV about a dress she knew nothing about, not even who had made it. Then more outfits. And hats. I telephoned Val who is so against fascinators. A fascinator is more like a piece of equipment. Maybe suddenly it will launch something, such as a tiny nuclear missile or a fledgling messenger pigeon.

Then the Royal Family: oh the outfits! Camellia – utter Heaven! Her shade, her fit, her hat! It was living, both a bird and a flower. Anne – well. Sophie Wessex – incredible. I think she was the best. Really new. How she’s come on in outfits. At the start she was ghastly. But now, yards and yards of lovely stuff in the skirt, sumptuous powder blue satin, utterly creaseless, and the tiny Star Trek top with metal pieces. Just the idea of a two-piece and the metal and the satin used as if it were a techno fabric. She was bringing fashion forward.

Of course absolutely no interest in men’s wear, except the Princes. Frock coats! At last. Vital for menswear at weddings. And then they added fetish straps behind their legs. Well done!

And so the Bride! Well, it was a miracle. I’ve never seen a bride so bridal. The veil was the thing. Nobody’s really mentioned it. The dress a blazing wonder of Paris couture, London wouldn’t have been able to do it. Building up the layers to make something substantial yet not a carapace. And then the contrast of the extraordinary ethereal veil which was also the train. Metres and metres of the finest veiling, with embroidered emblems caught in it. Standing on the steps, fully veiled, she looked like some extraordinary rare creature, caught in some other world, or as if held in a jar, seen through water and glass. Or is a veil a shroud? The bride is somehow dead or not yet alive.

It was a dream come true. The ceremony proceeded. Wistful and melancholy, I thought, from start to finish, ending with the mournful ‘cello solo: Ava Maria by Schubert. In memory, one does not remember that one quarter of the service was the preacher who could not quite whirl the congregation to orgasm as, no doubt, he normally would.

Still it was wonderful. Then it was over. All the frocks and clucks and bags and gloves dissolved into nothingness. Over a quiet lunch of Asparagus Mimosa and Coronation Chicken in the drawing room (the dining room was being re-plastered) with a half-bottle of pink champagne, Prince Dmitri the only guest, I could not settle. Where, oh where was the Royal Wedding? Where had it gone?

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At Last We Face the Hermitage

Sunday 6th May 2018

Actually I took the plunge and had the hotel breakfast. It was a luxury breakfast plan and treatment at £25 each so we rejected the plan. But, after many corridors, I had glimpsed the Breakfast Valhalla previously and finally dared to enter. There was the Smoked Fish Bank, the Cheese and Cold Meats Bank, the Pastry Bank; in fact all-known Banks. Such worry one might be missing something. Top lit vault-like room; more of a breakfast sepulchre. Ian Bostrich was at another table, with his pianist, whom I addressed. I took the Smoked Fish option: fairly filthy. then the Honey Study area, complete with charts and labels. Felt rather queasy after executing the Luxury Breakfast Plan. Prince Dmitri was at Catholic Mass. That’s how Russian he is: not even Dox.

So a second post-Mass breakfast was called for: no café had any granola let alone fresh fruit. But there was to be a breakthrough on that front. Just you wait.

Assaulting the Breakfast Vault gave strength for storming of the Hermitage: maybe. I was beginning to grasp Russia better. The Winter Palace is incredibly bedroom: it’s done in teal with swirly plasterwork picked out in white. But also it’s very fierce and Russian. Somehow the more bedroom it becomes, the more terrifying. The river front has a road running in front of it and at the back the corners are right on Palace Square. Anybody could have climbed through the windows and joined the Empress for tea. There’s no park around nor railings. Also there are neighbours, in other palace-like terraces. The Empress could have waved to other drawing rooms.

The Hermitage, as in Art Museum, is mostly in another building, built for the purpose in the mid 19th century. They’ve got two Leonardos, two Raphaels (one tiny; the bigger one very yellow), a few El Grecos, some Tintoret, no Titian… but the Dutch Room… The Winter Palace has only got French art. The rest of it is Palace; they’re restoring Nicky and Alix’s old rooms, after a fashion. Their view, across the road, was the Neva which is so wide. Much wider than the Danube at Budapest. The windows are in a poor state. From the French art rooms, you look out onto that terrible square where the Revolution happened. Someone had stuck some masking tape over the window frame to keep the icy drafts off a Watteau.

We weren’t looking at Watteau though. We were trying to sieve the Hermitage for essential viewing, to find the three or four central pictures. It was exhausting. The place is a rat-bag. So many people being herded around. Why do they make them? So obviously they’d rather be anywhere else.  A lot of the art rooms also have furniture and palace type things scattered about. Busy. Some of the pictures were buckled.

The Palace rooms, though, are on a scale as never seen before. The vastness.

We left the Hermitage: the initial visit had not been a failure. But shattering. Russia is shattering, as I was to say to Prince Dmitri a few day later at dinner. We took the Metro to the Fortress Church of St Peter and St Paul. Longest escalators ever seen. Also danger of bombs. Terrorists. The Fortress Church of St Peter and St Paul is in fact more benign: 18th century, rather than 19th. Could almost be an Alpine scene in Austria or lower Germany, without the mountains. Here the Tsars are buried. Boxes and boxes of Tsars all over the Church floor were the congregation might otherwise be. The tomb of dear Marie Feodorovna made much of: she was only recently brought back, in September 2006, from Denmark, as popular now as she was when Empress. At her re-interment, there was hysteria and a junior Danish attaché fell into the grave. The Michaels of Kent were present.  Then, at the back, the pathetic single box containing the fragments of Nicky Russia, and Alix and some of their children and faithful attendants. The Tsarevitch and one of the Grand Duchesses are not included although their remains have been found.

It was so wrong to wipe them out like that; the entire family and their staff. But telling of what was to come, of course. Wrong too, of our own dear King, George V, to refuse to rescue them. What harm would Nicky have been, living in a villa at Streatham? He seemed to like fetching coal and chopping wood. Besides there were plenty of other old Romanovs knocking about in Britain and nobody took much notice of them. They never rose up and threatened to topple the House of Windsor.

After that, there was barely time to soothe the swollen feet before the Concert of Folk Music in the smaller concert hall (Ian Bostrich had been in the bigger one, also rather bedroom). We were the only boys present; otherwise entirely old ladies, all Russian. I knew the kind of mu: Klessmer, Slavic, Folk. We hear it when we visit the orphans in Bulgaria. There was one violin, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, banjo, tuba and drums (portable). The sound is tragic, mournful, manic.

The Belmont Grand Hotel Europa: the Breakfast Valhalla

The Belmont Grand Hotel Europa: the Breakfast Valhalla

The Belmont Grand: Breakfast Plan. The Honey Study Area

The Belmont Grand: Breakfast Plan. The Honey Study Area

The Belmont Grand: Honey Study Chart

The Belmont Grand: Honey Study Chart

The Winter Palace: Bedroom, yet Terrifying

The Winter Palace: Bedroom, yet Terrifying

The Winter Palace: More Metal Drawing Room

The Winter Palace: More Metal Drawing Room

The Winter Palace: Cosy Corner

The Winter Palace: Cosy Corner

The Winter Palace: Simple Private Chapel

The Winter Palace: Simple Private Chapel

The Winter Palace: Surging Grandeur

The Winter Palace: Surging Grandeur

The Winter Palace: Boudoir Corner

The Winter Palace: Boudoir Corner

One of Nicky and Alix's Rooms

One of Nicky and Alix’s Rooms: Really He Liked Maples of Tottenham Court Road and Waring and Gillow

Nicky Russia's Library: If Only he'd Done More Reading

Nicky Russia’s Library: If Only he’d Done More Reading

Nicky Russia in his Library

Nicky Russia in his Library as he Never Was, most Likely 

That Square!

That Square!

Keeping the Draft off the Watteau

Keeping the Draft off the Watteau

The Wedgwood Service made for Catherine the Great

The Wedgwood Service made for Catherine the Great

Dear Marie Feodorovna: Her Tomb. Only One with a Graph

Dear Marie Feodorovna: Her Tomb. Only One with a Graph and Flowers. Her Present Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all Her Territories Over the Seas has got Her Tiara 

The Winter Palace Seen from the Other side of the Neva

The Winter Palace Seen from the Other side of the Neva

The Folk Music Concert: the Players Leaving the Auditorium

The Folk Music Concert: the Players Leaving the Auditorium

 

 

 

 

 

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Russia Quite Bedroom?

Friday 4th May 2018

The Fabergé Museum! Prince Dmitri was very patient. All this tremendousness over eggs. Fabergé appeared to have egg mania as others are crazy for plastic trolls or fluffy toy pandas. Really it’s the effect of the Museum. Still an effect. The earliest one actually looks like an egg; amazing gold items emerge when it is opened. Then they grew more fancy: pink clossonie enamel (actually I made that up, but it turns out to be the right term, more or less), mounted with pearls, diamonds and leaves done in some priceless way. Another is salmon, with gilt swags on a plinth. There’s a bay tree clock; just like the standard bay tree outside Browns in Oxford that got picked to pieces by those frantic at having to queue. That was in the 1970s. Between ourselves, I thought the Fabergé bay leaves looked like plastic.

Really Fabergé is quite bedroom. By which I mean boudoir. One began to see that there’s a bedroom element to Russia; it was lurking there in the Youssapov Palace, but not seen by me until the next day when in the Fabergé Museum.

We went on to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, built on the spot of Alexander 11’s assassination. He was quite blown up by anarchists on Sunday 13th March 1881, taken back to the Winter Palace in pieces where he died within 15 minutes. The new Empress, Marie Federovna, sister of Queen Alexandra, gave a graphic account of his state. If only they hadn’t assassinated him. If only he’d had better security; if only he’d not followed the same routine every Sunday so they knew where to find him, if only he’d not got out of the carriage after the 1st bomb. He was a reforming Tsar. His son and then poor Nicky were not. No Russian Revolution. The Romanovs could have still been there, in headscarves taking tea like our own dear Windsors. Who knows?

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood harks back to the old Russia of St Basil’s Moscow but in a 19th century manufactured version. Still there’s a certain primitive mass, the dark, red brick, a certain terror of relentless splendour. Perhaps Russia would never have changed.

Somehow we took the Russian Museum as well that morning. All these visits before lunch and the Ian Bostrich concert in the evening. After lunch we must have rested in the hotel.

In the Russian Museum there’s no mention of Stalin. It just says, ‘After 1930 there was a period of adjustment…’ i.e. artists gulag-ed if they veered in the tiniest from the path of glorious Soviet propaganda. But in other areas there’s no holding back. The museum suddenly becomes an old palace with endless swirling drawing rooms. We rounded a corner: ‘Nicky Russia!’ Prince Dmitri proclaimed. There was a full-on idealised portrait of the wretched man, followed by a vast panoramic painting of him presiding at a ceremonial meeting of the Council – so endless uniforms and moustaches and not  a frock to be seen.

Early Egg by Fabergé, before He went Bedroom

Early Egg by Fabergé, before He went Bedroom

Bedroom Egg by Fabergé

Bedroom Egg by Fabergé

Fabergé Boudoir Piece

Fabergé Boudoir Piece

Fabergé Bay-Tree Clock

Fabergé Bay-Tree Clock: Where’s the Clock-face?

This One Belonged to Consuela, Duchess of Marlborough. What's It Doing in Russia? I Texted Joshua Baring to Find out if Ducal Nephew Wants it Back

This One Belonged to Consuela, Duchess of Marlborough. What’s It Doing in Russia? I Texted Joshua Baring to Find out if Ducal Nephew Wants it Back

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood: the Actual Spot where Tsar Alexander 11 was Assassinated

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood: the Actual Spot where Tsar Alexander 11 was Assassinated: Note the Acrylic Writing: Prince Dmitri v. Keen on: Must be His Russian Roots, Long Lost

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood: Ancient Power Manufactured in the 19th Century

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood: Ancient Power Manufactured in the 19th Century

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

The Russian Museum: Kandinsky

The Russian Museum: Kandinsky: Could be Anything: That’s the Point

The Russian Museum: Malevich: Stalin Wasn't Having This

The Russian Museum: Malevich: Stalin Wasn’t Having This

The Russian Museum: Isaac Levitan: You Just Feel Russia

The Russian Museum: Isaac Levitan: You Just Feel Russia

The Russian Museum: Alexander Golovin: Russian in the Springtime,as Opposed to From Russia with Love

The Russian Museum: Alexander Golovin: Russia in the Springtime,as Opposed to From Russia with Love: Except It’s more Like Autumn

The Russian Museum: Nicky Russia

The Russian Museum: Nicky Russia: Wet

The Russian Museum: Sudden Palace

The Russian Museum: Sudden Palace

The Russian Museum: Sudden Drawing Room

The Russian Museum: Sudden Drawing Room

The Russian Museum: Full Metal Drawing Room

The Russian Museum: Full Metal Drawing Room

Today's Romanovs at the Ian Bostrich Concert at the Main Concert Hall. She's Probably in Max Mara. She had quite a Hot Man with (probably in Zegna). They Talked all through 1st Half and Seemed Furious. But Applauded Greatly. In Second Half were Googling Ian Bostrich to see Who he Is

Today’s Romanovs at the Ian Bostrich Concert at the Main Concert Hall. She’s Probably in Max Mara.  Hot Man with (probably in Zegna) can be glimpsed. They Talked all through 1st Half and Seemed Furious. But Applauded Greatly. In Second Half were Googling Ian Bostrich to see Who he Is. The Night Before there was No Audience according to Concert Hall website Yet Concert was Full: Who made Them Come?

 

 

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