The Meaning of Christmas

Tuesday 25th December 2018

Christmas bears us back into the Past. Swathed in the infinite deep winter melancholy of Once in Royal David’s City, In the Bleak Mid-Winter and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, we are drawn back not just to the tiny event long long ago deep amidst the winter’s snow when a baby was born in a stable (although in the Holy Land it snoweth not) but to our own lost Christmases and those now absent for ever for Christmas. In this blank time there is dread. We must be happy. Nothing must go wrong. The bird must not be over-done. Ruin threatens as in daily life it does not. With our nice busy routine suspended, we are left to stare at the raw material – all the grief and wrong and lost summer days.

It was always sparkling and crisp as we drove over to the Gay Granny and Grandpa’s on Christmas Day and their Christmas in the family mansion was a treasure trove of antiques, tradition and glinting shiny things. All gone now. Grandpa has been dead for 50 years. But quite suddenly the past can surge back and bind in again to the force that drives us forward. Memory is our fabric. We must live the more because others cannot. The more we have lost, the more we must forge on.

We will rise again from this bleak day when we contemplate the silent, helpless baby born long long ago.

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Christmas is Upon Us

Monday 24th December 2018

I’ve been twice to San Paulo, once to St Martins, once to Matthew Bourne at Sadlers Wells. All for Christmas and Advent. The Queens of Brixton gave a gathering. Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten gave a gathering. Arabella von Gardendoor gave a gathering. Ed Jasper and Roland Mainflower gave a gathering after Matthew Bourne. In between there were small dinners.

San Paulo is so exotic. It can’t be English. London’s Bishop was a tiny speck by the High Altar, as she gave the Blessing at the Advent Service. My dear, the incense! I thought they’d set fire to the Basilica. Two Royal Chairs were evident as we took our seats. We were thrilled guests of Genevieve Suzy. Eventually two figures in black approached: ‘The Gloucesters!’ I shrieked. Nobody else had a clue. Advent is superior to Christmas. We had Hills of the North Rejoice, Lo he Comes in Clouds Descending. Only Jerusalem the Golden was missing. I’m campaigning to get it in next year. A massive panoply of clergy, choirs, children holding candles (including the daughter of Genevieve) progressed over an hour from the West Door to the High Altar. The idea of humble pilgrimage into light was superseded by the grandeur of the episcopal suite, the accompanying side canons, the officers of our National Cathedral, the croziers, candelabras, mitres and copes in glory.

I always say a new bit been’s put into The Messiah. This time it was ‘The Trumpet Shall Sound’. All the numbers are hits. What a work! My friend Miss Mullholland who sings in the choir, confided afterwards that ‘Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion’ had been omitted this time. In other words, it really is true one Messiah might be different from another. So there. I love the Messiah at San Paulo. So ghostly the acoustic and the perf is vigorous and energetic always. Every Christmas…

At the Queens of Brixton the theme was Killing Eve – Lesbian overtones apparently. A huge black Killing Eve cake was bought in with two figures in a bed made of icing. I don’t know whether a serial killer had got them because I haven’t seen Killing Eve. But others have. I was asked if I knew any available Lesbians by a Lesbian. Rufus Pitman had a hat with huge German feathers – or Austrian. Gerard de France said he couldn’t watch anything violent – so no Killing Eve for him.

The next day Harry Rollo gave an astonishing perf – just him doing tiny, absolute miniatures, so intense and more devastating than a cast of 1000s but in a different way. Then we gathered at his and Mr Kitten’s home where a great name came on from the 1st Night of Matthew Bourne, saying he’d manoeuvred without success to get the Tom Daleys to accompany him. Tom Daleys – so near and yet so far. Another slightly less great name from Australia mainly spoke to the first great name. Harry Rollo’s mother had a fabulous black two-piece from her daughter-in-law’s Danish shop. So simple and perfect and madly expensive. And rare. One-off label. Miss Lamore Cellina gave a full re-creation of her visit to Buckingham Palace when she was in the suite of a performance artist like Harry who was being given a medal by the Queen. The lady-in-waiting (Miss Lamore did her with hand gestures: face, hair, hat, bag) flirted with Miss Lamore’s performance artist: ‘I do like tall men,’ she said.  Later she said that her husband’s legs had been blown awff. ‘Not so tall anymore?’ the perf artist remarked. ‘Well, quite,’ said lady-in-waiting, the face, hair, hat, bag and gloves reinforcing the absoluteness of it all. The perf artist was shown into a room with the Queen in it and was struck dumb. The Queen is so charismatic. Partly it’s the diamonds ( I didn’t say that) but also how she wears them. I always say this: if only those against could gaze upon Majesty they’d be at once converted.

Matthew Bourne, I’ve rather had enough of. Every year I go because Ed Jasper makes a thing of it and gives a gathering afterwards. But really the choreography is Wave the arms and bend at the waist in a wavy way. Then pivot on one leg with jerks. The dancers aren’t absolutely disciplined in the classical manner and there were an awful lot of them crammed into the stage. Bit of a muddle, not lined up properly. Still, Swan Lake. Such lovely mu. Every number a hit – like The Messiah.

I entered Ed Jasper’s drawing room afterwards. Three incredible woman greatnesses were already assembled, all of them household names – black draperies edged with gold, the winged, power hair in gold, the faces worked by art to the maximum burnish. What a vision. Ed dropped a cocktail sausage on the floor: ‘Would you like a soiled sausage?’ he said. I spoke to a quiet lady who described her journey to work in accountancy firm from one part of Suffolk to another. Her husband was a huge 80s pop star, also present. ‘Not Nick Heyward,’ she said. Another Nick. Everybody was astonished I’d never heard of him.

At Arabella von Gardendoor’s I was uplifted despite a 4.9 price surge on Uber. The ex-MP had been texting privately with Mrs May to show at least human care for the embattled PM. Was amazed to receive reply asking how SHE was. Arabella’s stepson is v. coming and fitness-oriented. He’s now married his long-term, also a keen cyclist and lycra-wearer. ‘How lucky you are,’ I said. He took me through his outfit: incredible alternative labels. Some shoes were on order with a white band round. Can you imagine anything more perfect? Interested in clothes, fitness, food and straight. Arabella always has all her ex-husband’s family, his previous wife, present companion (if there is one), his mother, who appeared to be the Empress of Iran,  the anti-Islamic uncle with strange headgear – The Blond Multi actually came and spoke to me. ‘What’s your news?’ I said. ‘I don’t have any.’ He was very sympathetic though when I outlined some of my troubles. The Photo Multi made a brief acknowledgement then they both left the function.

I surged and surged back this pre-Christmas. At times the gloom has overwhelmed me, all the lost Christmases, all those who have gone on before, now absent for Christmas, the tragic hopelessness of the baby Jesus. As Val said on 10th December, ‘At least it’s not long now until Christmas will be over.’ I relaid this to Prince Dmitri Hersov who said, ‘Wonderful. Such a positive outlook.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Val Seeks the True Vindaloo

Saturday 22nd December 2018

Val mentioned on the telephone that  the true Vindaloo had been revealed to him. So I was booked to go down to Hastings to experience it. There was no lunch on arrival as had been mentioned but the pork was said to be marinating in the vinegar, the cardamom and the cloves. I was getting nearer to the secret of the true Vindaloo. Meantime Val wanted to go to B&Q to get a really good dry rot killer. He said he’d been watching 101 Dalmatians with Glenn Close on Channel 5 the day before. The adverts he couldn’t believe –  a motorised Barbie clinic?  We drove to the De La Warr Pavilion which was saved by the parents-in-law of one of the artists in my collection as well as their son, an architect, being married to another architect known to Bruce McBain. Val had fish and chips as well as banter with the attendant about the mushy pea fritters in the cafe there. It seemed there was an alternative to B&Q in Bexhill main street but they are out of dry rot killer. We were set off by that shop on a wild goose-chase through all the other DIY outlets in Bexhill except B&Q, but the banter was good and I don’t think they’d ever seen the likes of Val and myself. We wondered about the life of staff in such places. Val thought there would be compensations: such as contact between the sexes and whip-rounds. So we ended up at B&Q anyway and Val emerged triumphant with a tri-parite mega dry rot killer in a less than 5-litre quantity. Quite why there is dry-rot in an external door frame of a newly-built house I don’t know.

But there is.

We got back to Val’s LA-type residence. I did some dusting while Val recovered on the sofa. His recent triumph was Kirsty Wark on Newsnight saying to Giles Coren, ‘So then, Giles Coren, is vegetarianism an eating disorder?’ It was Val who first asked this question 30 years ago. Now it’s reached the orbit of Kirsty Wark. Not surprising then that Val was meditating on a vegetarian Christmas menu: ‘How about making a nut roast out of topside? Would that do?’ Eventually Val stirred for the kitchen where he engaged in the mysteries of the vindaloo. Before the final manifestation though, there was a paté: ‘More of cut moquette than a mouselline,’ Val explained. ‘I couldn’t face all that sieving.’ I thought ‘cut moquette’ was a kind of carpet. Anyway, it was a delicious and decorative paté. We ate on knees with telly on. Then came the vindaloo. Have you guessed yet? Well, at last you shall know. The true Vindaloo – well, it’s not hot at all. Quite the opposite – fragrant and tangy.

So there it is.

The next morning Val outlined a look he might adopt involving greasy fuchsia hair with a centre parting, many bags and unfortunate jewellery.

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I Fly to Bulgaria

Monday 17th December 2018

Club Class for the very last time possibly. Anthony Mottram and I had tray lunch at Sofia bus station, then bus-ed to Plovdiv. Glorious weather. Lunch v. acceptable: meat patties, grains, no Chopska though. Before boarding we visited Bulgaria National Gallery. It was a few rooms of dried up parquet and ancient cream paint: big modern splurgy paintings in small numbers. Not clear what had happened to the Bulgarian National Collection. I was just egging Anthony Mottram on to take a snoop graph of an outstanding Bulgarian beetroot rinse (the classic lady hair shade of Bulgaria) when at the exact moment another even more supreme demonstration of the mode appeared in a doorway.

That was the big event of the morning.

I was rather dreading the bus journey but there was even a toilet on board. The luggage was carefully tended by the driver so no risk of bandits making off with it. I was planning an Eddie Redmayne look for the Opera opening only done by Topman cap a ped. Plovdiv is picturesque in the old part: ferocious cobbles. Impossible to get along even in flat shoes. Hilly. Handsome stucco merchants’ houses with shallow-arched casement windows as you see in Istanbul; front door in a recessed arcade with three Islamic arches. Within much wood and carving. We were at the Hebros where I reminded Anthony Mottram, 20 years ago, he had shouted out of the window in the middle of the night at a horrible American man who was talking dirty at a woman in the street. But AM didn’t remember. You would assume nobody would talk like that outside of a porn movie. The man wasn’t drunk. He just didn’t realise everybody could hear. So maybe more get up to this sort of thing than statistics have laid down for our guidance.

Although AM did remember the living toilet, of course. Who could forget the living toilet? It manifested itself in Club class on the Prague-Sofia flight the year of the Prague floods which was 2002. The toilet flap was flapping wildly, stopping then starting again, condemned forever to bang and bang. Clearly it was trying to say something or to escape. It was a deeply human sound.

We dined quietly after meeting with Constanza, who was directing the production of Cosi. It’s her first opera. She said Cosi was baroque and the singers had been alarmed that she had not blocked out their movements in advance. There was much to discuss re: the Orphans, the state of Bulgaria, Plovdiv being the City of Culture in 2019 etc. I don’t know whether we’ll ever get the Summer Drama Festival back which Constanza used to direct at Shiroka Luka.  At dinner we furthered the quest for the ideal Chopska but the next day Constanza said it should never have red pepper in it.

After resting on the Saturday and after another Chopska at luncheon, without red pepper, we set out for Cosi at the Plovdiv Culture House. I wore my Eddie Redmayne get-up. I’d come from London for Cosi at Plovdiv. One of the Orphans was present. Well, it was extraordinary. Constanza had got the singers to arrive at, by means of improvisation and collaboration, highly artificial movements, very demanding and athletic. For instance in one of the arias when the lovers are parting, they had to waltz and keep falling over. So the style of the production was a kind of mad comedy, beautifully executed with confidence and aplomb. Singing and orch also quite up to scratch. It was a revelation. Made perfect sense. The mu of Cosi so sincere and passionate throughout and the story so absurd and contemptible. No attempt to explain or make sense so somehow it added up. It’s quite possible to be sublime and ridiculous at the same time.

Afterwards there was a restaurant party but Chopska was not demonstrated. The next morning AM met with some ex-Orphans in a cafe while I did a piece to camera about the Romanovs in the hotel. Then we returned by car to Sofia. All the time pulsing in the background was wracking worry about my mineral interests in the Far West. I was thankful to have the support of an International Businessman of AM’s calibre. He saw exactly what was going on. I returned Club on the Monday. Bought Rose Petal Turkish Delight and two jars of nuts with honey at the airport. Latter intended as Christmas presents but I have eaten both.

My Eddie Redmayne Look for Cosi at Plovdiv

My Eddie Redmayne Look for Cosi at Plovdiv

Cosi was Given at Plovdiv

Cosi was Given at Plovdiv

Opera-going Greatness of Plovdiv

Opera-going Greatness of Plovdiv

 

 

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Lord Heseltine’s Talk

Saturday 15th December 2018

To the Annual National Garden Scheme Lecture given by Lord Heseltine at the Royal Geographic Society after a gruelling day of engagements: first to the Queen’s Gallery for the Romanov Exhib where one of the cases was still open, then on the Brompton Cemetery where Royston King was unveiling the newly restored monument to the Chelsea Pensioners. Living Pensioners, so loathed by Laura Malcolm after one of them complained about her daughter, Ivy, driving her kiddie scooter in the grounds of the Royal Hospital , were gathered around. I didn’t like to mention that the monument  marks a mass grave of Pensioners into which they had been flung unnamed after falling in battle. Now it would be all quite different, I suppose. But Royston made a speech, working them all into history and significance. There were further ceremonies in the arcade to commemorate the Park dead of both World Wars and all Wars. Lloyd Grossman had thought he was reading the poem but he wasn’t. The task fell to an apprentice gardener as is the way these days, that the least are given the most prominence. We sat out of doors but got into the former chapel for the tea. I had a long talk with the Head of Richmond Park re: various nurseries from which they order, as do I. After that Royston and I inspected the new V&A extension and quizzed the Jamaican attendants re: how it is doing. Royston always makes a point of addressing anyone working in a museum who appears to be from the Caribbean or Africa. He doesn’t say it exactly but his message is: ‘You too could be an OBE like me and on Committees.’ The new extension to the V&A is v. modern and empty. The toilets are non-binary: i.e. the ‘male’ toilet is pink. We remarked on this to the Jamaican attendants at the desk, to give them a different view.

The lecture was given to start at 6.30 but of course it didn’t begin until 7.30. We met the Head of Crocus in the corridor. ‘I’ve got my flies undone,’ he said brazenly and uproariously adjusted his clothing on the spot. ‘Now what’s all this about the toilet contract for the Chelsea Flower Show?’ Royston inquired. ‘How do you know about that?’ the Head of Crocus said, wildly amused. Later Royston made scandalous accusations to me privately re: the RHS and its running of the Chelsea Flower Show. Watch this space. Lord Heseltine’s talk was in two halves. He sat behind great barricades of a book about his mansion in Northamptonshire which he appeared to wish to sell. But the main drift of his first half hour, about the making of the garden at the mansion, was that he’s got great vistas of money stretching as far as the eye can see. ‘Anne and I saw these vases at Sotheby’s…. we had to have them…. there was this dreadful ditch… look at at now’ – 500m of stone-edged rill, antiquities, formal hedging. All the things that rich people do, particularly diverting water. Any water must be made to go somewhere else and form at least two lakes where before there was one but not in the same place of course. He knew the names of quite a few plants and operated the slide machine very efficiently. Delivery was engagingly old man, a bit bumbly. He had a jumper on underneath a tweed jacket. The look was semi-country. At half time there was an abrupt change of gear and Lord H launched into a plea for more apprentices and opportunities and gardens in poor places. Royston said he’d issued this speech before and besides did he have any apprentices in his garden?

I forgot to mention that I saw Lord H in the early 70s in a marquee in the Far West where he was MP. He had green gumboots.

The next morning I had to leave at the crack for Bulgaria. My last Club Class experience.

Chelsea Pensioners at mass grave of their unknown forebears: Brompton Cemetery: Unveiling of Restored Monument to Chelsea Pensioners

Chelsea Pensioners at mass grave of their unknown forebears: Brompton Cemetery: Unveiling of Restored Monument to Chelsea Pensioners

Ceremonies to Remember the Royal Park Dead of All Wars

Ceremonies to Remember the Royal Park Dead of All Wars

The Tea Afterwards

The Tea Afterwards: A Rare Woman Pensioner

Tea Guests and Some in 1st World War Uniforms

Tea Guests and Some in 1st World War Uniforms

Lord Heseltine Giving the NGS Annual Lecture: Note Piles of Books about his Own Garden

Lord Heseltine Giving the NGS Annual Lecture: Note Piles of Books about his Own Garden

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Oceania x 3

Friday 14th December 2018

Thrice I have been: once to the PV with the Duchess of Sussex and twice to Private Breakfasts, as Aunt Lavinia’s plus one then as Royston King’s. Oh dear! Have I really grasped Oceania? My other pre-occupation this autumn has been the Romanovs, where again I was shown exclusively and could have reached into the open cabinet and plucked some Fabergé … and dear darling Buckingham Palace itself, over whom I have poured for hours – more of that later.

So my world really now is the Royal Academy and Buckingham Palace.

The Romanovs v. Oceania. Compare and contrast. One highly frocked, jewelled, enamelled, the other quite nude but also keen on craft, maybe art. The first time at the Royal Academy one was taken up with Royalty, canapés and getting on to dinner. We viewed briefly and Royston said it was marvellous that the things were there, in the Royal Academy, not in some anthropological museum. Thus they were elevated. The third time we were quite busy cornering the Secretary to congratulate on his knighthood plus putting him right about the new extension. He even changed direction and followed Royston to the new rear entrance, once the gateway to the Museum of Mankind, to hear his criticisms. I thought it was horrid, I’m sorry to say. Royston said more had been spent than on any other museum in recent times. And there was nobody there.

I think the Oceanic peoples were/are fun but clever. Picasso and Brancusi adored their wooden gods as sculpture. So did Henry Moore. So not primitive but the essence of form. The trouble is missionaries chopped off the wooden stiff willies which were a great feature. Some pictorial decoration for a house tells the story of a woman who was dis-satisified with her man’s member so sought another. Her reward was great for she found a penis on such a scale it arched all the way across the bay where the fish pranced underneath it and the birds flew above. What could be better? Royston said the great donating ladies, grande dames of Belgravia and SW7, were strangely thrilled. It’s true there was a distinct change in their purr. I couldn’t grasp how the square pieces with wires going in various directions and where they cross a white blob are maps. But that’s what they are – maps. Too brainy for me.

Val said that the whole of Polynesia was incredibly noisy before Western man arrived. It was the beating of bark to make cloth. Going on all the time, according to Val. They also did incredible feather work. Hours and hours stitching in red feathers one by one. Had to be red feathers because they’d only got one bird that had any and even then that was only about three. After that they liked yellow feathers, again there was only one bird with any but it had a few more than the red one.

So they made things hard for themselves. Plus they carved away – carved feast troughs, carved entrances for the hut-home, carved boats. Frockage also was attended too. The Chief Mourner’s outfit has to be seen to be believed

All in all, it seems that they honed and shaped and sculpted every aspect of their lives. That’s art.

Bruncusi and Picasso Admired this One: Blackened Shoulders is Where Worshippers Rubbed in Oil

Bruncusi and Picasso Admired this One: Blackened Shoulders and Head is Where Worshippers Rubbed in Oil

Fabulous Coconut-Matting Lady

Fabulous Coconut-Matting Lady

Royston Liked this One Best

Royston Liked this One Best

Some People

Some People

The Work! Incredible

The Work! Incredible. Don’t Tell me this is Primitive 

Not Quite Sure what This is despite 3 Visits

Not Quite Sure what This is despite 3 Visits. I think It’s Man and Woman 

Bark Cloth: so Fine

Bark Cloth: so Fine

Polynesian Idea of Western People with their Little Outfits

Polynesian Idea of Western People with their Little Outfits

Modern Polynesian Bottom

Modern Polynesian Bottom

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Robert Nevil Launches

Thursday 13th December 2018

Robert Nevil’s On the Naming of Ponies (fearfully brainy but aimed at the Christmas market) was launched at a City bookshop. I wore my faux linen dress coat by Topman, as I did at the last launch of a work by Robert Nevil – Some Lovely Treks Through Shropshire on Your Pony. This was to emphasise the rate of production which has gone up as RN advances in years.

Classic ladies, such as are to be found at a Robert Nevil luncheon party – well-born, art outfit, brook no nonsense, fairly terrifying – were present. ‘I’ve read your book,’ I said to one. ‘I’ve written more than one,’ she goes. ‘I mean the one about your father. Where he goes off on his pony all through the night…’ ‘Yes, that’s the one everybody means.’ I didn’t mention, although she wrote it… accompanied by an assortment of delinquent young men. So that was her. There were some no shows, on account of the Pony Club not sending out invitations. On the whole, it’s important to send out invitations if you want people to come. No Reggie Cresswell nor Rufus Pitman (although I think they were both on tour on the sub-continent) no Lord Arrowby (massively over-functioned that eve), no Laura Malcolm, no Bruce McBain. This was a benefit in a way, for the pre-historic hard core was exposed. The pioneering flat-mates from 45 years ago. Oh the damp in Streatham and the early Gay Life going on without central heating! Mr Algonquin, the original ideal straight flat-mate in a Gay flat-share, interested in hair. I’ve only seen him twice since and he always confirms responsibility for several children. Eddie Sedgewick of course – tiny little jacket. All still there. Madame Sosostris was a later addition and never in residence. Ronnie Ronnie also – but stellar at the Blitz Club, totally Gay even in the late 70s, blazing a trail. Now he was a bit offended when I explained to Troy Banner, who looked in from Palm Beach, that Ronnie Ronnie’s front hair is Winter Mink. It’s additional, you see. He always points it out himself, but I suppose it is not the province of others to do so. He said it wasn’t Winter Mink anyway. Maybe it wasn’t yet time to switch from whatever the autumn hue is – Misty Fox, perhaps.

Troy and I were watching out for the Multis, who haven’t been seen for months. They were due but no show – colds, apparently. I fell into conversation with someone who said she worked for Arriva. ‘The bus company?’ I said. ‘How unusual?’ But she meant RIBA which is something to do with architecture. Ponies and architecture often unite. Bruce McBain knows the couple that ran the bookshop there for years and years, although one half has passed sadly, so there’s only one left.

Finally the MP for Whirly and Lorraine (Labour) came in direct from the House. He said Mrs May’s deal would get through. The DUP only wanted more money. Well, let’s hope for the best. I mean we’ve got to have a deal, however much we may dislike it, than no deal at all. That’s what he thought too.

Our transfer to the restaurant was record-breakingly swift. No interminable good-byes. We were styled into a Trat in the shadow of St Pauls by Joshua Baring. I thought it was enchanting but Robert Nevil and Joshua were sniffy.

 

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We Go into Suffolk

Sunday 9th December 2018

The Gay Mother said she didn’t know Suffolk. Even though it’s about as far from the Far West as possible to imagine, off we went. Nooky, wooky, beamy hotel at Lavenham – nightmare for the over 90s, i.e. most of the guests. The first afternoon I had to leave the Gay Mother in the hotel lounge while I did a piece to camera for Dainty Lady TV.  There she acquired tickets for the Endellion Quartet who were carrying out a festival of quartets in the hotel with dinner (we didn’t have the dinner) and she read the Daily Mail. ‘I’m very cross,’ she said. ‘Why are people lonely? There’s so much to do.’ This was re: a news story that Mrs May was offering dance classes for the lonely. Otherwise the Gay Mother said things are going downhill at Tescos – superior products being phased out or put on top shelves where she can’t reach them. Tesco’s Finest yoghurts a distant memory. Those cardamon biscuits vanished. The big mission was the Three Hares. She’d heard there was a church in Suffolk where the Three Hares were to be found. I said that 20 years she was in quest of some other peculiar symbolic items in churches and it wasn’t the Three Hares. I thought maybe it was the Green Man but she said the Green Man was everywhere. On retiring to her room, once it was gained over and under the endless beams, up and down the endless steps, she was reading The Golden Bowl.  ‘You read it before,’ I said. ‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘Yes, you did . You said it was a marvellous story about a bowl that was cracked.’ ‘Really?’

We went to Lavenham Town Hall and Lavenham church. The Gay Mother wrote an enormous cheque because the church was so huge. Lavenham is incredible; you must go there but you have to stay overnight to get the idea of it. It’s so medieval. The footprint of the town unchanged from medieval times. No modern outskirts. Totally medieval. Then it was the 13th richest town in England. Now it’s little more than a village. No new buildings, although many have been Georgianised. Much Farrow & Ball, of course.

Privately I thought the Endellion Quartet a bit … well, it said in the programme it was that Schubert one movement piece …  But all the subscribers to the three-day hotel, dinner and quartets plan were thrilled.

The middle-classes were simply glorious in Suffolk. At Lavenham Town Hall they were actually sat there spinning and carding with olde worlde spinning wheels etc. Hideous cloth the result. But they were busy which was lovely for them. One was claiming more knowledge of the medieval wool world than the others so it was all teetering on the brink.  We went over to Flatford Mill where you can just about make out the scene of the Haywain. The usual National Trust soup kitchen. Two fantastic SUV-driving Middle-Class women emerged from a residence – skinny jeans, yoga written all over them. They were carrying a bowl and started chirruping and bouncing because they were going to gather berries. So organic and wonderful! ‘What on earth are they doing?’ the Gay Mother said. They plucked at any berry then sprang back from the thorns. ‘Are they going to make rose hip syrup?’ the Gay Mother wondered. I do hope they weren’t disappointed.

We found the Three Hares at Long Melford – absolutely tiny. Came from China, the Gay Mother said. Along the Silk Road. Possibly Buddhist. Really Long Melford could have done with the Gay Mother’s massive donation rather more than Lav which seemed to be purring with money. On the other day we went to Ickworth but the main rooms were closed. We had to make do with the kitchens – and the usual National Trust soup kitchen. I adored Ickworth in the 1980s on a visit with Twirly Godfrey. Thought it rather grim from the outside this time. Massive great looming rotunda. Cheltenham feel to it.

The Gay Mother reported that The Golden Bowl is simply extraordinary. ‘It’s all about what people are thinking,’ she said. More recently she announced (spoiler alert) that someone had smashed the Golden Bowl. ‘I can see how it’s going to end,’ she said. We also gave quite a lot of time in Suffolk to our ancestry. There were two great Victorian families of nine or so brothers and sisters. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that one’s knowledge of who belongs in which is kept fresh.

Lavenham Town Hall: Beams

Lavenham Town Hall: Beams

Lavenham Church

Lavenham Church

Lavenham Church Inside: Rather Purring with Money

Lavenham Church Inside: Rather Purring with Money

Long Melford Church: Not so Monied

Long Melford Church: Not so Monied

The Hare Window at Last: Long Melford

The Hare Window at Last: Long Melford

Beamy, weamy: the Hotel at Lav

Beamy, weamy: the Hotel at Lav

Flatford Mill: the scene of the Haywain. Can you Make it Out?

Flatford Mill: the scene of the Haywain. Can you Make it Out?

Berry-Picking Ladies at Flatford Mill

Berry-Picking Ladies at Flatford Mill

Ickworth: a Bit Grim this Time

Ickworth: a Bit Grim this Time

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Some Good Things Happened

Sunday 8th December 2018

Yesterday I found my hand fork on the top of a wall. I’ve been looking for it for weeks. The missing sock – it turned out it had got left behind on the drying rack. The sock brand is Doré Doré but this particular sock has been a disappointment, having a wooly finish. Even so, it’s important not to have a lone sock in the drawer. When I phoned Apple Support, I got support, even though they said my warranty had run out. Eventually the missing Word doc was found on the back-up disc. After much ag. I got to the gym today – no padlock. It had gone missing from my bag. I was facing not being able to lock away my Waitrose shopping. I enquired at the office and the hunk there said, ‘Here’s a spare one but I don’t know the combination.’ I fiddled with it and it was mine! Must have left it behind after last visit.

But the main agony…. will our Mine be picked up?

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How Marmion Beaufleasance Wove a Pattern

Friday 7th December 2018

Marmion Beaufleasance took 70 years but it was all all right because there were so many connections. He addressed the throng: there were household names present but very quiet. Marmion has woven this web for fifty years. Never is a stitch dropped, nor a thread pulled. Now he’s weaving in young Gays, some of whom he’d not met. But the Ducal Grandson of course with a lover who could play Puck… The Old Gays were still going strong. Up from the country were Miles Kent and Leon de Veer. They’ve not been seen in London for years. Robert Nevil, of course, who was present in Westminster Abbey when I first met Marmion through RN’s then fatal lover at John Betjeman’s Memorial Service where we also saw Debo and Lady Moseley and Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street, the TV programme, as well as Philip Larkin, who was explaining that he had left his car at Watford.  It turned out that Marmion knew everyone that one knew, as well as many more, such as Jennifer Paterson.

One of Marmion’s hobbies is going to Memorial Services.

Some of these grand Gays have rather had their day, A.L.Rowse and Raleigh Trevelyan even to the full extent of sinking into the grave. Those that remain are undeterred, pursing private projects, perhaps an occasional monograph or private charity work, or committees in a quiet way, lunches of course and outings. Still grand, still great, despite that world of grand people having given way now to Instagram and the like. No more Norah Smallwood.

So Marmion made a speech, which he’d not done before in the 40 years, to the day, of giving parties in that room – in the presence of the Queen’s cushion. Twenty-three of the original guests were still there. That party 40 years ago marked Marmion’s elevation to the Royal Household proper, so that was the second link. It was exactly 40 years since he took up his position at the foot of the steps to the Throne, where he has been ever since although now on the top step, of course. 50 years and 4 days before he had begun his apprenticeship at the Institution and the previous day had been the 50th anniversary of George Lazenby (playing James Bond) and George Baker (a better actor, Marmion says) playing a member of the Royal Household, coming to that place on a research mission. The James Bond thread had cleverly been kept going too, since Marmion had been involved in a small way with the latest production of the James Bond adventure series, ‘Spectre’.

So it all fitted together and was marvellous.

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation: Not in Plastic Bag as Usual 

Marmion Beaufleasaunce: Letter of Engagement from the Queen

Marmion Beaufleasaunce: Letter of Engagement from the Queen

 

 

 

 

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