Respite Care

Saturday 2nd September 2023

The usual Norman retreat was delayed this year on account of Kelm Driver expecting a baby and that having to be diarised. At last Laura Malcolm was able to say: ‘We are a Grandmother.’ The child is a small Inca God, fierce but fair. Your head might get lopped off at a moment’s notice but at least you can be sure that you deserved it. No clothes are worn by this person.

I told Kelm that any future babies are to be born at a more convenient time, like in the winter.

Old folk don’t want their routines disturbed. We climbed into our gravity loungers on the lawn, gasping after the delay, and moved little for the next week. Except for the Laird, of course. He’d brought a full-height barbecue furnace, as well as projecting equipment and numerous computers for his lecture (the wires, my dear!) – all packed into the Toerag which has now achieved half a million miles or thereabouts, mostly conveying vital solar panel opportunities to the people of the near West.

The lecture was billed as a roam through language but really it’s more than likely the Laird knows the origins of every single word in English. What a vast vista of knowledge, whirling forth without notes – but with slides. What’s more there was a musical interlude of masterful irrelevance, where the Laird sang a song by somebody called Jake Thackeray who was apparently unhinged.

The lecture was given on the Sunday and afterwards there was a fete champetre. Thirteen lunched. Roland Malbuoys de Rollup was rolling up in the bushes, self-exiled. Hall is more and more a ringer for Grace Monaco, with the same translucence of one who might apply for the Sainthood. Grace Monaco, if you remember, was rejected by the Vatican on account of having followed fashion too much. Some thought Roland de Rollup might be finished. When asked about his children he said he believed they were at university.

Some old prosecco was found for the evenings. Laura Malcolm said prosecco is a soft drink. Sooner rather than later prosecco was served at luncheon as well to enable a more comfortable afternoon in the gravity loungers. One day Moira MacMatron was in turquoise in the morning but by evening had a lemon gown. She described how she had once been massaged in Funchal by man masseur who seemed to think she should reveal her upper lady parts. There was no further outrage mercifully.

Moira’s vet left a voicemail saying her pug’s test results were in: please ring back. Poor Moira writhed in agony for 24 hours before she could get through. I consoled: ‘You can always get another.’ Laura Malcolm’s dislike of the pug is well-known. As it happened the tests were deliriously all right.

In the loungers matrons wondered what homes to put their menfolk in. There must be a specialist unit for old Red Top heroes, ideal for Beamish O’Halloran. You’d think it would be in the Reigate area, but who knows? In the kitchen Laura Malcolm was manipulating a collapsed suction bag… what was it? I was struck as if across the head that it was a disused catheter. But it wasn’t. It was the interior of a wine box. Earlier Matt Driver, that great mogul who is still an important world-taste shaper, had tried to get a wine box ‘going’. You have to pull the tap out from its little storage hutch. In his thoroughness, Matt Driver dismantled the wine box almost completely with no real progress in the matter of the tap. The next day he was to be seen putting it back together again with the same glaring concentration that made him what he afterwards became.

Otherwise Matt Driver was glaring in his shed. After several days, its shelves had been nuked, or emptied. The shed is to be knocked down as the chateau fragment extends eastwards or it might be westwards, with a new kitchen wing.

The Laird launched a drone. It couldn’t reach as far as Paris for stealing things from the Hermes shop, worst luck.  Filming was its main function. Sound of Music style aerial shots of the whole Norman desmesne were produced, with the residence looking incredibly billionairesque, I thought.

The Men’s team lost the Quiz as always, although not as badly as in previous years. How much longer will there be men and women, anyway? Tempers flared a little less. Laura Malcolm handbagged the Quizmaster quite a bit, although the Laird seems to stand up to these assaults very well. But just a few bars of an ABBA song and he’s in floods. What a man!

I thought the Winning Women could sing a song, to the tune of ‘Take back your mink…’ from ‘Guys and Dolls’ but with different words: ‘Zip up your minge… and only unzip for some other man…’ That bit scanned but I couldn’t think of any other words to fit..

We went to look at the hornets’ nest. Hall and Roland Malbuoys de Rollup were brought back for a dinner. Laura Malcolm had made a guacamole with his corn chips. This meant holding the bowl while guests tried to scoop. ‘I’m bored with this,’ she said, snatching away the guac. At least Roland Malbuoys de Rollup was back from the brink of extinction. ‘Have you heard of furry parties?’ he enquired. He said his son had told him. Likely story. People foregather got up as children’s soft toys which is so exciting informal congress breaks out.

How we roared.

The Norman Scene: loungers Reign Supreme

The Norman Scene: loungers Reign Supreme

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Village Life

Wednesday 23rd August 2023

It was T&G whether she would make it. The last few years have been a cacophony of illnesses. But Royston King’s sister safely docked at 90 years this month.

Her preparations were either a fateful final burst or a sign of better things to come. Twice to the mart, more and more invited, quiches stored… in the end 140 took tea in the village hall.

Village Hall ladies swirled in the kitchenette, which was in fact a full catering kitchen. Sausage rolls rained down. Easily 40 pints of milk were heaved into the fridge. There’d been a quiche crisis. Those bought in advance were found to have been beyond the sell-by date at the time they were put in the freezer. So condemned. Another 80 quiches bought last min. Royston King’s sister had averted a village mass poisoning. But there were cakes, iced fancies, dainties of every kind brought as offerings in addition.

The largesse of the village these days…. cards, cash donations to the Food Bank piled up. Royston King’s sister abandoned her walker. She stood throughout. She delivered a speech. She’s not a gusher. But how that village cleaved to her. Commanding, I would say. No nonsense. The backbone of England. A Canon of Winchester Cathedral was present as well as a multi-millionaire former nursery owner. There were even Gays. Then ranging up to pensioners on sticks kept going by the NHS. What a range.

When the function was over, the ladies surged out of the kitchenette for the stacking of the chairs. One lady of high birth had trouble with her husband. ‘He disappeared twenty minutes ago, looking for a dustpan. What am I supposed to do?’ She was stranded in the middle of the hall with her pile of debris. Later she was seen rocketing into the Canon’s cott, presumably to be cleansed of her Fury and given strength to go on.

The Hall was to be left exactly as found, of course. Walking back to her home, somebody asked Royston King’s sister if she were tired: ‘Tired is hardly the word,’ she said. ‘I’m on the brink of existence.’ But she carried on through a small drinks party and seated dinner in the pub next door with an inner circle of relations. Death’s scythe has been through that family; some members had fallen desperately upon temps dur, almost to the point of death, others – their businesses had not done so well, their second husbands had died while their first husbands remained alive, their children had gone to Australia or turned out to have genetic conditions. But they had borne it all and not flinched in their path. They’d gone on with their small businesses, they weren’t having any nonsense, no dogma for them. The backbone of England.

My Gay Mother would have thoroughly approved of this event as a triumph of village life with Royston King’s sister as a Christ-like figure at the heart of it.


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Correct Pronunciation

Saturday 12th August 2023

It’s the Glorious 12th. I only just realised.

Oh for the days when Uncle Harold was on the Moors at Chatsworth (or was it Bolton Abbey) for the Grouse – which Debo wouldn’t touch, of course.

With the Gay Mother I was talking about how Aunt Lavinia once lived at Sonning. ‘Sunning,’ the Gay Mother corrected at once. Later we were listing the mansions in a part of the Far West where they cluster – rather like Rhode Island. Flete, Delamore, Fitzworthy, Mothercombe, darling Blachford, of course. Which one was built as a summer residence for the Empress Frederick? The Gay Mother wasn’t sure but her mind was led to Queen Victoria and Ponsonby, her Sec, whose family were from those parts. ‘There’s another one,’ she said. ‘Punsonby, not Ponsonby.’

One day one of her friends rang up to pick over the Battle of Waterloo – not so much manoeuvres, more Who was There.

At the Family Reunion in Yorkshire, the Gay Mother remained in the Far West but somehow was connected by Zoom in the afternoon… I think Cousin Monica put her up to it. Anyway she and Cousin Monica were the stars of the Zoom, riffing freely not necessarily aware that 50 people were listening. Cousin Monica said that in 1800 or thereabouts another wing had been intended for our mansion but never built: ‘Thank Goodness for that,’ the Gay Mother said. Indeed another wing would have been killing. The upkeep.

It is thought more than likely that the Gay Mother will gain 100 in February.


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Gold Filings from the Floor

Thursday 10th August 2023

I think I mentioned Glyndebourniana – we took La Dialogue des Carmelites. Aunt Lavinia was in the party with Prince Dmitri. ‘I can’t say I enjoyed it,’ a woman was overheard saying in the car park. ‘Enjoy is the wrong word.’ Too right.  It was shattering, completely believable as well as horribly topical. The abuse of women by men – it just never stops. Why can’t men stop abusing women?

In this case, it was nuns in Revolutionary France (they should never had had that Revolution). It was decided by men that their heads must be chopped off – just because they were nuns.

Not quite what one goes to Glyndebourniana to hear, in the upper echelons. But right. Our picnic came off well. Aunt Lavinia did the duck.

Simeon Bond, in his mask, was nowhere to be seen. Prince Dmitri couldn’t believe it. We always see Simeon Bond wherever we go.

Holland Park opera – more picnics.

Otherwise I’ve become a fixture in the side stalls at the dear darling Royal Albert Hall. Bertram DiBantry caused an outrage. ‘What a load of rubbish!’ somebody shouted at the end of his perf. Isn’t it rather high-handed to shout? What if others think differently?  I suppose the person couldn’t help it. Bertram DiBantry won’t be deterred, I’m sure. He’d taken a scale such as a child or somebody with no idea would pick out and repeated it for twelve minutes. There was dislike of mu while pushing it to extremes of misty nothingness at the same time. It all made perfect sense.

The idea now is that only massive works with a cast of millions are to be performed at the Royal Albert Hall in the Proms season. So Sibelius, Shostakovich and Mahler. Not my usual choice but salutary to try and get used to them. No Bruckner this year, thank goodness. He really is utterly ghastly drear.

The National Youth Orch gave the Prom last Saturday. Works of unutterable tedium – Copeland 1st Symphony. Something by Hindemith, supposed to be humorous.  Only Four Last Songs super. But the encores – utter heaven. Gospel singing and finally the Basin Street Blues, with individual orch members riffing.  Sitting next to me was ludicrous figure in a bow tie. Classic Prom bore. ‘In the know’, pompous, huffy. The worst of England.

Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten received quietly on a previous Saturday evening. More and more people are becoming ‘non-binary’. I must say one of my regrets is not wearing more jewellery and carrying a smaller handbag. Even today I get dirty looks for carrying a large handbag.

Harry said they must leave for Los Angeles to attend to the outer reaches of their Empire.

The Buckingham Palace Press Preview of the Summer Opening took place. Display v. much reduced.  The Queen’s shoes looked just a little grubby. But you could see the dogs embroidered on her Corrie frock. The diamond collet ‘Coronation’ necklace the only jewel.

The big news is that that stain on one of the banquettes in the Picture Gallery has disappeared. Banquette recovered by the looks. The King must have put his foot down. It really did appear as if someone had had an accident. Just the sort of thing old people aren’t bothered about – like the Gay Mother and her drawing room curtains in ribbons.

Stained Banquette at Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery, graphed in 2015. Now GONE

Stained Banquette at Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery, graphed in 2015. Now GONE – stain that Is. They must have Found some more of the Fabric in a Remote Cupboard

Wendy House Put Round King at the Coronation's Most Solemn Moment

Wendy House Put Round King at the Coronation’s Most Solemn Moment

The Queen's Coronation Frock

The Queen’s Coronation Frock

The Queen's Coronation Shoes

The Queen’s Coronation Shoes

One of the Queen's Dogs

One of the Queen’s Dogs – name of Gus

Cecil Beaton Graphed Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, as Queen Elizabeth, by This Vase, Thereby turning her into the Fantasy Crinolined Queen she Afterwards Became

Cecil Beaton Graphed Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, as Queen Elizabeth, by This Vase, Thereby turning her into the Fantasy Crinolined Queen she Afterwards Became

Buckingham Palace Garden: Rewilding, which seems to mean Stinging Nettles

Buckingham Palace Garden: Rewilding, which seems to mean Stinging Nettles

Close-Up of Stingers in Buckingham Palace Garden: Should Rewilding just means Stinging Nettles?

Close-Up of Stingers in Buckingham Palace Garden: Should Rewilding just mean Stinging Nettles?




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Faithful even in Death

Monday 31st July 2023

The two branches of the family are thought to have divided in the 16th century. Nevertheless a Family Reunion was considered worthwhile. So I boarded for Yorkshire – a long way from the Far West, I’m sure you’re thinking.

Best not to ask – anyway, I don’t know the answer. There were mansions in the offing, so 1st class conveyance was more than justified.

A Family Reunion is often no such thing because one has never met them before. The first encounter is always excruciating because in addition to the standard awkwardness of meeting strangers is a nightmare entanglement with the family tree. Who are you and why?

One of the mansions was being renovated. There was aristocracy and editorship of one of our foremost decor magazines heavily present on the side married into, our side resolutely Landed Gentry of course. So the renovation was absolutely purring, only the kitchen questionable being evidently really some other room. What a mansion – the dream suite of drawing rooms at the front with floor to ceiling windows and the spiral staircase by a protege of Carr of York – important.

The other mansion could only be penetrated through paddocked barriers. ‘Burglars,’ the owner said. ‘We don’t insure the contents and they’re gradually leeching away.’

This owner was said to be a terrible driver. None of the others would get in his car. The car itself was more of a toy car of an unknown brand, a tiny box, despite huge commercial holdings of this twig of the family. Where was the limo and feur? The driving was not so much bad as non-existent. Could you call it driving? Just wheezing along in 1st gear and stopping randomly in the middle of roundabouts.

On the Sunday we visited the graves of the Yorkshire family. There was one small cremation tablet set apart in a sea of mud. ‘Lump!’ somebody shrieked. ‘Can’t she be moved?’ ‘Who was Lump?’ I inquired. The nanny, it seemed. What devotion, I said, to be buried with her employers through all Eternity. How right. But also right that she should be apart, in the servant’s quarters, as it were.

Didn’t go down well.

I recall Rufus Pitman’s favourite phrase, applied usually to Royalty dying in exile: ‘Her maid was with her to the end.’

Now surely we are ready for the final leap – that the maid or nanny is buried with the mistress or master, bonded forever in service.


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A Miracle

Thursday 20th July 2023

The button came loose like a loose tooth just as I was getting into the car for the Longborough opera (Gotter: it was great). This was at the beginning of June. So the luck of being able to save the button. Just as when, twenty years ago, an exclusive button engraved ‘Prada’ fell from my Prada mac, in the Prada shop onto the highlighting fawn carpet, then a feature of Prada shops throughout the world, now a lost world.

The falling off of the present unique button from the cuff of my Paul Smith dress shirt, the one with horizontal bands of sateen, was a parallel event: it could never be replaced. Staying overnight in the Swolds after Gotter, I carefully squirrelled the priceless item away.

Some weeks later, dressing for Glyndebourne (The Carmelites: it was great), I re-discovered the trauma of the absent button on the cuff. I’d forgotten all about it. Forgotten also where I’d concealed it for safe-keeping. The same thing happened to the Gay Granny with a Hester Bateman spoon that could never be found.

For weeks I’ve been jabbing here and there in desperate quest, like a cat that’s lost her kitten or that time our cat killed a pheasant’s chick and that pheasant’s frantic distress was terrible. I’ve burrowed through all three of my handbags, I’ve mined every crevice of my sponge bag. I’ve turned out my wallet and my back-up wallet. At one point I wondered if I’d buried the button in a sample pot from SpaceNK. All the drawers in the drawing room, every ornamental box – all seized on. But nothing.

What could I have done with it?

Seriously, I was facing Button Queen in Marylebone (what’s the betting it’s closed down). Or even worse, hysteria in the Paul Smith shop in Covent Garden.

This gone Sunday, just as the Men’s Final was beginning, sudden flash… my Aly Cappellino holdall, which definitely accompanied me to Longborough. It was a vision, a bolt, a voice calling me to the Grail in sure and certain hope. And there, sure enough, in one of the inner pockets of the holdall, it was.

I’m sure I looked in that holdall before. How could I not have done?

So, I was able to relieve the agonising strain of the Men’s Final by sewing it back on.

What a glorious day. That which was lost was found. And the Men’s Final.. Anthony Mottram, presently boiling in Cyprus, texted beforehand: ‘May the new Kitchen win.’ But all looked to be lost. Then it wasn’t. What a thrilling player is this new Kitchen – although I’m not sure he should pat the King of Spain on the arm in a matey way but really one will forgive him anything. I’ve not known such uplift since the Response to the Pandemic and the end of the world as we knew it.

One mystery: why did Her Royal Highness’s Roland Mouret crease? Her Late Majesty never creased in 96 years. It was Eve Pollard who said, commentating on Royal Ascot for TV: ‘Royalty are marvellous. They never crease or stain.’

I think it was the strange weather: it’s very humid although it doesn’t appear to be.

It was quite tiring having to get up to curtsey with so many Royalties present: four Royal Highnesses and one Majesty. Later it turned out the Monacos were there: lucky I didn’t know because I’m not sure whether one curtseys to them. I think not.


That Which was Lost was Found

That Which was Lost was Found

Back On! Hope Resurgam

Back On! Hope Resurgam




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Sunday 16th July 2023

The talks were one thing: Castles and Swimming Pools: thrilling although the Director might have presented his section in swimming costume for effect, especially since he is a champion swimmer. Sanctuary was the theme. And fantasy. Why not live in a dream world? The Castles person finished her talk then began again after the Director had started his.

The Literary Festival lasted for two days.

Alan Titchmarsh: Weather is one thing. Climate another.

Robin Lane-Fox: ‘Bugger plans’. ‘Re-wilding: forget the re.’ ‘In my garden I kill things.’ ‘Don’t make your garden just to be photographed.’ ‘The garden is a sanctuary, especially in trouble as when Martha was so injured in that car crash.’

Tom Stuart-Smith: What’s the story in the garden? one time it was Wagner but nobody knew. Another time there wasn’t one and an elderly peer, visiting, came up to the designer and said, ‘Why?’ The garden must belong somehow in its place. At the Rausings, the solution was to remove the garden altogether.

There was an undertow. Robert Sackville-West spoke of Vita and Knole. The romance. The past. The great house, where he now lives following the settlement a previous Lord Sackville made with the National Trust. By chance a number of heirs turned up for that talk. Afterwards they had confab: ‘Is Mullings really your life?’ one of them asked another. ‘Yes, really,’ was the somewhat sunken reply. He’d tried Malaya but it was no good.

In a remote corner of the car park, as the second day drew to a close, a black limo was parked. Four attendants were helping a man into evening dress. Glyndebourniana being nearby, one can only wonder. This was possibly one of our leading businessmen. He might be safe. Who knows?

But for others… how much longer, the sanctuary of the garden, the acres borne down through centuries? A terrible undertow, the black swirling waters of Socialism, threatens to engulf…

In the café one of the luncheon times, our Lady hostess and her friend were in the queue. ‘Why are we here?’ her friend asked. ‘I thought we were going to look at the poppies.’ Neither of them seemed to know. When they got to the front of the queue, the attendant repelled an intruding woman. ‘I’ll be with you when I’ve finished serving these ladies.’ When it was my turn, I said, ‘It’s funny you said “ladies” because one of them actually is a lady.’ Royston King said, ‘We have a very different sense of humour.’

I thought it was incredibly exciting.

Parham: Where it Happened. Who Knew W. Sussex could be so Brutally Bare and Medieval and Fortified

Parham: Where it Happened. Who Knew W. Sussex could be so Impressively Bare and Medieval and Fortified

Parham Without: Graphs Not Allowed Within which was Purring with Money and Care. But Royston Attended the Talks about it: the Struggle for Survival and Fears for the Future ..

Parham Without: Graphs Not Allowed Within which was Purring with Money and Care. But Royston Attended the Talks about it: Struggle for Survival and Fears for the Future Despite Guinness money…





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On the Private Side

Friday 7th July 2023

We dined on the private side two nights in a row. This year the Garden Museum Literary Festival was held at Parham in Sussex. Royston King and I were put up in an hotel and received at dinner both the nights of the festival by a nearby Lord and Lady in one of England’s most blazing Statelies. But on the private side. The public not admitted.

‘There’s our very plain house,’ the  Lady said as returning from a moonlit tour of her private garden (self-designed), the vast facade loomed before us. Incredible that ordinary conversation could take place in such a setting but it did. Despite the pricelessness of the Old Masters in the Library and several enormous drawing rooms beyond, not used on this occasion or even mentioned. The linking corridor is 40′ high and the gilt frames were unceasing to the ceiling. ‘Look there’s a Hudson,’ I said to the Lord. ‘We’ve got one of them.’ ‘Granny kept it in the attic for fear Mrs Dinner would put a wet cloth over it,’ I explained. I don’t think Hudson was Reynolds’s teacher as I said.

Lord and Lady were incredibly nice. On the mantle was a personal card from the King and Queen. But I’m afraid my instinct in the presence of titles and masonry and gilt frames is to sink permanently to the floor in the deepest curtsey. Lady did ask me how I’d slept in the hotel and I dared to enquire after her own night but she seemed not to understand. The second night they showed us the Painted Staircase and Lady said the Duchess of Lincolnshire who built the house had had herself depicted in a tremendous classical scene on it. I said, ‘She was a long way from home,’ meaning Lincolnshire is nowhere near West Sussex. Once again she seemed not to understand. Royston said later it was a stupid thing to say. On the second night Lady had a rather different air than on the first. Then I noticed a living blaze of diamonds at her wrist. So that was what was powering her.

Neighbours were at dinner but not the titled ones. Rather, as in Jane Austen, those that had suffered misfortune. Otherwise household names in the landscape/garden design world, gays from that world, trustees, patrons, literary figures, some staying in the house, others living nearby. All the women had been at Cranborne Chase School, apparently, known to me from Barrowborough days. That was a link, as was the woman (Cranborne Chase) sitting next to me whose son was friends with the daughter of one of Robert Nevil’s friends and the person sitting beyond her had got the estranged father of that child staying with him as we spoke. None of them thought this coincidence at all remarkable. They were so blasé. Which just shows how things are when you’re at the top.

Or near the top. Because one’s not aristocracy, of course. Only Landed Gentry. So awful.

Not all the guests assembled in the library before dinner. Some just appeared from nowhere – upstairs presumably. Then disappeared afterwards. On the second night, Lady said, in the Library, ‘Where are the others? Not in there still?’  Staff were not to be hindered from laying breakfast. Dinner was taken off silver and the chargers on which it was offered by staff were also silver. 14 dined the first night and 23 the second. It was a miracle how the table got bigger and the cloth covering it must have been 50 foot long. There were ornate candelabra and table ornaments but it would have been common to take too much interest in them.

Royston said he wished the dinner could have gone on forever. He sat next to a Marchioness who complained that he never took her seriously and kept calling her a Marchioness all the time,




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I Was There

Wednesday 21st June 2023

They put up a barrier near the entrance so ordinary members of the public gathered behind it with what must have been the vaguest of red carpet expectations. Royston King was in A&E with minutes to spare. He’d slashed his finger with secateurs, perhaps identifying as a garden shrub.

But we got in with brilliance. It could have been a night-club – throbbing mu, the odd person as an installation, notably one whose head had been replaced by a ballon. But mostly the Great and the Good in the older spectrum. ‘You’ve already introduced me to the Head of the Historic Royal Palaces,’ I said to Royston, ‘and it was someone else.’ ‘No, that was the former Head.’ Or, ‘That was the Chair, not the Chief Executive.’

On a bench at the side was a ghost – Bianca Jagger. Some had come off the walls, such as Russell Tovey. The Mayor, ghastly of course, but in real life sparkling and beautifully turned out, it can’t be denied. Oh dear. Firm handshake followed by departure through a back exit. Two security guards. A Tax Advisor had fallen into despair. She showed us Lord Byron’s screen which he had cut out and glued himself with many pugilists. ‘What shall I do now?’ she wailed. The screen was somehow all her doing. But now there was no hope.

Joshua Baring was with a suite which, rolling on, gathered up Lawrence Dallaglio who stuck. They were thrilled with each other and it could have made a painting by Titian: ‘Mars Tamed by a Fawn with Art Talk’. Lawrence Dallaglio is much better looking now than in his Rugby heyday.

The refurb of the National Portrait Gallery though – the guests were as nothing, they paled beside the raging triumph. Tristram Hunt declared it a triumph. We started with the Tudors. As Royston said, the illusion is that nothing has changed; the same chronology, the history of Our Nation as always. But a slight jolt and the whole thing comes blazing to life. At the heart, as it were, is a room with two huge paintings – one an Abolitionist Meeting and the other the old House of Commons, voting through one of the Reform Acts, so the core of the life of our Nation, gathering democracy without revolution, free speech, the right to protest and the effectiveness thereof, under the Constitutional Monarchy, of course, the foundation of Our Freedom.

Beautifully judged. No Woke hectoring. An increased representation, new acquisitions showing those of different races and skin colour but accurate and measured.

We went down to the 20th century floor. Rounding a corner, there was Lilibet in the entrance, looking lonely by Annigoni. We hadn’t expected to see her. What a jolt. What magnificence. Without a thought, I curtseyed. The arrangement hurtles forward with ever greater brilliance. Essentially they are all mixed up, so thrilling juxtapostions, provoking thought – Dickens, Octavia Hill and Darwin together for instance. Later the King (another curtsey) with Marcus Rashford. On another wall, you get Beatrix Potter, James Joyce and Dame Anna Neagle.

Nothing could more powerfully convey the Monarchy in the fabric of national life and that life zinging with eccentrics, tormented souls, screaming queens, odd fey types (like Constable) and, darling, just so much talent and energy.

What a great nation, now and forever.

For the first time, one is aware of portraiture as an art. The crazy mixed up hanging means that suddenly there is a really famous picture leaping out, one that would stand on its own merit whoever it was of. Sometimes the idea seems to have been to put portraits of similar timbre together to reflect, for instance, on the high moral tone of the 19th century, where the colour range is shades of dun and black and the background is blank.

This National Portrait Gallery will give enormous pleasure for years to come and give us huge pride in Our Nation.

The Magnificent New Entrance of the National Portrait Gallery at the Heart of Our Nation

The Magnificent New Entrance of the National Portrait Gallery at the Heart of Our Nation

The Public Gathered Because there was a Barrier

The Public Gathered Because there was a Barrier

The Mayor, Hotter in Real Life

The Mayor, Hotter in Real Life

Darling Grayson: What a Perennial

Darling Grayson: What a Perennial

Bianca: Not necessarily Alive but Superb

Bianca: Not necessarily Alive but Superb

The Darling King with Marcus and a Corner of Andy Murray Above

The Darling King with Marcus and a Corner of Andy Murray Above



Dear Precious Lilibet

Dear Precious Lilibet

One of the Earliest Portraits of Muslim Greatness

One of the Earliest Portraits of a Muslim Greatness



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Cacophony of Error

Saturday 18th June 2023

Last night to Holland Park Opera for Hansel and Gretel. There’s a bit called ‘Evening Prayer’ which is very lovely.

I was to do the main course for the picnic. Coronation Quiche – second attempt. But when I looked in my bakeware cupboard, my quiche tin was still at Anthony Mottram’s where we had the Coronation. Had to buy another one – deeper. Sides of tart sank in blind baking. Mixture flowed over the sides. I couldn’t believe it. Howled and howled. Banged the work surface. Nobody came even though it turned out the next-door occupant had returned from Greece. Although not expected until Sunday. Managed somehow to get the loathsome pastry out of the tin and the egg gloop kitchen-papered from underneath.

Cousin Mowhampton, who was doing 1st course and pudding, texted beforehand, referring erroneously to Coronation chicken as my main. In this heat I hadn’t the energy to put her right. She was proposing smoked salmon, so I thought it wouldn’t matter anyway. But no, she’d done a tart too, with asparagus. Smoked salmon on top.

So menu-ing disaster of unprecedented proportions – two tart courses. And no help. The authorities didn’t lift a finger. You’d have thought, having ordered those of us who live alone to remain alone for six weeks without remission, they would be more than prepared for such a nightmare, swooping down at once with measures.

Tomorrow is my garden opening (the second this season). The Maharajah only likes chocolate for dessert. Nigella said her vegan choc cake was easy. I tried six shops for ‘instant expresso coffee’ and ‘coconut butter’ … the cake blew up out of its tin and took twice as long to cook as stated. Still sunk in the middle. The bits that broke off I ate. Disgusting. Horribly sweet. The vegan ‘icing’ separated out – noxious oil oozed forth. Had to throw it away. I said to the Maharajah, ‘If this doesn’t make up for the evils of the British in India, nothing will.’

My Vic Sponge though went like a dream. I felt guilty because Queen Victoria was an Imperialist and took possession of the Koh-i-Nor. Until that is I turned it out. Strange lumps of sugar disbursed through the cake fabric. Somehow hadn’t mixed properly in the machine. Why? Why? Why?

So Vic Sponge will probably be filthy as well.

Who ever heard of the sugar not mixing properly? I didn’t like to run the blades too long for fear of curdling in this weather.

The Corrie Quiche, by the way, was, as the Germans says, obergecheesen. The tarragon didn’t come through. Possibly because not all the mixture would fit in.

So have got that to do all over again – possibly for second Glydenbourniana.

Can’t go on much longer.

Nigella's Vegan Choc Cake. Doesn't have any Choc in it, now I think of It. Horror show

Nigella’s Vegan Choc Cake. Doesn’t have any Choc in it, now I think of It. Horror show

Nigella's Vegan Choc 'icing'... So useful

Nigella’s Vegan Choc ‘icing’… So useful

Fate of the Choc 'Icing' - about £5m in the Bin

Fate of the Choc ‘Icing’ – about £5m in the Bin

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