Lunch

Monday 12th July 2021

Lunch was at 12.30. First of all, we met the Head of Plants. ‘A friend said to me: “You’re in charge of all the plants in Britain.” Well, I suppose I am.’ The Head of Plants and Royston are new on the Council. The little gilt chairs were out. Flowers on the table, placement and printed menu in each place: asparagus, lamb main, tea, coffee and petit fours. Dessert not mentioned. Maybe it was proposed at the planning stage but slashed out. The Head of Plants said they’re building a collection of ash trees that resist the die-back. But xylella is the big worry. The idea is to massively expand the growing of plants in the UK to avoid imports. This can be done. Very encouraging. Royston was pleased.

Essentially we tended to the Nation all afternoon. Or rather Royston did with me lurking, at times hardly able to stand. Luncheon was served and was excellent. Very fresh and natural. The tent was beside the unimaginable Long Water that Charles 11 installed for Hampton Court, with the Wren facade at one end and at the other, infinity, the unknown, stretching beyond what the eye can see. Royston said that the Long Water, although Long, is remarkable shallow.  There was a Royal feel at the table with that Royal work of keeping the conversation going. My neighbour said he had an allotment at Guilford. He must have had more range than that in the allotment world but he didn’t say so. Otherwise our table was Britain in Bloom. Royston thought more could be done. One of the Britain in Bloom cohort was a former Head of Parks in the Far West and knew my minerals except not that they belong in part to me. Royston was surprised that I mentioned them. But my minerals are my only claim to importance these days.

Our progress through the Show after luncheon was gruelling but superb. At times, I feared I would fail in my duty and keel on the spot. We met the Head of Royal Parks, the former Head of Chelsea Flower Show, a garden designer named Butterworth, a husband with a laser harp he’d built himself and front-of-house wife, the former editor of Gardens Illustrated, at least two huge cogs in the Royal Hort machine such as the Head of Money and the Head of IT to whom Royston urged greater unity with Britain in Bloom, some young women in frocks who wanted to have lunch with Royston – only in the toilets did we get any respite . Unfortunately it was while I was sunk in the lime grove that Royston took the opportunity to art direct the Chief Executive’s TV appearance, sending her to the far end of the Long Water, so as to be nearer the Wren facade. Displeasure might have arisen.

I didn’t very much like the Butterworth garden, although it was a massive effort, brought off in only six weeks. Harsh contrasts of colour and texture. There were some charming small gardens. Maybe their budgets have been slashed hence no the beastly hard landscaping which is always horrible. A children’s corner showed flowers in jam jars and allotments (also adults), including the no-dig allotment. The absolute glory was the Tom Stuart-Smith garden, really the best show garden I’ve ever seen. Just a basic patch (no hard landscaping) with packed down paths and a scheme of silver blue with the faintest touch of orange provided by, of all things, red-hot pokers, but these ones were orange and emphasis lent by threads of Liatris pycnostachya, which is a firm fresh green upright feather, and scratchy silver trees.  It was faultless, utter utter heaven.

The Luncheon Table at Hampton Court

The Luncheon Table at Hampton Court

The No-Dig Allotment

The No-Dig Allotment

The Butterworth Garden, Hampton Court

The Butterworth Garden, Hampton Court

Crashed Aeroplane: a 'Save the Planet' Installation

Crashed Aeroplane: a ‘Save the Planet’ Installation

Tom Stuart-Smith Garden: Utter, utter Heaven

Tom Stuart-Smith Garden: Utter, utter Heaven

Tom Stuart-Smith Garden: Complete Heaven

Tom Stuart-Smith Garden: Complete Heaven

 

 

 

 

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Their Plight

Tuesday 22nd June 2021

Some things I forgot to mention: Royal Gardening. Royal gardening is when you go out after tea and engage in gardening either in the tidying direction, such as dead-heading, or full-scale destruction or trying to tie back a spiky bush that has fallen forward. There is a strict time-limit, however. Although extensive equipment will have been marshalled, after a maximum of 20 minutes, one of the Royal persons will say, ‘I think that’s enough for the time being,’ whereupon the entire assemblage of Royalties will go back indoors. Any debris produced is left for the other gardeners to deal with.

The next thing is the monthly lawyer’s bill: Ralph Kitto was telling me he is on such a scheme. Others have monthly bills such as electricity or mortgage or rent. Only a few have a monthly lawyer’s bill. It is ideal for protracted disputes, such as with other members of one’s family. Often you fork out thousands and thousands, for no result whatsoever. The Gay Mother, come to think of it, has a similar arrangement but not monthly. In this case, the reason for engaging the lawyer in the first place has been long forgotten.

A few weeks ago, Harry Rollo gave a performance. It was a triumph for range and rarity and even just to have it at all, with an oddly face-bandaged audience with gaps, as if they’d all been horribly wounded in World War 1 and some had not survived at all. So a War-Wounded benefit event. Unfortunately I’d been plunged into trauma shortly before the performance. People come to visit one and sometimes one dreads what news they will bring. This one said the situation would not be discussed and then proceeded to discuss it, or rather to make alarming pronouncements which were terrifyingly declared as not to be discussed.

I was plunged into acute nervous attack. Later, at the event after the perf, after a few, I began to wail on the shoulder on Miss Lamore Cellina who had compared Harry’s perf so brilliantly. It was terrible really, for the suffering of the performers is beyond imagination. ‘It’s hell enough being a performer,’ she said. ‘Now this.’ If you can’t perform continually your art fades, not just your fingering, your technique. The nourishing flow between performer and audience is what keeps the coat in show condition, the eyes shining. Without that, the performer begins to die. Then suddenly to give a performance is an immense strain. But Harry had managed it superbly. Some significant performers, Miss Lamore said, have had to become Amazon drivers. The other thing is money. They don’t have any. Nothing forthcoming from the Government. So it’s Amazon driver or starve.

Dreadful.

Harry, accompanied by Mercury, Mr Kitten, has left for Mexico. Their return will be improvised.

I’m much preoccupied with the Duchess of Windsor, formerly Mrs Edward Simpson. I’m to do a 3 hour piece to camera: ‘Wallis Windsor: Hero or Villain? ‘

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Life

Thursday 10th June 2021

So we’re having Life now. This is what we were preserved for.

Last night I did my garden opening – this was timed entry with glass of wine, unlike the Sunday afternoon opening I’ve done annually since 2012.

Liked it.

What I forgot to say was that the opening of Life was a dinner at Ralph Kitto’s on 21st May. He’s sold all the Damien Hirsts, you know. They’ve been turned into money. A lot of it. ‘Such a relief,’ Ralph said. The Medicine Cupboard oppressed him with its worth. There’d been a terrific renovation drama a few doors down from Ralph’s only a day or two before. A flatti was almost at the end of a terrific renovation. Gays, of course.  The final touches were a conservation product for the floors. Whoosh! The whole place went up in flames. Highly inflammable product. Luckily a passer-by called the Brigade before the entire block went up. The victim was one of the other guests, who looked incredibly fresh despite his ordeal and a minimum of six months to put it all right again, including the wiring which is wrecked.  Ludovico said he was a Russian billionaire but there was no sign of it. Only a secretary was mentioned, who is South African. He seemed to have insurance in the usual way and the usual perspective of the insurance company that they weren’t going to pay. There was no hint of a private army or a range of poisons that might be useful.

This Russian billionaire was charming in a friendly knit.

Tremendous talk at the table: secretaries, early check-in, villas abroad, to be rented or bought. A wonderful arc flung up, way above all the horror below. It’s been going on all the time but nobody knows about it. The great engines that really drive everything, the money houses, the schemes, the projections…. unstoppable. Nothing will stop them.

Val phoned from Moscova, Hastings this week. ‘I’ve begun my vaccine journey,’ he announced. It’s only the second part of the vaccine journey that’s an obstacle since journeying to Eastbourne is required. Val says it would ruin him to go to Eastbourne. Val said that one does not simply do things nowadays, one goes on a ‘journey’. Also friends and relations have been replaced by ‘Loved Ones’. We recalled that Evelyn Waugh wrote a book called ‘The Loved One’ which is a devastating laceration of the funeral business in Los Angeles. How did it get to be that we’ve all got Loved Ones in England? ‘Loved Ones’ is a ghastly marketing expression from American funeral brochures.

 

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Still Asking

Wednesday 2nd June 2021

You may remember I wrote to the Prime Minister, who is called Boris Johnson, to ask why we are being kept alive. No reply, of course. I thought it was normal, even expected, to question government policies, whatever they are. Isn’t that what parliament is for? What if I, and others, don’t want to stay alive? Have we got to?

Just recently my nerves have been so bad, I’ve longed to die. A bit better now.

I should have mentioned that the Nizam doesn’t like soufflés. He also didn’t like the soda bread I made to the recipe Laura Malcolm found, didn’t like so badly he bought a different loaf.  Robert Nevil let slip about the soufflés, omitting through lack of recall, perhaps, that the reason it is known that the Nizam doesn’t like soufflés is that soufflé was the welcome dinner on Christmas Eve when they came to stay, made by me in my desperate struggle with the strict Hindu diet.

Those were candle-lit days, long ago now.

The Nizam does like Egg and Chips. But not when the chips are over-ovened to a crisp because the non-Hindus are tormenting some bits of chicken and not paying attention.

Robert Nevil and the Nizam have returned to their proper home now.

I attended the Press Preview of the Field of Cloth of Gold Exhib at Hampton Court. This morning it was Diana’s Wedding Dress at KP. I saw the Royal Helicopter on the lawn at the back of the Palace. A man was lounging in it. Eventually he strolled over to the crowd waiting behind the fence. ‘You’re very welcome to wait,’ he said, ‘but we’re not going anywhere until this afternoon.’ It was then 11 a.m. So Royal.

We had a reunion lunch with the Laird and Lairdess in a pub near Newbury. I attended a concert at the Ragged School with Kalesnikov and Mark Padmore sang Winterreise. Then I was with the Gay Mother for nearly a week. But all the time racking strain and worry.

Maybe it’s easier to be ‘locked’. I was told by a young person that everyone he knows dreads going back to work. They would prefer to stay forever with TV at home being paid for by the Government. I’ve always thought having to do a ‘job’ perfectly ghastly. Such an intrusion on one’s time. Now I find I was right. Nobody loves their work. All the rubbish about ‘passion’ for producing school prospectuses or whatever it is people do. I’ve already had outfit worries and exclusion worries and schedule worries. When ‘locked’ I was spared all those.

But mostly it’s the destruction of society and the dread that it will never end or be re-destroyed all over again. When we’re at the worst it can only get better. When we get better, it might plunge again, especially if Dr Susan Mitchie and Professor Christina Pagel have their way. It’s got beyond a question of who is right and who is wrong. There’s no doubt that we have been treated as units in a public health scheme, deliberately tortured by propaganda and fear-mongering, considered incapable of making up our own minds or taking responsibility, ostracised and vilified if we dare to even question the orthodoxy. The real horror is that the vast majority have fallen for it, those leaning Left who ought to be in the forefront of rebellion, leading the way.

 

 

 

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Spraying

Thursday 20th May 2021

Many in their loveliness claim to find virtue and goodness in that thing that must never be mentioned – ‘l..kd..wn’. I’m not one of them. There are ordinary household sprays that used to be anti-bacterial and suddenly became 99.9% anti-viral too. What about that 0.1% missing though? Can we risk it? They were intended as front-line armoury against viral attack, one of the many orthodoxies of our agony that turned out to be wrong. I never used them before but needless to say was among the first to plunge in. As you know, I’ve always been dead against bacteria and viruses in any case.  In the event,  I’ve mainly been virally spraying after the cleaner has been – just in case she’s coated everything in virus. Then, the other day, I had a brain wave at the sink. The dish cloth smelling first thing in the morning has plagued me for years. I’ve tried boiling it but nothing works. It’s back smelling in no time. In the end the only hope was to replace. My sudden vision was to spray it last thing at night with the anti-viral spray. Miracle. In the morning, not smelling. I’ve had a cloth going for almost three weeks on this basis. Incredible. I’ve also got a little bowl beside the sink where the scouring sponge and saucepan cleaner sit. That gets rank too. But not when blitzed with viral spray. With the cloth, I thought to experiment whether it makes a difference if only sprayed on one side not both. That’s the next stage, although I do doubt that mentally I will be up to it.

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Activities

Sunday 18th May 2021

Just… we motored down to the Saville Gardens, Windsor Great Park, quite a few Sundays ago. The Royal Family weren’t absolutely at the forefront of our minds that day although there was the quiet glow of Edinburgh being behind the Dawn Redwood trees and the organic Visitor Centre where we achieved lunch… can you imagine?

So we had not forgotten Edinburgh and all the Royal Family. Royston has done so much, it’s impossible to keep up. Robert Nevil and the Nizam refuse to watch any more Royal documentaries and we’re having a thing called The Hunter at dinner time – it’s about the Mafia. Superb. So I haven’t got round to viewing The Compassionate Duchess yet. The Compassionate Duchess is Katherine Kent. But the Gay Mother watched it and said she’s not demented at all, just old.

The Saville Garden is marvellous. I think these old-fashioned grand gardens, essentially specimen trees, rhododendrons, camillias and so on, are due for a revival. Here somebody thought way beyond their own lifetime, sixty years or more beyond to when the vistas would be fully grown. The post-War idea was that this sort of garden was gloomy and uninteresting, as well as impossible to maintain in the modern era. Vita, Gertrude, Christo and Beth didn’t like rhododendrons and conifers.

Well, the Saville Garden is exactly how you wouldn’t garden at home. All the more reason to treasure it, I’d say. The colours and variety of the azaleas and rhododendrons are amazing when on a grand scale. I liked the way the garden didn’t reveal itself, even when you were in it. Many secret enclosures and often you could see a magnificent tree of a rare colour rising from a mass of shrubs and other trees but never actually find where it was growing or what it was.

Afterwards a few weeks later, I was by chance at Beth’s with Robert Neville and the Nizam. Extraordinary. It’s rather like how now Stravinsky sounds more like Brahms than he did in 1914. Beth’s is in fact the same grand vision as the Saville Garden – a lake, huge trees… her underplanting may be woodlandy natives improved into rarity by hybridisation but really it’s the same idea. Beth’s is a park or a nature walk in the woods where she expanded into her woods in later years. The newer bit in the middle connecting the original part and the woodland has just a hint of the municipal. It’s hard to say why. The view of some nearby ‘storage units’ for rent and the exposure of flat, dreary Essex beyond doesn’t help.

From Beth’s Robert Nevil suggested Layer Marney which got off to a good start by being in a dip. A spot of charm in all flat Essex. A 15th century church in real old rose Tudor brick with amazing stonework and Tudor tombs within – you know, those knights laying down forever. The graveyard had a woman called Frank in it, died in the 1980s, wife of a colonel and also a churchwarden, took in 1981 at the age of 91, who was a ‘Yeoman farmer’, and a ‘friend of little children’. Worrying these days.  Beside the church, though, unbelievable, a kind of Tudor power station, a massive brick tower and flanking buildings. Just a little creepy, so vast, as well as being there in the middle of nowhere and nobody’s ever heard of it, hardly. But surely a wonder of the Tudor world. You couldn’t go in. It’s used for weddings.

The Saville Garden, Windsor Great Park

The Saville Garden, Windsor Great Park

The Saville Garden: Trees and Lawns

The Saville Garden: Trees and Lawns

The Saville Garden: Secret Camillias

The Saville Garden: Secret Camillias

The Saville Garden: a Secret Enclosure

The Saville Garden: a Secret Enclosure

Beth's: Can you Tell the Difference from the Saville Garden?

Beth’s: Can you Tell the Difference from the Saville Garden?

Beth's Grand Vista

Beth’s Grand Vista

Too Late to Change the Inscription Now

Too Late to Change the Inscription Now

Layer Marney Church: Essex's Hidden Gem

Layer Marney Church: Essex’s Hidden Gem

Layer Marney Tower - Unbelievable

Layer Marney Tower – Unbelievable

Layer Marney Tower, Essex. How can It be There?

Layer Marney Tower, Essex. How can It be There?

 

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Holding

Saturday 8th May 2021

I feel I’m in a holding pattern above Heathrow. Val was once actually in this situation, as many others have been, but he was set back for days by it, long after finally landing.

It was too much.

One thing I will say for the Astra 2nd Dose, which I found on the whole to knock me out, but it has cured, for the time being, my swelling and bloating. Amazing.

Dr Jay Bhattacharya, Professor of Stanford, who is adorable, has gone quite far: In the 1st World War, he says, Chemistry was contaminated by enabling the invention of Mustard Gas. In the Second World War, it was the turn of Physics: the Atom Bomb. Now Public Health, marred, in 2020 and 2021 with the widespread use of ‘lockdowns’ to control the spread of Covid-19. Would you go that far?

We must remain bent into a tight bow of skepticism about everything, as always.

I went to the Saville Gardens at Windsor with Royston King nearly two weeks ago. Then with Robert Nevil and the Nizam to Essex last Saturday: Beth Chatto’s (she has sadly passed, so no more opportunity for Robert Nevil and me to stand outside her house in the garden and megaphone in: ‘Come out, Beth, we know you’re in there,’ as we always used to do without fail on every visit, bringing a megaphone with us, of course. Once we saw her at her kitchen sink). After Beth’s we went on to Layer Marney, which was an incredible Tudor revelation. You won’t believe it.

Come back later for more.

 

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Life

Wednesday 28th April 2021

Desperate for rain but why is it so cold?

I haven’t much time. Robert Nevil and the Nizam are coming back tomorrow, I believe. I must get the fridge wiped with fridge wipes bought from the passing orphan on the day-release scheme. The drawing room silver needs to be cleaned and there’s a mark on the kitchen floor. If not done, we’ll never hear the end of it.

Life is now mentioned, although I must still turn my back on any TV screen broadcasting ‘news’ and go round the long way in the mart to avoid the newspapers with their headlines. Nerves.

I lunched in an outdoor restaurant with Lord Arrowby, Rufus Pitman and Raj Zoraster. None of the conversation can be repeated. Either confidential or unrepeatable. It’s astonishing the luxury of the luxury complex being build around the new American Embassy. There’s a bridge of Sighs way up as high as you can go, connecting two luxury blocks of luxury flats but it isn’t a Bridge of Sighs, it’s a swimming pool. We had to endure a crane’s engine roaring during lunch, tending to the swimming pool. Lord Arrowby was furious.

You’d have thought they could have got it finished in time.

Last Friday was Lionel Moore’s 100th birthday. There was a party. Passers-by might have wondered why numbers of household names were walking up and down on Vauxhall Bridge singing Happy Birthday. ‘Isn’t that Maggie Smith?’ Eddie Sedgwick said. ‘Perhaps not,’ as an anorak-ed woman passed. But it was Patti and Anne Reid. Eddie managed to speak to Anne Reid although it wasn’t until afterwards that he could remember who she was. She’s been writing her autobiography for 12 years apparently. Patti had the most marvellous actress hair. Once Patti did a perf of Little Night Music for me, although she didn’t know it.  When they were at the National, Judi would say each night as they were waiting to ‘go on’, ‘Who are we doing it for tonight?’ Sometimes it would be Mick Jagger (‘He’s in, you know’) or Mrs Bousfield, one of them’s cleaner. Anyway, on this occasion, they couldn’t think of anyone to do it for, so a nearby actor who happened to know me said, ‘Adrian Edge is in. Do it for him.’ So they said, ‘All right then. We’ll do it for Adrian Edge.’

Lionel appeared on the balcony of a flatti in a block hard by Vauxhall Bridge. A lot of people didn’t believe it was him. It wasn’t even his own balcony but one selected to be nearer the bridge. Then we went and hung around the front door of the apartment building.  You could go in and sign a book. There was some idea of champagne and that Lionel would come down, neither of which happened, although boxes of champagne were seen going in and out. It was a party though: interesting strangers, two young men on bicycles. The older looking of the two was 24 and the other was 40. Unbelievable glamour on bicycles. From the auction world, they said. How on earth do they know Lionel? They seemed to think the auction connection explained everything.  But so typical of Lionel at 100 to have befriended the best-looking couple for miles around.

The former MP for Whirly and Lorraine was there. He was harking back to Spanish flu days, which his grandmother only just survived. She overheard the doctor saying she wouldn’t and was having none of it. A red-faced man appeared with champagne boxes which he put in an old Porsche. Plus some luggage. Outrage. Luggage, these days, isn’t at all proper and never seen. He appeared to know Lionel, in fact was of the flats’ block. It turned out to be Tim Yeo, former minister and figure of scandal.

So there we are. I call that a party. It had exactly the qualities one looks for – big names, sex appeal and a certain randomness. Canapés and glasses would have added little really. Just bother.

Lionel Moore Makes a Balcony appearance on his 100th birthday

Lionel Moore Makes a Balcony appearance on his 100th birthday

Household Names

Household Names

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

 

 

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I Don’t Like It

Wednesday 21st April 2021

Did I say that I had a brainwave? These days a lot of dispensers don’t work. I’ve got a spray-bottle of Cif that won’t spray. You pump and pump. Nothing happens. I suppose many of these products have gone Woke and don’t work any more – like dishwashers. I was in agony about the Cif because I can’t bear waste. But then I had a brainwave. What if I bought another Cif spray, used it a bit, then decanted the contents of the broken-down bottle into the new one – once there was room?

Can you imagine the genius? And the bliss of finally being able to get that bottle empty and worthy of the re-cycling bin?

I’ve been meaning to mention for ages: back in February when I walked with Harry Rollo amongst a mass of the milling public in Regent’s Park, we passed a man and Harry said, ‘That’s Murray Perahia.’ He’s a famous performer, if you don’t know. Incredibly famous on the platform and been on it for fifty years at least.

But reduced. Now just milling, let out in the afternoon for air, just like everybody else. He and Harry couldn’t acknowledge each other, of course, in these circumstances.

I walked with Joshua Baring – it must be a month ago. We looked at what will be the last of the ducks, all being well. Joshua said it will be. If the vaccines don’t work, they’ll just have to get some more. Besides epidemics don’t last for ever, they just don’t. He was incredibly firm about it. He said also that his father, Lord Baring, had complained of breathlessness to his doctors. ‘Oh, you’ve had the Psizer,’ they said airily. ‘It causes blood clots in the lungs. Common side-effect. Big surprise you can’t breathe. Ha. Ha.’ Apparently they clear up of their own accord. Why has our own dear Astra been mercilessly attacked for clots, when they all do it? It’s so unfair.

The ducks in Victoria Park are even more confusing, owing to lack of labels. If only Harry had been with… Just by chance I ran into him and Mercury Mr Kitten the very next day. He said it was unlikely to have been an eider duck. As for the black-headed gulls, they don’t normally bother with the black heads, only when horny. Otherwise they’re dun-headed. No wonder we couldn’t find them although they were on the board as present and with black heads.

There were many ambulance drivers lolling beside their ambulances in the park, one with music blaring from within while the keeper enjoyed an ice. I wondered if there was anybody writhing in agony in the back who was just having to wait.

We picked over Harry and Meghan. Joshua said it was William. Harry went back to Meghan and repeated, thigh-slapping, ha-ha, ra-ra, what William had said, one guardsman to another or whatever it is they are. But no. Not funny. Immediate re-education and re-think performed by Meghan, rather like Harry had to do after the Nazi fancy-dress affair.

‘I was at school with him,’ Joshua said. And at subsequent parties. The less said the better. Troubled young man. Given to bullying at school. Joshua couldn’t recall the name of Harry’s therapist, except that she’s of lineage. Anyway, her work is not complete, evidently.

Now, I don’t like it. It was better before. I’ve forgotten how to diarise. I had two engagements last week. One was outdoor restaurant lunch. Rufus Pitman kindly allotted one of his priceless places for terrace-dining to me. Lord Arrowby and Raj Zoraster made up the party. The other was the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, viewed at Anthony Mottram’s new apartment. After that, it was back to square one but worse. To be let out a bit and then put back in again is worse. I’d rather be shut up for good. After months and months of deprivation, there seems to be a determination to carry on with it. You could go for an overcoat repast, but all the terraces are booked. I hear that when the restaurants re-open they’re going to be booked too. Raj said all the hotels are booked to September and beyond.

So what is the point?

I should say that Royston King did not just take to the airwaves last week to commemorate the Duke of Edinburgh, he was the airwaves. His line: the death of the Duke of Edinburgh shows that the Queen is the most loved person in the country.  It’s true.

We’re sure she’ll be opening Parliament as soon as possible. Nothing will stop her. But probably in a hat and coat.

 

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Condolences

Saturday 10th April 2021

Rufus Pitman texted. He doesn’t think She will last much longer in view of the shock.  I went on with Nigella’s No Knead Black Bread, although I fear I left the salt out. Val telephoned this morning from Moscova, Hastings to condole. He had no idea Prince Philip had done so much for electric frying pans. Memories came flooding back of the Ideal Home Exhibition, which was the supreme gadget show of yesteryear. Advanced Prince Philip would come back from it with, according to his snooty valet, who published a book,  ‘items that might be suitable for a young couple living without staff in a small flat.’ Val wondered if an electric frying pan was the only hope of getting a hot breakfast at Buckingham Palace. No doubt the machine was a menace from the Health and Safety point of view and would nowadays be banned at once.  The Royal couple were lucky to escape electrocution from their bacon and an early demise instead of living to be nearly 100, both of them. Val’s mother was wild for the Ideal Home Exhibition – the crinkle-cut chips machine, the milk frother, the Ritter red cabbage grater – even though all her purchases got the better of her and ended up in the back of a kitchen cupboard. Val had the awful job of trying to clean the Ritter red cabbage grater. It would have been easier in every way to cut up cabbage in the normal way, with a knife.

Edinburgh couldn’t understand why a bottle of whisky was placed in the Queen’s bedroom every evening at Buckingham Palace, although never touched. It turned out it was by order of Queen Victoria 90 years before which nobody had bothered to rescind. The Monarchy survives by endlessly reinventing itself while appearing to remain the same. The King and Queen wanted Princess Elizabeth to marry a chinless wonder from the aristocracy. They were suspicious of Prince Philip. But he was the new blood they needed, rather like Sophie Wessex, someone who knew something about the real world, who had actually had a phase of owning only one suit and no money. The Queen could remain steady, dutiful, unchanging and minimal, which was the perfect foil for Edinburgh to whirl about shaking things up. It was a very odd partnership, if you think about it but I put it on a parr with Her choice of dog. Doesn’t quite add up. Snappy, rude dogs that nip the ankles of visitors. Husband a bit the same. His other great achievement was to be a force for change, a powerful masculine figure, while remaining ‘one step behind’.

There have been complaints about the wall-to-wall TV coverage, even though it’s better than the other thing, surely. But those that mock and sneer miss the point. Royalties are more than themselves. For better or worse they are woven into the fabric of our lives. Everybody will feel the tiniest pinch of loss at the death of Edinburgh and blossom, as likely as not, into memories, as Val and I of the Ideal Home Exhibition, but for others it will be something else.

 

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