I Forgot to Mention Woburn

Tuesday 20th November 2018

The other thing I forgot to mention is what Harry Rollo said while we were out chandelier shopping about how when he was subject to a full-scale goosing by a v. famous actor in his youth (he’s now in late youth) it wasn’t #metoo but #atlast.

But Woburn: Royston King suggested an outing and we were accompanied by the Marquis of Salisbury’s Head Gardener, the Marchioness being met at the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association at Nomura International plc a week or so later where the Head of the Garden Museum made his terrifying speech. She was charming. I’ve never been to Woburn although the other book I read at Prep, in addition to James Pope Hennessey’s Life of Queen Mary, was Born with a Silver-Plated Spoon in My Mouth by His Grace the 13th Duke of Bedford. And of course, the Russells were around us in the Far West, their estate there being Endsleigh, and the Gay Granny knew the 12th Duke who committed in the drive which she never liked after that. In the 19th century the Russells were fab (did so much for the Poor) but they went downhill.

At least they’re Dukes of the county they actually live in unlike most of the other Dukes, even if it is Bedfordshire. You enter a vast park by Repton, of whom we’re hearing quite a lot this autumn, the most enormous swathes and undulations with deer and tree clumps. Kind of lunar and alarming, not least because it’s about six miles from the lodge until there’s a glimpse of the house or Abbey as it is properly. Then you have to go round another six miles to actually get near it, Royston King whipping me on as I manoeuvred the Official Car all the while. Garden-centre-type entrance system with room perfume and potted orchids to buy, then asphalt,mono-planting, more huts containing The Duchess’s Tea Room etc and the poor house struggling for life in the midst of all this junk. You’d have thought the War had only recently ended and the place was still in the throes of having been requisitioned. The mansion house has also the misfortune of being at the bottom of a slope. Very poor garden door entrance. The real entrance got pulled down in the 1940s or something. Then weave through corridors and up a little stairs to 1st floor suite of rooms – early 18th century, one smallish cabinet after another, quite nice but hard to overlook the awful 60s square-block parquet provided for the visitors to walk on.  Royston was very taken with Henry Flitcroft, whose work they were. He rose from nothing. I was glad to hear from one of the guides that they’re shutting next year for a complete re-think. Finally you get to the Caneletto Room which had clearly been Raine Spencer-ed in the 80s – those dining chairs with high backs and a loose-cover with dainty skirt extension to the floor for full hotel effect. You could have burned the lot and lost little. Finally there is a great wide corridor going along the back of the suite of cabinets where the Armada Portrait of the first Queen Elizabeth is to be found. Some evidence of Raine Spencer here as well but the corridor did amount to something all the same.

We went round the garden which was mostly dried up and dessicated but marvellous trees. A sign said, ‘This way to Ashna and Ed’s Wedding’ which was in the Stables. ‘That’s modern Britain for you,’ Royston remarked. The Salisbury Head Gardener knew the names of all the trees.

A Spotted Laurel at Woburn: In fact Not a Laurel at All but Some Other Plant. I Never Knew That

A Spotted Laurel at Woburn: In fact Not a Laurel at All but Some Other Plant. I Never Knew That

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Woburn: An Evergreen Garden

 

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Oh My God!

Friday 16th November 2018

Amazingly I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Metropolitan Gardens Society then the Opening of the Repton Exhib at the Garden Museum, followed by the Dedication of the newly restored memorial to Chelsea Pensioners at Brompton Cemetery after which a plaque to the Park dead of both World Wars was unveiled in the Colonnade, followed by a tea.  Loyd Grossman thought he was reading the poem but he wasn’t. It was given by a schoolgirl. Then Lord Heseltine gave a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society, demonstrating his immensely rich garden. After that I flew to Bulgaria for Cosi was on in Plovdiv. Mid-October I was in Suffolk with the Gay Mother because she said she didn’t know the county. She was reading the The Golden Bowl. She’s read it before but denies it. About 20 years ago she said it was the most marvellous story about a bowl that was cracked. Now she says it’s rather extraordinary with the roundaboutness and it’s all about what people are thinking. All the same, ‘I can see how it’s going to end,’ she says. I must find out if she’s finished it yet or given up. I mustn’t forget I was in Brittany for a few days and Marmion Beaufleusance gave a party. Oh, and I’ve been up to the eyeballs with the Romanovs (the Science Museum and the Queen’s Gallery) as well as the Royal Corgis and the Travellers’ Club. At the Queen’s Gallery I had to be let in early owing to being in the air for the proper press preview. The press person was rather clingy and when we rounded a corner and the glass case full of Fabergé was open I could see why. I could have slipped an egg into my bag and nobody would ever have known. Unlike at Oceania where I’ve been twice (neither times with the paying public) where all the cases are closed.

Amazing because all the time I’ve been riven with worry and grief and could go down yet for millions at the hand of the Environment Agency. Things have gone badly wrong but might be put right but not one thing that can never be put right.

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation

Marmion Beaufleusance: The Cushion she Sat on at the Coronation

My Lodging in Brittany

My Lodging in Brittany

The Queen's Gallery: the Vladimir Tiara, often Worn by the Queen

The Queen’s Gallery: the Vladimir Tiara, often Worn by the Queen

Poor Alix Russia not Looking Well

Poor Alix Russia not Looking Well

Nicky and Alix: Their Brown Decor which They Loved

Nicky and Alix: Their Brown Decor which They Loved

 

 

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Cyclical Thoughts: The Ring

Tuesday 16th October 2018

One thing: when you complete a Ring Cycle, nobody gives you so much as a matinee tray. Yet, before Rheingold, in the great lobbies of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a black wing swept the throng. However Wagnerienne, there is always the dread: will I live up to the Cycle and …will the Cycle live up to me? Rheingold terminated and Anthony Mottram said, ‘Really. So ridic. The Tarnhelm and people making themselves small or large and Alberich going so small to show off that he got seized by Wotan. What a lot of nonnie!’  Rheingold: everybody’s horrid or silly except the Rhinemaidens. Before Gotterdammerung, Anthony Mottram plunged in the Paul Hamlyn Hall: ‘Oh no, we’ve got all that Tarnhelm business to face again. Siegfried casting himself about… such rubbish.’ Why do we bother? Why do we keep Cycling?  150 years since Wagner and here we all are, forking out massively, cramming into the Garden, beginning again on another Cycle. What is it? How has Wagner reached so far into the future? Why is he still making us Cycle? And go to Bayreuth, which is utter madness?

Years ago, at the very beginning almost of our Wagner time, 44 years ago, Anthony Mottram said, ‘Yearning. That is Wagner.’ The followers also yearn: yearn to know whether it’s any good. Great tracts – is there something wrong with them? It’s no use saying, ‘Oh but the music changes everything..’ Well, it does and it doesn’t. As a whole, the structure… so clumsy, buckling under the strain of an overwhelming weight of massiveness. One yearns to follow the plot, or to be able to recount it a few days after seeing a Cycle for the 4th or 5th time. And one yearns for performance: is this work actually performable? can anyone sing it? I’ve always longed for a perfect Siegfried who would be ringing and marvellous. On this Cycle I reached a conclusion for the time being, until the next Cycle. Siegfried is never going to be ringing and wonderful. It’s a dud part. The idea of him is a failure. He’s just delinquent and unattractive and useless. A lot of his mu is dull. Our Siegfried was the same one I had at Bayreuth when I went with Prince Dmitri. Stephan Vinke. Anthony Mottram said he was good but occasionally out of tune. So that’s as good as Siegfried’s going to get.

At least we’ve got that settled – until someone has a better idea, or a new singer comes along who is suddenly ringing and wonderful. But by then we will be bankrupt, likely as not, from so many Cycles. Rather like Wagner himself who always assumed somebody else would pay, he being a blinding genius.

Don’t get me wrong: this Cycle was marvellous. By far the best of its ‘outings’ of which I’ve seen all three. It’s impossible to say why. The great thing was Nina: unsurpassed as Brunnhilde. At least in my life I’ve seen the greatest Brunnhilde, more burnished and god-like than the wonderful Catherine Foster at Bayreuth. The production I cannot adore although it is bold to bring out the farcical elements in Rheingold and to be uncompromising about what a half-wit Siegfried is. Is this what Wagner meant? Or if he didn’t mean it, is it still right? Was Wagner off his head – his notion of an innocent ‘hero’ who would save the world as misconceived as Wotan’s yearning for Valhalla? At the heart of it all is the endless surging of the human mind, the great heroic wreck of regret, compromise and failure with nothing being what’s it’s cracked up to be. So marvellous when at last Brunnhilde threw the Ring back into the Rhine (it was her who threw it, wasn’t it? Well, somebody did). But I’ve always thought the idea is that another Alberich will come along at some point and the whole thing will start again. On and on it goes – human life.

A Greatness on a Cycle: The Ring Cycle Covent Garden October 2018

A Greatness on a Cycle: The Ring Cycle Covent Garden October 2018

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I Knew It

Monday 15th October 2018

I did wonder. We saw her at the Royal Academy Opening of the Oceania Exhib. I lobbied Genevieve Suzy for admission and it was granted. Then Royston King invited me to be his plus-one. What it is to be at the top. This was when she caused a sensation by shutting her own car door. Nobody could believe it. So busy were they with this event, plus her departure therefrom they missed the main thing. But I saw. She was not absolutely flat in the middle regions. There was definitely a bulge. Really astonishing that nobody noticed, when you think of it. When the outfit is the main point of attention. We were stood so close (thanks to Royston for foreseeing exactly where we should stand) I could see the shoulder seam of her Givenchy. She was brought in from a neighbouring room where super-Greatnesses had been presented. Her heels were so high she could barely walk. ‘Will she make a speech?’ Royston wondered. I said, ‘Only one small enough to fit into that tiny box clutch.’ But ultimately she simply stood while others made speeches. So simple. Then she rubbed noses with the Maori musicians. That was her wow-factor. But all the press had scurried out beforehand, desperate to get the departure. Only Arthur Edwards, the veteran Royal photographer, refused to budge. He knew. Then vultured on the event when it happened. Really all that Royal couture and outfitting to be off-set by a figure such as Arthur Edwards, the Royal Photographer, who is well past retirement age and at the extreme end of unfinished as to frockage.

The other thing is she’s quite small. Delightful of course but complexion just a little worn in reality consonant with age, as they say on eBay.

We also viewed the Oceania Exhib. It was great.

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Closing Down the Summer

Friday 28th September 2018

I’m actually mid-Cycle. It’s getting better and better. The darling new Swedish Wotan called John Lundgren whom we adored at Bayreuth suffered near collapse in Rheingold on Monday. But better by Wednesday. More of The Ring later. I hope he keeps going. Four Cycles! The thought of it! The main thing just now is outfits: The Ring demands 4 different outfits, as well as vast amounts of money to attend, not to mention the sacrifice of time. How did he manage it? Wagner: 140 years later still ruling lives. I’m pushing summer modes into Autumn though. A brown/gold summer suit for Siegfried tomorrow, I think. No bright colours for Siegfried – all that dreadful forge work calls for dun shades. Monday for Got, I think it will be colder, so red velvet.

But looking back and saying goodbye to the summer. I opened my garden for unpaid carers for one afternoon. It was the National Garden Scheme Mental Health Week. Really it was a tea-party. Only three came. They disliked each other and had many grievances which took several hours to work over. Then two turned up who weren’t actually Macmillan Nurses but worked in the fund raising department thereof. I was worried about who cared for the carers though. My icing worked! But cake still grainy, despite reducing Mary Berry’s amount of baking powder.

Then Aunt Lavinia came down to the Far West for five days with her dog, Millicent, who sat in my chair while we were at luncheon (the roast bird was near perfect). Millicent got out of her floor basket and into my chair. The great thing was the way she re-arranged the cushion for her comfort, as you can see in the graph. I had to get the vac at once. Hairs all over the chair.  No sooner was I back from the Far West, with just enough time for the Berlioz Prom (Mrs May was present but I never saw her: it was great: I know nothing about Berlioz but love the idea of him: completely impossible, excessive, manic and near-barking. Mu is kind of gloriously obvious yet delicately wrought) … oh and don’t forget the closing Glyndebourniana…. Vanessa: really rather loved.  By Samuel Barber. Nobody had ever heard of it before. Weird reverse Sleeping Beauty story, intriguing, mu elusive, possibly ironic for long passages, like film mu, many different styles, great moments for important sopranos as in a grand opera but all seen through strange refracting distancing prism, production by same man as did Covent Garden Ring, Warner, but much better. Had mirrors that sometimes you could see through partially, generally black and glossy, borderline real, somewhere legendary in winter, yet cossies where 1950s rich. So no ideah what it was all about but impact was tremendous. An occasion but just a perf, which is what one expects at Glyndebourniana. We picnicked in the loggia. Cold rack of lamb: preserved lemons v. sour. Won’t be doing it again. Prince Dmitri did a brilliant bean, tuna and egg thing. Must get the recipe. My apricot tart let down by second-rate apricots.

Left Glyndebourniana for the very last time this year, leaving it in a very much better state than we found it.

I was going to say: sudden call from the Mid Far West. The damsons were ready. Robert Nevil and I had to leave London at once to pick. We ran over the dog with the pick-up truck on the back of which we stood for picking. Thank God not a heavy cropping year. Dog yelped and has lived. Dog also ate enormous qualities of apples and plums that had dropped on the ground in the orchard which it shouldn’t have done. Dogs, really. Terrible consequences. Robert Nevil has taken up coughing like a really old man; also defiant flatulence. We visited a nearby Gay in an Arts and Crafts mansion and had an agreeable hour picking over rich people in London known to the Gay who go on art tours and give millions to museums: also know all the Head of Museums. I felt very at home. Heads of Museums is very much my world. The only drawback was, on arrival his dog leap up and stained my pale stone slacks by Tiger of Sweden with its muddy feet. Nobody thought anything of it. But imagine if that had happened in London. It would have been la fin de Monde.

My Icing Worked! My Mental Health Open Garden Afternoon

My Icing Worked! My Mental Health Open Garden Afternoon

The Cucumber Sandwiches for the Mental Health Open Garden Tea: We Must have Things Daintily Done

The Cucumber Sandwiches for the Mental Health Open Garden Tea: We Must have Things Daintily Done

Glyndebourniana: The Final Thrust before the Winter

Glyndebourniana: The Final Thrust before the Winter

Where Millicent was Supposed to Be

Where Millicent was Supposed to Be

Where Millicent Actually Was: At Once had to Fetch Mr Henry: Hairs

Where Millicent Actually Was: At Once had to Fetch Mr Henry: Hairs

My Outfit for Solicitor-Visiting on Estate Matters

My Outfit for Solicitor-Visiting on Estate Matters: Zara, Prada and Acne Studios (but Bleach-Damage from trying to Remove a Stain)

Stained on An Important Visit to Neighbour who Cruises with the Sacklers in the Far Mid-West. A Horror Dog Jumped Up. Tiger of Sweden Slacks Compromised

Stained on An Important Visit to Neighbour who Cruises with the Sacklers in the Far Mid-West. A Horror Dog Jumped Up. Tiger of Sweden Slacks Compromised

Costa Tea-Cake Taken on Way back from Damson-Picking in the Far Mid-West

Costa Tea-Cake Taken on Way back from Damson-Picking in the Far Mid-West

Forged into the Launch of this, I can Tell You. Beamish O'Halloran Flagged the Event for Me. All the Royal Correspondents present at Hatchard's Launch

Forged into the Launch of this, I can Tell You. Beamish O’Halloran Flagged the Event for Me. All the Royal Correspondents present at Hatchard’s Launch

 

 

 

 

 

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A Private Tour of Highgate West Cemetery

Saturday 22nd September 2018

Ed Jasper, the bed linen expert, arranged a private tour. They were very strict that George Michael’s last resting place would not be revealed, no matter how much money was offered. In fact a private tour is the only way of viewing this part of the cemetery. Karl Marx is buried in the East Cemetery, where one may roam at ease, for a fee.

We stopped at a tremendous military grave. The guide said, ‘Guess what the uprights forming the surrounding railing are?’ Quick as a flash, Ed Jasper said, ‘They’re upside-down canons, but what if a porn star was buried here….’ i.e. Would they be penetrative devices of an extreme nature? The guide was turned to a heap of ash but bore up. Highgate West Cemetery is fabulously gloomy and over-grown. Not how it would have been in its day. Vegetation has sprung up wildly since. So now it’s a dank wood with graves, no sense of a park like Brompton where I was for the launch with Tristram Hunt and Royston King. The Victorians did Death is every known style, except, it would seem, the Christian. Astonishing lack of Crosses. The favourite style is Egyptian, or some idea of Egyptian. There’s the Egyptian Avenue, a kind of creepy semi-underground grotto and the Circle of Lebanon where the tombs have front doors in the Egyptian style. Radclyffe Hall is installed in one, with a defiant message from Una outside: ‘… And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. Una.’

But beneath all this gloomy grandeur really are buried here a load of chancers, upstarts, illegal prize fighters and horse-slaughtering moguls who rose from the seething streets of Islington, Hoxton, Shoreditch and King’s Cross to splendid entombment at Highgate. What a picture of London life in the mid-19th century zings forth from these dour groves to this day!

Highgate West Cemetery: the Circle of Lebanon with Egyptian-style Doors: No Occupants Come to the Door, though

Highgate West Cemetery: the Circle of Lebanon with Egyptian-style Doors: No Occupants Come to the Door, though

Radclyffe Hall: Her Hutch in the Circle of Lebanon: She Answereth Not to a Knock at the Door

Radclyffe Hall: Her Hutch in the Circle of Lebanon: She Answereth Not to a Knock at the Door

The Mausoleum of Julius Beer to his Daughter: Cost Millions in modern Money

The Mausoleum of Julius Beer to his Daughter: Cost Millions in modern Money

The Tomb of Thomas Sayers, 1826-65, the Last of the Bare-Knuckle Prizefighters

The Tomb of Thomas Sayers, 1826-65, the Last of the Bare-Knuckle Prizefighters: Huge Dog with 

The Newest Tomb, by the Entrance at Highgate West Cemetery

The Newest Tomb, by the Entrance at Highgate West Cemetery

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Extreme Poor Little Rich Gay: Normandy 2018

Tuesday 18th September 2018

The Annual Visit took place to the Norman Fastness of Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver. No young people so Poor Little Rich Gays were appalling.  The Laird and Lairdess arrived in the Toerag loaded with detail. See below for graphs of the onboard facilities. For the first time, the Laird laminated his reference number for the Eurotunnel.  On arrival the Lairdess sank into a gravity lounger. Laura informed her that one of the English neighbours had cut her lavender hedge already. ‘C…t,’ she said, which was unexpected although extraordinarily gracious with her cut-glass vowels.

All over Normandy wives were complaining of their snoring husbands. ‘C…ts,’ said the Lairdess daintily. Poor Little Rich Gays are not going down quietly. The young may be orderly with respectful sexual relations and absolutely no casual racism, but Poor Little Rich Gays at the other end of their years remain a disgrace.

In the afternoons, the Lairdess, the Laird, Beamish O’Halloran, Laura and Moira MacMatron lay in rows on their loungers and said it was like a care home. Or indeed they were already dead. Matt Driver, needless to say, was in a shed somewhere looking into things. Or re-shaping a Nation’s buying habits on Wednesdays. Or, primarily, battling to keep a bank afloat which had pissed off its customers by preventing them from logging on. But with Matt Driver on board, all ills can be magicked away. Moira MacMatron was a Matron in agony in fact. Her neck. She had a special hook to rub it with, offering little relief. Now it has been discovered that she has suffered a deep internal rupture. The hook was the worst thing for it. At last Doctors have bucked up. You would have thought they’d do more for one of their own, wouldn’t you? Does a specialist matron count for nothing these days? At least Moira MacMatron didn’t leave Normandy, as she did the year before, after singing her menacing song about Miss Pineapple prancing on Hampstead Heath (or somewhere like that) twirling a yellow umbrella in a little yellow frock. A sugar-coated arsenic pill if ever there was one.

Every morning, the Lairdess appeared at her bathroom window (she never descends for garden breakfast) to signal to a grateful Normandy that she had come through the night. Beamish O’Halloran, that giant of the Red Tops, offered no such reassurance. ‘Where is he?’ Moira wondered. ‘Has he died?’ We all envisaged him laid out like King Edward V11 in eternal slumber. Actually he’d gone up to the village. There’s a new editor at the Mail who’s de-toxifying it. But I wonder if Beamish took things a little too far.

We lunched with the Munroe-Coopers. Lambert Munroe-Cooper is connected and landed beyond belief. At one time a Van Eyck featured in the family portfolio. Their beagle was a bit delap though. ‘What are those lumps?’ Moira enquired. ‘Oh, it’s cancer,’ Priscilla said, matter-of-fact. Priscilla’s father’s a brigadier. In that world you love your dog and shoot it when the time is right. They laid on a splendid fête champetre under umbrellas. Afterwards Lambert showed us a Renaissance sideboard from Italy that had been in the family since the 15th century. ‘Only village work,’ he said, ‘or small town at best.’ It looked like a National Treasure to me.

Back at the Norman fastness of Matt Driver and Laura Malcolm, the fête champetre was destined for another day in the evening. How one lunches and dines in later Poor Little Rich Gay life.

Meanwhile the disappearance of Beamish O’Halloran in the afternoons was giving rise to comment. What could it mean?  Moira was all for deleting the Facebook posts. Which showed a young man from Malaysia with his new best mate … Beamish O’Halloran. They were having a wail of a time at the village bar, just as if it were Ye Olde Cheeshire Cheese in Fleet Street or Whole Foods in Kensington High Street with Ann Robinson going by in a burka, making a TV prog about sexism but the whole thing being ruined by Beamish recognising her.  ‘Oh yes,’ said Laura. She’d heard about this person. Quite good at hanging about and meeting people apparently. But really – Beamish O’Halloran, who was the original Lunchtime O’Booze, who, for modern times, has triumphantly turned Whole Foods in Kensington High Street into a drinking den quite on a par with Ye Olde Cheeshire Cheese of yore, who knocked back G&T with Tommy Cooper’s widow, who killed off Ireland’s oldest man…. Well, if Beamish O’Halloran turning gay and taking a kitchen isn’t going to de-tox the Mail then nothing will.

The other sensation in Normandy was the Laird requiring three croissants at breakfast. He placed a special order with Laura who fetched them by bicycle each morning.

 

The Norman Visit: My Hostess Gift from Waitrose

The Norman Visit: My Hostess Gift from Waitrose

Behind the Scenes On Board the Toerag with the Laird and Lairdess

Behind the Scenes On Board the Toerag with the Laird and Lairdess

The Toerag: Onboard Facilities

The Toerag: Onboard Facilities

The Toerag: Prosecco for Priority Boarding Passengers

The Toerag: Prosecco for Priority Boarding Passengers

The Laird's Laminated Reference Number for the Eurotunnel

The Laird’s Laminated and Trimmed Reference Number for the Eurotunnel

The Norman Fastness of Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver: the Meter Cupboard

The Norman Fastness of Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver: the Meter Cupboard: Farrow and Ball Tuscan Red 

We Visit the Sunday Brocante on the Way to Lunch with the

We Visit the Sunday Brocante on the Way to Lunch with the Munroe-Coopers

We Visit Honfleur and Lunched

We Visit Honfleur and Lunched

The Norman Fastness: Not Quite Laid for Lunch

The Norman Fastness: Not Quite Laid for Lunch

Me Adrian Edge: a Classic Evening Ensemble for Normandy

Me Adrian Edge: a Classic Evening Ensemble for Normandy: Topman cap a pe

Château de Saint-Germain de Livet: Rare Italian influence in Northern Europe. Late 15th Century

Château de Saint-Germain de Livet: Rare Italian influence in Northern Europe. 16th Century

 

 

 

 

 

Château de Saint-Germain-de--Livet: what a Gem. Lovely Patterns

Château de Saint-Germain-de–Livet: what a Gem. Lovely Patterns

Château de Saint-Germain-de-Livet

Château de Saint-Germain-de-Livet

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The Road to Bayreuth

Tuesday 11th September 2018

It was on the Monday morning we took the high road to Bayreuth. There was a certain amount of ferocious telephoning re: the Museum apartment from within the vehicle as it moved. I said, ‘Just maybe you could move the furniture back and hang the paintings then wait for some nice perfectionist to attend to the edges and install the toilet button cover?’ I could see that Anthony and Vadim were in that fatal final phase of a Poor Little Rich Gay renovation project where the last details torment and never seem to be right, there’s a risk a vicious Gay will come round and find fault and they didn’t even have builders turning up to make it as intolerable as could be imagined.  It’s not like me, as you know, to suggest an easing-off, who has striven to the grave’s edge for the home to be right. But at our age you have to choose between life and death. Anthony Mottram, were the wind to be blowing in a certain direction, would choose death all the same. But on this occasion he didn’t.  It was agreed that Vadim with a friend would re-assemble the museum apartment in the boiling heat while we were at Bayreuth.

So we forged on to Bayreuth and gained the travelling salesman hotel. It was even more boiling there. There are no antique shops or art galleries. But we never stopped talking. Such talk but how will the world ever know it? Or even like it. ‘I don’t care for most people,’ Anthony Mottram announced. This isn’t exactly true but Poor Little Rich Gays are naturally superior. Even before I met him at the housemaster’s welcome tea party at Barrowborough in September 1970, when, through daintiness I fell off the edge of the chair, Anthony Mottram could wither a moron at a 100 metres. ‘Why don’t you pack it up and send it to them?’ he said when urged to think of the Biafrans because he didn’t want his rice pudding. ‘Why are you making me eat food I don’t want when others are starving?’ he added, at eight-years-old just to put the boot into Matron. In Bayreuth, I asked after a certain Hungarian protégé, who had originally been about 20 when Anthony was re-building the country after Communism. ‘He’s churlish, resentful and envious,’ Anthony said as if anybody could think of three adjectives just like that. I said, ‘Oh! Three adjectives! Like Emma: “handsome, clever and rich.” ‘ So many people one knows are handsome, clever and rich. It’s an incredible way to be. Three adjectives is just genius.

So at last we came unto the Festspielhaus. Extraorder to be there again after only three years. Couldn’t quite believe it. Still can’t. We reckoned the entire outing to see one Wagner opera cost over £1000 each. That mad Wagner still draining the purse of everyone. But worth every penny. I wore a classic crooner’s evening dress, black tie with white jacket. V trans-Atlantic liner. Quite common. Except I never put the jacket on it was so boiling. We were in the very front row. The Gays next to us from Minnesota had on well-washed polo shirts and sneakers. I mean a bit worn out with washing. The only thing we didn’t see this time at Bayreuth was any yellow Heidis in their latter years. Oh it was thrilling to be in the very front row, even if Placido wasn’t quite on top of things in the pit. We had Anja Kampe and Stephen Gould in Act 1. Loved them. Even though Gould is a great big bear. Tobias Kehrer was Hundig. Completely thrilling. Then Catherine Foster as Brunners. Before when I came with the Prince and Mrs Merkel, she didn’t really get going until Siegfried. But this time sensational. Just giving and giving. Wotan won the opera: John Lundgrun. We didn’t have him before. Incredible ringing voice, full of pain. From the front row you could see how much they were all giving, probably trying to help Placido who is quite old and didn’t really know what he was doing although great. It’s always best in a perf if something isn’t quite right and there’s a drama. Then it becomes electric.

We were conspicuous in the town afterwards in evening dress, very plainly Wagnerienne. You’ve have thought they’d have got used to it by now. The next day we returned directly to Prague. It was absolutely boiling. The Museum apartment had been put back together by Vadim and a friend. In sweltering heat we adjusted the position of the wine cooler and hung more pictures from Anthony’s important collection of post-Commie art. My favs are the ones of cement areas outside terrible flat’s blocks with people, or a ghastly park by a railway line, also with people. They cost a fortune though. £5000 for a tiny one.

Over the next few days I did a little hand-washing of outfits and travelled by UberX because more chance of air con. Even in boiling heat Prague is booming, unlike London. On the Friday I returned to London, by air, Club Class to resume engagements there.

This is the Famous Shield

This is the Famous Shield

 

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We So Agreed about the Petting Zoo

Saturday September 8th 2018

Anthony Mottram laid out a Cream Tea for elevenses in Prague. It was supplied by Marks and Spencer (Prague branch). ‘I’m on statins,’ he said. I said, ‘I’m not sure that’s the point.’ The cream tea was beautifully displayed. Then we left for Karlovy Vary. Once it was Karlsbad. In the early days after the Wall came down, we were shown the Emperor’s Suite, including toilet, at the Grand Hotel Pupp. But Anthony said the Pupp was not worth the effort these days. We took the Ambassador instead. Later there was to be a drama over a tea bag. We visited the Pupp, of course, just to get a feel for Grand Hotel and Spa life. These days it’s Russians and Middle Eastern potentates. Anthony said it was an enormous place and what were they going to do with it all. Across the way is the jewel in the crown as far as Karlovy Vary hotels is concerned: the Quisisana Palace. Its facade was superbly inlaid in an exotic fashion. I could sense its greatness but my hunger for hotels is waning. They’re all in chains these days. I don’t want a chain. I want personal touches, so it’s like a private Stately.

We climbed into a wood behind the Pupp.  Anthony kept quiet about the petting zoo on the way up, revealing it only at the last minute as an intense surprise. There were no more than two ponies and two goats in a small enclosure. No even a pig. All the creatures were busy at the manger and unavailable for petting which was probably for the best because it turned out they’d written very stern notices with illustrations begging the public not to feed them and relaying their terrible experiences as a result of consuming sandwiches. ‘I nearly died,’ one of the ponies explained.

How we roared about the petting zoo, though, and sent pictures of it to Robert Nevil in London, who roared too.

There was lunch and dinner, of course, in Karlovy Vary. It was not quite so boiling hot as in Prague. We walked in the manicured pleasure gardens which no Middle European spa town can be without. Also Harrogate. Back at the Ambassador they’d run out of tea. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Anthony entered into negotiations with the front desk and achieved a tea-bag from their private supply. Proudly we carried it back to the bar. ‘You see, you’ve haven’t quite run out of tea,’ Anthony said impishly. The staff, of course, were in a dream, never imagining that a Western mogul would be so do-it-yourself.

This is how capitalism works.

The next day, we struck the road for Bayreuth, telephoning fiercely all the way about the Museum Apartment. Would anybody ever come to complete the work of expansion and renovation?

Karlovy Vary: its Petting Zoo

Karlovy Vary: its Petting Zoo

Karlovy Vary: Classic Ware on Sale

Karlovy Vary: Classic Ware on Sale

 

 

 

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I’ve Been on Holiday

Saturday 25th August 2018

I’d like it to be known I boarded Club Class for Prague and thence to repeat Bayreuth after only 3 years. Not many repeat Bayreuth ever in their lives. No yellow Heidis this time though.

At the Museum Apartment in Prague aggrandisement has led to agony.  Paintings and furniture were stacked in the Private Parlour on the top floor. Almost a year ago Anthony and Vadim forged through the wall into the neighbouring flat. The babicka who had been eke-ing there was barely dead. This expansion follows from when, fifteen years ago, Anthony plunged through the floor, bringing the museum quarter into existence. The great lower museum room has its own entrance. American tourists  found in it, looking for the Titians, are always told they are away on loan.

I so feel for Anthony Mottram re: the home. The builders almost burnt it down. That was after they’d over-run on the job by eight months. They damaged the parquet somehow, re-did the parquet, got it the wrong colour, re-re-did it… set fire to the apartment. Still it’s the wrong colour. All they had to do originally was knock through to the granny-flat, ensuring that the entire building didn’t fall down (steels etc), install massive moving bookcases in the opening on a unique hydraulic system known only to Gays, renovate the parquet throughout and match it with the existing, create a sleek hotel bathroom, install shelves, paint the rooms and go away. It was supposed to have been finished by November 3rd 2017. On July 29th 2018 – still in agony. Builders not appearing. Furniture stacked up. Anthony and Vadim’s lives in suspension – of disbelief as much as anything.

Anthony showed me the tasks outstanding  – the missing cover for the toilet flush system, the poor silicone work, the crude edges, the bit of wall hacked at by the firemen when the apartment nearly burned down. He pushed the switch for the hydraulic bookcases to close. Nothing happened. Luckily a second time and it worked. How to get out if the system fails while closed, though? One could be trapped in the babicka quarter and but gathered as she was. No other exit, you see. Poor Little Rich Gays, you should know – there’s a hand-crank. But unlikely that you will find it before the oxygen runs out.

The thing is, Anthony said, as one declines oneself with advancing years, one’s immediate environment must go the other way, towards utter perfection. My thoughts exactly. What I didn’t say was how likely is it that one hastens one’s end in the writhing quest?

The Great Hydraulic Moving Bookshelves of Prague

The Great Hydraulic Moving Bookshelves of Prague

The Other Side: the Great Hydraulic Moving Bookcase of Prague: But How to Open Again should Mechanism Fail

The Other Side: the Great Hydraulic Moving Bookcases of Prague: But How to Open Again should Mechanism Fail ?

Parquet Agony in Prague: Not Matching

Parquet Agony in Prague: Not Matching

Where the Firemen Hacked

Where the Firemen Hacked

The Former Babicka Flat in Which One Would Die if the Great Hydraulic Bookcases failed to Open

The Former Babicka Flat in Which One Would Die were the Great Hydraulic Bookcases to fail to Open, in which it would Become a Tomb

Toilet Innovation: to Ensure Anal Tidiness

Toilet Innovation: to Ensure Complete Anal Tidiness

Oh No! Silicone Work not Up to Scratch

Oh No! Silicone Work not Up to Scratch

Missing Toilet Flush Panel: Builder has it but Won't Return

Missing Toilet Flush Panel: Builder has it but Won’t Return

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