Frieze Looks – So Important

Friday 15th October 2021

Frieze Art Fayre – Wednesday was VIP Day: I rode in on the wings of Royston King who welcomed each stall-holder individually to his Park. ‘We’re so glad to have you here,’ he said.  He doesn’t need to do this but such is his dedication to Duty.

Even so, I had more Society: Joshua Baring: Shriek, Shriek! One doesn’t say, ‘Fancy seeing you here,’ because it’s no surprise to either party that we’re there. It’s called belonging and being at the top. Then Scream, scream, shriek, shriek, Sheridan Brummel, at whose Mezzotint launch I’d been plastered the week before and, what’s more, less plastered, the night before at his Georgian book launch. Things got so bad, because I was having one of my off-days, feeling light-headed etc, like the 1st Lady Curzon, having to be carried from the carriage. I said to Royston, ‘Can we dive down this side passage?’.  I could see Troy Halston looming from Palm Beach and, with him, Lorenzo di Fulham. Not that I don’t adore them both but my nerves …

The art can wait. Royston said Nowhere could you see such a range. From Gilbert and George to Goya, Old Dutch Masters to Howard Hodgkin, with rare maps, 1st editions, sculpture from the Ancient World, de Morgan pots, Arts and Crafts furniture on the way.

The emergency is the modes. You must know, before it’s too late. The look is the Hazmat suit or at best Hospital Sluice Nurse. Frightful rough sustainable cotton sacks, white rubber gum boots (or that kind of idea)… see graphs below.

 

Hospital Sluice Nurse Look: Autumn 2021

Hospital Sluice Nurse Look: Autumn 2021

Hospital Nurse Look: Male Version

Hospital Nurse Look: Male Version

The Hospital Look, Slightly Refiné

The Hospital Look, Slightly Refiné

The Matron Look

The Matron Look

 

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Society

Friday 15th October 2021

Society occurred. Frieze Art Fayre. On now.

Looking back: how to account for it all?

Canterbury Cathedral – Byzantine. V. foreign feeling. So many arches and traceries. Reminded me of Córdoba. Tombs and plaques to all the dead Archbishops, including those we’ve known, such as Cosmo Gordon Lang, who was in the corner at the St. Paul’s Deanery, alive, when the Gay Mother took tea there at the end of the War. Mrs Matthews said he was such a nuisance, having to have ‘chayna tay’. She spoke refined.  There was another Archbishop the Gay Granny had a run-in with. He was perfectly horrid. Not sure which one. Might have been Fisher. She was trying to report child abuse. Welby was present at Evensong in person and self-shut the little stable door of his throne-area. The Gay Mother can’t bear him but Royston said he struggles with the World Anglican Church. Anthony Mottram and Robert Nevil were also beaming via WhatsApp their dislike of Welby into the very heart of Canterbury Cathedral, recalling that other great martyrdom that took place there.

Tomb of Arch Davidson peculiar. The effigy shows a late Victorian gentleman (he was Arch 1904 to ’28) such as you might see at the Garrick Club – but lying down and you could poke your finger in his face. All wrong somehow. Recumbent effigy only suitable for medieval knight in armour.

Dover Castle – incredibly medieval and big. Got up by English Heritage how it might have been in one of those old Kings’ days i.e. a lot of heraldic drapery in heraldic colours. And beds. Good. You know those medieval kings who were either absolutely marvellous or totally ghastly and had to be got rid of, such as King John. But there were others. Some of them weren’t even English.

Within the Castle premises is an old church. Rotary club figures were drawing up in Bentleys and putting on Chains of Office. I doorstepped the Church: ‘What’s going on here?’ Lady i/c service sheets said it was the Centenary of the British Legion except possibly it wasn’t. Might have been last year in fact. I notice this more generally. Time has been warped or simply altered. The Lairds of Usk suddenly announced they were having Christmas dinner last Sunday.

Royston and I found a minimally open side door of the Church and sang ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ through the crack – at the same time as the ‘private’ congregation within. If only the good burghers of Dover, with their Bentleys, had known that two world-figures, one of whom has devoted his whole life, be it long or short, to the service of our Nation’s parks, gardens and shrubberies, were crouched so humbly without…. It would have made their day.

Some Old King's Bed as It Might have Been: Dover Castle

Some Old King’s Bed as It Might have Been: Dover Castle

Dover Castle: More Our Idea of Medieval..

Dover Castle: More Our Idea of Medieval..

Dover Castle: Medieval Falconry Lady

Dover Castle: Medieval Falconry Lady

Dover Grandees Arrive for Centenary of British Legion Service: If Only They'd Known who We Were

Dover Grandees Arrive for Centenary of British Legion Service: If Only They’d Known who We Were

British Legion Centenary Service: 'Private'

British Legion Centenary Service: ‘Private’

Church where British Legion Centenary Service took Place: Dover Castle

Church where British Legion Centenary Service took Place: Dover Castle

Canterbury Cathedral: Byzantine Feel

Canterbury Cathedral: Byzantine Feel

Canterbury Cathdral: so Byzantine

Canterbury Cathdral: so Byzantine

Cosmo Gordon Lang: the Gay Mother took Tea with Him in '43 or So

Cosmo Gordon Lang: the Gay Mother took Tea with Him in ’43 or So

Arch Davison: Died 1030. Shouldn't be Lying Down

Arch Davison: Died 1030. Shouldn’t be Lying Down

Canterbury Cathedral: Mysterious Maze of Masonry

Canterbury Cathedral: Mysterious Maze of Masonry

 

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Finally…

Saturday 9th October 2021

The attitude is…. f..k it! Tuesday I was plastered at an 18th century Mezzotint Opening in an antique shop in Kensington. Wednesday was Jenufa at the Garden, then up at the crack to fetch Reggie Cresswell for an outing to Osterley Park and Syon – it was a Robert Adam decor crawl. Then on to James Bond at The Barbican with Angus Willis and Fergus, which was the most spectacular deliberate nonsense. How do they keep it up? But awful gush coming in later and the ending most upsetting. Something will have to be done about it.

So… Harry Rollo and Mercury, Mr Kitten – their 100th birthday plus wedding and marriage party was two weeks ago. The venue heralded the new age: the marquee lined with ruched silk in peach is quite finished. No, the Community Hall in London village, but lined to the ceiling with champagne bottles of which one man had charge and was eventually reduced to desperation to shift. Some guests were listing in the street on departure from the burden of  so many champagne bottles that had been pressed upon them. Crashing and smashing did occur but at no greater rate than statistics have laid down for our guidance in such circumstances.

In the Community Hall was a small stage where no doubt some children are routinely compelled to give a Nativity in cramped conditions even for tiny tots. Little did that stage know what was in store for it.

So wondrous was it to be in a venue with amplified mu (Mercury, Mr Kitten, self-DJ-ing, for sure) and having to shout for conversation. So dangerous. But two weeks have passed and nobody felled. What’s more many embraced and were damp from disco-action. Rufus Pitman and Raj Zoroaster accompanied Fräulein Greta Wilgefortis Baloubet who did that celebrity thing of only staying 30 minutes. It would be quite wrong to describe her as ‘their dog’. They screamed past, then Ned Boule screeched into view and Conrad Matheson, resurrected from Madrid – miracle – and Finn Magnus, the hot boy doc, although now not a boy (he won’t mind). He was most reassuring and said he was going to plant Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, which a few days later caused Rufus outrage when it was accomplished on Facebook. An incredible cloud of pink net and silver sequins was Miss Lamore Cellina.

But a pause and the stage. There Harry Rollo and Mercury, Mr Kitten were raised in full view on their wedding day and also for one hundred years of them both. Speeches, and cake gestured towards, although little did we know all known types of cake were to be offered. ‘Now, ‘said Harry, ‘Mercury, Mr Kitten doesn’t know what I’m going to do next.’  A piano struck up and Harry began: ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea/In a beautiful pea-green boat…’ What was it? The audience was struck dumb and not a little afraid. It must be mu, with the piano playing and also singing, although of an extraordinary underarm kind such as has never been heard before. And the Owl and the Pussy Cat. Harry seemed to have learned all the words. It was like Barbara Hendricks. Not exactly a tiny voice but incredibly quiet and utterly arresting and with piercing accuracy which you could tell without having a clue what it was, whether even mu. Some were in the know.

When it was over, it was at least an hour before the earth-shattering realisation sank in. We’d been in the presence of History. Harry had sung, as never before and perhaps never again. On the tiny children’s stage in the Community Hall in London’s village, this world-figure had given Stravinsky’s 12-tone setting of The Owl and the Pussy-cat, that composer’s last and possibly greatest work. ‘To what can we compare it?’ Miss Lamore said and immediately found an answer: ‘Marilyn singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.’ Perfect: as historic and rare, but more so. Which brought to my mind, from the wonderful documentary about Janet Baker, that if you go to her church you can hear her singing as nobody else has done since her shattering retirement in 1982, nearly 40 years ago. That’s when Miss Lamore said, ‘She’d have been better off without those wigs.’ And I said, ‘But they weren’t wigs, that was how hair was in those Decca days. Aspiring to wig-hood. The more wig-like the better.’

I should mention the groaning buffet before the cakes and Miss Pearl Cellina’s unique giving of ‘Moon River’ – was a wedding ever so lavished with mu? Harry himself illuminated the married state and its remarkable abruptness. Before 11 a.m that morning, when marriage had been entered into, he had not so much cared for Mercury, Mr Kitten correcting his attire and brushing his front but by 11.08 at the latest these attentions were not only welcome but expected. Intimacy is the other thing that marriage allows, of course. Despite being in the same residence and even in the same Bruce McBain-designed bedroom for 12 years, they have not tempted fate by any reckless indulgence. Good Lord, no.  Best to wait. And save themselves. I did warn Harry that intimacy can be very intimate. And once you’ve had it, you’re no longer saved.

Then the manifestation of Lord Arrowby. In a staggering gown with tribal print by Dries. He’d come directly from his new appointment (gender-fluid) as Lord High Mistress of the University. His outfit had required explanation at the gates. They’re not used to outfits in these places. But Lord Arrowby’s conversation was entirely given up, as it should be, to clothes and decor.

So at this point it was time for my departure. But little did I know I was to have another two hours riveted to the pavement outside the venue, where the overspill was. A thrilling husband and husband of great youth. I couldn’t have enough of them. One husband is in skin, a derm doctor in the Kent area, and has evidently worked miracles on his husband’s complexion, which rivalled the Queen’s in loveliness. We had such a riff on ‘Skin doctors I have known’. Mine is Dr Menage, but he didn’t know her. I said She is a bit peculiar in the way she feels you. Before her, I had Dr Yu. On and on, it went. Skin, skin, skin. The non-skin husband is a composer with the more tentative disposition. I do hope he can generate extra income from his complexion. Dr Skin was the most superb bowler, batsman and returner of serve – straight down the line every time. So verbal.

Wonderful to be bantering with strangers again.

The only mystery is: why did Harry suddenly say, earlier, ‘Royalty aren’t human, like the Swiss’?  This wasn’t a criticism, you understand.  It would be awful if royalty were human. The Swiss had once made Harry attend a ‘breakfast meeting’ and there was nothing he could do to put the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Company in his place.

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Magic Bells

Tuesday 5th October 2021

Building slowly, slowly to the One Hundred Years of Harry Rollo and Mercury, Mr Kitten and their Wedding which was also a Marriage. The Wedding is just for one day (but some Weddings last for months) but Marriage goes on, often indefinitely.

They say: the bigger the Wedding, the shorter the marriage. Some, especially celebrities, like to get on to the next Wedding as soon as possible, because of the exposure and sponsorship deals available, as well as frock and hair opportunities.

But The Magic Flute, which is an opera. I saw it at the Royal Opera House the week before last. Who’d have thought after all this the great thing would be to get back into the Royal Opera House? Anthony Mottram had a free ticket and I was last min after the Chelsea Flower Show behind a pillar for £73. The pillar amounted to nothing. There was an atmosphere in the House: almost hysteria. You could have lit a match and the audience would have ignited, gloriously.

Brigid Brophy explained the unexplained alteration of the Queen of the Night from good person in Act 1 to bad in Act 11 as Mozart covering-up that the opera is really about the masons who officially don’t exist. So ever since, The Magic Flute has been a simple clash of good and evil, with Sarastro triumphing as some kind of stately embodiment of 18th century enlightenment. AH and I were picking it over in the interval. Really this doesn’t make any sense. The Magic Flute itself and Papageno’s magic bells are supplied by the Queen of the Night’s ladies. Tamino and Pamina don’t really undergo any ‘ordeals’ because they’ve got the Magic Flute to do all the hard work. Then there are those three boys who appear out of the sky to buck up Papageno at a low moment. Who are they? Sarastro’s actually quite a bore, especially when less well sung, and why has he got that nasty person who is always menacing Pamina’s person in his entourage? The real driving force is magic and the utter glory of the opera is Papageno playing his magic bells when at his wits’ end and the mu of child-like simplicity and innocence and the whole thing is quite literally a pantomime and terribly touching all at once. Is this how life is? The Queen has always known it: things get worse, then they get better again. Governments and experts thrash about, insisting that they must ‘do something’ but all the time some other random force is at work to make it all come right of its own accord – for a while at least. Me, Adrian Edge, I’ve always been lucky in finding the right jam-jar top for the jam-jar (I refer to the jam-making process, with which you won’t all be familiar). Less lucky though with flexes which always knot up when I go anywhere near them. On the other hand, the missing sock has always tended to turn up.

So we bash on, longing for a fully-staffed life rolling ever forward unhindered, with car at the door and no flies, no stains and no swelling and bloating but really it’s like weather; sometimes the nerves are bad and it’s doubtful how much more we can bear, then the nerves clear without warning perhaps because the omelette turned out extraordinarily well. As one of the plays says, maybe it’s a Stoppard, ‘Many are happy much of the time.’ Goodness knows why. By rights, misery ought to be much more prevalent, the main thing in fact. But it isn’t. This is magic.

 

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I Can’t Keep Up

Tuesday 28th September 2021

Since they decided to bring life back, it’s been marvellous but shattering. Outfit worry, over-eating worry and stain worry are back.

I look Dover Castle with Royston. This was the medieval world.

I look Canterbury Cathedral with Royston, followed by evensong free of charge, even though the actual Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was present. Robert Nevil, the Gay Mother and Anthony Mottram can’t stand Welby. Royston doesnt’ agree.

I look the Philip Mould Gallery opening, as Royston’s plus one. It was a Charleston Exhib. Before that I had a Classic Ladies’ Shopping afternoon in the West End, tripping along, shopping.

I returned to Walmer for Lennie Delfonte’s party – it was a 60th Birthday, but as if the 90s had never ended. Forging backwards with utter determination. Incredibly friendly guests, from the disco-hiring, DJ and supply worlds or underworlds, but you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of any them. All the women were tall, much taller than the men, in tiny sequinned frocks and not looking real.  Lennie himself fell over at one point but was put back up again. I bellowed through the loud music with a wide boy from the Isle of Dogs. I think he was in disco-hiring. He had a wife, which seemed unlikely. His first phase was the Isle of Dogs. It was mesmerising, although quite fabulously unspecific. He made me long and long for the Isle of Dogs. The second panel, as it were, was his suffering with lactose intolerance illustrated with sound effects and gestures, including the toilet impact. But the masterpiece was the full re-enactment of having that virus which has been mentioned quite a lot in the last 18 months, with more dramatic toilet impact. I spoke to another woman about clothes. ‘What about Reiss?’ I said and she said, ‘Polyester.’ She said, ‘Why would you?’ I rather like Reiss.

Last Monday I took The Magic Flute at the Opera House. Incredible. That was after the Chelsea Flower Show Press Day, as already mentioned, where I was admitted as a guest of Royston King. Then two nights away in the Mid-West to gather damsons with Robert Nevil.

Finally on Saturday was the Harry Rollo/Mercury, Mr Kitten Wedding party. In between numerous private dinners.

How can I sing? How can I sing?

Dover Castle: Henry 11's Throne Re-Created by English Heritage. Good to get Across that the Medieval World was Full of Colour, Not bare Nooky-Wooky as It Comes Down to Us

Dover Castle: Henry 11’s Throne Re-Created by English Heritage. Good to get Across that the Medieval World was Full of Colour, Not bare Nooky-Wooky as It Comes Down to Us

Canterbury Cathedral: So Exotic and Byzantine-Looking: Tracery, Forests of arches and Columns, grilles, and Tombs

Canterbury Cathedral: So Exotic and Byzantine-Looking: Tracery, Forests of arches and Columns, grilles, and Tombs

Canterbury Catheral: So Exotic and Byzantine

Canterbury Catheral: So Exotic and Byzantine

 

 

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The Sun Shone Briefly

Monday 20th September 2021

The forecast was for grey but suddenly the sun burst forth before lunch and beamed down on Chelsea Main Avenue. Everybody was there. Lucky for Vanessa de la Feltz whose frock was flimsy. Sophie Raworth had a plastic bag for her trainers which she swapped for her killer clucks in between takes. Otherwise, Alan Titchmarsh, Victoria Coren and her husband who is also well-known, Ben Fogel (good green tweed suit, obvs made to measure), Craig Revel Horwood, Carol Klein, Monty… all the usual crowd.

Royston wondered if our party was sufficiently diverse. We decided definitely yes. One Landed Gentry, one aristocracy (the Lady E), one Black, one under 40. The Black and the LG both ‘Gays’. What more could you want? I wasn’t in the main Royston party which was lunching with the President, then taking Tea with the Royal Family before an Evening Reception.

Jackettes and tiny trews are still going – but oh dear the population has stoutened during the Time of Wrong and evidently not re-frocked. Titchmarsh looked very much the worst for wear, I’m afraid.

As for the Show – Main avenue, one really good garden – it turns out the designer known to me vaguely through Matt Driver and Laura Malcolm, who are also associated with Keith Weed, the President of the Royal Horticultural Society. So, as usual, an incredible rich web of connection. This garden is the M&G Garden, intended to be an industrial site re-purposed for various public uses. This meant no awful hard-landscaping, although there were stylised pipes to give the idea of the previous use. I fell to bantering with an visitor who said, ‘I’m a chemist and I can’t imagine what these pipes would do but there we are…’ Otherwise this was a proper garden rather than an installation. Plants beautifully arranged with a haze of grasses but robust contrasts, something not achieved in any of the other Main Show Gardens.  The smaller stands made more impact – the Bible Society Psalm 23 Garden and the Balcony Gardens, for people who live in flats, with very good notions of what to do in tiny spaces –  in a nutshell, put very big, rectangular planters all round the edges, with maybe two large shrubs or trees, then underplant with perennials, bulbs, annuals for colour and seasonal interest. My favourite border for colour was in the NHS Tribute Garden. The artisanal and container gardens in the woods at the side of the main show  – a first for Chelsea, ideas that you can actually put into practice at home: can you believe it? The emphasis on up-cycling, making do and having a small space.

The Tree of the Show is Heptacodium Miconioides: never heard of it before. Very good tree with white foamy flowers in September and good dramatic leaves. Was on many stands.

IMG_3208

Vanessa de la Feltz: Complaining of Cold

Vanessa de la Feltz: Complaining of Cold

Dear Precious Carol Klein

Dear Precious Carol Klein

Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly

Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly

 Mother and Daughter: Mother is Famous Model, 77

Mother and Daughter: Mother is Famous Model, 77

A Classic Suitlette

A Classic Suitlette

Sophie Raworth: Those Clucks straight into a bag and Trainers out the minute the Take Done

Sophie Raworth: Those Clucks straight into a bag and Trainers out the minute the Take Done

Ben Fogel: Made to Measure, for sure

Ben Fogel: Made to Measure, for sure

Tree of the Show: Heptacodium Miconioides: Flowers in September

Tree of the Show: Heptacodium Miconioides: Flowers in September

Crazy Container Garden

Crazy Container Garden

My Favourite Colour Border: NHS Tribute Garden

My Favourite Colour Border: NHS Tribute Garden

Queen Bee on a Balcony Garden

Queen Bee on a Balcony Garden

The Bible Society Psalm 23 Garden: I Lay Down by Still Waters

The Bible Society Psalm 23 Garden: I Lay Down by Still Waters

The M&G Garden: Best in Show for Me

The M&G Garden: Best in Show for Me

M&G Garden: Superb Plant Arrangement

M&G Garden: Superb Plant Arrangement

M&G Garden Actaea: like Insects Floating in the Air

M&G Garden Actaea: like Insects Floating in the Air

M&G Garden: Can't have Enough of it: So Well Modulated

M&G Garden: Can’t have Enough of it: So Well Modulated

M&G Garden: Superb

M&G Garden: Superb

 

 

 

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Functions

Thursday 16th September 2021

I visited Val at Moscova, Hastings, and he said there was someone in Madama Butterfly called Toyota. First of all he didn’t want any vac-ing done but once I’d inveigled Mr Henry from the Official Car into the Los Angeles-style bungalow,  he was pleased be vac-ed. He even said Mr Henry was able to do more than his own machine. Next time we’re going to do his cupboard fronts.

Bruce McBain had a terrifying birthday dinner. 14 bottles were consumed when only six dined, three women, three men, none of them quite right in the hand, thank God.  Prince Dmitri dined another day. He doesn’t like the new woke world. Neither do I. In fact, I’m just not having it.

Then last Friday I boarded for Deal with Royston King. Our hosts took us to a paying Supper Club in a wood nearby. The chef was Rashleigh Rashleigh: you remember him – huge in the 90s. Loved by all who lunched, as everybody did, at the expense of others, in those days. His place was in Kensington: Sid Id was there and all the best authors, being lunched. As for the Supper Club, it was an incredible web that had created it. I couldn’t pass an exam in it. The scene had only been bought a month or two ago: there was a goody gentleman’s farmhouse (no farm of course), outbuildings, cottages and an arboretum. Royston King came across a prize specimen of Acer Griseum and was in Heaven. A mother-in-law had sold another property which paid for this one, which hadn’t been in fact for sale, but they just had to have it. Not clear where the mother-in-law is now housed, but not there for sure. There’s to be a restaurant, an hotel and probably a swimming pool. No planning permission but why worry? There was money, perhaps not quite enough, but obstacles were not on the whole tolerated or even acknowledged. Royston was deeply quizzing of the bar arrangements but the youths pouring had incredibly tight trousers. We found out later that Rashleigh Rashleigh has a wizard who has somehow managed to double his money for him during the recent unmentionable. It was that sort of world.

At the end of the table was a wan handsome woman with a small dog. This was Rashleigh Rashleigh’s present wife but Sid Id’s first. What a coincidence. Also she’s the sister of Duckface. The man I sat next to was in Wine and Spirits. The week before he’d been in Corfu. He said, ‘I can get you wine, no problem. What I can’t get you is ships. I can’t get you containers.’ Luckily I didn’t want any of those. He was facing a 120ft pyracantha hedge the next day. Incredible to think, only a week before he’d been in Corfu where you could do anything apparently. His wife being away with her opera-singing sister was a good opportunity to get on with cutting the hedge. The funny thing about the sister was how small she is. Opera singers are supposed to be huge. On the other hand, in Corfu, where he’d been the week before… There was no escaping that he’d been in Corfu the week before. There was a strong Lockdown Skeptic undercurrent, not perhaps its most scientific manifestation but the Gin and Jag version. The whole party, I would say, was the entrepreneurs of the South East in revolt.

The menu was Sea Bass ceviche in her chilli sauce (Sea Bass tasted of little), Cep Risotto (delicious), Rose Veal, Cheese Romesco, Roasted Plum Tomatoes (very good, but too pink for some. Superb herbal gravy. But Royston said tasted of nothing; our hostess found her romesco hard) dessert Damson Fool with cream piping and a triangle of cake (I liked, but some found it sour and unambitious as a dessert).

The Raw Sea-Bass 1st Course

The Raw Sea-Bass 1st Course

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I Forgot to Say

Tuesday 14th September 2021

I had an accident at the Gay Mother’s. Peter’s Yard Spelt and Fig Sourdough Crackers – do you know them? Ferociously artisan – so much so I was stabbed in the roof of the mouth by the corner of one of them. It hurt for several days

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Not Good Enough

Monday 13th September 2021

The Gay Mother launched an extraordinary attack on the apricots at luncheon. Tough. Even after six hours in the bottom oven. I thought of that other remarkable luncheon outburst which occurred at Braemar Mansions when Ivy said to Margaret Jourdain, ‘But it was agreed at breakfast that you would finish the already opened bottle of Cydrax which has gone flat.’

The Gay Mother set to to sieve the apricots, achieving a small bowl of silky purée for later use. She had already found some raspberries from Waitrose in need of improvement such as maceration and was later to condemn the onions to the compost heap for going soft on the outside. ‘What’s more, the Prince of Wales’s,’ she said.

A small box of Daz had been ordered but a huge one turned up.  ‘Far too much,’ the Gay Mother said. ‘Won’t it keep?’ I said. ‘Oh no, I don’t want all that.’ She’d already tried to get the land agent to take the carton away. But it wasn’t his brand. Or rather his wife’s. The box is still waiting in the lobby in case any passer-by will have it.

As a sausage dinner, the Gay Mother styled apple sauce, carrots and runner beans on the plate. The sausages were Howells’ best. All the other elements were self-grown and superb.

Daz: Does anybody Want it?

Daz: Does anybody Want it?

The Gay Mother's Sausage Supper with Self-Grown Apples (as sauce), carrots and Runner Beans

The Gay Mother’s Sausage Supper with Self-Grown Apples (as sauce), Self-Grown carrots and Self-Grown Runner Beans

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Royston Went to Winchester

Monday 30th August 2021

We went to Winchester to confirm that the cathedral is a low croft, white-washed, and very narrow. Approaching, the truncated tower looked promising from the point of view of possible disparagement. But we were at once in a situation of patronage, before entrance to the building, encountering the Head Gardener, a hot hunk whom Royston had brought on from the Royal Parks and whence, Royston suggested, he should now return. But he’d got the lawn to mow first, despite its being due to be dug up for the Christmas Fayre. So the infestation of plantain, pointed out by me merely as a means of getting into the conversation, was of no consequence. I only meant to say that plantain is tiresome in a lawn but hardly worth bothering about. Needless to say, my remarks were viewed as incredible grandeur and white supremacy.

We entered the cathedral. So strange. I’ve definitely been there before and it was for sure a low dingy croft. Perhaps it was somewhere else but it was Winchester Cathedral for sure. At least that’s what I was told. Well, now it’s high soaring, light and incredibly long. Also on several levels. No, I couldn’t fault it – fine-boned, taut and astonishing. The light pouring in to the English cathedrals, as opposed to the Gothic gloom of those on mainland Europe – that’s what makes them so superior.  Winchester is thunderous yet dancing. Also intriguing with many accretions. Royston explained. As a boy he was everywhere – changing for Choir in this room, processing down that passageway or careering round a cloister with a tea urn. It was so complex – galleries, romanesque parts, suddenly a library up a stairs, an enormous apse behind the main altar with medieval patterned tiles on the floor. Extraordinary – I thought they were Victorian. But they weren’t. They were medieval.

The only thing I would say – Winchester Cathedral is narrow. But that’s probably the effect of its being so long. The floor tiles were my favourite accessory within and I’d love to have them at home.

We lunched well at the Wykham Arms and discussed racism. Then we continued the tour. So Winchester’s got a cathedral and a school. As a Wykhamist, Royston is permitted to enter the school premises unaccompanied. Only a lanyard is necessary. So enlightenment at the first stage. No police check required. You might dread a school, especially if you didn’t care for your own schooldays. But this school is something else. Ancient. A lot of the time you could have been at Knole. Courtyards just pure, pure medieval. The Scholars’ Dining Hall is up a stoney stairs. To think scholars have been dining here for 500 years or more. It’s a cream scheme, pitch black wooden roof, panelling across the back wall, stone dressing to the window arches, stone floor. So wood, plaster and stone. Very appetising. The refectory in a monastery would be much the same. Although austere, in its day and still today, it is a luxury building, airy and high. Otherwise the school has two of everything. Two cloisters, one of which is a War Memorial, in the other is the second chapel, making this the only cloister in Britain with a chapel in the middle of it. So two chapels, two halls, one modern and the other by Christopher Wren, possibly. If you count the dining hall, that’s three halls. The premises flares out into riverside playing fields, gardens for summer drinks parties, sanitoria, Victorian boarding houses, a parish church for the juniors. In the Christopher Wren hall, Royston practiced the piano in a quiet hour. James Lees-Milne’s friend, Derek Hill, had done one of the portraits of a previous Headmaster. Even when empty, I could tell that this school is a haven of brain power, not showing off, no gushing, even when dead of the 1st World War, as many were on the tablets in the War Cloister, welcoming and egalitarian, although immensely rich.  We encountered only outdoor staff, who can be Hell. But these were charming, so delighted to see us. Royston complimented a gardener passing on a sit-down lawn mower: ‘What an excellent beard you have, Sir.’

It’s that kind of place. Royston came to Winchester on a county scholarship and became what he afterwards became. Winchester took him in and they were made for each other. What a wonderful bosom of quiet unassuming power that has lasted him for 50 years as well as Winchester sending out a wondrous web of the best who work together ever after. Rishi Sunak, of course, who might save Our Nation yet.

Winchester Cathedral: Manx style

Winchester Cathedral: Manx style: This is the Lawn the Head Gardener was Mowing. These are His Stripes

Winchester Cathedral within: High Soaring Above. Incredible

Winchester Cathedral within: High Soaring Above. Incredible.

Jane Austen's Grave: a Pack of Lies. Trying to Make out she was a Nice Person. No Mention of her Novels

Jane Austen’s Grave: a Pack of Lies. Trying to Make out she was a Nice Person. No Mention of her Novels

Winchester Cathedral Medieval Tiled Floor. Wow factor. You too could Have One at Home

Winchester Cathedral Medieval Tiled Floor. Wow factor. You too could Have One at Home

Winchester College: this is Where Patrick Gale sat in the Choir stalls

Winchester College: this is Where Patrick Gale sat in the Choir stalls

Winchester College: Pure Pure Medieval

Winchester College: Pure Pure Medieval: Marvellous Lack of Garden: So Bare

The Scholars' Dining Hall at Winchester College: Somehow Sensual, as if Made of Cheddar Cheese, but such Restrained Ornament as Well

The Scholars’ Dining Hall at Winchester College: Somehow Sensual, as if Made of Cheddar Cheese, but such Restrained Ornament as Well

The Wren Building: Winchester College

The Wren Building: Winchester College

Winchester College: The Other Chapel

Winchester College: The Other Chapel: Almost All Window

Chief Air Marshall Dowding

Chief Air Marshall The Lord Dowding in the War Cloister.  General Wavell, also Viceroy of India, is Buried in the other Cloister, quite Alone.

 

 

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