Gradually Gradually

Tuesday 12th February 2019

Despite everything I have been alive, although sinking with ease into wild despair, the guy ropes giving out. January, especially without mineral interests – what is there to live for but Her colour on a Sunday morning for Dringham church? My God, she was in camel! Totally new. But I wish I knew why she can’t have a winter coat like everybody else. The thick wool done over into a Royal dress coat as if it were duchesse satin looks all wrong.  Now suddenly with the Spring-like days (although too soon, too soon), insomnia falls away and the spirits revive. I’ve forked for Glyndebourniana although crazy (the lack of funds! the taxman!) Just two Glyndebournianas though. Economising. Oh and a little Cosi at the Garden. But no clothes at all.

Friends have flocked round and prevented me from blowing away entirely. One is held down by so little really. Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten dined. Harry loves the birds and knows them all. Mercury Mr Kitten gave me a picture he’d self-made and it’s superb. A restaurant scene with three chandeliers and 19 diners all in different intriguing states of hair, face and frockage. It’s partly collage. Incredible technique. The next day Harry came round in person bearing a copy of James Pope-Hennessy’s  The Quest of Queen Mary. The actual biog of Her Late Majesty Queen Mary was my prep school reading entirely and so many have been saying for ever that surely surely I’ve read The Quest, which is James P-H’s secret notes while researching of raving brilliance, only just published. Well, I devoured: his weekend with the Windsors, his weekend with the Gloucesters, the visit to the Wurtemburgs, or Princess Xenia at Kew. The thing is he liked them all but still is merciless. Royalty are not human beings, that is the essential thing, even when not born Royal. They are another species altogether.  The Duke of Gloucester had to have his hand at Scrabble played by someone else, hated it, then suddenly was a demon at the board. The Duchess thought that group gardening would make James P-H feel comfortable so they trooped off and kind of looked at a cotoneaster that needed tying back, made quite a lot of mess before the Duchess said, ‘I think we’ll leave it now.’ Meanwhile Alice Athlone, Queen Victoria’s last grand-daughter, also staying, was dead-heading the irises in a similar manner. Their gardening was just like Royal tree-planting with a ceremonial spade. Presumably they thought that all gardening was like that. Over at the Windsors’ place in Normandy, he found the the Duke ‘well-arranged’ by his valet, while the Duchess  ‘was flat and angular and could have been designed for a medieval playing card.’

Merle Barr suggested a winter outing to the Winter Lights at Canary Wharf. Quite magical. You wouldn’t think of Canary Wharf as a fairy place, but when the tall buildings are lit up at night it is. Just great banks of lights all around with the items in the actual light show intermittently occurring. We liked the animal silhouettes pacing along a wall and the Chinese lanterns floating in the water. There was such a plunge of temperature while we were there. I was shivering. On our return Merle announced that she’d got a massive vat of cauliflower curry to be eaten up. Just the thing.

I went to Cley in Norfolk for the weekend. Carole Vaux invited me to her newly-built Tudor holiday home of splendour. From the windows we saw a curlew and on the beach a baby seal was beached. Seal-carers were in the offing, it was said, so don’t worry. Roxanne General whirled in. She should be studied. Now in charge of 32 schools, running and stretching everyday, well over 60, looks about 35 if a day. She only stayed one night: had other calls to make on friends in Northampton and Welshpool before returning to her woodland home near Denham. Carole said, ‘If you talk to me about eyes, I’ll faint.’ When she had to have an eye procedure, the eye doctor was lavish with special treatment. Both she and Lawrence had their hips resurfaced years before the procedure was at all well-known. In retirement, Lawrence is making porridge and has exercise machines in the garage. Actual running out of doors does not appeal. He has a number of non-execs to attend to. I’d like to have a few non-execs. I wonder if it can be arranged. Next door to this Cley home lives Normal-for-Norfolk’s ex, who must have divorced well. V. good independent dower house in small grounds. She’s now making tweed jackets and Lawrence has got one. Back at their house in Bucks, Carole and Lawrence sometimes see Mary Berry in Waitrose. Carole did an imitation of all the necks stretching in the check-out queue towards her trolley.

Baby Seal Stranded at Cley

Baby Seal Stranded at Cley

Beach at Cley:  Sensational Bleak

Beach at Cley: Sensational Bleak

One of the Winter Light Displays at Canary Wharf

One of the Winter Light Displays at Canary Wharf

 

 

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What’s in a Dress?

Monday 4th February 2019

So many dresses at the V&A. And suits. And coats. But no trousers (well actually one pair maybe). Dior! A huge event. Sold out until April. Queues forming at 8.30 in the morning for desperate last min admission. What is Dior? Essentially a big skirt and a fitted bodice. Or occasionally a sheath. We all know the story. The first show, in 1947: a throng at the door. Yards and yards of lovely stuff, as Nancy Mitford put it, after the dismal wartime modes. Never before or since has a silhouette  penetrated so totally. The Gay Granny was walking on Dartmoor. A peasant came out of a hut. ‘Excuse me, M’m,’ she said, ‘is that the New Look?’ It was.

Ever since, the New Look has been new. It never tires. Although not worn, of course, except when, from time to time, something like it is revived for ladies’ summer dresses. Really Dior ploughed a tiny furrow and only for a short time, a mere ten years. But how exquisite, the minute variations of texture, colour, the restrained disciplined playing on the essential theme – which is the interplay of tailoring and drapery. Sometimes, in a jacket, there is both at once, the fabric seemingly caught in flight over the shoulders, but otherwise ruthlessly fitted. And the huge skirts, of course, a kind of dream of fabric held for a moment in a shape. Dior’s currency was modern – suits, jackets and skirts – practical office wear or suitable for shopping, yet there is as much fantasy in one of his grey flannel suits as in any fantastic 18th century embroidered, fringed, panelled, plumed pannier-ed ensemble.

I was enchanted, lifted out of my current darkness and fear. Just dresses. The presentation is superb, with lights and colours creating a wonderful illusion, for instance in the flower room. Most enchanting was the pink dress where somehow the net over-skirt appeared to stand free of the solid fabric under-skirt. And the cherry-blossom embroidered onto the net – just one gesture of blossom – magical. Fairy-work. So just dresses. Everything and nothing.

Even a Grey Flannel suit is a Dream in the Hands of Dior

Even a Grey Flannel suit is a Dream in the Hands of Dior

Just a Touch of Fur. The Ravishing Simplicity

Just a Touch of Fur. The Ravishing Simplicity

Ploughing the Narrow Furrow with Brilliance. Here the Variation is in the Texture - and the Bows. See Next Graph for Detail

Ploughing the Narrow Furrow with Brilliance. Here the Variation is in the Texture – and the Bows. See Next Graph for Detail

Detail of Previous: the Texture is All

Detail of Previous: the Texture is All

Princess Margaret's Dior Dress for her 21st Birthday. It's got Grubby and I don't Like the Belt

Princess Margaret’s Dior Dress for her 21st Birthday. It’s got Grubby and I don’t Like the Belt. But the Neck-Work is Fabulous: Held up by Magic 

John Galliano's Idea of Dior: Crude

John Galliano’s Idea of Dior: Crude

Raf Simmons doing Dior: All Wrong

Raf Simmons doing Dior: All Wrong

Horrid Seams on Raf Simmons Dior Idea

Horrid Seams on Raf Simmons Dior Idea

Saint Laurent's Vision of Dior: Perfect. Fabric Just Caught as a Dress

Saint Laurent’s Vision of Dior: Perfect. Fabric Just Caught as a Dress

Saint Laurent: the Best Dior Follower

Saint Laurent: the Best Dior Follower

This One Just a Miracle: Fabric Held on the Cusp

This One Just a Miracle: Fabric Held on the Cusp

This the Only Saint Laurent that Doesn't Work: Hem Looks Rucked like a Mistake

This the Only Saint Laurent that Doesn’t Work: Hem Looks Rucked like a Mistake

This is the Cherry Blossom Net Dream but you Can't see in Graph how the Net stands Free from the Under-skirt

This is the Cherry Blossom Net Dream but you Can’t see in Graph how the Net stands Free from the Under-skirt

This one a True Dior: Just Extraordinary: A Jewelled Shell, Perfectly Honed, Fluid although Absolutely Smooth

This one a True Dior: Just Extraordinary: A Jewelled Shell, Perfectly Honed, Fluid although Absolutely Smooth: See Only Trousers in Background. 

Look at This: Drapery not Tailoring. A Miracle

Look at This: Drapery not Tailoring. A Miracle

This One in the Flower Section but Actually more like Christmas

This One in the Flower Section but Actually more like Christmas

Oh Glory! Yet Another Brilliant Interpretation of the Essential Shape

Oh Glory! Yet Another Brilliant Interpretation of the Essential Shape

Saint-Laurent: Prints a bit Border-Line

Saint-Laurent: Prints a bit Border-Line: Galliano Horror in Background 

The Finale Piece by Dior

The Finale Piece by Dior

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The Longest Time Away

Monday 20th January 2019

I’ve been at the borders of existence. June Whitfield and dear Sister Wendy were gathered after Christmas. What luck for them! Sister Wendy had hoped to gain the Grave at least five years ago and June was jolly to the last… With my mineral interests gone or going and massive liabilities, plus Dainty Lady TV on the way out, I doubt I have the strength to re-build now. Every time I hear of a death, I feel the lightness of the freed soul flying from the Earth.

Christmas was marked by multiple engagements; on 27th December the Gay Mother and I took Morning Coffee in one place and Afternoon tea in another – with some people who it turned out knew people we know – such as Imogen Skirving, owner of Langar Hall, where the Gay Mother and I stayed in 2005 (GM in room occupied by Barbara Cartland on night Diana died) . I attended a Swedish Santa Lucia party on Christmas Eve in the afternoon. The Gay Mother stayed at home because she has never attended a function on Christmas Eve and isn’t going to start now, at 94. The hosts had been at the Ice Hotel in northernmost Sweden and hated it. The expense and just like Death, the lady said. Even the mattress was frozen. The other guests were a bit subdued. ‘What time should I put the beef in?’ one anxiously consulted with another. ‘We’ve already had one lot of grandchildren. Another bevy are coming on Boxing Day. So Christmas Day will be a day off. We’ve having lobster.’ They were suffering from pre-Christmas stress.

On Christmas Day there was a coffee party in the village with prosecco and a cheese board as well as luxury biscuits. This was after Church, which was a bummer because we had Once in Royal, Oh Little Town of Beth, Oh Come all Ye, AND Hark the Herald… Not one single remotely rare carol.. In the evening we went to Cousin Smurry’s for Ottolenghi meatballs with almond sauce so there was an accidental meatball theme because the Gay Mother had conceived a longing for that tomato and meatball dish we did years ago and so I queued for 40 mins at the butchers for a fist of mince. Next morning I thought to beat the queue with an early appearance to collect the bird but no such luck. Queue even longer. I was the only one braying and neighing with London grandeur. At times the Far West gets you down – there’s no whip and snap. They just put up with the muck, their tails swishing pointlessly.

New Year was in France, at Laura Malcolm’s Norman Fastness. All the ex-pats invited. Exiles, more like, some of them, possibly sideways on to the authorities, shall we say? The menu was Smoked Salmon fancies in the drawing room, then, at table, mushroom and chestnut soup, oysters, pork stuffed with prunes, celebration cheeseboard and celebration cheesecake. Laura sang a song at the end: ‘Organised Girls love a sailor,’ it went.  At parting, Aubrey Lomax  (oh where is that Van Eyck?) said my shoes were very ugly – he knew they were Prada, fantasy golf loafers in red patent bought in happier mineral days. So it was a sensational statement. Before that, Arabella Wellington-Scrimgeour had suddenly taken against teachers which was very dramatic as well, Ivy Driver, Laura’s dau and her boyf, Euan Lus, being teachers, you see. Euan’s great glory was his arrival in the dark. He phoned up Ivy and said, ‘I’ve got very bad news.’ Google maps had directed him to drive his car across a field so it had got stuck. We all forged out in the Audi to look for him. Luckily he was right there. ‘I hate this car,’ he said. The next morning a bachelor farmer appeared, without having to be asked, and offered to tow the vehicle out, having assessed the situation despite the language barrier. Just the English number plates and several wheels sunk in their own muddy spin holes was enough. He saw at once what had happened and was untroubled by the oddity of the car being in the middle of the field.  So Euan was packed off on the tractor with no French. Soon enough his loathed vehicle was back on the parking lot of the Norman Fastness.

Laura Malcolm's Treatment of an Advent Calendar

Laura Malcolm’s Treatment of an Advent Calendar

Typical Norman Scene

Typical Norman Scene

Frankie-Doreen and myself, Adrian Edge, in outfits in the drawing room Before New Year's Eve dinner

Frankie-Doreen and myself, Adrian Edge, in outfits in the drawing room Before New Year’s Eve dinner. Note the ‘ugly’ Prada shoes

The New Year's Eve Dinner Table: So Light and Tripping. I Wasn't Bored One Moment

The New Year’s Eve Dinner Table: So Light and Tripping. I Wasn’t Bored One Moment

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The Meaning of Christmas

Tuesday 25th December 2018

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

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

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

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Christmas is Upon Us

Monday 24th December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Val Seeks the True Vindaloo

Saturday 22nd December 2018

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

But there is.

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

So there it is.

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

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I Fly to Bulgaria

Monday 17th December 2018

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

That was the big event of the morning.

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

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

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

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

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

My Eddie Redmayne Look for Cosi at Plovdiv

My Eddie Redmayne Look for Cosi at Plovdiv

Cosi was Given at Plovdiv

Cosi was Given at Plovdiv

Opera-going Greatness of Plovdiv

Opera-going Greatness of Plovdiv

 

 

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Lord Heseltine’s Talk

Saturday 15th December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ceremonies to Remember the Royal Park Dead of All Wars

Ceremonies to Remember the Royal Park Dead of All Wars

The Tea Afterwards

The Tea Afterwards: A Rare Woman Pensioner

Tea Guests and Some in 1st World War Uniforms

Tea Guests and Some in 1st World War Uniforms

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

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

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Oceania x 3

Friday 14th December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fabulous Coconut-Matting Lady

Fabulous Coconut-Matting Lady

Royston Liked this One Best

Royston Liked this One Best

Some People

Some People

The Work! Incredible

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

Not Quite Sure what This is despite 3 Visits

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

Bark Cloth: so Fine

Bark Cloth: so Fine

Polynesian Idea of Western People with their Little Outfits

Polynesian Idea of Western People with their Little Outfits

Modern Polynesian Bottom

Modern Polynesian Bottom

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Robert Nevil Launches

Thursday 13th December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

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