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.

Posted Sunday, October 10, 2021 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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