Pre-Jubilee Experience

Thursday 2nd June 2022

Today is the 68th birthday of Robert Nevil. He is now 68.

Harry Rollo took Lundy for a week and had some last min vacancies. I could have had 3 nights but that would have meant cancelling a Hertfordshire Luncheon for the Hertfordshire Herbaceous Society. I don’t want to get into the way of cancelling engagements in order to carry out others. My aim is to carry on carrying out engagements, mindful of the teachings of the Church, in the manner ordained by the schedule. That is my duty.

So the only way of encompassing Lundy was by means of a Day Trip. Essentially I lunched on Lundy, having suffered the previous night in a deeply cardboard hotel in Bideford, where you have to be to catch the early steamer to the isle. Lundy has always been a myth for me. I never thought I would see it. If this opportunity was not grasped, Lundy would elude me all my days.

But Anthony Mottram, who landed there in the 80s, said it was just cliffs, and so did Miss Larkspur at the Hertfordshire Herbaceous Society’s Luncheon. Val, phoned as my car was going down to Bideford the day before, remarked that two people he’d known had fallen off Lundy in mysterious circs. Possibly they had committed. He warned me not to do the same.

Sitting on the rusting packet steamer (lucky to get a seat) at the crack, I feared that I would fail in my duty. Worse when the boat set out to sea and began to lurch. I had to keep my eyes firmly on the horizon. Lundy hove at once into view. It’s much nearer the mainland and much bigger than I had imagined. But a wracked queasy hour to reach it. Coming in, a woman who appeared to know what she was talking about identified a filigree whirl of bird above as puffins in flight. Harry Rollo was there in person to greet me. Mercifully there were no formalities. At once he sensed a seal and indeed there was one. He handed me the binoculars: ‘See the dog face,’ he said.

Lundy was looking up, almost before it had begun.

Trust Harry Rollo to seek out the only cream classical mansion on Lundy and occupy it. There, on the lawn, were the usual clutch of household names: Rufus Pitman, Mercury, Mr Kitten, Reggie Cresswell, Maud Queenie, Miss Pearl Cellina, a new name, Mr Puck, and Lord Broadcast-Services, of course. Maud Queenie was the most likely to be recognised but even though the public could peer in at the dining room window, so close was the public footpath, none of the public managed to do so.

Oh to be at luncheon on an island. Luncheon was dappled and glorious and free, as if it were already happening in the past, with Monet, or the Bloomsburys (just their atmosphere through painting, not their actual poisonous selves). Champagne Lundy, nestled in a cove turned out to be rather different from Lundy up above, where we forged in the afternoon. A huge upland, 3 miles long, 3/4 mile wide, sheep, not a tree in sight, a clutch of garrison-type buildings at one end and an unlikely full-on parish church, although no parish to speak of. We walked to the disused lighthouse. Mercury, Mr Kitten pointed out a dwelling further up the island, the last before emptiness where you could stay with no electricity or running water if you wanted the total organic experience. The party of household names had gone there and beyond the day before, trekking right to the other end. Returning they’d been caught in rain and drenched but rose above it. No attitude. No screaming for staff.

Is this the effect of the island?

‘Puffins!’ Harry Rollo declared without warning. Way below, tiny specks of black and white. Even through binoculars I could make out little more. But I believed the puffins. ‘They’re terrific snobs,’ Harry Rollo said. ‘They won’t mix with the other birds.’

I should mention I was wearing my mac by Oliver Spencer, where is always remarked upon for some reason. Harry said there were no police on Lundy, therefore no crime. He plans to be Lord of this Isle which is the real world, unlike the actual real world. He will have it as his own. It has to be. This plan is excellent and I see no possibility of Caliban nor his mother, Sycorax, bent by age and envy into a hoop. There would be nowhere for them to hide. Lundy is a domain fully visible all in one go – more or less. So ideal for total rule.

Back at the Mansion, Harry had been experimenting with the whisking area of cooking. Meringues. A meringue cream tea. Mr Puck revealed his past. He is fully non-compliant and superb. Expect him at any moment to blast onto the scene.

Then it was time for the return ferry. Maud Queenie still incog. In the queue to board Rufus Pitman announced that he was anxious about most things but climate change wasn’t one of them. I so agree. It’s just a theory. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like fossil fuels anymore than the next person. But human ingenuity will find a way. I’d been supplied with a sea-sickness tablet in the mansion. It worked wonders. The light was a pink wash, dolphins were seen, but not by me. The old-fashioned scene, the trippers packed onto the deck of the ancient steamer (belching the most frightful diesel by the way) reminded me somehow of half-term outings long ago in the 60s.

We came to rest at Bideford and rejoined the Official Car for the capital, Rufus Pitman, Maud Queenie and me, Adrian Edge. Rufus was uncertain as to the whereabouts of his husband, Raj Zoroaster. ‘I thought he was abroad but his texts imply a presence in London.’ I was reminded of Her Majesty the Queen remarking in a letter to Hardy Amies, ‘My husband is in San Francisco.. or somewhere.’ Maud Queenie’s phone had become uncharged. She borrowed my battery and then found herself speaking to a friend in Catalonia who said she had phoned him or her. But she hadn’t.

Lundy: Wild but Ideal

Lundy: Wild but Ideal

Lundy: Cliffs. Be careful Not to Fall Off

Lundy: Cliffs. Be careful Not to Fall Off

Harry Rollo's Cream Mansion on Lundy

Harry Rollo’s Cream Mansion on Lundy



Posted Friday, June 3, 2022 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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