Two Funerals This Year for Christmas

Sunday 24th December 2017

The run-up to Christmas. Always a difficult time for a Poor Little Rich Gay. Fear of missing out, not getting enough, marginalisation. Outfit pressure. This year no Dainty Lady events, no low-lit evening Press reception at Kensington Palace with Lady Lucy Worsley. But somehow I faced it and gifts poured down. And two pre-Christmas funerals this year, instead of the usual one.

Bruce McBain and I took Follies as our Christmas pantomime treat: the best thing was Josephine Barstow. She sang ‘Never look back’. Her entire deportment throughout was superb. And her marvellous piled up silver coiffure.My least favourite was Imelda. Not sure why. I don’t really like her singing. They made the best stab yet at getting Follies to add up. But oh the numbers! We won’t see a production again in our time – it’s so little done.

Rufus and Raj arranged a luncheon at Baltic. It was a great success: Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten were going on to Bananarama at the Hammersmith Palais. Everyone’s roaring over Rufus’s latest production. It’s got a child in it called Tresco (a boy) and a baby called Trevor (a girl). Trevor is felt to be the most menacing of the lot.  The big thing at Mercury Mr Kitten’s supper later that week was injecting the horseradish cream into the soup from actual syringes acquired in a night-club. Don’t ask. Mr K’s got a whole other life at night it’s very hard to grasp. If you think Mercury Mr Kitten is an unusual name, you should try some of the others, all their real names, of course.

I took one honorary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, but there’s still that sense of having heard those lessons more than once in the Christmas warm-up. The selection of carols gets worse and worse. No Berlioz Shepherds’ Lament, no ‘He who was rich beyond all splendour.’ Why doesn’t someone tell the authorities there are other songs beside ‘O Come all ye Faithful’, ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ ‘Away in a Manager’ and ‘O Little Town of Beth’?

If I had my way these would never be used again.

The ballet this year was Cinderella by Matthew Bourne. Needless to say, no Ugly Sisters, no Prince Charming. Instead it was about the bombing of the Cafe de Paris in the War. Thank you very much, Matthew Bourne. At the ballet I often think it would be so much easier if they stopped dancing, started talking and got on with it. It’s maddening the way they don’t speak. Ed Jasper, the bedlinen expert, was so upset he had to retire to his own bedlinen when he got home, despite 30 guests for post-theatre collation. Incredible champagne and comfort. There was a rumour circulating that another Gay not actually of the party had had a kitchen in the front row at the ballet.

The next day I hurtled by train to the Far West in an official capacity as Landed Gentry for a memorial service. But nobody seemed to know who I was. Cousin Smurry had an almighty battle to even get seats reserved for myself and the Gay Mother in the church. ‘She was a Miss Smollyhan, you know, ‘Cousin Smurry barked at the interfering woman who tried to remove from the pew the piece of paper I’d put with ‘please save’ written on it. As it turned out we could have sat in the Gay Granny’s old pew after all. Didn’t like to because near the front. In Granny’s day nobody else ever sat there, except on one occasion when Mrs Lumox stormed it at evensong (Granny not there) and Mrs Hooper said, ‘Is tradition to count for nothing?’   I wore the red Sandro coat and the Topman weekend check suit as worn at the Ivy and condemned by Matt Driver as ‘cheap-looking’.  Afterwards in the parish hall, a man asked, ‘How is Lavinia?’ I explained about her new dog and opera lessons, but he meant the other Lavinia, the one whose ancestors, as well as herself in conversation at least, were at Waterloo at a very high level indeed. The man obviously thought all the landed families know about each other. But I didn’t know about the other Lavinia. Terrible journey back. Train jammed at Reading. Freezing cold in 1st Class. Had to go round by Waterloo. Not home before midnight.

Sunday was the family party, Monday I lunched at Dishoom with Miss Mulholland, dined with Aunt Lavinia and Cousin Lavinia. Tuesday I dined with Aunt Lavinia, Cousin Lavinia and Cousin Barley. Wednesday was poor Lord Arrowby’s father’s funeral at Wimbledon. I felt I didn’t pay enough attention to Redmond O’Connor’s outfit which was excellent. I was so preoccupied with my own. He was mending his mac in the train. It turned out he’d got a whole suite of clothes from a fashion designer friend of his. He can sew also as well as do conceptual art. Going up the road in our funeral clothes, Rufus, Redmond and myself, Burna suddenly said, ‘You know what we look like. We look like Mormons.’ She helped me to brush my outfit at the last opportunity and said, ‘You always look immaculate’ and I failed even to say ‘Thank you.’ I consume compliments and attention like a vampire. But it’s also worry. Redmond, by the way, is the one who told me where to buy sockettes back in the summer. At Uniqlo.

The church was packed. There was a lot of good fur. Lord Arrowby’s father had a stroke in 2001 and after that couldn’t speak. But his glow was stronger than ever and people were drawn to him and to the family in their outstanding fortitude.  Lord Arrowby himself gave the tribute and it was superbly measured and paced. Everyone was riveted. Before his stroke Lord Arrowby’s father had been an administrator in Africa and then had worked for the security services. Absolute backbone. A Nation depends on people like this and evidently the entire Arrowby family are the same. Highly able but not attention-seeking. Never complaining. No hysteria. Absolutely reliable. Essentially good. Afterwards in the parish hall, I said to Lord Arrowby’s mother: ‘I didn’t know your husband but now I feel I do.’ ‘Oh, he was very nice,’ she said. Then she said, ‘I intend to speak to everyone here,’ and set off to that purpose.

In the evening, in a different outfit, Topman in fact, cap a ped, except for footwear, I rendez-ed with Joshua Baring in a dark alley behind the Bethnal Green Road where he is to take up residence. A charming mews has been acquired and of course massive refurbishment will ensue. I pushed for different radiators and replacement windows and doors out. It will be very Parisian, with roof terrace. There is an unbelievable Bethnal Green Muscle Gym on the corner. I saw some enormous men going in. We thought of joining and peered through the window but didn’t join. Needless to say, Joshua has homed straight in on the latest artisanal restaurant nearby (you know: menu says, ‘Rocket with Belstead’ and ‘Belstead’ turns out to be a rare sheep cheese). He and Patrick Lockyer are entertaining some incredibly attractive younger men at the moment. He showed me pictures on Insta. But Joshua’s possibly has no sense of humour and might not like being teased re: eating normally in the Lebanon and has he been to the gym afterwards to work off the calories? We marvelled at the shops in the Bethnal Green Road after dinner. The things humans think of!

The final London engagement was Frankie-Doreen and Giles’s Xmas drinks on Friday with community singing around the piano. Frankie-Doreen arranged the 12 days of Christmas for different groups but some people singing the 4th verse weren’t published authors and it was the same story with verse 7 which was supposed to be only those who’d been on Radio 4 which I have several times – but never asked back. I was meant to have Verse 12 all to myself and gave it everything – but somebody else was singing.

Lighting in 1st Class on GWR. In Virgin you Get Lamps

Lighting in 1st Class on GWR. In Virgin you Get Lamps

Good Fur at Lord Arrowby's Father's Funeral

Good Fur at Lord Arrowby’s Father’s Funeral

I Banged my Head a Few Times Against this Ledge in Parish Hall at Lord Arrowby's Father's Funeral

I Banged my Head a Few Times Against this Ledge in Parish Hall at Lord Arrowby’s Father’s Funeral

Joshua Baring's New Alley

Joshua Baring’s New Alley

Bethnal Green Road: Carpet Shop

Bethnal Green Road: Carpet Shop

Carpet Shop in Bethnal Green Road

Carpet Shop in Bethnal Green Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted Sunday, December 24, 2017 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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