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

Posted Saturday, December 15, 2018 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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