The Chapel

Wednesday 14th June 2023

I wore my tartan tracksuit for the visit to the Rosslyn Chapel.

Royston King comments that people are fading from my commentary. Maybe decor, conservation, the fight to save the Monarchy and keep out Socialism have taken over – yet another evil consequence of the Response to the Pandemic.

Our van was quiet for this tour of Scotland. Moira MacMatron was last min cancel, owing to the severe illness of her previous husband and her daughter’s father, he being once a world-figure in the illicit photography line, now in unique possession of a council property in Sloane Avenue. As it happened he didn’t pass in our Scottish days and could have been more than happily accommodated in a trailer going on behind our van, with the necessary number of nurses, tubes and flexes for sure.

But it was not to be.

As it was, banter was subdued being one lady less. Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver were on the back seat; Laura’s air was of being there on sufferance. She wanted the window opened or shut again. There was the menacing possibility of van sickness held in reserve.

Before the women were all in the back, their banter mounting to such a frenzy, especially when we passed near the graves of Moira McMatron’s parents, that the Laird, at the wheel and often trying to recount his perilous upward journey through life beset with trouble, was on the verge of hurling the van and its occupants into a ditch.

The second day of the Tour was the only day I wore my tartan tracksuit. I modelled it against the outside of the Rosslyn Chapel, which gave me the opportunity to observe the precision of the work, the ordered design, parts of which could feature in a classical building. Ruskin didn’t get it quite right about Gothic architecture.

The Rosslyn Chapel is utterly superb, a most satisfying grooved block from the outside, with incredible stone interest (many colours) and carvings. Within astonishing, a mystery of arches, pillars and carved trimming at every opportunity. Photography not allowed inside. You can understand why crackpot myths have attached to the place. It is unlike any other Gothic building to the extent it could well have manifested from the Beyond. It’s in the middle of nowhere, just occurring randomly in fields. And the people who made it, carving away so incessantly, were they somehow possessed?

In Tartan at Rosslyn

In Tartan at Rosslyn

Rosslyn Chapel: What Rhythm to the Arcades

Rosslyn Chapel: What Rhythm to the Arcades

Rosslyn Chapel: Really giving Satisfaction

Rosslyn Chapel: Really giving Satisfaction

Rosslyn Chapel: Actually a Fragment but You wouldn't Know it

Rosslyn Chapel: Actually a Fragment but You wouldn’t Know it. It’s just the Choir of what was Meant to be a Much Larger Church 


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The Scottish Tour

Thursday 8th June 2023

By great good mercy, my tartan tracksuit arrived in time, having been scheduled not to. What a quality of fabric! So springy and shiny. American.

Laura Malcolm insisted on walk-on luggage only. I nearly broke down with the planing – lobbying at Malin Goetz for sample sachets, only one spare pair of shoes, the tartan tracksuit (too bad the clash with the tartan topcoat by Oliver Spencer which everybody adores but I think a sack), for the Sunday repeating items from the Friday travelling outfit; finally on the Monday wearing all day the suit by Sandro (grease stain on the elbow from the club lunch with Rufus Pitman: phoned Val who said tetracarbon’s been banned for home use) because direct from the airport I was diarised to go to a nurturing dinner for American Patrons at our favourite museum.

I don’t like to admit it, but existing from a tiny case for three days – well, it was soothing. No great dynastic caravan of possessions, the agony of maintenance, archiving, scheduling and control as well as dragging about. Just the little box with everything in it, neat and contained. Reduced, the items somehow more precious.

On arrival the Laird gave us our individual laminated cards displaying the number of the minibus. He is now self-identified as Gay although not including any trousers-down type of work of course. At Loch Lomond calling-card-sized cards of premium quality were distributed telling us of the next departure time. We took a ferry across the Loch to Luss. There were islands where nobody lives. One of them had rare birds nesting but you couldn’t see them. The general theme was the Nature and its glory. We dined at Lake of Mentieth which is the only Lake in Scotland. There were islands there too, one of which had once had Mary, Queen of Scots on it, on the run from somewhere or other.

The style of service at the dinner was novel. Scotland is a Socialist country but the view of the Lake from the dining table was unsurpassed. Possibly attention could have been paid to the state of the carpet. The breakfast buffet table was already in place with an odd hotpotch of cloths unartfully arranged with gaps through which the mini-packets of disastrous breakfast cereals could be glimpsed. The waiter said, ‘What do you want now?’ with undisguised impatience. We said, ‘Cheese,’ so a bundle of knives was dumped down. The actual cheese was first class though.

After dinner we visited some Lake-side friends of the Lairds (he is one of the Three Scottish Tenors) in their new modern house which showed clearly the influence of Virgil Grayson. Below was a straight hedge marking where a running track had been made by the former owners (magnates of some kind) for Eric Liddell to practise on. The magnates are now gone and the estate split up with Socialist progress.

The Lake of Mentieth from the hotel garden

The Lake of Mentieth from the hotel garden

The Lake of Mentieth: The island in the distance once Sheltered Mary, Queen of Scots

The Lake of Mentieth: The island in the distance once Sheltered Mary, Queen of Scots



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A New Boldness…

Tuesday 23rd May 2023

Yesterday was Chelsea Flower Show Press Day:

Brian May

Piers Morgan

Joanna Lumley

Dear Vanessa

Anna Maxwell Martin was in the lunch room

Dame Judi

Derek Jacobi

Bruno Tonioli

Sophie Raworth of course

Warrant Officer Johnson Beharry VC

O! the great ranks of the famous, the numberless battalions.

I forgot to mention – Stoker and Amanda. How could I?

There were gardens and flowers. The best one had simple rough-cast walls in ochre pink with trees and irises. Inspired by Cedric Morris and Benton End, which our favourite Museum Director has rescued. Sarah Price, the designer, is a painter as well. Her garden married art and nature as rarely, if ever, seen at Chelsea.  Simple, restrained and delicious. Colour primarily. And no message. Remarkable lack of sermonising. It didn’t win Best in Show, of course.

But really, one had to get on. Who was everybody and, above all, what were they wearing, if anything?

I started outside Chelsea’s sacred precincts. Clive Myrie was walking in my street, where he lives. He has a neat blue mac for walking. I thought, Why not? Accost. As we know from the incident on the way to Lincoln Cathedral in December 2021, when Royston King commanded, ‘Clive Myrie! Clive Myrie! Stop the car,’ the younger person of colour looks up to the older one as a role model. ‘I’ll be seeing Royston,’ I told Clive Myrie. whose guard let up at once.

Then in the VIP Lunch Room at Chelsea, where Royston had gained admittance for me and one of his guests (I would like it to be known that I was present at Chelsea Flower Show press day in my capacity as an important contributor to Dainty Lady TV) I saw a fabulous red velvet suit. And the person in it maddeningly familiar. I seized my chance at the buffet. It was Topman. Unbelievable. ‘Me too!’ I shrieked. My Topman silver dress coat, which I’ve begun to wash with success. What an outfit boost! I’d been in outfit agony but had the brain-wave of combining with the Club Monaco brown trousers to give a country feel. ‘I’m sure I should know who you are,’ I said. ‘I’m Ore,’ he said. ‘I won’t be able to fit into this suit much longer.’ It’s true. The trousers were spray-on. Back at the table, Royston’s guest, luckily mad for names, got Ore fixed within seconds using his device. Ore Obuba, winner of Strictly in 2016. He’d also collected Bruno Tonioli with ease, who was standing right by us in a pink suit. I’d loved to have known about that suit. But we disagreed over Anna Maxwell Martin whom he said was Nicola Walker, although finally conceding. But I was wrong about Nicky Chapman who was not Sophie Raworth, although their frocks were similar.

A secret: many of the celebrities – their clothes aren’t expensive, you know. They like shiny and bold prints. The essence is – how will it photograph?

The red velvet suit of Ore Obuba was not in fact velvet. It was corduroy. But appeared velvet.

The people on the Grenada stand who weren’t celebrities had done so much with layering. One of them had three layers in different cream shades with a navy jacket on top.

Layering is so important for added outfit interest.

Dame Judi was very much draped. She takes Minty’s arm now for all perambulation and there’s a special sweep to their exits and entrances, both being trained.

Only selected guests are permitted to stay on for the Royal Visit. I ventured to Chelsea Harbour and avoided breakdown. I always fear breakdown at Chelsea Harbour re: fabric choices. That’s another story. So I returned to watch the arrival of the King and Queen from the street. The State Bentley swept in from the Embankment, huge Standard flying; it could have been a great heraldic tournament horse from the Middle Ages.

Who are These People? Does Anyone know? Huge Attention wherever they Went

Who are These People? Does Anyone know? Huge Attention wherever they Went

Sophie Raworth: Off-Air Footwear

Sophie Raworth: Off-Air Footwear

Warrant Officer Johnson Beharry VC

Warrant Officer Johnson Beharry VC

Joanna Lumley in Hat

Joanna Lumley in Hat

Bruno Tonioli: But that Suit? What House?

Bruno Tonioli: But that Suit? What House?

Outfit: a Swimsuit

Outfit: a Swimsuit

Best in Show - But Not. Sarah Price Landscapes Garden: Love the Sandy Gaps

Best in Show – But Not. Sarah Price Landscapes Garden: Love the Sandy Gaps

Best in Show - but Not. Intricate but the Overall Effect Simple and Restrained

Best in Show – but Not. Intricate but the Overall Effect Simple and Restrained

Ore in Red

Ore in Red

More of Ore: Fitting Well but He wasn't Sure for How Much Longer

More of Ore: Fitting Well but He wasn’t Sure for How Much Longer

The King and Queen Arrive

The King and Queen Arrive

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Friday 19th May 2023

Rufus Pitman wanted an emergency lunch to pick over the Coronation. He’s recently been ennobled to a Club. It can’t be named and if graphed, it’s immediate expulsion. Let’s just say it’s like having one’s own total stately home in the middle of London. Coffee was taken in a Library so vast the coffee server at his coffee serving table was a distant speck from where we sat at the far end of the room. I always thought you had to be Archbishop to belong to this particular Club. I never thought I’d be within in my life.

Rufus is an Archbishop really… in all but name.

Mainly Rufus was concerned with the King’s Delay. Was He early? Or the Waleses late? It is known that the latter were at home filming themselves in their get-ups (or having themselves filmed) for Insta with the result that they were two minutes late. But the King’s Horses were too fast so He was six minutes early.

I went on to the Gay Mother who said, ‘Nobody wants a mad dentist.’ She was referring to a rellie, long gone, who came to a bad end on account of being a dentist and mad. We viewed ‘Blue Light’ on TV which prompted a history of swearing. ‘F wasn’t liked,’ the Gay Mother said. ‘The Land Girls didn’t like it. They said, ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’. As did Charlie Clatworthy from the village. ‘But things have changed,’ the Gay Mother said.

I planned menus: hake with Venetian sauce (Rick), Smoked Haddock au creme with breadcrumb topping (Nigel). Finally moussaka (Jane, but I used only one egg and didn’t mix two tablespoons of the bechamel with egg and feta with the meat sauce: Jane’s gone out of date somewhat. Much of her drive was to make post-War ingredients taste of something by adding vinegar and sugar and so on. But now we don’t need that).

Fortunately the Gay Mother liked all the menus which was a mercy since she’s taken to not liking quite a few things in a big way in her 100th year. Of the moussaka she said, ‘It’s got Yorkshire pudding on top.’ Perhaps this is a post-Brexit view.

At my London home I’ve been doing up my private bathroom. It would have been quicker to build Chartres Cathedral. We imagine Michelangelo happily on his back painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, expressing away with abandon. I wonder how often he found he’d left the scraper down below. Or couldn’t get the lid off a paint pot. Or couldn’t remember where he’d put down a particular tool. Or didn’t realise he’d got brown paint on his hand and accidentally smeared it where it wasn’t wanted? Or got to the end of a section and found he’d missed a bit at the beginning. Or cut himself. Or had whole days feeling below parr and defeated by the task.

I’ve painted my bathroom Pegnoir. The young woman in the Farrow and Ball shop didn’t know it’s the French for dressing gown.


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We Are All Royal

Thursday 11th May 2023

Having a Royal Family means that we are all Royal. If proof is needed, at the Luncheon celebration on Sunday in my neighbourhood (astonishing number of Guardian reading North Londoners only too glad to turn out) there was a small boy with a gold crown on.

On Friday we took Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre as our Coronation Gala. Had never been there before. Had no idea. Astonishing venue. Huge, with audience on all four sides. Just what’s needed to revivify the theatre. Production of Guys and Dolls thrilling. Intensely musical, staging in the round with standing audience following the actors around from one part of the stage to another. Talk about living theatre. It didn’t end either. The performers carried on singing and there was a mass dance-in with remaining audience.

It’s a marvellous piece, not a bit sentimental, completely real but uplifting and joyful. What I’ve never heard before is the sophistication of the music – how it goes from a light ditty, to grand and operatic to jazzy syncopation almost in one phrase.


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Shattered now With Thankfulness

Tuesday 9th May 2023

From making both the Coronation Quiche and Coronation Chicken. Corrie Quiche by the way destined a Coronation Classic for sure. Tarragon the master touch. Broad beans not nec. Peas would do instead. Had to go to 13 shops to get the materials.

Just so thankful it went off so utterly. Still reeling. They didn’t self-wet, trip or even keel completely. Crowds were huge. Republicans were flung into dungeons.

The last Coronation dominated our imagination but really nobody alive had ever seen a Coronation, not properly, only bits and photos. We thought we knew about a Coronation was. But we didn’t. Do we now? We’ve seen one. What was it? A raging glory, you can be certain of that: Byzantine, medieval, this must have been how the Early Church was, stiff with ritual, insane level of frockage and needlework, insignia, regalia, not necessarily immediately obvs what for, but totally superb. Element of the ridic completely vital. Remember the alternative: the May Day Parade in Red Square.

Val phoned afterwards: he went back to bed when they put the wendy house round the King. I think he should have tried harder. Royston King was caught up in the drama of the mounting regalia, climaxing in the Crown. But he had mugged up to be on the balcony with Tina Brown for CNN.

A Coronation Ritual wouldn’t of itself be a huge hit with the public, not like a wedding or a funeral. But when they emerged from the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor with their crowns on (never mind a different one for him) they looked every child’s dream of a King and Queen. Leaving the Abbey he was a dead ringer for one of those medieval monarchs in an icon.

I adored the unexplained figures who stood stock still at the two western corners of the cosmati pavement throughout, so emblazoned with heraldry and insignia they were more like art installations – certainly not people. I think it might have been Garter and the Earl Marshall.

O! the glory and wonder of Our Nation. Grown men got up like that.

But the meaning hardly had to battle through the odd ritual. Really the foundation of Our Nation. Service. Duty. Absolutism contained. Twice at least the Law was mentioned. The King must rule according to the Law. That was how England, as it was then, got ahead. Rule of Law. Habeas Corpus. The beginning of a notion of proper justice from the Middle Ages.

Robert Nevil said it best: ‘It’s like decorating a Christmas tree. They stick more and more baubles on.’

Exactly. Not just the King undressed, the act of obeisance, but the whole thing: the putting on of Kingship, the burden and, in the words, the terrific hectoring re: the responsibilities of office, the care of the less fortunate, the requirement of mercy.

Not every King, many buried in the very Abbey where Charles 111 was crowned, lived up to their Coronation Oath, but all the same, there could be no better start than to be given a jolly good dressing down at their Coronation.

The Monarchy unites us in essentially Christian values, which, whether we are believers or not, we all share just as the sacred setting is one which we all understand.




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Suddenly it is upon Us…

Friday 5th May 2023

Back in February at a luncheon, somebody said, ‘Who’s looking forward to the Coronation?’ There was a silence. Although a tiny handful of Guardian reading mask-wearers were present, overwhelmingly it was brigadiers, retired Eton schoolmasters and business people. Lilibet left such a gap, there were two huge Royal events last year – could one wind up for another momentous occasion?

But just this morning, without warning, the distant rumble of impending greatness could be heard. The last Coronation is emblazoned on the mind of everyone over 50 or even 40. You didn’t have to be born at the time to have been there. Now we have glimpsed the next one – that photo of the Gold Coach going down the Mall, rehearsing in the middle of the night, hints at the splendour to come.

How could another equal it? I’m hurt by people calling themselves ‘Republicans’ but it is their right. It would be comforting to know that they really understood history and the part the Monarchy has played, a continuous line of descent for 1000 years, nowhere more inescapable than in the Abbey, in making our Country what it is – almost unique in having a functioning political system so early whose beginnings were established by Henry V11 and which has evolved successfully ever since. With the exception of the Civil War, of course. We tried a Presidential system and didn’t like it. A Monarch turned out to be easier to manage. Thus it is that Great Britain has not been a Police State, way in advance of most other countries, since 1688. Competing factions found a way to co-exist. Change has happened but no upheaval of revolution. Our Nation became a powerhouse of enterprise, thought and culture, under the glorious panoply of constitutional Monarchy.

An alternative would either be less democratic or would diminish our Nation. Some ‘Republicans’ appear to think a Head of State whom nobody has heard of (as in Germany) is a good idea!  But I don’t mind admitting, I have approached the Coronation, or rather evaded it, with dread. What if something should go wrong? The horrible protesters.. The King and Queen not young. What if they self-wet? Or worse. Soil their thrones? Or drop dead at the vital moment? Let’s hope and pray their attendants have provided adequate reinforcement. Last night a huge figure from the museum world was at an Opening, often grilled by Royston King at Academy breakfasts; he is to be in the Nave tomorrow but his toilet worries were overwhelming. How to get through from 8.30, when to be seated, until 1.30 when released.

Transition is jeopardy. But now I hear clearly from afar who our King will be. A King of Suffering, different from his mother who manifested a disembodied ideal of duty and service. The new King has done things. Whoever he was, his achievements in life would be notable. Royalties were simultaneously human and not human. His suffering and endurance, his tremulous, unconfident personality, yet strengthened in a furnace of pain and scorn, embed a powerful human story at the heart of the life of the Nation. Aside from that, or even in spite of it, has been the consistent determination to have an impact on those less fortunate, on society as a whole.

I cannot believe that in my time, tomorrow, all being well, the King and Queen will enter the Abbey in the fullest State. Once again, ‘I was Glad’ will be played. Then and only then, will we begin to see this Reign for what it is.

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Thursday 20th April 2023

We dined out in the Far West. One guest, over 90, was offered two sorts of artisanal cheese biscuits (the kind that can gash the roof of your mouth if you don’t watch out). One was normal grain colour, the other, black, the charcoal range. ‘I wonder if anyone ever manages to get rid of the black ones,’ he said, passing the plate along. Of this same man, the Gay Mother said, ‘He doesn’t eat greens. It’s a wonder he’s alive.’

The Gay Mother herself mentioned a daffodil she’d seen growing at Lady Sweetdriver’s. It was a coffee morning for charity. Lady Sweetdriver herself had told her its name. ‘I’ve had it in my garden ever since,’ the Gay Mother said. ‘But has it remained true?’ I asked. ‘So far, yes.’ But this coffee morning was fifty years ago at least. Lady Sweetdriver was gathered in 1995.

The Radio Times rarely gives satisfaction. ‘Why have I got to have that awful face starring at me?’ the Gay Mother says of any face on the cover. But with this issue it was Mary Beard within. ‘She seems to be determined to look as awful as possible.’

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Rudi Never Ends

Friday 14th April 2023

To the Black Cultural Archive after a Private Breakfast at the Royal Academy for the Spanish Exhibition. I put much effort into explaining to a woman that a certain Ecclesiastical garment was displayed the wrong way round, according to the Vicar of All Saints, Margaret Street, who is an expert in these things. I even showed her the Facebook post concerned. It turned out she was the President of the Royal Academy. Rosemary Lomax-Simpson is now in a wheelchair for the purposes of viewing an exhibition. Royston demolished all Lady Minor’s schemes for the Academy. She was wearing an intensely pleated white blouse, a blazing example of white work in the modern age.

At the Black Cultural Archive, further hordes of Rudis unearthed. Death has done this man no end of good. The more dead he gets, the more he grows in artistic stature. Also, death has encouraged not a drying-up but an increase in the plenitude of his opera. I am convinced it will never end. Rudis will pour forth for ever. I bought two more and a further 20 or so were selected to be conveyed to the Lake District for an Autumn exhib. That left countless portfolios, not to mention the pottery collection. There was a high-level summit at the Archive to assess the Rudi outlook for the next 12 months, after which … who knows?

They’ll never get to the end of the Rudis.

Royston must take much of the credit for the Resurrection to Eternal Life of Rudi, along with Fabulette Moira, the art historian and expert on Church artefacts, whose daughter was also present in a figure-hugging jump suit in green from Asos. She was all but nude and superb. Somehow is a huge insider at the Foreign Office. Had masses of gossip about Carrie Johnson and handbags, thinks the Monarchy will survive and said boyfriends often dissatisfied that she has a black mother. Can you believe it? Bastards. I thought Young People weren’t like this.

My New Rudi Hung in the Drawing Room. It will Cause Outrage. Too Bad

My New Rudi Hung in the Drawing Room. It will Cause Outrage. Too Bad. I have another of Sunflowers on a Black Background. I can’t Remember Where I’ve put It



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New Every Spring

Friday 14th April 2023

I can’t believe the Prime Minister said Penis.

How strange: Every Spring the camellias, the magnolias reliably turning up, never failing, always there. With a splash of yellow forsythia which many despise although I think a brilliant glare of yellow is just what you need to get the growing season going. Strange, therefore, that never before do I seem to have seen these intensely frilly small cherry trees. They must always have been there. But somehow not seen, or not seen properly. They’re very bedroom, it’s true. And impossible to photograph, but I tried.

Never Before More Frilly - at Least as Seen by Me

Never Before More Frilly – at Least as Seen by Me

Always There - but Never Before Seen by Me - Apparently

Always There – but Never Before Seen by Me – Apparently


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