Not as Expected

Friday 23rd September 2022

Last week I said that by now the tide would have washed over these days. It hasn’t. One is left shattered, trembling and afraid. Monday’s ceremonies carried Her Late Majesty into myth but there was nothing misty, nostalgic or evasive about the funeral service lasting the best part of six hours, culminating in the devastating Committal at Windsor. ‘The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended/The Darkness falls at Thy Behest.’  Quite so. Death, its solemn thunder. Final and unavoidable. This was Queen Elizabeth 11’s last note to her people, a strange one. She planned it like this. At the heart of the life of the Nation were placed the profundities of existence, the stark reminder of what we all come to. So the Crown, Orb and Sceptre were removed from the coffin (‘How dare they!’ Royston said) which was then lowered into the vault, to lie nearby confined through all eternity.

I can’t believe She’s gone. Already in the tomb. Royston briefed me on Tuesday morning. We must look to the new reign. We must fight for the Crown. People like us can do much. Sophisticated arguments are called for, he said. Well, I can only think of a simple one: why do people care? How do you argue with that, unless to say that people are fools or deluded which would be outrageously patronising?

 

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We Stood….

Sunday 18th September 2022

Even in these days when we know for sure as never before that the Monarchy sits absolutely at our Nation’s heart, after many years sometimes of prancing anxiety. Were tiaras and outfits perhaps the extent of it? .. . Of embarrassment. Even now, when we know for sure, there can be moments of exhaustion, of collapse. The wonder and mystery, the power, so strong yet elusive, fades to nothing, dust runs through the fingers.

This is as it should be. There is a craving for it to be over, for our ordeal to be ended. Even Royston King welcomed a day of respite on Thursday when we went to Hatfield for a private tour of the gardens, partially in the dark. It can only be a stony upward path, as those undergoing the martyrdom of that queue know full well. How many funerals can a person have? So far there seem to have been about 4, all with dull moments. Between you and me, I only really like the hymns. But when the organ swells and one is caught and felled…

On Wednesday evening we stood – Royston King, Anthony Mottram and myself – at the foot of the slipway coming down off the Westway. I like to think this is the entrance to London. Eventually some 3oo people accumulated in that gritty spot. Once I lived near the Westway. The so-called terrace of that residence was unusable if the wind was in a certain direction. Val said, ‘I’m so glad you’ve decided to make the Westway a part of your life.’ The Late Queen too was plagued by traffic noise at Buckingham Palace and by aircraft directly overhead at Windsor.

In the throng was Skippy Lancaster, of all people, with a party of hard-core old-school Earl’s Court Gays, one of whom was holding forth about financial futures or some such topic. Until, that is, the moment came – suddenly, in the dark and rain, the blue flashing lights and the terror of ranked headlights bearing down. The hearse itself, illuminated from within, slid by, propelled, it seemed, by some power of its own. But shrouded in darkness, quite sinister even, was the tremendous suite that followed. Some twenty cars, containing upright unknown figures, a series of unmoving silhouettes passing by, like the hearse itself, not concerned with the applause offered by the bystanders in the rain.

This was history. We know now that the little coffin in its high-street hearse was on a journey quite frankly to myth, the next day, transformed and elevated by ceremony, passing irrevocably away to a bejewelled heraldic realm where only dead Sovereigns dwell.

Waiting in the Rain

Waiting in the Rain

The Cortege Approaching

The Cortège Approaching

At Last the Glimpse...

At Last the Glimpse…

Gone Forever...

Gone Forever…

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These Days…

Tuesday 13th September 2022

Tears come at odd moments… when the pedal notes sounded in St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday evening to mark the tune of the first hymn, ‘All My Hope on God is founded…’ Hymns, not of any kind, they must be the right hymns and so far have been… but hymns cause the eyes to pick. Why? It’s mumbo jumbo, of course. At the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, on Friday night, a small man appeared before the performance began (which was Salomé, of all things) and said there would be a minute’s silence, then the orch would play the National Anthem, whereupon without being asking the audience rose in its entirety and sang ‘God Save the King.’ Few believe that God will save the King. He didn’t save the Queen, in the end. But recounting this event to friends, I am on the verge of tears.

It was so wrong to cancel the Last Night of the Proms. But brings people together more at times like this than music? They could have sung Land of Hope and Glory over and over again and everybody in floods.

Already diminished in death, Queen Elizabeth now, no more The Queen. Queen Elizabeth was also her mother. Her ordinary high street hearse, the only exception being its glass roof, left Balmoral but the Royal Standard now flies elsewhere. Poignant are the photographs of her in childhood and youth; ‘lovely’ I think is the right word, or the much used ‘radiant’. Then she grew old but battled on until in the end Death got her. It’s what happens to all of us. So a human story is placed at the heart of National Life. What we contemplate in the Monarchy are the profundities of existence. These are not my words but the words of the Reverend Richard Coles who adds that he used to think it was all reactionary mumbo-jumbo but not any more. It is mumbo-jumbo though but it is important that it should be. I would add that while there is humanity there is also defiance of that humanity –  in heraldry, ceremony and splendour as well as succession. All families hope to continue in their various ways. So, as one reign ends, another immediately but tentatively begins.

Whoever invented Constitutional Monarchy was a genius. Ours is 250 years old or so. Above politics, the Monarch, although powerless, is above politicians. This matters.  The Monarchy retains its place by popular consent. If that is lost, it goes. Every day is election day for the Sovereign and his family.

Admiration for the late Queen is almost universal – as a person, some say, perhaps surprised or even annoyed at their own shock and dismay, as if her position as Head of State could somehow be regarded separately. But this is not possible. A constitutional monarch can only serve, can only ‘always be there’, can only embody some higher purified essence of their country’s history. The difference is only in how effectively, with what sincerity and constancy, the individual sovereign bears these responsibilities.

All nations have their story which is their history. Much in British history was wrong or not what we would do now but it is our history and we arrived here today only by that route. We can still be moved to recall it and see that it is a part of us without necessarily approving or admiring. What is powerful is the sheer passage of time and that we are, in some elusive way which is hard to put into words, a part of something.

Other nations have appeared to re-invent themselves, usually after devastating trauma and upheaval. But have they really? Does any nation ever entirely escape its past?

By this time next week, when Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 will have reached her final resting place, the Stock market will not respectfully rise nor will energy prices graciously decline. Normal life will resume and the tide will appear to wash over these days. But we will all know that in some other key our passage through this life has been sounded and we will never forget.

 

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The Unimaginable Day Has Come…

Thursday 8th September 2022

I had to take immediately to the airwaves, of course… Only last week, Royston was saying, as we toured Frogmore by Gracious Permission of Her Majesty, Will she ever come here again?

I said, Of course, she will.

We passed the place where she used to feed the dogs. One time, in a previous year, there were bowls there, I’m sure. None last week. Royston thought the garden suffering, even neglected, because her spirit had left already in advance. Her prolonged absence (she can’t have been there for months) had caused the gardeners to lose heart. She used to drive down every day to Frogmore. It’s a major garden. Her trees and Edinburgh’s. So much activity… there were 170 years of Frogmore or so, then 70 years of them. Their trees… but recent plantings of banks had not been watered. All the little plants were dead. Why had nobody watered?

I thought on Tuesday she didn’t look too bad. Joshua Baring thought otherwise: ‘The poor poor Queen,’ he texted. All the same, I don’t see how she could be standing and receiving Prime Ministers on Tuesday and dead on Thursday.

Cousin Barley phoned this afternoon. She needed to draft an Instagram post for the leading London department store where she is Head of Marketing. This was before the deadly announcement had been made. ‘What to do in the social media age?’ she asked. I said, ‘What people like about the monarchy is continuity and tradition.’  Her final text was: ‘…… is deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 and grateful for her long life of service and dedication.’ I had wanted to add ‘Long live the King and Queen Consort’ but that part was dropped.

Only the Gay Mother has both feet planted firmly on the ground: ‘From her point of view,’ she pronounced, ‘it was the perfect ending.’

Another funny thing: on Wednesday after Frogmore last week we took the Dream of Gerontius at the Royal Hall. It’s all about someone dying.  Royston’s sister had been re-admitted to hospital. But now she’s out. Her Majesty did not get out. But lives on. As the King.

 

Never to Come Again: Her Beloved Dog-Feeding Station at Frogmore

Never to Come Again: Her Beloved Dog-Feeding Station at Frogmore

Where is She? On this Bench she Would Have Sat to Feed the Dogs

Where is She? On this Bench she Would Have Sat to Feed the Dogs

Her Sanctuary of Frogmore, one third of Whose History was Hers

Her Sanctuary of Frogmore, one third of Whose History was Hers

 

 

 

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Sir Lynneland Truss Ushered In

Monday 5th September 2022

So, for the second time in a row, Poor Little Rich Gays are at the core. The former Prime Minister’s brother-in-law often occupied the platform with me at Dainty Lady TV. His sister helped herself from the same canapé plate more than once and drove with Val and Genevieve Suzy from Chelsea Harbour to Notting Hill after a fabric-sample-gathering exercise.

Now we have Sir Lynneland Truss. Can you think of anyone more suitable? She has said that she’ll be glad of the time in Downing Street to write plays for the afternoon radio about goings-on in Brighton in the inter-war years as well as caring for her dog, of course. I never knew she had any interest in politics. It turns out she doesn’t. So ideal for Ning Street surely.

Just after she’d switched from cats to dogs for devotion, she lunched with Marcus Cargill, England’s leading clock-mender, bringing her dog with her. On another occasion she lunched at a launch-lunch for a production of mine and afterwards wore dark glasses and took a taxi. Eddie Sedgewick is incredibly intimate with Sir Lynneland and once relayed to me how she had told Eddie that Christmas with her mother was very quiet and as well as immensely over-heated.

So only one conclusion is possible: Poor Little Rich Gays are closer to Ning Street now than ever before, much closer than to the previous regime.

The next step surely is the full assumption of Ning Street itself. To me, it is inevitable.

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Priorities

Friday 2nd September 2022

The Gay Mother put the runner beans and courgettes first. Hydrangea Quercifolia got burnt up, even its flowers. Now it’s rained a bit but washing up water was lugged by me to the courgettes and runner beans in the parched time. The Gay Mother directs since she hurt her back. She doesn’t lug, We also threw washing up water out of the kitchen window but the Gay Mother believes in previous times of doing this the window sill got damaged but I don’t see that it did.

It’s amazing how you can redirect operations in times of emergency. I worked on courgette fritter art as well as the usual plum and apple work for this season of year. We’re going to have to forage in the coming times, for sure. Luckily Poor Little Rich Gays tend to have fruit trees on the premises. Otherwise I would make sure you’ve located your mink coat before the winter. I propose to beat the system with log fires – but what state are my chimneys in?

Jilly Cooper attended Beamish O’Halloran’s 70th birthday. The Gay Mother said, ‘I’m blowed if I’ve got to be vegan.’

My Courgette Fritter Art Before it Had become Art

My Courgette Fritter Art Before it Had become Art

Courgette Fritter Art Looking More Like Art

Courgette Fritter Art Looking More Like Art

Norman Quetsches - Cost Nothing

Norman Quetsches – Cost Nothing

Laura Malcolm - Vital Pastilles Self-Made with Own Produce Against the Winter

Laura Malcolm – Vital Pastilles Self-Made with Own Produce Against the Winter. One of these a Day will Ward off Death for a While at Least 

 

 

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Some Visits and Facts

Monday August 29th 2022

As you know, my view of foreign Statelies is dim, with some exceptions. Our visit to that mansion near Deuville racecourse some years ago – no wonder Rollup de Malbuoys leapt over the rope and occupied the German General’s massive concrete bath, left over from the War. There was nothing else to do.

But in Normandy this year we paid an intensely charming visit to Chateau Boutemont. Minimal interior touring on offer but the drawing room certainly had life. Not the usual dessication brought on by the Revolutionaries having burnt all the furniture in the C18th. But the walks and vistas, the features and choice trees and shrubs – well done, for not being the usual foreign idea of a garden, which is dusty paths, urns and uniform conifers in rows. Here every tree was an unusual specimen and choice. There were Brugmansia by the pool which used to be called Datura and are supremely poisonous, therefore not often grown.

Otherwise the Laird was intensely informative at all times. Only once did the Lairdess have to say nobody was listening. I never knew that the Plimsoll Line was the inspiration of the insignia of London Transport, nor that a corkscrew must be made of wire not foil. A foil corkscrew will be less secure if the cork is weak. Here is a man with connections as well as qualifications. The Laird is a Qualified Chain Saw User. In addition  he has completed an Asbestos Awareness Course. He solved the creaking door hinge problem by inserting lead from a pencil. This is something you too could try at home. Meanwhile, in his address book is the leading valuer of caravan parks in the UK. Don’t mock. How do you know that you’re not going to need your caravan park valued one day – or better still, your fields assessed for caravan-park potential? Matt Driver on the other hand was preoccupied with wasp control. ‘Get the scout wasp,’ was his approach, the theory being that wasps send out a scouting party. Once stickiness has been discovered, the others follow. So he was stamping down upturned glasses at the luncheon table with intensity then glaring at the considerable number accumulating. Concentration of this quality is how Matt Driver became one of the world’s leading taste-shapers of all time, with a salary to match Robin Smallmeal’s i.e. one of the highest, far exceeding the Prime Minister’s.

In the restaurant, Matt Driver rejected the Prix Fixe menu on the grounds that the chef needed to work harder. His other furrow was the aggrandisement of the chateau fragment. Another wing is now contemplated at the opposite end to the drawing room wing completed six or seven years ago. I said, ‘Why not pull it down completely and build it fourteen times bigger and on a mound while you’re about it, so you can have terraces and a water cascade, as at Chatsworth?’

A visit was also paid to the small town of Cambremer and lunch taken at Beuvron-en-Auge. Both were beamy, ancient and boutique and greatly enjoyed by the party. On the Saturday we visited Bernay, which is Paris-in-Normandy. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife – the iron chic.

So although often asleep in the afternoon, Poor Little Rich Gays did carry out engagements in Normandy.

The Drawing Room at Chateau Boutemont near Lisieux: A Modern Family live Here, not the Medieval One But Better than Nothing

The Drawing Room at Chateau Boutemont near Lisieux: A Modern Family live Here, not the Medieval One But Better than Nothing

Chateau Boutemont: True Charme and Ancientness with a Later Boost of Design and Gardening

Chateau Boutemont: True Charme and Ancientness with a Later Boost of Design and Gardening

Chateau Boutemont: Medieval but with None of the Drawbacks: Moat here as Styling. So much Better

Chateau Boutemont: Medieval but with None of the Drawbacks: Moat here as Styling. So much Better

Topiary Exceptionelle:

Topiary Exceptionelle:

The Private Parterre

The Private Parterre

The Pool

The Pool – with Poison Plants

Shapes and Interest

Shapes and Interest

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The Laird’s Equipment

Wednesday 24th August 2022

Despite the advancing years, functions did take place in Normandy this year. In fact one of the greatest manifestations of the Poor Little Rich Gays in all of time occurred in the Drawing Room there. The Laird’s equipment is fantastic and vast. But it’s what he does with it that makes all the difference. You would not believe the range and the detail. Everything has been thought of in advance.

The luncheon party was for Beamish O’Halloran’s 70th Birthday. It was decided that the Laird’s performance would take place beforehand for fear that the guests would be too exhausted otherwise. So, in rows we were arranged before the full display. The Laird had chosen a theme of local interest. He said there was 3 penises in the Bayeaux Tapestry which is of enormous length but narrow girth. It’s not a tapestry but an embroidery. Who made it and why and where? King Harold was not penetrated through the eye with an arrow. That was added in later. Stitch marks suggesting a sword have been found. How the Laird performed and manipulated his equipment! The screen, the moving parts, the sound effects, the endless visual pleasure but greatest of all were the surprises. Suddenly a photo of Omelette Arnold Bennet … what had that got to do with the Bayeaux Tapestry? It was worked in somehow, I can assure you. But that was only a pale shadow of what was to come, one of the greatest glaring irrelevancies of all time, but carefully stitched in, somehow connected to the topic in hand. Yes, the Laird sang the Pea Song, the one about Grandad grading the peas on his pea farm. I thought it was familiar. Then I remembered it featured in the Laird’s last talk, possibly about the D-Day landings. So now it is clear.. the Pea Song is to be included, whatever the supposed subject.

This is so right and absolutely how things should be.

I should explain about the Pea Song. It appears to be a simple ditty about grading the peas A, B, C and D on a pea farm with a banjo twanging – all very folksy and countryified. Until the chorus, when it goes ‘So you get the A-ess of the peas, you get the P-ness of the peas.’ It’s a double entendre, you see. Rude. So end of the pier. It appears to be saying, ‘Anus’ and ‘Penis’. Do you get it? Those are rude words. Actually the song goes, ‘A-ness’ and ‘P-ness’ but everybody thinks it’s ‘Anus’ and ‘Penis’ So they roar.

The great thing is you can sing the song on television because really it’s only saying ‘A-ness’ and ‘P-ness’.

I should mention that from his equipment the Laird gave me a device that allows me to charge my phone in my Official Car which lacks its own USB port (as I believe they are called). This has transformed my life.

No more low battery car journey worry agony.

The Laird's Equipment

The Laird’s Equipment

 

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Normandy Never Faileth…

Thursday 18th August 2022

Despite all the wrong, all the criminality of the last three years, Normandy has never failed. Rogue forms, random bandit confinements, criminal assaults by the state on the throats of Poor Little Rich Gays  – nothing has deterred us.

Normandy has gone on as always. This year the Lairds gained and, being severely anti-Brexit, carried no meat products, in particular the Laird’s terrine special which used to be nearly a meter in length, studded with juniper berries and sent out from the kitchen to every repast of the Norman sojourn with enough remaining at the end for freezing and other destinations.

Let it not be said that the Wrong has worn us down. We have not aged. It was the heat and natural causes. True to say, two of our party are temporarily compromised between the legs. Their functions have given up for the time being. As I remarked to Laura Malcolm just before Beamish O’Halloran’s birthday-party-with-pre-lecture-by-the-Laird-on the Bayeux-Tapestry -‘the endless flushing lavatories of the elderly.’

But that’s not us! We’re still fresh, we’re still lively. Hall, an English Norman friend living nearby, is confined to a wheelchair. She’s broken her ankle so there’s hope she’ll get out. Even so – the look!  There was a chance to make off with her as she sat, in the wheeled chair, in a cafe in Bernay. But her son said, ‘The brake’s on.’ But what if it had not been?

Moira McMatron herself was questionable as to whether even alive each morning.  At 11 her suite was still shrouded and unstirring. No hint of life. But it’s her daintiness that keeps her from rising. And when she does she’s so fairy-like and floaty, for sure were you to release her hair clip she would at once disintegrate, like a dandelion blown by a kiddie.

We developed a routine of rosé at luncheon followed by conked out in the chairs – see below. Plans were made then yawned off. What a mercy, though, we couldn’t be bothered with the cheese-eating competition at Liverot. I fear I would not have remained poised. In fact I would have vom-ed.

Moira McMatron - Her Suite Still Shrouded at 11a.m. Possibly She Had Not come Through the Night

Moira McMatron – Her Suite Still Shrouded at 11a.m. Possibly She Had Not come Through the Night

The Loungers Lined Up in Normandy

The Loungers Lined Up in Normandy

 

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Val Doesn’t Know Me

Sunday 14th August 2022

Val says he can’t recognise me, Adrian Edge, when I appear on TV as I do quite often. Not for nothing do I work for Dainty Lady TV, requiring many arduous hours of in-depth pieces to camera, and even more gruelling hours of laborious investigation beforehand. But Val says he always fails to know me at first sighting. Only after a while does it dawn: ‘That’s my loved one.’ Val says you can have a Loved Ones size KFC bucket and he’s thinking of ordering one this Xmas as part of his Yuletide journey but must get through his Sunburn’n’Calomine Lotion journey first.

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