Val Moved to Hastings plus Mary Berry had an Evening Clutch for her Talk

Sunday 26th November 2017

Finally it’s happened. Val got to Moscow – well, Moscow Road, Hastings. Val’s moved to Hastings. His grand piano went down in a small Polish van, rocking; we followed in the Official Car. The installation of the grand piano was the great feature of the day really and me dusting it. I dusted and windolene-ed a lot of Val’s possessions – and his bin. Everything’s got to be sparkling for the new home because it’s a Los Angeles-style low white L-shape with throw-open folding glass doors all down one side. He’s got three ovens and two bathrooms. He’s quite cross about a lot of it but he’s going to call it Lubiyankova – or something like that. He consulted with one of his friends who’d been Ambassador to Moscow. He could become Madame Yeveshenko there – tragic but agreeably crazy, welcoming guests with a spoonful of gooseberry jam and enjoying samovar life.

At the end of the day, we had fish and chips down on the seafront and I went back to London – blocked and re-routed three times on the way back. What is this country coming to? Had to call the Police since totally trapped in Tunbridge Wells. Biffed off A21. Diversion signs petered out at once. Sav Nav took me back to the place where first biffed off – twice. I wondered if I had not been condemned to circulate Tunbridge Wells for eternity.

So to Mary Berry’s evening lecture for the National Gardens Scheme at one of the institutes in South Kensington. August venue for a brainy lecture. All the garden owners always look funny and less garden-like at this annual event in late October. Mary Berry had a little black dress with ridging, a pink jacket (I think real silk, not her usual polyester) and a black evening clutch studded with jet. Also considerable heels, especially for one of 82. She did stumble once but one of her fellow speakers had some kind of crisis on rising to speak and had to be massively heaved onto the stage. He was a Lord and more advanced into the 80s. The third talk was by a man from the Times who had never actually opened his garden – or only once years ago. They were supposed sound on the theme of opening their gardens but maybe with a brainy dimension. Mary was quite charming and more quavery than on TV. She said, ‘If it’s a hot day when you open, put your chocolate cakes back in the freezer. Nobody will want them.’ Gales of laughter. But what of the actual garden? There was one picture of it on a screen behind Mary that didn’t change all the time she was speaking. It was hedges and a lawn. Nothing further was divulged. She said that alstroemeria had been picked and brought into the house that morning. Later a member of the audience expressed astonishment at alstroemeria in late October and Mary became even more quavery and said something unlikely about pulling it not cutting to keep the flowers coming. I wondered if she really knew anything about gardening. There was much mention of someone called Keith who works out of doors. Finally she said they were giving it all up and moving to Henley. Afterwards she was thronged. Royston and I bore down on her. She looked absolutely furious when I, Adrian Edge, addressed her on the subject of Keith and was he moving to Henley as well? I seem to be obsessed with other people’s staff. ‘Keith’s absolutely invaluable,’ she said.

A week or two later I saw alstroemeria flowering in the Gay Mother’s garden. So maybe Mary more clued up than appeared.

Val's New Home

Val’s New Home

How Well We Know that Hair

How Well We Know that Hair

More Hair

More Pre-Lecture Hair: Mary at the Institute

This Lord Almost Didn't Gain the Stage

This Lord Almost Didn’t Gain the Stage

Mary Thronged after Her Lecture: She was to Dine at Mossiman's After

Mary Thronged after Her Lecture: She was to Dine at Mossiman’s After

 

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Praise to the Holiest in the Height

Sunday 17th November 2019

My highest yet! A Marchioness. But there was something on my shoe. I entered the Holland Park mansion then had to back straight out again. What must the servants have thought? One of the Freud daughters was coming in at the same time. In fact in her opinion the door wasn’t opened quickly enough. It was only a clump of leaves – I hope. I hadn’t been walking with care owing to the Daily Mail.  Only quick edits, they said. Well, it wasn’t quick edits, it was a whole new piece. Frantic. I don’t even remember my outfit, except for the Prada tart’s mac in turquoise oilskin. Some days before I’d mentioned without a second thought while live on Dainty Lady TV that dinners should end at 10.30 on a weekday. As they should. I got back into the people carrier at the live location, and returned to headquarters. Genevieve Suzy was occupied in lopping the sleeves off an Anya Hindmarch dress. Who’d have thought that within 24 hours, the world would be rocking on its foundations? Massive pick-up. And a Twitter storm. The Mail Online, the Times, the Graph and the Express (Vanesse de la Feltz elle-meme): all were raving.  Thus it was the Daily Mail (Femail branch) wanted 2000 emergency words on ‘The Perfect Dinner Party’. So I did that at no notice and handed in at 1o a.m. as requested. It wasn’t until 8 hours later, just as I was arriving at Kernow Hellizon’s launch party, that they came back: ‘More personal anecdotes. Hand in by 10pm.’

Phoning the Mail from the street to arrange to phone them again from the party, I wasn’t watching where my clucks were going. Finally in the mansion, I only knew Cecil Beaton’s friend, Patrick O’Connor, the actor. ‘I’ve got to phone the Mail,’ I said. ‘Do you think it’ll be all right? This house might be violently anti-Mail.’ ‘I wouldn’t worry,’ he said, ‘Lady Rothermere is here.’ ‘You look familiar,’ I said to the person with him, who appeared to experience trauma. ‘Long ago, long ago,’ he said, fleeing, Patrick O’Connor having already got away.

Still I had somehow to write a whole new piece for the Daily Mail while standing up at the champagne reception in the Holland Park mansion. I cornered an extraordinarily well-finished young man of obvious important birth and got some copy. They can do anything these people. He thought he was probably a cousin of the Guinnesses. At least, I could say to the nice woman on the Mail, ‘Lady Rothermere’s here, you know.’ From the upstairs landing, I dictated rubbish down the phone, ruining my lovely piece. Coming down the stairs, I met Kernow. He was radiant. Then I grilled the waiter: he was brought in for the evening, not permanent. Only one housekeeper, his friend, live in, attending to just the one Marchioness over 4 double-fronted storeys. Then I was worried I’m get into trouble for fraternising below stairs and asking nosey questions. The Freud daughter was saying, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t RSVP but I never know who’s going to be ill. They’re all at home, you know.’ Suddenly it was my turn to sit on a banquette with the Marchioness: she had a vaguely Sixties look, with coiffure and sleeveless slender frock. She wasn’t like anybody else. Squeezed up close on the banquette, she called out to another,’ This is Adrian Edge: he’s from Dainty Lady TV and he’s fabulous.’ She turned back to me abruptly: ‘Are you married?…. Well, you must come to my Singles night on Monday week. When you write to thank me you can tell me how to get in touch..’ After that I was somehow launched at the party although quite alone there and knowing nobody, except for a few and not being Aristocracy, only Landed Gentry. A literary editor I’d previously thought horrid was nice: she said she’d had the same thing as me with the dinner parties except it was the grocer’s apostrophe. You never know what’s going to happen. An incredible luminous figure was sitting on a sofa. If you’d landed from Mars you’d have known she was different. ‘It’s Kristin Scott Thomas,’ the literary editor said, not being at all, Do-you-really-not-know?

Magic really – the great drawing room, the creatures within, the names, the stars. It really was.

I did write to the Marchioness but was not bidden to the singles party. The dinner party piece never ran in the Mail.

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The Private Dining Room at the Ivy

Thursday 16th November 2017

Anthony Mottram and I took the Private Dining Room at the Ivy to mark jointly our 60th Birthdays, a venture never before attempted by me – I mean a private dining room for 60 where you are the host, or one of them.  ‘Are you enjoying it?’ Merle Barr inquired. She was in an incredible burnt orange top, geometric, self-supporting techno fabric. ‘You’re looking worried.’  Well, it’s worrying looking worried Genevieve Suzy was in an incredible 40s evening housecoat, bought especially. She was not the only Greatness present. How the staff poured the drink. I was in a new Topman weekend check suit, with lengthened jacket (a departure from the jackette) but with spider trews. My shirt was lace in a teal shade, also from Topman.  There was much comment. I tried to get a ‘body’ to wear underneath it. But none were to be had. ‘It’s like sitting next to Jayne Mansfield,’ Robert Nevil remarked. He referred to that film star’s revealing decolletage in her day. Eventually she was decapitated in a car accident. Robert Nevil had a book years ago with a photo purporting to show the actual gruesome scene, over which he used to pore for hours. It could have been anything really.

Anthony Mottram and I made speeches: the great thing is we think alike. Without collaboration we had concocted matching speeches – praising and embracing each other’s brilliance and utter hell and nightmare; down with gush and lovely people. I added in a bit about not being Robert Peston, after the Polperro incident and then catalogued our great contribution to life as she is known – Anthony Mottram and I over 46 years. Front syllable lopping, that’s lopping the front syllables off words,  inserting ‘lady’ into sentences unexpectedly and turning into typing refined speaking as practiced widely in the post-War years by those aspiring socially. Afterwards Rufus Pitman and Reggie Cresswell passed up a note which I thought very grand, as if it were a real pre-War dinner with Emerald and Wallis and the King. It said, ‘But we think your greatest achievement is the reconsideration of the genitive pronoun, as in ‘Lady’s Portrait’ and ‘Evesham’s Vale’ ‘Devonshire’s Duke’ etc’. I’d quite forgotten. How could I? Actually it was Val who started that. He heard of someone in India who said, ‘Lady’s Portrait.’ Also, come to think of it, we’ve translated the London tube stations into French, German and Italian without system, plus some just having ‘Ma’ added as in ‘Mapiccma’ or ‘MaBond’ or simply lopped as in ‘Farm’, or pronounced as by a foreign speaker as in ‘Lie-cester Square.’ When you’ve done so much, I suppose it’s hard to remember it all.

Plots and undercurrents of course. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been a proper Poor Little Rich Gay occasion: only that morning certain people had attempted to contrive a massive weather storm to wipe out the whole event. They failed. The week before there had been further hiss and spit over the fence as it were and rivalry and conduct: Poor Little Rich Gays are not given to agonising as to where their loyalties lie but found all the same that it did not suit them to cross the bridge. Then to the actual dinner: Matt Driver had been shopping at Margaret Howell. Laura Malcolm’s level of outrage at a £200 shirt increased rapidly, as staff continued to pour. ‘I’m earning so much money,’ Matt Driver proclaimed. Meanwhile Genevieve Suzy was trying to penetrate the Ivy Club next door. That’s the place to be: as you may remember, I moved heaven and earth to get in there when it first opened, only to recoil with horror at the decor. Angus Willis accompanied Genevieve in her assault: ‘But I’m Dainty Lady TV‘s Chief Executive,’ she hissed. ‘I’m known! I’m known! I must ascend to the terrace.’ On absolute stoney ground did her words fall. Back in the venue staff were busy pouring. Some young ladies were found to be of interest to the older men for possible club drinks elsewhere later on. Merle Barr acquired a stain. A Brexit spat was brewing between Royston King and Fergus Strachan. They thought each other morons. Joshua Baring and Finn Magnus, the hot boy doc, were sharing boyfriend wisdom: I mean, you know how young people talk: a sort of living agony aunt combined with Jackie magazine but as it happened to you. Joshua also covered Elizabethan embroidery. Matt Driver appeared: he seemed to be crawling on the floor. There had been so much pouring by this time. The topic still Margaret Howell: or maybe it was me, worried that Topman wasn’t good enough. ‘What’s wrong with Topman?’ I wailed, gesturing to my own new weekend check Topman suit. ‘It looks cheap,’ Matt Driver said flatly. Poor Little Rich Gays were delirious actually. They were in their element, making a terrific racket.

Picking over the party afterwards with Anthony Mottram, we agreed it had passed in a blur. One whirred round the room, attending to the guests. But Poor Little Rich Gays were fired up, doing a noble impression of never having been to the Ivy before: the panelled room was agreeable and friendly, or became so by the time our guests had finished with it. A friend of Anthony Mottram’s had said me, ‘I must see more of you. You’re quite crazy.’ 76 bottles had been consumed. Suddenly a thought occurred. How extraordinary! ‘Isn’t it strange how quickly we’ve lost sight of the main purpose of the party?’ ‘What was that?’ Anthony Mottram asked. ‘Why – a display of wealth and power. We’ve quite forgotten.’

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On Foot in Cornwall at 93

Thursday 2nd November 2017

Landhydrock was the object for the second day in creepy Cornwall. It’s an Elizabethan National Trust home, in fact burned down mostly in the late 19th and reconstructed lavishly with central heating and every known comfort. The Robartes family had money, thank God.

The National Trust have re-located the car park to somewhere outside the estate boundary and not provided any road signs. So the Official Car was whirring round in something of a temper to begin with. Once, finally, able to park,  a buggy was spoken of for conveyance to the house, but the Gay Mother wouldn’t hear of it. It was easily half a mile. A good approach although wearisome because you got the full experience of the demesne of Landhydrock and its commanding position at the head of a valley which you wouldn’t do if just zooming up in a motor. I suppose you could call it ‘slo-Stately visiting’ like ‘slo food’. The house of course is low-lying. ‘It’s very manageable,’ I said. The Gay Mother didn’t agree. ‘It looks huge to me.’ I always like to reach out to a Stately and make it my own as well as establish that as people we are rather more upstairs than down. The Gay Mother has no interest in this approach which is disappointing. I like it to be known that I’m one of them, landed, lodge and gates etc.

The Gay Mother paraded all 50 of the rooms, fraternising with the guides who were determined she should take the lift as well as being often considerably older than her. She was allowed to keep her stick which prompted her to recall the Rokeby Venus episode. But there was nothing like that in the house to slash. It’s hideous really but incredibly great in its completeness and thumping top drawer craftsmanship in the endless panelling and wooden archways. Everybody says it’s a happy house, even though it burnt down. By irony it was in the creamery that we made the biggest connection with our own family for there were butter balls displayed. The Gay Granny made butter balls. I said loudly, ‘That was all she did. Apart from knitting dishcloths.’ Otherwise she sat in the Study in the mornings and lay on the sofa in the drawing room after lunch, except when doing committee work of course. Which she did a lot.  Once she found her coffee cup under the drawing room sofa where she’d parked it the day before. Staff, failing to crawl on the drawing room carpet, had not discovered it.

While in the creamery somebody mentioned clotted cream. ‘No such thing,’ the Gay Mother said. ‘There’s cream or ream.’ Well, that was something new. I never knew that. Did you?

We went into the Steward’s Room. ‘This is …. ‘s room,’ she said at once, referring to our own ‘steward’ although we call him a land agent and he doesn’t have a room in any of our properties. I sent him a picture of ‘his’ room, though which he liked.

So we were linked after all.

Then it was the National Trust soup lunch in the old stable or wherever, with tiresome mummies belligerently changing their toddlers’ nappies all round as we lunched, before the half mile walk back to the car. We passed the buggy by the porch and the Gay Mother waved her stick at it. ‘I haven’t been to Polperro for 85 years,’ she said, so off we went. Awful car park, madly expensive and aggressive re: not being allowed to give your ticket to anyone else and cameras watching. No information as to how far to walk. We rounded a corner – massive vista stretching as far as the eye could see, no sign of nooky wooky Cornish fishing village. ‘How far is it?’ the Gay Mother enquired but battled on. It was .75 kilometres. Polperro – why not knock it down and re-build with more space between the buildings? So nooky – and wooky. The boiled down essence of nooky-wooky, although not beamy.

A member of the public approached in Polperro: ‘Excuse me, are you on the telly?’ ‘No, I’m not Robert Peston,’ I said, trying to keep pleasant. But really, it is likely that Robert Peston would be in Polperro on a Wednesday wearing Topman fun slacks in tartan (spray on), a faux linen dress coat also by Topman in silver grey and carrying a second-hand Designer clutch-cum-brief case by Lancel?

So that completed the Cornish visit.

Landhydrock: Not that Big

Landhydrock: Not that Big

Nice Carpet in the Dining Room at Landhydrock

Nice Carpet in the Dining Room at Landhydrock

Light-Switches at Lanhydrock: Aiming to Vintagise my Own Light Switches Soon

Light-Switches at Lanhydrock: Aiming to Vintagise my Own Light Switches Soon

The Steward's Room, Landhydrock. We have a Steward too, but We Call him a Land Agent

The Steward’s Room, Landhydrock. We have a Steward too, but We Call him a Land Agent

Classic Boudoir at Landhydrock: Complete and of Its Time

Classic Boudoir at Landhydrock: Complete and of Its Time

Landhydrock: One of the Drawing Rooms

Landhydrock: One of the Drawing Rooms: Odd Arrangements of Furniture 

Landhydrock: the Butter Balls as Made by the Gay Granny

Landhydrock: the Butter Balls as Made by the Gay Granny

Polperro: for Heaven's Sake

Polperro: for Heaven’s Sake

Polperro: Taking Nooky Wooky a Bit Too Far

Polperro: Taking Nooky Wooky a Bit Too Far

Goodbye to Cornwall: the Pre-Dinner View

Goodbye to Cornwall: the Pre-Dinner View

 

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Three Days Near Looe

Sunday 29th October 2017

Astonishing range of topics from the Gay Mother within minutes of arrival in the Far West: Edwina Mountbatten much to the fore; how wizened and aged she was when seen at the garden party shortly after the War – the biog reveals that the Royal Family were displeased with her over the Paul Robson affair but she was displeased with them; the frozen prawn cupboard at Tesco in a terrible muddle and remained so despite complaint; the marauding pheasants, of course, and the connected visit of the friend of Prince William’s who’d wanted to know about her Euphatorium Ligustrinum (it is the most sacred bush); not to mention, the Iron Age settlements on the Moor and Pendle Moon’s book about Partition, which had to be ordered specially.

We took a gruelling tour of horrid, creepy Cornwall with its poison icing of money and pedigree dogs. But first was a small rellie lunch for my birthday at the Gastro Pub, a visit to the garden of the ancestral home, a harvest festival evensong and Cousin Teddy’s memorial exhibition of paintings followed by outdoor windy lunch. All that branch of the family were eccentric and buried themselves in their house (talk about rambling, but only one generation back in fact) far down in the river valley, writing novels, constructing works of philosophy and painting pictures, caring nothing whether anyone took any notice. Cousin Lunetta got so that she wouldn’t leave that fastness even for a family funeral, let alone a wedding. Yet Cousin Paquita’s father had been intimate with two kings and it was said her mother corresponded privately with Her Present Majesty in her capacity as a White Witch. Cousin Teddy’s Italian grandfather is buried at San Miniato and was a grandee of Firry. One of the Italian aunts was granted the privilege of being able to copy at the Pitti. So they were in the world once but left it. Cousin Teddy’s paintings are covetable when in pewter and sea shades, the green not so good. Too yellow. Landscapes of our beloved places in the Far West. I’m angling to get 4 in the auction, the Gay Mother was given one. In gilt frames, they’ll give the home an ancestral feel and importance at reasonable cost.

So on to sinister Cornwall. We’d quite forgotten Toilet (or Looe) is a big place. The hotel was strangely impenetrable. There was a howling gale and I was anxious to get the Gay Mother, at 93, in. But there was no front door. Just a glassed in veranda full of people having afternoon tea. It turned out you were meant to barge through the door in the glass and manoeuvre selves and luggage around the tea-takers. I got a bit snappy. I’ve never known a hotel more difficult to get into or out of as a matter of fact. A back door was revealed but to get to it you had to pass through the dining room and many passages with squeezy fire-doors. It took me three trips to insert my outfits into the hotel. Trying to hang them up in the room I became overwrought and thought I couldn’t go on.

The one thing the Gay Mother wanted to do was walk in the garden with its sea view in the gale. So that meant another great blast of air for the tea-takers. A wag had been at work. There was a fat man in plaster sitting on a seat; although quite unbelievable as a human being and not a surprise after the first sighting we still jolted every time we saw him. A watering-can watering glass droplets and a cement pig also featured as optical illusions. The next day the Gay Mother announced that we were to visit a church visible from the hotel across several valleys. She said there might be some tablets to some of our remote ancestors. We set off across a terrific field sloping violently towards the sea. My bootees were soaked through. Then there was a stile, cruelly configured so that one of 93 couldn’t climb over it. The desired church was still in view but there was nothing for it but to go back the way we’d come, except the Gay Mother cunningly worked out that by tacking along the bottom of the field and up the other side from the one we’d come down, it would be less steep. When we got back to square one, it turned out we were to walk just as far in the other direction, down an abandoned lane, past an abandoned farm, then all the way back again. No explanation given. At last lunch but the hotel was packed with vicious retired so we had to perch on drawing room arm chairs. Now we attempted the church in the Official Car. But it was brutally locked. We sat in the churchyard for a bit wondering how there could be so many dead in such a tiny place right by the sea. The ancestors with their tablets (if indeed there) will have to wait, possibly for ever, for will the Gay Mother ever go back? Then it was on to the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery to get another Euphatorium Ligustrinum for one of her neighbours plus a silver birch for where the box used to be and one other plant – can’t remember what.

 

Wicked Stile, Impossible for One of 93

Wicked Stile, Impossible for One of 93

Path Along Which We Walked

Path Along Which We Walked

The Longed-Off Church

The Longed-For Church

Yes, But What if you Just Want to Visit the Church?

Yes, But What if you Just Want to Visit the Church? 

Creepy, Menacing Cornwall

Creepy, Menacing Cornwall, From the Hotel Bedroom 

Sea-View

Sea-View

 

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Reggie Cresswell’s Triumphant Ceramic Launch

Wednesday 18th October 2017

Constanza Elford, Reggie’s Publicity Czar, said Reggie had been seen swaying graciously up the street, bearing his new ceramic, or part of it. Would it crash to the ground? Agony. But just right for the new ceramic which everybody agrees pushes to new boundaries including the boundaries of its own existence, as has never been done before. How can a ceramic be so vividly there yet disappear at the same time? All the rules are broken. Reggie has been telling everybody that a village in Berkshire with a peculiar name was to feature somehow, but in the event there is no sign of any village, nor indeed any artistic anchorage such as is normally found in a work of art. Yet the rhythm of assembly and dissolution somehow resolves into a shape and an elegant harmony. Some have clamoured for more ceramic, for a sequel as it were, but Reggie’s ceramic is complete in its incompleteness.

All the world assembled in the same suite of rooms by Robert Adam as the last time Reggie launched a ceramic. ‘Princess Galitzin, do you know Joshua Baring?’ ‘Guinevere Pelham, do you know Joshua Baring?’ So I seemed to be saying more than once. If I could remember who anyone was. Rufus Pitman made brilliant remarks. Joshua Baring disappeared. Robert Nevil was with Lady Eastbourne, who always leaves early. Guy Bostock appeared looking v. spruce in a spray-on jumper. He was accompanied by a charming young man who knew me. I felt completely at home although I didn’t know him which was awful. I don’t remember what he said, but someone people ray out enthusiasm and interest. The content isn’t important. Rufus thought this man is the one Guy is going marry but it wasn’t. But maybe now Guy will switch just because Rufus said… Lord Arrowby was telling Joshua Baring that he’s a nice person. They’ve never got on since the affair of the teeth, but who now remembers what Joshua said about Lord Arrowby’s teeth? It can’t have been that bad. And the lordly teeth are universally acknowledged to be outstanding. It was Lord Arrowby’s birthday that very day. So he deserved special treatment. I explained to him that he’d been talking to a Graham Sutherland owner without knowing it. He doesn’t like that kind of thing. Despite rationing as to drink, I was soon deranged. ‘But you didn’t mention Reggie’s ceramic on television,’ I said to a leading ceramic buyer, with what was supposed to be a playful upward glint. ‘And you are?’ the leading ceramic buyer said. There were various other things that went wrong.

There was another key in which the party played which was all Reggie’s friends from beyond the world of ceramics who might just have heard of the North Circular Road even if they’ve never seen it. There’s Basil who was an early mobile phone user, later dealt in vintage American cars with wings and teeth and now is a film agent; also has a wife, possibly. Basil is absolutely marvellous, endlessly invigorated and renewed, reality completely at his command. Marcel had come all the way from San Francisco, where he is wistful and dreamy. It was like a miracle, seeing him again after all these years.

At this party I became entangled with Kernow Hellizon re: the next party i.e. the launch of Kernow’s latest work. Rather like discussing the menu for dinner while having lunch: very wrong. But I couldn’t grasp that it’s not to be at the Notting Hill Guinness lady’s but another Guinness manifestation in Holland Park. W14 as a matter of fact. This went on and on.

Finally Reggie made a speech in rhyming couplets. He always does this and it’s perfect because the problem of a pre-written speech sounding stilted is overcome. Besides Reggie’s brilliant at rhyming couplets. You can see the rhymes coming without being at all sure what they’ll be nor quite believing them when they come. Incredible anticipation.

 

 

 

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Otherwise in Crete

Sunday 15th October 2017

We had the moonlit beach barbecue and it was magical. Even Charlie Hurling stopped sending surprise film clips of fornicating trees and a mystery penis that sprang from nowhere and whacked some American 1950s cherry-pie jivers to the ground. Merle Barr was concerned. ‘He spends a lot of time looking at pornography,’ she remarked. Merle was i/c the kitty. But on the beach, the kitty melted away in the moonlight. I was wondering how much it would cost not to be in the kitty. Merle’s head for figures was alarming. Once she commanded millions, as Head of Children’s Speaking. ‘I know money,’ she said. She had to fight in her corner. With male gays at her night and day, making lewd remarks at every opportunity. Even a ordinary bush beside the road provoked a lewd remark.  It wouldn’t have gone down well on TV. There’d have been complaints but Charlie Hurling can’t help it.

Walnuts were Angus Willis’s main theme for the Cretan food this time. Walnuts were huge. Chopped into the yoghurt dip for the barbecued aubergine whip, for instance. A close second was octopus, of which Angus is the world leader in cooking. Freeze, then boil then barbecue. Nobody else knows this. Third was rabbit. Fourth was Beans Gigante: no not butterbeans. Incredibly rare and local. The grilling and detail on the beach was a marvel – not least as there’s absolutely nothing in the Cretan shops.

Another day, Charlie Hurling said he only wanted to go to the place on the cover of the guide book Merle had. But he didn’t come to Arani, where Merle pointed out a prospect of two apses at the back of a church – very simple, off-white, absolutely no ornamentation. Just like the picture on the cover of the guide book although not exactly, but near enough. ‘He’d never have known,’ Merle said.  Then Charlie left early for London, saying the rabbit was off, and his beloved Cloudless had been writhing all night and back and forth to the facilities. Later from London he lobbed more penis pictures while enquiring after the wedding equipment of Fern’s husband. Luckily she was once a nurse and has seen everything.

After the barbecue, Angus’s dog bowl or possibly a vintage metal container for chicken feed, missing its handle – anyway it went missing. Had been brought specially from London for styling, Angus was raging round the other Cretan village houses, when word came from his own Cretan village house that it had been found. So that was a mercy. I showed Cloudless Brahms the arrangements in my bedroom, especially the curious half-doors of the wardrobe that made the clothes look like horses stabled. Also the socket mounted out of reach half way up the wall. I knew he’s be interested being in the style world.  In the middle of the night, The Archers theme tune followed by an actual epi of The Archers blared from Charlie and Cloudless’s bedroom. Their feet could be seen through the unclosed door. But no sign of bed socks to match the matching iPhone cover, hat and sponge bag with which Archie was equipped in the daytime. We lunched on the last day at the Fontini Restaurant hard by the sea. Upon arrival I found that I had no clothes for lunch. No trousers, no top, just beach wraps and towels. Miss Miracle kindly lent me a cardy. It became apparent from the stiffness of the button holes that she’d never done it up. ‘I see now the advantage of clothes being unmarked,’ she said, for the first time from the outside, as it were, being able to view the full extent of how her cardy was marked. She was kind enough to add: ‘And how you are never marked.’ I was pleased. Because, as we know, I am afflicted by marks most terribly. I’ve got two at the moment in fact.

Later, as we lounged on the beach in the tragic, thrilling last rays of summer sun before London and the winter, Merle confined that she’d had a dream. Dinner guests were arriving but there was a hippo in her garden. The guests peered out and discovered further wildlife such as not normally found in Islington – lions, tigers etc. ‘It’s rather hazardous in your garden,’ they said, making light of it. But Merle was in a bind trying to think of how to get rid of the hippo. It could crash through the wall and straight into her dinner party. I suppose this was a hostess-anxiety dream. Even so, it would be frightful to find dangerous animals unaccountably on the premises just as one was about to begin service, especially hippos which crash through walls and are really horrid.

Once the kitty was settled up – I owed €97.42 – we all returned to London by air.

Beach Barbecue: the Actual Barbecue

Beach Barbecue: the Actual Barbecue

Beach Barbecue: Peppers to be Barbecued

Beach Barbecue: Peppers to be Barbecued

Octopus in Final Stages of Barbecue

Octopus in Final Stages of Barbecue

Beach Barbecue: Pre-Styling

Beach Barbecue: Pre-Styling

Angus Willis's Dog Bowl that was Lost then Found. That which Was Lost was Found

Angus Willis’s Dog Bowl that was Lost then Found. That which Was Lost was Found

Moonlit Beach Barbecue's Magic

Moonlit Beach Barbecue’s Magic

Charlie Hurling: Matching iPhone cover from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Charlie Hurling: Matching iPhone cover from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Charlie Hurling: Matching Sponge Bag

Charlie Hurling: Matching Sponge Bag

Charlie Hurling: Hat to Match iPhone cover and sponge bag. Taken from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Charlie Hurling: Hat to Match iPhone cover and sponge bag. Taken from Wallpaper at the Beverley Wilshire Hotel Los Angeles

Typical Charlie Hurling whatsApp photo shocker

Typical Charlie Hurling whatsApp photo shocker

Curious Stabling for Frockage in my Room at the Cretan Village House

Curious Stabling for Frockage in my Room at the Cretan Village House

Socket Half Way up Wall Required Upending of Vase which had Formerly Held Those Lovely Flowers

Socket Half Way up Wall Required Upending of Vase which had Formerly Held Those Lovely Flowers

 

 

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It Was a Perfect Day

Monday 9th October 2017

So finally it came. On Sunday 1st October, in a simple Cretan Village House, I took 60 years. It was a great relief, after much dread, when it came. Cloudless Brahms did a special flower arrangement. He is one of Shoreditch’s leading flower arrangers, amongst many other things and no longer buys Designer Labels, although with finger brilliantly on the pulse of fashion. It was incredible. I felt more alive, not less, as logic would dictate.

Merle Barr suggested a gorge. ‘It’s your birthday,’ she said. ‘You must decide.’ Well, I was quite decided on the gorge. And what a coup it turned out to be. I took the wheel and only ladies accompanied, Merle herself and Fern, Angus’s sister. Both played brilliantly the role of ladies in a car being driven by a man. ‘You’re too close to the edge… I feel queasy… why have you slowed down?…. you’re going too slowly… you’re in the wrong gear… I feel queasy… go faster…’ At journey’s end, Fern said she was beginning to recover. I was not sure how we would get back, me having started out more or less able to drive. In the cement village before the gorge, Merle said, ‘There’s a tourist bus outside that restaurant.’ So we went to the other one, which was cement that had once been painted yellow ochre. There was a Cretan boy playing with a puppy and several fat men way off fitness’s peak having Sunday lunch, one also blotchy. A woman was on her feet and serving but spoke no English so the blotchy man had to be consulted, as well as the puppy boy, who howled ‘No’ very firmly in English when asked if he could speak English. Greek salad was agreed upon, despite absence of English, as well as water and beer. The woman appeared with a huge bowl of the salad which we set about dividing between us when she appeared with two more – one each. Then she loomed with beans of various kinds. I said, ‘She’s going to bring an uninvited rabbit next.’ Luckily she didn’t because we were facing a huge Angus Willis dinner (only one of Britain’s leading chefs) back at the Cretan Village House. But she did bring water melon and raki. There was talk as to what it would all cost. Merle and Fern betted on €12 – and they were right.

Then we went to the gorge. It was like Germany or Scotland rather than Crete. Dank and ferny although there were no ferns or conifers. I had high outfit satisfaction. I was buoyant enough on my 60th birthday for the Prada flower power t-shirt (I didn’t get the matching shorts from the Prada Factory shop in Montevarchi, Italy – regret. I could carry them off now, in my 60s. What an ensemble that would have been for the gorge!). Merle had mentioned suitable hiking wear but I had taken no notice. She had a rucksack. But it was just a muddy path, although very gorge-like with rock veering above. There was a little chapel with many icons. Val would have said it was a Chapel of Love, as, so he claims, Barbara Cartland proclaimed of many chapels that she saw with a particularly sincere and moving upward purr in her voice. But I wonder, in retrospect, whether it wasn’t a Last Chance to Be Spared in the Gorge Chapel. Further on we met a Polish couple from Harlesden. We wondered, out of earshot, whether he was Roma. Then suddenly they weren’t there. There were many interesting plants in the gorge, which at home are choice garden specimens. ‘We must climb down,’ said Merle. The whole tempo of the gorge suddenly changed, as if someone had changed the points on a railway line. Ladders, scree, precarious bridges. On a precipice some Spanish people wanted their photo taken. They were insistent as to angles. I had to stand near the edge and put my brief case/clutch bag by Lancel down. ‘Throw off that bag if you stumble,’ Merle commanded, thinking now of danger. ‘Save yourself, not the bag.’ As if…  a violent final push and we were at the bottom of the gorge.  It was like a river bed. But how to get out again? The path was not clear. To go back the way we had come would have been tedious, if we could find even that way. A cleft between boulders possibly had been trodden before, offered hope. To get to it an especially smooth rock slope had to be conquered, unlikely to be fatal, but tricky. With my Designer bag by Lancel (2nd hand from Vestiaire Collective), I was limited to one free hand so the only choice was to take a running leap. My new Zara slacks in honey beige made full contact but by a miracle weren’t marked. Paul Smith’s bootees slid and yapped with their own life. Only by my fingers, such as were not employed in keeping the bag by Lancel clear, did I cling on and without quite knowing how reach the top more or less horizontal. Then it was Merle’s turn. What a drama! It was more that we might not get out rather than die. On we forged, the clambering pathway continuing mercifully until a sign in Greek pointing the other way. But hope and excitement were mounting. How utterly thrilling to be at the bottom of a gorge without warning, in Crete, in an outfit, with a Designer bag, on my 60th birthday.

We got out and went to a particularly good Cretan village picked out by Merle. It was styled as tumbledown. In the cemetery Hitler had apparently been buried. Growing in the wall was a Marvel of Peru, as grown this year by the Gay Mother. Back at the Cretan village house we had a rabbit dinner by Angus Willis, outdoors with a big gale getting up and Miss Miracle, the daughter of Fern and niece of Angus, getting more than usually stained at the table. The last throws of summer and my birthday. It was a perfect day.

Cloudless Brahms - one of Shoreditch's Leading Flower Arrangers

Cloudless Brahms – one of Shoreditch’s Leading Flower Arrangers

The Cretan Birthday Gorge: Very Gorge-Like

The Cretan Birthday Gorge: Very Gorge-Like

The Gorge Chapel of Love

The Gorge Chapel of Love

My Bag by Lancel in the Gorge

My Bag by Lancel in the Gorge

Fern, Merle and Me, Adrian Edge, in Prada Flower Power, in the Gorge

Fern, Merle and Me, Adrian Edge, in Prada Flower Power, in the Gorge

The Village of Arani, Styled

The Village of Arani, Styled

HItler's Grave at Last? Buried in the Cemetery at Arani

HItler’s Grave at Last? Buried in the Cemetery at Arani

A Marvel of Peru Growing Wild at Arani

A Marvel of Peru Growing Wild at Arani

 

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Missing Pink

Friday 29th September 2017

Pink’s been and gone – or has it? Pink looked huge in the Spring.  Couldn’t be missed. Rack upon rack at Zara and elsewhere. But I didn’t catch it. The Summer flew away and with it pink. I didn’t even signal to dear readers the necessity for pink.

The horror of baggy and sacky still looms for the autumn though. The high houses are trying to push it. Let’s pray and pray the High Street doesn’t follow. How could they? The spray-on slacks and jackette look is the most flattering of my lifetime. Slim, slim, pared down and slim – we’ve seen it off once before, the threat of baggy. Prada is beyond belief. Gucci is loud blankets held on with belts. Barely even clothes. I went to Dover Street Market, now not in Dover Street. Completely mystifying. Grey, navy or black. Awful textures, cheap-looking. The idea is baggy trousers to just below the knee, giving the effect of a skirt, from which emerge starving stick legs ending in big boots. A tragic sack of a jumper hanging from emaciated shoulders. It’s a depression look for self-loathers and non-eaters.

Spring Pink Which I Missed at Zara

Spring Pink Which I Missed at Zara

More Missed Spring Pink at Zara

More Missed Spring Pink at Zara

But Autumn Sees Dirty Plum - Liberty

But Autumn Sees Dirty Plum – Liberty

Even a PInk Shoe at Liberty

Even a PInk Shoe at Liberty

Gucci Horror

Gucci Horror

Prada Sitting Down - Hiking Outfit

Prada Sitting Down – Hiking Outfit

More Prada Nightmare

More Prada Nightmare

Prada - What Can They be Thinking of ?

Prada – What Can They be Thinking of ?

Prada - I Don't Think So

Prada – I Don’t Think So

Wooly Plum for Autumn - Liberty

Wooly Plum for Autumn – Liberty

Someone Actually Wearing Tom Ford in Albemarle Street Pret

Someone Actually Wearing Tom Ford in Albemarle Street Pret

 

 

 

 

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Moira McMatron Left Normandy

Friday 15th September 2017

Nobody has ever left Normandy before. But Moira McMatron left Normandy although not until she’d sung her song about Miss Pineapple, charming, innocent and being worked off the back axle by her mother to lure paying men. Moira twirled her imaginary parasol and was a perfect picture. Then she left Normandy. Her sister’s back was broken at Jerez. She had to fly out.

The Laird and Lairdess also left but they were scheduled. Moira McMatron was put in the back of the Laird’s Toureng for transport to England, whence she would connect by air for Jerez. Through the back window she beamed and waved, still the perfect picture. Prior to departure, the Laird asked what is the difference between a warranty and a guarantee –  the answer is none. Before even that, at the day’s opening, he announced that he had bulimia and amnesia, which worked out well, because he ate then forgot to throw up, although it is questionable whether in that case he had either, because most people forget to throw up after eating.  The Lairdess was confined to her room without fail in the mornings until, at 11, she emerged completely finished and assumed a lounger. On the other hand, the Laird was underway much earlier; he said, Why does all left-wing food stick to the roof of the mouth, such as lettuce and peanut butter? In Waitrose, he’d asked for the Left-Wing Food section.

But they left Normandy. The Lairdess’s prosecco stock had been replenished in the glove compartment for the journey. Matt Driver was still marked as  ‘Matey Matt’, though, by the reduced party of me, Adrian Edge, Beamish O’Halloran and Laura Malcolm herself, of course. So ‘Matey Matt’ decided to age his chateau fragment by daubing it in cow pat and milk but Beamish took little notice. In the afternoon we found that a nearby supposedly whole chateau was open and couldn’t resist. But a country house visit in France is nothing compared to what it would be in England. This one had nothing in it. It was a modest family home. We were shown one medieval nook in a bedroom. ‘Et le salon?’ Laura snapped at the hapless girl-guide, as we were bundled off the premises and into the cider-selling department. Like yappy dogs, Laura and I jumped up in protest at what might have been the salon windows, to get a glimpse.  Ikea within, by the looks.

Later Laura’s cardy caught fire at dinner. ‘That’s my favourite cardy,’ she cried. But it was saved in time and continued in service, although slightly charred.

It was the next day that ‘Matey Matt’ began to dig a grave outside the front gate. Or perhaps the day after. The sun shone as he dug, but it didn’t shine when we went over to Villerville for a restaurant lunch with one who’d been a guest at the fete champetre. That’s how it is in Norman life – one function spawns another. The previous guest now hosts. We had canapes in her parlour. After the restaurant lunch she encouraged us to raid the town allotment. My designer handbag was stuffed with runner beans and we scuttled for the getaway car, just in time. Furious French allotmentiers were rumoured to be looming.

When the sun came out again, ‘Matey Matt’ continued his digging while Laura was in the kitchen. She said,  In London you can have tomatoes in entertaining different colours. There was a bizarre collective mis-memory as we watched Up Down after dinner. Roberts arrived back in Eaton Square, still dripping wet from having gone down in the Titanic. She might have been saved, but Milady was lost and there was only her jewel case to cling on to at all costs. Eventually Roberts had to be put away from the trauma. Rose said she’d been put away. A Seccie was got in to answer the letters of condolence and began stepping out with Captain James. Very wrong. Especially as she lived in Putney. But we were all quite certain it was Mr Bellamy she married in the end. We persisted with this idea even at the extremes of her courtship at the Café Royale and all through Captain James’s proposal of marriage and no sign of Mr Bellamy marrying her instead. We’d only viewed this epi a year or two before as the highlight of a classic Norman evening.

A New Bucket Donated by Me, Adrian Edge, to the Norman Chateau Fragment is Immediately Pressed into Unforeseen Service

A New Bucket Donated by Me, Adrian Edge, to the Norman Chateau Fragment is Immediately Pressed into Unforeseen Service

'Matey Matt's Pot Corner

‘Matey Matt’s Pot Corner

'Matey' Matt Digs a Grave - Right by the Front Gate

‘Matey’ Matt Digs a Grave – Right by the Front Gate

Laura's Cardy Caught Fire: But Saved in the Nick for Further Wear

Laura’s Cardy Caught Fire: But Saved in the Nick for Further Norman Wear

 

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