Chelsea Simply Shattering

Wednesday 24th May 2017

The Gay Mother’s party (she bought the tickets but isn’t present) of Aunt Lavinia, poor little Robert Nevil, Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver are at Chelsea as we speak. I’m to join them for the dinner afterwards at Carrafini. I was there on Monday for the Press/Celebrity preview. The massive highlight was Vanesse de la Feltz’s partner’s spray-on jeans. You may remember last year on an ordinary RHS day, we had Evan Davis in an extreme booted jean look. But the partner of Vanesse de la Feltz went further. Also absolutely mega that the move to baggy (oh no! oh no!) is being repelled at the highest level.

This year there are only eight show gardens. Going round at the Press/Celebrity preview with Royston King, who knows everybody, we encountered a knight who runs Westminster. He said he’d been begged to organise a show garden. All the greatnesses in the garden world  – we had private confab with them all – were shuddering. Our greatest height by far, though, occurred beside  the Commonwealth War Graves garden in the artisan gardens section. Sir Timothy Lawrence, Her Majesty’s son-in-law! Yes, we had private audience! Were addressed personally. He was delighted to meet me, Adrian Edge. Royston gently nudged about the Keeper’s House at Greenwich. Sir Lawrence was ashamed to say he’d not been there but now he will. Access will be improved, all being well.

Back to the flowers: my highlight was Daisy Roots in the pavilion. This is the stand of a Hertfordshire nursery. Delightful. And making a huge claim, without appearing to do so: Verbascum are back. They used to be huge 25 years ago. Verbascum Helen Johnson was all the rage, being brown. Then they’d had their day. Now they’re back. New forms have been created, including one called ‘Merlin’ – an incredible dirty mauve and, to replace Helen Johnson who always died, Firedance. But don’t expect them to persist anyway. Treat as annuals. You’ll get light airy sprays early in the season when often there’s a gap to fill.  In addition try Gainsborough (sulpur yellow) and Cotswold Queen (red and yellow). They vary in size. Some get very tall. I’ve got a horrid one flowering at the moment in my garden called Rosetta – a really nasty dirty pink. But a small white one called White Bride is more or less worth having. My plants needed to be bigger. I might try to keep it for next year. The nurserywoman said Don’t let them set seed if you want them to come back.

So, Poor Little Rich Gays, here and throughout the world, grown verbascums to be rare and different.

But the showgardens – only 8 showgardens. Glaring gaps inexpertly filled with a photography exhib. Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley garden – fearsome block planting in clashing colours, ghastly great slab of a pavilion in orange wood hideously dumped in the middle of it. Maggie’s Garden – dismal grey pit. Wellington College Bursary Garden – as Royston said, is this what it’s come to: public school advertising its egalitarian aspirations? The label said, ‘The concept of breaking down the barriers to public school education lies at the heart of the garden, whilst the synaptic activity governing our thought process is also referenced.’ This last bit hoped to explain the ruinous rusty metal structures plonked over the meadow-planting (do think of something else: we’ve had enough of meadow planting). Also salvia caradonna – which was everywhere – such a dreary plant. Best in Show garden at least had nice stone. But why it is all about Malta? Why have we suddenly got to be exercised about Malta? Nobody goes there. We met the designer. He had on a thick wool three piece suit. Obviously had been planning different weather. He had it on the next day too, for the TV. Must have come up to London with only one outfit. Lovely pool in the this garden. But square stone pillars close together? You couldn’t garden between them. You couldn’t walk on them, let alone lie or sit. So what is it exactly?

Some of the gardens across the top quite nice. A cabbage patch. Sarah Raven – ‘entirely pointless’, a huge garden figure declared. We got quite keen on the Radio 2 texture garden of Jeremy Vine (he had planted one Californian poppy apparently). The designer was present: classic horticulture good-looking. V. craggy face, tiny recessed eyes, blond and bronzed of course, about 25. Immaculate stone slacks, nippy jersey polo shirt in navy. Posh yob manner. Actually from Richmond.

Even so, the garden was embryonic.

I’m very sorry to say, Chelsea is absolutely shattering this year. Shatteringly awful. And thin on the ground.

Verbascum Cotswold Queen: Chelsea's Most Important Message this Year

Verbascum Cotswold Queen: Chelsea’s Most Important Message this Year

Verbascum 'Merlin' Fabulous Vile Colour: Vital for Next Year

Verbascum ‘Merlin’ Fabulous Vile Colour: Vital for Next Year

Radio 2 Texture Garden: Quite Liked

Radio 2 Texture Garden: Quite Liked But Not These Zig-Zags

Radio 2 Texture Garden: Plain Grey Wall All Right - but don't Muck About with It

Radio 2 Texture Garden: Plain Grey Wall All Right – but don’t Muck About with It

Sarah Raven Effort: 'Entirely Pointless' a Greatness said. Also a Mess in Graphs

Sarah Raven Effort: ‘Entirely Pointless’ a Greatness said. Also a Mess in Graphs

Best in Show: What do you Think?

Best in Show: What do you Think? That’s the Designer in his Heavy Wool Suit: Nice Man 

Commonwealth War Graves Garden: Scene of Meeting and Audience with Sir Timothy Lawrence, the Queen's Son-in-Law

Commonwealth War Graves Garden: Scene of Meeting and Audience with Sir Timothy Lawrence, the Queen’s Son-in-Law

My Favourite: Floor of Sculpture Park Exhibit

My Favourite: Floor of Sculpture Park Exhibit

Chris Beardshaw: What are you Thinking of?

Chris Beardshaw: What are you Thinking of?

Chris Beardshaw: No! No! No!

Chris Beardshaw: No! No! No!

Maggie's Garden: Grey Pit

Maggie’s Garden: Grey Pit

Wellington College Synapse Brain Public School Bursary Garden

Wellington College Synapse Brain Public School Bursary Garden

Label for Wellington College Garden: Just so You Can see I haven't Made it Up

Label for Wellington College Garden: Just so You Can see I haven’t Made it Up

 

 

 

 

 

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Chelsea Show Flower – Massive Press Pre-View

Monday 22nd May 2017

Absolutely massive and preview. Chelsea Flower Show 2017. I won’t spoil your enjoyment – of course Poor Little Rich Gays here and throughout the world will be flocking tomorrow and for the rest of the week.

Vanesse de la Feltz paddling in the pool of the Yorkshire County Garden. The partner of Vanessa de la Feltz – his spray-on jeans. Hugh Bonneville, Anneka, Mary Berry, Lord Linley (as was) in very humble hut in a dank corner. At length I teamed up with Royston King. Only 8 show gardens this year. Mostly new designers. We met the designer of a side-garden, Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Texture Garden. He’d used grey-ed York stone. As for Chris Beardshaw – what can he have been thinking of? Block planting, orange and blue?

Couldn’t make any progress with Royston: he knew every other person. Head of Operations, BBC, Sir Richard, Deputy Leader of Westminster Council, Head of Horticulture Kew, Head of the Garden Museum, Lambeth, Sir Timothy Lawrence…. yes, Sir Timothy Lawrence! He referred to ‘my wife’. He’s President of Commonwealth Graves Commission possibly.

To be that near the Throne.

Vanesse de la Feltz: Partner

Vanesse de la Feltz: Partner

IMG_0644 IMG_0645 IMG_0698 IMG_0690 IMG_0693 IMG_0719 IMG_0655 IMG_0711 IMG_0659 IMG_0716 IMG_0715

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Val Buys Hastings

Wednesday 17th May 2017

The official car went down to Hastings with Val, imperial, in it. The idea was for Val to sell London, buy in Hastings for less and have capital in hand. In addition, the seaside will bring happiness, especially with capital in hand. So why were all the properties scheduled for viewing the same price more or less as the London residence is intended to fetch?  The first one we looked at was an old nunnery beside a busy road so much at the back of Hastings as to be effectively elsewhere. The drawing room had a dim religious air, the only light coming from a stained glass window of great inferiority high in the wall. Otherwise there were no rooms, only corridors half-heartedly partitioned. The second one was airy with a good entrance lobby – a terraced house in a dreary stringy road but all right inside. ‘Why are you moving?’ Val Lady Bracknell-ed at the owner. ‘You don’t have to answer,’ he added terrifyingly. In any case, Val wasn’t having her house. Too much uphill. Val only walks these days if attended. Finally we saw a dwelling in a twittern, very near Angus Willis’s sacred Tudor House. It’s jammed right up against all the other houses, with only a tiny walkway or twittern between. There’s not a square-inch of the place that doesn’t need renovation but Val’s hell-bent. He totally wouldn’t look at much cheaper houses of the same size in another part of the town. Val will be elevated to a twittern and that’s that.

We were lent Genevieve Suzy’s seaside mansion for the night. It was enchanting to be living someone else’s life. I wasn’t up to battling over to Angus and Fergus’s out of town cottage for a barbie (they retire there at night from the glare and publicity of Hastings)  and all the restaurants were booked. I had a brain-wave.  Hastings, being by the sea, is a fish town. There are fish and chip shops. One I had been to years ago with Angus and Fergus. It seemed to have an arrangement for ‘take-away’ from the back door. Would we? Could we? We did. It was so simple to manage. You carry your wrapped fish and chips home with you. In the mansion, we styled yours into plates and made a dinner in that way. Incredible fun. We felt so new and daring. Val also had his sandwich from Marks and Spencer to finish up. He’d particularly wanted the Copidex and celery. All over her house, Genevieve had stationed chocolate treats, Easter eggs and tins of luxury biscuits. There was no perspective that wasn’t thus adorned. Too late Val discovered that we could have had Sauce Tartare with the fish and chips: there was a jar of mayo, as well as jars of gherkins and capers.

The next day Hastings was threatening to have its May Day celebrations which are horrid. A lot of people cover themselves in green paint. It’s awful. They look so awful. Their skin turns grey. The leaves cut and strewn everywhere wilt.  It’s squalor and decay rather than lovely green Spring as intended. There’s a really creepy giant doll paraded about. Can’t bear it. Once I thought differently but I’ve badly turned against Hastings May Day celebrations.

On the way back we stopped off at Great Dixter and Val bucked up. The joy and energy of that place never fails. A lot out but the main impression was of the ground thickly covered with plants about to burst forth. The real thing, unlike the dreadful throttled greenery dying all over Hastings town for the May Day celebrations.

 

We Took Fish and Chips back to Genevieve Suzy's Mansion

We Took Fish and Chips back to Genevieve Suzy’s Mansion:Have you Ever had Fish and Chips?

Fish and Chips is Wrapped for Transport: Val had His Carried by Me

Fish and Chips is Wrapped for Transport: Val had His Carried by Me

Genevieve's Biscuit Corner

Genevieve’s Biscuit Corner

Genevieve's Hall Easter Egg

Genevieve’s Hall Easter Egg

Genevieve's Choc Bunnies

Genevieve’s Choc Bunnies

Genevieve's

Genevieve’s Cake Corner

Horrid Creepy Hastings May Day Celebrations

Horrid Creepy Hastings May Day Celebrations

Frightful Rubbish: Hastings May Day Carry-On

Frightful Rubbish: Hastings May Day Carry-On: Look at Those Trainers. Very Traditional, to be Sure

 

 

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Mrs Bone Sadly Took

Monday 15th May 2017

Mrs Bone, the last of our old retainers, has died ay 91. She was seven years in the nursing home, always knowing us but often variable as to where exactly she was.

Her funeral followed quite swiftly at the crem, Friday last.

At Christmas we couldn’t visit her as usual because the Gay Mother wasn’t well (same cold as the Queen). We could have gone in February or even March but idleness prevailed or a feeling that she wouldn’t have noticed anyway whether we’d visited or not.

But maybe she did. Maybe she died in agony that her old employer never came. Although the Gay Mother did go in January.

Anyway she never got her Christmas present from me.

The Gay Mother was present at the crem. She went in by taxi because of road works nearby. In the end quite a few attended. It was feared that Mrs Bone’s world had gone on before, but it hadn’t quite. In truth she never courted popularity and was given to bizarre outbursts of hostility even in her prime but her work was excellent. The dining room floorboards under the windows after her attentions with the Mansion wax! She’d been trained in a farmhouse from 14. She did the drawing room on Fridays – you couldn’t believe it was the same room afterwards, so did it purr with new life and luxury.

‘New Every Morning’ was sung at her funeral but really it was a farewell to one who’d gone many years before. Afterwards Mrs Bone’s son, who rose beyond the village, drove the Gay Mother on to her next appointment, in a last gesture of service to the Gentry perhaps.  She’d planned a taxi but Mrs Bone’s son drove her instead.

Mrs Bone's Christmas Present in the Luggage Room: Never Now to be Received by Her

Mrs Bone’s Christmas Present in the Luggage Room: Never Now to be Received by Her

 

 

 

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Summer or Winter?

Wednesday 10th May 2017

Which is worse – summer or winter? I think summer because of the gardening. Not that gardening doesn’t begin in January or December or November. Does it ever end? But there isn’t the furious roar of Nature growing away to be contended with. I killed myself in the garden before leaving for the Gay Mother’s for Easter. Now it’s all to be done again as I prepare to depart for the May visit. This lack of rain and persistent dust doesn’t help. We’ve lunches Saturday and Sunday so outfits to be planned – not easy when it’s lunch on a farm. Also in summer being more outdoors you are more seen, so clothes can’t be left to look after themselves. Plus there is more travelling. For instance at the next bank holiday I visit Scotland again as last year with The Laird (laminated itinerary cards) and Lairdess, plus Laura Malcolm, Matt Driver, Beamish O’Halloran and Moira McMatron. Luckily I’ve managed to secure a fresh supply of suitable tartan outfits, plus making do with last year’s tartan. Incredible strain of squeezing all this into a walk-on case.

Glyndebourniana, the Buckingham Palace opening, picnics – an agony of packing and detail. One longs for the autumn, then before you know it, it’s Christmas and the caravan of luggage sets out for the Far West days in advance.

Tomorrow Genevieve Suzy and I visit Highclere on Dainty Lady TV business. Apparently we’re to be received exclusively by the Countess. Lunch was offered initially then abolished.

Last Friday I took a Wyndham Lewis Tour climaxing at the Imperial War Museum and lunch in the Orpen Room. Next Thursday is the Queen’s Gallery opening for Canaletto.

But I digress. Here are my tulips for this year. The back garden ones have been preserved by the cold weather; the others were over weeks ago.

The Front Area Tulips: All Meant to be Brown: Brown Sugar, Cairo and Belle Epoque. Well, it wasn't Belle Epoque

The Front Area Tulips: All Meant to be Brown: Brown Sugar, Cairo and Belle Epoque. Well, it wasn’t Belle Epoque but a Glaring Orange Double Tulip

The Top Terrace Tulips: Shirley, Cheers and Spring Green Intended. No Idea What this Pink Thing is

The Top Terrace Tulips: Shirley, Cheers and Spring Green Intended. No Idea What this Pink Thing is

The Back Garden: the Right Tulips: Couleur Cardinal, Arabian Mystery, Bleu Aimable, Abu Hassan (otherwise known as Abu Hamaz). The Gay Mother had Overspill, but Didn't Like Arabian Mystery. Liked Bleu Aimable.

The Back Garden: the Right Tulips: Couleur Cardinal, Arabian Mystery, Bleu Aimable, Abu Hassan (otherwise known as Abu Hamaz). The Gay Mother had Overspill, but Didn’t Like Arabian Mystery. Liked Bleu Aimable, Which isn’t in this Picture. Well, it is not Not Quite Out 

 

 

All the Right Tulips: Couleur Cardinal, Abu Hassan, Arabian Mystery and Bleu Aimable: according to catalogue supposed to flower at different times

All the Right Tulips: Couleur Cardinal, Abu Hassan, Arabian Mystery and Bleu Aimable: according to catalogue supposed to flower at different times

At Last in this Picture, you can See all Four Tulips

At Last in this Picture, you can See all Four Tulips

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Works in Progress

Monday 1st May 2017

For almost a year now a programme of restoration and improvement has been underway at my London home, indicating a very full life or an empty one depending on your point of view.

The guiding principles have been light-touch conservation as practised by the National Trust, a deep mis-trust of anything modern, eBay and online antique buying (driving all over the country to view and acquire), ousting of modern furniture and the feeling always hovering at the back of the mind of Buckingham Palace – which does have some stains as a matter of fact.

Seven new antique pieces have been acquired for the drawing room and the 70s coffee table sold on eBay to a man from Caterham.

A new Gustavan-type chandelier arrived from Germany for the back drawing room, which needed to be oumphed up generally. No, chandelier in the back drawing room for the first 20 years of residence! A gilt mirror is still yearned over over the fireplace there -as the final touch for the time being.

The front drawing room chandelier, damaged in the move here 20 years ago, has finally been repaired. For 20 years it lurched at a drunken angle.

So the drawing room is now a maze of little Directoire and top class French brothel side-tables, plus a trolley with pineapple finials which nobody likes and a gilt cane window seat which only cost £120 on eBay (fetched from Long Crendon, the village lived in by Aunt Lavinia’s mother who always said, ‘Long Crendon was the worst mistake of my life.’ That was in fact all she said latterly) which is the most liked of the new pieces.

A programme of framing a massive back-log of art works that have been sitting in drawers for years has been undertaken, resulting in three lunches with my framer in Kensington Church Street and one more to go – the Madonna del Parto is still with him. The vision of entirely old frames didn’t quite come off, but such old frames as have been bought are a success and the modern ones are what one would expect from Kensington Church Street and have an excellent aura.

Where would one be without one’s framer?

The framing exercise led to a re-hang and the problem of dust-marks and old holes in the walls from the previous picture hooks. Polyfilla, a little bit of Flash and some of the original paint from the tin, dirtied with a tiny bit of Raw Umber, have done wonders.

The home is theatre and not every blemish is noticed.

In the entrance hall I want the effect of massed hanging lights as seen in the chapel of St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert. Two chandeliers so far – eBay – and I crave more – a forest.

No time to cover everything now: the new beds, mattresses, hanging shades in the bedrooms re-made by Val, the new curtains in the back bedroom on the 1st floor…

In my bathroom on the 4th floor, a gap left by Miroslav at the floor’s edge – no filler would take. Just split and crumbled away. Finally I applied Unibond to the grout mix. That was lumpy so I cut a lot of it out, putting Polyfilla on top then over-painting with Humbrol model paint bought at an art shop in Shoreditch. It has in fact split again, but best not to look too closely. From a distance the effect is delicious.

Under the radiator in my bedroom, the seagrass had been all but destroyed by the endless upheaving of the plumber. The epic struggle to get that radiator working… In Angus Willis’s Hasting Home Store I saw some great rolls of edged hessian. Just the thing. I bought in September after the Michel Roux Hidden Kitchen lunch and drove myself to cut and fit in time for my Easter departure for the Far West. Having that task hanging over me another minute would have been unbearable. Val edged the cut hessian with his edger and I sprayed carpet adhesive to stick it down. Only some of the glue soaked through and not even talcum power would obliterate it.

Re-Hang on the Stairs: Solves the Problem of Scuffed Paintwork. Put Pictures and Visitors Keep Away from the Walls. But Now I've Heard of a Super Washable Emulsion Paint so Must Have the Hall and Stairs Re-Done with That

Re-Hang on the Stairs: Solves the Problem of Scuffed Paintwork caused by Passers-By. Put Pictures and They Keep Away from the Walls. But Now I’ve Heard of a New Super Washable Emulsion Paint so Must Have the Hall and Stairs Re-Done with That

Paintwork Restored after Re-hanging in the Drawing Room

Paintwork Restored after Re-hang of the Drawing Room

Back Drawing Room Re-Hang: My Boscoe Holders. The Pictures Now on the Stairs Were Here Before (See Previous Pic)

Back Drawing Room Re-Hang: My Boscoe Holders. The Pictures Now on the Stairs Were Here Before (See Previous but One Pic)

My Van Gogh by Rudi Patterson

My Van Gogh by Rudi Patterson

My Latest Rudi Patterson

My Latest Rudi Patterson

The Bathroom Infill Site: At Last as Right as It's Ever Going to Be after 10 Years of Effort

The Bathroom Infill Site: At Last as Right as It’s Ever Going to Be after 10 Years of Effort

The Hessian from Angus Willis's Shop Installed After the Radiator Where the Seagrass Had Been so Endlessly Torn up by the Plumber

The Hessian from Angus Willis’s Shop Installed After the Radiator Where the Seagrass Had Been so Endlessly Torn up by the Plumber

 

 

 

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Harry Rollo Saves Poor Little Rich Gays

Friday 28th April 2017

Monday was Harry Rollo’s great performance. If a bomb had dropped on the performance area such a swathe of vital Poor Little Rich Gays would have been wiped out.  It was so darling, darling before.  Names, names, names. What a garden! `Kernow Hellizon was accompanied by one so close to the Throne he is as good as on it, at least one buttock. There was Reggie Cresswell with Mercy Applause and Lord Arrowby in the reversible mac by Dries – the plain fawn side  for government wear, the paisley for later. Magnus Finn, the hot boy doc, as always, was with. They were charming to Prince Dmitri apparently, sat just in front of them. Rufus Pitman was released from an Austrian clinic for the occasion, substantially reduced in scale, possibly re-grown in a petri dish in fact, with Raj Zoroaster glinting at his side, cooking up naughty left-wing schemes, no doubt. My inner party was Sebastian Archer, looking more and more like God or Tolstoy, Robert Nevil (unspeakable, of course) and Anthony Mottram of Prague. We also had Archie Armitage and Fabien-Boris Claude both gleaming after many Iron Man contests and mountain cycling programmes.

It was all so darling. There was a detectable rustle as we entered the performance area. People always know even if they’ve no idea who we are. I was in the Zara military coat with gold buttons.

What a coincidence! A massive figure was right in our row, the one who booted out the Trustees of one of our greatest Statelies in a blaze of publicity and before that was ragingly entrepreneurial on the national scene and a tremendous intimate and former colleague of Sebastian Archer’s. Incredible that we should all book the same row.

So the performance began. Even by the interval, any cruelty and trouble of the Poor Little Rich Gays had fallen away. Robert Nevil, even, was transported. But the performance was the Poor Little Rich Gay life to perfection: the endless longing to rest at last on the sofa, the complete impossibility of doing so, somehow impelled, yet choosing a higher path. How could breakfast be served anywhere but the dining room? Coffee is never stirred with a teaspoon, only a coffee spoon. Later on there was such a risk of vulgarity but oh, Harry is marvellous. There could have been a religious revelation. There could have been a visit to Lourdes. Healing, resolution, everything making sense – all these horrors are superbly dangled and drawn away from. Nobody is anything definite, so liberating, and the only thing is we must sing our song when called upon to do so. Fail to sing and things will go terribly wrong. A curse will fall upon the Earth and paralysis. But even then there is a chance of going back, finding the place where one failed to sing and the second time round not missing one’s cue. So in the end it’s all worth it although without apparent purpose – the hair, frockage, make-up, flowers, menus and decor, the appearances, the gardening, the words uttered. We must give and give. Only giving up is fatal.

Upstairs, afterwards, at the private after-function, Poor Little Rich Gays have never been more radiant. Lord Arrowby with deep tan and glow rivalled the best lighthouses. Rufus Pitman was telling, how, in the clinic, an inmate had escaped and had a schnitzel. But the massage was her undoing. ‘Whas is zhis?’ the masseur exclaimed. The schnitzel could be detected by expert hands even from without. ‘I’m taking two more performances of the performance,’ Reggie Cresswell announced. I think I, Adrian Edge, will too. Like a fool I missed a vital bit, of such rarity and not because I wasn’t paying attention as usual. Robert Nevil was seen talking to a world-class English tenor whose singing has greatly improved after lessons. Probably Robert Nevil was arranging an evening of English song for a whole row of ladies over 90 in woolly stockings and other ‘art’ hand-woven garments. . ‘I only take 6 minutes for lunch,’ Lord Arrowby confided. ‘I can’t let the Nation down.’ ‘But you’ve done so much for the Nation,’ I said. I could have added that it’s in the National interest that Lord Arrowby has a proper lunch break. Conrad Matheson and I had a superb semi-quaver passage on the subject of mansplaining which is what I claimed to be doing re: the performance in talking to Mina Ermine and Sybil Barnes of Brockwell Park. ‘No, you’re not mansplaining,’ said Conrad, mansplaining. ‘Allow me to mansplain. Mansplaining is a man telling a woman qualified in a certain field all about that field because he knows far more about it of course.’

How happy we were. I called the Uber before it was too late.

 

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Easter’s Secular Side

Saturday 22nd April 2017

Our Easter personnel have mostly died; no more the Egg Hunt for thousands over our lands in the Far West nor the family lamb lunch with Cousin Smurry and Great Aunt Smidge. Since Great Aunt Smidge was took two years ago, her daughter, Cousin Smurry, is preoccupied with ecclesiastical affairs on Easter Sunday. Don’t mis-understand. It is not that she has acquired religious fervour.

How was it then that the two remaining, myself, Adrian Edge, and the Gay Mother, 93, managed to have three lamb dinners, a seated tea, a gourmet luncheon and come close to the Throne – not to mention the huge carrier of Easter chocs with which the Gay Mother arrived, armed, in the drawing room each evening?

It was the Gay Mother who remembered, not me, that the butcher cut up rough last year when I went in on Easter Saturday and asked for a butterflied lamb leg to do Mary Berry’s butterflied lamb leg with preserved lemon and thyme and even garlic. This in itself a big departure from the traditional roast.  ‘You should have ordered,’ he codgered. So, reminded by the Gay Mother, I telephoned the butcher. Answering machine – joke Far West voice. No email. No Facebook. I leave message. ‘Butterflied Lamb Leg for 2, please.’ No response. I phone again. Same joke Far West voice, not live. But this time the voice phones back and leaves unintelligible message for me, Adrian Edge, but the gist seems to be: leg okay.  So, come Easter Saturday morning, I loom in the butchers. Quite a lot of codgering. I’d left the wrong number to phone back. Well, I hadn’t. Then they slam down gigantic butterflied lamb leg, stretching as far as the eye could see. Request for leg for 2 forgotten or dismissed. £24, please. Didn’t dare to remonstrate.

What a mercy, Cousin Smurry, at the Gourmet Easter Saturday lunch hosted by her at our treasured Michelin star gourmet pub/restaurant, said,  ‘You’ll have to have that leg on Monday.’ How right she was. We had a seated tea for Cousin Monica, you see, on Easter Sunday. Cousin Smurry said, ‘You’ll never be able to manage both – the leg and the tea.’ How right she was, even though it meant casting aside all tradition. Leg and seated tea on Easter Sunday would have killed me, I’m sure, or at least confided me to my room.

For there was the cake drama as well, wasn’t there? Don’t mention how the crystallised violets from Amazon didn’t arrive in time. An Easter Cake is a Vic Sponge with orange juice in it and the icing also made with orange juice studded with crystallised violets. So there was that crisis. The year before last, it was Aunt Lavinia who said, ‘Why not use real violets?’ So I did. But this year there were no real violets. Then it turned out the Gay Mother had thrown away one of her pair of cake tins, so how was a Vic Sponge sandwich to be produced? She had one bigger round tin, so my scheme was to use that and cut the cake in half. But the Gay Mother said, as the single cake was resting on the wrack, ‘That looks like only half a cake. You must make another.’ Quite astonishing from one who a day later handed me back my orange juice glass as she was about to wash it up at the sink saying there was a drop left and I was to finish it. The War. So we ended up with this massive cake and Tesco’s vision of violet decoration.

The seated tea was a success. We had a cloth and a bit of silver out. The Gay Mother produced a trunk of old family photos. She and Cousin Monica pored over them. ‘Look, she hasn’t got any teeth, either,’ they said of various matriarchs.

It was after the seated tea that I came close to the Throne in the private chapel of great landowning family nearby. Camilla has been in that chapel, you know. And the next day the lamb feast took place. The Gay Mother bore it very well, for she dreads too much food. She can’t rest at the thought of it. She’s also furious and won’t speak if the food isn’t good. By great good mercy, she liked all three versions of the lamb leg as were offered up three days in a row. And the gigantic cake was greeted with enthusiasm in the drawing room each tea-time despite a bit of it not being cooked, even though the skewer came out clean.

Nor did she object to the carrier of choc from Paul A Young. I didn’t tell her it cost £65.

So the old order changeth, giving place to new and the rivers flow abundantly evermore but not on the same course as they once did.

Easter Day: the Seated Tea

Easter Day: the Seated Tea: You Can See the Sunk Bit in the Middle Where it Wasn’t Cooked

The Over-Size Easter Cake, as Ordered by the Gay Mother. Tesco's Idea of Crystalised Violets

The Over-Size Easter Cake, as Ordered by the Gay Mother. Tesco’s Idea of Crystalised Violets

Paul A Young: Gold Easter Bunny, Given to Cousin Monica

Paul A Young: Gold Easter Bunny, Given to Cousin Monica

Paul A Young Chocs: Odd Idea of a Rabbit

Paul A Young Chocs: Odd Idea of a Rabbit

Paul A Young: Easter Chocs. Controversial Rabbit Concept

Paul A Young: Easter Chocs. Controversial Rabbit Concept

Extra Finnish Chocs Given by a Grateful Finn

Extra Finnish Chocs Given by a Grateful Finn

 

 

 

 

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This Easter

Monday 17th April 2017

I have been exceptionally devout this Easter in the Far West. I attended morning service in the morning and evening service in the evening, the latter in the private chapel of the great nearby family whose wealth was derived from plantations in the Caribbean. In the 19th century, they had St Aubyn do them a fabulous chapel with sumptuous reredos. Members were present and afterwards I exchanged words with the wife who is a grandmother, the other grandmother being Camilla. Camilla has been in that chapel.

That close to the Throne.

But I digress. This Easter I am stuck by the business of the grave clothes. Finding Christ’s tomb empty was one thing, but the grave linens had been beautifully folded. There was no question of a hotel bedroom left anyhow by a careless rich occupant. This careful styling of the cloth is mentioned in more than more gospel. So since earliest times, we learn the importance of fabric and its management. There’s a world of difference between the rumpled horror of an unmade bed and one that has been smoothed and calmed to perfection. The same with cushions. A horrible squashed drawing room in the morning, with cushions not plumped on retiring the night before, is one of the worst sights. Not everyone has a feel for fabric, can learn its different ways, that it must not be forced or tugged and how speed is of the essence. But through Christ’s example, we can learn.

The Gay Mother's Church Flowers: the Absolute Last of the Narcissus, a White Broom and Leaves of Amelanchier

The Gay Mother’s Church Flowers: the Absolute Last of the Narcissus, a White Broom and Leaves of Amelanchier

 

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Angus Willis: A Hidden Kitchen

Saturday 15th April 2017

Merle Barr staged the TV viewing with dinner a week or so ago. Filming was in September and my foot was nearly mangled when that billionaire’s driver moved off before I was properly on board – this was leaving the lunch which had been filmed at Angus Willis’s Home Store Restaurant in Hastings for Michel Roux’s Hidden Kitchens series on Channel 4. As it was, my Prada brown cluck was grazed. Perhaps it was a punishment for thinking that Michel Roux was one of Angus’s former kitchen boys, perhaps on community service.

So at last the whole event re-surfaced as a TV show on Channel 4. So many people saw it, with me Adrian Edge, far too much on view, even seen eating at one point which was awful. We were at chef’s table in Angus’s kitchen area, with white-tile walls – no lighting, no make-up. One looks like previous death warmed up. But I think the camera-crew were interested in my summer scarf neck interest which is something. But why didn’t they re-shoot to get it looking less like a rag?

TV appearances are even worse than being graphed from the point of view of getting it right.

Merle Barr planned dinner, with viewing of the show in her back-parlour. Charlie Hurling attended with Archie Brahams, Charlie with broken arm from ski-ing, so quite unable to move from the sofa. He’s the one that thinks of the worst thing to say and says it. His outfits are tangerine, lime-green – any warning colour really – teamed with checks so loud, the noise-abatement department need to be called. There was a scene when an old friend of his married a famous daughter, whose mother had polaroids taken of her by Andy Warhol before going out in New York – so that they could see how she was looking. You couldn’t tell by just looking at her. This mother arrived at the wedding. Charlie, as usher, said, ‘I will usher you to your seat.’ ‘I’m not going to be seen anywhere with you,’ the famous mother said. Nice. The famous daughter was recently in Hastings and took an exceptionally earthy interest in Angus’s feet, including full massage. She bought from Angus’s Home Store despite the expense which she mentioned.

Angus’s TV show was a triumph. It was obvious that Michel Roux liked Angus’s hidden kitchen more than any of the others. Not even Charlie could think of anything ghastly to say, although they are great rivals, both entrepreneurs and stylists, friends from childhood and at each others’ throats the entire time. The trouble is Angus’s kitchen is not just hidden, it’s non-existent. Not open. Angus said if people phone up wanting to book after watching the TV they’ll just be told to call back later.

Merle did pastry palm-shapes with sun-dried tomato and an Ottolenghi bake. It was superb. But she suffered terribly as the only woman present. None of the talk could have been broadcast which is curious since the occasion was to view Angus being broadcast. But the private talk was disgraceful, either really yucky gay or just a teeny bit misogy.

 

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