I Have a Few Ideas

Monday 25th May 2020

The first is moths: Poor Little Rich Gays here and throughout the world, don’t, in this present Time of Wrong, take your eye off the ball. Your moth regime should be proceeding as usual for the time of year. Despite the run of warm weather, it isn’t quite time for wools to be bagged up permanently until the autumn. Remember, in the days of fur, she would often have a Mink Stole for the carriage at Ascot, which is always the second week of June.

Nevertheless, particularly now when you might have put away good Winter and Spring pieces and not had them out again during this… you know what, when you’ve not been in outfits for weeks, careful management is more important than ever. All wools should be taken out, brushed and aired. Judge whether pieces need to be washed or dry cleaned. For Poor Little Rich Gays with large wardrobes this is a quandary. If you only have two or three winter coats (i.e. worn quite a lot), it would be best to have them dry cleaned before bagging up for the summer. Otherwise rely on careful brushing before bagging. Check that your moth sachets are up to date.

I have only had moth three times. Once when I put away my Paul and Joe coat without cleaning first. This was in the days when I had only one winter coat so it had been worn a lot.

A note on bagging: pieces should be individually bagged and labelled. Use aerated cloth bags, not plastic.

All winter/autumn pieces should be bagged by the end of June.

My other idea concerns the Queen. I had a sudden superb brain wave. If she can’t meet people, because of …, why not allow worthy members of the public to take her place at certain functions? She could be present on Zoom and the member of the public, perhaps a really excellent cleaner or a hero of the front line, could unveil the plaque or declare open or whatever… It could be a kind of alternative Honours System. You can be Queen for the afternoon. Men could participate. They might wear some of the hats or brooches. Investitures could also be conducted like this. The worthy member of the public actually gives out the medals, then the recipients are spoken to by the Queen on Zoom.

I’m going to write to the Palace.

Moth-Proofing: Note Dated Sachets. These should be Replaced every six months. You will be that I Last Replaced in April '19. This is What happens if You don't have Staff

Moth-Proofing: Note Dated Sachets. These should be Replaced every six months. You will be that I Last Replaced in April ’19. This is What happens if You don’t have Staff

Moth-Proofing: Sachets in Place. Replace Every Six Months

Moth-Proofing: Sachets in Place. Replace Every Six Months


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We’ve Always Felt Close to Porton Down

Thursday 21st May 2020

I forgot to say that Harry Rollo decided to depart from reality. His new performance was supposed to take place in early May. The actual day sprang upon him anguish when he’d thought to lie quietly on a chaise-longue and not mind, preparing different performances for only a few or no people.  So to depart reality was a brilliant move. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘my performance will be untouched as a masterpiece. No viewer can bring it down.’

Val rang from Moscova, Hastings and said nobody was phoning because of no conversation except recipes and menus. We then extemporised brilliantly for 20 minutes on the theme of whether you can make bread with self-raising flour. Val said For sure you can. And who now remembers (oh the grandeur of looking back, especially when everyone else has forgotten or is too young) that originally you couldn’t get bread flour, only plain or self-raising. ‘Originally’ would be when we were young, in the 60s and 70s, the original time.

I telephoned to Anthony Mottram in Prague. ‘It’s just a little dull,’ he said. He seemed to have no appetite for viral talk or plans or attacks of any kind. ‘It’s just a little dull,’ he said, several times. ‘I’m used to constant travel.’ He and Vadim are thinking of taking a little cottage in Bohemia, just for a change of scene. I said, ‘We’ve always been so close to Porton Down.’ ‘Have we?’ he said. Porton Down had just approved the Roche anti-body test last week. Such heaven. 100% effective. Anthony Mottram seemed to have quite forgotten how he was always making veiled references to Porton Down when we were at school. Barrowborough was near Porton Down. Anthony Mottram, also living in the neighbourhood although a border,  had an air of special knowledge. ‘Oh Porton Down… very hush hush… couldn’t possibly say…’ and so on. ‘I believe,’ he would say, with an insider air, ‘that they take a particular interest in that microbe at Porton Down.’ This was during a biology lesson.

But when I mentioned Porton Down last week, nothing. No recollection. I wondered if you could go to a cocktail party at Porton Down. ‘It might be a bit lethal,’ said Anthony Mottram in a tired kind of way.


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If You Cower from Death….

Saturday 16th May 2020

One day these will just be dates.

Two bad nights. I’m worried about the numbers. What if they go up? Yesterday, listless, I searched for the hymn from Choral Evensong online and watched a massed congregation of church-going folk (frockage not a priority) singing it on YouTube. ‘How can I sing that Majesty which Angels do Admire?’ Not a good idea. Became overwrought. ‘When will I see the Queen again?’ I sobbed. I hope the neighbours didn’t hear. The proper Queen, I mean. Not from some isolation drawing room but in her car, amongst her people.

I thought about nipping to the corner shop for a bar of choc. As I would have done before. I could do it now – with bleaching upon return, of course. But I don’t know that shop anymore. As I know nowhere now. Is it the clamp of the plague or that our Country has been turned into the USSR?  Maybe I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: did we ever think we’d live to see the State intervening in our lives in the way it has? I’m an anti-lockist. Criminal, I know, to have that view. It should never have happened. Although, to be fair, the Government probably had little choice at the time. But it must never happen again. It cannot.

I’m thinking of Dame Lettie, Muriel Spark’s Dame Lettie who fought against Death so ferociously she brought it upon her. Also the line from Larkin, ‘The Costly aversion of the eyes from Death’ … which I’ve always thought has two meanings: the literal expense, in mink coats, diamonds, having everything new each season and also the other cost, of averting the eyes, which brings on another kind of Death. I see it now. The true analogy with Dame Lettie’s story is not that dear Corona will get us even worse the more we try to resist (although respectable opinion suggests that, evaded a little less desperately, it might adapt more to us and we to it) but that if we cower from Death as our main project we enter into a state of Death more or less at once.


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Does it Matter?

Wednesday 13th May 2020

Yesterday devoted to mask-making. I thought they were to be compulsory for shopping from today but a shopkeeper I spoke to said just now he was going to consult his MP.

My recipe for masks I found on YouTube. Spent 57 minutes in the company of Aylssa from Penguin and Fish in America, while she demonstrated. Got to rather like her in the end. You rarely saw her face, if ever. She must be someone with a little independent fabric and sewing business. Her mask was in a bright yellow and purple material she’d designed herself with gingham trimming. What I’d call a craft look. But in personality she was not so uncompromisingly cheerful as her fabric would suggest.

My own mask route was a lilac silk dupion from my stock of fabric for a Queen Mother feel to the mask with old pillowcases to cut up for the lining.  The hardest part is cutting out the pieces to the right size. It’s incredibly difficult without a paper template to get even simple squares and rectangles accurate. And if your pieces of fabric aren’t the right shape to start with… The other thing is the unbelievable mess made by sewing. I’m still picking up threads all over the house 24 hours later.

But I managed to make two masks – one for me and one for Joshua Baring. I put mine on in a shop just now. It was hell. Glasses steamed up. I’m not sure that lilac silk dupion is such a good idea. Maybe this will be just a celebration mask, for rushing from the limo to the event attended by nobody.

While I had the sewing machine out – it’s a whole piece of furniture, and belonged to Aunt Olive whose husband gave it to her in 1948. He was a rich doctor. Their life was mink and diamonds, even a Royce and a chauffeur. I was there in about 1968, when a little gilt table was bought out at the furriers at Oxford Circus upon which Uncle Barton was to write the cheque for the blond mink to add to the brown one she already had. But Aunt Olive otherwise behaved as if very poor. She longed and longed to have an evening dress with matching full length coat. But she cut it out wrong and it had to be just a jacket. That was that. She never did have an evening dress with matching full length coat in all her life. But I digress – while I had the machine out, which is a tremendous performance in itself since it’s a whole piece of furniture, I thought I’d mend a terrible rip in an ancient duvet. When I finished I found I’d done it on the wrong side, so the raw edge is showing. I thought about unpicking and starting again – or just throwing the thing away. It could even be 35 years old.

But no, it must be right. I’m scheming now to sew tape over the raw edge. Some people would say it’s a waste of time. What does it matter? Nobody will see it and most likely I’ll put that duvet back in the drawer and leave it there for good. What I want is the satisfaction of a good result which is extraordinarily satisfying regardless of whether there’s any audience at all. There’s not really much point in asking What’s the point?

My Mask in Lilac Silk Dupion

My Mask in Lilac Silk Dupion

Mask with Clever Pocket into Which to Insert further Wadding - Maybe for winter

Mask with Clever Pocket into Which to Insert further Wadding – Maybe for winter

Patti LuPone in Hollywood - O Bring Back this Look! The Medusa Hair and Supreme the Fur Cake Surmounting the Coiffure

Patti LuPone in Hollywood – O Bring Back this Look! The Medusa Hair and Supreme, the Fur Cake Surmounting the Coiffure


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The Streets are Filled with Love

Saturday 9th May 2020

The Queen said that the streets are filled with love, although empty. The other day not only was this true but She was there.

It was when Angus Willis brought up the fishes from Hastings. I think that was the week after Easter. But it might have been the week after the week after Easter. Days do just keep their ghost of being what they were, Monday the sense of being at the bottom of the hill again, Wednesday midway etc. But the weeks are as they always were – hard to tell apart.

We assembled outside the Warehouse apartment of Angus Willis and Fergus Strachan, the one that’s been in all the magazines. Merle arrived from either an international Zoom meeting or her allotment after gruelling toil. Horror ensued because we had negronis – in their glasses and from their jug. Later something even worse happened. I hardly dare to say what. It was because we had more than one negroni. I can still see the figure staggering towards the open door of the building. It was like a scene from Chernobyl, the TV drama series.

Praise be! Massive thanks. We didn’t get it. It was over two weeks ago, I’m sure.

Angus arranged classic school stools for us to sit in in the road, 2 metres apart. Quite firmly in the road. Any Uber had to wait while we moved but I don’t think there were any. The stools were tubular steel painted and chipped, with plywood seats, big statements of the vintage, industrial, or in this case, school look Angus created and has become international.

So there we were, styled and chatting, not really thinking at that stage, as we would now, of how those metal tubes of the stools could be carrying virus, when who should come by on the other side of the street but Marmion Beaufleasance, one of Her Majesty’s Attendants of State, a Proclaimer and Keeper of Lineages. So extraorder… he was taking an evening constitutional – but Shoreditch is not the usual backdrop for the Royal Household and that he should have happened upon the buried side-street where the Warehouse apartment is. And we should have happened to be there. Perhaps it’s what occurs if you are a genealogist. But I think more it was a Gift of Love from God to guide us through the Pandemic. We had megaphone conversation for quite some time from one side of the street to the other. ‘Have you heard from the Queen?’ I go eventually. ‘Oh yes,’ he says, ‘only yesterday. She confirmed the cancelling of the Garter Service.’

Too awful – the cancelling. But she was there as she said she would be.

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Poor Little Rich Gays, Here and Through the World in Corona’s Time which Will Not Have Time Much Longer

Wednesday 6th May 2020

A few weeks ago, Val telephoned from Hastings. V. Lady Bracknell.  ‘Aye’ve got may own sourdough,’ he warbled. Yesterday, was rather different. There has been a decline. ‘I’m not making much sense,’ he said. Rather true, unfortunately.  ‘This pandemic isn’t going to do any good,’ he declared, funereal. Well, no, I wasn’t aware that that was the idea. ‘What exactly do you mean?’ I ventured, with little hope of finding the meaning. I think he was hinting at a genocidal programme, quite frankly. Best to draw a veil.

Rufus Pitman says it’s just like living in a village. To the butcher’s shop in the morning with a basket (Reggie Cresswell wouldn’t approve) then after lunch lie down with a novel and perhaps some weeding. One could be both writing and reading a novel. One day he went on a walk in Batty Park with Harry Rollo. Things were different.  Even though no pair could be more devoted to virus avoidance –  ‘I’m self-isolate and wipey,’ said Harry. ‘I haven’t seen anybody for six weeks’ – it was mysteriously revealed to both of them at exactly the same time that they are dissidents. Batty Park is Gorky Park. It’s the USSR or the DDR. ‘Not literally of course, but the basic idea is the same,’ Harry says. Confusing instructions: masks don’t work. You must have a mask – well, not exactly, but mask wearers eligible for bonus points. Some mask wearers will be punished, however. Don’t sit on the bench! Why? The bench is taped over. You may not remove the tape. Might it be viral? We’re not saying. But not all benches are taped. What if I’m tired? You may exercise but you may not be tired. Nor may you be in the upper age range to 70 on a walk and suddenly weary, if for instance recovering from major surgery and advised to walk with rests. Exercise is permitted once a day for all those up to 70, however. You may not sit on the grass either. Sitting of all kinds disliked. Might I sit responsibly for a short period? No.

Then there are the upside-down values loved by regimes: Museums are closed, DIY shops open (Art is useless)

It is extremely important that Art is useless.

So that’s it. It’s a regime.

Is it really the only way? I’ve been thinking today: all through February and the early part of March (before the change) I was wipey, hand-wipey, non-kissy and huggy, self-trained for years not to touch mouth, eyes or nose unless hands washed. I didn’t, as far as known, become viral, despite being at function after function in the capital, at the time of maximum risk. Nobody else was bothering much, including Jacob Rees-Mogg who tried to shake my hand on Tuesday 10th March, when infections were ramping up, we now know, in their millions.

Virus appals every Poor Little Rich Gay, here and thoroughout the world. Nothing could more outrage the sense of hygiene, procedures, not being dead, the progress of canapés, functions, performances, outfits for which the Poor Little Rich Gay lives. Nobody could be more against viruses – far too small and just ghastly the way they get about without being asked.

If only it had been left to us to lead the Nation, we’d never have ended up in this state.

On Sunday (Sunday, I ask you!) we’re summoned to the headmaster’s study again for a deeply serious announcement. Or so I hear. I don’t tune in regularly because of strain. He knows we’ll be available. I bet you it will be the dinner hour as last time. 8pm.

We’ll have to see. But they should be warned. As Harry says, you can go on like Shostakovitch for so long but finally it might be necessary to put on a blond wig and defect.

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I Swing Back Up

Tuesday 5th May 2020

I’ve swung back up. Don’t ask me why. It’s going to be either herd or disappearance of the thing. By October. You mark my words. Not easy. Pain and risk can’t be avoided. But things are edging in the direction suggested by Professor Johan Giesecke.

Yesterday I took two lettuces and some lovage given me by Merle Barr to Aunt Lavinia who couldn’t get BBC iPlayer to work. That involved dangerous handling of her iPad. Luckily I had hand san with. Then I called on Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver. Laura let me in through the back passage. I sat on their terrace and had coffee and cake. Lockdown crumbling. It was a plum jam cake in Martha Stewart’s recipe.  Incredibly dangerous cup of coffee. Matt Driver appeared, not seen for six weeks except through the window. ‘You’ve got more chance of being killed in a car crash in London at the moment than catching Corona virus,’ he said. I hope he’s right. ‘We’ve had enough of it,’ Laura said. ‘If they don’t do something soon, there won’t be any society left.’ Their neighbour loomed on her balcony above, barely 2 metres away, and said she was going to report them. Well, not in fact. But she’d never appeared on that balcony before in 15 years of being neighbours. Another neighbour was waving maniacally from his home office.

I’d gone there to recover some white cosmos seeds, having over-given my entire supply a week or two ago. Laura didn’t seem to have the idea that seeds have to be sown. Originally she said she wanted something to look forward to. She’d got as far putting some in a cup but it wasn’t looking hopeful for seeds with her generally.  ‘They don’t really suit me,’ she said. ‘I can’t be watching over them. Wretched little things. They don’t grow fast enough.’

So that was that.

I’m still colour-washing the woodwork in my dining room. Thought the window agony was over. But the colour looks wrong. Despite exactly the same colour looking perfectly all right in other parts of the room. How could that be? Did I mention that for 23 years the woodwork in my dining room was glazed with a glaze of raw umber, yellow ochre and the tiniest bit of black, while the floor colour was made from chrome green, ultramarine, raw umber and the tiniest bit of black and Naples yellow?  I’ve lived with that for 23 years. Not matching. It wasn’t planned not to match. Just got like that. In parts the woodwork has flaked and cracked. Not surprisingly after 23 years. So now am trying to match. Why? When one of my regrets in life is going down the matching set path in early life, a path which once embarked upon it’s very difficult to reverse out of. You’re stuck with too many matching sets which inevitably have parts missing. But it’s no use trying to pretend they’re harlequin. Anybody can see through that in a second.

So why not am I trying to make my dining room woodwork match? I should have thought of something quite different.

My Seedlings Such as Laura Malcolm can't be Doing with

My Seedlings Such as Laura Malcolm can’t be Doing with

Here the Colour is All right: My Dining Room Woodwork being Repainted

Here the Colour is All right: My Dining Room Woodwork being Repainted

Here It is Too Green

Here It is Too Green




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Regent’s Park as Never Seen Before

Saturday 2nd May 2020

I must apologise. I’ve fallen into despair again. But let’s not let that stand in our way. Yesterday I stopped off at Merle’s because the Turkish shop was out of curry leaves. I thought she might have some. Don’t worry. Nobody is more socially distanced than Merle. Besides, she wasn’t there. She was Click and Collect at Waitrose. But a man forged towards me outside her house, going for his car. Wouldn’t wait. I got tangled up with my bicycle somehow, trying to get out of the way, and fell over backwards. Quite hurty. Then my Kerulan aubergine creation wasn’t right. Chewy desiccated coconut, even though from Planet Organic. I read a few articles, in the Spectator and so on. Bad idea. Before I knew it , had plunged. No hope. No end to corona. And the economic damage.

It’s no use expecting anybody to feel sorry for a Poor Little Rich Gay who’d only wanted to be just a little bit rich in old age and free at last of racking strain and worry.  Instead of which, three times, devastation.  2008, the financial crisis,  then my mine went bust in 2018. We’d just got through that and seen off the threat of the most ghastly Socialism and this happens. Beyond belief.  Three times. Who would believe it? Contrary to common belief, one is not strengthened by these blows, but weakened. In the end, it will be too much.

But I digress. I was going to say, I went out for exercise to Regent’s Park. Whom should I bump into by remarkable coincidence but Royston King?  ‘Human beings can only worry about something for so long,’ he said. That was some days ago, when we were still comfortably locked, not now when we face the horror of trying to unlock and consequences of it all and the hopeless viral future…

But Regent’s Park, as never seen before. Only now it reveals itself in its glory, as if it had been unpeeled and pushed forward by crisis in which only outdoor tours are possible. What an incredible thing Regent’s Park is. The completeness of it. We cycled all round. I never knew that Quinlan Terry had added six or seven mansions on the north-western side. We saw a Memsahib walking in the garden of one of them with a mask on. She was going round and round the box grove. Royston thought she could be the wife of the Indian steel magnate who owns the house and not a member of staff. Not that there are any members of staff these days. The creamy terraces we know of course. But they blazed that day. I’d always understood them to be badly built and narrow. But Royston said only on the south western side. The eastern terraces are astonishing. Flaring statues, great portals and pediments and friezes – such a grandeur of conception when really they’re stucco terraces.  Then the Park itself. I’d always thought it was mainly flat with carpet bedding but it’s got lakes, wildernesses, Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, another garden like a stage-set near the theatre and a new desert garden with echiums. Just incredible. Tremendous landscaping with concentric circles. We saw some herons up close. I thought maybe they were ornaments but one of them moved. I never knew. I thought herons couldn’t stand human company.

So, I’ve got a bird in the oven. I managed to get some frozen peas. After dinner I’ve got another episode of Belgravia stored up. The most fabulous high-class rubbish. A foundling story for nos jours. The Gay Mother says that tomorrow is International Dawn Chorus Day. We must be up at 5 to join in the Dawn Chorus.



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President Trump’s Internal Bleaching Idea – Never Heard Anything like It for 55 Years

Thursday 30th April 2020

In early life I craved society. It was only to be had locally. Later I went to Prep and became the raving snob I have been ever since, Thank God. So in this pre-era a boy came to play, just the once as I remember. He wasn’t a good boy, unfortunately, wasn’t liked. In later life he turned out too hopeless even for a life of petty crime. We lit a fire which failed to go. This boy had a brain wave: Why not put hot water on it? Cold water would put it out but hot water would surely have the opposite effect. At seven years old I wasn’t at all scientific or even clever. But I remember being completely shocked. Still am. How could anybody think that? We’ve all had moments of stupidity – pulling the door when it says Push. That kind of thing. But this was something else. A massive failure of the internal wiring. As if someone were hungry but didn’t know that they wouldn’t be if they ate something.

I never again experienced such stunned amazement at the thinking of another until, that is, President Trump unravelled his notion of internal disinfecting and also illumination last week. So that’s a whole 55 years of nothing like that, with at one end an unfortunate foster boy of seven years old and at the other the President of the United States of America.



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We’re All Princess Margaret Now

Tuesday 28th April 2020

It suddenly occurred to me that as well as being nobodies we’re all Princess Margaret now. When Harry Rollo was a student in the 1990s, he sat on a sofa with Princess Margaret. It was after dinner in one of the Cambridge colleges. Perhaps Princess Margaret was visiting Norman St John Stevas, that old Queen. A select few of the students were invited in after dinner. She was very welcoming. She said to Harry: ‘You’re too sitting too near. Could you move further away? It’s rather warm.’ In the same way, she said to Nicky Haslam on another occasion, ‘No kissing, Nicky. It’s far too hot.’

Social distancing. Princess Margaret was a pioneer of the art. If only she’d lived to see today.

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