We Cometh Unto Bruern – Privately

Tuesday 24th July 2018

Robert Nevil accompanied me in the Official Driving Car with Xenon driving lights. The National Gardens Scheme had offered superior entry to Bruern Abbey gardens in the Swolds for £25, tea included. It was a nice day out for Robert Nevil who insists on working way past retirement age. His lastest venture is a catalogue of ponies for the Christmas market. Scholarly but jolly. It was boiling hot. Bruern isn’t actually an abbey at all. It’s a Palladian mansion with grounds, not quite a stately, but not an old rectory either. The owner is a gay Lord who used to own British Midland Airways. On Google it said his private fortune is £260 million. So imagine the horror! You couldn’t see in at the windows! They were too high. The whole place had recently been renovated to the hilt. £260 million! But, the desperation, you couldn’t see in! Only by leaping up, which Robert Nevil wouldn’t allow.

We had to make do with the gardens. Which were a perfect example of a millionaire’s garden i.e. done by a designer. There are three gardeners, but they don’t know that much about gardening. Even at that level, £260 million, you have to get by with gardeners who don’t know that much about gardening. I was terribly worried that the other attendees, all retired but not on sticks, therefore well set up to raid the tea-table. You know what they’re like, these pensioners. I was having visions of the tea-selection pecked clean as by vultures. We slogged to the end of the lake. There was a new gay statute in the water with bum, of course. You couldn’t fault the garden, but somehow … it reminded me of Robin Smallmeal’s place, where poor Simon Limpey wept and wailed in the groves. Sort of anonymous and bland. Roses used as bedding plants, tasteful colour schemes, lavender, roses, parterres, formal beds with hedging planted in a wild manner for contrast. The usual sort of thing. Only a kind of raised section with nothing in it but swathes of stumpy cosmos was declared by Robert Nevil actually to be horrid.

At last we gained the tea department but not before an agonising phase where we could see the tea through a glass door. Mercifully the tea buffet selection had been replenished by staff in black trousers or skirts. One was reluctant to return to the table to ensure that one had covered all the options. But did anyway. The tea-room was a mystery. A kind of very grand village hall in a wing at the back of the house. But what could the millionaire want it for? Rotary dinners? You could sense what the rest of the house must be like: immaculate, new mahogany loo seats, Farrow and Ball, expensive repro furniture. Out in the courtyard we met a couple who said they were friends of the Multi: had known him since he was 4. Jaguar type of people from the North. They said they were there on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis.

Abbé Bruern: Millionaire's Paradise

Abbé Bruern: Millionaire’s Paradise

Bruern Abbey: new Gay Statue

Bruern Abbey: new Gay Statue

Bruern Abbey: The Parterre

Bruern Abbey: The Parterre

Bruern Abbey: Hedge Work

Bruern Abbey: Hedge Work

Where They Actually Sit

Where They Actually Sit

Bold Gay Statue

Bold Gay Statue

Bruern Abbey: A Border

Bruern Abbey: A Border

Bruern Abbey: the Cosmos Prairie: 'Rather Horrid': Robert Nevil

Bruern Abbey: the Cosmos Prairie: ‘Rather Horrid’: Robert Nevil

 

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An Important Tea-Tasting

Monday 23rd July 2018

To Conduit Street in boiling heat. Ed Jasper, the bed linen expert, organised it: a formal tea-tasting at the East India Company. Three ladies made up the party, a soap star, a therapist to TV’s Big Brother and a publisher of magazines. Who knew that two of them would have tiny frocks with Tudor sleeves, in different colours, of course, and superbly difficult clucks? The soap star was in unobtrusive neutrals. She said she didn’t really like tea. Some of the tastings she thought ideal to be flung in any nearby flower pot. It was hard for the younger Gay in whippy business attire to conduct the tasting when the women were so anecdotal: the publisher lady, her man had insisted on a boxing match in the East End and got fearfully bashed up. There was very little left of him and he had to be prevented from another such venture. The soap star – I found out later from google-ing she’s got a ‘toy boy’. Well, the ‘toy boy’, actually about 39, had found something to do possibly. I couldn’t quite follow. When an American young woman came in to introduce the gin (after the teas were all sampled), Ed Jasper thrust out a glass and said, ‘That’s enough explanation.’ Meanwhile the therapist was saying how she’d had a regime of lemon juice in hot water every morning for healing and cleansing until her dentist said, ‘What on earth have you done to your teeth?’ She was so beautifully therapised herself, and yoga-ed and techniqued she carried out only the most minimal swivel of her head while relating horror, carrying her smile perfectly all the while. The great highlight was the production of the matcha powder. At once there was a swelling bubble of murmur amongst the women. They knew about matcha, all right. It’s new and it’s great. When mixed with water, a viscous bright-green slime occurs of the purest evil and tasting the same. But they all said, bar the soap star, you get used to it.

We removed to Sketch next door and were kindly entertained by the young Gay from the East India Company. At first we were put in a room at the front of the building. Ed Jasper had to be held and soothed. We hadn’t been put in quick enough. The room was like a bedroom but was actually a front room crammed with gold Lloyd loom chairs and the walls enamelled in bedroom pink. ‘It smells of sea-weed in here,’ the soap-star said. Ed Jasper was threatening to go home. The publisher lady said she knew the Maitre d’. There was tremendous thrashing of the hopeless reservation and showing to table girls in their ludicrous uniform frocks with the possibility of the maitre d’. ‘He was at 192,’ the cry went up. ‘In the 80s and early 90s he was at 192.’ Well, so was I, Adrian Edge. I was at 192, Kensington Park Road. We all were. Then our saviour appeared, the maitre d’. Yes, it was him. Grey now, a little smaller, but still French and divine. Ed Jasper really having to be carried, near to the end, the party moved to another room. I couldn’t understand Sketch. You must have heard of it.  It was the middle of the afternoon, yet the place was crammed with fashionables in rooms with no windows stuffed with a terrifying bombardment of chaotic decor. The requirement for attendance was legs at least six foot long, tiny denim shorts, vest, arms, blonde head and a huge handbag. We were transferred by the maitre d’ to an extraordinary kind of green and brown ancestral cave with no ancestors and a tremendous sense of encroaching vegetation. The carpet had grown tufts and even hillocks and Dougal-like falls of wool. But at least it didn’t smell and I had a cream tea. The soap-star said she was appearing in Hastings at Christmas and had turned down the chance to be the face of vaginal moisturiser. Another soap star, she said, always contrived to get arrested before the panto season to attract publicity.

 

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Norfolk Again! What a County! A Commie 60th Birthday

Friday 13th July 2018

Igor Cripps ‘s 60th birthday with Communist overtones was given in his private garden on the cliff tops of Norfolk. Incredibly exclusive venue with private sea view, although, as we shall see, the fence became compromised. Years ago, Igor had the bust of Lenin removed from the Islington Council chamber but still he craves the good old Communist days. The DDR is his idea of Heaven. His mother was vital at Greenham Common. Igor hasn’t changed a bit since first encountered by me 35 years ago in the British Library – still as youthful, and up to no good, quietly winding up and waiting for the explosion, just with Herbert Morrison glasses added. The Leader of the Council was present with his chain of office. Of course Gays have got huge in Norfolk. They have surged up with only the smallest curtailment of their normal activities. This Leader was once a Tory, I believe, and arrived in Norfolk at a low point. Then his home was flooded. Then he rose up. It’s so hard to follow the labyrinths of the Powerful.

I arrived from London with Royston King.  Igor was in his hall contemplating his valuable art collection with someone important from Radio 4, but not Jenni Murray. A magnificent tea was spread out. There were speeches. Most of Igor’s brothers and sisters were present. It was announced that none of them are married. Really? Gays were twitching. Igor himself is not married but has recently been in a camper van with his long-time companion who made a few lovingly exasperated remarks. Whatever happens, they’re never going to settle for quiet domesticity, thank God. Suddenly the tea-party was whirring with the notion of a private member being inserted into the fence beside the property. It was Igor’s hot masculine brother, Boris, who launched the idea. He runs a builders’ merchants. How had he ever heard that such a thing was even possible? Gays were in fever. Maybe at last the dream of hot manly straight gay would come true. One of the sisters though – she’d got a new boyfriend. Dead ringer for the swimmer, Mark Foster. Bronzed all over and said to be a fitness fanatic. I made sure I was watching the World Cup on TV near where he was later.

The next day, Royston and I went to Holkham Hall. We had quite a discussion about Tomato Feed or Tomorite which Royston said had a lot of potash in it. I’d always thought it was predominantly nitrogen. How wrong can you be? Holkham Hall – it’s by William Kent. Outside it’s yellow bricks and so severe as well as sitting in a lunar vastness, it’s almost ghastly although glorious. The Gay Mother said when driven past it on a previous occasion, ‘I’m glad it’s not open and we don’t have to go inside.’ But inside is wonderful. Surely one of the most successful and fully realised suites of formal rooms anywhere, somehow intimate and domestic although strictly architectural, purely design – chairs against the wall, soft cushioning comfort not the point, rooms where ‘levees’ might have taken place, whatever a levee is. I imagine they were very rigorous and ceremonial.  Yet, William Kent’s riotous inventiveness with the classical forms  – what a marvel, inducing delight.

The Entrata at Holkham, Surely Unrivalled in England, of World Stature, Easily in Complexity with the Staircase Hall of the Laurentian Library in Firry by Michelangelo

The Entrata at Holkham, Surely Unrivalled in England, of World Stature, Easily in Complexity with the Staircase Hall of the Laurentian Library in Firry by Michelangelo

The Entrata at Holkham: Incredible Ceiling, Impossible to Photograph

The Entrata at Holkham: Incredible Ceiling, Impossible to Photograph

With Coving Like this Who needs Soft Furnishings

With Coving Like this Who needs Soft Furnishings

More Coving of Great Sumptiousness at Holkham

More Coving of Great Sumptiousness at Holkham

They even Gilded the Skirting Board

They even Gilded the Skirting Board

 

 

 

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The Public are Admitted

Friday 6th July 2018

Yes, I have been watching the football. Mid-June on a Sunday I opened my garden for charity. I must say one hopes somehow to be part of the Heritage, like Longleat or… of course… Chatsworth. Will the Public gawp and say, ‘This is how they lived… can you believe it – this is where His Lordship sat in the afternoons… Here is his TV… and his shoe-shine kit..’ ?

Robert Nevil, Lord Arrowby, Joshua Baring and Bruce McBain were on door or in charge of kettling in the kitchen. But this year there were fewer visitors so less call for kettling. Astonishing number on sticks or even actually dead. I suppose it’s a dying breed, the garden visitor. I nearly got caught making faces at one whose viability seemed barely credible. Perhaps I was caught. None of them would buy any plants, for fear of depriving others. I was raving in the end: ‘The mixed-colours Cosmos were reared by the Gay Mother. SHE’S 94! Buy, buy, buy!’ Finally there were sales then outrage. Someone who bought two complained that the next person had scooped up all that remained. But it was nearly closing time.

14 lunched in the drawing room. It was a lions’ den. I realised too late that Moira McMatron was the only lady and she and Beamish O’Halloran the only straights. The fish kettle results were excellent and René said he’d got to have one – fish kettle, that is… Archie Armitage was looking unbelievably fit. Joshua Baring was thrilled with him. For once Joshua didn’t have to go on to a One Direction concert. In fact he’d come on from a Beyoncé concert the night before. So wasn’t going on but coming from. Archie stained the powder blue Queen Mother chair but no matter – turn over the cushion and you’d never know. One day, maybe in the autumn, if the constant flow of engagements and travel ever dies down, I’ll get Val up from Hastingsakoff to replace the panel. I see he’s left a supply of replacement fabric in the chair, under the cushion.

Insalata di Pollo alla moda Ristorante del Carmine Firry was also offered. This was first taken by Robert Nevil on a visit there in 1974 (approx) when he was accompanied by a fatal lover. ‘It doesn’t have olives,’ RN said. ‘But radishes you’ve omitted.’ I’m sure it did have olives but RN said he’d written it down. The agreed ingredients are raw carrot, lettuce, artichoke hearts and mayo, as well as bird of course.

The cold filet of beef (£48) was barely touched and the horseradish sauce boycotted completely. It’s always like that with a buffet. There’s a massive unconscious collective surge against one item always. In truth, the horseradish was uncertain. I got it from a shop that’s about to be turned into a block of flats. It wasn’t a good colour when grated.

10 took tea in the dining room after the opening. That Mary Berry – she’s really got it in for me. Her recipe said 2 teaspoons of baking powder on top of self-raising flour which has already got baking powder in it. I told you before, she glared at me at Chelsea on Press Day. Result – cake was gassed and raised to a dusty brittle state. Owing to icing error, it was iced underneath as well as on top so slices couldn’t be prised off the plate without collapse. Joshua Baring described his Tinder date for that evening: ‘He’s so unattractive!’ he lamented, waving the photo about. Quite hot, I thought. Joshua said he’d rather roast a duck and have it for the week. He’s also having a tapestry for his new abode. It’s either a Goeblins or a Mortlake or both. Lord Arrowby was in floral-print slacks and couldn’t wait to get away. I commanded him to the tea-table (‘So bossy,’ he said) but when there was a slight delay in the kettle coming to the boil, he bounded away and couldn’t be caught.

Joshua Baring Brought Sorrel from his Garden at Sandringham St Kil for the fish-kettle-cooked Fish

Joshua Baring Brought Sorrel from his Garden at Sandringham St Kil for the fish-kettle-cooked Fish

Archie Stained the Chair but It was a Light Matter

Archie Stained the Chair but It was a Light Matter

Archie Stained the Chair but it Was a Light Matter

Cushion Turned Over: No Stain

An idea of How Joshua Baring's New House will Look when Hung with Tapestry

An idea of How Joshua Baring’s New House will Look when Hung with Tapestry

Joshua Baring: Tapestry Concept

Joshua Baring: Tapestry Concept

Laura Malcolm: Her Cruise

Laura Malcolm: Her Cruise

Laura Malcolm Cruising: She has Returned but Apparently not Re-thought as to Personality. Cruising hasn't Changed Her

Laura Malcolm Cruising: She has Returned but Apparently not Re-thought as to Personality. Cruising hasn’t Changed Her

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Rudi Growing in Importance

Sunday 24th June 2018

It must be 3 or 4 years since Royston King began the epic retrospective and posthumous sales of Rudi Patterson’s paintings. The first was at Leighton House, launched by Moira Stewart herself. She said No graphs because she’d been up all night on TV. The work sold like hot cakes: you could see why. It’s decorative, apparently charming and pastoral, the scenes of Jamaica from memory as imagined in a council flat in Notting Hill near Grenfell Tower. Also inexpensive. Further exhibitions followed: Rudi painted and painted. There’s no end to his oeuvre. Then in March of this year, an event took place at the Garden Museum. Talks were given by experts. By the end of an hour, Rudi was… well, something else. The tiny figures in his paintings, the buildings, often churches or possible plantation houses, the flora, the vegetation, almost always in the background the Blue Mountains… what does it all mean? Rudi wasn’t thumping away but there’s a brooding presence, an ambiguity. The blue hills are the unchanging and unchangeable element before which the humans cultivate the land and beautify it with flowers which in some of the pictures appear about to encroach and swamp the humans who are about. The little black figures are doll-like yet in control, going up the drive of the would-be plantation house, now in ownership perhaps. Yet the buildings themselves are flat and sinister with their past. These churches also: what are they like? They have the same silent faintly threatening presence as the houses. Rudi was a supreme painter of flowers and plants: immaculate botanical but with artistry. But something more galvanised Rudi and it’s hard to say exactly what it is. He has advanced into death about five years, growing in significance all the time.

A Rudi: the Longer he is Dead the more Important he Grows

A Rudi: the Longer he is Dead the more Important he Grows

Rudi's Flowers: See the Lady in the Drive

Rudi’s Flowers: See the Lady in the Drive

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Glyndebourne on the Stage

Friday 22nd June 2018

Getting through the summer. Can breathe again now that my garden opening is over – more later. Two things went wrong with the buffet menu. 14 lunched in the drawing room and 10 took tea in the dining room only partially restored after the lime re-plastering of the ceiling in part.

I was thrilled with the play about Glyndebourne by David Hare: The Moderate Soprano. Thought it would be political and narrow. Can’t bear David Hare whenever he opens his mouth. Know nothing of his plays. His frockage is ghastly as well, although he is married to Nicole Farhi. Why?

But The Moderate Soprano is open-minded, discursive and fascinating. The central figure is John Christie himself, the founder of Glyndebourniana, played by Roger Allam  Marvellous opening. Christie goes:  ‘The gardeners are very knowledgeable, they have much skill and training… but I own it.’  At once I felt at home: ownership is at the core of my life. I was born into ownership and have remained there ever since, gradually owning more and more without lifting a finger. But who really owns is a question in the play. Later on the eminent musicians and stage directors who pitched up at Glyndebourne in retreat from Nazi Germany get quite uppity with Christie: ‘You had some ideas for the garden once,’ they say. ‘What became of them?’ ‘Well, I told them I don’t like pink,’ Christie replies helplessly. Then they inform him that Glyndebourne opera won’t be Wagner as he had wanted but Mozart (‘Is he any good?’ Christie goes. ‘Don’t tell me, not The Marriage of Figaro‘). Yes, The Marriage of Figaro. After the War, Christie soothes his sickly wife with a recital of the programmes for the first six seasons before the War. They love the names but Cosi they could never be reconciled to. It was their life’s work, although really the creation of others, most of all German refugees who fashioned the dream of English country house opera we all crave today. Christie is left to pay for it, while jumping up and down on the side-lines saying, ‘ It’ll take them all day to get here. They’ll spend the morning cleaning their shoes. I don’t care if it costs them their life savings. They must pay the price for art. And once they’re here, I’m not having them leaving. I’m going to switch all the lights out.’ Well, thank you very much, John Christie. Thank you for giving us the agony and thrill of Glyndebourne, the conveyance there, how to pack and heave the picnic in evening clothes, how not to crease in the car, finally the lawn and house which must be the burning golden essence of the English country house in its setting, itself a kind of stage looking out onto that perfect fold of sheep and farmland, enclosed yet open. But how to get a good place on it?Although the house is a Victorian fake.  Then the drive back and the anguished unpicking of the picnic the next day.

Don’t forget the opera. Royston King says Glyndebourne never again. Too much trouble. Acis and Galetea, which we took in West Hampstead a few days ago, a better substitute. Up to a point; Glyndebourne got an audience originally because it was good. Only six people came to the 1st performance of Cosi in 1934 or thereabouts. But then came the notices. I’ve never been let down by Glyndebourne. It’s always been worth it. Except I wasn’t mad about Madama Butterfly, which I saw at the beginning of June.

Christie, for all his martinet carry-on and craziness, knew that. He knew that it had got to be good. It isn’t just that for £250 you can have, for the evening, the feel of ownership, of drive, house, gardens and grounds.

My Glyndebourne Department

My Glyndebourne Department: in Storage 

Lord Arrowby at Glyndebourne: Jacket Made Specially

Lord Arrowby at Glyndebourne: Jacket Made Specially

The Glyndebourne View: England's Essence

The Glyndebourne View: England’s Essence

How Well We Know that Lawn

How Well We Know that Lawn

Joshua Baring's Vit Ton for Glyndebourne

Joshua Baring’s Vit Ton for Glyndebourne

 

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Toiletless in Norfolk

Friday 15th June 2018

To Norfolk to stay with Charlie Hurling and Mr Azure. I’d thought it would be like a hotel purring with maids. It took about half an hour to get my outfits in but then… well, there wasn’t much room for anything else. My possessions were immediately absorbed in a sea of items in the summer house. Endless stock, boxes and boxes, rolls and rolls. Goodness knows. I didn’t think to see my things again. The toilet in the summer house was well, frankly… Mr Azure explained.. in fact later he had a supremely masculine moment flinging up a lid in the garden to reveal the pump which couldn’t to be got to pump more … well, the toilet wasn’t for back toilet, only front. Fergus Strachan was in an ancient tracksuit arrangement in the drawing room in the main house. He didn’t seem to have any outfits planned. The party were lying on a suite that had belonged to Charlie’s grandmother. It was fabulously squashed. The loose covers were cafe au lait with huge flowers in colours. The home was extraordinary. Elfin. Criss-cross windows, concealed behind hedges. A tiny elfin dwelling, very private, very concealed. Every window-sill heaped with ornaments: the world-collection of brass cow-bells in one, all-known green glass balls in another. The cleaner fortunately has obsessive-compulsive disorder and does one sill a week. I think upstairs there were cow-jugs and possibly a huge assemblage of spent mortars. Just room for a bed in the midst of it all.  You’d expect to find little creatures sewn out of moleskin or perhaps the rose-hip fairy living here; not two bold gays of manly build, one quite capable of wearing checked fuchsia slacks and a lime-green jumper.

The thing was I went to the toilet – the other one in the main cott that was fully functioning – but wrenched a little too hard on the handle in celebration of a functioning toilet. Disaster. Something gave in the cistern. We were toiletless in Norfolk. Mr Azure, who seemed to be i/c drains of the two, instituted a bucket regime and Angus Willis complained later of the water all over the floor.

I thought I was going to die actually. No emergency plumber. But somehow the great pluck of the Poor Little Rich Gays, their endurance and fortitude – we got through. We lunched at Great Massingham on the Saturday in the room where Prince Harry had a birthday party once. It was black plates and foams. Very nice. Charlie Hurling bellowed about the anus at every opportunity. The people at the next table first of all covered their children’s ears then turned into little heaps of ash.

On the Sunday I visited Rayham Hall privately. ‘Are we coming?’ Charlie enquired. ‘No,’ I said. This is a big visit in the end. You remember the book launch in March. After which, naturally, I longed and longed for the house. The Marchioness showed me everything; she’d Farrow-and-Ball-ed the Saloon herself. There’d been a terrific amount of plaster coming down in the monumental entrance hall , leaks in bathrooms above, workmen nearly killed but all put right in the end. Huge place. Much bigger than it looks in photos or than gathered from the Christie’s launch. We ventured up all sorts of staircases and into unending attics. The Marchioness had been sanding and filling a massive round window. A great house, though, which nobody knows about, remodelled by William Kent. Very important.

Mr Azure said it would be lunch when I got back. But they were all lying on the three-piece suite. Then they went out for a walk and came straight back again. Fergus Strachan was still in that tracksuit. They watched some trash TV deliberately in a specialist channel. At 7pm lunch was served. Charlie is very devoted to Paxo sage and onion stuffing so the bird was stuffed with Paxo Sage and Onion stuffing which was incredible from the style point of view. There was no sign of any of them going back to London. They went and lay down again on the three-piece. Charlie Hurling insulted Angus’ hair. He said, ‘You’ve got ash die-back hair,’ which isn’t a compliment. I, unfortunately, was wound up for the capital. I had to board. With difficulty I packed. Would I be able to identify my items from the great array in the summer house amongst which they had disappeared? Finally it was done and my Official Car was underway after a remarkable weekend visit.

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Laura Malcolm Shapes the Summer

Tuesday 12th June 2018

It was back in February. The outlook looked totally different. Angus Willis summoned me to his cott in the woods near Hastings. The menu was lamb with dried limes. Iranian. It was the same night that Genevieve Suzy refused to leave, then packed Lord Suzy and myself into the wood at dead of night to face our fate. Only by luck did we encounter no bears. There are many bears in the woods around Hastings. It’s well known. But that’s by the way. Dried Limes were the thing. There was such hope, indeed near certainty, as certain as could be, that dried limes were going to be huge, dried limes were going to be crucial for Poor Little Rich Gays in the coming season. We said so at the time. We set the course for dried limes. How could it fail?

Well, who was to know that Laura Malcolm would give a Sunday lunch in early May, a terrace lunch in sunshine? The menu: courgette fritters and beetroot fresh lime salad with yoghurt. It was quiet at first. Somehow I was compelled to re-make the beetroot salad for Glyndebourniana. Robert Nevil was actually thrilled. Unheard of. He even required the recipe. Lord Arrowby quite keen as well. I launched on my second beetroot salad with fresh lime last week when Angus Willis himself and Fergus Strachan dined. I had a packet of dried limes to show him. I’ve not forgotten dried limes. They will have their day. I’m now on my third beetroot salad with fresh lime and just a wheeny bit poisoned by it – but never mind. It’s the signature Poor Little Rich Gay dish for Summer 2018.

Strange how it started with dried limes and ended up being fresh ones.

Laura Malcolm has furthermore condemned as dull renovation of the home, which is my staple as you know. Just now I’m colour-washing a wall for the third time.

And she’s to cruise. From Thursday she’s cruising with Percival and Sydney Cruising, who have their own cruising company, as you remember. The Croatian coast is where they cruise to mark Percival Cruising’s 60th birthday and he has gifted the cruise to 6 particular friends. So it is that Laura Malcolm will board, and cruise. One of the greatest anti-cruisers of all time will cruise. The only hope for other cruisers is that they will be turned into little heaps of ash. Laura Malcolm’s no time for their limited cruising lives, drinks parties and mono-topic of other cruises they have been on. Yet, there’s a danger. You know how it is that those most completely against are the most completely converted in the end. Already she’s acquired a cruising kaftan and statement necklace. ‘I’ve been cruising,’ I said weakly. And I have, twice. ‘Yes, but this is only 67 passengers and 90 staff,’ she sniffed. ‘Is gin extra?’ I whimpered. ‘Certainly not. I think you’ll find everything is included.’

Who would have thought it, that Summer 2018 would be beetroot salad with fresh lime and cruising with no renovation of the home?

Beetroot Salad with Fresh Lime - the Poor Little Rich Gay Signature Dish for Summer 2018

Beetroot Salad with Fresh Lime – the Poor Little Rich Gay Signature Dish for Summer 2018

Laura Malcolm's Cruising Kaftan: Could be a Sign

Laura Malcolm’s Cruising Kaftan: Could be a Sign

 

 

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I Won’t be Silenced

Friday 8th June 2018

My cavalcade for the National Gardens Scheme London Owners’ Garden Party on Monday collided with Royston King’s for the Royal Academy. ‘Shut up about Russia!’ he bellowed from his limo. ‘It’s so dull.’

My garden opening hasn’t happened yet, by the way. It’s 17th June.

But I won’t. Russia’s back in the news anyway, owing to football. Who would have thought that football would save a Poor Little Rich Gay? Footballing types are taking an interest in the Russian mentality; I heard on TV a football intellectual saying Russia is very defensive. They worship goalkeepers. It’s because of their history, having to defend themselves on many fronts, having so many borders. Also why they have to have dictators like Putin. Well, Putin isn’t a dictator exactly, but I don’t like to criticise.

It’s just too bad. Puskin’s flat, the Dutch Room at the Herm, that final surprise visit: you’re not going to escape. Come on! You know you love Puskin’s flat, and the Dutch pictures and Rembrandt and the St Petersburg metro on which we travelled for the surprise visit. I was in my Topman pearl grey dress coat. It wasn’t quite warm enough. Oh and I forgot – Lenin’s train. The Finland Station! That was a special journey on the St Petersburg metro as well.

I can’t remember whether I mentioned the Romanov tombs in the Fortress Church of St Peter and St Paul? Quite charming and 18th century in feel. Petite. Not the usual booming grandeur of the Romanovs with people like Nicky Russia and Alix rattling around inside it with little idea of what to do and wrecking their country.

But the Finland Station is quite different. Here Lenin arrived by special arrangement with Germany. The plan worked. He took over Russia and took it out of the War. How he managed it nobody will ever understand. And really they might just have been better off carrying on with Nicky.

The Finland Station was re-built in superb 70s Soviet style. We had to ask where the train was that Lenin arrived in and were taken through the office part of the station by an official who looked near death. It was just an old steam train in a glass box at one side of the station. Nobody seemed that bothered with it, to be honest. Later, when we were outside the station again, we saw an appalling truck draw up at the gate just beside the sacred train. Really that truck was on the brink, more of a former truck in fact. The gates were opened and the truck entered the station area. Hardly an advertisement for Lenin and his achievements.

Oh the Dutch pictures in the Herm. And the Rembrandts. K said his ‘Return of the Prodigal’ was the greatest picture ever. The Dutch pictures are the glory of the Herm which is odd because they’re not a bit like Russia.

Puskin’s flat – you must listen. It’s not use thinking you can ignore Puskin’s flat. Have you ever heard of Puskin? He’s a tremendous hero in Russia. Absolutely adored. I think it’s because he fought a duel with a loathsome Frenchman who thought he could colonise his wife, and died. He died in the flat. We were so lucky. In the guidebook, it said Tours in Russian only. But when we got there not only was there audio guide in English but they said it was international something day and we could come in free. Guide was fabulously tragic re: Puskin’s terrible dying in the flat. It appears the horrible Frenchman cheated in the duel (on top of everything else) and fired early. But guide made little of this. All a terrific orgy of gloom and dying. Moral of the story (if you’re not Russian): if ever there was a case of Rise Above It, this was it. Why ever did he do it? He had wife and kids. Don’t ever get drawn into having a duel. I suppose these days it’s sue-ing. Best to walk by on the other side.

Anyway the flat was perfectly charming. Equiv of William IV decor only Russian. Quite domestic, unlike the Herm or the Cath Palace.

Our greatest visit was yet to come. But we didn’t know it. Prince Dmitri wanted to take a river tour but it was too early in the year. Instead, he found in the guidebook a suggestion to visit a Stalin-era complex in a remote suburb. So off we went. Six or seven long stops in the metro. We got to be the only foreigners. I was in my Topman pearl-grey dress coat. With bag. It was so far, there was a serious drop in temperature. Well, the Stalin-era complex was quite thrilling. Especially since we were the only foreigners. I wondered: Would it be so bad if not associated with Stalin? If in New York, for instance, would probably be praised. It is architecture in fact.

Then we ventured up a dual carriageway to the Monument to the Siege of Leningrad which is in the middle of a vast roundabout: incredible Russian traffic, blocks of flats and dismal shops. Then Prince D consulted the guidebook again and it said Catherine the Great had happened to be somewhere near when they told her she’d conquered Turkey. So she ordered a church to be built on the spot. Church still there and we were ravenous for it. Although more walking and cold. Picked our way through a housing estate. And there it was. Absolutely charming cake church. Pink and white. My favourite thing is all Russia more or less.

So that ends the Russian Visit.

Lenin's Train

Lenin’s Train

Beside Lenin's Train: Unloved

Beside Lenin’s Train: Unloved

Dutch Pictures in the Herm: Jan van Goyen, The Shore at Egmond-op-Zec

Dutch Pictures in the Herm: Jan van Goyen, The Shore at Egmond-op-Zec 1645

Dutch Pictures at the Herm: Jan van der Heyden: The Goudestein Manor on the Vecht

Dutch Pictures at the Herm: Jan van der Heyden: The Goudestein Manor on the Vecht

Puskin's Flat: the Lounge Area

Puskin’s Flat: the Lounge Area

Puskin's Flat: Curtains

Puskin’s Flat: Curtains

Puskin's Flat: Sofa

Puskin’s Flat: Sofa

Puskin's Flat: I've Got one of These

Puskin’s Flat: I’ve Got one of These Metal Lampstands 

St Petersburg Metro: Long Descent

St Petersburg Metro: Long Descent

The Stalinist Complex

The Stalinist Complex

The Stalinist Complex: But Is it So Terrible as Architecture?

The Stalinist Complex: But Is it So Terrible as Architecture?

Alone in the Suburbs of St P

Alone in the Suburbs of St P

The Dear Precious Cake Church of Catherine the Great

The Dear Precious Cake Church of Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great's Cake Church, the Rarest Find of our Russian Visit and the Greatest

Catherine the Great’s Cake Church, the Rarest Find of our Russian Visit and the Greatest

 

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The Summer is Nearly Over but Russia Goes On

Thursday 31st May 2018

I feel that summer is nearly over yet it’s barely begun. It’s all the diarising and being in a terrible jumble, not able to keep up. All the summer jackets have sold out at Tiger of Sweden. And the summer is fully diarised, right into September really. So it’s as if one has already had it.

And I haven’t even finished covering the Russian visit. There’s the 20th century department of the Hermitage (incredible: v. complete, going right through from the Impressionists to Picasso), the second visit to the main Hermitage to improve grasp, the Pushkin flat where he died, and the surprise final visit to a remote suburb when I wore the Topman silver dress coat. Oh… and the Finland Station. We mustn’t forget that. And the Marriage of Figaro at the Marinsky Theatre.

In the meantime, my new Topman frock coat (Black watch tartan from Lochcarron tartan mill. 100% wool) has not made the impact I would have liked. I wore it at the family wedding when we united with Peru and had 10 courses at a Peruvian restaurant in Marylebone. The Gay Mother was in Alice Temperley and Aunt Lavinia in a dress coat by Hobbs. Their silhouettes were incredible at 86 and 94 respectively. But my Topman frock coat in tartan from Lochcarron (100% wool) – well, why bother? It was the same at the funeral of Robert Nevill’s sister’s partner’s mother who died at 104. So quickly gathered in the end. Had motored to Tamworth (where the pigs come from) only a few days before. Then went. Her final knitting was placed on her coffin. A burgundy red wool with two needles sticking out. At 99 she knitted The Queen Mother from the ‘Knit-Your-Own-Royal-Family’ set. Incredibly complex knitting. She got the brim of the off-the-face hat rolling back just right. I have the wooly QM in my proud possession. She said she wouldn’t knit another member: too difficult. But it seems that she did. The exact history of her knitting has become blurred even after a few years. Robert Nevill and I were mistaken for an item by the caring vicar newly arrived in the remote Marches from South Africa and equipped sadly with a dead wife. Quite good looking and I should imagine inundated with oven-ready lasagne made by eager ladies as all widowers are.

Reggie Cresswell gave a function last Saturday and a few days before Harry Rollo gave a perf. I hadn’t expected to be present but was bowled over. Bertram Dibantry also created a performance at top speed in which one nation was overcome by another. It was incredibly heroic and gigantic but the soldiers involved where all either not of medium height because short but not short either, or given over to Lust. It is not clear whether this terrible conquest ever happened in history. We knew about the soldiers because a Latin person from the Middle Ages dictated about them to Bertramus de Bantri who lived from 1194 to 1242 (approximately). Such a coincidence that he should have the same name as Bertram Dibantry himself, only done in Latin. But that’s Art for you. Everything comes together and makes a shape.

Reggie Cresswell’s function, the press opening of the Temperate House at Kew, Absolute Hell given at the National Theatre, The Moderate Soprano given at the Duke of York’s theatre – oh, and we mustn’t forget the toiletless weekend in Norfolk and my private visit to Raynham Hall where I was received by the Marquis and Marchioness quite privately – all that will have to wait. Not to mention my ventures in lime plastering and quest for summer slacks.

In the meantime, here are some graphs from the Hermitage, General Staff Building, where the art from the Impressionists onwards is stored. One of the glories of St Petersburg. And free of all association with Revolution, Terror and bad Tsars. Except I don’t know how all these paintings come to be in Russia.

So Strange: I thought this was by Manet but it's Degas. Really Great Picture though

So Strange: I thought this was by Manet but it’s Degas. Really Great Picture though

Didn't know Seurat did This Colour: Incredibly Great

Didn’t know Seurat did This Colour: Incredibly Great

Wires on this Seurat

Wires on this Seurat

I think This Cezanne Totally Great: A Picture of Nothing but so Braced

I think This Cezanne Totally Great: A Picture of Nothing but so Braced

Even the Van Gogh is Good

Even the Van Gogh is Good

Picasso Blue Period: Yes. No to Later Picasso

Picasso Blue Period: Yes. No to Later Picasso

Bonnard on a Rainy Day

Bonnard on a Rainy Day

This Bonnard is Buckled: Lots of Bonnard, Whom I Didn't know. Splotchy but that's the Point

This Bonnard is Buckled: Lots of Bonnard, Whom I Didn’t know. Splotchy but that’s the Point

Now this Matisse you Do Know

Now this Matisse you Do Know: Why Has She got no Eyes? 

Also this One: Incredibly Well-Known in Red

Also this One: Incredibly Well-Known in Red

Another Classic Matisse

Another Classic Matisse

A Pastel Matisse: Rare and Great

A Pastel Matisse: Rare and Great

 

 

 

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