A Purring Greenhouse in Winter

Sunday 25th February 2018

Royston King and I paid a Royal visit to Myddleton House, Enfield. This was the home of E.A.Bowles, the great plantsman and gardener, whose nephew is Andrew Parker-Bowles. Hence Camilla came to open it after renovation and restoration funded by Royston’s committee. They gave £mmm. A seething would-be Gay life went on there from the outset. E.A.Bowles was unmarried. Norman Lewis, who wrote Naples ’44, was a ‘Bowles Boy’. There was a tradition of ‘boys’ working in the garden. In the photographic exhib at Myddleton, which Royston inspected, E.A.Bowles looks saucy when young. Even today, well-formed young men are forking in the garden, even in February. Others are strutting by, giving attitude. We went into the greenhouse: finally I saw the point of a greenhouse – to have all those flowers in the depths of winter. Luxury. The hothouse world of choice things, tended to exquision. In a room off the greenhouse, we saw the gloves Camilla wore when she opened, which involved doing some potting on herself, despite her couture about which she was completely unflapped.

It was well-worth it – giving all those £mmmm to Myddleton House. E.A. Bowles was important: over 200 plants were named by him or are named after him. Most famous is Erysium ‘Bowles Mauve’ which is ubiquitous but an excellent plant – good colour, reliable and quite long-lived for a perennial wallflower. E.A.Bowles hated it, of course. The gardens are now open to the public all the year free of charge. Amazing. There’s a Swamp Cypress. Gardening going on at a high level. You can tell even when there’s nothing to see except snowdrops in February. It was all cared for and ready to burst.

We visited offices, where personnel rose to their feet. Our guide has served since the 1980s. He is the link with the Bowles days which ended in 1954. People he knew knew Bowles. He’s been scattering ashes recently. But others, in the spring of youth, are actually in charge. So the hierarchy is wrenched in an attractive Poor Little Rich Gay fashion. Our guide’s connection with Royston lends cachet. The great grandeur of the Gays presides and rises fully above actual position.

When Camilla Opened Myddleton House These Were the Gloves She Wore for Potting on in the Potting Shed

When Camilla Opened Myddleton House These Were the Gloves She Wore for Potting on in the Potting Shed

When Camilla Opened Myddleton House, this is the Bench where She Potted On

When Camilla Opened Myddleton House, this is the Bench where She Potted On

The Luxury of the Greenhouse in Winter

The Luxury of the Greenhouse in Winter

Winter Hothouse Flowers

Winter Hothouse Flowers

A Rare Knipfolia Type of Hothouse Plant

A Rare Knipfolia Type of Hothouse Plant

Some Private Paintings by E.A.Bowles: Royston Said they Must Buck up with their Exhibition for May

Some Private Paintings by E.A.Bowles: Royston Said they Must Buck up with their Exhibition for May

Another Painting by E.A.Bowles.

Another Painting by E.A.Bowles.

A Flower Painting by E.A.Bowles: Exhibition Needs to be Organised for May. Royston said they must Buck Up

A Flower Painting by E.A.Bowles: Exhibition Needs to be Organised for May. Royston said they must Buck Up

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Many Poor Little Rich Gays have Left for Paradise

Friday 23rd February 2018

Tomorrow is the 94th birthday of the Gay Mother. She is presently preparing filets de sole Crecy.

Reggie Cresswell has boarded for Australia on a Ceramic Tour. His Captain was Captain Careless, or Callous or Carless. Whatever (the accent was impenetrable, furthermore), not encouraging. I thought pilots were supposed to have safe names. Reggie refused the pyjamas in Club and wondered if he would regret it.

Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver have gained the Caribbean: there was a rat under the table at lunch and cloud but basically they’re on loungers with drinks in attendance. Kelm, incidentally, has completed the gesso-ing of my trolley and headboard, before his departure for Peru, where he will become a married man. Intense gesso-ing is an important preparation for the married state.

Ski-ing also of course, but not for me. A big party gathered in the Italian Alps. Anthony Mottram and Vadim were rumoured to be £5000 a week not including ski-ing costs. Others were in a 3 star. Ski-ing appears very costly with a danger of death.

My great fear is that I will not live to complete my decor. I’ve thought of nothing else for almost a month. My home has been crammed with workmen, me following behind with an artist’s brush to get the lines straight. Once those cans of paint are open it’s hard to stop. There’s still touching up to be done on the stairs plus fiddling in paint around the new old light switches and sockets. The work! the work! Then painting the furniture gesso-ed by Kelm, plus the dining room ceiling has come adrift in one corner. Angus Willis came round for a formal drawing room tea (can you imagine, in the middle of all that upheaval, giving a formal seated tea with half the house under dust sheets?). He was thrilled with the sinking ceiling and thought it could sink a bit more. But no, it must be heaved up – then the entire room will have to be restored. Somehow the open cans of paint, the mixing of colours, the bottles and jars and papers are hard to integrate with normal life. The rhythm of normal life does not encompass wet paint for some reason.

Somehow I’ve fitted in a Royal visit with Royston King to Myddeton House where we saw the gloves Camilla wore when she opened. Then there was an architectural boat trip (further to the one in November) from Canary Wharf to Chelsea Harbour this time. Truly great. And a huge tale to tell about the person who accompanied me to the Jonas Kauffman concert – so many coincidences, it can’t be true.

 

Laura Malcolm's Hat, Self-Dressed for St Lucia

Laura Malcolm’s Hat, Self-Dressed for St Lucia

The Classic Scene in St Lucia

The Classic Scene in St Lucia

Rat Under Table at Luncheon in St Lucia

Rat Under Table at Luncheon in St Lucia

Classic Lounger and Drinks Scenario in St Lucia

Classic Lounger and Drinks Scenario in St Lucia

Moira McMatron in Tea Experience

Moira McMatron in Tea Experience

Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver in Feet Only Selfie a la Camerons

Laura Malcolm and Matt Driver in Feet Only Selfie a la Camerons

 

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How We Roared

Thursday 15th February 2018

Poor Little Rich Gays after 40 minutes with me, Adrian Edge, become cross or start yawning. We’re all getting old. Our best days are over. My decor and home work will never be finished. This filthy sunshine is ghastly. It rinse-eth not, but smears. I’ve been mending a carpet for days. Now the dining room ceiling is sinking. I never noticed. Must have been like that for months. So that room to do.

No, must not think like this. What a table of riches recently. I took Salome for Prince Dmitri’s birthday. Malin Byström (look! umlaut) was incredibly great in the title rôle. They’ve dropped all that nonsense of Salome being a stroppy teenager from the last time. She’s back as a fully grown-up monster. Too much explaining or categorising diminishes the impact. She has to embody the world as it is somehow, just in an extreme form. I was bristling with thrill throughout, which is rare for me. Not a moment of boredom.

Then the triumph of Hamilton, the triumph of getting in supremely as it turned out. Rather like the novels of Barbara Cartland, whose chief glory was their fortnightly production. Neither Frankie-Doreen nor Giles nor I, Adrian Edge, could quite grasp how a not especially compelling story about a little-known Founding father of America should make a hit-musical. His main contribution, the creation of a banking system for the new Nation, could hardly be rendered on the stage. There were no outstanding show-tunes and the whole thing being a ‘rap’ – well, it’s very slick and clever. The main point seemed to be that the cast were mostly ethnically black or Asian (except for Hamilton himself, who looked very white, although in real life he was from the Caribbean) so Thomas Jefferson was played by a black man etc. We participated in the standing ovation at the end eventually.

But round at Robert Nevil’s, in between visits to the mentally ill, Anthony Mottram described the goings-on of the ex-pat community in Prague. The curious institutions, possibly schools, staffed by ones wanted elsewhere for questioning, the money schemes,the business ventures, the dreams of gold pursued to the extremes of life while rent arrears and tax liabilities soar. Cow-herding for the over 80s is the latest venture of one prominent in the Rotary Club. Could be huge. He’s already planning a villa at Fuego del Golf on the proceeds.

Robert Nevil and I – we fell off our chairs. How we roared! Such a surprise. I thought those days were over, that the capacity for helpless hilarity had gone.

My Trolley and Bedhead - in the Workshop of Kelm Driver for Gesso-ing

My Trolley and Bedhead – in the Workshop of Kelm Driver for Gesso-ing

A Door in My Home - Before Attention of Romanian Former Orphan

A Door in My Home – Before Attention of Romanian Former Orphan

And After! We're Getting Somewhere

And After! We’re Getting Somewhere

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Quiet Lunches and Decor

Saturday 10th February 2018

I’ve grown ill with decor. The detail and struggle. Last week I had not to touch a drop to get through. Decorators in the front bedroom, creating havoc, deliberately smearing filler, then the electrician updating the sockets and light switches to period pieces, then a former Romanian orphan painting the stairs – he got quite good once I had donned painting clothes and carried out a demonstration of sanding down myself.

Now I’m mending carpets, touching up the work on the stairs where the Romanian former orphan pressed too hard with his roller. Also when the sun shone, some bits of roller fluff were revealed as embedded in the wall. I hate the sun shining in the home, especially in winter. It’s catastrophic. I’ve got to fiddle specially mixed paint colour around the newly-installed period light switches to disguise bare patches and minor damage caused by the change of switches.

Will it ever end? The only real leap forward was finding frames for three of Cousin Teddy’s paintings, one of which was made by the same firm in New York as made the frame for the Leonardo that was recently sold. But Cousin Teddy’s paintings are not quite Leonardo. They fitted perfectly into these frames though – no cutting down required. Next week I hope to collect from Lacey Gallery, Westbourne Grove, then go on to lunch with my framer for new frames, which I rarely have. I don’t like new frames.

Otherwise there are the usual 500 or so tasks to be carried out in the home. Not to mention gardening, which must start now.

At the celebration lunch for contributors to Dainty Lady TV, Genevieve Suzy hid my handbag. When I came to my place where I’d left it it wasn’t there. I shrieked before all the Greatnesses assembled – a TV star so great she was ‘done’ by French and Saunders in their TV Christmas special, the other who Gays with Eddie Mair on the PM prog, the great double editor himself, a household name, who almost went to prison. ‘How are you?’ someone enquired. Glum pause: ‘I’m over 8o.’ There was much talk of sexual harrassment and wrong, the vogue topic. The TV star said, ‘All the men I know are terribly worried. ‘ There was some puzzlement. ‘I don’t know any men who aren’t predatory,’ she added by way of explanation.

 

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Ronnie Ronnie Found to be Immortal at Pizza Express

Sunday 3rd February 2018

Ronnie Ronnie – an important early Gay, he blazed a trial for others to follow. The Blitz Club, Marilyn, the mid 70s. Nobody had ever seen Gays like that before, singing and being Gay with fearless abandon. It was totally new then and almost all the rest of the world was against it. No Gays, thank you. Filth.

But Ronnie Ronnie was glamour and music and sound at the Blitz Club. Recently he turned 60. And now he’s come back. At Pizza Express, King’s Road, Ronnie Ronnie rose again. Young Buck was in the front row, filming. He is the one who said ‘Sex is just skin.’ The opening song described the older lady, battling on with frock, face, hair and eyebrows. She has no choice. She must. Well, quite.

The agony but never giving in. ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ Ronnie Ronnie called from behind the curtain at the very start. Were we just to continue with our pizzas (or in my case, a Chicken Nicoise), songless? But Ronnie Ronnie burst forth. His timing is superb, as is his feeling for costume and lighting. And the rapport with the audience. This is deep camp. Dazzling and clever. Not merely a performance.  Shards of pain dare to intrude, are glared at with a hard steely glare. It would be trite to say, ‘The show goes on.’ It’s more than that.

Some say the artiste should retire gracefully, that a comeback is a mistake. What nobody sees is that they are different and often better – like Renee as the Marschallin, more poignant now with her own advancing years. No, no, Ronnie Ronnie is in his prime. Now is his time.

Everybody was there. Robert Nevil in Indian country garb, Eddie Sedgwick who has recently moved to Gay Central at the Elephant, Marmion Beaufleasance, fresh from the lower rungs of the Throne and Her recent ‘interview’ on TV, Trevelyan Poldark as well, from the Radio, a friend of Anthony Mottram who was at Prep with Marcus Cargill, England’s leading clockmender, whose mother was at uni with the mother of  Tinkly Skipworth (present at Pizza Express, King’s Road). He played the piano for Ronnie Ronnie years ago. And, of course, Bruce MacBain, my private architect, who knows them all and lived with the celebrity ballet dancer in the flat now occupied by Marcus on weekdays in Covent Garden (proximate for The House). What a web of Poor Little Rich Gays over the years!

Ronnie Ronnie: the Act One Costume

Ronnie Ronnie: the Act One Costume: the Hair, of course, isn’t Natural: it’s Winter Mink

Ronnie Ronnie: the Act Two Outfit

Ronnie Ronnie: the Act Two Outfit

 

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Extraordinary Events: Charles 1 Private View at the Royal Academy

Tuesday 30th January 2018

Just incredible: ‘Thank you for lending the pictures,’ Royston said to Lady Sarah. Who was momentarily non-plussed then lit up with full Royal graciousness just like her Aunt. The Throne was that close. Lady Helen was there also, in a good tweed coat, approaching Lady Sarah, as cousins, by surprise from behind.

Of course, Royston was to attend the higher Opening later in the week – but if this one was good enough for Lady Sarah and Lady Helen and Grayson Perry (who had a new Marge Proops look, by the way). It was good enough also for Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, who suddenly conceived the whole exhib while walking with the President in Shropshire (this time the Queen consented to lend her pictures). Also for a former Royal Academy head who was just a little miffed the exhib wasn’t his. ‘We did Van Dyck,’ he said crossly. He had to sit down.

We had some other sensational people coups. But would you believe it, we actually looked at the pictures. We were there for over 3 hours – looking at the pictures. With the result that we missed the dumbed-down cauliflower florets for dipping in the Members Room and no wine.

One is much preoccupied, looking at these pictures, with Charles 1. His art collection is about 50 percent pictures of himself. He looks the same when painted by different artists, so it’s a fair assumption that’s what he looked like. He doesn’t look very nice nor very impressive really – a difficult petulant jaw. The air of a small man with a shoulder chip. You can see now how he became what he afterwards became – i.e. without a head. Yet these are great paintings. It’s the same with Velasquez of which there is one – a perfectly extraordinary portrait of the Spanish king. But why didn’t they get flatterers in to depict them as gorgeous? Why didn’t they have Norman Parkinson? How did they know they had to seen as they were if they wanted to be in great art? One idea is Charles was too vain to notice. But I don’t believe it. How did he know he had to have Van Dyck and Rubens?

The other thing is there’s only one work by an English artist. Royston explained that there had been no English art since the Reformation. It was all destroyed. Charles 1 brought the European Renaissance to England and paved the way for Gainsborough, Reynolds etc in the next century. So Charles’s Titians are back from the Prada and the Louvre. All his riveting small portraits by Holbein and Durer of Renaissance/Reformation men – intense, intent, austere but humane. Odd choices for a king who clung on sulkily to the outdated notion of the Divine Right of Kings.

Speaking of which, we met the Svengali of Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, at school with Royston. That’s how it works, the British Establishment. Not the later Committees and Trusteeships, but school and uni. ‘I’m not with you on all you’re doing,’ Royston told him. Understatement of the century. ‘I suppose you think the Queen’s pictures should be nationalised.’ The Svengali re-assured: ‘Abolishing the Monarchy is not a priority.’ Not a Priority! I ask you. Hardly reassuring when you think about it. On the other hand, they’ll be sucked in. He didn’t seem to know anybody at the PV. But why was he there at all? At such a privileged event? With Royal pictures? Hoping to know people presum … and rise up.

The Head of the Garden Museum was divine as always. He’d brought a godson with him who acquired Grayson Perry’s signature. What about the Head of the V&A? Royston arranged for the Head of the Garden Museum and the Head of the V&A to lunch. ‘Can’t you come back and save our Nation?’ I begged the Head of the V&A, who used to be in politics. Generally he was a bit worried and seemed terribly young to me but still inspired confidence. He showed the burden of power as well as the glory which is true leadership.

Royston made a point of addressing the other black people present: one was a TV producer but the others were mostly room attendants stood in the doorways. One was from Jamaica, like Royston, but they didn’t discuss picnic spots. ‘It’s all English,’ the Jamaican room attendant proclaimed triumphantly of the exhib. Which it wasn’t really but one knew what he meant.

Charles 1 on Horseback by Van Dyck

Charles 1 on Horseback by Van Dyck

Charles 1 on Horseback: Which do you Prefer?

Charles 1 on Horseback: Which do you Prefer?

Spanish King by Velasquez: So Bizarre and Bare

Spanish King by Velasquez: So Bizarre and Bare

My Fav Room: the Small, Fine Portraits

My Fav Room: the Small, Fine Portraits

One of the Small, Fine Portraits

One of the Small, Fine Portraits

This is a King: I've Forgotten Whom By. Maybe Velasquez also

This is a King: I’ve Forgotten Whom By

Divine Holbein

Divine Holbein

Royston Liked This the Best: the Oldest Item in the Exhib from Classical Times

Royston Liked This the Best: the Oldest Item in the Exhib from Classical Times

The Crouching Venus

The Crouching Venus

Van Dyck Self-Portrait Royston Saved for the Nation

Van Dyck Self-Portrait Royston Saved for the Nation

Charles 11, as He Later Became

Charles 11, as He Later Became

Exquisite

Exquisite

Titian The Last Supper

Titian The Last Supper

Titian: A Victory

Titian: A Victory

Grayson Perry: The Clucks

Grayson Perry: The Clucks

 

 

 

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Up Down Extraordinarily Gynaecological

Sunday 28th January 2018

Laura Malcolm announced a fish themed dinner for New Year. But Matt Driver was not to make the fish-shaped fish salad as he did last year and the year before. He is only motivated by large numbers apparently. So no fish-shaped fish mould salad (an 80s recipe: incredibly decorative) this year. Mincing the shrimps for the shrimp butter, just a touch of soot was incorporated, Laura having previously stoked the fire. We shrieked and LOL-ed though because it’s so fashionable. The poor Multis once took me to a restaurant in an old toilet-block by Tower Bridge where the idea of the tasting menu was cooking with coal oil, tar, crude oil extracts and bitter wayside gourds, with a grating of Pears soap. £290 each, thank you very much.

What a menu it was for Norman New Year though: pink and red fish nibbles in the drawing room pre, oysters, prawns and exclusive, only-found-in-France cockle type of things,  sea bass au shrimp beurre avec cendre (the main), green salad with ‘enhanced cheeseboard’ and no dessert. One was spoken of, but remained a Platonic ideal at the back of the cave in the face of the unassailable reality of the Cruisings’ six boxes of Tesco’s special selection selection of chocs.

Things didn’t go well in the drawing room after the feast: in fact Percival Cruising abandoned Linky Linky altogether owing to bad behaviour and total breakdown of buzzer discipline. Those buzzers with their twisty never-ending flexes were being coiled back into their bag sharpish, I can tell you. We weren’t fit to buzz. Up Down was the only hope: Miss Elizabeth was writhing owing to lack of married love. Then her poetic husband had the idea of getting his publisher to carry out his marital duties on his behalf. Miss Elizabeth was remarkably acquiescent in this scheme but it wasn’t until our New Year’s Day epi that she rocked up in Eaton Place and announced in the drawing room that the marriage hadn’t been consummated. Lady Margery reeled in disbelief and Mr Bellamy sent for the lawyer at once. A grotesque scene ensued in which Lady Margery and Mr B waited in the drawing room while the doctor examined Miss Elizabeth upstairs. There was much build-up to this event, with Rose even saying downstairs that she’d got to ‘get Miss Elizabeth ready for the doctor.’ What on earth would that involve? The seconds ticked by, it grew unbearable the suspense. Finally the doctor appeared in the drawing room and announced that Miss E was pregnant. We must resume this Up Down story line next time.

On New Year’s Day afternoon we had The Music’s Sound. That stain by the door handle of Maria’s bedroom still there. Still not cleaned off. But the mu in The Music’s Sound – it is enchanting, despite everything, such as Julie Andrews’ awful acting and frocks. We totted up how many of the Van Trapp children now are dead – the actors playing them, I mean.

So Normandy was over for another year. The Triumph of the Seas set forth for the Euro tunnel at 10 a.m the next day. Its wound had been rusting quietly in the lashing rain all the while. I didn’t mention, did I, the tragedy? The Triumph of the Seas was nicked on the rear hub by a Hopper – or one of the London bus types – shortly before Christmas. It can be repaired, of course, but Percival is going to scrap her. A repaired machine, no longer intact, with body parts replaced, isn’t the same.

The other thing was: Percival got v. cross if one suggested that he lives in Lower Norwood and as for West Norwood, where Val once resided and planned tremendous double doors into the drawing room – unspeakable. I don’t think even Upper Norwood would do.  So I don’t know how to describe his neighbourhood.

 

The Fish-based Pre Nibbles for New Year's Eve Dinner in Normandy

The Fish-based Pre Nibbles for New Year’s Eve Dinner in Normandy

The New Year's Eve Seafood Course: So Light and Tripping

The New Year’s Eve Seafood Course: So Light and Tripping

The Shrimp Butter au Cendre for the Sea Bass (the Main for New Year's Eve in Normandy)

The Shrimp Butter au Cendre for the Sea Bass (the Main for New Year’s Eve in Normandy)

The Triumph of the Waves in Her Poor Wounded State: She's for the Scrap-Year Unfort

The Triumph of the Waves in Her Poor Wounded State: She’s for the Scrap-Year Unfort

 

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Not Just ‘Up Down’ But the Music’s Sound – Both at Once

Tuesday 23rd January 2018

When we got back to the Norman Fastness Chateau Fragment from the Paris train, the Cruisings had already arrived. In fact we drove round the circulation of the arrival town several times, possibly in the wrong direction, trying to gain entrance to the Supermart. It could be seen but not reached through the tangle of French traffic systems. Finally we were in and plunged straight into a menu crisis.  No sole! Laura didn’t break down or scream. Incredible.  She forked 67 euros for a sea-bass instead.

The Cruisings’ vehicle, The Triumph of the Waves, was parked outside the Fastness, recalling the time Matt Driver reversed into one of their previous models (The Wonder of the Waves, as I recall) many years ago but never forgotten by Percival Cruising who can’t recover from a damaged car.  So all the more agonising the present fate of The Triumph of the Waves. You won’t believe it.

The Triumph of the Waves didn’t move sadly for the entire three days of the Norman retreat. All that happened was that Percival Cruising sat in it (or her) for smoking. At other times he smoked out of the window and that might have been when he showed his pants. A Boeuf Bourguignon was served the first night. Laura Malcolm had cut out 8 hours of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ carry-on (much loved by Val) and achieved precisely the same result. Then we hurled straight into arm chairs for the 1st epi but not before Sidney Cruising had showered a Tesco Special Selection Choc Selection over the company. There were six boxes in a carrier bag in the corner. Miss Elizabeth was now married and installed at Greenwich. The only trouble was her poet-husband was too refined for intimacy. In fact he got very fancy and superior at the merest hint of it and wanted to go on holiday with the dodgy manservant. Miss Elizabeth tried motoring and nearly ran over a lot of unimportant people in a park. But it didn’t help. Still she wanted to be married. She terribly blew up when she heard Rose and the new manservant flirting in the kitchen, but later sobbed in the bedroom. Rose was most dignified and merely said, ‘When would you like me to leave?’ Of course she was secure in the knowledge that she could always go ‘back to Southwold’ where all over-spill from the show, whether upstairs or downstairs, were assured of secure retirement grazing apparently. But Miss Elizabeth didn’t want her to leave really. Rose was all she had to cling onto, if the truth be told.

My thing in Normandy was to be like Rose, therefore vac-ing and dusting the drawing room and dining room before the family were down. But Percival Cruising said it was a fetish. Kelm and Ivy were never down, at least not before lunch.

It wasn’t until the next day that Up Down took such a sensational turn, with Lady Margery and Mr Bellamy actually waiting in the drawing room while the doctor attended Miss Elizabeth upstairs. I just couldn’t believe it for 70s TV, or indeed TV in any era. On New Year’s Day afternoon, of course, we had the Music’s Sound – I was waiting to see if anyone had got round to cleaning that paintwork round the door handle in Maria’s bedroom since last year.

Percival Cruising Smoking out of the Window. But did He Show his Pants?

Percival Cruising Smoking out of the Window. But did He Show his Pants?

 

 

 

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I Never Thought to See Paris

Thursday 18th January 2018

In a mad rush: must outfit for London Art Fayre followed by Ulysses’s Return at the Roundhouse. Outfit not even formed in my mind.

And have huge vat of marmalade to pot: not even sure it’s set.

Last week was ill: appeared to be blank for January and indeed rest of life, but engagements have been pouring in. I wonder if I’ll live to see this house properly renovated. Though have managed to polish all the silver and wet-wipe the chandeliers throughout. But, as I always say, if one had 8 full-time employees, the surface of the work to be done in the home would only just be scratched.

The main thing is I’ve achieved my goals outside the home for 2018 already: 1) get into Hamilton, the musical: well, Frankie-Doreen came up trumps with a sudden ticket 2) gain access to Charles 1 PV at the Royal Academy: Royston King came up trumps there but says I must be properly dressed, looking like a rich person who will give them money and they will carry on inviting him as one who brings in such. Needless to say there’s a better PV later on, possibly with Prince Charles. The cards for that have a gilt edge.

I’m feeling very blessed (Yuck! Gush!). No, it’s simply that, somehow, whenever I have determined that something will happen, it does.

But going back to New Year, I passed through Paris on the way to Normandy, not driving but riding in a train this time. The idea was to have lunch with Mme Macron in the interval between Eurostar and local train to Norm. I was so preoccupied with this that the Dior Exhib at the Grand Palais quite passed me by. Drat, drat, drat. Hadn’t even heard of it. Genevieve Suzy pointed out tartly: ‘We covered it on Dainty Lady. Weren’t you paying attention?’

Can you imagine? Was actually in Paris and never saw the Dior. Fabulous apparently. Frocks as far as the eye could see as will never be seen again all in one place.

Mme Mac said it was a bit chilly for lunch as she only ever wears a macintosh dress with zips and short sleeves. She doesn’t engage with a Winter look at all. Instead I had to make do with another French greatness (see graph below).

Mme Macron: Too Chilly for Lunch in Winter

Mme Macron: Too Chilly for Lunch in Winter

My Luggage Ready for Disembarkation at Normandy

My Luggage Ready for Disembarkation at Normandy

My View of Paris En Passant

My View of Paris En Passant

My Paris Leg and Foot

My Paris Leg and Foot

Strange Organic Lunch in Paris: Couldn't Understand the Lengthy Label

Strange Organic Lunch in Paris: Couldn’t Understand the Lengthy Label

 

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A Deeply Private Visit

Tuesday 16th January 2018

I was plunged straight back in to London life with a private visit on the day of my return from the Far West after Christmas. 28th December it was. This visit was so private we were the only people there. The rooms were in darkness when we entered. Gradually they lit up, and the works could be seen. For centuries they’ve existed and been seen. But after the hours of daylight though and with nobody else present, not even a VIP tour with guide, just 4 in the party, Anthony Mottram, Vadim, me, Adrian Edge and the Artist Trustee – well, it was quite a different thing. Did they ever expect, in their glaring fame, ever to be seen like this? So private, so after hours. More real. More frail. One lunge and one could have scratched the Piero, smashed the Arnofini Marriage. One felt so responsible, being alone with these works. You could see their workings somehow, how they are attached to the wall with banal brackets, their frames, how they are physical objects like any other that might be taken off the wall, laid flat and worked on. The thick impasto of the milling public or even of those gathering at a private fund-raising breakfast was stripped away. No strangers present of any kind, just friends viewing privately. So the pictures too became private in a strange way.

Our Artist Trustee was magnificent too. His commentary on Piero’s Bap of Christ was thrilling – what a radical painting it is. Not realistic at all. The reflection of the mountain in the River Jordan, in any case a stylised stream – well, in real life it wouldn’t reflect like that. It’s the picture that requires a reflection just as it also requires the figures to have radiant white flesh such as would never be seen in a living person because most likely they’d be dead if they were that pale.

I recommended a different background hanging for the central apex. Really that brown-red damask is not sympathetic to paintings. But the AT said it was awfully expensive to replace. He spoke about restoration and pictures that were mucked about with in the past. There’s a Tintoret that’s had a big expanse of floor added in much later, after flood damage; also a Giorgione now called ‘St George and the Dragon’ but originally there was no St George and the Dragon. The Victorians added them in, presumably mystified by the lack of subject matter otherwise- just two men sitting on a bench. But what to do now? This is how people think the pictures look. It’s no good going back. Pure restoration is near impossible: the AT thinks that the sky in the Titian of Ariadne and Bacchus which was controversially restored in the 60s (came back bright blue) looks like a mono print of the period. So they liked it like that. Titian’s Ariadne and Bacchus has now got an authentic 1960s element. It’s all right really. Part of the history of the pic.

What do we see when we look at  pic?

We were in the gallery for 3 hours at least and afterwards dined at Zedel. The AT treated us. Unbelievable.

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