Zut alors! The court of King Boris gets more like Versailles each day. With some talcum powder on that ramshackle hair, the Prime Minister would be the image of Louis le Something after a night on the Tuileries. His government, meanwhile, totters towards the tumbrils. Le Marquis d’Ancock, Comte de Raab and Le Petit-Maître Gove all cower in the corridors of power, fearful of ‘À la Bastille!’ being barked by sitting pretty Mme de Patel, or a strictly formal dressing-down from His Holiness, L’Abbé Rees-Mogg. Behind the screens, Madame de Carrie ponders eco-friendly lightbulbs with Mlle Lulu, or the source of the handwoven rattan for that dog’s basket. The court goldsmith Prince Zac (with a row of advisers) discusses how wee Wilfred’s comfort blanket must be ethically sustainable. All the while ignoring the mocking grin of today’s Talleyrand who keeps cummings round the corner to haunt them.
When reporting on the renovations to the shabby state of No. 10, the BBC, in its striving to always tell the truth, showed photographs of the main ‘state’ rooms, all painted and gilded and swagged, which are obviously not on le menu, being floors below the prime-ministerial apartment. The costs, rumoured to have been met by deeper pockets than King Boris’s, don’t seem to me that extortionate. It is quite a big flat. The Camerons contributed some nifty OKA bits, but what seems odd is Mme de Carrie banging on about poor Mrs May’s ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’. The comment seems a slap in the face of a deeply loved and long-established firm that is going through the nightmare of staff layoffs because of the bizarre regulations of lockdown. Let’s wait and see if la Carrie ever gets her mitts on Chequers, which reputedly has the most hideous interiors imaginable.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s (or Edinburra’s, as newscasters like to pronounce it) funeral was a masterclass in poignant refinement and sombre elegance. The Queen’s dignity of mourning distilled the air around her. It is heartening to know that she will soon be preparing for her Platinum Jubilee. My mother was born on the day of Queen Victoria’s last jubilee and christened Diamond in her honour; so if I decide to tie the knot, with careful planning I could have a tot to call Platinum. If it’s a chap, he could be called Jubilee, as many boys were in 1897.
In the Cotswolds this spring, the banks and meadows of cowslips are astonishing. Once deemed heading for extinction, they’ve rebelled, and vast swaths of them, with their unique colour and scent and silken furred leaves, lift the spirit almost more than any other wildflower. Their very name, Laurie Lee-like in its earthy simplicity, recalls a remembered past. I might call the tot Cowslip.
One of the most rewarding adjuncts to my work is the photography of a completed project for books or magazines… partly swank, partly for record, and often because, in a photograph, one can see an unnoticed wrong detail, never to be repeated. But the process usually entails massive organisation of dates, permissions and personnel. On the day of the shoot, a huge crew of assistants descend with their kit and caboodle, flowers, food and fag breaks. The two shoots we have done recently were whittled down to the basics: an editor, a photographer and me. Masked, shoeless and silent, we got the shots in a trice, no barely used water bottles left on every surface, no hoodies flung carelessly into corners, no half-eaten Pret litter. Simon Upton is a god with his camera, House and Garden’s Hatta Byng intuitive and receptive. It seems to me that the past year’s inertia has made people think and react far more decisively. My distant and beautiful cousin Violet Naylor-Leyland is doing a book on contemporary British style. It’s more ‘people’-orientated, and so lockdown had delayed our session. Last week she came with her crew: cameraman, assistant, video-maker, hair and make-up. They all looked about 15 and were pro to their fingertips.
On the subject of pronunciation, can we discuss ‘re-search’? Everyone says it now, even academics, probably the only people who have actually gone back to re-search documents they have already researched. And when did ‘uz’ for ‘us’ come along? Worst of all is ‘a nonsense’. Stop it! You know it makes a sense.
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