I used to admire David Cameron but not any more. This government must be on some other planet, just as well for them because there won’t be anything left here to enjoy soon . So many catastrophic cock ups and following on from the Ash tree scandal, we now have a decision to put up thousands more wind farms. So little feathered friends not only will you have nowhere to nest, since this bunch of idiots have sat there and allowed this to happen thus destroying swathes of woodland and all the delicious snacks which feed our feathered friends on the ground beneath; but those of you feathered friends who do survive will be sliced in half by a giant blade which will produce a minimal amount of power to heat all the open shop doorways which keep the Notting Hill set warm while they go shopping . We wouldn’t want them to catch cold would we? Oh yes and what about the proposed high speed railway which will cut off half an hour from the journey from Birmingham to London, well that is going to decimate huge areas of English Countryside and cost a fortune in compensation actually this lot are a lot of useless windbags. But I expect they are Ok because they mostly have well feathered nests and will decamp to foreign parts when the going gets tough and leaving us all in a giant theme park on the adorable “death pathway,” (did you know that dying of thirst is one of the oldest forms and most despicable forms of torture ) …believe me it’s like George Orwell only worse, you will be starved and deprived of liquid and effectively dispatched . Read Hugo Rifkind in the times he always gets it right!
It’s always nice to sleep at night but there is some sort of devil thing which has other plans for moi. I sent the blessed Sainted One away this weekend, or at least he won’t have guessed that until he slyly reads my blog which although he contemptuously denies so doing, I know he does, because he sometimes inadvertently lets slip things that I have only told all of you in the utmost secrecy. Well off he went to our Island house … to check it out after a holiday let to some delightful persons and their lovely hairless doggies . Of course it was all perfect.
As I am basically a plug in kitchen facility and things are very hectic here, I felt justified in passing on his catering arrangements as I am in the middle of some important work…. And the house is in chaos because our lovely painter , who says our house is like the Forth Bridge, only works at weekends and a wall in the downstairs lavatory has collapsed etc etc . I visualized seraphic quiet and no cooking. I suggested M and S on the A3 .I don’t think this was a popular plan since shopping in any form is regarded as a great evil. … there is not much innovation in that department and once I noticed the dogs dinner had been consumed in my absence, it was voted a great success “one of your best” … next time I will serve it with some pastry and a sprinkling of washing powder on my diet day, and see if it is noticed.
Well the sleep plan was a disaster, a visitor, or what one could call a paying guest arrived to occupy our studio at the top of the house for four days; very nice and all that, but on the first night I am woken at five forty five AM to a strange jangling noise as my brass bed begins to disintegrate. The house is vibrating and the ceiling is popping and then it stops. I think in a mad way it must have been a minor earth tremor, unused as I am to those.. I know what you are thinking .. oh yes you are…. but I didn’t mean that. Anyway sleep is not possible after that and I am in a vile mood for a while. Of course I soon realize it must be something to do with our visitor of course, but I did not like to say anything being of such a shy retiring nature. The next night it is the same dreadful dawn awakening, this time there are bits of plaster falling on me like snow . So I come downstairs to work it is dark! !!!! Polite enquiries reveal that our visitor likes a particularly energetic form of Yoga at dawn and had not considered the impact on an old Victorian house. It did not happen this morning. But the devil was at work and at the crack of dawn again. I got a call from a nutter which I had to answer because I often get flood warnings from the Island telling me to move my livestock to higher ground, and after all I wouldn’t want the Sainted One to drown.
Actually all the cupboards and beds were full of people the moment the Sainted One set off down the A3 because the word gets round, it’s as if the parents are away… and the great thing is that I am not really a parent or grandparent to all these people because they do not take me seriously at all . Actually it is a great compliment and we had a ball and I completely adore them, but I would like a bit of quiet now just to get ready for the next adventure. The Sainted One has returned looking like Ashley in Gone With the Wind when he comes up the drive after the civil war. I am sure he was shocked to be greeted by Dracula’s mother and there is again an air of disapproval. Few words are exchanged but silence is golden ..or is it???
This government’s propensity to banana skins is becoming as almost as awful as the scandal on the BBC. The latest horror is the potential decimation of thirty per cent of English Woodland . The secretary of state knew all about the threat to ash trees from Chralara Fraxinea a fungus which has already wiped out all the common species in Denmark as long ago as January and yet nothing was done to ban the import of thousands of infected saplings from Europe. What kind of show is this that Cameron is running? Cheating on rail tickets, insulting policemen, fudging about the consumption of Cornish Pasty’s, and these are just a small sample of their farcical ministerial incompetence .
On our visit to Shugborough the Anson family house, in which the seeds of our eccentric tribe were nurtured for generations; I was reminded of the story my dad used to tell me about the joke played on his crusty old great aunt Lady Louisa Beresford when she was staying . There was obviously a great paucity, of lavatory’s even though the house had numerous grand bedrooms. I can only surmise that many guests used some vile sort of chamber pot and expected a hapless minion to empty it ….. but for those who did not, there was a one water closet on the floor in question, and it was clearly identified with a sign saying WC. After Lady Louisa had retired they quickly put the WC sign on her door . Whether she was glad or sorry about the following constant interruptions, history does not elucidate; I do not think she was much of a looker and as most of the intruders were probably men, as they do what’s known as “go more” and in the “wee” hours and are less punctilious in their attention to detail when staggering in an alcoholic haze. Perhaps she thought she had died and gone to heaven. I will think about this….. but in any event very soon the WC became known as the Lady Loo in all country house circles . And in the last forty years has been hijacked and shortened to the common usage of loo. I think it’s great to come from a family who are responsible for such a nice euphemism . When I started writing historical novels the domestic lives of my characters were clearly much influenced by their lavatory habits, and in the seventeenth century people were very indelicate about such matters. I did a lot of research on the subject, so in Flora’s Glory I have her father Lord Thomas being well ahead of his time and installing water closets. Of course the English were always regarded as very slovenly people by foreigners ……!!!!!
While we are on the subject of Loos, a rather grand friend of mine was taken by his father to be given a lecture on “the definition of a Gentleman” . He was made to stand outside the door of the WC in another great house and was asked, had he ever seen the father go in or out, and the boy shook his head “That my boy is the definition of a gentleman.” Finally a word of warning never take nuts from a dish anywhere, they are usually covered in a world class selection of urine specimens.
Today I am thinking about “the heads” and these are for those of you who are not as clever and brilliantly informed as I am they are the loos on board ships …… my new masterpiece about Admiral Anson will take into account one of the reasons why no women were on board fighting ships. I will not explain it would be too much information, and it’s time for elevenses with a shot of Baileys. In case you were wondering … the Sainted One is out .
Yesterday I went to Shugborough Park in Staffordshire to do some research into the life great admiral Anson who circumnavigated the world setting sail in 1740 and returning three years later with the biggest naval prize in history, most of which he invested in creating this extraordinary place. This great house and estate is now owned by the National Trust and most beautifully administered by the Staffordshire County Council. The Anson families’ fortunes have had many ups and downs due to drink, gambling, lavish spending a passion for expensive sports and sheer profligate extravagance. As a consequence the great house and estate has suffered many financial catastrophes. At one time the entire priceless and irreplaceable contents were sold and the house was mothballed for twelve years and the Anson’s went to live modestly in France, and I am told the Isle of Wight, but I have never been able to find the house they lived in. My great grandfather Thomas Anson the Earl of Lichfield was obviously a man of initiative, he had forged a successful career while his parents hid in France and married the wealthy and energetic daughter of the Duke of Abercorn. On his father’s death the two of them restored Shugborough and tracked down much of the lost furniture and contents . While they were doing all this they produced and raised to adulthood thirteen children, which is why I have four hundred second cousins and third cousins that I know of. They were a ruthless pair and operated the “primogenital” rule to great effect chucking all but the eldest out of the nest, with unseemly haste. Many of these people have achieved astonishingly varied things in far flung corners of the world and a lot of them , the closest that is, come and reside with us in our decrepit house in suburban London. This is always a great joy and we fall on each other with wild screams and most of them have a mad eccentric streak and we operate a curious subliminal shorthand which drives the Sainted One mad. Before I elaborate on this … thank you to Steve who runs Shugborough who is always so welcoming and to Brett who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Admiral and the history of the house. It is of course very sad that no gaggle of Anson children will ever be brought up in the house again … but that is a story in itself but thank God for the team who run it, they really do still bring the house to life, and make it sing the songs of past generations for us all to enjoy. As a writer I have always wanted to get into this great story of daring and courage which is an important part of naval history. Yesterday was the first day of that journey.
Now to this “but” thing . In this household this seems to be the favourite word The Sainted One loves it and it peppers most comments . A good illustration was today when it reached epidemic proportions. A vague compliment was delivered, very vague mind you, and this referred to the visit to what was once our family house yesterday as I have mentioned, but then there was the quick insertion of the but thing, and the word extravagance was used followed by references to the kind of life illustrated by the profligate persons about whom he regrettably learned yesterday. The expression was grim , frighteningly grim actually the word alcohol was mentioned and there was a lot of “it’s all very well but” and I got the feeling that the day of judgement was nigh … it was most definitely a technique for stopping moi from getting ideas above my station … There is a moral here, some things are best not shared. Anyway I did a lot of washing and cleaned the lodgers flat and trod in a dogs mess and as I thought of the previous day I most definitely identified with one of the hundred people behind the green baize door; and thought about the awfulness of having to live in a huge pile you can’t afford and not being able to be a slob and eat pizza in front of the TV in pyjamas stained with egg yolk. So actually “but off” Sainted One I am going to have a large gin like servants used to do and tell a few racy jokes on the phone. There is something to be said for social mobility !
So we went to France the seat of” gastronomique” excellence! Bad start on Brittany Ferries in the posh restaurant … the choice was beef boiled in chocolate which I observed on a diner’s plate it did look like mud … there was some very nasty looking fish or a luxury club sandwich. I chose the latter .. big mistake to eat there at all actually the contents lurking between slices of soggy toast were repulsive lumps of gurqin! and some white reconstituted meat adhering to something which could have been lettuce, but it was in an advanced state of decomposition. But I did see two delightful bits of beetroot attached to a stick which held it all together only to find they were red plastic beads which surgically removed one of my fillings . Oh and also the olive oil was in a spray which fired with laser accuracy into my eye .
But things got a lot better in this gorgeous house surrounded by a moat and occupied by a clever glamorous couple who are the best hosts imaginable. The food was fit for the Gods and wall to wall laughs and perfection, in fact we made so much noise when we went to lunch in Deauville that we were put in a sound proof area away from other diners. I told some of my jokes and they worked very well …. But come Sunday morning I could not see out of my left eye .. the Sainted One thinks I am a hypochondriac and he is right. So I did not complain much. I saw things through a gauze muddy veil and it felt as if there was a needle in my eye. I thought it was the olive oil.
Tuesday morning I got cab to Moorefield’s eye hospital. Five hours later It was sorted and I have an arsenal of drops and look like a pig. It’s called Uveitis and it wasn’t the olive oil that caused it. Any way I am glad I had just read Virginia Nicolson’s extraordinary and important book Millions Like Us it put me on the war frame of mind and reminded me of all the things which are so incredible about the country we are lucky enough to live in, Moorefield’s being one of them . Tomorrow I will tell you about the war memorial at Caen where so many young men died on a muddy beach something all British children should be taken to see before embarking on secondary education. Before you all start, of course I spelt “Gherkin” wrong.. nobody should even mention them let alone spell them or serve them they are disgusting and remind me of formaldehyde preserved samples at my useless, school most of which were frogs!.