Dame Kiri’s Dogs, Downton Abbey and The Dutch Cap On The Bathroom Shelf

Times have not changed, there are certain rules which apply when you visit people, one of them is that you do not bring uninvited dogs. This will always lead to trouble and ill feeling. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa , committed this faux pas it seemed when visiting the distinguished stately home used for the setting of Downton Abbey. Their Lord and Lady ships were not amused. I think the truth is she was getting into the role. In the drama Lord Grantham did not expect to eat with Nellie Melba who was to entertain them all after dinner “people did not socialize with singers and entertainers.” This was of course rectified by Lady Grantham, because she was American and more enlightened. The whole thing is full of clichés , they ring horribly true.

I remember my grandmother wearing an old lady nightdress like the ones Lady Grantham wears, and a ghastly little pink fishnet bonnet embroidered with sticky out roses. This was to keep her hair in that unattractive wave at night, in the morning the ladies were always trapped under a breakfast tray which would be strategically placed over there legs, no chance of nooky pre breakfast for them you see, that is why the men went out to kill things.

When I used to go and stay in these kinds of houses, the worst thing was being unpacked for and finding the Dutch cap put out on the bathroom shelf. I remember once a dinner party being halted while a vile hideous dragon of a woman, known as the “county monster” tapped the host (who smelt slightly of wee) on the shoulder to announce in a loud voice, “Grubby, I know what it is , it is Renoir’s Barmaid,” the allusion was of course to moi. I have never forgotten the embarrassment of it. Once a friend of mine went to stay with the Queen, imagine his shame when the butler who had unpacked for him was waiting in the bedroom, to announce in sepulchral tones that the hapless guest did not have a black tie. “You must sack you man” was the suggestion, before a substitute was brought on a silver tray.

If we visit people’s houses our “girls” as they are referred to are picked up by chauffeur and driven to a doggie hotel in the country. They go with a diet sheet and receive a wonderful hair do before they are delivered back on Monday by the proprietor Derek. I am very obsessed with “my girls” and bore people senseless with stories about them, if they are new acquaintances they think I am talking about humans, and give me funny looks; well so what actually? A lot of conversations are completely feckless. It’s better than the “Organ Recital” , that’s the health news in case you did not know. When people think that when you say politely, how are you, they really want to know want to know beats me. Best not to ask. A nightmare female I have been trying to avoid for years engaged me in fatuous conversation the other day, she asked me if I had had a fun year, and what exciting things I had done. Think about it, that is a very stupid question, my idea of fun would not in any way correspond with hers. I told her at length about the eating habits of the swallow, which the Sainted One had bored me with the previous day ( he saw it on the tele)….. she did not listen and after a bit I moved onto the co-existence of the perch and the water flea… I know about that you see because my grandson has done a thesis on it. There is a lot I know you see, and it worked brilliantly, boring vacuous woman sidled away and talked to a man with nasal hair and you know what I think about that .. they deserved each other.

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