It is raining over London fit to flood hence a day in Bloomsbury Towers with the boxed sets of two TV adaptations of Love in a Cold Climate. The earliest features Dame Judi Dench as ‘Ma’ and the latter has a standout performance by Francis Barber as The Bolter. Frances lives across the road from Simon’s apartment in Clerkenwell and we once had a very jolly evening with her slobbering bulldog sat like a baby in my lap giving my face a wash. Frances is a one of our finest actresses: as superb in King Lear at the RSC as she is as an arch – very arch – villainess in Dr Who.
The more one reads of Nancy Mitford the more one adores the French Lady. Unhappy in love, she of all the Mitford sisters had the good grace to fend off tragedy and self-pity with acid drops of humour. Lady Montdore is one of the greatest comic creations in English literature. I also adore Uncle Davey’s mad health regimes such as only eating white food on Monday and drinking claret solidly to warm up his glands on Tuesday. Puts me quite in mind of my new diet. No coffee, no tea, no cheese, no sugar, no bread and no wine. . It does however allow for a split of Champagne or Prosecco with dinner.
What do you think of the Artist’s new portrait of me in the yellow linen Anderson & Sheppard suit? I rather like it and sincerely hope it begins to age before the paint is dry. I’m hurtling towards my 41st birthday next month and there’s not a moment to lose. It is quite vain-making being painted and I have to admit I adore it. It might of course make small children cry and panic the cat being nearly life size…
What else is new on the Rialto? Much work to be done in the Henry Poole & Co archive. We have an academic in the archives tomorrow who is trying to locate all of Queen Alexandra’s existing dresses and accessories from private collectors, museums and the royal dress collection at Kensington Palace. Poole’s made the queen a black silk riding habit when she was Princess of Wales and made liveries for Marlborough House. We also have a relationship with Jane Ridley who wrote what is arguably the most sparkling biography of King Edward VII. Her book has been invaluable to me in identifying the Marlborough House set who were to a man Henry Poole & Co customers.
The Artist has lent me a biography of Queen Alexandra by David Duff that is equally thrilling. But not quite as thrilling as my friend Judith Watt’s new Vogue biography of Elsa Schiaparelli: she of the Surrealist collaborations such as the Duchess of Windsor’s lobster dress, the tear dress now in the V&A and the marvellous shoe hat photographed by Cecil Beaton. I will tell you all about it when I’ve finished reading it. Judith is the pre-eminent fashion historian in England and is as visual as she is academic hence her Vogue biography wiping the floor with the Chanel, Dior and McQueen.
As night draws on (‘how sensible of you to bring a pair!’), the telly networks have been kind enough to give us a new series of Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Dancing. It is the only thing except for Prosecco and art that prevents one committing suttee on a cold winter’s night in London. Downton has been rather a hoot despite a silly plot involving the heir inheriting guilt money and refusing to bail out the Earl of Grantham who lost heavily in ill-advised Canadian investments. Matthew is clearly a prig and a bore.
Wouldn’t one die to live in the Downton era if one was titled and rich? I can’t say downstairs would be an awful lot of fun but it probably beats being a benefit cheat in England 2012 wearing shell suit, Croydon facelift and unbranded trainers. Hasn’t politics been rather depressing of late? The chief Tory whip calling our gallant boys in blue lowlife scum who don’t run the country (as he presumably does) is a sackable offence if it wasn’t for the rest of the Tory Cabinet being equally bullish Bullingdon boys. It makes a nonsense of abolishing hereditary peers from the House of Lords only the old guard had class and this lot are merely crass and boorish.
Little wonder that we are all entirely disenchanted by our political class. We’ve got that pond-life featherweight amateur Nick Clegg in cahoots with that ghastly skeleton Tony Blair and the Prince of Darkness Peter Mandelson. We’ve got Vice Cable like a latter day Polonius blundering his way towards any semblance of power he can grapple at his late stage of life. We have Prime Minister Cameron chillaxing our country into tripple dip recession and London Mayor Boris Johnson capitalising on the ever decreasing Olympics 2012 not realising that affection and respect can be mutually exclusive.
It almost makes one want to enter the political arena oneself and stand up for England seeing as nobody else in the Houses of Parliament seems to give a fig for little Englanders who pay our taxes and pay their wages to do precisely what we do not want them to do. A referendum on our EU membership, a complete rejection of gay marriage in churches, an axing of international aid budgets going to despots and a few little tax and property breaks for the worker bees of this country would not go amiss…not to mention protecting our green belt, bashing benefit chasers and cutting immigration figures to nil.