It is only when you are away from home that you start to notice the bachelor-isms creeping into the daily round. I spent a delightful weekend with my parents in Derbyshire and was struck by how set in my ways I have become. The upside of living alone is that everything is free and easy, you do as you damned well pleasy. The downside is a lack of tolerance when routine is upset.
Living and working from the same place has its own challenges. You are chief cook and bottle washer, the butler, the electrician, the cleaner, the IT guy and, once a year, the accountant. Multi-tasking like this does make one incredibly self-reliant but it does take up valuable writing time. What it also does is make one reluctant to accept help when it is offered and that’s a lesson hard-learned.
So back to Derbyshire. My parents live on the Chatsworth estate which makes for truly magical walks of a morning with the doggles along the path of the Derwent river to the house and back. The present Duke has cleaned the facade of Chatsworth and gilded all the window frames making the Palace of the Peak shine in the Spring sunshine. He has also cut down some of the trees planted by Joseph Paxton to give uninterrupted views of the house from all angles: a great success.
Chatsworth is special to me because we had a pass to the house and gardens when I was growing up. I used to live in the staterooms and sketch in the grounds. I recall once telling tourists that I was the Duke’s grandson. If only!!! It always amuses me at National Trust properties when Fanny and Annie are touring gilded staterooms and they say to one another ‘I couldn’t live in a place like this’. Really? Really? Try me.
My conclusion from this trip to Derbyshire is that I try to be too self-sufficient when being a houseguest. It is almost as if I don’t want to get in the way of a well-run household apart from at meal times. This is a mistake. Presumably your hosts want to see you not have you hiding in a bedroom or bathroom when the whole point is to spend time together.
One thing the visit did confirm is that I long for dogs. I am something of a dog-whisperer. They tend to gravitate towards me presumably because my tone of voice is inviting and I am happy stroking and petting a dog more than I am most men in my life. Dogs offer unconditional love; well, conditional on lots of petting, food and walking … rather like some guests.
So what are my bachelor ways? Well, once the gin bottle has said hello I do like a couple of good hookers before lunch or dinner and enjoy wine with both meals. In this respect I believe I am similar to HM The Queen. I like to help myself as did Princess Margaret who invariably demanded the host had a bottle of Old Famous Grouse for her personal use and would always bring a case of Malvern water as a mixer.
Speaking of Princess Margaret, I am filming a documentary about the grand old dame for Like A Shot TV this afternoon. I am also featured on the doc about King Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor. In the case of Princess Margaret, I can empathise. She lived alone for most of her adult life after the disastrous marriage to Tony Armstrong-Jones. I can only imagine how she felt returning to the cavernous Apartment 1A in Kensington Palace after an official engagement with only Old Famous Grouse and servants to serve as company.
The Duke of Windsor is a more difficult character to empathise with. He was born to rule and threw it away for the love of twice-divorced American Mrs Simpson. Perhaps in the light of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the Duke was a victim of his time. Today, he could have married his mistress as did HRH Prince Charles and the country would simply have to get used to it. I have no doubt the Duchess of Cornwall will be Queen Consort if and when the time comes.
Didn’t Prince Charles demonstrate his human side at the wedding when he took such great care of the Duchess of Sussex half way up the aisle and infinite care with her mother Doria throughout the ceremony. What must Doria have been thinking when sitting alone faced with the entire senior British Royal Family? However she felt, Doria behaved with style and grace.
My highlight of the trip to Derbyshire was the Chatsworth walk with my mother and the doggies Bertie and Wooster: two scampish Cava-poos. Truth to tell, the dogs are 90% poodle and as such are frisky as the Devil but also live for heavy petting. My second highlight is being woken every morning with two big balls of black fluff leaping up on the bed and trying to steal my morning tea and biscuits.
So mission for the rest of this year is to find an apartment that is dog-friendly and go down to Battersea Dogs’ Home to find a friend with four paws. Until next time…