Quartet, trio, duet and even on one or two occasions, solo dinners and lunches have been proceeding at a pace here at No. 11 while Bojo and his Shudder of Cabinet Clowns tinker with the rules of engagement, perform U-turns enough to make us dizzy and seem, certainly in the international arena, to be bringing our country into disgrace with broken treaties and, it looks likely, a dishonourable discharge from the Club of Europe.
Well we shall see. What else can we do? Nothing.
Thank you so much, dear Friends, for all your emails and messages. This is proving an excellent way to keep in touch at this frustrating time. Its lovely to hear from you and thank you for reading these communiqués! Many of you were interested in how Tony and I met each other and asked that I complete the story as I think I left him in the last episode greeting me in his office wearing a smart Panama hat, courtesy of Marina Martin. That was Part 1 : HAPPENSTANCE – The Meeting.
Parts 2 & 3 are COINCIDENCE : The Waiting (Sitzkieg) and ACTION : The Beginning (Blitzkrieg).
If you’d like to read those click on the link here:
So it’s been a short season of Staycationing, the new way to explore England for as long as the ever-changing rules allow. On Monday it will be a criminal (sic) offence to be in a domestic gathering of more than six people. Luckily this did not disarray our August Bank Holiday visit to the Family in Cambridgeshire where there were eight of us. Now we would be subject to arrest and a fine or, I suppose, even imprisonment!
The Family are all in fine fettle though somewhat cramped by the restrictions, especially the two oldest grand children one of whom, Jabe, is about to start his second year at Loughborough and the other Tyger, who has already had the longed-for back pack year wrecked, starts at Imperial next month. Under trying conditions, and I feel sorry for them. The whole point of University apart from getting some sort of tertiary qualifications for life, is the flexing of muscles, the stretching of wings, leaving the nest, exploring what it is to be free, to make new friends and gaze at new horizons. All of this is very curtailed for our youth and for this I feel deeply sorry.
It was a lovely weekend. The sun shone more or less, we walked, we talked, we played games and we went for the first time since January, to the cinema in St. Neots. It’s a Cineworld multiplex and five of us boys, Julie and Jabe wisely stayed at home, went to see the new Christopher Nolan blockbuster, TENET trailed as “A secret agent embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III.”
If only it was as simple as that for though we thought it an exciting story in so far as we could understand it, and wondered at the special effects, neither Tony nor I had the faintest idea of the use of time-forwards and –backwards deployed as the cornerstone of the whole story! It was left to the grandchildren and Zac to argue it all out afterwards. They are all boffins. Physics, Maths, Algorithmic thinking, pushing envelopes sideways inform their debate which raged for the rest of the evening into the night and even into the Jacuzzi with none able to agree what it really meant. $225,000,000 was spent on this confusion and it will need to earn at least $800,000,000 if it is to break even.
On the Tuesday we drove up to Norfolk, to stay at the Blakeney Hotel. Blakeney is along the north Norfolk coast next to Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea. We love this part of England and the hotel is a favourite of ours; recently re-opened under strict Covid Rules, residents only, it has been difficult to get into it but we particularly wanted to stay there because of its proximity to Houghton Hall where the Amish Kapoor Sculptures and Installations are currently exhibited.
It took us a an hour or two to drive up there and we got into Holkham at lunchtime where we wanted to walk that beautiful expanse of perfect sand, wide and open, with huge blue skies high above us. It is a magnificent landscape. There were a lot of people but the place is so vast that it didn’t feel like it.
We’ve both just finished reading Anne Glenconner’s intriguing book A LADY IN WAITING about her life with Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner and, of course, with Princess Margaret. Holkham Hall is her home. A life a world away from ours but just as stressful in many ways, probably much more so, despite the privileges. She has had her fair share of tragedy but also much love and laughter in an eccentric world. The interesting thing is that Tony was reading the Craig Brown book about Princess Margaret alongside me and it was as if they were describing two utterly different people. The Princess does not get a very good press from Craig.
The deal at Blakeney is an all-in arrangement including breakfast and dinner in their first class restaurant. Excellent food and wines, attentive service in an attractive setting right on the little harbour with miles of saltings stretching to the North Sea and the windmills far off. Wonderful sailing, swimming and walking territory. Its what I call Farrow & Ball Territory! I think you will understand!
Glorious, hot sunshine for our visit to Houghton Hall for the Exhibition. The house itself is closed at present except for two galleries with Kapoor drawings and small exhibits and limited entries but the stables and walled gardens are open as was the café. The estate is magnificent. We have been there before to see the famous Hermitage Collection which returned for the first and probably only time to the Walpole home and hung in the exact spaces they’d occupied before Catherine the Great bought the collection. Probably at a time when the Walpole family needed the money.
The Estate is vast. There are deer. There are follies. There are French gardens and mazes, little hidden corners and in a huge display of perspective the lawns run green, over a hah-hah, and down a vast chase where perspectives meet on the horizon. You could easily land a jumbo jet there!
Onto this space Kapoor’s installations and sculptures are displayed. Not all to our taste but never boring. Having seen the famous silver bean in Chicago our favourite in this instance had to be the brilliantly placed SKY MIRROR which succeeds in mesmerising everyone. Wear dark glasses if it’s sunny!
We spent the day wandering around and then returned to Blakeney where a quick constitutional took us out onto the dykes across the saltings before returning for baths, pre-prandials and an excellent dinner.
Late to bed early to rise : off in the morning to Wells where we parked up the car and the three of us walked the circuit along the beach to Holkham and back along the edge of the pines for a light lunch before making our way home to Mistley.
Stopped by J & B in Norwich on the way home. It’s a great gentleman’s outfitters of the kind you only find in the provinces! They fit classic, conservative clothes for the bigger gent though in this case it was Tony shopping for trousers. Holt is a good place for gents’ clothing too – we’ve been there a few times. Good for shirts! They have excellent bookshops too.
And home to The Green.
The other adventure this week apart from, as I say, the quartets and trios, has been showing Friend Lindsay (Hoyer-Millar) Frinton which she had never seen. It was a grey day on Monday last. Our lovely Polish Ladies come to clean every second Monday and like the house empty to deal with our cobwebs, so we always breakfast out and then drive off somewhere. This time it was Frinton.
A stroll along the hutted promenade, and the greensward toward Walton-on-the-Naze to see the collection of Deco buildings there I am afraid did not convince Lindsay to up sticks and leave Sudbury where she now lives; but lunch at the Alma Inn in Harwich was a great success; always an excellent menu there and their seafood platters are to die for, really almost more than you can eat.
It was a good day. Always lovely to meet Friends, and we enjoyed showing Harwich to Lindsay too : you need to look hard but believe it or not it is a gem of a town. Samuel Pepys lived there and the Captain of the Mayflower too – his house stands opposite the Alma Inn.
Oh the things we see.
Please don’t for a moment think us East Anglians don’t get a drop of two of culture!
Friends Lulu and Willy Meston arranged a mini-Glyndebourne at Brightlingsea last Friday. Well, rather Julia Cuthbert at Kiln Farm did. What a wonderful evening with works by Mozart, Handel, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, Blitzstein, I wish it so from JUNO, Lehar’s Vilya, one of my favourites, from THE MERRY WIDOW and Bernstein’s Maria from WEST SIDE STORY and Make our Garden Grow from CANDIDE.
The irrepressible Lulu Meston our Gateway to East Anglian County culture!
We picnic’d lavishly, Prosecco’d naughtily (luckily Willy always drives!) and enjoyed very much the wonderful music of Orlando Jopling’s Roman River Music, all works adapted for his talented String Quintet. What would we do without the Meston’s who ease us rough-edged South Africans into the hurly-burly of County Culture. (I draw the line at an Aga!)
Bring it on Mestons. Thanks!
And then thank you Friend Ruth who astonishingly was able to get hold of four perfectly placed seats at locked-down Snape for an evening with the genius of Jess Gillam playing works on her Sax adapted from Poulenc, Fitkin, Dowland and Piazolla with superb accompaniment by Zenep Özsuca, the talented Turkish pianist wearing bright red stilettoes! Jess Gillam was wearing a startling gold lamè dinner suit which matched her saxophone, and black Doc Martens. An eccentric rig for a lovely, warm evening of music. Thanks Ruth, it was great!
And here we are. It’s the weekend, but you’ll have to wait for the surprises we spring till next time!
I heard on the radio this morning that Covid is dividing the nation even more than Brexit. Personally I can hardly believe it could be divided more but there you go. Apparently those that are Mask-careless and impatient of the Social Distancing protocols are largely Brexiteers and those that are not are largely Remoaners.
Now isn’t that interesting?
Thanks Friends. Goodnight!