Tuesday 30 April 2019

As I admitted yesterday, I'm not a huge fan of royalty (but better the Queen than a Trump!) - however, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit at the weekend to catch the last day of the Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs exhibition at the Queen's Gallery (now transferring to Edinburgh, where admission charges are considerably cheaper!).
It's all very topical for those who are watching Victoria on TV ... and I thought I was au fait with who's who, but even so my head was spinning with all those royal marriages across Europe.
I think my favourite exhibit was Princess Charlotte's beautifully preserved Russian dress - as seen in the portrait above. Touchingly, it was a maternity dress - her death following childbirth in 1817
left the throne vacant for Queen Victoria. So rare that the clothes seen in portraits survive.

I'm not sure when 8th wedding anniversaries became a 'thing' and possibly Kate's GCVO from the Queen is a consolation prize for the domestic upheaval that hasn't been reported in the British press but everyone knows about, anyway. (Big topic of discussion at tonight's book group! Consensus: William was good-looking for about ten minutes.)
Anyway, whilst not giving a stuff about royalty - we devoted another five minutes to wondering whether Meghan's pregnancy is really a cushion - it did remind me that eight years ago, I was very excited to have a prime seat at the royal wedding. The Morning After!
And I felt a bit nostalgic for the days when I put a bit more effort into this blog. Apologies to those who carry on reading.  It's not just me ... so many blogs that I enjoyed reading have spluttered out.

SUNDAY, 1 MAY 2011

Not the Royal Wedding ... but as near as I'm ever likely to get.
Maybe the Archbishop had heard that I was a bit miffed yesterday and told them to roll out the red carpet or they'd never hear the end of it. 
What a day I have had. And I only queued ... look away, this might make you jealous ... I only queued for ten minutes. Yes, that's right. 
It didn't bode well for my return trip to the Abbey after I went to bed with a half-plan to compose a worshipful face and go to matins. I didn't open my eyes until 8.15am. (I know, I know, but I'm not a morning person.) I nearly rolled right over and went back to sleep. 
I shot out of the house on a gulp of tea and half a slice of toast. But even so, it was 9.40am before I emerged out of Westminster tube station. Blown it, I thought ...
Until I walked around the corner and realised that there was hardly any queue at all. So I chatted away to three elderly American ladies who were just as thrilled as I was. (They had camped out all of Thursday night on the Mall. I could only admire their stamina.)
And by 9.50am precisely, I was seated in Poets' Corner. (Under Robert Garrick if you really want every literary detail.)
But, oh ... the scent of lilies of the valley as you walk into the Abbey ... it was heavenly. She must have wafted down that aisle on a cloud of perfume. 
Now, having criticised Huw of the BBC for his lack-lustre commentary, I shall have to try to do a better job. And for our overseas readers - that's you, Darlene - and those who haven't been inside the Abbey since they were at school (that's me) ... what can you see from Poets' Corner?
Well, these are the posh seats. Not exactly the orchestra stalls, more the stalls circle. On the Queen's side of the church but several rows behind the immediate family. Think foreign dignitaries and diplomats. But you'd be straining to see much over Princess Bea's Moose Hat.
Needless to say, I was delighted. This was Mission Accomplished. And the music was wonderful, the organ and the choir soaring up into that glorious vaulted roof ... and yes, I did well up. (Tears rolling down my cheeks, if you must know. I think I'd quite forgotten that this was Not the Royal Wedding. Not really.) I'm relieved to realise that - contrary to reports in yesterday's papers - the cart-wheeling verger doesn't seem to be in trouble. At least, the venerable canon cracks a joke about him in her sermon.
And then it was over. I shuffled around Poets' Corner, paying social calls ... Anne of Cleves (heavens, it must have been quite an amicable divorce); TS Eliot, the War Poets, Tennyson, Robert Browning, DH Lawrence (well, fancy that). But despite this morning's unusually large congregation for matins, it is being made abundantly clear by the vergers that Sightseeing is not playing by the rules. Anyway, they're trying to clear the Abbey for the next service.
I'll have you know that my behaviour so far has been impeccable. But I really, really want to stand for a moment looking down the nave at all those trees. (I've only had a sideways glimpse of the flowers over the altar.) So I did what any determined, churchgoing lady would do ... I ducked under the barrier. Only for a quick look ...
And then I realise that people are taking their seats again. The verger assures me that you can sit anywhere you like ...
And that, ladies, is how I came to be sitting - for the next hour - in one of the best seats in the Abbey at the foot of the steps to the altar. 
Because I was in Carole Middleton's seat. Her - actual - seat. Smug ... I've been insufferable all day. I mean, I queued for ten minutes!) 
Now I could see the flowers ... and a glimpse of that avenue of trees. As the bride entered into the quire, it must have been absolutely enchanting as if she were walking out of a woodland glade. (It is completely true what you've read in the papers. Here in the posh seats, the atmosphere is intimate.)
But those flowers .... high, high above me there's a tumble of white rhododendrons, and what might be white wisteria, entwined around the clerestory windows as if it was growing wild.
There's white cherry blossom and azalea. And every so often, a flap of clerical vestments creates a draught ... and that heavenly scent of lilies of the valley washes over me again.
And I realise that this is the stage upon which one day William's Coronation will be enacted. 
It feels overwhelmingly solemn. 
Belatedly, I realise that the floor of the high altar is the famous Great Pavement that supposedly predicts the end of the world. (For years, it was carpeted over and only revealed for a couple of days every three years or so. And I never remembered the dates, so I've never seen it.)
When it is time to leave, I walk slowly in Catherine's footsteps - to music by Elgar - through the beautiful blue quire, under the golden arches ... thank you, all sarcastic remarks have already been made by family members ... and out into that avenue of trees. Where it is heaving with people. And there is plenty of time to bury my nose in all those lilies of the valley. They are planted at the base of each tree ... and suddenly I notice something that Huw didn't mention. They're interspersed with strawberry plants ... tiny white flowers, and tight berries, and just one that's almost ripe. (No, I didn't. It didn't even cross my mind. Actually, there was a chunk out of it as if a mouse might have got there before me. And, anyway, those vergers would have been down on me like avenging archangels. They were already fighting a losing battle against the cardinal sin of Photography.) 
Talking about sins of decorum ... would you believe the woman sitting next to me? Who chobbled her way loudly through an apple and took swigs out of a bottle of fizzy pop. During a service. In a cathedral. In the front row before the high altar.
Anybody still reading? I promise never to mention weddings again. 
Just curtsey on your way out ...
And many thanks to Westminster Abbey.
For a morning I'll remember for the rest of my life. 

PS Almost forgot to mention, that the bride's bouquet had been laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The flowers beginning to fade ... more lilies of the valley, hyacinth and myrtle, and what looked like sparkling raindrops but was actually silver wire twisted through the flowers.
The last word promise starts now!

Tuesday 23 April 2019

I suppose there's no way I was going to miss a ballet film, no matter how lukewarm the reviews - but sadly The White Crow really is just a plodding bio-pic. Quite an achievement to make the thrilling Cold War story of Nureyev's defection so very ... flat.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Photographs can't do it justice - but the Anish Kapoor exhibition at newly-restored Pitzhanger Manor (Sir John Soane's country house in Ealing) is quite magical in an Alice in Wonderland kind of way.
It would be entrancing for children who can be trusted not to touch!

Monday 15 April 2019

Gorgeous day at Kew last week seeing these lovely Chihuly glass sculptures that always make me smile. Vermilion and cherry blossom ... why not! 

Cheered up my Monday morning by booking one of the last remaining seats to see Maggie Smith in this. I'll be perched on a restricted view stool ... but how many more chances will we have? It's her first time time on the London stage in 12 years.