Country Life, detaupeur, Doge's cap, Duchess of Devonshire, Gainsborough, hoi polloi, Lady Chatterley, Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Manon, Marie-Therese, Mellor, Mitford, moleman, Morels, Mr and Mrs Andrews, Nigel Farndale, Oklahoma, PD James, Picasso's Girl reading, Picasso's lover, Raymond Blanc, ridotto, sestieri, Shiitake, surrey with fringe on top, Temple of Ostentation, U and non-U, Wendy Holden, Wollaton Hall, Wood Blewit, woodchuck
True to her word, Dru re-appeared at Snodland Nursing Home for the
Debased Gentry, the following day.
Her great-aunt was still ploughing through the back numbers of
Country Life, but was milking the October 2014 copy.
Who is this Wendy Holden woman? she asked, a little ferociously.
She has the cheek to comment that she was more than a little relieved
when Scotland decided to ‘stick with us’. That personal object pronoun
reveals her supercilious position. Then she says elsewhere that
she loves being provincial. Well, she needs to cosmopolitanise some of
her ideas. She sounds like a Mitford with out-dated views based on U-s
I mean, she admits that she had never met The Duchess of Devonshire,
but she shared a mole-man with her. Let’s face it, we are all within five
handshakes of the Queen’s forelock-tugging detaupeur, for crying out loud.
I was going to say we are within five handshakes of Lady Chatterley’s
gamekeeper, but Mellor isn’t a popular name to be associated with at the
moment. You’d certainly want to use one of those medicated wipes after
any such contact. Hmm…
Next, in an attempt to appear to belong to the hoi polloi, this woman’s
rabbiting on, to continue our groundsman analogy, about gondolas ferrying
people to the ridotto and sestieri crowned with the Doge’s cap, while she
and her brood had to await their surrey with the fringe on top in a Venetian
Park-and-Ride. My heart bleeds…
Aunt Augusta! If the magazines upset you, I shan’t bring any more.
Augusta gave her a withering glance.
No, I liked PD James’ article on Gainsborough’s painting of Mr and Mrs
Andrews. I’d never noticed the blank patch on her lap, apparently
unpainted so that it could receive a pheasant. It might be a handy
explanation to cover the damp patches we see in laps in here. The
owners could just say airily: ‘Oh, I’m awaiting my retriever bringing
Did you like Nigel Farndale defending his county by saying:
Not all counties can be Yorkshire, of course, but Lancashire suffers
from this unfortunate truth more than most, ‘ Dru enquired.
Yes, and I liked the bit on Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire, with its
Temple of Ostentation- a metaphor for the publication itself? Or
even for this establishment, dare I say it?
Changing the subject, would you like to stay for lunch? I can ask
them if they have some spare portions. Margaret passed on last
night, but she’d already filled in her menu, so they should have
enough. I think it’s mushroom risotto. They’re trying to kill us off.
Oh, all right. Thanks, agreed Dru. And she settled down in an
armchair to read about Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. She’s always
wanted to go there, but it was beyond Nigel’s budget on a Junior
Oh! Raymond Blanc was smiling from an article called Humungus
Fungus. He seemed to be growing morels, wood blewits, shiitake
and pisstaki in a shipping container in a part of the grounds called
La Vallee des Champignons Sauvages. It reminded her of that opera
she’d once seen at Glyndebourne. What was it? Manon L’Escargot?
But sometimes you just wanted a good old unpretentious favourite
like Oklahoma. Or a boiled egg.
And she followed her aunt into the dining room, humming:
You can keep your rig if you’re thinkin’ that I’d keer to swap
Fer that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on top!
And as they sat down at the communal board, Dru had to
confiscate the Country Life magazine.
Aunt Augusta, it’s rude to read at the table.
Nonsense. If Picasso’s lover, Marie-Therese did it, so can I.
We Bohemians make our own rules. Here, you can have
‘In the Classroom Today.’
And she didn’t utter another word throughout the meal.
Dru just hoped that the mushrooms were from a supermarket.
She didn’t want any gastrointestinal troubles in the last weeks