Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life by Lyndsy Spence

Quite the most delightful book release of the season is Lyndsy Spence's The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life. Each afternoon these past few days, at around three, I revived the gilt-rimmed bone china, poured Darjeeling (lemon no milk), nibbled digestives (but no dunking) - a faintly-quaintly sensurround of this kind is recommended for added enjoyment of the book - and lapped up the wisdom filleted from the extraordinary lives of the six aristocratic sisters, aka the Mitford Girls.

As 4,000 One Direction fans fill Leicester Square (as I write) for the boy band's film premier, what could these poor screaming wretches learn, say, from the chapter, Fan Devotion: A Cautionary Tale? Unity Mitford's adoration of Hitler provides the lesson. 'When one sits behind him,' she noted of Hitler, 'it's like sitting beside the sun. He gives out rays or something.' To fanatical Directioners - as One Direction fans are termed - Spence might offer this advice, based on Unity's sly stalking of the Führer: 'Don't rush head first into an encounter with your idol as this will label you as another fan. Edge your way in slowly and discreetly.' 

Play your cards right and you, too, could end up as Mrs Harry Styles.

There is no end of advice on all range of activity. Letter-writing the Mitford way? 'If you are sick, make a conscious effort to bake the letter in the oven as this will kill any lingering germs.' However, 'if you dislike the person you are writing to, by all means feel free to send the germs as well as your love.'

And should you desire to run away, as Leftie Jessica did, this nugget shines among many others: 'Open a bank account as soon as possible.'

Prepare to enter a world with its own language. 'Farve' and 'Muv' are translatable - Farve, by the way, could not abide jam running down the side of the jar. 'Wondair' is rather baffling. Does it mean 'wonderful'? Well you'll have to read the book. There are 'Hons' and 'Counter-Hons'. Beyond the cod advice, Spence immerses us in Mitford miscellanea. Muv, for instance, is buried unembalmed in Swinbrook, Oxfordshire. Not wondair!

This is a clever book indeed. Its self-help pose could herald the start of a whole series of books which turn celebrity lives into bullet-pointed parables, without the tiresome linear corset of traditional biography, birth to death to seance. At the same time, this new tribute genre permits author and reader a good biscuity wallow in the adored life. Fact and goss are savoured, played with, re-presented. If I didn't know better, I would say Lyndsy Spence - who bears an uncanny resemblance to Katie McGrath's Morgana in BBC series Merlin - must be some kind of benign stalker, the fan who will not boil the bunny, drawn to glamorous enclaves for a painless poke around.

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life tickled me from start to end. And Madame is not easily tickled.

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life can be bought here.

Madame Arcati's interview with Lyndsy Spence, here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

William Cash - one of the WI pensioners bites back

Cool reception: The Gatehouse, Upton Cressett Hall, Shropshire
Further to my post yesterday on the banning of a Women's Institute branch from William Cash's Grade 1 Elizabethan moated manor house in Shropshire, Upton Cressett Hall - he escorted 27 pensioners off the premises after one of them asked to take a leak - an anonymous fan (of mine) has drawn my attention to further distressing developments pertaining to William's gorgeous home.

For I see that on Trip Advisor, Upton Cressett Hall is uniformly trashed by six reviewers purporting to have visited the mediaeval property. 'Unbelievable arrogance and greed. Such a pity, with some forethought and consideration this could be a most enjoyable visit. 5 stars for the Romanian lady who served tea and cake,' writes one Terence James of Shrewsbury.

Another appears to respond to the infamous episode of early August during which he ejected the 27 WI pensioners. Cathy writes:
'Well our local ladies group had a fun afternoon as Mr Cash is totally disorganised and has a very short fuse. He'd booked in 2 groups by mistake. The outside loos were locked and he didn't have the key, and disaster struck when another visitor went to use the loo in the house and shut the front door - everyone locked out! He lost his cool and ranted threatening to cancel the tour. eventually he or his staff got in through an open window. We had our tea and cake then a tour of 3 rooms - very disappointing. We were then treated to Mr Cash having a discussion with ladies from the other group which turned into him yelling and shouting at them to leave and he forcibly ejected them from the property! Not his finest hour and we certainly would not recommend this.'
Oh dear. Perhaps William should stick to journalism where 'yelling and shouting' are at least a time-honoured tradition.

To read other reviews of Upton Cressett Hall, click here.

To visit Upton Cressett Hall, click here.

Listen to William describe his home, click here.

To read my post on how William threw out the pensioners, click here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

William Cash bans 27 WI pensioners from home over loo row

Upton Cressett Hall in Shropshire
It has been ages since I wrote of the poppetiest of the Arcati poppets, William Cash. To be brutally honest, when I warm to someone I tend to lose interest. The thaw began after the odd Twitter exchange with his former second wife Dr Vanessa Neumann - usually described as the 'glamorous, intellectual Venezuelan fire-cracker who once dated Mick Jagger'. William has given the world many laughs - usually because of the unintended consequences of his extraordinary obsession with life's baubles. But at least he has turned this amour into an editorial expression with Spear's - 'the essential resource for high net worths.' (Or put simply, not you, probably)

You may not know this, but these days the poppet lives in a rather grand Grade 1 Elizabethan brick manor called Upton Cressett Hall in Shropshire. Its history is a roll call of royals, dukes and others with the hereditary X factor. One of its owner-occupiers contributed to the Armada Fund in 1588, for instance. And one of its bedrooms is named after Baroness Thatcher! 

Much to my amazement, parts of the property are open to the public. Which brings me to the saddest tale of the season.

William maintains a blog on a website dedicated to his home. And the latest post is entitled, 'Why I banned the Women's Institute from Upton Cressett'. It is a narrative of woe you must read if you have half an hour to spare - it's rather long. But compelling. I won't bore you with the he-saids/she-saids, suffice to say that an 'owner tour' disintegrated into farce when William came to blows with a branch of the visiting WI.

Problems began one early August day this year when a floral-skirted old cunty dared to address him as 'staff' and demanded to know where the toilets were. There are none. Now, I should have thought a public convenience essential in a place open to the public and where they tend to drink tea and eat scones. William was taken aback. But he recovered and pointed to a private 'loo under the stairs.' Following more peculiar antagonism, at some point everyone was accidentally locked out of the Hall and William threw a strop, banning all 27 members of one WI branch at a stroke. He even escorted them ('mostly white haired pensioners in summer suits or sixty plus blue-rinse members of the jam-making and Order of the WI Battle-Axe variety.') to the car park.

William is sufficiently self-possessed to spot his inner Basil Fawlty and send himself up a little. But I mean, where's his, er, famed noblesse oblige?

To read William's blog, click here

Friday, August 09, 2013

Eric Joyce MP - the abstract painting that created the fuss

The recent fuss about Eric Joyce MP and his tigressy moll India Knight stirred up some media confusion. The wonderful artist M.K. Hajdin has revealed that she produced two artworks of or for the lively MP for Falkirk - one a literalist sketch, the other an abstract landscape.

Now, the abstract landscape is immediately below - the version India was rude about. Plainly she is no art critic. Then again, she doesn't claim to be Brian Sewell - can you imagine her immersing her arse in the sea as Brian once did on TV, nude? Frankly, Eric should return the abstract 'gift' to M.K. in my opinion. She claims he helped colour the work - he insisted on more red. M.K. writes on her site 'Halfway through [painting], Joyce said it wasn’t red enough, so I had to add a lot more red and adjust all of the other colors.  It’s got more red in it than I’d use, normally, but that’s what he wanted.'

Red, Purple, Green, mixed media, 70 x 100 cm, by M.K. Hajdin

Artist Rachel Mai says in her critique of the abstract: 'It seems to describe a rather materialistic personality of someone who has little communication between his conscious and his sub/ unconscious minds. Red, the base chakra, works for groundedness, prosperity and success. Hence for the Chinese, red is their "lucky colour". However, it is not usually considered an elevated colour for the aura and having a lot of it can indicate a base consciousness.' Rachel's Facebook page is here.

And this is M.K.'s sketch of Eric:

Gore Vidal, Fred Astaire and the cock size question

Will Gore Vidal be remembered 50 years from now? I doubt it. Myra Breckinridge will, by 2063, be a forgotten contribution to a vast library of late 20th century transgressive fiction. Vidal's first gay novel The City & The Pillar - a bold work of juvenilia for 1948is already just italics. No one reads it. The historical novels? See the fate of Barbara Cartland's oeuvre. The scintillating essays? See last season's collections with front row Anna in her shades: instant period pieces. In other words, Vidal surfed the earthly moments splendidly but left no timeless time-capsules. 

However, Vidal fans can cling to one hope for his immortality - he could survive in time's freezer as a case study. He fucked thousands, mainly other men. Rampant cockery and cuntery have their own heroes - or case studies. I won't name them; google 'em. Now, this November, a new book is released which examines the extent of Vidal's cockery. Penned by someone called Tim Teeman, it's titled In Bed With Gore Vidal: Hustlers, Hollywood and the Private World of an American Master and promises to be 'explosive'. That's a publishing word for 'sex life not shared by publisher'. Readers may say, as they flick over the kindle pages on the bus, 'How did he find the time?' That's what 'explosive' amounts to these days.

More importantly, did Gore Vidal possess a massive cock? The book will answer this question. But why wait for publication day? Here's the answer Tim offers prematurely:

'One of Vidal’s oldest friends was Scotty Bowers who had sex with, and procured sex for, celebrities including Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, and Vidal himself. “Gore had a medium-sized cock, seven inches, he looked circumcised but wasn’t,” Bowers recalls. The few times Bowers had sex with Vidal was “pleasant, not mad love.” Vidal was always “on the ball, not bashful or shy, rather aggressive and pushy,” and was “more or less into a quick trick. He did everything sexually: you sucked his cock, he would suck yours, but he preferred to fuck. He was young and hot and sex was rather quick.”' (From the Daily Beast)

I had no idea Gore had sex with Fred Astaire.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Eric Joyce MP portrait - and an odd Knight tale

Sketch of Eric Joyce MP. By  M.K. Hajdin. Reproduced by kind permission
Arcatistes of old will know that I love to showcase the work of original artists. So allow me to introduce you to M. K. Hajdin who, as you can see, sketched the lively MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce. She tells me that she planned to do a whole series of portraits of MPs. But got stuck at Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham for some reason. Mr Burnham has a pretty little face - perhaps M.K. found it too regular, or something.

I should say there appears to be an odd history to Eric's portrait which has involved his girlfriend, India Knight, the Sunday Times columnist. Because Madame Arcati dislikes unpleasantness, all I can do is refer you to M.K's site, Exiled Stardust. Seemingly, India has written M.K. an email. It begins: "Hello M.K Hadjin, it’s Eric’s partner here. My name is India Knight. I read your Twitter account with increasing alarm. Obviously you’re both not well and horribly lonely. You’re also boring. I have more than once suggested that Eric take out a restraining order, but he seems to pity you."

Did India really write that? It seems incredible.Perhaps all those deplorable Twitter bomb threats have got to her. Or the letter was written by someone else. But, still. Let's pass over this unfortunate episode and enjoy M.K.'s work.

PS The London Evening Standard has followed up this story - here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Hilary Gialerakis: After the Vaselined big one, the sale!

Ash Wednesday (The Lady
and the Leopards) by Hilary
Gialerakis. Photography by
Roger Smith
Was it really five years ago that I ran a piece here titled: 'Hilary Gialerakis: Bullet holes, Brian Sewell and a (Vaselined) big one'? Oh such happy days! You can click the link to read it if you have time. But suffice to say, I drew attention to the acclaimed and exquisite work of the late artist Hilary Gialerakis. I should clarify that Brian Sewell, the crumbling, impotent art critic with the Lady Bracknell drawl and wrinkled buttocks, is not the owner of the Vaselined big one of the title. That's someone else's. Seek enlightenment. Discover!

Drawing 6 by Hilary Gialerakis
Photography by Roger Smith
Anyhow, in 2008, Hilary's daughter Antonia Gialerakis self-published Hilary: An Unquiet Spirit, the artist's edited and at-times outrageous memoir/diaries. And in 2012, the fabled Quartet Books chairman Naim Attallah - whose antennae for celebrated talent rarely fails him - re-published the book. You can order it here.

I am now delighted to announce that Antonia has put on sale a few of her mother's extraordinary modernist (original) drawings/sketches and (prints of her) paintings. These really are collectors' items and worthy investments.

Gialerakis' paintings are exhibited here. And the drawings here. Antonia has also blogged on her book, here.

For price, contact Antonia via the Hilary Gialerakis Facebook page (here).