Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fanny as Ophelia

Ophelia is a painting by British artist Sir John Everett Millais, completed between 1851 and 1852. Currently held in the Tate Britain in London, it depicts Ophelia, a character from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, singing before she drowns in a river in Denmark.

Ophelia has fallen into the river from a tree overhanging it, while gathering flowers. She lies in the water singing songs, as if unaware of her danger ("incapable of her own distress"). Her clothes, trapping air, have allowed her to temporarily stay afloat ("Her clothes spread wide, / And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up."). But eventually, "her garments, heavy with their drink, / Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay" down "to muddy death."

Ophelia's death has been praised as one of the most poetically written death scenes in literature.

At a secluded spot close to Easton Grey, in the beautiful, deep green countryside of North Wiltshire, Fanny decided to re-enact Ophelia.  It was a wonderful, sunny day in late June.  We arrived in my classical green Rolls Royce, parking almost 1 mile away and making our way by foot along the Fosse Way.   I was wearing a simple white 1950s evening gown, with my couturier carrying a dressing-gown and assortment of towels.  

We had a team of photographers on the banks of the River Avon, as well as one underwater.  As someone deeply concerned by art and beauty, I wanted to make a powerful statement.   Here are some pictures:

Ophelia's pose—her open arms and upwards gaze—also resembles traditional portrayals of saints or martyrs, but has also been interpreted as erotic.   This is something I simulated.  It felt a defining moment to be in this beautiful, tiny river, surrounded by nature, just drifting.

The concept of drowning and the death of beauty and romance has been captured many times since Ophelia, in cinema and music.  The piece of music which I believe most encapsulates a modern-reworking of Ophelia is the little-known song, Drowning, by All About Eve.   Here is the music:  

Monday, 25 June 2012

A wonderful view from up here

Fanny enjoyed a fine lunch - Icelandic salmon and four wonderful bottles of 1976 Montrachet - in northern Buckinghamshire yesterday and then went for a climb to enjoy better views of the lovely countryside.  

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Today's purchase

Yes, that's right, hot from the postman's mail delivery bag came this wonderful device, ordered especially in from my homeland.  I am having it installed in my boudoir.   My metered reading on the above device is usually -20 (except at periods of stress, such as those recently described in the treacherous Olive Oil Incident, when it goes positively off the scale).

I try to keep myself calm by listening to something soothing, such as Maria Callas, Brahms, or Killer Swarm of Death, an unsung Norwegian death metal band, now sadly disbanded due to their rampant Satanism and wonderful stage acts involving a boa constrictor, a cement mixer and a cream egg.

On the subject of cream eggs, I had never before heard of these chocolates.  Being American, we just don't have them over the Pond.  For the uninitiated, cream eggs are little oval-shaped bon-bons, labelled to contain a calorie intake of 5,000,000g of fat and sugar; they are a national past-time in the United Kingdom, everyone eats them, usually twelve in one go, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They aid digestion and are incredibly good for the complexion.  Really, I find British eating habits marvellous.  I'm rather against tipping, per se, so when I'm being chauffeured around, and when some holds a door open for me or gives me impeccable service, I don't tip with money, I tip with a cream egg.  I know it is always appreciated and is helping to keep England a nation of fatties; after all, there's only one nation fatter than the English and that's the Welsh, although I know they won't be offended at reading this, as they don't actually read/speak English but some other language, called - I believe - Mandarin.


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Peeweed on Pink Gin

Pink Gin is a forgotten cocktail, worthy of resurrection, in my judicious opinion, not simply because of the quantity of men I have seduced whilst under its influence, but the elegantness of it all..  It was a fashionable tipple in the 1930s and the unofficial cocktail of the Royal Navy, reminscent of smart cocktail parties, cigarette holders and the stiff upper lip.  Some quarters even claimed it a cure for seasickness and hiccups, and it's considered by aficionados as a typical British drink.

It's a 3-minute, simple tipple to make: swirl a few drops of Angostura Bitters around a cocktail glass, add some crushed ice and a squintingly generous slug of Plymouth Gin, top up with iced water and carefully shaved lemon rind (the citrus oils subtly complement the flavour).  Optionally, you can burn the Bitters with a lit match prior to adding the Gin to create a smokey flavour-spike.  The finished cocktail has a lovely, lusty, pink colour. 

The only problem I had this Saturday morning was locating a bottle of Angostura Bitters.   It is a dark red extract of gentian and spices, first made in the 1820s on the Venezuelan coast, but nowadays produced in Trinidad and Tobago.  They didn't sell it in any local shop, despite getting my private secretary to ring around.

In the end, startled by the incompetence of my private secretary and the lack of culture of the surrounding areas, I jumped into my Rolls Royce and drove to the nearest town that stocked a bottle of vintage Angostura Bitters - Reading, Berkshire.

Unfortunately for me, the beverage was rather addictive (44% proof) and I ended up drinking three-quarters of a bottle neat even before I had left the shop, getting so plastered that I inadvertently boarded a train at Reading station and ended up waking up three and a half hours later in South Wales.

Stumbling from the railway station, I looked around me and a terrible realisation that I'd visited this town before dawned on me.  I had arrived, once more, in the town of Port Talbot, some 200 terrifying miles from home.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Five objects to take to a desert island

I am often asked what five objects I would take with me to a desert island.

The thought of having to leave the comfort of extensive country estate brings a tear to my eye (less so the thought of never having to visit Primark ever again).

As the question is so oft asked of me, I thought I would once and for all make a posting.

Here are the five items I would take to a desert island, in no particular order:


A couple of bottles of 1907 Heidsieck champagne take pride of place in my wine cellars.  The champagne was originally shipped to a Russian imperial family in 1916, but the vessel was shipwrecked and 200 bottles ended up on the bottom of the ocean for the next 80 years.  Selling at $275,000 per bottle, I do think it's one of the nicest beverages and I often drink it in the bath.  I sometimes even bathe in the champagne, as it leaves the skin feeling like velvet.


I don't know what it is exactly, but I just can't do without this little 'tonic', in the form of an energising yellow and green capsule, taken once a day.

Everywhere I go, whether it's lunching with a Scottish Baroness, or giving a gala performance in London, I ensure I'm readily prepared for the unknown and keep a little brown bottle in my purse, as a kind of mid-afternoon pick-me-up.  I'm often seen in the Ladies, during interval, having a good sniff.  The only problem I've found is they don't sell them in my darling Liberty's or any of the uber-chic London boutiques I like to visit.


I've always had a thing about young squaddies.  So virile.  He visits me for long weekends.


Finally, my fifth and last item:

Yes, that's right: a vintage video camera.  I'm a collector of vintage things.  Whilst it's fairly old, it still records great film.  I like to make lots of films.  Usually just myself and a ripped young man.  I think you'll find there's some films on the internet of just the two of us together.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A dirty trick with oil

Fanny recently had the pleasure of moving to her summer house, a rather large, detached period property deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside, yet only 30 miles from London.

However, one of my serving staff, a scullery maid, was thrown from an upstairs window after playing a very dirty trick on me involving a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

Yes, that's right, dear Reader, the malicious and contemptible act of placing a large bottle of oil on the very top shelf of a cupboard, high up, with the top missing.   A sprung trap.

It struck me on the head and covered my hair and face with its sticky contents.  I've had to employ a coiffeurist who has stream-cleaned my hair over 300 times to remove the oil, and the dress I was wearing - antique Victorian lace - was completely ruined.