Tag Archives: John Kennedy

What princes can learn from frogs

The last time I wrote on this subject I was called bitchy by someone I like and admire so I’m treading carefully today. I’m referring to the current soap opera that I follow with fascination – no, not the busty beautiful Armenian family who seem to rivet the States, but a family nearer home (mine!)

The arguments for a republic versus a monarchy are not my domain, but in passing I’d say: do the third of the world’s population who belong to the Commonwealth and accept Elizabeth Windsor as their Queen, really want to swap this benign system for one in which their country is both ruled and represented by a Macron or a Sarkosy, or going further afield, a Berlusconi or a Putin? (I’m sticking resolutely to Europe for these comparisons rather than looking across the Atlantic to another controversial power situation.)

A minor point would be the sheer expense of changing all the millions of letterheads and signs, from the Royal Mail, to Her Majesty’s forces, even to a commission to serve in the army – I still treasure the wording on mine: “To my trusty and well-beloved”..
So I dip my toe very cautiously into the waters of controversy that I’m probably about to stir up as fiercely as they’ve already been muddied. I have both questions which will never be answered, and thoughts which may well be labelled bitchy again!
The world-wide airing of family linen by a woke American TV hostess provoked many of these thoughts, one of which was why didn’t the aggrieved pair who did the shaming and blaming to the whole world, just talk it over with their family?

It’s fascinating to analyse many of the extraordinary statements made, so many of which turned out to be untrue. The first of which was the smiling bombshell dropped, that the happy couple had had a private and secret ceremony three days before their wedding – that splendid ceremonial ritual for which the Royal family and the British taxpayer paid millions.

It felt as though Harry’s wife was implying that the spectacle was just for the peasants, but the real thing was their private ceremony, saying they “called up the Archbishop”, conjuring up a picture of the Primate of all England picking up his cassock and scurrying over to their garden for this touching little ceremony. ‘We have the certificate framed and hung on our wall’, she informed her gullible interviewer.

Well, I’d like to see a picture of this  document in its frame, hanging on a wall in California. The Archbishop, interviewed in an Italian magazine, has said that to have conducted such a misleading ceremony without all the required provisos of witnesses,  certificates, and legal processes would be “to have committed a serious criminal offence”.
So we can all breathe easy, the wedding which millions of people watched with such hope in their hearts Was the real thing, not the sham that Harry’s wife was suggesting. So we were not hood-winked after all. But why did she want to hoodwink us? Did she want us to feel she was too grand to share her vows with the public and family who were paying for it?

Then there was the brushing away of the question from Oprah that perhaps the new arrival had been welcomed into the family, showing a picture of Catherine and her sister taking Meghan to Wimbledon. ‘Things aren’t always how they look’, said Meghan evasively. No wonder she was evasive. That picture had been taken the day after Meghan had turfed forty tennis lovers out of the seats they had paid for, so she could sit with two friends in grand and conspicuous splendour uncontaminated by the great unwashed. She had sent her security men to forbid two other tennis fans from taking pics of her, the only problem being that one, a former Wimbledon player, was taking a selfie with Roger Federer, as was the elderly immigrant of many years attendance at the matches.

The next day, Catherine mounted a rescue operation to try to save Meghan’s face. She roped her sister Pippa in, to make it look like a casual girls afternoon  together, and they sat among the crowd, Catherine and her sister observing the Wimbledon requirements to dress up, while Meghan just wore a casual shirt and skirt.

Similarly at their very last engagement in the UK, the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, when everyone is asked to wear red, white or blue, Harry’s wife ignored the convention, and wore the Kermit green outfit which has since become such a talking point. And strangely all through the service, where the camera focused on the faces of the Royal family listening solemnly and sombrely to the sermon and the service, Meghan is smiling brightly and inappropriately all the way through… why, I wonder?

There hasn’t been much attention paid to one of the reasons Meghan was accused of bullying, but I find it fascinating. Apparently when Harry had a shooting party at Sandringham for his friends, Meghan had ordered red blankets for each of the guests. The staff got the wrong red, according to statements made about bullying. But why Was Meghan doling out red blankets? Was there not enough bedding in the bedrooms at Sandringham where generations of Royal family had slept? Or did she feel that the decor was so fusty or whatever, that she’d improve it with red blankets?  Either way it was a subtle criticism of the Queen’s home, and  disrespect for the generous grandmother who had lent it to her grandson.

And talking of Sandringham, one of the public criticisms of the “family Meghan had never had” in Harry’s words, was that the couple felt  unwelcomed. Yet they turned down invitations to spend Christmas at Sandringham with the whole family, and refused to go to Balmoral for the traditional summer holiday with everyone in the family. Instead, Meghan flew to New York for the weekend to watch her friend Serena play tennis.

The Queen bent every rule she had applied to other engaged members of the family and included Meghan and her mother at traditional family gatherings, including the big Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace for cousins and more distant family members. The public airing of so many petty grievances, imaginary slights, exaggerated claims and outright untruths was a strange decision for a couple who had said they were leaving their duties and their family in order to enjoy privacy in California.

These and many other thoughts filter through my mind as I watch the soap opera which continues to play out. The dignity and sadness of Prince Phillip’s passing is once again being muddied by Sussex decisions – the day after he returned to the US, Harry driving ninety two miles to lunch with an elderly Californian billionaire on his just bereaved grandmother’s birthday, and the re-issuing of the infamous tell- all ‘Finding Freedom’, which will now include the Oprah Winfrey accusations, and all the angst and arrows directed at the Royal family and the British public with which the alienated pair have so freely wounded them.

In a recent blog I used the headline ‘Truth Matters’, and to see how destructive it has been to watch two people give ‘their truth’ in order to have revenge ( what for) or to justify walking away from commitments and responsibilities has been deeply saddening.  The self-serving attempts by privileged adults to undermine the reputations of well meaning people, trying to trash and dis-respect an ancient institution, and bad mouthing a whole country and it’s customs are neither kind, nor compassionate or any of the things this woke couple keep preaching about.

Such ingratitude was all the more surprising from a couple who had enjoyed privileges, palaces, and private jets, couture clothes and continual luxury holidays, while the people they patronisingly lectured about saving the planet, got on with the daily drudgery of earning just enough money to survive. Meghan complained that she was only surviving but not flourishing – yet this is the fate of many others too.

In fact, Prince Harry and his wife are a constant reminder to me how imperfect I am as a human being because they evoke in me such enjoyment of schadenfreude. As so many people have commented, it’s like watching a train crash, but sadly as in any train crash, there’s a lot of damage. Maybe the lesson the terrible two are teaching me is the necessity of integrity, and the value of non-judgement.

And as Marcus Aurelius said nearly two thousand years ago: “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine…”

While the pain of Harry and Meghan’s attacks on family and country was unfolding, his ninety-nine year old grandfather died. The world has learned from all his eulogies what a magnificent life he lived, full of good deeds, duty, and devotion to his wife, family and country.

I wrote to a friend in the US:
“Have been feeling rather sad today about the death of Prince Philip, a much maligned man, especially in the nefarious and destructive Netflix episodes. He was a fine man, and I was fascinated to learn that among the two thousand books in his own library, were 650 books on birds, an amazing five hundred on religion, several hundred on horses, and over two hundred poetry books. He was also a talented painter, an interesting, clever and kindly man, very good to Diana, much underrated and un-appreciated… married to the Queen for 73 years, and loyal and faithful, in spite of all the untrue nasty gossip hawked around by Netflix et al. RIP”

And I shared a moment which was so typical of him… my daughter’s godmother, who in her retirement was a guide at St George’s Windsor, had sent my daughter a silver chain and pilgrim medallion struck to mark some historic anniversary.  She wore it to receive her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Medal from Prince Philip at Government House in Wellington. He immediately noticed her chain and talked to her about it, having recognised it was a St George’s souvenir… how many men, in all that crowd, would have noticed and recognised what one of the teenagers was wearing?

duke.jpgThe photo of the Duke which I placed here,, of the Duke examining the medallion keeps disappearing on reader’s blogs… no doubt I will understand the arcane ways of WordPress one day.

I met him at a function on their Jubilee tour, he was a gorgeous man, and so relaxed and friendly. I told him I worked from home, and he agreed that it was a great system, saying he too worked above the shop!!!

And I loved this story from my oldest friend, from when we were both twenty. She wrote to me:
“I must admit to quite a few tears, it is so sad, he was an amazing man, now at last the public will find out his true  value.My father took a polo team to Windsor one year, calling themselves ‘Low arrow cottage!’ They were four middle aged men who loved their hunting and their horses and enjoyed their polo, although not that good! They joined the tournament, and  one of their number got injured, Prince Philip strolled over to my father and said , “I see you are a man down, would you like me to play for you?” Which he did, until they got knocked out, how kind  was that !”

You see, Harry and Meghan, as Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice.”

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

What no recipe, several readers queried after my last blog! That was some time ago, as my computer collapsed, taking everything with it, and I’m still gathering the lost chords, including my blog, addresses, and all the other blogs I used to read…
However, I have still been eating, and here is a dish I gave to my vegan granddaughter, which I also enjoy.
Take a cup or so of green puys lentils, pour two cups of vegetable stock over them ( I use chicken stock if I’m cooking these for myself ) and start them boiling. Meanwhile, in a tablespoon of good olive oil, saute half an onion, a carrot and a courgette, chopped very small, and add two bay leaves, garlic and thyme to taste. Tip them into the lentils, add some tomato puree or a dollop of soya sauce, and cook till the lentils are soft but not mushy, adding more liquid if necessary. I serve these with salmon, or grilled sausages, and even enjoy them on their own, with a sprinkling of extra olive oil on top… almost calorie -free good protein …

Food for Thought

Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments. Rose Kennedy

Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. Rose’s son

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. Him again.


Filed under cookery/recipes, kate and pippa middleton, Queen Elizabeth, Royals, Uncategorized

The Pursuit of Love and Other Interests!





When I was twenty and longing to fall in love, I came across a book that seemed made for me. It was called The Pursuit of Love.

But far from being chick-lit (a term which hadn’t been invented then) it was an elegant, deliciously funny work of literature. Back then with no internet, and no Wikipedia, it was almost impossible to find out anything about the writer, Nancy Mitford, but when her next book appeared, I was waiting with eager open hands. Since however, a whole library of books has been written about Nancy Mitford and her extraordinary six sisters.

Actually The Pursuit of Love has wickedly funny descriptions of most of her sisters, and her parents too. Uncle Mathew – her father – having passed into legend. Nancy was the eldest, and had a series of love affairs and a miserable marriage until she met General de Gaulle’s chef de mission, a philanderer called Gaston de Palewski. She fell hopelessly in love with him, and after the war moved to Paris to be near him, swallowing his other affairs with difficulty. She went on to write a series of witty and sparkling best-sellers, including historical books. She was probably the most brilliant of the sisters.

Pam, next in line, was superficially the least interesting of the sisters – her idea of bliss was working a farm and milking. Poet John Betjeman wanted to marry her, and wrote poetry about her, but she ended up marrying a famous physicist, millionaire and amateur jockey, who won the Grand National, the most famous race in England, and also became a much decorated RAF pilot. There’s no room here for more of his extraordinary life and serial marriages! But when their fourteen year old marriage broke up, Pam became a lesbian, a farmer, bred dogs, and practised re-cyling so obsessively that she was the laugh of the family – but in hindsight, may have been one of the first conservationists.

Diana, the next, was a great beauty, and like all her sisters possessed of great intelligence and spirit. Married for a couple of years to a rich Guinness heir, she threw it all away for love of Sir Oswald Moseley, another philanderer, who was ravishing not only his wife but her two sisters at the same time that he was  seducing Diana. When his wife died of appendicitis, Moseley, founder of the British fascists, the Blackshirts, married Diana. As fascist friends of Hitler and co, their wedding took place in Goebbel’s home, and Hitler strolled over from his office with a wedding present, to celebrate the occasion with them.

Back in England when the war broke out, Diana and her husband were imprisoned as potential traitors for most of the war, and Pam looked after their children. After the war, the Moseleys settled in a famously beautiful country home outside Paris, where he carried on his trouble making politics and his philandering, while Diana wrote and edited a fascist magazine plus her books. She never recanted her belief in the goodness of Hitler, and to her dying day said what had happened was exaggerated, or that his underlings had done it without his knowledge.

Unity the fourth sister, a tall imposing blonde, went to Germany to learn the language and fell in love with Hitler. Being a snob, as well as a racist, he found the blonde Aryan- looking aristocrat  intriguing, and they became good friends. She introduced all her family to him, except for Nancy, and her two younger sisters. They were all very taken with Germany’s dictator who showered favours upon them. When war broke out, Unity shot herself in the head, but survived, and Hitler paid her medical expenses, and sent her on a special ambulance train to Switzerland, from where her parents could retrieve her. It caused a sensation! Unity survived until three years after the war, with the mind of a twelve year old, incontinent, and confused. She died of meningitis caused by the head wound.

Jessica ‘s story is in The Pursuit of Love – how she saved all her pocket money throughout her childhood for her running – away fund, and on meeting Esmond Romilly a troubled and truculent nephew of Winston Churchill, they eloped together at eighteen to join in the Spanish Civil War. Nancy Mitford’s account of their escapade is very funny, she had a gift for sending life up. Back in England, their first child died at a few months old, and they went to the US, as convinced communists.

When war broke out, Esmond joined the air force, and was killed, leaving Jessica with a daughter and no money. Eventually she married another communist and they had numerous problems during the McCarthy era, when they worked to help blacks in California. She made a name for herself in America writing books exposing scandals like the funeral parlour business – The American Way of Death etc. and her best- selling autobiography,‘ Hons and Rebels’.

Deborah, the youngest, married a Guards officer. His eldest brother, who was married to President Kennedy’s sister Kathleen, was killed in Normandy, so the young guards officer became the Duke of Devonshire. John Kennedy, Deborah’s brother in law was very fond of her, and invited her to his In-auguration where she sat beside him to watch the parade, and she attended his funeral of course, broken hearted.

As chatelaine of Chatsworth, one of the greatest houses in England, she restored it, made it a prosperous business so the family can afford to live there, and preserved all its treasures so the public can enjoy them too. She opened farm shops, bred and showed dying breeds of hens, cattle and ponies, has written wry witty books, preserved her marriage to her alcoholic philandering husband and survived several miscarriages to bring up a happy family.( So many of the Mitford girls’ men seemed to be both powerful and philanderers, unlike their rigidly upright father)

The story I like best about Deborah was when war broke out when she was nineteen. She was staying on a remote Scottish Island in the Hebrides with her mother, and had to get her goat, her Labrador and her whippet back to Oxfordshire. To get from the island there was a long walk from the house across a slippery sea-weed covered causeway at low tide to reach their boat. This meant leaving in the dark at 6.30 am. Once in the boat and having reached the Isle of Mull, there was another long and hazardous walk over rocks to the tin hut where their car was kept. From here she drove across Mull to catch the ferry to the mainland. The ferry took three hours to get to Oban, where she waited all day with all the animals for the London train. To pass the time, she went shopping around Oban. Accompanied by the goat and two dogs, and buying their lunch from a butcher and a greengrocer!

The train arrived at Stirling in the middle of the night, where she had to change trains and wait an hour for the London train. She took the animals into the first class waiting room, which she characteristically mentions she shouldn’t have done since she only had a third class ticket. Here she milked the goat, and gave it to the dogs to drink. Then off to London in the train, a taxi to her sister Nancy’s house, where the goat cleaned up her garden while they waited another two hours for the train to Oxfordshire. Now that’s what I call an epic journey. Deborah is still alive and lively at ninety three, her son now being the present duke.

The only son in this extraordinary family whose father, Lord Redesdale, prospected fruitlessly for years in the 1920 Gold Rush in Ontario, was a lawyer, musician and soldier who was killed in Burma. Book lovers like me have a whole library on this coterie of girls who were related to, or knew many of the main players in history at that time, including Winston Churchill who was their uncle. There are all their books, their letters to people like Evelyn Waugh, and Patrick Leigh Fermor, autobiographies, biographies, their novels plus memories of them written by others – a real niche market – and I have them all. Like ‘em or hate ‘em, they were an extraordinary phenomena, who unself-consciously lived lives less ordinary.

And this is why I prefer fact to fiction – facts are so interesting and truly, in that old cliché – so much stranger than fiction.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This recipe for courgette slice was given me by a friend twenty five years ago. It’s one of the most blotched and spotted recipes in my book, as I often use it at this time of year when courgettes /zucchini are cheap and plentiful. The original recipe used three slices of bacon, but I use a tin of salmon. Beat five eggs, and add a chopped onion which has been gently fried in butter, a cup of cheese, chopped bacon or drained tin of salmon, and about four or five grated courgettes – 12 ounces in weight. Mix well with a cup of flour and half a cup of oil, add salt and pepper, and if using salmon, a good helping of dill.

Bake in a moderate oven. I serve it hot with new potatoes, green vegetables, and sometimes make a quick tomato sauce, frying tomatoes in olive oil, adding a little sugar, salt and pepper. I prefer it luke warm or cold, when it’s good with salad and summer vegetables. It’s great to take on a picnic, and cut off slices, or in a packed lunch. This amount serves six, but I often make double the quantity and freeze one.

Food for Thought

“Through respect for Divine Order, patience is cultivated. This brings knowledge of proper timing. In that is great intelligence. Often other issues and other needs have to be worked out before your plans can unfold, before your place can be set at the table. By respecting all things, and most especially Divine Order, you will attain peace and patience. Through this, you will be directed to the most efficient use of your life, so that you can experience self respect to the fullest…”

“ Love Without End – Jesus Speaks”  by Glenda Green



Filed under animals/pets, books, cookery/recipes, culture, great days, history, life/style, literature, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized