JAN MOIR: Sorry, I don’t blame Carrie for wanting a Lytle luxury
Perhaps you may find this surprising — because I certainly do — but as we roll on through Wallpapergate, it is Carrie Symonds who has my sympathy.
The price of having her walls lined with gold scrolling ferns is that she has been painted as a grasping opportunist who would spend £1,000 on a designer tea cosy, if only she could get some mug Tory Party donor to foot the bill.
A Carrie Antoinette doing the cakewalk of greedy shame down corridors lined with the finest silks; a Princess Nut Nut wallowing in tasteful luxury while the peasants have to make do with John Lewis posters and wipe-clean sofas in practical neutrals.
Give Carrie a break. She has had to cope with pregnancy, the pandemic and her lover, Boris, becoming dangerously ill
I hold no scented candle for the Prime Minister and his fiancée, who have both behaved with a remarkable lack of common sense over the refurbishment of their Downing Street flat
A preview of Lulu Lytle (pictured with her dog Panther) of Soane Britain’s collaboration with Christie’s Spring edition of The Collector sales
Gaah! Pass me that hand-stitched ivory vellum lampshade, all the better to shield my eyes from the décor horror of the High Street.
But is this fair? I hold no scented candle for the Prime Minister and his fiancée, who have both behaved with a remarkable lack of common sense over the refurbishment of their Downing Street flat. And that is putting it mildly. But is she deserving of so much of the blame?
Perhaps we should remember that when Carrie moved into Downing Street in July 2019 she was already (possibly) pregnant with son Wilf, who was born the following April. The impulse to nest, to put her stamp on another woman’s recently vacated domain must have been powerful.
One must also factor in the dreariness and claustrophobia of living in this public building at the heart of British government. French leaders have the Élysée Palace, Americans have the White House, but we have a clutch of poky rooms above the shop with a vermin problem.
Yes, there is the consolation of Chequers at the weekend — although not during the pandemic — but I imagine that actually living in Downing Street is a kind of hell.
Those prison-like gates, the lack of sunlight and privacy, the crushing omnipresence of politics and political operatives 24/7? No Prime Minister has ever relished living there; his or her family even less.
Give Carrie a break. She has had to cope with pregnancy, the pandemic and her lover, Boris, becoming dangerously ill. What woman would not want to take refuge in swatches, in cheering the place up, in perhaps taking tea with Lulu Lytle to discuss her range of delicious chintzes at £270 per metre and ponder over wicker or rattan for the dining room chairs?
I don’t condemn her for that, even if it seems strange that at no point did it cross her mind to ask the all-important question: ‘Boris, can we afford this?’ It appears that she pressed on without a budget, without parameters or guidance. What a mess — but surely the blame for that lies with him, not her?
Boris is a man who likes his creature comforts, but before he became Prime Minister he was practically living in a van. What does he care about wall sconces or sofas that he is only going to spill wine on anyway?
Look at him! Here is a man who looks like he has never hung up a jacket in his life, someone who quite possibly sleeps in a skip while voles nest in his hair. Does he care about the epaulette fringing on the armchair? Or the shade of pink on the curtains?
Given all this, it seems even more ludicrous that Carrie took it upon herself to hire one of the most expensive decorators in London, to refurb what is essentially a rented flat
The sin here is not in the extravagance of the coverlets, but in the disgrace of the cover-up
He’d eat his dinner from a can and sit on a crate, if left to his own devices. Fighting for Brexit, fighting for his own life and fighting to get Britain through the pandemic? Perhaps he simply gave the matter of refurbishment very little thought — and maybe for that he even — whisper it — deserves credit? I can just imagine him saying to Carrie: ‘Yes darling, whatever you want, do it. Just don’t bother me.’ And then panicking like a coursed hare when he saw the bills.
For the problem at heart is that Boris is a man of slender means. Take him down to the studs and you will probably find that his two divorces have all but wiped him out financially, while he can no longer command his usual six-figure salary for newspaper columns or top up his income by dashing off a book called Pericles — The Bee’s Knees or somesuch.
His weakness for women and the chaos of his life have led him to this point of self-harm crisis, which despite all the good he has done over the past year, has left him open to ethical allegations. Idiot.
Given all this, it seems even more ludicrous that Carrie took it upon herself to hire one of the most expensive decorators in London, to refurb what is essentially a rented flat.
In this initiative, she does display the regrettable, casual entitlement that has swirled for years around Johnson and his inner circle; people who live a five-star life they simply cannot afford, but cosy up socially and professionally to those who can.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even that much money. I’m sorry, but it’s not. An overspend of £58,000 compared with the £2.6 million spent on the Downing Street press conference room, which will never be used for its original purpose? I know which I think is the bigger waste of money and the greater crime.
But that is not the point. The point is that Carrie was just carrying on, unchecked and running wild among the parrot-print fabric, thinking she was doing nothing wrong.
And Boris, who seems to spend his life in the pursuit of beautiful women, then lives in terror of them once he has captured their affections, panicked when he realised what was going on. And then obfuscated over his clumsy attempts to get others to pay the bill — his real crime.
The sin here is not in the extravagance of the coverlets, but in the disgrace of the cover-up. If Boris comes to a sticky end over wallpaper, he will have no one to blame but himself. No, not even Carrie. Just no.
Upset at this year’s dead Oscars. For months, it was considered a shoo-in that Chadwick Boseman would win a posthumous Best Actor for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The ceremony was even rearranged around that expected outcome, scheduling Boseman’s category last so his widow could accept the award and the show would end in a climax of high emotion.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Sir Anthony Hopkins won for The Father, throwing the event into confusion. The 83-year-old wasn’t even there, but at home in Wales.Many have complained about this, grumbling that the Oscars are still ‘too white’. It became a farce — but that is what happens when you turn awards ceremonies into fiestas of political correctness.
I do hope Sir Anthony doesn’t let protesters detract from his win, for there isn’t an actor on the planet who deserves an Oscar more. Over a long career, he has turned in unforgettable performances in films such as The Remains Of The Day, Howards End and, yes, The Silence Of The Lambs. ‘Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me,’ said Hannibal Lecter. Well, quite.
No excuses, Tom just tells it like it was
Tom Parker Bowles was 13 when he first spotted paparazzi on the drive at home trying to get photos of his mother, Camilla. He was 18 when Princess Diana pressed the nuclear button and went public over Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla.
One year later, he was a student at Oxford when a private, embarrassingly intimate conversation between the Prince and his mother was made public.
Having to suffer these mortifications at such an impressionable age would be enough to send any young man off the rails, or feel sorry for himself.
Indeed, Tom was caught in a tabloid sting when he was 24, in which he admitted snorting cocaine.
But his great triumph is that he doesn’t blame his background for anything. He takes full responsibility for himself and his mistakes. ‘It was nothing to do with pressures of the situation I was in. God no. I just loved raving,’ he told a newspaper this week. Good for Tom! No wonder he has thrived and survived, despite it all.
You can tell a lot about a man by his footwear. David Bowie and his platforms, Ken Clarke’s rakish penchant for suede loafers — these shoes all tell their own story.
But perhaps none speak as loudly as those of Simon Case. The head of the Civil Service looks the business from the ankles up — a smart mandarin right down to his polished specs.
But look at his shoes! In those horrible scuffed brogues he looks like Just William after a scrumping adventure. Is it beyond him to polish his shoes before going to work in Whitehall? I must protest in the strongest possible terms, as Sir Humphrey might say. It is simply not good enough.
The truth wool out, Harry
Goodness, is it really a decade since Prince William married Kate Middleton? Congratulations to them both. Ten years and three children later, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge seem to have made a great success of their marriage and their family life.
Many of us are particularly glad, for we remember not only the romance of the day but the knitting fever that gripped so many of us.
In the lead-up to the wedding, more than 50,000 copies of a pattern book called How To Knit The Royal Family (by Fiona Goble) were sold. And like many Daily Mail readers, I knitted the lot. We became obsessed, we wrote to each other, we complained about the difficulties of the Queen’s ankles! Then we screamed when William appeared on his wedding day wearing his Colonel of the Irish Guards uniform — because we had all knitted him, as instructed, in his Royal Air Force outfit.
Such is a knitter’s life. I don’t expect you to sympathise. But, now, when I look at my old royal knits (above), I am struck by my clairvoyant skills.
Look at my Prince Charles, a sad owl with much to worry about. There is Prince William with a prescient lack of hair. And I knitted Prince Harry with a big lollipop head and a vacant expression that suggested he was three stitches short of a full row.
How could I possibly have known?
Insights firm Perspectus Global has published a list of tell-tale signs that you are getting old.
They include asking for a Rachel cut at the hairdressers; failing to recognise a Love Island contestant; buying your underwear from Marks & Spencer; becoming obsessed with bin day and struggling with your telly remote control.
Oh my God. Guilty on all charges. They didn’t add the practice of exclaiming ‘ooof!’ when you sit down and ‘oooooof!’ when you get back up again, but it can only be a matter of time.
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