Sunday 30 August 2020

Sew on a button - like a Savile Row tailor

Most thread is OK, particularly polyester. You just need to sew through more times if using thinner thread.

Thread your needle, double up the thread, and tie a knot in the end.

Do your first stitch on the surface of the cloth.

Then go through the button, come back through, and then push right to the other side of the two layers of cloth.

Put your fingers under the button to measure how much excess you need to leave on the top, to create the shank. Perhaps around half to three quarters of an inch. It will get smaller as you sew.

Go up and down through the button and right through the cloth - four times with thicker thread as used by Ben. Perhaps six or eight times with something thinner.

The last time you come up onto the front of the jacket, don’t go through the button, but wrap the thread round and round, to create a shank. As much as needed to make the button stand on its own.

Then finish by passing the needle through the shank - but don’t pull the thread all the way through. Leave a loop, which you hook round the needle on the other side, before then pulling the thread tight. This creates a knot.

Snip off the excess thread, close to the shank.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Remembering ... the question of Lord Glenconner will ...


Servant tells how his devotion to aristocrat led to him being left a fortune


The Caribbean stevedore’s son who has inherited the West Indian estate of the late Lord Glenconner has spoken for the first time of his 30 years' faithful service to the flamboyant aristocrat.


He spoke as relations gathered on Saturday for a memorial ceremony at the family’s Scottish kirk.


Philip Sherwell

By Philip Sherwell, in St Lucia, and Michael Howie9:30PM BST 18 Jun 2011


Kent Adonai, who grew up in poverty in a shanty town, is now the proud owner of a vast estate on the island of St Lucia worth millions of pounds.


The peer’s family has walked away with none of his Caribbean fortune, Colin Tennant’s will having been changed seven months before he died last year in favour of his trusted manservant. Even in death at the age of 83 — just as in life — Lord Glenconner, infamous party host and close friend of Princess Margaret, was causing a furore.


His widow Anne had thought the estate was being left to Cody Tennant, their 17-year-old grandson.


Speaking after the memorial service at the family’s baronial home, Glen House, in the Scottish Borders, Lady Glenconner, 78, told The Sunday Telegraph: “We are not angry; we are surprised. There’s no rift. We feel Colin [Lord Glenconner] was very ill, that he changed his will, but was not well enough. He had cancer very badly and I don’t think he remembered making the will. The will wasn’t Kent’s fault.”


She said Cody, had accepted, having taken legal advice, that the new will was not open to challenge in St Lucia. “Cody was to get something. I would get something, and the others too,” she said, “There’s no rift but a will like this does make it quite awkward.”


She said the will trusted Mr Adonai “to carry out my [Lord Glenconner’s] wishes towards the family” although it does not appear to be clear what those wishes were. “Kent is illiterate. He cannot read or write. He doesn’t seem aware of the wishes of the family,” said Lady Glenconner.


More than 4,000 miles away in St Lucia, Mr Adonai was paying his own tribute, sat in a wooden chair overlooking his master’s whitewashed grave and the shimmering sea beyond. “He taught me so much about the world, about history and culture. Every day, I miss him terribly,” said Mr Adonai. “I was with him every day. We would talk for hours, I drove him everywhere. He was a wonderful man.”


Mr Adonai declined to discuss the will and his plans for the estate, a stunning sweep of rainforest on the south-west coast of St Lucia wedged between the towering volcanic twin peaks of the Pitons. “Mr Tennant asked me to do certain things and I will carry out his wishes. I will do what I think fit,” he said, speaking in a mixture of English and the local French-influenced patois. “I find all the pressure very difficult.”


As he does most days, Mr Adonai, 47, then went fishing for blue marlin and tuna, his escape from the loss of the man who transformed his life and died in his arms in August after a massive heart attack.


Over nearly three decades, he had worked for Lord Glenconner in roles varying from elephant-keeper to estate manager and had been promised he would be looked after following his master’s death. An unassuming, quietly spoken figure who has never given an interview before this weekend, Mr Adonai insisted there were no bad feelings between him and the family.


“I was invited to the ceremony in Scotland but I couldn’t go because it just would be too emotional,” he said, his voice breaking as he recalled the man he knew simply as “Mr Tennant”.


His common-law wife Mona did make the journey to Scotland, indicating that relations have indeed perhaps not frayed irrevocably despite suggestions of pending legal action. “Lady Anne and their children have also always been very good to me,” he insisted.


Close relations at the memorial included Lord Glenconner’s grandson Euan, 26, who has inherited the family seat, as well as surviving sons Christopher Tennant and Joshua Bowler, 54, who only discovered Lord Glenconner was his father two years ago.


This September, Bonham’s will auction some of the peer’s eclectic collection of Indian, Chinese and Balinese furniture and other artefacts — a sale that will help to pay for the estate’s upkeep. The auction will fetch between £750,000 and £1 million.


For as eccentric a figure as Lord Glenconner, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr Adonai met him in 1982 in circumstances that sound almost too outlandish to be true.


As an 18 year-old, he used to help his father load the banana boats that crossed the Caribbean to Britain. One day, word went round the dock that one of the boats had returned with a highly unusual cargo of exotic animals, including an elephant.


“When we got to Soufrière, the elephant didn’t want to come out of its box. I helped to encourage her out. I think that’s why Mr Tennant said he wanted me to look after her. To this day, many people here still know me as 'marrie l’elefant’ [the elephant husband in patois], not Kent.”


From there, he progressed to estate manager, driver and factotum for the aristocrat, whose family fortune was the product of an ancestor inventing industrial bleach.


He witnessed the peer’s infamous temper, but said the rages always passed quickly. “He was like a cane field on fire,” he said. “He would flare up but then it would be finished two minutes later.”


Mr Adonai says there has been no local envy. “Everyone knows that Mr Tennant was a very generous man who cared greatly for the local community. He was loved here.”


Mr Adonai has no plans to leave the spartan single-storey concrete house that he shares with Mona and their extended family, including two adult children. There he keeps hundreds of photographs of his life with the Tennant family — including trips on safari in Africa and to Hindu temples in Bali. Lord Glenconner is almost invariably dressed in his trademark straw hat and loose white muslin shirts.


And propped up in the corner is a blown-up reproduction of the front page of Hello! magazine from March 1994 featuring Princess Margaret attending the opening party of Lord Glenconner’s Bang restaurant in St Lucia. By then, Lord Glenconner had long made a name for himself as a host of infamous parties. He had risen to prominence on the back of his purchase of Mustique, the mosquito-ridden wasteland he bought for £45,000 in 1958 and which he transformed into a playground for the rich and famous.


In a row over the price of electricity, the “monarch of Mustique” sold up in the late 70s and moved to St Lucia, 45 miles away, in 1981. His fortunes were to take a tumble. His eldest son Charlie, a heroin addict, was disinherited in favour of his second son Henry. Charlie died of hepatitis in 1996 while Henry, who was homosexual, died of Aids in 1990. Their third and youngest son Christopher was disabled following a motorcycle accident in 1987.


Mr Adonai recalls some memorable parties, most recently for his boss’s 80th birthday at his Indian “palace”. But in his later years, the aristocrat, educated at Eton and Oxford, lived a tamer life.


He described the day Lord Glenconner died. Mr Adonai was with him as usual when the aristocrat was struck by a debilitating heart attack.


“I tried to pump his chest and bring him back to life as I held him, but it was no good,” he said tears in his eyes. He drove his master to hospital but the peer was already dead, and in tragedy Kent Adonai’s fortunes were transformed.

18th June 2011

Scots peer leaves tropical estate to his manservant

By Brian Donnelly


   HE created a Caribbean Shangri-La for the rich and famous that became known for its wild midnight bathing parties and attracted stars such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie, as well as the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret.


Now flamboyant Scottish peer Lord Glenconner, who died aged 83 nearly a year ago, has proven to be as controversial in death as in life after it emerged he left his entire multimillion-pound Mustique estate to his manservant Kent Adonai.


The 48-year-old West Indian, who served the peer for decades, was favoured over Lord Glenconner’s whole family who had been cut out the peer’s will seven months before he died.


 The news came ahead of a thanksgiving service for Lord Glenconner, one of the country’s most colourful aristocrats today near his Scottish estate.


The celebration of the life of Lord Glenconner at Traquair Church, Peeblesshire, will be attended by scores of his family and friends.


He died almost a year ago in St Lucia after a battle against cancer.


Lord Glenconner’s wife of 54 years, Lady Anne Coke, has spoken of her disappointment at learning that Mr Adonai has inherited Lord Glenconner’s entire estate in the West Indies including his beachside house between the Pitons in St Lucia, all its contents and a valley overlooking the Caribbean.


She was quoted as saying: “Unfortunately, he changed his will seven months before he died and not one member of his family was named in his new will – not me, his wife for more than half a century, or any of his children or grandchildren.”


Mr Adonai was said to have been with the peer when he died, and he was best man at the wedding of Lord Glenconner’s only surviving son, Christopher.


The manservant led tributes at Lord Glenconner’s funeral, at which Bryan Adams sang, when he said: “There are no words that can sum up how much he meant to me, my family and the village. I am now lost. I cannot describe how big the gap is that has been left in my life. He was not only a father to me but to everyone.”


 The 5000-acre estate and baronial castle at The Glen, near Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, have been inherited by the peer’s 27-year-old grandson Euan who works in marketing in Edinburgh. The title of Lord Glenconner has been passed to his 17-year-old grandson Cody.


It had been expected that Cody would receive the West Indies estate.


Today’s thanksgiving service will take place at 2.30pm and will be conducted by the Reverend Janice Faris.


It is less than a mile away from the family seat at The Glen which was built in 1852.


Yesterday, Lord Glenconner’s daughter-in-law Tessa Tennant – the widow of his son Henry and mother of Euan who has inherited The Glen – said: “It is a thanksgiving service and is mainly for the people who were unable to go to the West Indies for the funeral. It is an opportunity to remember him and give thanks for his life at the same time. The service is not private but it is a family occasion focussing on his life.”


She confirmed The Glen was not affected by the will contents in St Lucia.


Among the guests will be Lord Glenconner’s recently discovered illegitimate son, Joshua Bowler. Glenconner had five other children, though his two eldest sons died before he did.


Kent, 48, who was also invited, will not be there. Instead, he will be represented by his former common-law wife.


Manservant who was left £30m by Lord Glenconner WILL share it with peer's grandson


Kent Adonai's had been facing a legal battle with 20-year-old Cody Tennant, who became the fourth Baron Glenconner when his grandfather died



PUBLISHED: 00:51, 2 March 2014 | UPDATED: 03:25, 2 March 2014



He became the world’s richest  manservant when left a £30 million fortune by his playboy boss who  cut his heir out of his will.


But now Kent Adonai – who was Lord Glenconner’s valet and carer for 30 years – has struck a secret deal to share the windfall with the peer’s grandson.


The 51-year-old had been facing a legal battle with 20-year-old Cody Tennant, who became the fourth Baron Glenconner when the former owner of Princess Margaret’s favourite island retreat died in 2010.


He had expected to inherit the family estate – only to discover his grandfather rewrote his will seven months before his death aged 83.


The Scottish university student was backed in his battle by his family, including Glenconner’s widow, Lady Anne, who was also shocked to learn she had not been left a penny.


Mr Adonai, who cannot read or write, hired a top legal team on  St Lucia, Glenconner’s home after leaving Mustique, where he once hosted Royalty.


The inheritance included the peer’s Indian-style mansion, jewellery, art and antiques, and 192 acres of shorefront development land.


However, appearing before a judge last week at the East Caribbean Supreme Court, Mr Adonai’s representatives agreed he will share the property with the new baron.


A court insider told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The lawyers who represent Kent and Cody respectively each handed a sealed brown envelope to the judge. The deal was in them.


'My understanding is that Cody is getting a share in the land that potentially will make him a multi-millionaire.’


Cody’s lawyer Peter Foster – also speaker of the St Lucia Parliament – said: ‘Yes, there was a dispute over the will and now it has been settled amicably.’


He declined to put a value on the property relinquished by Mr Adonai, but added: ‘The way it has been settled is to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.’


Although the grounds of the challenge have not been revealed, one legal expert said it may have involved a clause in which Glenconner directed the servant to ‘apportion’ the fortune ‘to himself and heirs in whatsoever manner he wishes as I have discussed with him’.


‘One might argue that Glenconner expected Kent to look after his heirs, including Cody and Lady Anne,’ the expert added. ‘It also might have been argued he was elderly and not in his right mind.’


Lady Anne has also pointed out that her husband was battling cancer when he died.


Mr Adonai has always maintained that, along with inheriting land worth millions, he was also saddled with Glenconner’s debts which, he claims, left him impoverished. He says this was the reason he sold the peer’s belongings two years ago.


However, at the time of his death, Glenconner was sitting on one of the Caribbean’s most desirable pieces of land and had plans for a resort development that was to include seven villas priced up to £7 million each.


‘Developers are vying for land in the area,’ a Caribbean property specialist said. ‘Cody and Kent each stand to earn millions.’


Mr Adonai’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Friday 28 August 2020

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner review – // VIDEO: Princess Margaret's Childhood Friend Describes the Secret Behind Royal L...// Interview 'I’m no snowflake'

Anne with her father, Lord Glenconner, in 1953.

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner review – fascinating portrait of English repression

Observer book of the week

Autobiography and memoir

The marriage and social milieu of Princess Margaret’s childhood friend reveals a vanished era of upper-class eccentricity


Rachel Cooke


Sun 24 Nov 2019 07.00 GMTLast modified on Sun 24 Nov 2019 18.24 GMT


Being very common, I have something of a mania for aristo-lit: a passion for stories about big houses and the wanton eccentrics who inhabit them that began in childhood with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, continued into my teenage years with all things Mitford, and now finds ongoing sustenance mostly in diaries (Chips Channon, I salute you, and all who sailed in you). Nevertheless, I have to admit to being somewhat unprepared for Lady in Waiting, in which Anne Glenconner muses on her stiff upper lip and how it saw her through a marriage lasting 54 years to a man whose idea of a honeymoon treat was to take her – a girl who had been a virgin only hours before – to a fleapit of a hotel to watch two strangers having sex (“That’s very kind, but no thank you,” she said when invited to join in). Is her memoir a horror show or a delightful entertainment? A manual for how to live, or how not to live? In truth, I’m not sure even she would know the answer to these questions.


The eldest child of the fifth Earl of Leicester, Glenconner was maid of honour at the Queen’s coronation and lady-in-waiting to her childhood friend Princess Margaret. She grew up at Holkham Hall in Norfolk – a house so huge that if the footmen put raw eggs in a bain-marie as they walked from kitchen to nursery, they’d be boiled on arrival – and, aged 23, married Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, the owner of a Scottish castle called Glen and of the Caribbean island of Mustique. Tennant was, she tells us repeatedly, great fun and so generous. But it can’t have been too much fun when he deliberately trapped her in the fold-up bed in their cabin on a train, or when he took her to a cock fight (one of the cocks attached itself to her head, causing it to bleed; far from being sympathetic, he was furious that she’d ruined the betting).


 It’s impossible not to admire her fortitude as she deals with her fear and her grief

What of his generosity? Well, there were certainly lots of parties, attended by Bianca Jagger et al. My favourite story, however, involves the visit to Glen of his aesthete kinsman, Stephen Tennant. Uncle Stephen being not at all keen on the purple of the heather, Colin kindly sprinkled the moors with blue paper flowers. “Oh, darling!” said Uncle Stephen. “That’s much better, isn’t it?”


Glenconner knows that she’s privileged, and if the staff, the houses and the holidays come with a price in the form of a man who lies in the foetal position when he cannot get his own way, and who wears paper knickers (in order to be able to eat them for a party trick), so be it. She can cope. She has a Gypsy caravan into which she can escape when it gets too much – and later, she takes refuge in her duties for Princess Margaret, that great lover of prawn cocktail and Antiques Roadshow. (HRH, incidentally, is another of those she insists was great fun, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.) Additionally, she has her stoicism – which is where it all gets interesting. Much as I loved reading about the way, say, that she and her mother, the countess, would gather jackdaw eggs using a ladle attached to a walking stick (apparently, they’re as delicious as plover’s eggs, though since I’ve tasted neither, I can’t possibly comment), after a while there’s no ignoring the painful and widening disjunction between the outward whirl of her life and the repeated tragedies that befall her family.


Her first son, Charlie, a heroin addict, dies of hepatitis C. Her second son, Henry, dies of an Aids-related illness at just 29 (as a photo caption helpfully reminds us, her husband informed her that Henry was ill just moments before the couple donned fancy dress for the Peacock Ball they were throwing to celebrate his birthday). Her third son, Christopher, following an accident during his gap year, ends up in a coma for four months; it takes him years to learn to walk again. These are unimaginably terrible events, and it’s impossible not to admire her fortitude as she deals with her fear and her grief; as she patiently sits by Christopher’s bedside, refusing to believe he will never wake up. But as she admits, her two older boys were also the victims of a system, cold and inflexible, that insists on nannies, boarding schools and a certain emotional distance on the part of their parents (“There I was, immersed in royal life, while my eldest son was running wild,” as she understatedly puts it).


As a girl, Glenconner spent years away from her mother and father, having been evacuated during the war; they left her with a nanny who tied her by the wrists to her bed every night before she went to sleep. But though she remembers vividly the pain this caused her, somehow she cannot avoid visiting on her own children a similar fate. When they cry as she drops them at boarding school, she weeps too – and yet still she drives away. In the end, her book isn’t only a record, funny and sometimes dazzling, of a way of life now almost disappeared. It’s an unwitting examination of English repression: both of how it gets you through and of how it can slay you.


• Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£20).


Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner review – a bestselling glimpse of the royals

Book of the week

Autobiography and memoir

The candid life story of Princess Margaret’s aide, which has proved a publishing hit, provides insights into the aristocratic system and the real life behind The Crown


Kathryn Hughes

Sat 7 Dec 2019 09.00 GMT


Nothing goes down better with a section of the British public than a posh old lady who isn’t afraid to talk dirty. It’s the contrast between the drawling vowels, blossomy complexion, sculpted cheekbones and sexual frankness that turns us into what Nanny would probably call “giggling ninnies”. Anne Glenconner, who at the age of 87 has published a bestselling memoir, was a big hit this autumn on The Graham Norton Show, Loose Women and all manner of breakfast television sofas. One of her plummiest anecdotes concerns her mother, Lady Coke, trying to explain sexual intercourse in terms of canine coupling. “Do you remember Daddy’s labrador getting on top of Biscuit? Well, that’s what happens when you get married and have sex, except you will probably be lying down in a bed.” Cue peals of shocked laughter from the studio audience.


In fact, there’s nothing especially odd or even socially elevated about Lady Coke’s advice to her eldest girl on the eve of her 1956 marriage. Anne belonged to the generation of girls who were too young to have served in the WAAF and, instead of jitterbugging with young men, spent their chaste teenage years knitting socks for them. You didn’t need to have been brought up on the 27,000 acre Holkham Hall estate, nor been crowned “Deb of the Year” by Tatler, to have arrived at your courtship years without knowing much about men beyond a vague rule of thumb that some were “safe in taxis” while others most definitely were not.


Colin Tennant, the man Anne was marrying, really wasn’t safe anywhere, which doubtless explains his appeal. The evening after her disastrous wedding night to the mercurial banker, the blushing bride found herself whisked through Paris for a “surprise”. This turned out not to be dinner at the Ritz, but rather a seedy brothel where she was forced to watch a couple have sex, as if performing a public service. When they asked if Anne would like to join in, she replied politely: “That’s very kind of you, but no thank you.” Cue more studio laughter.


 The blushing bride found herself whisked through Paris for a 'surprise' – not dinner at the Ritz but sex at a brothel

She must have got the hang of it pretty quickly because the first of the five Tennant children was conceived on the honeymoon. What has made this book such a hit, however, is not the rolling out of anecdotes about saucy toffs, but rather the access it provides to the workings of the royal family in the second half of the 20th century. In 1971 Anne was appointed lady-in-waiting to her childhood friend Princess Margaret. The two little girls who had delighted in jumping out from behind the curtains at the footmen in wartime Holkham Hall now spent their adult days together, opening hospitals, looking interested in prisoners’ artwork, and trying not to yawn when seated next to a particularly boring bishop. They would also share off-duty times on Mustique, the midgy Caribbean island which Tennant had bought for a song in 1958 and turned into a playground for millionaires. Cue some larky tales about Bianca Jagger and David Bowie with sand between their toes.


Anne even has a stake in season three of The Crown, where she is played by Nancy Carroll as the counsellor and confidante of Helena Bonham Carter’s Margaret. In an oddly dreamlike merging of memoir and dramatic narratives, Anne recently found herself sitting side by side with Bonham Carter on Graham Norton’s sofa promoting their parallel projects. Naturally the two women knew each other already, Bonham Carter being cousin to Tennant, AKA Lord Glenconner.


This makes the upper class sound like a cosy tight-knit clan, but one of the chief revelations of Lady in Waiting is just how cruel and wasteful the aristocratic system has historically been to women. Because of the cast-iron rule of male primogeniture, Lady Anne and Princess Margaret were obliged to spend their entire lives as left-overs “waiting” for someone to decide what to do with them. When Anne Coke was born in 1932 as the first child of a man who would become the fifth Earl of Leicester she was a “big disappointment”, who “broke the line” by being a girl, the first of three sisters. As a result of her wrongness the magnificent Holkham Hall and the earldom passed on her father’s death to her male second cousin. Margaret too was hexed by her gender: if the clever, headstrong girl had been born a boy she would have leapfrogged our present Queen to succeed their father in 1952. Instead of useful, purposeful public lives, the mischievous best friends found themselves entirely surplus to requirements.


This sense of being in the way was compounded when both women were disqualified from marrying the men they loved. Before her marriage to Tennant, Glenconner was blissfully engaged to “Johnnie” Althorp, who would later go on to father Diana, Princess of Wales. But as a result of Johnnie’s father Earl Spencer muttering about Anne having some distant mentally “defective” cousins (who also happened to be first cousins to Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth), the dashing cavalry officer slunk away without telling his fiancee that the match was off because of her “mad blood”. Princess Margaret, meanwhile, was famously not permitted to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend on the grounds that his earlier divorce was incompatible with her sister’s position as head of the Church of England. Instead, both women accepted men on the rebound whom their families considered distinctly below the salt. Margaret married “Tony Snapshot”, as Glenconner’s father wittily called Antony Armstrong-Jones. Meanwhile, Glenconner insisted that his own daughter’s fiance, Tennant, whose family fortune was far too recently based on bleach, line up with the beaters rather than the guns when attending a shoot at Holkham Hall.


Perhaps both young men were cross about having such non-U names (“Colin” and “Tony” sound as if they belong at a Rotary Club social rather than Buckingham Palace). Whatever their reasons, they used their “artistic” temperaments as a cover story for some truly appalling behaviour. Armstrong-Jones took to leaving notes for Margaret along the lines of: “You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you”, while Tennant thinks nothing of embarrassing his wife at parties by tearing off his paper underpants and eating them. Both men have mistresses, both men present their wives with a “love child”. Tennant’s final act of cruelty came in 2010 when he left a scrappy handwritten will bequeathing his fortune – still huge despite the financial depredations that had come with Mustique – to a local employee. What makes it all so much worse is that Glenconner says that she still isn’t sure whether he did it simply as a stunt to ensure that his reputation as an eccentric aristocrat would survive post-mortem.


Although Glenconner never mentions any kind of mental health diagnosis for her husband, Tennant is clearly troubled; he spends hours in a foetal position begging her to talk him down from his own anguished self. Her real focus, at least in this book, is on her best friend Margaret, who she believes has been horribly traduced in recent years as a narcissistic monster of rudeness and self-regard. While never resorting to a cover-up, Glenconner provides a nuanced character portrait of a woman whose life sounds truly wretched. Above all, she emphasises that Margaret was marvellously supportive during the years in which Glenconner was forced to endure the death of her first two sons and the permanent disablement of her third following a motorcycle accident. In particular she wants us to know that, long before Princess Diana became famous for fighting the stigma of Aids, Margaret was visiting dying patients at the London Lighthouse hospice; they included Glenconner’s second son, Henry. HRH didn’t do hugs, but she was funny and her jokes made the young men laugh.


In return it’s clear that Glenconner was marvellous to her unhappy friend. Her account of Margaret’s final year, bundled up in bed and wanting nothing more but to hold hands or watch Antiques Roadshow with her, is beautifully, which is to say tactfully, done. Indeed, discretion and honour emerge as the hallmarks of Glenconner’s career as a royal servant, culminating in this book which manages to be both candid and kind. Above all, she demonstrates a remarkable readiness to own up to her own mistakes. In particular she worries that the classic absentee mothering style of the aristocracy, involving nannies and boarding schools, may have been at the root of her eldest son developing the drug addiction that eventually killed him. If only, one can’t help thinking, members of the present royal family would follow their admirable servant’s example of honest self-reckoning and personal responsibility.


• Lady in Waiting is published by Hodder & Stoughton (RRP £20)



'I’m no snowflake': Anne Glenconner on Margaret, marriage and Meghan Markle

Hadley Freeman

The former lady-in-waiting’s memoir is a surprise bestseller. She discusses family tragedy and why Princess Margaret was more fun than people think


Hadley Freeman @HadleyFreeman

Fri 20 Mar 2020 08.58 GMTLast modified on Fri 20 Mar 2020 15.48 GMT


Since it came out five months ago, a debut work by an 87-year-old has become a publishing phenomenon. Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner has sold more than 200,000 copies in the UK and retains a tenacious hold on the bestseller lists. Written by the former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, its broad appeal might seem surprising, not least because Margaret was hardly the most popular royal. But Lady Glenconner’s book has two things going for it: the first is that it is not what it seems; it is definitely not “a lavender sort of scented memoir”, as Glenconner put it when she appeared on The Graham Norton Show last November. And its other great strength is Glenconner herself.


“Are you really tired after your journey? Did you find a taxi when you got off the train?” she asks when I arrive at her home on the Norfolk coast. She has the accent of the Queen – “really” becomes “rill-eh”, “off” is “orff” – and is dressed like her too, in a blouse, cardigan, pleated knee length skirt, tights and loafers. It is easy to picture her striding around the world, making small talk with Imelda Marcos, which is what she used to do with Princess Margaret. I lean in to kiss her, but then ask if she’s refraining because of the coronavirus. Glenconner looks at me as if I’ve left my marbles on the train: “I’ve been through the second world war and lived with someone with Aids at the beginning [of the Aids crisis]. I’m not scared of a little virus, you know,” she says. She turns on her heel and marches down her long hallway, and I have to scoot to keep up with her.


Glenconner was born Anne Coke (pronounced Cook), the daughter of an earl. “So I married down somewhat,” she says with a satisfied smile, as her husband, Colin Tennant, was merely the Baron Glenconner. In her book, Glenconner describes her current home as “a cottage” but these things are relative: compared to the nearby Holkham Hall where she grew up, and Glen, the enormous estate in Scotland belonging to her late husband’s family, I guess it is a cottage. To me, it looks like a sizable house, with a warren of rooms filled with family portraits and vintage toys that are now kept for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She takes me to the pretty sitting room, where we sit on either side of the fire. “When Princess Margaret would visit the two of us would sit just like this,” she says. “One time she came with her kettle and said: ‘I’m going to be independent, Anne, all you need to do is give me some milk.’ I was a bit doubtful and I was right because suddenly one morning it was ‘Anne! Anne!’ ‘Yes, ma’am, what is it?’ ‘I think the kettle’s broken!’ Of course, she hadn’t turned it on. But she did want to help …” Prince Charles, another “proper friend”, stops by often: “And people are really fond of him now, you know. All that talking to plants and his green things, it’s all come true. People don’t laugh at it.”


I tell her that even the most republican of my friends love the book.


“You know, I’ve never written anything in my life at all, and I thought: ‘Well, people like me might buy it.’ But it’s gone way beyond that. I certainly didn’t think the Guardian would be interested in my book. I know you’re a very leftwing newspaper and somebody like me is not quite your cup of tea, so that’s encouraging.” On a table nearby, a Daily Telegraph is tucked discreetly under a cushion.


Glenconner composed the book in this room, dictating her life story into a recorder. “Somebody said: ‘Do you get writer’s block?’ I said: ‘No, writer’s diarrhoea!’ I just talked and talked,” she says. Glenconner’s distinctive voice has a no-nonsense briskness to it, undercut with a wry but warm sense of humour. She manages to laugh at things others might find less amusing: the patriarchal aristocratic system that meant she couldn’t inherit her family home (“I tried awfully hard to be a boy, even weighing 11lb at birth, but I was a girl and there was nothing to be done about it”); her husband taking her to a “perfectly disgusting” live sex show during their honeymoon; even her son Henry’s funeral when he died from Aids – “I couldn’t help a tiny smile because, as is Buddhist custom, his coffin was covered with pineapples and other tropical fruit, so it looked like a giant fruit salad as it came into the crematorium.”


“It’s no fun for anyone if you’re sitting around being a misery. I’m no snowflake, probably a battle-axe. I was brought up by my mother to get on with things,” she says. Her family crest is an ostrich swallowing a horseshoe, signifying the family’s ability to digest anything.



Glenconner’s family has a long relationship with the royal family: her paternal grandmother was Edward VIII’s mistress and her father was equerry to George VI. Glenconner was Princess Margaret’s devoted lady-in-waiting for more than 30 years, and this is what spurred her into writing her book, as she was horrified by a recent biography about the princess, which she describes as “that horrible book, we won’t mention the name of the somebody who wrote it. I don’t know why people want to rot her like that.” When I ask if she means Craig Brown’s book, Ma’am Darling, she gives a pained, terse nod.


Determined to rectify the common perception of the princess as spoilt and spiteful, Glenconner writes about Margaret’s various kindnesses to her. They were, she says, real friends, even if one called the other “Ma’am” and the other didn’t. “I would have felt quite uncomfortable calling her anything else. But she was so funny, that’s what people don’t get,” she says. After the princess died, the Queen thanked Glenconner for providing her sister with many of the happiest moments in her life.


I’d been warned beforehand not to ask about Meghan Markle so I ask instead if, having spent so much time with Margaret, she has extra empathy for the other spares, Princes Andrew and Harry. But Glenconner knows what I’m up to: “You’re edging closer to asking me about Meghan Markle,” she tuts. “I’m going to put another log on the fire before I answer that!”


Markle’s mistake, she says, was to not understand that all the royals, even the spares, work hard: “I think she thought she could drive around in a golden coach. But it’s actually quite boring. Princess Margaret did so much charity work, and without any photographers, unlike the Princess of Wales.” (Glenconner is a staunch royalist, but her sympathies are with the more traditional branches of the family; even Princes William and Harry, she says, “go on about their mother the whole time. I think it’s a bit much.”)


Coverage of Glenconner’s book has focused on the royals, but it’s the descriptions of her own life that gripped me. First, her marriage to Colin, who had frequent mental breakdowns and was a bully; when Glenconner asked him why he screamed at people so often, he replied: “I like making them squirm.” He insisted on telling her about his holidays with his many girlfriends (“I said, ‘Can we talk about something else?’”), but Glenconner got her own back, and makes one fleeting reference in her book to having a “dear friend”. This is the one subject she won’t be drawn on: “I’ll tell you absolutely nothing at all, except that he made my life possible. We had lunch once a week and the occasional weekend for nearly 40 years, and that’s all I’ll say.”


Despite everything, Glenconner painstakingly emphasises her husband’s good qualities in the book, such as his sense of fun and imagination – partly, she says, for the sake of their children, but also because it was true. He turned Mustique from unpromising scrubland into a celebrity pleasure island, where Mick Jagger would lead singalongs in a beach bar. Colin’s parties were legendary for their loucheness, such as the Golden Ball, which was photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, when Bianca Jagger was carried in by a troupe of boys painted entirely in gold and wearing only “a coconut strategically placed below”. The celebrities revelled in the privacy from the media: on one holiday, Glenconner delicately pointed out to Princess Margaret that her bathing suit was transparent. “‘Oh Anne,’ she said, somewhat exasperated. ‘I don’t care. If [people] want to look, they can look.’ And that was that.” Colin died in 2010 but, Glenconner says, he would be “absolutely delighted” that Mustique is still causing scandals, with questions over who paid for Boris Johnson’s recent holiday there.


The couple had five children: Charlie, Henry, Christopher and twins May and Amy. Glenconner loved being a mother, but, despite not having been entirely happy with aspects of her childhood – absent parents, nannies, boarding school – she repeated it with her own children, leaving them behind as she helped her husband in Mustique. “It’s just what you did, what all our friends did, the shooting parties all winter we went off to – we didn’t think. I didn’t even want them to go to boarding school …” she trails off.


The three youngest children had the same nanny throughout their childhood, but the two eldest, Charlie and Henry, had many different ones, their father sacking their favourites on a whim. By the age of eight Charlie had severe OCD. As a teenager, he got into drugs. Henry married and had a son, but in the late 80s he came out as gay and within 18 months he had Aids, at a time when the diagnosis turned you into a pariah. “I would take Henry to A&E, and it was full when we arrived and within half an hour everybody had left and I was alone with him. He was so ill that we would sit on the floor, with his head in my lap. That was quite hard to write about.”


Meanwhile her youngest son, Christopher, suffered a catastrophic head injury while on a gap year in Belize. He was in a coma and a doctor told Glenconner that she should forget about him. Instead, she nursed him and when he woke up four months later she took him home and cared for him for the next five years. He was left with life-changing injuries, but he has married twice and has two children.


After Henry died and Christopher recovered, Charlie also seemed to be recovering from his addictions. But it was too late: he died from hepatitis, and Glenconner buried her second child. “Often people don’t talk to me about the children, maybe because they’re interested in the other things. But I like talking about them, and perhaps the book has given me a way to do so,” she says.


Her book’s success has thrilled her: “Aren’t I lucky?” She is planning a trip to New York, where Tina Brown will throw a party for the US launch. She is also working on her first novel, Murder in Mustique: “I’m the new Miss Marple!” she says delightedly.


Glenconner talks me through the family photos that surround us: Charlie as a handsome teenager, Henry’s son and his children, one of the twins getting married. A photo of Glenconner holding Charlie and Henry as babies is so bittersweet I can hardly look at it. “Oh I know,” she says when she sees me wince. As I’m about to leave, she touches my elbow gently. “I’m glad you asked me about the children, it was kind of you,” she says. “Because the book really is about them, you know.”

Thursday 27 August 2020

WWII British Military WWW Dirty Dozen watches

In-Depth Your Guide to the “Dirty Dozen” – Including the Only British Member, VERTEX

Simple timekeepers that have played a critical role in the successful execution of British military operations.


By Tom Mulraney


In our modern age of smartphones and wearable tech, it’s easy to forget just how indispensable the humble mechanical wristwatch once was. Yet even a brief foray into the world of military watches is enough to provide a vivid reminder. Rugged, reliable and entirely fit-for-purpose, these simple timekeepers have played a critical role in the successful execution of military operations that dramatically shaped the course of modern history. Particularly during World War II, the period which we will be focusing on for the purpose of this article. Arguably the best-known such watches from this era are those of the British Military. More specifically, the Dirty Dozen.


Chances are you’re already familiar with the Dirty Dozen, or have at least heard the name. That’s probably because the “Dozen” is amongst the most sought-after series by military watch collectors. If you’re not familiar with the name though, allow me to provide a brief introduction. The use of wrist-worn watches in military conflict really began in World War I. Pocket watches – the popular choice of men of the day – proved too cumbersome and time-consuming to use in the trenches. Not to mention the distraction of fumbling around with the dust cover, etc. could inadvertently expose your position to enemy snipers.


The initial – albeit rudimental – solution soldiers came up with was to strap their pocket watches to their wrists for easier access. This soon evolved into the “trench watch”, which basically used a small pocket watch case with wire lugs soldered on either end so a strap could be attached. The designs were not standardised, and the soldiers typically had to purchase these watches themselves. Meaning they were not issued by the government.


The design of these watches continued to evolve throughout the war based on the feedback from the constant “field testing” they were subjected to. For example, white dials with black numerals were soon inverted as it became clear that white text against a black background was more legible. Likewise, luminous paint – containing radioactive radium – was introduced to enable reading in low-light conditions.


Vertex Dirty Dozen military WWII watch

The “field” military watch evolved drastically with WWII – as an example, this Vertex “Dirty Dozen”

By World War II, the wristwatch was well and truly established as an essential part of a gentleman’s daily attire. Assuming he could afford one, of course. Pocket watches still persisted – even within the military – but their popularity continued to wane. As you might expect, the wristwatch played an even more significant role in the Second World War than it did in the First. Yet there wasn’t a great deal of standardisation in the design of these watches until the early 1940s.



According to the history books, in 1943 Commander Alan Brooks (later to become Field Marshal) recognised the value of having a general-use timepiece for the armed forces. Until then almost all service watches were personal civilian items. Given that this “general-use” timepiece was destined for a very active war zone, the MoD set specific criteria for how it should look and function. These included:


  • Black dial with Arabic numerals, subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock and railroad-style minutes
  • Luminous hour and minute hands plus luminous hour markers
  • Movements with 15 jewels, 11.75 to 13 ligne in diameter
  • Shatterproof Perspex crystal
  • Waterproof to the standards of the era
  • Precision movements that had to be regulated to chronometer criteria in a variety of conditions
  • Rugged case capable of diminishing the impact of shocks
  • Water-resistant crown of good size
  • Vertex Dirty Dozen military WWII watchVertex Dirty Dozen military WWII watch


The military code for these watches was W.W.W. (Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof). They were also required to be engraved in three places with the Broad Arrow or Pheon (which denotes property of the British Crown.) On their casebacks was the descriptive code W.W.W. Two serial numbers could be found as well, one being the civil serial number of the manufacturer and the second a military one which started with a capital letter.


As part of its brief, the British MoD clearly stipulated that these watches were explicitly meant for ‘General Service.’ This did not mean that each soldier would be eligible for one; it was and certainly remains over-the-top to provide a watch regulated to chronometer standards for every soldier. With the term ‘General Service,’ the British meant that these watches would be issued to special units and tasks respectively such as artillery members, staff members, engineers and personnel of the Communications Corps.


Dirty Dozen military WWII watch

At the time, British watch factories already had their hands full with the manufacturing of munitions and weapons. So, requisition officers were sent to Switzerland to find companies that could fulfil the order. In the end, twelve companies would be selected: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. (Although Vertex was technically a British watch company, it had Swiss Manufacturing plants.)


About 145,000 W.W.W’s were delivered to the British military by all 12 manufacturers. The table below from Konrad Knirim’s book British Military Timepieces provides an overview of how many watches were contributed by each maker:


As you can see, some – such as Grana and Eterna – produced relatively low volumes. This makes it particularly challenging for collectors trying to find nice examples of each to complete their “Dozen”. A task that is made infinitely more difficult by the fact that these watches were serviced, let’s say without the greatest of care, by the R.E.M.E (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) who often chopped and changed parts between the various models. On the other hand, spending a lifetime searching and collating a complete set must be a very rewarding experience indeed.

Tuesday 25 August 2020

The new Secret Garden (2020) spoiled by computer effects and a pathetic fire scene. Inferior to the version of 1993 (see post below) . Video: The Secret Garden | Official Trailer [HD] |

The Secret Garden is a cloying, off-the-mark adaptation of a great novel: Review

By Maureen Lee Lenker August 05, 2020 at 03:00 AM EDT


 The 1911 novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a rite of passage for many children, an engrossing and magical story that captures the imagination. It’s served as fodder for countless screen adaptations in its century-plus of existence, but its latest iteration directed by Marc Munden and adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) saps the story of its magic.


 It follows orphaned Mary Lennox (a petulant Dixie Egerickx), a child who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven (Colin Firth) in England when her parents die during a cholera epidemic in India. Craven is a pitiful figure, a man haunted by grief after the death of his wife, who has forced his son Colin (Edan Hayhurst) into living the life of an invalid out of a misguided sense of overprotectiveness.


 This adaptation takes great liberties with the storytelling, converting Craven’s wife’s accidental death into a malingering illness and making the titular garden a literally magical place where plants bloom and wither in the blink of an eye. The gardens are lush and inviting, more mystical wonderland than the manicured English garden. But they rely too heavily on CGI instead of actual natural wonder to convey their secrets.


 The Secret Garden is a tale about grief: a catalog of how it twists and wounds us, and how with the right tending and care, we can bloom back to vibrant life. The only person in the film keyed into that here is Firth as Craven, who lends his always reliable air of sensitivity interpreted as arrogance to the role. With little dialogue and only a handful of scenes, he offers audiences the deep wells of Craven’s grief with only his eyes and a muttered word through a clenched jaw.


 But this adaptation leans heavily on clichés the story doesn’t need. The garden is not figuratively magic, it’s literally so, with the power to heal dogs and Colin. This robs the storytelling of its power, by chalking Mary and Colin’s growth up to some unseen spectral force guided by spirits. The novel’s power lies in Mary and Colin’s affection for each other, how they bloom under their mutual care (and the interest of kindly servants). The film doubles down on these choices by adding an unnecessarily fiery climax into the film, seeking to inject some dramatic action where none is required. Ironically, the result is to turn a genuinely moving tale into one that is profoundly dull.


 Like the garden at its heart, The Secret Garden has always found its beauty in its quietude, a small story of hearts broken and healed through nature, attentive care, and true connection. But this adaptation doesn’t understand that, instead drowning the film in showy set pieces and magical realism rather than understanding the inherent magic in all things. They should’ve never underestimated the peace that can be found in simplicity and quiet. C


'The Secret Garden' yields a less appealing version of the children's classic


Brian Lowry byline

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

 Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT) August 7, 2020


 (CNN)"The Secret Garden" is one of the more enduring titles in children's literature, having been adapted for the screen multiple times, including a splendid 1993 version. That's the backdrop to the latest movie based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel, which makes puzzling choices in harvesting the material, mostly providing an incentive to go back and watch the last one again.


 The new film boasts an impressive pedigree -- it's billed as coming from the makers of the Harry Potter series, mostly notably producer David Heyman -- and a cast that includes Colin Firth and Julie Walters. The story, however, develops slowly, shifts the 1911 book into a post-World War II timeframe without much reason and makes a significant change in the final act that the project could have surely done without.


At its core, there's still the uplifting tale of an orphaned young girl, Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), and the healing power she brings to the insulated estate to which she is sent. After a fleeting introduction, Mary is forced to go live with her distant, sullen uncle by marriage (Firth), still bearing emotionally scars over the death of his wife, her mother's sister.


Banging around the giant manor, Mary encounters Colin (Edan Hayhurst), her uncle's son, who is bedridden, fragile, spoiled, and as surly as she is. Gradually, she coaxes him to venture out into the grounds with her to explore the untended, neglected garden she has discovered, joined by another boy, Dickon (Amir Wilson), who has a way with animals and admirable patience with his two more privileged companions.


Directed by Marc Munden, this latest "Garden" is, inevitably, still lovely to look at with all those vibrant colors, perhaps especially in its celebration of nature at a time when people have been cooped up. But it's not as magical as it should be, which might stem in from feeling more Disney-fied in its trappings, including a stray dog and darting birds. There are also flashbacks to Mary's parents, which actually serves to make them -- and her experience -- less interesting, and the film more conspicuously manipulative.


Granted, movie companies don't really need much excuse to remake a beloved classic every generation or so, and the latest iteration isn't bad for parents looking to introduce "The Secret Garden" to their kids.


Still, the tradeoff of that includes the inevitable comparisons to what's been done before, and by that standard, this "Secret Garden" can remain overlooked, while hoping for more from the next incarnation, if history is any guide, probably destined for some time during the 2040s.