ALAN BENNETT, LRB

From LRB:

23 May. A party for HMQ at the Royal Academy where around six we join a straggling queue of notables, the actors the most obvious, though Vivienne Westwood is her usual unobtrusive self. Talk to various people in the queue, one of whom seems to know my plays well but then congratulates me on my paintings of trees – she’s the first of three people who confuse me with Hockney and though he too is at the party I doubt if he is ever confused with me.

Inside the place is less crowded than one had expected and with the rooms so tall it’s almost airy. We’re directed into one of the emptier rooms where HMQ is due to pass through but are then pounced on by some young man who asks if he may introduce the (slightly bewildered) Duke of Kent. We have an awkward few minutes but the day is saved by Clive Swift, whose son Joe has just won a medal at Chelsea. HRH knows about Chelsea and so brightens considerably. Meanwhile lurking by the door HMQ is due to come through is Kate O’Mara and when I next look lining up to meet Her Majesty are Ms O’Mara along with Joan Collins and Shirley Bassey, the impression being that anyone can get to speak to the monarch provided you’re pushy enough. But it’s all very casual, so much so that R. doesn’t even see the queen, though she’s distinctive enough, dressed in white and glittering with jewels, determinedly animated and smiling, which, since she’s been at it for two hours already, is an achievement in itself. We go on through the rooms, talking to all sorts of people – Jim Naughtie, Nigel Slater and David Hare, who claims that the best conjunction he’s seen so far is George Steiner talking to Joan Collins.

Come away at eight o’clock with HMQ still at it, and the policemen in the forecourt very jolly and eating ice cream…

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