When the eldest son of King George III was the Prince of Wales (later George IV), he was a bit of a lad. He used to install his mistresses in locations convenient to Windsor Castle, just as Charles II did with Nell Gwynne in the 17th century and, more recently, the future Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
One of the Prince’s dalliances was called Mary Robinson, a poet and actress most famous for playing Perdita in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. He saw the play when he was 17, fell in love with her, rechristened her Perdita and gave her a residence in Old Windsor (the older part of the town, where the Romans built the original Windsor Castle because it was a day’s march from London but which, since it was made of wood, has not survived). He asked her to become his mistress and it was agreed she would do so for £7,000, payable when he was 21, but by then he had tired of her and he never paid up. Not to be outdone, Mary got George III – in exchange for the Prince’s letters to her - to pay half of it and give her a pension, and she spent the rest of her life as a writer in Old Windsor. I’ve been looking for Mary for years because she’s a character in the book I’m researching - and this week I found her right here, in Old Windsor Parish Church:
Fizzy O’Therapy Made two careless mistakes with the wine order. First, I bought a case of ‘mixed Loire whites’. My daughter once nearly married a Tourain and he introduced me to Loire wines so I thought it would be good. But I broke my own rule: never buy 'mixed cases'. Mixed cases are how they get rid of rubbish they can’t sell by the case. It may be a crap bottle, you say of the first, but never mind - it’s only one bottle, and it’s open now, so…
But when the next one you open is also vino crappo you realise you've been conned.
The other mistake was not to read the catalogue properly. We like a cool Pino Grigio after a hard day’s retirement. But it was frizzante. I wondered what on earth I’d bought when I saw all those bubbles, but it's great. Good mistake.
Rough Justice I got my wife back after 3½ weeks of dispensing justice, so, as the British judicial system prevented us from escaping the worst of the winter, we decided to defrost in the Canary Islands. THEN… (disaster chord, followed by solo violin):
As David Letterman would say - what ten things would you least want to happen when you’re on a deadline and 1500 words short and two days from going away and have not yet made any preparations? And it’s the coldest day of the year? And - oh yes, it’s Sunday morning? OK – just one then? You’re right – the thing you’d least want would be for the central heating to pack up.
Well it did. After spending most of the morning in the Yellow Pages talking to answering machines, we finally got hold of Jonathan. He sounded more sleepy than enthusiastic: ‘Yawn. It’ll cost you double time’
‘ That’s OK.’
Jonathan arrives and says – ‘Of course I’m not really a repairer, I’m an installer’. Funny he didn’t mention that earlier (he’s listed under ‘Gas Engineers’.)
‘Can you fix this?’
‘The gas valve has gone.’
‘Can you fix it?’
‘I don’t carry spares’
‘Can you fix it?’ ‘
‘No, but I can install a new-technology energy-saving boiler for you.’
‘Couldn’t say. I’m busy until the week after next.’
‘Thanks Jonathan. By that time we’ll be on a sub-tropical island. We’ll call you. How much did you say?’
‘You'll have to add VAT to that.’
I can’t type any more – my fingers have gone numb.
Can't even stay up to watch the 5-hour car commercial interspersed with the odd few seconds of men in tights and body armour playing American football - also known as the Superbowl. The Bears will win anyway.
Gotta go - as Captain Oates said, 'I may be some time'. Do-roo-do-dooh