We saw some lovely old Royal coaches last weekend at Arlington Court in Devon, but nothing to match the magnificence of this brand new Diamond Jubilee State Coach. Yesterday the Queen travelled in this wonderful carriage on her way to the State Opening of Parliament.
And what an incredible coach it is. Only the second royal carriage to be built in a century, it's a veritable time capsule of 1,000 years of history. Everywhere you look there are relics of the many key moments in the history of Britain and the Commonwealth. I'm a lover of history, so imagine my delight when I found out just what was hidden in and around the coach. On the top is a crown made from the timbers of HMS Victory. The panelling includes slivers taken from Scott of the Antarctic's sled, wood from hut six at code breaking centre Bletchley Park, pieces from Sir Isaac Newton's apple tree, a small part of one of Sir Edmund Hillary's Everest ladder, and slivers from the beams of most of our great cathedrals.
Drawn behind six horses, the Queen will be sitting on a piece of Scotland's Stone of Destiny and surrounded by a bolt from a Spitfire, a musket ball from Waterloo, a bolt and rivets from The Flying Scotsman, and a button from Gallipoli. So many fantastic artefacts - there's even a fragment of the bronze cannon from which every Victoria Cross is cast, and a piece of metal from the wreckage from a 617 Squadron Dambuster.
This three ton coach, eighteen feet long, took 50 people more than ten years to assemble, and was the brainchild of Australian Jim Frecklington. In its construction he used the finest craftsmen and women from all over the Commonwealth, so all the leather and silk is Englsh, the door handles are from New Zealand - each is gold-plated and inlaid with 24 diamonds and 130 Australian sapphires. Even the bolts which fix the gold-plated hand supports to the bodywork have been finished using the same guilloche enamel as a Faberge egg.
I could go on, there's so much more. Apart from all these historical items the coach is totally up to date in many ways. For example lift up the armrests (formed out of teak handrails from the Royal Yacht) and there you'll find Bond-style controls for the heating and electric windows. The panelling includes yew from Glamis Castle in Scotland, where the Queen Mother grew up, ash from Blenheim Palace, and oak from Althorp.
What an amazing work of art. I'm definitely going to see it in the summer when my young friend and I pay another visit to the Royal Mews behind Buckingham Palace.
From the magnificent to the mundane - The other day we went to dinner at a restaurant at Peppard Common. We were trying out the new Italian management. As I've said many times before, my main hate is garlic (it comes a close second to wire coat hangers!) so when ordering my steak I reiterated my dislike a couple of times - just to make sure. When it arrived I took a couple of bites. And really hated it. Tried to persevere, but gave up and called for the cook. "No, no. No garlic" he said. But told me that as a special treat for me he'd cooked the steak in truffle oil. Now I don't know if all you garlic haters out there are aware of the taste - and smell - of truffle oil. Well, it's almost exactly the same as garlic. So that's just a little warning if you are ever offered this delicacy. (He made me a very tasty plain steak later).
Remember I told you that I finished my painting of the headmaster the other week and delivered it to his school. Well, today it will be unveiled at a special ceremony, and he will see it for the first time. Hope he likes it.
It's quite large - life size - and painted in oil, mounted within a lovely gold-leaf French frame. My young friend was very pleased when it left my home as every time she passed by the portrait, which was on an easel, his eyes followed her. She found it most disconcerting. As I hadn't painted in oils for over five years I was pleased to find out how much I enjoyed it.
Now I'm back to painting a miniature - trying out using very fine sandpaper to make the surface of the vellum even smoother.
My other painting job - that of my young friend's shed - is now completed. We put on the final coat last weekend - a tasty shade of dusty blue. As a contrast we'd decided to paint the hinges in Hammerite black. So I set to work on Sunday morning with a couple of small sable brushes - purloined from my collection - but found it very difficult not to stray on to the surrounding paintwork. It was only after I finished the first one that It struck me how foolish I was. Of course it made more sense to unscrew the hinges from the door and paint them elsewhere before putting them back on. Which is how I painted the other two.
My last blog wouldn't load properly for some reason. Maybe I'd posted too many photographs. So my young friend had to transfer it by retyping all my text to her computer and publish it that way. So let's see whether this one loads OK. But just before I finish I must tell you about an amusing scam I read about the other day. It read thus:
"A Malaysian who ordered a penis enlarger online was stunned when he was sent a magnifying glass. At least it came with a useful instruction: 'do not use in sunlight'. The victim, who paid £100 for his £5 magnifier, later reported the Internet scam to Malaysia's customer complaints bureau. It's chairman, Seri Michael Chong, said: 'As you can imagine, he is feeling rather disgruntled."