It’s been a rough week for the makers of The Crown, what with all those accusations of historical inaccuracies. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes of the new series but it did seem preposterous that they cast a horse who clearly didn’t go to Eton, and the Queen was shown swallowing a baby’s head for breakfast in August when everybody knows the royals only eat those in December.
What I find most ludicrous, however, is how enjoyable they’ve made Scottish holidays seem. There they all are, sitting around the dining table at Balmoral and laughing as if a day “on the hill” is something to look forward to. They play an after-dinner game of Ibble Dibble and roar throughout as if they’re actively having a good time. Absurdly, Diana is still smiling when she returns from a day stalking with Prince Philip barking personal questions at her. (Sorry, I know I wrote only last week that we need to stop discussing Diana, but the brilliant thing about being a columnist is that you can make rules and break them moments later. It’s a bit like being a government minister in that respect.)
I’ve been on Scottish holidays like these and the reality is quite different. It takes nine days to get there, and you begin to wonder, on the last stretch, as you continue down a bumpy track in the dark, when you’ve needed a wee for the past four hours, whether a flight from Luton to somewhere hot would have been so bad after all.
When you arrive, you’ll be shown to a room that you initially mistake for the freezer before you spot a very old, possibly Victorian bed sagging in the corner. There will be one bathroom, which everybody shares, and the bath water is brown because it travels through the surrounding peat. You will be allowed to sit in roughly two inches of this hot brown water once a day. It is the law that you remain outside between the hours of 8am and 5pm, operating as a Belisha beacon for all the midges and ticks within a five-mile radius.
One morning, someone will suggest swimming in the loch, which makes you briefly wonder whether murder is ever morally justifiable. In the evenings, there will be charades or Racing Demon or, if you’re very unlucky, a few reels that everybody else knows while you bumble around like Mr Collins at the Netherfield ball.
Honestly, the only solace of these “holidays” is that you’re allowed a hot breakfast every day. Hide the white pudding under your knife.
When I travelled around Scotland for Tatler ahead of the independence referendum, a mole told me that, these days, she’d rather stay at Prince Charles’s Scottish gaff, Birkhall, than Balmoral.
According to my informer, Balmoral is all electric fires and old-fashioned quilts on the beds, but since Camilla’s reign, the sheets at Birkhall have a “much higher thread count” and she makes sure there are always fresh flowers and better food. A top tip, just in case you’re asked to both and can’t decide who to say yes to. It will still take you nine days to get there, mind.
Suddenly my extremely silly names seem quite sensible
I was delighted to read about Princess Camilla Crociani de Bourbon des Deux Siciles this week. Not because of her family troubles. Who’s to say she didn’t hide the £50 million Gauguin for safekeeping and has simply forgotten where she put it? I do that all the time with my passport. No, it’s more that whenever I see a name like this I feel great kinship with them.
Coming up with extremely silly names for my novels has become a pastime, and there’s a German toff in my new book who’s called Countess Wilhelmina von Holstein-Frankfurter-Schleswig. I was worried this was overdoing it, but now I’ve read about Princess Camilla, I don’t think a German with a sausage in her name is far-fetched.
Guess who’s a-knocking while you’re in fishnet stockings
A warning for anybody breaking the rules: my friend Sophie has had the police knock on her door twice in the past couple of weeks. She lives in Fulham and suspects it’s because she’s a fashion editor, with couriers constantly coming to her door carrying clothes and shoes for photo shoots, but a neighbour has mistakenly identified her as a drug dealer.
The second time the officers arrived, Sophie happened to answer the door in fishnet tights. I only mention in case there are any Sunday Telegraph readers who like to parade around their homes in their own fishnets. Dress extremely carefully at the moment, because you never know who might appear on your doorstep.