ben trovato has been rummaging around the burrow bookshelves for some seasonal reading, and has come up with a gem of biography – The Empress of Ireland, by Christopher Robbins.
The personage of the title is a flamboyant gay film director in his 80s, Brian Hurst, who retorted magnificently to some uncouth labourers in his local
The author, a struggling freelance journalist, is introduced to the Empress by a con-man whose stock-in-trade is ‘bringing people together’. Brian is looking for a scriptwriter for his projected mammoth epic blockbuster dealing with the events leading up to the birth of Christ. Christopher Robbins finds himself in a louche, unpredictable world with never a dull moment. His employer – who lives for a peppercorn rent in a house belonging to the Duke of Westminster – announces that he is trisexual – “the Army, the Navy and the Household Cavalry”. The latter are much in evidence amongst a strange assortment of visitors and hangers-on, Guards corporals mingling happily, and sometimes intimately, with belted earls. One young officer complained to Brian that he needed to be warned in advance if there were going to be any soldiers from his regiment at the house, because he had been embarrassed by the lance-corporal who brought him his horse saying “have a nice gallop, darling” as he handed up the reins.
Soon Brian, Christopher and Dave – an ex-Welsh Guardsman - take off for Tangiers, where Brian has a house, and later visit
They move on to
This deliciously written book also has its sombre side. Brian Hurst had served at Gallipoli in the First World War, and had been severely traumatised by his grim experiences there. Perhaps that is why he led such an insouciant life afterwards. And his life ended tragically: when he died at around 90, the harpies descended on his empty