Note to myself………. Stop visiting friends until after the New Year. I don’t know about where you are in the world, but here in the Czech Republic, kitchens are full of the smells of baking for most of December, where a large variety of small sweet biscuits, ‘cukrovi’ are made in huge amounts, to be consumed at a grand rate of knots. Every time someone visits, it’s ‘please come in, sit down. Coffee?’ and they are presented with a large plate of ‘cukrovi!’ Not good for diet or diabetes! A small change to the blog today; I have had a lot of questions regarding Christmas at Garden Lodge, so I will answer some normal questions and then give you a description of December a la Freddie at home.
Liv wanted to know what Freddie’s favourite colour was.
Freddie’s favourite colour was yellow, the brighter the better, as seen in photos of his dining room in Garden Lodge. Basically Freddie liked most shades of yellow and they appeared in various forms throughout the house, whether as paint on the walls, in some patterns on carpets or even in the fresh flowers, daffodils, roses or freesias, decorating different rooms. One of his favourite tracks suits was yellow. With his graphic design background, Freddie was expert at co-ordinating colours, and loved creating landscapes of colours in the rooms using flowers.
Starr was relating how her life was positively influenced by Queen’s music, and wondered if Freddie knew how much love came from his fans around the world.
I believe Freddie was aware of the feelings from fans for him. Obviously there was all the mail that would arrive at the fan club and he was told about, but also when he left the house, there were often fans waiting patiently outside for autographs and photos who made it clear that he was loved.. He also appreciated the fact that really everything he had came from the fans, and music lovers as a whole, who bought the albums and would come and see and hear the shows.
Ashley asked if Freddie was a romantic in real life.
Believe me, Freddie could be as romantic in real life as he was in his song writing. A prime example was the time when he organised a surprise for his friend Billy Squier. Billy was dating a lovely young lady during the time when Billy was supporting Queen on an American tour. We were all staying in the same hotel and on one of the rare nights off, Freddie arranged for Billy and Fleur to go out for a romantic dinner. While that was happening we sorted out with the hotel to fill their bed with beautifully scented rose petals, so that when the sheet was pulled back there would be a lovely perfume and they could lie on a bed of roses, just like the films and adverts. Freddie also loved to be treated romantically and was always appreciative if someone bought his chocolates or flowers.
Lizabeth asked what Freddie would say to those who still mourn his passing.
Freddie wasn’t one to spend a lot of time on sad thoughts, but that was his personality. He knew that each of us is different, and that some people need more time than others to get over unhappy events. Freddie was never one to tell others to ‘get over it’, but while he lost some friends to HIV/AIDS over the years, he spent time reflecting on what they meant to him, but Freddie would never go around wearing black and a sad face for any length of time. Death affects all of us in different ways and I think it is up to each of us to show some tolerance to others if they have a harder time accepting loss than us.
David asked why Freddie is often alone in so many photos, and was he so lonely.
Most publicity photos are precisely that. They were created to promote either a Queen or Freddie solo project and as such, Freddie, or the band, was the focus of those pictures. There are many private photos floating around the internet showing Freddie surrounded by friends and having a great time. Photos with his family do exist, but they remain with his family. Freddie always wanted to keep his family separate from his work life, and never let the spotlight fall on them.
By the beginning of December Freddie would have an idea about the guest list for Christmas Day, 25th, and let us know how many people would be at Garden Lodge for lunch. Freddie would ring around his friends to find out how many would be alone for the day and invite them to his house for a family meal. This meant that Christmas lunch would generally be for about 25. Knowing this I was able to work out what food would need to be ordered. From Lidgate’s, the butcher on Holland Park Avenue, the list would include 2x12kg ‘bronze’ turkeys, these are the one’s covered in black feathers as opposed to white, as they tend to be more succulent, 2kg sausage meat, for one of the stuffing, 2kg chipolatas, 2kg back bacon, 1kg streaky bacon and 1x10kg fresh ham, for cooking for 26th. A separate shopping list was created for fresh vegetables and fruits for bowls in each room, Christmas crackers, generally from Harrods, flower arrangements etc. I had made the Christmas cakes and puddings in September/October so they only needed finishing off in the last weeks before the big day.
Jim brought in the tree about the 14th. It had been carefully measured so that, with the topmost decoration, it just missed the ceiling of the big sitting room at about 15’ (4.6 metres). Freddie had a great time supervising the decoration of the tree and he was the one who would arrange the gifts underneath. One of the conditions of accepting the invitation to lunch was that you received a list of the other guests and that you bought something for each of them. Freddie’s reasoning behind this was that it was only fair that everyone opened about the same amount of gifts, not Freddie had 50 and there were others who would only have one or two.
Plans were laid as to how the big table would be created out of various dining tables in the house in the big room. There were a few big banqueting tablecloths that would disguise the various table tops, but it was harder to disguise the various levels.
Usually either on Christmas Eve or the day before, Freddie would invite friends around in the early evening for mince pies, sandwiches etc., and carol singing around the piano. As you can see, Freddie was a great believer in tradition. After the guests had left, preparations for the next day began in earnest. The table was arranged and set with glasses and cutlery. Freddie and the rest would then go out which left me in peace to prepare the vegetables for the next day. This would include potatoes, both for roasting and boiling, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, swede (for mashing) and any other vegetable that caught my attention while out shopping. I would also get the turkeys ready using the usual tricks of separating the skin from the breast and loading the gap with butter and then covering the turkeys with streaky bacon, all trying to keep the meat from drying out and also wrap the chipolatas with back bacon to be roasted the next day after the turkeys were finished.
Christmas Day dawned and Freddie had a small breakfast at about 9am as Lunch was planned for about 2pm. While we were in the kitchen getting the feast prepared, Freddie would be going round the house making sure everything was in place for his guests. You would hear his laughter louder than the Christmas carols coming out of the sound system. Everyone was always prompt and the house was full of voices by 1pm. Champagne was opened and served (opened by Jim and served by others) and Freddie was everywhere. Lunch was served at 2pm and all were full and opening their gifts by the time the Queen’s Speech was on the TV at 3pm. Generally tea/coffee and the cakes I had made were saved for after we had tidied up the sea of wrapping paper that covered the floor around the tree. All the leftovers were placed on the working block island in the middle of the kitchen available for anyone who really felt the need to pick. The house was eerily quiet for a few hours as the weight of the food in stomachs brought down the eyelids. By 8pm though, we were busy making turkey and stuffing sandwiches, heating up plates of other food and generally pigging out to spend a few hours in front of the TV before a well deserved rest, to get ready for what Boxing Day would bring.
I hope this gives you a flavour of what Christmas was like for Freddie. As I said, Freddie was very much one for tradition, and I think tradition has a lot going for it. However you all spend your time, MERRY CHRISTMAS. I wish you all the very best, and please ENJOY yourselves.