Monday, 27 July 2009

Chopin Society Recital

Superb recital of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Chopin by Mikhail Kazakevich and Elena Zozina for The Chopin Society at St Gabriel's Church, Warwick Square . Click the heading to hear them playing Chopin's Rondo for two pianos in C, Op 73.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Favourite Cities - Bombay

The Gateway of India reflected in a window of the Taj with the Arabian Sea beyond

Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.

Rudyard Kipling - Bombay

More Kipling here
More Taj here (Terror Attacks) and here

Vitaï Lampada

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke
The gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

Henry Newbolt 1897

More war poetry here

Commander Colin Balfour 1924 - 2009

Cmdr Colin Balfour, RN, DL, who died last week after suffering an eight-year illness brought on by a fall, was a most charming and amusing man and, with his wife Prue, one of my parents' closest friends. He was brought up in Oxfordshire and was an early friend of Bill Birch Reynardson's and was with him at Eton. Both of them went to war in 1942, Colin joining the navy and Bill the army, and saw a great deal of action (and Bill was wounded). Colin retired from the navy in 1952 and took up farming on his family's estate at Wintershill and in Scotland, which he loved. He was for many years chairman of the govenors of the local school, chairman and treasurer of the Parish Council and a church warden at Durley Church for 24 years. An excellent shot, a superb mimic and story-teller (and mathematician) and a kind and generous man, he and Prue maintained a wonderful social life in Hampshire and in Scotland. Among my parents' fondest memories (apart from many hilarious dinner parties) were when they visited them in the South of France and the annual cricket matches against the village, played on the pitch at Wintershill.  Prue, the daughter of an admiral, who died in 2016 was as charming and gregarious as he was and both enhanced the lives of all those around them.
I have a particular reason to be grateful to Colin and Prue as it was when my father was shooting at Wintershill that he met Bill Birch Reynardson who offered me a job at Thomas Miller where I happily remained for 39 years. 

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Japanese Airports

Where would you rather be, in an interminable queue at Terminal 3, or at Haneda, Tokyo where despite the crowds, smiling girls help you with your luggage?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Painted Hall, Greenwich

The Painted Hall at Greenwich - formerly in the Royal Naval College and now part of the National Maritime Museum - is such an impressive room; even more so than the Drapers' Hall It almost rivals the Palazzo Colonna in Rome. This was an RNLI dinner. Click here for some more photos

Monday, 6 July 2009

Favourite Places

No prizes for knowing where this is - but does anyone know of a finer setting for dinner/

Britain's Amazing Welfare System

A friend who hadn't worked for about twenty years and who was finding it hard to maintain herself recently applied for welfare. She now gets her housing paid for (she rents a modest room), plus £60 a week for food and necessaries. National Health Services - doctors, hospitals, medicines, dentists, glasses etc - are of course already free. Libraries, art galleries and museums are free. Tube and bus travel are free to over 60s. And one is allowed £15,000 of savings without affecting these benefits. Whatever anyone says about Britain, one has to be proud of the way its citizens are looked after when they get into difficulties.

Favourite Places - Novington Manor

A timeless scene - my parents at Novington Manor

Friday, 3 July 2009

Japan - Early Morning Chimes

Early morming chimes in a Japanese village. The chimes are played at 6.00, 12.00 and 17.00 each day. Click here to hear the evening chimes.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Favourite Paintings

Kei is working in the arts at the moment and has found some lovely watercolours. Click the heading for more.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Margaret Thatcher Infirmary

Margaret Thatcher poses with Chelsea Pensioners John Ley, David Poultney, John Walker and Charles McLaughlin 14th February 2008

The Margaret Thatcher Infirmary at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, was opened by Prince Charles earlier in the year, but on 25th June a dinner was held for the Friends of the Royal Hospital for Baroness Thatcher in whose honour it had been named. She was unfortunately unable to attend, having broken her arm in a fall. But she made a video which was shown and which brought warm applause from the Friends. Click here for some more photos from the evening.


I didn't appreciate baseball until I read this John Updike poem


It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not--those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop's wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball's spotlight swivels your way, and the chatter around you falls still, and the mothers on the sidelines, your own among them, hold their breaths, and you whiff on a terrible pitch or in the infield achieve something with the ball so ridiculous you blush for years.

It's easy to do. Baseball was invented in America, where beneath the good cheer and sly jazz the chance of failure is everybody's right, beginning with baseball.

John Updike (2009)