Friday, 27 February 2009

Red Mansion Exhibition

The Red Mansion Foundation promotes artistic exchange between the UK and China, and its director is Nicolette Kwok. She held an exhibition at the Foundation's gallery at 46 Portland Place to show some new work, incuding some stunning video creations. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to show them, but a few photos are available if you click the heading

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

From The Study Window

There's a lot going on here....the squirrel has taken the bait of hazelnuts and has been pushing the cage about with his nose to get the last ones; but hasn't yet ventured in. A few minutes later he did and snap! He's now joined his brothers and sisters on Wandsworth Common and the roof is taking a rest. You can also see a very early daffodil and a morning cobweb on my study window, and behind the bush some snowdrops brought up from the Wettons' garden in Wiltshire

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Eden Project

I am amazed at the energy and enthusiasm which has created the huge Eden Project in an exhausted china clay quarry near St. Austell, Cornwall. The website says: "While restoring the Lost Gardens of Heligan in the early 90s, Tim Smit became fascinated with stories that connected plants to people and brought them alive. He enlisted the help of Philip McMillan Browse (former Director of RHS Wisley and Horticultural Director of the Lost Gardens of Heligan) and Peter Thoday (former President of the Institute of Horticulture), to put together a team of expert horticulturalists with a touch of green guerrilla in them".

Click the heading for more photos from the project - although it's practically impossible to take photos in the tropical zone as one's camera lens mists up as one enters.

Barbara Hepworth Studio Exhibition

St Ives is blessed with both the Tate and Barbara Hepworth's studio, the latter left intact with a number of works on show as a permanent exhibition. Click the heading for some more photos.

Hotels and B&Bs

As with restaurants and pubs, where I have come usually to prefer the latter, a good B&B is generally much to be preferred to an hotel for holiday breaks. There are some superb B&Bs to be found in Alastair Sawday's excellent guides, offering a style of country house life that is becoming a rarity, with charming hosts, dogs and gardens, sumptuous breakfasts and free wi-fi - all for about £70 a night.

Ben Nicholson at the Tate St Ives

An impressive exhibition of Ben Nicholson's work at the Tate St Ives. Unlike the Saatchi, the gallery for some reason doesn't allow photographs, so the photos come mainly from other sources. Click the heading for more photos - and here for some excellent work by Luke Frost as well.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Saatchi Gallery - New Art From the Middle East

A fascinating exhibition of new Middle Eastern art at the Saatchi Gallery. The Saatchi Gallery, newly renovated from the old Duke of York's barracks at the end of the King's Road, is worth visiting for itself. Click the heading for some more photos of the works of art

Friday, 13 February 2009

America Empire of Liberty

David Reynolds is Professor of History at Cambridge

David Reynolds's daily talks on BBC 4 on the making of the United States are riveting. Fortunately, if one misses them, you can catch up here

Edward Gorey

I have always loved the work of Edward Gorey, ever since being amused by 'The Beastly Baby' many years ago. This is in the same tradition: the dark deaths of (in these cases) 26 apparently undeserving children.

Note: This piece used to have a link to The Beastly Baby but sadly it's no longer possible to find it on line.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Terrifying Bushfires in Australia

The bushfires in Victoria of the last few days - and the death toll from them - are completely horrifying. A scene from hell itself.
If you are so minded, you can donate to the Australian Red Cross here

The English Weather

We may have had some good winter weather over the past two weeks, but nothing unusual (see the old Flanders & Swann song below) - and a great deal less fierce than in most other places viz Melbourne's 46c on Saturday 7th February.

A Song of the Weather

January brings the snow,
Makes your feet and fingers glow.

February's ice and sleet
Freeze the toes tight off your feet.

Welcome March with wintry wind
Would thou wert not so unkind!

April brings the sweet spring showers,
On and on for hours and hours.

Farmers fear unkindly May
Frost by night and hail by day.

June just rains and never stops
Thirty days and spoils the crops.

In July the sun is hot.
Is it shining? No, it's not.

August, cold and dank and wet,
Brings more rain than any yet.

Bleak September's mist and mud
Is enough to chill the blood.

Then October adds a gale,
Wind and slush and rain and hail.

Dark November brings the fog
Should not do it to a dog.

Freezing wet December, then
Bloody January again!

January brings the snow ...

Flanders & Swann - At the Drop of a Hat

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Statue of Liberty

Cartoon by Dave Cagle; published on

The Statue of Liberty has stood at the entrance to New York harbour since being gifted by the French in 1886. It has the most beautiful poem engraved on it, from which the contrast between America's attitude to immigrants in those not so far off days with the appalling treatment being given to many of them today could not be more stark.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

Friday, 6 February 2009

St Ronan's Reception

My old prep school, St Ronan's, held a reception at Brooks's in St James' on 5th February, the first old boys' gathering that the school had organised for some years. The purpose was both to reconnect with old boys and also to raise money for a sports hall, designed to take pressure off the use of the school's 'Great Space' - the vast ballroom that has been used for all manner of indoor events for decades.

The headmaster, William Trelawny-Vernon is a worthy successor to the Vassar-Smiths and Harris's who led the school since the early 1900s and intends to broaden contact with all alumni - which will now include girls, since the school became co-ed some years ago.

Click here for some photos of the event and here to join the Saint Ronan's Old Boy's Group on Facebook

My memories of the very happy time spent at St Ronan's in the 1950s can be found here