Sunday, 31 January 2010

Oh dear, Oh dear

Gorgeous?  Of course it is.  But this contrary to all appearances is not the General Trading Company on Sloane Sq. 

Or the new Nouveau Orientalist galleries at the V & A (I made that up)

No, it 's a house, a residence, a dwelling, a home.

According to a mild piece of hagiography by Min Hogg in February's World of Interiors, it belongs to Anouska Hempel and her long-suffering husband Sir Mark Weinberg.  Hempel is a multi-faceted designer and all-round good egg.  Unless you have to live with her?  The dearth of squashy chairs and sofas in the drawing room is, apparently,  resolutely intentional. ' I always sit up straight, never sprawl or loll'.  Funny eh, since everywhere you go there are mountain ranges of blooming cushions where presumably you get ticked off for scaling them and even worse, knocking them over. 

If  I were her house guest, I'd be sure to take out personal accident insurance with third party liability.  That's beside the self-denying ordinance.  I know somebody who stayed at Blakes, her legendary London boutique hotel, and found it something of an obstacle course.  

Hempel has a marvellous eye for display but so do a lot of Knightsbridge window dressers.  As an interior designer I wouldn't exactly say she's ready for beatification yet.

The Dogs' B******S

Don't you sometimes wonder why we do it?

Thanks to the cartoonist Gregory.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A Very Glamorous Cocktail

Bobby Short

Cole Porter


Elsie de Wolfe

Cole Porter wrote a wicked song about legendary interior decorator, socialite and ‘factory of chic’* Elsie De Wolfe.  Sending up her black and white period (characterised by the zebra skin look)  he wrote ‘That  Black and White Baby of Mine’.  Here it is perfomed by the elegant, utterly charming Bobby Short, whose career over many years at Manhattan’s Café Carlyle made him in an icon of the cabaret scene.  His impeccable musicianship and his devotion to the classic American song made it a heady mix indeed.

Now, the quality of this clip isn’t brilliant but the fact that it was taped live at the
The State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ in 1995 by a member of the audience gives
it an immediacy and authenticity you can’t get from a studio recording.  Persevere with the introduction and be tickled pink by That Black and White Baby of Mine.

Chin Chin! Bottoms Up!

* in the words of Cecil Beaton

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Our National Health Service

We were brought up on it.

We love it.

And we depend on it.

It's a lot more sophisticated now.

These pictures come from People at Work : The Nurse from The Ladybird Book series,
another of our national treasures.   By Vera  Southgate MA, B Com and J Havenhand with illustrations by John Berry.  Pub. Wills & Hepworth Ltd. Loughborough 1963

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A Matter of Pride : Gays in the Forces

 Lt Cdr Craig Jones  MBE Royal Navy                                                                     photo: Stephen Davidson

It was  ten years ago this month that the ban was lifted on gay men and women serving in the British Armed Forces. 

A year or two after that,  I found myself at Leeds Castle in Kent invited by the Trustees for a weekend party to coincide with one of their celebrated outdoor concerts.  And to any woman's delight there was already a handful of young naval officers in the Library when we arrived for drinks. They weren't in uniform but you can't have it all.  One of them called Craig,  who turned out to be particularly engaging and amusing,  lost no time in directing my attention across the room to his partner.   I was looking for a strappy dress, pashmina and sandals that would sink into the lawns but saw instead a gorgeous young man in a shirt and tie.  That was Adam,  a clinical psychologist.  Flawless darling!   Truly, it was  a great moment to see that the enlightened new service culture could work like this.   

The next day at lunch sitting on ivory-coloured spanish leather chairs in the glorious minty, sunny dining room,  I was opposite Craig.   I was trying to tell a story and as ever, stalled on a name.  'Oh damn, who's that fashion designer? The one in Paris, with a shaved head, lost a lot of weight lately.. erm.. uh..’  Craig came to my rescue and delivered this line with aplomb, ‘Alexander McQueen? … I can do warfare too, you know.’  Of course he could, he was a well-trained, talented officer with all the normal seagoing experience.

The dining room at Leeds Castle decorated by Stephane Boudin of the distinguished French firm Jansen

So it turned out that Craig Jones, a Lt. Cdr, was the most senior openly gay serviceman.  He worked tirelessly to support men and women of all three services in what could still be a difficult choice: to declare, or not to declare, their homosexuality. That contribution, together with his measured, tactful approach as a spokesman,  was recognised by the award of an MBE.   I joined him and Adam, family and chums for lunch at Claridges after the Buckingham Palace ceremony.   There was a lot to celebrate.

At Times Online here you will find a very good article about how our armed forces have accepted and integrated this vital element of diversity.   The new law caused a bit of consternation at first but that soon settled down.  Moreover, fears that it might compromise operational effectiveness were totally unfounded.

 Trooper Ben Rakestrow, right, sits at his bedspace with friends in transit accommodation at Camp Bastion  Photo from Times Online

Craig left the Royal Navy in 2008  and is now on the board of Barclays Wealth as Head of Diversity

Monday, 18 January 2010

Quick, Quick, Don't Miss This

The Mummy of Hornedjitef from the Collection of The British Museum

A history, not  The history of the World told through 100 man-made  objects in the collection of The British Museum.  I listened, riveted, to BBC Radio 4's  first programme this morning with the Museum's director Neil MacGregor unpicking the idea of telling  history through these not necessarily famous objects, but nevertheless ones that can tell a global story connecting all our histories. 

By looking at the 3rd Century BC  Mummy of Hornedjitef he conjured the idea that we are looking back in time to the sacred paraphernalia for transporting the soul of an Egyptian priest via a hazardous journey into the After Life. Little did he think his mortal remains would end up in Bloomsbury!   

As a link into the next object,  we heard the ghostly magnetic pulse of a mighty star that our ancestors across large parts of the earth saw explode in broad daylight  in 1054.  What, briefly, was happening around the world at that moment?  It was certainly an ill-fated moment for the English King Harold.  William the Conqueror's 1066 invasion hadn't yet been predicted in his own stars. 

This is stunning stuff.   More than I have been able to mention here, it raises many scholarly questions and attempts to answer them in the most accessible way.  I don't think you will be disappointed. 

Find the programme blog here.  There's also a deeply infuriating interactive website here.  Good luck in navigating it.  Most importantly, listen to Episode 1 here.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

An Artist and his Oil

I first saw Richard Wilson’s installation' 20:50'  at the Saatchi Gallery in Boundary Road nearly 20 years ago.  I have since tried to explain it but it defies belief when you tell people that it is possible to walk waist-deep into a reservoir of recycled sump oil.  It sounds horrible but these pictures show how the trick is performed and how sublime is the effect of the calm mirrored surface.  

It reflects and doubles the architectural features.

The sides of the metal walkway come virtually to meet the glassy surface and whilst it is safe, the magic of the experience is menaced by the idea that you are within a centimetre or two of being engulfed by 8,000 litres of unpleasant black engine oil.  I know it really is oil because one of the youngsters I took unwittingly dipped the strap of his rucksack into it.

 The installation has now opened in its new home at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea here.
Totally worth experiencing.  My son Will told me today that it made a huge impression on him all those years ago.

Photographs 1-4: Linda Niland;  5: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images 

courtesy of  The Guardian's  marvellous website 

Monday, 11 January 2010

Uniforms and Horses - Again

I have just recommended this Armstrong and Miller clip to 'wimpy cat blogger' (except he's definitely not)  rurritable after he said he was startled by how big Liverpool police horses were.  See his post featuring a classic Beatles  video with old green buses (destination 'Penny Lane') and some big horses here.

We all know I can barely ride a horse but somehow they keep trotting onto my blog.  No apologies for yet another of my four-legged friends or for some more gorgeous  Armstrong and Miller whose classic RAF sketch I brought to you not long ago.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

That Portrait Again & The Man Himself


Frederick Gustavus Burnaby
by James Jacques Tissot
oil on panel, 1870
19 1/2 in. x 23 1/2 in. (495 mm x 597 mm)

© National Portrait Gallery, London                                                              Photo: Hugo Burnand

The Corinthian Column has just kindly pointed out the Tissot painting was doubtless an inspiration for Hugo Burnand's photographic portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales on his 60th Birthday.  

Now you may think that Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885) looks a touch effete in this painting but he was reputed to be the strongest man in the British Army and was said to have carried a pony under one arm.  

He entered the Royal Horse Guards in 1859 but, restless for active service,  found adventure in balloon ascents, travel and exploration. As a correspondent for The Times he reported on General Gordon’s expedition to the Sudan, reaching Khartoum;  and made a famous winter journey on horseback across three thousand miles of the Russian steppes.  His account of that,  A Ride to Khiva (1876),  became a best seller.

A further book On Horseback through Asia Minor (1877)  described action against the Russians whilst he fought on behalf of the Turks.  Not content with that, he crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon in 1882 and  acted as a military intelligence officer in The  Sudan under General Valentine ‘Pasha’ Baker.  Burnaby was killed by a spear to his throat at the hand of Dervish forces at the Battle of Abu Klea in 1885. 

References: The National Portrait Gallery; Wikipedia.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Brothers in Arms

Frederick Burnaby by James Tissot 1870s

Little Augury has beaten me to it here with the new portrait of Princes William & Harry in uniforms of the Household Cavalry, The Blues & Royals. Painted by Nicky Philipps for the National Portrait Gallery.  

The charming informality of the two young soldiers references two great paintings of the past.

Lord John and Lord Bernard Stuart, two brothers who died in the English Civil War by Anthony van Dyck  c 1638

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Post-War Austerity Kitchen

I have been revisiting my favourite old cookery book to give some relief to the members of my household who are beginning to look like a spaghetti bolognaise.

 So last night I steamed the leeks from the bottom of the fridge, wrapped them in LIDL (30% off) ham and covered them in cheddar cheese sauce  not forgetting a sprinkling of brown bread crumbs. Into the oven at Gas Mark 5 and voila!  Marguerite Patten, our beloved English cookery diva who kept everyone going in World War II, would have smiled in her grave. Actually, is she dead yet?

Served with boiled potatoes and cabbage and garnished with Branston pickle I ate it in front of Family Guy. Then I treated myself to a glass of Port.  Apart from the telly bit, I felt like an old colonel in a gentleman’s club.  All very satisfying.

Today I trudged through the snow to the village butcher for oxtail and got a bloody great marrow bone free.   Bought a swede and three potatoes from W. Green and then had the most enormous difficulty carrying it all home whilst using my ski pole as a walking stick. I don’t want to slip up and die like the Atkins Diet man, do I?

In roasting the marrow bone to make stock, I stunk out the whole kitchen and I’m not doing that again. 

Meanwhile I forgot I’d already bought some chicken thighs.  I am not sure if my enthusiasm is going to run to cooking those too.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

EEE with love from Rose C'est La Vie

little bird told me.. that Emily Evans Eerdmans is getting married tomorrow!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Phaffing around in Photoshop

Some of these images I made in Photoshop have hardly seen the light of day. They come from my  file entitled  WHIMSY.  Just a bit of fun really.

Finally, my New Year's Resolution:

All images © Rosie West
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