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Thursday, 31 January 2013

POETRY: Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

  I met a traveller from an antique land

  Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

  Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
  Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
  And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
  Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
  Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
  The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
  And on the pedestal these words appear --
  "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
  Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
  Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
  Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
  The lone and level sands stretch far away.'
  Percy Bysshe Shelley

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

LIVING BY DESIGN: Hints / Fabric

A while back!  Cream, stippled walls, the silk taffeta curtains are simply made, mirrored panels adorn the wall in between two windows.  Two bookcases are filled with books - all about LondonOn the back wall is a JS 'cut-out' console table with red anemones in clear vases, on the right tulips reposing from their ecstasy. A camel-coloured sofa with scatter cushions in JS fabric Josephine ........................a London show flat snapped up in minutes - hurray!
'Josephine' in Mink/Peach and Red/Gold
Available from Tissus d'Helene, London

Monday, 28 January 2013


Bibi Netanyahu is re-elected.

I dip into 'Jerusalem' by Simon Sebag-Montefiore [see my blog entry of Feb 28, 2011] to remind me of how complex a country Israel is and how fractious the Middle East has always been.

Friday, 25 January 2013

TRAVEL: India Part II

In India, every Moghul pierced screen, every Islamic patterned floor has been slavishly copied in the cause of tourism, in hotel after hotel, miles and miles of marble cut and polished - not to speak of the Gulf States - traditional chatris [domed kiosks on pillars] in all sizes proliferate, tall doors with handsome brass fittings are common.  All this is pleasing, but only the Aman chain of boutique hotels has the design integrity and know-how of mixing modern amenities with traditional materials, it makes for HARMONY. They have triumphed at Amanbagh, in Rajastan [they have the best planned rooms and bathrooms and ample space for clothes. This design integrity is manifest in the Aman hotels, be it in Beijing, Sri Lanka, Bali of the Caribbean].  They have created, near Alwar, a peaceful haven with staff who have benefited from Aman training, which, combined with India NATURAL GOOD MANNERS makes for smiling and charming servitors - and the grub is good too!

Amanbagh is an all new build but restrained, the grounds well planted - hurray for artificiality!

BAHNGARH, near Alwar, Rajasthan
The Chital or Spotted Deer at the Sariska Tiger Reserve near Alwar
Antelope at a water hole

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

ARCHITECTURE I admire: Oscar Niemeyer

Bleeding Hand Memorial, Sao Paulo [1989]
Oscar Niemeyerwho died recently, is an an architect who made a great impression on me when I visited Brasilia when only government buildings - no embassies or housing - had been built [see Preamble of my book John Stefanidis Designs].
Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Brasilia
University of Constantine, 1969-77

Monday, 21 January 2013


A Lebanese tablecloth from one of my favourite shops in Paris: Liwan, 8 Rue Saint-Sulpice, 75006. A brown bandana napkin on an octagonal speckled plate.  In the centre of the table is a Burmese rice bowl - in lacquer and mother-of-pearl - with its silver containers for temple offerings. The horned container, designed by Phillipe Starck, has a top that comes off and houses a grater for parmesan cheese.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

POETRY: Kenneth Patchen

The Stars Go to Sleep So Peacefully

The stars go to sleep so peacefully...

Their high gently eyes closing like white flowers
In a child's dream of paradise.

With the morning, in house after grim house,

in a haste of money, proper to kiss their war,
These noble little fools awake.

O the soul of the world is dead...
Truth rots in a bloody ditch;
and love is impaled on a million bayonets

but great God! the stars go to sleep so peacefully

The Daft Little Shoe Clerk Decided It Would Be Fun to Go Up and See What Things Are Like above the Sky

At first it seemed rather tight
And oversnug at the heel
So that his nose tingled

But then there weren't any bothers
To speak of
No squalling brats or a boss
Sneaking around on soundproofed tennis shoes

By damn he said I'll not go down
There again
No siree let them all do their nasties
Barefoot for crooning on a cloud

Boppo! a nifty little babe with souped-up wings
Takes ahold of his arm
Real get-with-it like
And before he can say squeezed to meet you too

Off they happily fly forever and ever  

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


The picturesque and travel writing.
The pursuit of the picturesque is truly over.  You might discover a little known temple or a magnificent ruin - a perfect place for a picnic - but rest assured on your next visit there will be a tourist bus and a mass of people.  Contemplating architecture in silent solitude is a thing of the past.

Right: The picturesque at its height: 'Portugal and Madeira', by Sacheverell Sitwell [1954]. 

Travel and genre writers such as Robert Byron 'The Road to Oxiana', Bruce Chatwin 'In Patagonia', Patrick Leigh-Fermor 'Mani' and Roderick Cameron 'Shadows of India' never had to contend with the vast changes of contemporary life.

Rory Cameron - a writer and aesthete with impeccable taste - was a friend whose book 'Shadows from India' [1958], and the photographs he took, made me long for India before I first went.  

A writer, historian and journalist William Dalrymple (an admirer of Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Bruce Chatwin) wrote 'Nine Lives, In Search of the Sacred in Modern India', preceded by the scintillating and charming Gita Mehta's  'A River Sutra' - an enchanting novel on similar themes.


On a recent trip to India I re-read 'Nine Lives' and, more to the point, The Age of Kali, 'Indian Travels and Encounters' [published in 1998]. This fascinating book is as relevant today as it was fourteen years ago in its perception of modern India - no holds barred - a must for any traveller to the subcontinent - do not be alarmed, change is inevitable - it is travel writing up-to-date.   

India has changed hugely and  so much the better. An Asian economic giant, its success means new roads, a growing and prosperous middle class and endeavours to alleviate poverty are increasing as a result.

The Taj Mahal, Agra, in its sparkling beauty, is the most romantic of all monuments, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  
In contrast to my last three visits when there were a few stragglers and ill-kept gardens - now very well maintained - and no picnics or lolling about on the lawns, the crowds are now regimented, the paths packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, chatting good-naturedly and taking photographs - the poses are highly professional [thanks to the movies and T.V.], vast numbers in festive mood but to enter the mausoleum is to be in Dante's Inferno.

The Taj from a distance is magical - with a light fog, the brilliant white marble changing to gold, the proportions seem impeccable, it has a refinement and purity of line like no other building.

New hotels have made sure that all their rooms have a view of this magnificent architectural phenomenon.  At The Oberoi Amarvilas - a most comfortable and luxurious hotel - the garden has a swimming pool at its centre, made of stone.  It is ambitious and a Disneyland interpretation of a Moghul garden.
The Statue of a do-gooder gentleman
 on the banks of the River Jumna at Agra

Thursday, 10 January 2013

COMMENT: Fashion

Oscars 2013Trend setter and fashionista Nura Khan
 - note stylish plait dipped in pink!

Oscars 2013

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Note: centre light on table, covered in 'eau de nil' felt tablecloth, a bare polished parquet floor - the atmosphere in tune with a set of Swedish chairs and white plaster decoration. A small mirror - painted white - was added.  Four John Stefanidis silver pots with yellow and white roses adorn the mantel.  On the table, a variegated scented pelargonium in a terracotta pot - where is its plate!?  The walls are painted pistachio green.   

Monday, 7 January 2013

POETRY: Graffito by James Merrill

Called the Miraculous Mandarin in the New York Review of Books by fellow poet Charles Simic, James Merrill was very good company.  I knew him in Greece and I was last charmed by him in Key West, Florida.  He won the Pulitzer Prize and was considered by many the leading American poet of his generation.  He died in 1995.


Deep in weeds, on a smooth chunk of stone
Fallen from the cornice of the church
(Originally a temple to Fortuna),
Appears this forearm neatly drawn in black,
Wearing, lest we misunderstand,
Like a tattoo the cross-within-a-circle
Of the majority-Christian Democrat.

Arms and the Man.  This arm ends in a hand
Which grasps a neatly, elegantly drawn
Cock-erect and spurting tiny stars-
And balls. One sports...a swastika?
Yes, and its twin, if you please, a hammer-and-sickle!
The tiny stars, seen close, are stars of David.
Now what are we supposed to make of that?

Wink from Lorenzo, pout from Mrs. Pratt.
Hold on, I want to photograph this latest
Fountain of Rome, whose twinkling gist
Gusts my way from an age when isms were largely
Come-ons for the priapic satirist,
And any young guy with a pencil felt
He held the fate of nations in his fist.  

Extract from 164 East 72nd Street

These city apartment windows-my grandmother's once-
Must be replaced come Fall at great expense.
Pre-war sun shone through them on many a Saturday
Lunch unconsumed while frantic adolescence
Wheedled an old lady into hat and lipstick,
Into her mink, the taxi, the packed lobby,
Into our seats.  Whereupon gold curtains parted
on Lakmé's silvery, not yet broken-hearted

Version of things as they were.  But what remains
Exactly as it was except those panes?
Today's memo from the Tenant's Committee deplores
Even the ongoing deterioration
Of the widows in our building. Well. On the bright side,
Heating costs and street noise will be cut.
Sirens at present like intergalactic gay
Bars in full full swing whoop past us night and day.

Sometimes, shocked wide awake, I've tried to reckon
How many lives-fifty, a hundred thousand?-
Are being shortened by that din of crosstown
Ruby flares, wherever blinds don't quite...
And shortened by how much?  Ten minutes each?
Reaching the Emergency Room alive, the victim
Would still have to live years, just to repair
The sonic fallout of a single scare.  

Saturday, 5 January 2013

ARCHITECTURE I admire: Shanghai World Financial Centre

Designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, this 460m tower is located in the Lujiazui Financial and Trade District in Pudong, Shanghai.  The building's most remarkable feature, apart from its height, is the 50m cylindrical void at the top, dubbed the "moon gate". This opening, which gives the tower the appearance of an archaic Chinese artifact, serves to relieve wind pressure on the structure. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

COMMENT: Clearing of postcards with apologies to my friends

I am having a clear out of letters and postcards - mostly thank you letters, some are irresistible, in particular the postcards which I will put on this blog before they are binned.  Difficult to throw out a thank you note that says " I don't think I have ever been near you without enjoying myself intensely"...  Hey!