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Friday, 31 January 2014

COMMENT: The New Yorker, Jan 27, 2014

Check out this issue - online if you do not get the magazine - ANNALS OF THE PRESIDENCY Going the Distance by the editor, David Remnick...level-headed and incisive, an article which gives a balanced view of Obama at the White House.  

Obama was our hero, is he still?

Thursday, 30 January 2014

BOOKS: The Parthenon by Mary Beard

A temple, an Orthodox church [for as long as it had been a temple], a mosque until the explosion of 1687 - bombed by Venetian forces, part of a Holy league against the Ottoman Empire.

A book of fascinating facts; it shows a plan for the Parthenon which was to become a royal palace for King Otto, the Bavarian who became the first King of Greece - the architect my beloved Schinkel [see my blogs posts of May 1, 2012 & May 25, 2013].

Mary Beard is very good on the Elgin Marbles controversy and never dull.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Monday, 27 January 2014

POETRY: Rainer Maria Rilke from The Sonnets to Orpheus

Oh this is the animal that never was.
They hadn't seen one; but just the same, they loved
its graceful movements, and the way it stood
looking at them calmly, with clear eyes.

It had not been.  But for them, it appeared
in all its purity.  They left space enough.
And in the space hollowed out by their love
it stood up all at once and didn't need

existence.  They nourished it, not with grain,
but with the mere possibility of being.
And finally this gave it so much power

that from its forehead a horn grew.  One horn.
It drew near to a virgin, white, gleaming---
and was, inside the mirror and in her.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

FOOD: Tramshed

Mark Hix's 'Tramshed' in Shoreditch is where it is at -- an attempted citizen's arrest of Tony Blair which 'hit' the newspapers .

The restaurant is famous for its huge Damian Hirst floating above the tables.  It has a chicken dish in which the bird is plunged head down into a plate of chips, its legs trussed - delicious (and you can take the carcass home for your dogs or to make soup).

The night I was taken to dine there - at the very long bar - perched on a stool, a white girl in a backless dress, with a mass of blonde hair, and a stunning black girl were kissing passionately. Very nice with a cocktail. 

Friday, 24 January 2014


One of my very early commissions, a ball in the 1970's for Catherine Guinness, given for her at Kelvedon. White balloons were given radiations of pink by the lighting.  Flags were made of paper, inspired by Japanese Kabuki designs.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

FILM: The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino

Set in Rome, the most beautiful of all cities, it was well received at the Venice Film Festival, very well received in the English press.  I ordered the DVD and waited in excited anticipation until it was released this month January 2014 and it is GARBAGE.  Federico Fellini must be revolving in his grave.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

FOOD: Bellamy's

The best chips in London are to be found at Bellamy's, good food, congenial in every way.
The 'patron' is Gavin Rankin (ex-Mark Birley--ran Annabels and Mark's Club)
Address: 18 Bruton Place, off Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1

Friday, 17 January 2014

Thursday, 16 January 2014


Bookcases can be in a corner as long as they are given a perspective from afar - in this case, a covered table for writing a note. On the adjoining wall, a JS 'Lyre' mirror and below it a caricature of me on an ancient Greek vase.  The stool -Scandinavian, early 1800's - is gently neo-classical.  

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

TRAVEL: Rome 2013-2014

How do you like the new Pope? "....siamo contenti [we are content].

White Lights garlanded narrow streets from wall to wall. The Corso had waves of rainbow lights extending its full length of 3 miles or more.  Hordes of Romans, mainly from the suburbs [hardly any tourists], mostly dressed in black, sat on the Spanish Steps and promenaded down Via Condotti, the Corso - a constant stream going to the Piazza Navona, invaded by booths of a Christmas fair - the Bernini fountains swamped.  Friendly, happy throngs exuding bonhomie. Italy in crisis - applying new taxes - but nothing seems to dampen the Italian love of life.


Monday, 13 January 2014


Are you a philogelos [ancient Greek] - a lover of laughter? 
am, it is so good for you.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


I have just read 1913, The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies, about the year before the word changed. 

As a follow-up, I read Year Zero, the History of 1945 by Ian Buruma which is even more interesting and indicative of how the U.S.A. has changed character.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

ART I Admire: Jake & Dino Chapman

I have not been a fan of the Chapman brothers - too facile, too many distorted amalgams, Goya too much in evidence, the tiny figures in great piles - the horror of Armageddon...........BUT Jake and Dino Chapman's show in the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery** was a revelation, particularly the hand-coloured etchings. The installation is inspired.  Please go and come to your own conclusions.

**The Zaha Hadid 'Magazine' restaurant attached is elegant, crisp, and airy

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Of immense interest, the B.G.I. Gene Factory, the world's largest genetic-research centre in Schenzen, southern China - read the article from The New Yorker, Jan 6, 2014:

Sunday, 5 January 2014


Retired in Barbados because of ill health, this famous costume and set designer was instrumental in building the first houses in Mustique in theatrical, colonial style - ideally suited to the Caribbean - using stone and cement in the most imaginative way. 
I was frequently a guest on the island and went to Colin Glenconner's parties.  After Oliver's demise, I worked on the Great House and subsequently Alumbrera (see next week's blog) 
The Great House, Mustique designed by Oliver Messel
Princess Margaret at Colin Glenconner birthday party

'The Red Shoes' with Moira Shearer

Messel belonged to a generation who was not afraid of prettiness, nor indeed of colour, as was proved in the movie 'The Red Shoes' with Moira Shearer - his designs have lost none of their clarity and freshness, even more so in 'Caesar and Cleopatra' with Claude Rains as Caeser and the ravishing Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra. 

Daphnis & Chloe

This 1940's approach was also manifest in the Frederick Ashton [wit and charm personified] Ravel ballet 'Daphne & Chloe' [1951], danced by Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes, with costumes and decor by John Craxton. The ballet was recreated in 2004 (when I saw it) and it had a lucidity and clarity reminiscent of Ancient Greece, of mythology, far from today's blighted country now held to ransom.

Friday, 3 January 2014

POETRY: Sparta by Angelos Sikelianos

"A long time now I've lain in wait for you;
my eye singled you out from all the others
as though you lived among them like a star;
your grace and beauty gratify my heart.

Listen--let me grip your hand firmly:
youth is tamed that way, like a stallion--
for a single night, in my own bed,
you will be a partner to my wife!

Go. She is slim-waisted, a woman
pledged to beauty as tall Helen was.
Go, fill her with your generous seed.

Take her in your powerful embrace
for one night only, and in Sparta's eyes,
through a worthy son, exalt my dry old age."