London, thank you!

I left you last at the Royal Academy and the extraordinary retrospective of the work of Ai Weiwei, as I wrote, it is so worth going to see, a feast for the eyes and a challenge for the mind. After you see it, ask yourself the questions our friend Mike posed to us “which piece intrigued you most and why? And which piece would you take home with you?”. Seemingly a simple question but not really, so thought provoking. And I am still wondering if I went back again, would I pick the same pieces and why did I pick those I picked. I read that on his return to China Ai Weiwei has found telephone bugs in his house, what a outrageous person to speak out against oppression and corruption in China. I applaud him. image
It is not often, at the moment, that my husband and I have time for the two of us so it was a special treat to find ourselves at The Bingham, on a perfect autumn day, sitting on the terrace overlooking the glorious garden besides the Thames at Richmond the other day. We has an exquisite lunch, picking two courses from the market menu which is not only extremely tasty but great value to boot! It was a delicious lunch , our highlights included the chestnut soup which was earthy yet silky at the same time and the duck confit. A big thank you Victor! We could have sat on the terrace all afternoon but further social engagements called, a gallery opening in Windmill Street, the paintings of Euan Macleod and Steve Lopez, fresh and vibrant, capturing the landscapes of their trip around Italy, painting on plein air, followed by a Lebanese meal at the Maroush Gardens near Marble Arch, where we gathered with friends around a big circular table, sharing bold, fresh tastes amidst much laughter. we especially enjoyed their tabouli and labne.
After dropping Michael off at the airport as he flew off to a conference in Copenhagen I drove over to Lara’s to help her and Victor move. Having thought there wasn’t going to be too much to do, it turned out there was. We ferried Several loads to their new house, the most challenging of which was the bed base, as it didn’t fit In The car Victor carried on his head with me supporting it from behind so it didn’t tip. It must have been quite a sight, but no one blinks an eye at strange goings on in London! Much cleaning and the old flat was spotless by the time the inspector arrived!
We had a special outing on Thursday to a special restaurant for a special birthday for a special person! An early start, a train from St Pancras to Nottingham to the chefs table at Sat Bains Michelin-starred restaurant! Strictly speaking it wasn’t a chefs table where you are in the midst of the kitchen but we sat at a high table with the door open looking into the kitchen, where many chefs were preparing s meal just for us! We were the only guests for lunch! We felt very special and our menu was one amazing taste sensation after another, each beautifully presented, introduced by the chef who had prepared that course, together with some beautiful wines. No wonder my clothes aren’t fitting as well as they were, there is a tyre growing around my middle! It was impossible to pick a highlight as each course, of which there were several, was so different from the previous one, and each time we were amazed, but perhaps the simple sounding chocolate and orange dessert was the most extraordinary, especially given that it was the least spectacular looking dish, simply a rectangular slice of chocolate with a blob of orange sauce on the top but each spoonful you put into your mouth simply melted, not even melted, just disappeared leaving a beautiful chocolate flavour with just a hint of mandarin. The explanation as to how this sensation could be produced involved a gas canister and liquid nitrogen so it is not something we will be trying to recreate unfortunately!
A very different day on Friday, going to Wakehurst, the country garden arm of Kew Gardens. Set on the Sussex Weald, the gardens are a beautiful mix of formal and informal, ponds, lakes and woods. the entrance was a field of tiny pink and white cyclamens, a vision of beauty. The leaves were just beginning to turn but despite the lateness of the season the borders and walled garden were a riot of colour. Thanks to Sir Henry Price this glorious garden was bequeathed to the National Trust who handed it over to Kew Gardens to manage and will continue to be a joy I every season to all who visit.
The weekend went by all too quickly and now I find myself writing this as I fly to the US to meet with some of my dearest friends for our “girls trip”! There is never enough time to see as much of everyone as I would like, to see a show or two as well as fit in all the lunches and dinners, together with chats during walks, sharing cups of tea or a glass of wine, moments snatched from the day to say a quick hello! I had a wonderful time, thank you London!
Apologies for typos, hard to write on a small tin tube flying through the sky at an unimaginable speed!

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Lovely London!

So much to do, so many people to see, too little time as ever! Still, I am doing my best! My first day here, a week ago, I was very spoilt being picked up from the airport, a lovely lunch followed by a fabulous dinner with some of the people most dear to me in a very special restaurant in Richmond. Diners have to ring the doorbell to be let in, so popular that it is booked weeks in advance, cram into the tiny space and then are served course after course of exquisite Italian food! Scrumptious is the only word for it! Although perhaps I should add that we shouldn’t have eaten for days first as the phrase Bacchanalian feast comes to mind too!

I spent Wednesday at the Victoria and Albert Museum with Lara going to a couple of lectures as part of the London Design Week,  so interesting and thought provoking, slow design and design repurposing old materials rather than making things from new, designing in a socially responsible way and with social purpose.  We also went to the exhibitions on What is Luxury and the Shoes exhibition, a full day of culture! A day in the country in Kent to see my godmother, then more culture at Somerset House, seeing exhibits for London Design week, we loved the Max Lamb exhibit My Grandfather’s Tree best, onto Borough Market for lunch via a long walk along the Thames, seeing the ever changing and lovely London landscape, wandering through old haunts at Guy’s Hospital and the Hay’s Galleria, onto dinner with my goddaughter, her sister and Lara. I took them to the Seashell at Lisson Grove, a restaurant I went to many times with my father, it is as good and busy as ever! I can recommend the fish cakes!

The weekend rushed by, lunch at Jean’s on Saturday, watching rugby in the evening, a lovely picnic in Richmond Park with Lara on Sunday, unbelievably sunny and warm given the time of year, such a wonderful wild place on the edge of the city, with the woods and ponds of the Isabella Plantation and the wide open spaces with big antlered male deer bellowing at each other, seemingly from one side of the park to the other they were so loud. We didn’t go too close! Michael arrived after a much delayed flight to join us for dinner at the New Inn in Ham, delicious food and good company, catching up with friends made on the Orient Express.

Yesterday we wandered a little way along the Grand Union Canal in Brentford after enjoying coffee with Jean, made our way “into town” as the phrase goes here! We had a small, delicious lunch at the Muscly Artist, a haunt frequented by Michael for many years, at least 30, and he says imagethe restaurant hasn’t changed a bit! Onto the Ai Weiwei retrospective at the Royal Academy which was an amazing exhibition for the sheer body of work, the political messages behind the pieces and the mix of Eastern and Western influences in his work, vaux Le voyage as the Michelin guide would say.

All this tinged with sadness as I was told of the death of a dear friend who was a close family friend, she still had such hope of overcoming her cancer diagnosis but cancer overcame her all too soon. Another thread linking us to our parents and our past gone. She will be much missed.

In the meantime, Simon is back in his routine and enjoying it! Friday night, walking down to the Farmers Market on Saturday, Saturday night movies, filling his walls with photos and enjoying doing a jigsaw whilst listening to audio books. How lucky we are that the Arrowsmith program is working for him and that he is happy to work so hard at it, keen to “fix” his brain, as he puts it.