Bagnolo

We are staying in a converted agricultural building in the grounds of the castle of Bagnolo, south west of Turin.

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It was converted by Aimaro Isola, of the firm Gabetti and Isola, who were important to Italian architecture in the 1950s, deeply interested in environmental design, and (at least according to the reference books) friends of Ernesto Rogers.  The children are staying in another similar property nearer the castle.

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Barge

Deadly quiet at lunchtime on Good Friday.   A large town square underneath the mountains.   Good 1920s war memorial:

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Nice church:

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Journey to Piedmont

We have made a mad dash to Piedmont across the long agricultural lowlands of central France, across the Somme, past the great silhouette of Laon Cathedral seen in the distance from the road, past Rheims, Beaune and Cluny, all places associated with the pilgrimage roads, and then East to the Alps.   We’ve followed the route of a journey I first undertook with two schoolfriends in 1971 in an Austin A30, a version of the grand tour.   They got annoyed with me because I wanted to go to Autun and Vezelay and they wanted to get drunk.

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ALVA

I have just been to an event organised by ALVA, which represents a weird and wonderful mixture of organisations from the British Museum to Canterbury Cathedral and anything in between which attracts more than a million visitors a year, including the Royal Academy.   Bernard Donoghue, its Chief Executive, gave an admirable short speech summing up his experience of the issues of the day in which he said what a great pleasure it was to be holding a conference in an institution (the RA) which treated its friends not just for transactional purposes, but to widen and deepen their enjoyment and participation in the arts.   I found this deeply interesting because we have just undertaken a survey which suggests that 83% of our Friends join the scheme for specific benefits and only 17% as a gesture of philanthropic support for the organisation.  So the question is:  is membership for pure benefits, an essentially commercial transaction?  Or is it underpinned by a deeper value system ?  As the argot goes, is it about value or values ?  I would be grateful for any advice on this question.

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St. James’s Park (1)

I once got into trouble with my family for saying that my favourite part of the day was walking in the morning across St. James’s Park.   They thought it sad that a grown man should have so few other pleasures.   But I have to confess that I enjoy it still, particularly at this time of year when the air is bright and the shadows long.

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I used to always pass a man who I assumed was on his way from Albany to the House of Lords.   There are always small groups of tourists taking photographs and runners.   As I cross the bridge, I remember a description of Ian Nairn looking east across the lake towards Xanadu.

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Turk’s Head Club

I’ve just realised that tomorrow is the 250th. anniversary to the day of what Joshua Reynolds called the Turk’s Head Club, others called (at least later in its life) the Literary Club, and was sometimes referred to, at least by Samuel Johnson and his friends, as just the club (although confusingly Reynolds has entries in his pocketbook referring to his attendance at ‘Club’ long before the Turk’s Head Club was established).   It was set up by Joshua Reynolds so that his and Samuel Johnson’s close friends could enjoy each others’ company on a regular basis – in fact, every week in an upstairs room on Monday evenings in the Turk’s Head tavern in Gerrard Street, where they were looked after by the publican Charles Swinden.   The site of the tavern still exists and is now a Chinese supermarket.   So, tomorrow night we should all raise a glass to Samuel Johnson and his friends, who included Oliver Goldsmith and Edmund Burke.   Not a bad club, I think.

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Stepney

As summer approaches, I like walking home through the back streets.   There are unexpected pieces of popular styling:

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And even the Corbusian housing estates look surprisingly magnificent in the setting sun:

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Catherine Goodman (6)

My early morning walk to Flood Street made beautiful by the early morning sun.   Peter Jones looking like a transatlantic liner:

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The Royal Hospital looking, as indeed it was designed to be, like a French chateau:

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King’s Place

Last night, Jeremy Dixon, who has been responsible for much of my musical education, invited us to a concert at King’s Place, the small and very beautiful concert hall which he designed for Peter Millican underneath the building which now houses the Guardian.  Imogen Cooper was playing with a young cellist, Sonia Wieder-Atherton.   It had a good atmosphere, partly because half the audience were friends of Jeremy, invited by email.   The programme was Janacek, Beethoven, Webern, Shostokovitch and Rachmaninov.

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Hackney Wick

Since I have been told that my blog is too highbrow, I should maybe record the fact that I have had lunch in a motorbike store in Hackney Wick following a trip to visit the Custom Built Bicycle Show in the Velodrome.  I wanted to like the Velodrome, which is beautiful from the outside, but unexpectedly disappointing inside, cheap finishing, exceptionally poor disabled access and smelling of drains.   So, we retreated in search of food in Hackney Wick where we discovered pancakes, burritos and Beavertown American pale ale (brewed in Hackney) for lunch.

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