We called in at Fiddlehead Farm, a small market garden and farm shop established by Bob Skydell who worked with Leon Krier for Jim Stirling, then turned restauranteur, and now spends half the year in Nicaragua. All the abundance of New England produce is piled up in the shop:
Monthly Archives: July 2014
After the long flight to Boston, we arrived at Woods Hole for the ferry across to Martha’s Vineyard. I always forget the impact the US makes: how neat and orderly everything is; the size of the cars; how unwelcoming they are at immigration; the steamy heat:
Wickham’s Department Store
The old Wickham’s Department Store, designed as the ‘Selfridges of the East’ looks good in the early morning summer sun. The original owners gradually bought up a run of shops on the north side of the Mile End Road, all except a small family clockmakers called Spiegelhalter. When it came to construct a grand new building in 1927, the Spiegelhalters refused to sell, with the result that the grand Ionic façade is interrupted by a gap occupied by a single, now completely derelict shop. Ian Nairn loved it and described it as , ‘one of the best visual jokes in London, a perennial triumph for the little man, the bloke who won’t conform. May he stay there till the Bomb falls’.
The prospect of going on holiday tomorrow has led me to dig out my copy of Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood. I was first recommended it in the summer of 1988 when we were due to drive across America from Santa Barbara to Philadelphia. Someone said ‘Get a copy of Roadfood‘. They were right. We did the whole trip by driving from diner to diner, including Craig’s Bar-B-Q and the Family Pie Shop, right opposite one another in DeValls Bluff in deepest Arkansas. In 2007, we drove from Chicago to San Francisco by way of Seattle and again used Roadfood as a guide to where to go to, including the Yellowstone Drugstore in Shoshoni, Wyoming. It was before everyone had become obsessed by food writing and we used to read out the Sterns’ long, loving descriptions of their favourite hot dog store with delight. Of course, it’s now a subscription website. And the Sterns have divorced.
Jeremy King very sweetly gave me a preview of his new venture, the Beaumont Hotel, due to open some time in late September (it’s taking bookings from October 1st.). He has acquired a lease from the Grosvenor Estate on a building just south of Oxford Street which was used as the garage for Selfridges. He has renovated it as if it was a hotel from the 1920s, the era of prohibition. But it’s most prominent feature is a monumental sculpture by Antony Gormley which squats on the side of the hotel and doubles as a hotel bedroom. It’s an extraordinary room, high and dark, no television, made out of smoked oak, like spending a night inside a tomb.
This is the sculpture:
I went to the opening of the Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition at the Ashmolean, which shows the continuing lure of Egypt and the treasures of the Valley of the Kings. I was told as I approached the exhibition that it was only photographs. But what photographs ! They come from the Griffith Institute, which was founded in 1939 by Francis Llewellyn Griffith, the first Professor of Egyptology at Oxford, who married well, with a rich first wife and an even richer second one. They received all of Howard Carter’s papers, drawings, diaries and photographs, including 1,850 black and white negatives taken on a plate camera by Harry Burton, who was the official photographer to Carter’s expedition which led to the discovery of the tomb in November 1922. We stood on the staircase for the speeches, including one by the Earl of Carnarvon, and then had dinner on the terrace overlooking Oxford in temperatures which were only twenty degrees less than Luxor.
I have been enjoying Alison Wilding’s Badapples, which I was given as a birthday present. They were apparently first shown in an exhibition about apples held in a gallery called Large Glass on the Caledonian Road. There’s something nicely tactile about being able to hold and feel a small bronze the size of two hands lying on the table:
Since Alison feels that the photograph makes the work look more like bottoms than apples, I include a second attempt:
Norman Shaw (2)
With my eye attuned to the work of Norman Shaw, I realised that the large red brick building at the bottom of St. James’s Street is by him, with its charateristically elaborate corner tower and high Dutch gables. Indeed, it is. It was designed in 1882 for the Alliance Insurance Company at the same time that he was doing work for the Royal Academy.
Norman Shaw (1)
In waiting for someone last week, I was able to catch up with our Norman Shaw exhibition in the Tennant Gallery, which has been open for a while. But I missed the opening. It shows the quality of his work and his commitment to drawing as a means of expression (I liked the comment which he added to a bad drawing done by someone in his office, ‘What hideous drawings ! Did anyone ever see such Vulgar looking things – I am quite ashamed of them’).
There is no mention of the fact that Shaw trained as an architect in the Royal Academy Schools under C.R.Cockerell, winning the silver medal in 1852 and the gold medal the year after. His first commission was to design a house for an RA, John Callcott Horsley, in Kent, and he designed studio houses for Luke Fildes and Marcus Stone, in Melbury Road. In 1872, he became an ARA and a full RA in 1877. Continue reading
We were having a small espresso in the Florentine branch of Florians after lunch when we were asked if by any chance we would like to see the attics of the Palazzo Corsini. Of course. The palazzo is normally only open by special appointment and the attics not at all. We entered by the set of late seventeenth-century courtyards:
Inside were incredibly grand frescoed interiors stretching out towards the Arno:
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