The Ned (1)

I love the views from London rooftops.   So, it was a particular pleasure to get out on the 9th floor of The Ned, a new hotel conveniently close to Bank underground station, and find a view of all of central London’s major rooftops, including, in the foreground, Jim Stirling’s No. 1, Poultry, with its polychromatic stonework:-

The dome of St. Paul’s, grandly numinous against the evening sun:-

And the box on the top of Rem Koolhaas’s slickly, smartly corporate headquarters for the Rothschild bank:-


The Exterminating Angel

We went last night to the first night of Thomas Adès’s new opera The Exterminating Angel (well, not quite new because it was performed last year at the Salzburg Festival):  a brilliant, macabre, musically loud and unplaceably complex study of a group of people – the haut bourgeois – at a dinner party and unable to escape, so watch each other’s filthy moral decay.   Based on Luis Buñuel’s 1962 film El ángel exterminador, which I haven’t seen, it has been adapted and directed beautifully by Tom Cairns.


Highgate Wood

I got a quick dose of biophilia this morning by walking in Highgate Wood – a tiny, but surprisingly well preserved bit of old woodland just off the road from Highgate to Muswell Hill, originally owned by the Bishop of London and now by the City Corporation.   At this time of year, it is thick with bluebells:-


The book of the blog (1)

I had been tipped off that the first review of my book would appear today.   It has, by Rowan Moore in the Observer New Review:  friendly and fair, Moore manages not to reveal that he is himself a long-term East End resident, perhaps, indeed, a gentrifier himself.   I like the description of it as ‘Pevsner’s Buildings of England guides, but with the subjective comment knob turned up and the academic one turned down’.   The only error is that Apple gets all the credit for the photographs (the headline reads ‘The East End through Apple-tinted glasses’), whereas attentive readers of my blog will know, all the photographs were taken on a Samsung.


Michael Jacobs

My last post from Southern Spain is to salute the memory of Michael Jacobs, the passionate Hispanophile whose guide to Andalucía, published in its more recent editions by Pallas Athene, has given me the utmost pleasure, not just for its gazetteer, useful though that is, but more for its long and wonderful introduction, which covers so many aspects of Andalucían history and culture with such scholarly authority, including the character of the Alhambra, the nature of Spanish baroque architecture, how best to enjoy flamenco, and the pleasures of the pilgrimage to El Rocío.   Through it all it’s clear how much he revelled in the wilder aspects of Andalucían life.   A great loss, dying relatively young, three years ago.



We stopped off at Narila en route to Yegen and found one of the smallest and quirkiest of rural museums – a single room filled with the paraphernalia of what could have been a car boot sale, but for the extreme love and care with which it was all labelled and displayed and the accompanying photographs of village life:-

We liked the village too, with its signpost of the route to Gibralter:-


Gerald Brenan

Not having access in Órgiva to Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy’s biography of Brenan, I was pleased to find out more about him in Michael Jacobs’s admirable well-informed guide to Andalucía, as well as in Frances Partridge’s entry on him in DNB (South from Granada is dedicated to Ralph Partridge).   Brenan was always keen on long distance walking, having set out aged eighteen after being bullied at Radley to walk to China with the photographer, John Hope-Johnstone.   They only made it to Bosnia.   After fighting in the First World War, he moved to Spain in 1919 to eke out his army pension away from his family and middle-class England.   But he returned in the mid-1920s to undertake research in the British Museum for a life of St. Teresa of Ávila.   Back in Yegen to write the book, he had an affair with a fifteen-year old village girl called Juana.   According to Partridge, he was ‘obsessed by sex, but inhibited by fears of impotence’.   Perhaps what was not written about his time in Yegen was as interesting as what was.