Simon Bonner Street Photography

I was tipped off that there was an exhibition of Street Photography by Simon Bonner who took the excellent photograph of me pedalling my way through lockdown (without a proper helmet):-

The exhibition is in the Beer Merchant’s Tap, a big beer hall in remotest Hackney Wick:-


The Munch Museum (2)

Having written about the new Munch Museum in Oslo for the December issue of the Burlington Magazine, I was both interested and relieved to read Sue Prideaux’s commendation of it in Apollo (see below): interested because it it is good to be able to compare one’s response to that of someone who knows Munch’s work so well, has written his biography and, indeed, whose godmother, Henriette Olsen, sat to Munch for her portrait; and a bit relieved because I was worried that other critics were hostile to the building, whereas I, like Prideaux, was impressed by the great wealth of gallery space and the ways in which it is used to interpret Munch’s life.



I’ve always liked Aberffraw, a small village on the coast of Anglesey, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Gwynedd from 860 to 1170 and the seat of Llewellyn the Great, now just a quiet village Square with a pub, The Crown, which we used to frequent:-

The old Welsh Methodist chapel next to the pub has been turned into a holiday home:-

They were riding in the river below:-


The Menai Seafood Company

We had been tipped off that it was possible to buy good seafood in the old port office at Port Penrhyn, the surviving and attractively ramshackle old port to the north of Penrhyn Castle, much of the port rebuilt in 1820 before the castle itself. You can indeed, but only from Friday to Sunday. It provides a pretty impressive array of fresh fish, as you can see from their blackboard:-


John Saumarez Smith (3)

For those who might be interested, I appeared on Mariella Frostrup’s daily radio programme on Times radio at 1.45 today. You can listen again at 45 minutes from the beginning:-


John Saumarez Smith (2)

I am learning things I did not previously know about my older brother, John, from his obituaries which appear in today’s Times and Telegraph. In particular, I had never heard the description of him by the late Michael Russell: ‘“If some old bag he had never seen before asked, in Latin, for a rare gardening book, there are two certainties about John: first that it would take him about 40 seconds to identify the book correctly, and second, it would take him about two minutes to recognise the old bag as the Queen of Iceland.”


John Saumarez Smith (1)

I am posting a very nice tribute to my older brother, John, who sadly died at midday yesterday in the Charterhouse.   The tribute conveys so much of his character, particularly his devotion to Heywood Hill, where he worked for 43 years, not counting a period over Christmas 1963, which I didn’t know about.   I started buying books from him not long afterwards and he taught me a lot about books, as well as about many other things – china tea and brass rubbing.   He was a mentor as well as an older brother:-

It is our sad duty to report the death yesterday of John Saumarez Smith, aged 78, after a short illness. John was a legendary bookseller who joined Heywood Hill fresh from Cambridge in September 1965, managing our bookshop from 1974 until his retirement in May 2008. He took to bookselling, and to Heywood Hill, like ink to the page. 

John joined the team here briefly as a Christmas temp in 1963, in the days when most customers had accounts and their own page in the shop’s hand-written ledgers. Old-fashioned bookselling, recommending worthwhile books in person to appreciative readers and collectors, had rewards as he put it both literary and social, ‘I find the equation between books and people perpetually fascinating’.

John had a first-class mind including a truly prodigious memory for both books and people. He came to personify Heywood Hill for his many admirers across the world. John’s scholarly air, mischievous grin and deep, broad book knowledge made Heywood Hill a magnet for the affluent well-read. His style was perfectly suited to the book-lined stage of this little shop. Annual trips to America added many transatlantic customers to our ledgers and John was warmly welcomed into bookish drawing-rooms, and indeed libraries, everywhere. 

John had a huge acquaintance and many customers became friends. His great tip was to ask new customers to name six books that they genuinely enjoyed, rather than what they were told to enjoy. People trusted John’s judgement implicitly. They still do. Not a week goes by without someone referring to John’s taste or opinion.

Throughout his lifetime John devoted his considerable intellectual energies to sifting the literary wheat from the chaff, in search of the beautiful, the important or the plain enjoyable.

After he left Heywood Hill, John continued to deal in books from John Sandoe and Maggs Bros. He was a natural writer who reviewed books widely and provided always considered advice to librarians and their patrons. Many across the book world will mourn him today.

John was very happily married to Laura, his devoted wife. His talented sons, Joe, a businessman, and George, an architect (whose beautiful sketchbooks have been published recently) were the source of much pride. We send sincere condolences to them all.

At Heywood Hill we salute John in gratitude for his unstinting tenure at our helm, his devotion to the bookish cause, and the indelible mark he left on the place and all who knew him.