26 October 2009

Autumn colours, blue skies and sunshine

What a beautiful autumn we are having! September and October have been a delight and with the odd day's exception, we've had sun and warmth beyond the season's norm.

This Sunday in Hyde Park was wonderful and I've attached a photo to show the autumnal colours with a group of horse riders from the local riding school and one of the Serpentine lake at its best. It was the kind of day which you just want to hang on to as you feel winter approaching. Our clocks went back this weekend so we are now back on GMT which means darker afternoons and very soon it will be much colder.

After last week's art fest, only one visit to report this week - to the Wallace Collection to see Damien Hirst's new paintings called 'No Love Lost' . Very blue with skulls, lines and ashtrays so work that out if you can. The Wallace Collection has wonderful art, furniture, ceramics and armour and, as important to some, a lovely courtyard restaurant where we had a late breakfast to sustain us on our visit.

A couple of restaurant visits to report - one to The Criterion in Picadilly Circus which must be one of the most stunning dining rooms in London with it's gold mosaic ceiling and marbled walls and welcoming bar. They call it neo-Byzantine and they've been serving dinners to everyone from Suffragettes to Arthur Conan Doyle for over 100 years. We also had a meal at Vasco & Piero's Pavilion as Michael Palin recommended it and I believe every word he says! A good Italian meal was had but I prefer the Criterion as surroundings are very important to me and it's hard to beat theirs.

I had a good afternoon exploring pubs in Victoria but all in the line of business as I have some Americans coming in today and they wanted to eat in a 'proper pub' ahead of their evening's show in Victoria. It's not an area with that much to offer but I've chosen 2 and will talk them through which style their prefer and report back on which one we go to next week! I took the opportunity of being in the area to revisit Westminster Cathedral, the home of Roman Catholic church in the UK. It's a wonderful building and continued the neo Byzantine theme this week with its golden mosaics which are unfinished as they want each generation to add to the building. Dating from the turn of the last century it also has fine sculptures by Eric Gill and have a look at the photo of the exterior.

Off to meet my Americans so bye for now.


19 October 2009

Art, art and more art....

There have a couple of big highlights this week and loads of arty things too. It's been quite a week!
Frieze Art Fair is a stand out event in the London art world - and the world art world too I gather. We had tickets for the private viewing on the day before opening so had a special look at both the art and the people who live in the world of private views. And the free champagne was an added bonus.... Huge buzz, some strange art and fabulous people, all in a big marquee in Regents Park. A wonderful time was had.

The other big highlight was a charity do for LEPRA - look it up, they do important work. This was a private party held in the new Club at the famous Ivy restaurant. They have a wonderfully impressive glass entrance which sets the exclusive tone. Stephen Fry was hosting the event and I had a chat with him which was a great pleasure, for me, bless him! There was a raffle and I won theatre tickets (how lucky was that) and an auction of fabulous gifts including some original paintings (more art!) and all kinds of interesting people to chat with, and oh yes, some champagne. On the way out I saw Matt Smith, the new Doctor Who, and can confirm that David Tennant will always be my favourite!
It was a huge week for art in London and as well as Frieze I went to Origin fair in Somerset House where artists where showing and selling beautiful jewellery, ceramics and small items of clothing, all very lovely. It was a clear bright day and the Thames was glistening from the terrace outside Somerset House.

On Sunday there was the Autumn Fair in Teddington where I went to see Keith Hern's wonderful photographs and yet more jewellery.

Finally on the art theme was a visit to Wanted Gallery in Notting Hill for the final evening of the Thomas Osternberg Sculpture Exhibition. It's a great small gallery and they have a strong programme coming up so I'll be keeping an eye on them.
What else?? A strange Koren vampire movie called 'Thirst' which was not my thing at all as it was rather, unsurprisingly really, bloody and the sound track was slurpy, crunchy and altogether too horrid! It was on at my friend's club so we could recover in lovely surroundings before venturing out afterwards.

That seems enough for one week so bye for now.
Sue Hillman

12 October 2009

Educational times....

I started the week off with a great talk at the Royal Society, just off The Mall. Tracey Chevalier, the best selling author, was being interviewed along with Dr Richard Fortey, by Dr Alice Roberts. To decode that - Tracey's best know book is The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Richard is an eminent scientist from the Natural History Museum and Alice is often on the TV usually in Coast! This unlikely trio was brought together by the launch of Tracey's new book called Remarkable Creatures about an early 19th century woman fossil collector.

It was a fascinating session about fact, fiction and fossils, as was the title of the talk, and the life of a working class woman with little education at a time when women's potential was so wasted. And the invite-only after talk drinks were great too- I managed to get into as I have a personal connection. There were some interesting discussions going on about science v arts and how to bridge the divide. Fascinating and not your average Monday evening.

Later in the week it was time for a trip to the theatre and we went to see The Power of Yes, a new play by David Hare about the financial crisis, at the National Theatre on the South Bank (I mention location as an excuse to add a photo of the area!) The play was unusually constructed - we had the author at the centre of the stage at all times, asking a range of expert witnesses to explain to him what had happened and why so he could write a play. Large numbers of men in suits came on and off the stage with varying theories and fingers to point. We learned a lot and got angry all over again, tho' the emotional involvement with the characters in the play was low.

Friday was also educational - isn't strange how weeks go like that? It was TEDx in Notting Hill which is an event of inspirational speakers, this time on the topic of The Future of Enterprise. Back at the Tabernacle which is a great venue, we heard amazing stories of young entrepreneurship, new forms of energy and people making a real difference to the world through their own lives. It was great if a little daunting! One great fun story to mention about recycling - a project to pair up single lost gloves to make a new groovy unmatching pair and sell them. Watch the Glove Love video on http://www.dothegreenthing.com/

The rain stopped and Saturday was a perfect Portobello Market day and we wandered up and down and then found the best outdoor seat in the area - just in front of the Ground Floor bar. We watched the world go past, caught up with friends and even worried whether the sun would burn! Early October can be so wonderful with its stolen extra days of summer.

What about the restaurants I hear you ask? More bars than restaurants this week, so one to mention for an evening get together is The Sun in Splendour at the start of Portobello Road. Drinks, food and a great bit of eaves dropping! We wanted to say " No, he's not interested in you and you getting even more drunk isn't going to change that " but didn't of course.....

Bye for now,

5 October 2009

Star struck!

The highlight of last week was a trip to the Donmar Warehouse to see Dominic West, lately of 'The Wire', being interviewed. He's an unassuming and amusing interviewee and the time passed all too quickly. He talked about his career, The Wire and his new play opening in a few weeks - a 16th century Spanish play called 'Life is a Dream' which is quite a contrast to 21st century urban Baltimore! Thanks to the intimate nature of the theatre we'd seen him walk past us on the way in and wondered if we might see him leaving. So after a few minutes, when the main crowd had left, Dominic came out and posed for photos. I would never normally do this but he was there and I was there so I asked and you can see the result...... What a lovely man!

We topped the evening off with drinks and dancing at Ronnie Scott's upstairs bar to recover from all the excitement. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we'd been sitting outside Bar Italia earlier which is opposite Ronnie's and enjoyed great people watching, Soho really is the place for this.

Yesterday I did part one of a photography course using East End markets as a way of learning more about taking shots of people and busy places to give a stronger impression of the character of somewhere. We wandered around Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane and although my photos weren't as good as I'd hoped, it was fun and I'm looking forward to part two next week. Brick Lane had some amazing graffiti and here's one photo that did just about work. It was fun to see the markets on a busy Sunday and we were all tempted by the wonderful food smells and extraordinary bargains- perhaps we will succumb next week.

Had a lovely lunch at Bloody French in Notting Hill - yes it really is called that! We chose the very authentic French Onion Soup and had a good gossip. Notting Hill is packed with high quality and interesting restaurants and I do my very best to work my way through them all!

Bye for now,