A filmic ride through 2015

citroen Bafta

In 2015, I jotted down the title of every film I saw, with a couple of lines to remind me what I liked or didn’t like about them.  Here are a few of the most memorable.

I started the year off with GRAVITY in 3D, (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock), thinking it was not my sort of film. I was duly persuaded to go and very glad I did.  I would have missed a technically brilliant piece of filming.  It was also very enjoyable in a spooky, spacey way.

I bought a DVD of the WOODY ALLEN documentary, which I’d seen in the cinema the year before.  When his films are good – e.g. BLUE JASMINE – I love them and it was interesting to see him pootling around in daily life.

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (The Life and Times of Liberace) with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.  The height of Las Vegas glitz and tackiness.  Wonderful performances by both actors.  I loved this film as much as John loathed it. The music and the costumes fabulously OTT. Tarnished. Finished up watching (more than once!) a Liberace video on YouTube where he engages the audience – hey!! Worth a whirl through!

THE GREAT GATSBY (Baz Luhrmann edition) was a suffocatingly sweetie of a confection.  G’s comment said it all. ‘It was as if our teeth were rotting as we watched’. Then there was FADING GIGOLO, (John Turturro and Woody Allen) – full of ‘delectable’ females and horribly self indulgent on the part of JT and WA.

Image of OTT glitz

Image of OTT glitz

John thought INTERSTELLAR very good but I felt it was dispiriting  and a bit clunky, although the time lapsing was a brilliant idea.  We both loved THE IMITATION GAME – about Alan Turing at Bletchley Park during the war.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Matthew Goode stood out.  Keira Knightley too.

THE LUNCH BOX was a present ( DVD).  It’s set in Mumbai and about a relationship which grows between a man and a woman who have never met but she sends a daily lunch box to his office and gets a note in return.  I adored ‘Auntie’, who lives upstairs and screeches down advice but is never to be seen.  A ‘life in the day’ film, beautifully realised, heartstopping at times. Appealing, funny and bittersweet.

'Auntie's' beady eye!

‘Auntie’s’ beady eye!

Another DVD  – FINDING VIVIAN MAIER – .  This mysterious woman was a nanny in America in the 1950s but also an obsessive, secret photographer, who took over 100,00 photos.  Somebody bought a cache of negatives in old boxes at an auction, not knowing what they were, then hunted down others and gradually collected  and then mounted an exhibition of them in New York. All these photos are a record of everyday life in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and worldwide.  The negatives got lost when VM didn’t keep her storage fees up.

This film has been put together by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel.  It is riveting.  To find out more about Vivian Maier, look up Wikipedia.  Utterly fascinating biography. Watch the film and find out more details with personal interviews of people who knew, or said they knew her.  Vivian Maier’s talent was almost lost – thank you to those who uncovered it and persevered in bringing it to a wider world.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING – the story of Stephen Hawking’s life.  He was played by Eddie Redmayne with Felicity Jones as his wife.  ER was rewarded with an Oscar. When Stephen Hawking saw the film he said he thought it was himself – ER was so brilliant!

GOODBYE FIRST LOVE.  I saw this French film on TV.  Very much the type of French film where you just drop in on somebody’s life day to day.  It was thoughtful and empathetic to the young lovers.  Good locations down by a picturesque river, the seaside in Denmark and Paris. Slight and gentle.

X+Y.  This film is about an autistic boy who is also a maths genius.  After he loses his father, he joins other geniuses at an Olympiad, travelling from home in England to Taiwan. This almost seemed like a documentary and may be based on one.  I loved the cultural exchange scenes with the Chinese.  Nathan (Asa Butterfield) was excellent and you found yourself very much on his side as he struggled with everything new.  A great story.

THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER (DVD) was one of the first  English ‘Maigret’ films, where Charles Laughton plays the detective (1949).  It shows how far we have come cinematically since then.  It encouraged me to buy a boxed set of ‘MAIGRET’, made for TV in the 1990s.  Michael Gambon plays the detective and most corresponds to my personal image of what Maigret should look like.  Apparently, Rowan Atkinson is set to become Maigret on TV this year?!

'Maigret' style image

Atmospheric Image ‘Maigret’ style!  

ENOUGH SAID was the last film made by James Gandolfini.  He was a much loved actor  –  generous and sensitive.  About older people looking for a lasting relationship and about how trust between them is as important as having fun.

WOMAN IN GOLD, starring Helen Mirren and based on fact didn’t get very good reviews but I thought it was well put together.  It’s about ‘Adèle’, a woman painted by Klimt, whose painting was stolen from her family by the Nazis.  The story is about how a descendant of the family, who had to flee to California during the war, tried to get it back.  Tense, drawing you in, rewarding and ultimately satisfying. Helen Mirren in tenacious form, becoming an inspiration to her rather meek nephew.

Viennese gold

Viennese gold

L’ECLISSE was made in 1962 with Monica Vitti and Alain Delon.  It plays out in a weird, surreal dreamscape.  Monica Vitti  is mysteriously beautiful  but it was that time in the 1960s when to be nihilistic was ‘cool’.  Quite a lot of silent navel gazing which seemingly added up only to wasted lives. Very dated and excruciatingly slow moving.  Good as an example for an archivist of 1960s films.

I can’t leave out ‘PETIT NICOLAS’.  A DVD based on the stories (in French) of a small schoolboy and his parents by René Goscinney and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé.  I read these wonderfully humorous stories years ago and found them enchanting.  A triumph!  Just how the world should be from a child’s point of view.   I enjoyed the film but the stories should be read and kept alive, as should the biographies of Goscinney and Sempé. The French is simple and a good way to enjoy learning another language.

Le Petit Nicolas

 

LOVE AND MERCY – the story of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. A tormented genius.  John loved this.  it was well made and well cast. Great for Beach Boys fans.

SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN.  What happened to this talented musician?  In this DVD we find out how two South African fans investigated and brought a fabulous story to the screen.  A very extraordinary and moving film.  Thank you to the fans who made it happen.

MISTRESS AMERICA with Greta Gerwig is a rather crazy black comedy of manners with a melancholic streak of ‘growing up’  – what happens to people in real life  – when it would be great to have had the  gift of hindsight.  Greta Gerwig was also in FRANCES HA, where she played a character along the same lines – MISTRESS AMERICA was more substantial.

THE NEW GIRLFRIEND with Romain Duris as a cross dressing husband who has lost his wife was enjoyably eccentric.  His gender fluidity, told through a prism of grief, creates an upsurge of empathy for him and his situation.  Slightly slow in parts but worth seeing.  An uplifting ending.  (I love his face!).

THE LOBSTER gets one of two prizes for worst film.   I found it mean and as boring as an old, grey dishcloth and didn’t find it easy to connect with anybody in it. At first, I thought the Colin Farrell character might benefit from a retreat for ‘singletons’ but this was a  particularly vicious cult.  It made me angry that it contributed to making him even more unhappy and unstable. I found the psychological cruelty in it very disturbing.  It was as if you were condemned to share your bed forever with a rotting lobster.

Oddly, I read an article about Sartre by Roger Lewis (The Times 20.2.16), reviewing a book ‘At The Existentialist Café’ by Sarah Bakewell.  Neither are complimentary about the existentialist movement, dismissing it as adolescent and egotistical. A lot of hot air!  Apparently, when Sartre took mescalin, he had ‘nightmare visions of snakes, toads, vultures and beetles. For months he thought he was being followed down the street by a lobster’!  It all confirms my instinctive revulsion of this film.

The other worst film for me was LE WEEKEND.  I found this offensive, depressing and hopefully unbelievable.  All the people in it were people I would never want to meet.  Somehow, it’s OK for pop groups to trash hotel bedrooms but not the likes of John and I.  Maybe that’s why some people found it amusing. But I found it hugely embarrassing and best forgotten!

ABOUT TIME (DVD).  Something to watch on a Sunday night. A  Richard Curtis film with Bill Nighy.  Cosy, like a lightweight duvet.

SKYFALL (James Bond) was excellent.  I think my favourite Bond movie is CASINO ROYALE but this comes very close (directed by Sam Mendes).  Last rites for Judi Dench.

The last three films are the ones I give five stars to.

Not because we were invited to the première – which was a great experience – but STEVE JOBS is a film of quality.  It hangs together well and is totally believable.  I could see myself as the desperate Kate Winslet PA character.  Both she and Michael Fassbender were excellent.  Having an ‘Apple’ myself and knowing the history of Steve Jobs and the company made the film even more satisfying for me.

Steve Jobs was a man with a mission  –  often these types of people are charismatic but obsessive and driven  –  and can be very unsympathetic and unpleasant in their dealings with other people in order to achieve their goals.  Emotional intelligence suffers here for genius in other quarters! Danny Boyle, as director, understands the man, who is also portrayed perfectly by Michael Fassbender. I loved this film which honours the memory of  a great mind.

Finishing on a high note with two films I loved so, so much.

BROOKLYN is just one of those films that hit the spot in every direction.   The screenplay is by Nick Hornby from the book, ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín.  Saorse Ronan would be my choice for  best actress – forever remembered in that yellow frock.  And it is a frock (rather than a dress!)  –  the clothes, the settings, the characters are so true to life and the film is very true to the book. Set in the 1950s, when many young Irish emigrated to New York to find jobs, this is a jewel of a film and so very enjoyable. Two handsome men – one choice!

And I finish off with CAROL  –  another film which stopped my heart.  Based on the book by Patricia Highsmith, first published in 1952 as ‘The Price of Salt’ under a pseudonym and now republished as ‘Carol’.   The film is wonderfully atmospheric, conjuring up the life in New York in the 50s as the soft snow falls romantically on the big Buicks and the perfumed women in their furs – or chaps the poor, rough hands of the shopgirls, freezing in their cheap boots and scarves as, after a hard day’s slog in the department stores, they trudge home to their gloomy, cheap apartments.

The photography is exquisite, the faces of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara forever in my head, the story by moments heartwarming and sad, beautiful and exciting  –  yet tense with warning as to what the future will bring.  A cinematic treat.

cadillac yellow

 

‘Her eyes were grey, colourless, yet dominant as light or fire,  and, caught by them, Therese could not look away’……. ‘ her voice was like her coat, rich and supple, and somehow full of secrets.’ Quote from the book, which I’m reading now.

If I was on the Oscars committee, I couldn’t choose between ‘BROOKLYN’ and ‘CAROL’ for best film, so I would give it to ‘STEVE JOBS’.  The first two are both exquisite, sparkling jewels, with fire at their centre.  Both great achievements, which brought tears to my eyes for the way we are.

‘STEVE JOBS’ tells the history of a technology which has and will continue to push us into an ever expanding ‘brave new world’, full of exciting possibilities and discoveries and ever more dangerous risks, which will both enhance our minds and also threaten to obliterate them.

Quote from The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through The Looking-Glass’.  “Now here, you see,  it takes all the running you can do, to keep in one place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

And so we must run with that neverending tide –  ever onwards into 2016 and to what will become of us.

carol and brooklyn

P.S.  There was an article in ‘The Times’ very recently, listing successful European drama series on British television, like Scandi noir. To my mind, they missed out a terrific thriller. This was a Belgian series of twelve episodes, called SALAMANDER. Written by Ward Hulselmans  –  the main character played absolutely brilliantly by Filip Peeters.  Greatly recommended. A follow-up is on the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rendezvous near Sloane Square 2015

I meet up with my three university friends four times a year, as near to each birthday as possible.  This time the venue was Daylesfords in Chelsea. The food is both healthy and delicious. And downstairs they have an excellent deli.

Daylesford's coffee passes the critical test ...

Daylesford’s coffee passes the critical test …

Many years ago, John and I rented a flat in Ebury Street.  You can read about that in my biography.  The shops at the end of Ebury Street, leading to Lower Sloane Street, were to me then, palaces of expensive elegance.

I once stood in a rain soaked queue for the January sale at ‘Casa Pupo’, where I met a handsome young architect. He chivalrously shared his umbrella with me and I went home on a high, carrying a giant, white porcelain bowl and two twirly candlesticks.  ‘Casa Pupo’ has long gone. I often wondered what happened to the architect.

I wasn’t a ‘Sloane Ranger’ but because of a hitch hiking adventure and a long shot chance, we met the landlords of Ebury Street and ended up renting one of their flats.  We could observe Sloane Rangers at close quarters and Belgravia turned out to be a great place to live. I was able to walk to work past Buckingham Palace and across Green Park.

I was curious to see where we had lived forty odd years ago and being a little early for our rendezvous, I walked along the road.  Our flat was being renovated.  Nobody about.  I slipped in and stood in my old bedroom.  The garden was still beautiful.  The builders found me but were fascinated by my stories of living here forty years ago.  Now it will become one rather grand and luxurious home.  I wonder if the ghosts of Christmases Past will flit through it from time to time?  I felt like one but bricks and mortar don’t recognise times past.

The shops are still expensive and elegant.  They do not have ‘sales’.  But they are lovely to look at and a little ‘lèche-vitrine’ was in order!

Chelsea mirrored ...

Chelsea mirrored …

Chelsea birds ...

Chelsea birds …

Chelsea fish ...

Chelsea fish …

Chelsea stove ...

Chelsea stove …

Very one-off.  Later on, I walked up Lower Sloane Street to Sloane Square, where the Christmas lights had just been lit.  Was I just a little bit squiffy?  I don’t think so!

Christmas lights Sloane Square 2015

Christmas lights Sloane Square 2015

 

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Fen country – Suffolk

In the last days of September, we went on a five day voyage of discovery to see aeroplanes at Duxford,  Sutton Hoo, Ely cathedral, Wicken Fen, the Tide Mill at Woodbridge and the castle and oysterage at Orford.  Fen country. Somewhere we had never explored.  And I forgot to take my camera. Bof … but the quinces made up for it.

Sutton Hoo has wonderful circular walks, a 1930s house just as Edith Pretty left it – even with graffiti (bad!), carved into the mantelpiece by the Land Girls during the war.  That day,  as we walked through into the sitting room, a very cultured lady was playing the grand piano, (as to the manor born) …

Don’t forget to visit the potting shed  –  the nostalgia is palpable. Enter and jot down your memories (if you’re old enough!). Otherwise, you have a time capsule to wonder at, which was not so long ago. But a very different world from today.

Sutton Hoo is a delightful site, with a much recommended museum,  and a well run National Trust shop. I was hurried on past the café, so can’t report on that … but bought damson jam – tart and fruity. Many of the treasures found here now fill a room in the British Museum but there remains a small bejewelled room, full of especially exquisite objects.

The magnificence of Ely cathedral is not to be missed. The fabulous Toppings independent bookshop is nearby, where we were offered  coffee and biscuits, and later lugged a weighty Taschen tome of Dali’s work back to the car.  Also couldn’t leave without a Woody Allen retrospective by Tom Shone and published by Thames and Hudson. Ely, Dali, Woody and later on at our very upmarket B&B, a welcome by Cindy and Snowy, the dog.

Two rather knowledgeable and enthusiastic gentlemen accompanied us around Woodbridge Tide Mill – and then we sat by the railway, which follows the shoreline, eating malted ice creams.  The train, extraordinarily, chugs along regularly –  all the way from Liverpool Street!

There’s something out on a limb about this part of the world.  We saw a signpost to Wicken Fen.  It was almost five o’clock but we drove on just in case it was still open to visitors.  The National Trust shop closes at 5.30pm but we were told the fen is open 24 hours.  Boardwalks snake mysteriously through the reeds and as the sky began to flush pink at the end of the day I felt we might encounter a medieval peasant with his scythe as we struck deeper and deeper into the marshy fen  –  we didn’t.  Small birds flittered here and there, frogs lurked in the watery depths, and goodness knows what would have emerged if we had stayed until dark. My head was filled with the peace of solitude and evening birdsong.

On our way back, we passed by a pub called ‘The Unruly Pig’, which was undergoing alterations.  “Back on our trotters late November” it read …

We found our night’s sojourn through the Alastair Sawday site  – Melton Hall is somewhere to return to.  Cindy had bucketloads of beautiful, lumpy, yellow, giant quinces and packed me a bag  to take home. These are my only photos of our trip. Quinces are truly magical. They are woody and jolie-laide but their perfume, even without cooking, fills the kitchen.  I want to grow quince trees. It could become an obsession – something that is both lumpy and beautiful … irresistible!

Magical 1

Magical 1

Magical 2

Magical 2

Then it was the castle tower at Orford and a lunch of plump oysters at Orford’s famous Butley Oysterage, followed by a walk along a banked up path bordering the estuary opposite Orford Ness.  Old, creaky fishing boats tugged at their moorings, the tang of salty waves slapping at their sides, grizzled old men immersed over their pots and ship’s tools, meditatively, joyously, pottering. I jotted down some of the names of the boats. Sea Pearl, Moonbeam, Lady Mildred, Riverbird,  Mary Ann, Jitterbug.

It could have been the 1950s. We spotted an Agatha Christie character  in tweed skirt and beret, walking her black and white dog purposefully across the field below us. ‘Oh, why do you walk through the fields in gloves …’ …  and all the while that melancholy feel of the last of summer,  seeping, like the incoming tide, through the landscape. A cool evening draught catching at your neck, the possible need for a warm scarf – still in the drawer at home.

Magical 3

Magical 3

Yellows  –  fragrant quinces, bottles of mead at Orford castle, reeds at Wicken Fen,  malted ice cream, yellow painted bi-planes and sunshine still radiating through the trees as we broke out of the slow pace of a dream filled landscape onto the motorway. Heavy duty lorries in convoy were grinding remorselessly on towards  the city lights. I shut my eyes and breathed in the fragrance of the quinces as John continued to drive westwards.

A bowl of quinces

A bowl of quinces

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A somewhat personal view of everyday Hammersmith

If somebody asked me what Hammersmith is like, I would probably say I don’t spend much time there but it’s a great place from where to get to anyplace else. There’s the Piccadilly and District lines and across the road the Hammersmith and City and Circle lines (with new, spacious walk-through trains). And there is a large bus station, taking you every which way  –  Kensington, Chiswick,  Fulham, Brompton, Barnes, Putney, Richmond, Shepherd’s Bush and ever onwards to distant, hazy pastures …

The bus station used to be outside and we got used to putting up with icy blasts and driving rain.  Then a new one was built under cover.  I expect it wasn’t big enough because some of us, having been welcomed into the warm, were subsequently driven outside once again – to an updated version, it must be said – but still with the same weather…

After a period of grumpiness, I decided braving the weather was preferable to the sickly smell of fat and sugar frying which percolates Hammersmith Mall and leads me to feel anxious about the obese percentage of users.  I don’t know what diesel fumes are doing to me in the centre of the gyratory system …  but buses are fairly frequent.

The outside part of Hammersmith bus station

The outside part of Hammersmith bus station

... and a shiny double decker bus

… and a shiny double decker bus

Hammersmith doesn’t do glamour – it’s very workaday – but there did used to be a Palais de Danse, whose faded memory is for all to see as you board the Hammersmith and City line.

Once upon a time ...

Once upon a time …

And if you look up, the old pub building on the Broadway gives a clue to a more picturesque past.

Ancient relic of old Hammersmith on the Broadway

Ancient relic of old Hammersmith on the Broadway …

The Ark comes ashore in Hammersmith

The Ark comes ashore in Hammersmith

I’m not sure about the modern Ark but at least it is upliftingly innovative and doesn’t look like a cheap and nasty concrete office block – there is something of an individual soul here – but it did come to rest by the Hammersmith gyratory system rather than on Mount Ararat.  Probably more useful here.

The Hammersmith gyratory system, spider like, traps the traffic in a super jam from time to time, causing much frustration.  When it’s moving freely it does get people from A to B. It’s not somewhere you would want to linger but one day I took this picture from the bus.  Some unknown, sporty person at traffic lights bringing the glamour of Monte Carlo to Hammersmith Broadway – an almost impossible task!

Being sporty on a crisp, clear morning - Hammersmith Broadway!!

Upbeat on a crisp, clear morning – Hammersmith Broadway!!

Hammersmith wasn’t always dominated by the gyratory system and the arching flyover, leading to the M4.  Even now, along the river, there are quiet spots with beautiful houses (and some nice pubs), which look out onto barges and rowers – and sometimes get flooded at high tides. The views from Hammersmith Bridge, both up and down the Thames, are quite lovely.  And here, it’s herons that dominate both banks. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, amongst many others, pass underneath the bridge.

Houses bordering the Thames at Hammersmith

Houses bordering the Thames at Hammersmith

Heron on the bank of the river, taken from Hammersmith bridge

Heron on the bank of the river, taken from Hammersmith bridge

Green and gold - Hammersmith Bridge detail

Green and gold – Hammersmith Bridge detail

Looking downriver towards Barnes and onwards ...

Looking downriver towards north Barnes and onwards to Fulham, Putney and ultimately the city …

In his book, “London Under”, Peter Ackroyd talks about ‘lost’ rivers, one of which is Stamford Brook, which makes its way via Wormwood Scrubs underneath the streets and pavements to fall into the Thames at Hammersmith.

But all things taken into account, the hub of Hammersmith today remains a useful rather than an attractive or romantic venue.

Here’s a picture done by Eric Ravilious in 1933 called “River Thames at Hammersmith”.  So there did used to be some kind of poetry in the air … bucolic, romantic … and a little of it remains.

River Thames at Hammersmith, 1933 by Eric Ravilious

River Thames at Hammersmith, 1933 by Eric Ravilious

Times change!

POSTSCRIPT

Current news.  Hammersmith Bridge is to be closed to traffic from January 2016 for at least six months.  Pedestrians will be able to use it – we can enjoy the river views, come rain or shine!  Probably best to have a spare umbrella.  My last one collapsed spectacularly while crossing the bridge on foot, battling driving rain and wind. Even the handle fell off. I bought a new one, covered in red roses, which keeps my spirits up.

View of Hammersmith Bridge in driving rain from 209 bus ...

View of Hammersmith Bridge in driving rain from 209 bus …

On the 209 bus from Hammersmith to Barnes ...

On the 209 bus from Hammersmith to Barnes …

POSTSCRIPT 2

This is a photo of the flower shop, still in driving rain, on the Barnes side of the bridge.  I thought it looked rather like an abstract painting with a mix of colours that appealed to me.  Somebody said I should put it in for the Turner  prize.  ‘Art in Transit’ – ‘Transitory Art’ – ‘Flowers from the Bus’? I didn’t expect anything to come from pressing the button on my camera but even though I say it myself – ‘It’s really quite impressive’?! The camera is old but serves me well.

Artistic impression ...

 Impression …

END

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Autumn – a walk around the Leg o’ Mutton reservoir, Barnes

This small reservoir lies close to the Thames and sometimes you can count up to twelve herons as you walk around it.  It is quite hidden from the main towpath and you can be quite alone in your ramble. stopping from time to time to look at birds and surprise the occasional water rat. This time we met a man –   twice  –  he was walking twice as fast ! – and he told us he did this most days.

Walking upriver towards the Leg O' Mutton reservoir

Walking upriver towards the Leg O’ Mutton reservoir

Barnes - Leg O' Mutton reservoir

Barnes – Leg O’ Mutton reservoir

Barnes - the large and untidy heronry

Barnes – the large and untidy heronry

Besides the herons on the water, there is also a mass of their large, untidy nests in a giant tree, which overhangs the reservoir.

A Barnes heron

A Barnes heron

 

In Autumn, some hardy souls come and manoeuvre the old Victorian machinery that lets more water from the Thames fill up the reservoir after the summer. There’s a mossy wheel, a bit rusty, which presumably connects to an underground pipe from the river.  The reservoir would no doubt act as a useful receptacle for excess water during a flood.

The path around the reservoir

The path around the reservoir

Reservoir colours.  Monet- esque

Reservoir colours. Monet- esque

Lone moorhen making waves ...

Lone moorhen making waves …

This Autumn the leaves are particularly colourful.

Autumn leaves 1

Autumn leaves 1

Autumn leaves 2

Autumn leaves 2

Autumn leaves squashed on the road ...

Autumn leaves squashed on the road …

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‘Designer Moth’ by Isobel

One of the top pests in London dwellings is the small but deadly clothes moth, whose larvae are at this very moment chomping happily through your or a near neighbour’s cashmere jumper.  All wool garments spell ‘feast’,  the banqueting parlour being your wardrobe or wherever you may leave your jumper – hanging on the back of a door, over the back of a chair – nowhere is safe!

The moths are very good at evading capture – and there are no foolproof methods of eradicating them 100%.  At the moment I am trying pheromones  –  male moths being attracted to sticky sheets of cardboard, which mimic the smell of female moths.  Quite effective … if somewhat gruesome. Reminiscent of ‘pinned’ butterflies …

I have a friend called Isobel, who is very creative and makes clothes. When she found her husband’s cardigan languishing in the cupboard full of moth holes, she turned it into what could pass muster for a ‘designer’ garment.  How clever was that??!!

Don wearing an exclusive 'Moth Design' cardigan ...

Don wearing an exclusive ‘Moth Design’ ‘rainbow’ cardigan …

Boho, ‘distressed’, shabby-chic  –  she should patent it!

END

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Head in the clouds …

I’m a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society which was started up by Gavin Pretor-Pinney in 2005.  As a child I was entranced by the vastness of the sky.  I loved it best in summer, when it was blue with teased out, white, wispy, cirrus clouds. Lying in the grass on a hillside, lazily tracking the clouds across the sky as they changed into mythical monsters or blown thistledown, listening to a small aircraft buzzing in the far distance was heaven on earth.  A bottle of dandelion and burdock and a Cadbury’s milk chocolate bar of ‘fruit and nut’ made it total paradise.

How grim it would be if the sky was just black all the time.  But I suppose we wouldn’t be here because we need light to survive.  Here’s an experiment capturing light and colour together with physics, geometry and mathematics.  I did this with a glass – somehow … no, I don’t know how …

Did I just capture the meaning of life?  I was surprised with what appeared ...

Did I just capture ‘the meaning of liff?!’ I was surprised with what appeared …

Sometimes at school the heavy greyish-white clouds reminded me of goosedown, softly protecting me from having to play hockey as they began to weep.  I didn’t altogether get away with it but I did prefer long distance running in the rain.

The first time I was in an aeroplane I saw cumulous clouds that looked like giant vanilla ice cream cones – obviously organic and soooo delicious!   Fluffy white clouds look so inviting  to bed down in. The sky looks pristine – washed clean, and forever fresh –   blue and white stretching out into infinity – a sea of tranquillity before the storm takes over.

Here's the storm taking over ...

Here’s the storm taking over …

and a rainbow to follow … treasure trove in Barnes!

rainbow Barnes

This September we were blessed with an exquisite two week ‘Indian’ summer.  Blue skies,  the sun warm on our faces and backs. Everything stood out – clear as a church bell  – it was as if I had been given new superpower specs.  I felt buoyed up as if all was right with the world.  A pity that it’s not.

I made my way home, a sourdough loaf under my arm.  With a fresh cut slice covered in raspberry jam I balanced a cup of tea and made my way down to the summer house to catch the evening sun.  These photos were taken in that one evening.

Bright blue

Bright blue

Dolly clouds

Dolly clouds

Setting sun

Setting sun reflections

Complementary colours

Complementary colours

Falling towards night

Falling towards night

The end of the day

The end of the day

In London we don’t often have truly dramatic clouds but I managed to take this one, which reminded me of a five star, squashy, flying saucer.

Flying saucer at the bottom of the garden ...

Flying saucer at the bottom of the garden …

...or is it a rather monstrous fat mouse fast asleep on a cloud?

…or is it a rather monstrous fat mouse fast asleep on a cloud?

Next day I had to be up at the crack of dawn as the decorator was arriving.  No time for head in the clouds today but Andy brought sweet peas from his garden …

 

Andy's sweet peas

Andy’s sweet peas

END

 

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Out and About in London 2014 – 15

A cold and damp yet, oddly, humid summer 2015 –  with warm splashes of  reviving sunshine – enough to invigorate the spirits while drinking a glass of wine in the garden.  I’ve been out and about – like a curious cat, investigating and exploring, sniffing out the beauty and the beast in the city.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to record these peripatetic wanderings  over the past year but my library of photos have reminded me of the city’s offerings. So here are  few of them, somewhat randomly captured, making me aware both of happy days but also that  another year has almost passed by.  ‘Crumbs!’, as Boris would say. Better get a move on … before the next holiday season strikes!

WINDOWS ON LONDON

Window on London 2014 - 2015

Window on London 2014 – 2015

 

LONDON FIELDS

This is quite a new area for me, now full of actors, artists’ ateliers, designers and film people as well as Broadway Market on a Saturday and Columbia Flower market down the road.  The lido has been updated, artisan bread shops and Pop-Up cafés under the arches have furnished me with delicious Swedish sourdough bread to take home.  And Liverpool Street station is within easy reach from London Fields by train.

We came upon an artist, Simon Pemberton, who has a studio by the Fields.  Among other things, he illustrates articles for the FT on Saturday, where we first found him and latterly bought two prints from him.  One is entitled ‘Preparation For The Next Life’, the other, ‘Festival of Insignificance’.  The indigo colours of both are glowing and were one of the reasons which attracted us to searching him out.  Since that time he has won the Editorial Illustration Award 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Flowers in London Fields E8

Flowers in London Fields E8

House overlooking London Fields E8

House overlooking London Fields E8

Roses in London Fields

Roses in London Fields

Pub on London Fields E8

Pub on London Fields E8

London biker fashionista

London biker fashionista

Orphaned baby shoe

Orphaned baby shoe in London Fields

Iconic camper vans from the 1960's - resting place in antique shop under the arches - London Fields E8

Iconic camper vans from the 1960s – re(u)sting  in antique shop under the arches – London Fields E8

Coming into Liverpool Street station from London Fields

Whizzing into Liverpool Street station from London Fields

Arriving at Liverpool Street station ...

Arriving at Liverpool Street station …

FOXES IN MOORGATE

Foxes prowl around our garden, lounge on the summer house roof in the afternoon sunshine and utter wolverine shrieks at night but the silver foxes of Moorgate are in a class of their own.

Tail of the silver fox 1

Mr Silver Fox

Mrs Silver Fox

Mrs Silver Fox

Meeting up in Moorgate

Meeting up in Moorgate

and a poppy covered taxi at Ludgate Circus …

London taxi - poppy day

London taxi – poppy day

Twinings Tea House - coming into Aldwych from Fleet Street

Twinings Tea House – coming into Aldwych from Fleet Street

Green Elephant on Fleet Street

Green Elephant on Fleet Street

 

INTERESTING BUILDINGS – OUT AND ABOUT …

Near the Eurostar entrance on Euston Road ...

Near the Eurostar entrance on Euston Road …

On my way back from the Courtauld Institute - in John Adam Street ...

On my way back from the Courtauld Institute – in John Adam Street …

Near Embankment underground station ...

Near Embankment underground station …

Around the corner from Zetters Town House - Clerkenwell

Around the corner from Zetter Town House – Clerkenwell

The Churchill Arms at the top of Kensington Church Street ...

The Churchill Arms at the top of Kensington Church Street …

Neals Yard - Covent Garden

Neals Yard – Covent Garden

This was set up by Nicholas Saunders in the late 60s.  He wrote a book called ‘Alternative London’, which was published by Wildwood House where I was working –  in Floral Street.  We were right at the heart of it all.

French coq crows in Trafalgar Square ...

French ‘coq bleu’ crows in Trafalgar Square …

The Shard

The Shard

Trafalgar Square - clouds, statues,  aeroplane ...

Trafalgar Square – clouds, statues, aeroplane …

NEAR TEMPLE TUBE STATION

Ghost riders on horseback above a crowd ...

Ghost riders on horseback above a crowd …

I don’t know whether this is just damp or my imagination but I see three knights in armour with helmets on horseback –  riding through a crowd.  This is by the embankment but on the Temple side.

Bookshop at South Kensington

Bookshop at South Kensington

ART, FASHION + DESIGN in BOND STREET W1

The train westwards from Liverpool Street on the Central line lets me hop off in the West End at the top of Bond Street. At the end of the 1960s I did evening classes here at Lucie Clayton – a school for would-be models.

Bond Street fashion 1

Bond Street fashion

A Veruschka moment ...

A Veruschka moment …

as she comes to life opposite Tiffany’s window.

Christmas 1

Christmas 1

Christmas 2

Christmas 2

Christmas 3

Christmas 3

Art and fashion still making a great mix here but steep rents are squeezing out all but the top names, which is a pity.

Bond Street Warhol

Bond Street Warhol

Bond Street shields

Bond Street shields

Bond Street rams

Bond Street rams

Bewildered in Bond Street

Bewildered in Bond Street

Bond Street - Is it all a myth?

Bond Street – Is it all just a myth?

The actor, Bill Nighy, outside Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly ...

The actor, Bill Nighy, outside Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly …

Passing by the Royal Academy …

Entrance to the Royal Academy, London W1

Entrance to the Royal Academy, London W1

RA Summer exhibition 2015

RA Summer exhibition 2015

Coming upon fleeing Santas in Jermyn Street …

A Father Christmas stampede ...

A Santa Claus stampede …

THE QUEENHITHE MOSAIC

This is near the Millennium Bridge in an alleyway leading off London Wall to the Thames

This is near the Millennium Bridge in an alleyway leading off Upper Thames street to the river

I came upon this by chance, having arrived early for lunch with a friend at an excellent Spanish restaurant – Zorito’s Kitchen – overlooking the river near the Millennium Bridge.  They also have a delicatessen with high quality wines.

I spied a small alleyway leading from Upper Thames Street to the river’s edge and came upon this extraordinarily wonderful mosaic, which stretches along its whole length.  It was designed by Tessa Hunkin and executed by South Bank Mosaics, with a lot of volunteers to help install it.  There is a film on YouTube on how it was made and more about it at Queenhithe Dock Heritage Timeline Mosaic Project. Here are parts of it but it’s worthwhile going to see the whole mosaic. The amount of thought that has gone into it, the design and its execution is so impressive.  Why don’t we rate things like this far above the lives of so-called celebrities?  The film has had 642 viewings …

Queenhithe Mosaic 1

Queenhithe Mosaic 1

Queenhithe Mosaic 2

Queenhithe Mosaic 2

Queenhithe Mosaic 3

Queenhithe Mosaic 3

Queenhithe Mosaic 4

Queenhithe Mosaic 4

Queenhithe Mosaic 5

Queenhithe Mosaic 5

I hope I have motivated you to go and see this for yourself!  Wonderful surprise for me to just come upon it by chance!

CAFE LIFE

The choice is immense.  I have my favourites, such as Waterstones in Piccadilly, who have basement and mezzanine cafés as well as a restaurant/café on the 5th floor.  I am particularly drawn to a  fruit scone with an Americano, surrounded by a strongly bookish, comforting ambience.

The upstairs café buzz at Zédel appeals for a short visit – my favourite seat is by the till where you can spread out a bit with your bags.  And The Nordic Bakery in Golden Square does delicious lunchtime sandwiches  –  if you are lucky enough to find a table.  Maison Bertaux in Soho is a good stopping off point with luscious cakes and downstairs at The Courtauld Institute is welcoming and has good food and original recipes for cakes too. It’s possible to sit outside under a sunshade, but be prepared to share your lavender sponge cake with persistent robber pigeons!

More recently I found Canela, a Portuguese café/restaurant very close to Seven Dials. There’s an atmospheric chandelier to sit under and some enormous faded gilt mirrors to enhance a sense of history and reflection, while enjoying a celebrated Portuguese ‘nata’ with a hot ginger and honey drink in a long glass.

Canela - a Portuguese 'nata'

Canela -‘ Pasteis de nata’

 

END OF THE DAY

Evening at the Albert Hall, Kensington

Evening at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington

Sloane Square sparkle

Sloane Square sparkle

At Hallowe'en ...

At Hallowe’en …

Angel at the V&A

Angel at the V&A

Bedtime under a crescent moon

Bedtime under a crescent moon

END

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A magical retreat and a very happy birthday

Norway! We were invited to celebrate a Norwegian friend and colleague’s 70th birthday – first  of all in Oslo – then to be whisked away to a mysterious and, as it turned out, magical island.

To be honest, I was excited but also slightly fraught. John was flying back to Heathrow from Seoul and there was a short window of time for us to meet up and take the plane to Oslo together.  So it was with a heavy case full of jumpers, hats and waterproof jackets that I arrived at Terminal 5, hoping the plane from Seoul would be on time. It was.

We arrived at the hotel at almost midnight. It was in Nydalen, opposite the Oslo Business School, where the conference was to be held next day. There followed a ‘Festschrift’ for Jørgen, when a special book was presented to him, put together by his colleagues Per Espen Stoknes and Kjell Elisaasen, celebrating Jørgen’s life and work. The focus of the conference was on climate change. We were sitting next to a handsome young couple on the front row. They turned out to be Jørgen’s daughter and her husband.

The day sped by and I learned a lot – the more I learn, the more I worry.  But there’s no point in doing nothing and lots of the people gathered here are doing a lot. These people need all the support we can give them if we are to succeed in dealing with climate change. They know what needs to be done. And it needs to be put into action now. Read John’s blog for more details and also Per Espen’s new book – What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warning by Per Espen Stoknes.

The evening was bright and clear and we were all driven out to a beautiful house by the water for Jørgen’s birthday dinner. The organisation was very impressive. I think a lot of it was down to Per Espen and to Marie, Jørgen’s partner. There were about 60 people gathered, including our friend Jan-Olaf Willums, who shared an apartment with Jørgen when they were students.

The starry house for the birthday dinner

The starry house for the birthday dinner

The view from the garden

A view from the garden

John with Paul Gilding looking forward to dinner

John with Paul Gilding –  looking forward to dinner!

Paul is an ex-CEO of Greenpeace and had travelled from Tasmania with his wife Michelle, also a great activist, to join the party.

We arrive at our table and ...

We arrive at our table and …

here is my place setting!

… here is my place setting!

We had to be ready by 10am next morning, when a fleet of three cars turned up at the hotel.  The amount of luggage was a small nightmare but we finally set off in Per Espen’s Volvo, along with Nigel – another arrival from Australia.  Norwegians drive fast but there’s less traffic on the roads than in the U.K.  And the roads are well maintained. We noticed that there are a lot of Teslas  –  Elon Musk’s electric car.  They look very streamlined – excellent design.

The island is near an area called Kragerø, which is three hours south of Oslo and on the way to Kristiansand. It’s very picturesque and many Norwegians come here in the summer for holiday. Apparently, the artist, Edvard Munch, was inspired by the unique light he found here. There are 495 islands off the coast.

Once we had all met up, we were treated to a wonderful lunch at a  restaurant built out over the water. The food was delicious and deserved at least one Michelin star. Good luck to the new young chef! I wish I’d taken photos but it was all gone before I even thought of it. Beguiled by the blue sea and the sky, I took an arty picture or two instead.

Meeting up at the seaside restaurant

Meeting up at the seaside restaurant

Summer houses viewed from the restaurant - I liked the artist's 'blues'

Summer houses viewed from the restaurant, below a blue vision of Norway

A small fishing boat arrived to ferry us across the water to the island.  There were one or two other Norwegians to drop off at other islands on the way. We were surrounded by trays of fresh fruit and vegetables and sweet smelling herbs as the sea spray whooshed over us. I felt the coast of Norway beginning to seduce me – I was lucky to be here! Marie was keeping a close eye on the package containing the birthday cake.

There are no roads on Jørgen’s island, so we are living alongside nature. The house is charming and very warm and comfortable – there is electricity and a bathroom! As I’ve never been a ‘happy camper’, this was a great bonus! The first houses built on the islands for summer residents were quite primitive and today nobody is allowed to build a new house unless it is on the site of an old one.

A view from a tiny islet with a brackish pond beloved by swans

A view from a tiny islet across a brackish pond beloved by swans

Time to relax ...

Time to relax …

.. but John goes exploring

.. but John goes exploring

It becomes cool in the evening, but the weather forecast promises sun. It is cosy in the house and I sleep like a rabbit in its burrow.

It’s good to get to know everyone else while relaxing over breakfast.  I am fascinated by the lichen and the flowers which grow so well out of small cracks in the rocks so I make another foray to the islet, over the Japanese looking bridge, held up by old telegraph poles.

Lichen - meant to denote low pollution ...

Lichen – meant to denote low pollution …

Unknown blue flowers

Unknown blue flowers

Thrift

Sea Thrift

Sorrel

Sorrel

I am blown away by the vivid colours. Per Espen has been out in a rowing boat and Mathis suggests to John that they should have a go. I notice Mathis gets the oars! They cut through the water, smooth as silk.   And the sun looks as if it’s here to stay.

John contemplating ...

John contemplating …

John and Emil set off

John and Mathis embark …

... into the distance

…and fade into the distance

There are lots of arctic terns.  These birds travel 40,000 miles a year from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again.  They are very graceful and acrobatic and extremely efficient predators.

Sea sparkle 1

Sea sparkles

Arctic tern

Arctic tern

A very pretty bird on top of the boathouse

A very pretty plump bird (possibly a wagtail) on top of the boathouse

Jørgen’s birthday celebration on the island was an unforgettable evening in which we all got to know one another even better and enjoyed yet another wonderful dinner, including a delicious birthday cake.

A very special and delicious birthday cake for Jørgen

A very special and delicious birthday cake for Jørgen

The three J's + Jørgen's birthday gift

The three J’s with one of Jørgen’s birthday gifts

Jørgen and Marie on his 70th birthday

Jørgen and Marie on his 70th birthday

John’s blog explains the gift from John and Cindy Sherman, which concerned Jay Forrester, who is now in his nineties.

Next day Jørgen and Marie had organised a trip to another island for a fish soup lunch. The boat wouldn’t take us all at once but Jørgen zoomed off with the first contingent, saying he would be back soon. True to form, he was!

Jørgen checks the weather

Jørgen checks the weather

The first contingent take off

The first contingent takes off

A walk through the forest

A walk through the forest

An open air church

An open air church

Flat rocks by the sea

Flat rocks by the sea

It was warm and sunny – we sat outside the restaurant eating fish soup from enormous bowls after our walk through the forest by the sea.

Starry maritime flowers

Starry maritime flowers

Old boathouses and orange buoys

Old boathouses and orange buoys

The house by the fish restaurant

The house by the fish restaurant

After lunch, Jørgen took us in convoy around the archipelago of islands dotted with small summer houses – and one or two rather more grand complexes, reminiscent of James Bond villain lairs – perhaps belonging to billionaires.

Jørgen zooms through the archipelago

Jørgen zooms through the archipelago

A typical rustic summer house

A typical rustic summer house

A coastline of summer houses

A coastline of summer houses

Relaxation - once you make it to the top!

Two chairs for relaxation – once you make it to the top!

The Norwegians are a hardy lot it seems! When we got back John decided to show his mettle by diving into the sea which was 10 degrees.    One and a half minutes was enough! Brrrr! We were impressed and next day Per Espen and Jørgen both felt moved to do the same. I did not feel any desire whatsoever – but good for them!

John being extraordinarily intrepid!

John being extraordinarily intrepid!

One of the many jellyfish to be seen in the clear waters

One of the many jellyfish to be seen close to shore

I was amazed by how well this photo came out, but the amount of jellyfish and algae in the water is worrying. Jørgen said it had increased a lot. But still, the water is very clear and you can see down to the bottom.

We know so very little about the oceans and seas and yet they cover 71% of our planet. Acidification is destroying sea life but as most people don’t see what is happening underneath the water, we are naively unaware of the wholesale destruction both to maritime life and ultimately to the threat to our own species. Maritime conservation areas are slowly being increased, but not fast enough to keep our oceans healthy. And without healthy oceans, the future is bleak.

Aqua facts from The Oceanic Institute: oceans contain 97% of the Earth’s water. Less than 1% of the Earth’s water is fresh water and 2-3% is contained in glaciers and ice caps. The oceans contain 99% of the living space on the planet, (presumably in 3D). And, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office (NOAA): ‘To date, we have explored less than 5% of the ocean’.

I found a recent report by Per-Erik Schulze, who is a marine biologist and environmental advisor for The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature. He focuses on the danger of micro plastics filling our oceans. For example he notes that if the 8,000 tons of micro plastics  generated annually in Norway were dumped in downtown Bergen, its citizens would stand knee deep in plastics. About half of these end up in the ocean and pose a growing hazard to marine life. The report is titled Sources of micro plastic pollution to the marine environment (source: Norwegian Environment Agency).

Our time in this magical place was passing by too quickly, but we still had time to sit in the sun and watch the swallows that have invaded Jørgen’s boathouse.  How wonderfully well we are being looked after!

A sparkling afternoon

A sparkling afternoon

Swallows

Two swallows

I just got closer!

And I just managed to get closer!

Another dinner was busily being prepared. We planned to eat outside – and were all issued with blankets to keep us warm as the sun went down. I even put on my furry hat later, which I’d stuffed in my bag as an afterthought. Jørgen and Paul were in charge of the barbecue.

I felt an ever closer bond with all these companions,  some of whom we hadn’t met before. A gathering made up of Australians, Americans, Germans, Swiss, Norwegians and we British. A unique meeting of minds on a tiny island.

Can Jørgen et al manage to pull the rabbit out of the hat on climate change? The talks at the conference were all impressive and the interactive model created by John Sterman had been playing about in my head ever since. It is a privilege to be among this good lot of people with such brainpower –  and to be having such a brilliant time.

Jørgen and Paul in charge of the barbecue

Jørgen and Paul in charge of the barbecue

Jørgen, John and Marie - Jorgen demonstrates his unique bottle opener!

Jørgen, John and Marie – Jorgen demonstrates his unique bottle opener!

Around the fire nearing midnight ...

Around the fire nearing midnight …

I spent a little time taking pictures of things which would remind me of our time here.

A pink bowl

A pink bowl

A breadboard found by the shoreline

A breadboard found by the shoreline

A sea painting

A sea painting

The beachcomber's booty

The beachcomber’s booty

But now the last morning has sadly arrived. Ulrich was out at the back of the house, mowing the lawn, while the rest of us were engaged in sorting out our luggage and helping with the domestic clearing up. Next weekend Jørgen’s daughter will be here with her husband and friends.  John and I enjoyed staying in her room with all her books and childhood  memories. I liked her notes on the wall by my bed!

In the hallway

Floral broom

A quiet moment

A moment of quiet contemplation

The weather is breaking up and by the time Jørgen returns from ferrying the first contingent back to the mainland, it is starting to rain. But he has a hood for the boat!

Farewell as the rain comes in ...

Farewell as the rain comes in …

Then we pile into Per Espen’s Volvo once more for the return trip to Oslo and on to the airport. The rain is heavy and non-stop but the sea gods have been very kind to us!

The gods have been kind to us ... and now we say farewell

The gods have been kind … and now it’s farewell

Norway blue

Norwegian blue

Homeward bound

Our trip home goes well, without hold-ups. Jørgen and Marie treat us to delicious prawns at their home in Oslo before taking us to the station. I wanted to buy some of that sweet brown cheese at the airport (albeit something of an acquired taste) but the shop is closed. Next time!

I’m reading Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck about his trip through the U.S. with his dog in the early 1960s. It was published in 1962: his vision of how the world was changing speaks to us warningly and prophetically through the decades (see the back cover). It’s an illuminating travelogue – one of my favourites. An intuitive writer – and a very enjoyable read. And, of course, he was a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Coming back into London, I have a window seat.

Coming back into Heathrow

Coming back into Heathrow 1

Coming back into Heathrow 3

Coming back into Heathrow 2

Arrival

Arrival

Thank you BA

Back on terra firma

This has been a wonderful and memorable experience. Thank you so much to all involved for the great company and to Jørgen, Marie and Per Espen, especially, for making it all possible.

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A perfect cappuccino!

I met my friend Carolyn for lunch at Casa Brindisa in South Kensington in May. The food is very good and the service friendly and efficient but what I want to say here is that the cappuccino topped the list of my best to date!  A real treat.  I hope they can keep that up.

A perfect cappuccino !

A perfect cappuccino !

 

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