My highlights of 2016

We have BREXIT ongoing, we have TRUMP taking centre stage.  I just thought I’d take a photo or two from each month in 2016 to show that all was not gloom and doom. I’m determined to ‘think positive’ because that carries weight, rather than being crushed and feeling disenfranchised.

A physicist mooted that ‘dark matter’ could be made up of the weight of ‘thoughts’.  This appealed to me – a merging of science and philosophy –  the weight of conscious thought holding up the universe as against a black hole crushing it into extinction.  I did check up this idea with another astrophysicist, who, to my surprise, did say it was a possibility.  He didn’t laugh at me! It may be in the realms of science fiction but there’s so much about the universe we don’t know and so many dimensions that we haven’t or are unable to explore in our present human form.

Arthur C Clarke observed “How inappropriate to call this planet earth, when it is quite clearly ocean”.  And we don’t yet know very much about what lies under our oceans   –  and the size of them compared to land is immense. So, who knows?!

January 2016, started off very wet; we were not aware of what was to come – but my instinctive psyche took this photo. You could interpret it as reading the future …

The shape of things to come ...

The shape of things to come … photo taken January 2016

The highlight of the month was a family outing to ‘Mr. Foote’s Other Leg’ at a theatre in central London.  A triumph for Simon Russell Beale and a great family get together.

February is often misty and damp.  But there was a high point –  being taken out to dinner … a much appreciated birthday treat at Quo Vadis …

Quo Vadis birthday

Quo Vadis birthday treat

This was followed by a trip to Greenwich with my friend, Kate, to see the Samuel Pepys exhibition, which I loved. Then a wonderful film – ‘Bridge of Spies’ – by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, who were both fabulous. A ‘best’ film.

Samuel Pepys - his diaries are an invaluable source of knowledge for how life was lived then.

Samuel Pepys – his diaries are an invaluable source of knowledge for how day-to-day life was lived then. This is the best way for me to learn about history. I took SP a bunch of daffodils after the exhibition.

March offered spring flowers …

Early Spring flowers

Early Spring flowers

and a long, looped walk from Barnes Bridge, up the Chiswick side of the river through Dukes Meadows,  finally crossing back over Hammersmith Bridge and following the towpath home.

Chiswick riverside walk from Barnes Bridge to Hammersmith 1

Chiswick riverside walk from Barnes Bridge to Hammersmith 1

Chiswick riverside walk 2

Chiswick riverside walk 2

The Dove with a riverside terrace...

The Dove with a riverside terrace… a welcome dalliance half way round…

A rather splendid boat, caught at low tide on the Thames ...

A rather splendid boat, caught at low tide on the Thames …

There’s a picturesque group of pubs and houses, painted in different colours on approaching Hammersmith Bridge.

What are you thinking, my lovely, as you stare out across the river ...

What are you thinking, my lovely, as you stare out across the Thames … ?

Hammersmith Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge

We crossed the bridge, took the towpath back to Barnes and saw the most beautiful heron.  I love this circular walk.

A most beautiful heron - Barnes

A most beautiful heron – Barnes

I was lucky enough to see both the Delacroix and the Giorgione exhibitions before moving on into April, where my good fortune continued with the tremendous (and tremendously long!) Monet Gardens exhibition at the Royal Academy, followed by an excellent exhibition on Shakespeare at The British Library to celebrate 400 years since his death, a trip to the Foundlings Museum in Thomas Coram Fields in Bloomsbury and finally, the Botticelli drawings at the Courtauld Institute. I don’t really see myself as a ‘culture vulture'(!) –  more a person who is curious and likes to find things out. However, I do love paintings – even ones I don’t like.  There is also a lot of rubbish but that’s like looking through a junk shop for the real thing  –  and the thrill of sometimes finding it!

A friend, Will, who I took to the Monet exhibition, bought me the catalogue!

A friend, Will, who I took to the Monet exhibition, bought me the catalogue!

I taste the cover – it reminds me of those coloured sweetmeats by Charbonnel & Walker called ‘crêmes parisiennes’.  So melt-in-the-mouth delicious. I went to this exhibition three times, taking three different guests.

‘The Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth von Arnim is an all time favourite read of mine.  It was made into a television series – very well cast.  Mellersh, the husband of Mrs. Wilkins, who is thrifty, ‘except for that branch of it which got into his food’, is a perfect role for the actor, Alfred Molina.  Mrs. Wilkins shops at Shoolbreds in Piccadilly for Mellersh’s fish.  He only likes sole and salmon.  He was ‘difficult’ with fish.

This is the story of how Mrs. Wilkins escapes from her dreary, diurnal round by boldly answering an advertisement in ‘The Times’.  ‘Small, mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let  Furnished for the month of April’ and in doing so, escapes London’s ‘extremely horrible, sooty rain’. I’m enchanted by this story in a similar way as in ‘The Greengage Summer’ by Rumer Godden which is, for me, a perfect read.

In May, my sister took charge of a stray dog from Greece.  Jack is good natured, greedy and gregarious. I went for a long walk with them in Bushy Park. He is not fussy about what he eats – enough said!  The main thing is that Jack has made her happy.



We went to see Tom Hart Dyke’s ‘world garden’ at Lullingstone castle in Kent.  We drove but it’s easy to get there by train from London Victoria and the station is within walking distance of the garden.  Tom Hart Dyke and his friend were kidnapped in the Colombian jungle in 2000, while plant hunting but finally managed to escape their captors after nine months.  A television programme was later made about his ‘world garden’, which is open to the public.

May – Barnes Common makes for a quick and uplifting stroll.

Cow parsley on Barnes Common

Cow parsley on Barnes Common

Summer hats on the bus to Hammersmith …

Although I succumbed to a deathly cold in June, the upside was a visit to the ‘Sunken Cities’ exhibition at the British Museum  –  two cities submerged off the coast of Alexandria 1,300 years ago by a series of earthquakes and tidal waves, leading to liquefaction of the earth they were built on. Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus lay at the mouth of the Nile.  An archaeologist diving in the area twenty years ago organised a search expedition. It is mind blowing to see what they have found to date and there is much more awaiting discovery.

The 'Sunken Cities' exhibition at the British Museum

The ‘Sunken Cities’ exhibition at the British Museum

I went to a film –  ‘Love and Friendship’.  A delicious confection, based on a Jane Austen novel. Just managed also to squeeze in the ‘Botticelli’ exhibition at the V&A before it finished. An eclectic mix of old and new  –  an angle that showed how much Botticelli has influenced painting, photography and advertising in the modern world.  Very well worth going – pause for thought.

I bought an exquisite print at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.  It’s called ‘Arch’ and is by Suzanne Moxhay.

And there was a Zédel lunch.

Another celebration!

In July one highlight was a few days at Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest.  A glorious walk through the woods and by the river to Beaulieu and back, with the treat of a delicious ice cream cornet thrown in!  A change of scene from the city and lots of fresh air. And an interesting place from a historical point of view.

Buckler's Hard where many of Nelson's ships were built

Buckler’s Hard where many of Nelson’s ships were built

A very special treat awaited us at Kew Gardens. ‘The Hive’ – an enormous sculpture made by Wolfgang Buttress in order to draw attention to the plight of bees, who have been experiencing death and disease in many numbers worldwide.  Leading up to ‘The Hive’, a wildflower meadow has been planted.  We, as human beings, very much depend on the pollination of plants by the bees.  No bees would finally lead to none of us either!

The Hive at Kew Gardens

The Hive at Kew Gardens

Wildflower meadow at Kew

Wildflower meadow at Kew

August is always a good time to stay at home if you don’t have to take school holidays.   Sitting in the garden reading, a visit to Kew, meeting up with the friends you haven’t had time to see all year, not having to get up at 7am every day.  But it soon goes! Carpe Diem!

Flower garden bordering the towpath, Barnes

Colours - Kew Gardens

Colours – Kew Gardens

Water lilies at Kew Gardens

Water lilies at Kew

A secret corner – Kew

One of my favourite reads this year was ‘The Penguin Lessons’ by Tom Michell.  This is a heartwarming story – so vivid, so alive, so very appealing.  Read it and be uplifted – laugh and cry – and love the penguin!

This penguin will restore your spirits ... however low they may be

This penguin will restore your spirits … however low they may be

And then it was September.  We were invited to an RAF service  in Westminster Abbey.  The day was clement and the service beautifully done.

Flypast at Westminster

Flypast at Westminster

I was inspired to walk along the Thames from Blackfriars to the Millennium Bridge and came upon some bizarre goings-on!

Thames cube!

What is going on? Any clues?

What is going on? Any clues? Well, it is near Tate Modern …?!

A more conventional view of life on the river Thames

A more conventional view of life on the river Thames

In the river with a box of treasure … another conundrum …

I made my way back to Blackfriars and found myself in another surreal situation.

Under Blackfriars bridge – good location for a gangster/spy film?!

I explored the underbelly of Blackfriars station, which has had a huge renovation.

Queasy feeling ….. underground at Blackfriars station

Blackfriars – caught in a bubble

HELP – looking for a way out!

Entrance to station – Blackfriars – finally made it!

I’ve always been attracted to things in the round – like marbles. When I boil water in a pan on the stove I wonder why the bubbles are round …then I put in the peas! If you want to know more about bubbles, look up Helen Czerski, physicist.  She’s written a lot on the significance of bubbles and her latest book is called ‘Storm in a Teacup’ (The physics of everyday life). Fascinating!

Rolling on into October via a visit to the dragon benches in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington. A new part of town for me.

Here be dragons – Clissold Park

Walking the dog – Clissold Park – slight air of Magritte about this picture?

The air is very clear but the garden is now fading and looking overblown and weary as it settles blowsily into middle age. Then I notice that the nasturtium seeds I threw carelessly into the soil not so long ago have flourished and given me an undeserved reward.

An unexpected jewel

A Triumph outside Barnes Bookshop …

Macaroons at the French Médiathèque, South Kensington

Moonshine …

The weather for November was better and I felt good.  Here are a few images which kept me in an upbeat mood for most of it.

Flowers from our new neighbours …

Late Autumn – Richmond Park

It’s a great place for a good walk without meeting crowds of  other people.

Sunset over Barnes Pond

Being a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society, I’m always looking upward for a beautiful skyscape!

I can’t recommend enough that everyone see Phil Agland’s recent documentary, ‘China – Between Clouds and Dreams; China’s Silent Spring’, which was shown on Channel 4 in November in five episodes.  It’s such an original way of looking at this  vast, burgeoning country and all the good and bad things that are emerging.  The small, charismatic boy who is training to be a monk is an exceptional human being.  We need more of his kind. And the ‘spoonie’ story is unforgettable too.  Fabulous filming  and the narrative continues to hook you in. Phil Agland is an outstanding film maker.

Good to be back in central London …

Cityscape 2

and a chance to go to the exhibition at the V&A called REVOLUTION – Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970.  The music, fashion, film, design and political activism of that era was brought together in a truly organic way.  How did what happened in the late sixties change the way we live and how we now think about the future?  Looking back at it all, I remember how very exciting it was at the time but it’s very weird to see that we are now history!

Retro Revolution!

The weather finally broke, the leaves started to fall and Autumn was on the move into Winter.

Raindrops keep falling on my head …

A big highlight was an unexpected but much enjoyed day trip to Paris.  This made me decide that 2017 should be reserved for at least some (quite a lot!) of long weekends away across the Channel. Bordeaux, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Seville …

Elegance – Paris

Guarding Place des Vosges – Paris

Enfants parisiens …

St Régis – Paris

Arrondissement St. Germain – Paris

Café Rouquet – Paris

Escargots – Terminus Nord, Paris

Back in London for December’s Christmas festivities and, most of all, a holiday for reading and walking by the river –   and not taking to the roads with millions of others from here to there and back again … loaded up with presents and stress.

Regent Street – a ghostly angel … Christmas 2016

St. Mary’s church, Barnes – Christmastime 2016

Time off to read – Christmas 2016

A walk up river – Chiswick side, looking across to Barnes …December 2016

Winged harpies swooping towards 2017 … December 2016

The rower at Barnes Bridge – December 2016

The towpath, Barnes – December 2016

The way ahead …

Christmas Day was wreathed in grey but towards the end of the year a sharper snap brought clear skies at night followed by crisp blue skies next day.

Hammersmith Bridge at sunset

Christmas wreath 2016

We move forward into the New Year with an uncertain future but with a certain amount of pzazz …

Trumping Trump 2017 … Sloane Square, London

Always a treat throughout the year …  coffee is a great mainstay!

And Woody Allen’s film, ‘Café Society’, was also a great pick-me-up and sparkling with wonderful music! Enormously entertaining and on a par (for me) with ‘Midnight in Paris’.

These are some of my highlights in 2016.  And the lowlights can just look after themselves and vanish into the ether …


PS  Here’s a sad thing that happened but it made me do something very positive.  The journalist, A A Gill, died at 62 of cancer, which came as a great shock to many readers.   Hadley Freeman wrote a wonderful piece in ‘The Guardian’ weekend magazine  (17.12.16) about him, which moved me to tears.  She was inspired by his writing – so why didn’t she tell him?

This article made me get in touch with somebody I met at a dinner several years ago.  I always meant to let them know how much I enjoyed their company and conversation but I didn’t do it. And then I did  –  thank you, Hadley Freeman –  both for your article and for helping me to make that happen!





















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