17 Rugby Street, Bloomsbury,
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First up, an apology. Where was the blog last weekend, I guess you are wondering? It was all written in my mind - but Bridie, at the last minute, got tickets for her, Charlie and me, and her cousin Toby, to go to watch the All Blacks v. Argentina at Wembley. Not your normal 'Ben Pentreath Ltd' Sunday evening, but now that I'm (step by step) on my way to (one day) becoming an honorary New Zealander... (perhaps even, one day, an actual New Zealander, who knows?) we couldn't wait. It was amazing. And by the time we were home, happy but tired, we were straight into bed and then headlong into the busiest week for a while.
Second up, I'm going to start the blog, instead of ending it, by saying that we're looking for assistance in the architecture and decoration office (and the shop). Zoe and I are looking for a bright and cheerful intern to help a few days a week, full time, part time - we can be a bit flexible - to assist Zoe in the practice management. We need someone to rush around, run errands, do things, get stuff sorted, buy lunches for client meetings, keep the passageway swept, get to the post office in time, help presentations, generally just be there. All that stuff and masses more. If you think that is your bag, please get in touch. If you know the perfect person, tell them! And then best person to email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
So, now it's time to settle in to last week's blog, which has happily settled into this week's blog as well. Because it's pure and simple about the dreamy weekends we've been having down in Dorset... the long, warm, September days... Indian Summer at last. I can't admit that we're going to be setting our alarms at 1.30am tonight to watch the blood moon, but that all seems to be part of this perfect autumn vibe, as well, doesn't it?
Last Saturday we woke incredibly early to find the garden soft and drenched in dew. The rising sun cast long blue shadows. Charlie zoomed off to Bridport to rootle around junk shops and I stayed in the garden with my camera in hand.
Marianna Kennedy was born in Canada but has lived and worked in the Spitalfields area of East London for twenty-five years. Her work reinterprets traditional forms, suffusing them with a contemporary aesthetic to produce pieces of timeless beauty. Central to her artistic vision is the respect for craftsmanship; each piece that bears her name is the result of many months of collaboration with traditional British artisans who apply their exacting standards to these modern designs.
This is a short blog this week.... Partly, because yesterday I was writing an article for the FT, and there's only so much writing you can do in a day; and partly, because on Saturday, when Charlie and I had a long, lovely afternoon exploring new corners of Highgate with our brilliant friend Ruth Guilding (she of Bible of British Taste which is the only blog I read immediately upon a post arriving in my email in tray... Ruth has incidentally promised to start blogging a bit more now that she's got her major book projects out of the way..) well, because I'd decided for once to leave my camera at home. Intentionally. I wanted a day of just looking and chatting, and not entirely seeing the world through the lens of the camera.
One day I can anticipate popping back up to the back streets of Camden and Highgate that we explored.... but I also already had a blog in mind, to be fair. Early on Saturday morning Charlie had set off (while I was reading in bed) to Portobello for a date with his favourite dealer - who for the purposes of the blog had better remain nameless.
An hour or so later he returned with these. The box on the left is a tiny, beautiful herbarium which may or may not make it into Charlie's pop-up shop when it opens next door to us in October at some time (he is very elusive as to when the date will actually be, or, for that matter what will be going on). The box on the right is what I'm going to write about now.
The case is made of the most beautiful marbled paper, faded and battered.
But pull it apart and you reveal the most beautiful, freshly coloured paper, perfectly laid across the seam. Continue reading
This is a strange tale, but very funny...
If you happened to read last week's blog, I said I'd be posting some photos of the new shop. Last weekend, Bridie and I did a massive re-vamp in the store. We closed for a couple of days, brought our builder Adam in, ripped out display cabinets, installed a beautiful new (old) shop counter, repainted, and displayed masses new stock. It was such fun... the sort of day that is hard work and a bit scary at the beginning but which leaves you with one of those 'worth it' feelings at the end of it all.
But the story really starts a few months ago.
"Guys", started an email from Colin, our friendly technical whizz who runs all the I.T. in the architecture studio and manages the shop website... "Guys, we have a problem".
"We've received this review on Google.... I'm very sorry... not sure what we can do about it...."
Colin attached a copy of the first review below, written by someone called Sacheverell Pei.
OH DEAR ME.
(you won't mind my including the two reviews that followed - thank you Nicholas, thank you Daniel).
But I read Sacheverell's review.
And I thought to myself....
It's a strange thing isn't it... how one minute you're there, the next minute you're here. On Monday, Charlie and I were near Lucca, for Valentina's birthday. The plan had been to go to the beach, but skies were grey, thunderstorms growled around and about; Val decided the beach would wait another day. We went to Villa Torrigiani, which I had never heard of, but which turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I've been to in Italy in a very long time.
I remember some friends of a friend coming back from a long holiday in Tuscany one August to announce that the time "had been characterised by rain and conversation".
Which sounded like such an improbably made-up E. M. Forster type of remark, and not quite the sort of thing I wanted to come back saying (for a number of reasons), that I began to get seriously worried on day two of our stay with Val. Thundery skies rolled in relentlessly... but they did, at least, make the remarkable view from Brolio Castle even more dramatic than usual.
The view across to Siena never really seems to change. I love these timeless towers.
As you will know, the blog is on holiday. I hope you might be too... or at least, I wouldn't try reading this all at once. It's a blog in at least two parts.
We had arrived in Florence late on Thursday evening, and woke early, to a morning of sparkling sunshine. Through our friend Kim Wilkie, we'd arranged to visit La Pietra, the beautiful villa owned by Harold Acton on the hills to the north of Florence. For eighteen years, Kim has been working on the restoration of the garden and landscape of this sublime villa, now owned by New York University.
We were meeting Nick Dakin-Elliot, Kim's friend and collaborator, and wonderful gardener, who 16 years ago arrived at La Pietra for a one-year sabbatical... and never left. We'd made a plan with Nick to meet in the centre of town early on Friday morning.
We walked down from our hotel, with its beautiful view across the skyline of Florence.