Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas in Carnaby Street

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Joy: Freezing Fog

Will Duguid in today's Guardian:

"Freezing fog: what's not to like? I like to think I'm a caring kind of guy, even where arrogant sociopaths who pollute the skies are concerned, but - respect to all you air passengers huddled in your blankets out there - don't you think this might be the planet trying to tell you something?

And if, like me, you're lucky enough to be snug as a bug in a well-insulated home, doesn't this have to be one of the best environmental stories of the year? Don't you love Nature herself finally taking over, to ground the planes that helped make this the hottest year in history, forcing everyone on to trains and coaches instead? Sorry, but ever since this fog thing started, I haven't been able to wipe the smile off my face."

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Friday, December 01, 2006

Clapham Common

Clapham Common. Get yours at

I've started a group on flickr for Clapham Common photographs - asserting a south London presence on the interweb!

We've gone over 30 members and 100 photos in the first week, so I'm pretty pleased.

Poor 'ol Clapham Common is probably not as photogenic as Hampstead Heath - however, we do have a lot of events and activities going on which I hope people will post photos of in future. And in the meantime, the group has certainly picked up some absolutely stunning images - ones that make you think "Wow! That was taken here?!"

So, join up, take photos, post!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

From Russia with . . . ?

Boz first alerted us to the genius that is the M&S Christmas ad.

Now Londonist is campaigning for the divine Bassey to be the Chrstmas Number 1.

And in a desperate atempt to find a new angle on the story, The Grauniad has a rant about the evils of drugs. This is amusing enough to quote at some length:

"Still, perhaps we should acknowledge the drug reference and salute a perfect portrait of the mixed-up, shaken-and-stirred mores of Britain circa late 2006: a 69-year-old grandmother - dressed, say M&S, in a £150 "Magicwear" hold-it-all-in dress - doing a Bond-themed gig in Superman's house and singing about being on E. Fingerfood and sensibly priced partywear all round!"

Works for me.

Meanwhile, over at You Tube (4 stars, 59,213 views, 31 comments and 136 times favourited as I write) the big debate seems to be why didn't Pink get the gig? Some people have no poety in their souls.

BUT - a sudden thought chills me - as we are all aware, real-life Russian ex-spies are suddenly all over our news broadcasts, especially ones dying in James Bondian bizarreness. Is M&S going to suffer blow back from the polonium 210 issue?

While I deplore the callous murder of innocent Russian ex-spies living in our midst, I have to say the British police are giving good investigation. While Vladimir vehemently denies all responsibility, PC Plod keeps on the trail of that polonium 210 and its 130 day half-life. Now, didn't I tell you this whole operation was FUBAR? How brilliant is it that the poison actually leaves traces everywhere it's been, and it appears to have come from Russia? No doubt Vladimir will soon feel the long arm of Britsh law fingering his collar. Or at least testing it for polonium.

Although, I'm also finding it just a tad convenient from the PR angle that one of BA's planes was held at Moscow airport. Almost as if physically making a point. Come on, given airline turnaround times surely all three could have been caught in London?

[update] - from Wipipedia: "A cube of pure polonium-210 about the size of a written period (0.35 mm wide, or 400 micrograms) would still be 3400 times the lethal dose."

Oh - and also:

Deadly Polonium-210 only $69!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ta Dah - Marie Antoinette

Late reviews - but what the hell -

Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola is more enjoyable than is reasonable for such a self-indulgent film; the cinematography and soundtrack, as well as Ms Dunst, are ravishing.

The movie it reminded me of most is Bertolucci's The Last Emperor - both films convincingly depict the effects on the captives of their gilded cages, and both are somewhat tableau-esque in construction. Bertolucci's story is aided by the extreme stylistic changes operating in his history - Imperial China to Art Deco to Mao. Alas, although Sofia does track the development of fashion at Versailles in the period from the stiff and formal panniered dresses of Marie's arrival in France, through the towering wig phase, and onwards to the deceptively simple 'natural' yet equally ruinously expensive flowing muslin gowns of the pre-revolutionary years, this transition is I fear too subtle for a modern audience to comprehend and certainly not enough to carry the plot.

Copolla's triumph is her exquisite, intimate perceptions of a life enmeshed in public royal ritual. I think her choice of near-contemporary music enhances this dimension.

Of course, if she wanted to be truly contemporary, she would have chosen tracks off Scissor Sisters latest CD, Ta-Dah. I think the most flattering thing I can say about it is that I bought it; I must have been the only person in the UK disappointed by their debut. Although some tracks were promising, and Jake Shears's voice was amazing, for me nothing reached the heights of their cover of Comfortably Numb.

I bought Ta-Dah after listening the thing on the band's Myspace page. It's really rather superb - a massive jump up from no.1 and also shows signs their musical development is just beginning. The first track, I don't feel like dancin' has justifiably been hailed as a dance classic, but I think Ooh is even better - in fact everything on the second half is just marvellous.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

polonium 210

The unfortunate Mr Litvenenko has now passed away, after a dramatic deathbed accusation of Putin. The British authorities have announced radioactive polonium 210 was found in his urine, at Itsu and the bar of the Mayfair Millennium Hotel - the places he visited on the 1st November.

At this point, poor 'ol Itsu is probably so over. Legend has it there's no such thing as bad publicity, but hell, radioactivity in a fast food joint? I don't think so. Also please note this radioactivity has lasted in the place for a full 3 weeks.

I have to say the media are being very blase about this. The Guardian leader comment seems to imply this is absolutely nomal and only to be expected for spies. Harsh.

There appears to be a backlash against the idea that the Russians did it. The rationale is that the Russians would have been far more discreet and clever than to murder someone in such a painfully public manner. Well, this could be a Russian FUBAR project. FUBAR projects can happen to anyone - ask Tony and W.

We have to expect that we are not being told everything the authorities know, and also that this clearly impacts on Anglo-Russian dilpomatic relations, so the whole thing is going to be managed. I think it is very interesting the Russian ambassador was called into the foreign office for what was described as a "routine meeting" yesterday.

Anyway, a gruesome murder mystery in central London. Can't decide whether it's more like an Agatha Christie or an Ian Fleming novel.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sushi - Yikes!

I'm going to have to rethink my attachment to sushi.

I can distinctly remember my wonderment when at the age of around 5 I first heard the Japanese ate raw fish. At that stage in my development, the formidable Catholic nuns at my nursery school had extreme difficulty getting me to eat cooked fish on Fridays.

However, time and taste marches on and certainly by the time of the Japan festival in the early 90s I was keen to try the stuff. And rapidly became hooked.

But now - oops. Firstly, a knowledgeable friend absolutely hated my choice of Japanese restaurant (a quite highly rated one, according to all the reviewers, here in South London).

And secondly, my most favourite snack joint is now the notorious scene of an (allegedly) KGB poisoning. Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident, exile and strong critic of Putin's goverment fell ill - of thallium poisoning - after lunch at Itsu in Picadilly.

I love the sushi at Itsu. Yes, its mass-market but the sushi is prepared on the premises and they don't overchill the rice. It's actually really nice and I love going there after a cultural session at the Royal Academy. I liked it so much I wrote a fan letter to Julian Metcalfe, its owner. (He sent a very sweet reply.)

But this is the sort of incident a restaurant can't live down. Sort of like Boris Becker bonking in a broom cupboad at Nobu, only much much much more negative. Much. It's one thing if the food makes you so frisky you can't keep zipped up. Quite another if you are poisoned. Yikes!

Friday, November 17, 2006

You know you're spending too much time on the internet when . . .

You first see the new M&S Christmas ad on someone else's blog.

Thanks, Boz.

Truly fantabulous advert - makes me want to rush to M&S (even though I only buy their food). Oh - and also - the new James Bond is out! Yippee!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Wisdom of Yorkies

I really like Yorkshire Terriers. The first I met and came to love was my Aunt's - Ozzie.

He looked very ratty compared to our Jack Russell, but was a total charmer to live with: complete terrier mischief and fun but with an 'off-switch', unlike the Jack Russells who just never stop. And also Yorkies do have a sense of their own safety, unlike the Jacks.

His coat used to get filthy every time we went outside, so bathing him became an almost daily event. I trained him to like the blow drier - he thought it was a wonderful game.

Ozzie was named for the rock star and was a pedigree bought at Harrod's. My aunt went in one Chistmas to buy a sewing machine and came out with a dog, of course much to my cousins' delight.

I once gave Oz his evening constitutional along the sea front in Hastings. There was a massive storm that night - the waves reared up out of the darkness and hit the sea wall with awesome force, shaking the walkway and sending foam 20-30 ft into he air. It was a fantastic sight, and being outside and so close to it was exhilarating.

Suddenly I looked down and there was no dog on the leash. He had slipped it. I freaked. I just knew the animal was in the water, and spent minutes tryng to spot the unfortunate creature out there in the savage inky blackness before another monster wave could crush him against the wall.

Nothing. Other late-night dog walkers hadn't seen him either. I ran up and down, calling his name; dreading having to go back to my aunt empty-handed.

And then above the roar of the sea I heard the howling. Behind me and above. I ran up the steps to see Oz cowered in the middle of the road, head between paws, howling his heart out. He barked at me reproachfully when I put his leash back on. As if to say: "You flipping idiot. What are you thinking??!"

And then he dragged me back home as fast his legs would carry him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Hooray for elections! Quite a positive result in the US mid-term elections. Due to the President’s rather scary approach to international relations, the rest of the world has taken far more of an interest in these elections than usual, and possibly more so in the UK than elsewhere.

Therefore I found it fascinating that an article on ‘International Reactions’ on the US edition of the CNN website covered France and Germany but did not so much as mention the UK.

Hello? People? – We’re meant to be your biggest allies? Remember us? ~ we’re the ones stuck with you in the quagmire in Iraq.

And we’ll be stuck there until the Americans decide to cut and run, or whatever they end up calling it.

In fact, it was suggested on the BBC’s Newsnight last night that the UK government (as distinct from our military or the public) might be the only body left arguing for “staying the course” if the Democrats manage to change US policy.

So so humiliating.

It was the 50th anniversary of the Suez Crisis this year. For a storm in a teacup it had powerful consequences – apparently, the Europeans started the European Union partly as a result (the French and Germans wanting to create a body that could counterbalance America), and the French kept the UK out for as long as possible (we were seen as too close to the USA).

The UK went through a period of introspection and avoided any military action at all until the Falklands. Since then, we’ve been pretty gung-ho again, BUT always with American approval or partnership.

And now we come to this. I wonder how the end-game in Iraq will affect the ‘Special Relationship’? At the very least, we won’t be so quick to jump on board each and every American project, no matter how mad and ill-prepared, as a matter of course. But will we finally commit to Europe? Oh, the identity issues of a small island!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fireworks over Clapham

The Council did a good job of the fireworks this year - although they sarted half-an-hour later than advertised. A crisp, clear, and chilly evening. Huge crowds dispersed after a great display off the Common to Clapham South or North: the Common tube was closed by order of the police, presumably to the delight of the many bars and restaurants lining Clapham High Street on the way to Clapham North station.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat?

From Hell

London today – a loud, proud, boastful city high on energy and rolling
in cash. The financial power of the City is flooding like a tsunami
over the old East End – Spitalfields is poised in a fragile and no
doubt brief balance between bland, concretized and glazed, assimilating
corporate glamour and the creative anarchy of bohemia and
multi-cultural Britain.

But duck down any of the side streets leading off Bishopsgate and in
two minutes you end up in an alleyway like this. An alley not much
changed from the days when Jack the Ripper stalked his victims in these
very streets. An alley where over a hundred years on, his presence and
the evil he did is still palpable. Sound drains into the dark. You’re
on your own here. Or are you?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Damien Rice's new fan

One tastes do change - I've noticed mine are moving on. Don't quite know what to ascribe the process to: partly of course I now maintain a single household and can do exactly as I choose, without anyone to influence me or to consider; also, the very many life-altering events of the past twelve months must affect me too.

The iPod on shuffle mode threw up "The Blower's Daughter" by Damien Rice from his CD "o". I bought this back in 2003 when it came out. I hadn't heard of Mr Rice at the time but I acted under the influence of ecstatic reviews.

I played a song or two. I hated it. Felt the first songs monotonous and dull and Mr Rice's delivery mannered and irritating.

Ivan laughed because he considered my musical enthusiasms strictly fashion-victim. Anyway, the CD was kept and eventually must have been dowloaded onto the iPod.

I didn't even recognise the artist when it played, but it totally swept me away. I listened to the album for the first time properly and adored it; not a weak moment on it. I've played it all day today; been in a lovely mellow mood.

He's got a new album out on the 6th November - have pre-ordered it from Amazon already.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Happy Ending for Battersea?

Parkview International deserves thanks for opening Battersea Power Station to the public (for the first time ever).

It is currently hosting the “China Power Station: Part 1”(until 5 November).

Go see it at all costs. It may be a last chance.

The artworks are completely overshadowed by the grandeur and pathos of the building itself. A vast and austere Art Deco concoction, it is clearly in very bad shape indeed, far far worse than one would anticipate from the usual long-distance views. Being inside is like being inside some fabulous wreck (the Titanic springs to mind): rusting riveted girders dimly emerge through the dripping gloom; imaginations can run riot on the crackled antique paint textures and ancient, cryptic signs in ancient fonts. This whole place is on the cusp of history: an anachronistic, discredited technology housed in a huge, stricken and seemingly hopeless brick and steel temple. Can one imagine Angkor Wat being redeveloped for contemporary use? Pompeii?

The very beauty of the building, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1929, was inspired by public concern the new station would be an eyesore. Now that its function is lost, the beauty remains as a poison chalice. So seductive and demanding, yet it has already finished one developer. And now Parkview International is drinking – or appears to be drinking – deep.

Battersea Power Station is as important to London as the Chrysler Building or Brooklyn Bridge is to New York, the Colisseum to Rome or the Eiffel tower to Paris. And yet Battersea is more vulnerable than all of these, as apart from vacant urban symbolism its fabric is compromised and it has yet to find a new reason to be.

It is shocking indeed that given this vulnerability, Wandsworth Council and English Heritage have foolishly, rashly given Parkview permission to demolish and rebuild the four chimneys, despite an engineering report saying they are repairable. Parkview is headquartered in Hong Kong and registered in the British Virgin Islands – pretty much impossible legally to make them rebuild four useless chimneys if they decide they can’t afford it. And without the chimneys the station is one step closer to total demolition. The empty site would be worth many, many, many millions.

Go see it before 5th November.

For more, check out the Wikipedia article.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Do I know you?

To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the
artist now.
- Samuel Beckett

We lose our hair, our teeth! Our bloom, our ideals.
- Samuel Beckett

Detail of a street mural in Notting Hill celebrating the centenerary of Samuel Beckett's birth this year.

The artist's name is Alex Martinez.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Swings and Roundabouts

Strange how things work out. In the 80s, the most famous ex-power station in London was the Battersea Power Station. An architectural icon visible across swathes of south west London, situated on the approaches to Victoria Station, and featured on the cover of a famous rock album, it was a building greatly loved by Londoners.

In the late 80s an attempt was made to transform it into a theme park. This failed - Battersea is the largest brick building in Europe, and the property crash destroyed the developer.

I’m sure I was not the only Londoner disappointed the Tate chose another, little-known power station off to the east to transform into Tate Modern. But in retrospect Nicholas Serota’s instincts were spot on: his station was a workable size in an area on the brink of massive revival and with good transport links.

The funny thing about Battersea is despite its central location it's actually quite tricky to get to.

Now another developer is having a go at Battersea. Everyone wishes him well; noone wants to see Battersea be demolished and it has been standing as a partial ruin for 20 years now.

But it is amusing how these things pan out. Tate Modern is a victim of its own success – a prisoner of its footfall and the massive and very difficult turbine hall. Each exhibit there has to surpass the last in spectacle and popularity – an increasingly difficult trick to pull off.

One can view Carsten Höller’s slides installation as a final capitulation : come on, Art? – or Theme Park? You decide.

And just at this juncture, the gods of irony have disposed the Battersea Power Station to open to the public briefly with a high-minded exhibition organized by the Serpentine Art Gallery of contemporary Chinese Art.

It seems most visitors are attracted by the building itself (never before opened to the public). But still – Battersea finally does “Art” while Tate Modern becomes the “theme park”. Too amusing.

I have not yet been to Battersea, but hope to this week. Also, building up courage for those slides at the Tate. Will report on any aesthetic experience.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


I have been following the doctor's advice regards my insomnia problem, so far with success. He says to avoid caffeine from midday onwards - a bit of a challenge for me, as I enjoy a cuppa tea. I have compromised by slowing down after lunch, and stopping completely at 6pm. Thereafter, it's camomile all the way.

Still, I have developed a taste for camomile, so that's good!

Have managed to avoid hitting the sleeping pills too hard - they still work when I take just a quarter - and no more mood issues to report.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Very British Coup

Around the world this autumn, the military seems to be rocking the boat. First of all, we had the traditional military coup in Thailand - which seems to have had some popular support - and now we are having a very British version here.

It's mind-blowing - completely unprecedented in the modern history of Britain - for the army to disparage so publicly and so fundamentally the foreign policy set by the elected government. And superbly done, say I - General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, has publicly called for the removal of British troops from Iraq 'soon', and has stated we are doing harm to the country by being there. In my view, he is acting in the best British traditions of speaking truth to power and with luck he will get away with it.

Hopefully this will be the catalyst which will bring the Labour Party to the boil and finally goad them into doing what they should have done years ago.

I have some sympathy with Tony Blair. He is possibly the best politician around in the UK, and has taken a fair few good and hard decisions. However, his decision to take the country to war in Iraq - and it seems to have been virtually decided by him single-handedly under the influence of George Bush - was catastrophically misjudged; so serious he can't recover from it.

The fall-out has been so bad. The endless cycle of the milirary quagmire in Iraq; the destabilisation of the Middle East; the increased rush to go nuclear by Iran; the increased risk of terrorism at home; the growing social isolationism of Muslims in the UK (and the rise of violent Islamophobia): all are pretty depressing developments. And then we've had the alleged suicide of a government scientist for trying to tell the truth; the BBC trashed by a judicial whitewash for telling the truth; cabinet miniters' careers ruined for telling the truth. And now we have the army being bolshy - great and amusing in context, but still, a step out of their necessary constitutional role and in some small way another destabilisation of the fragile and unwritten British Constitution. But initiated by Thatcher and developed by Blair, the office of the PM has been ever-increasingly Imperial, in itself causing stress to the healthy functioning of democracy.

The Downing Street memos demostrate that T. Blair had excellent FO advice before the war that the Americans had neglected to plan for the occupation of Iraq. And there were many warnings of the obvious dangers of invading at the time - all of which have proved accurate, so it's really impossible for Tony to say he could not have foreseen the disaster.

And yet, he clings desperately to power. We are sacrificing young soldiers' lives, the good name of our country, and the possibility of peacefully ending the clash of civilisations, on the altar of one man's ego and vanity. Tony, in this case History has spoken already. Another six months won't really change anything.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

The title is stupendous, and of course the story’s provenance is intriguing (based on Lauren Weisberger’s lightly fictionalised experience as Anna Wintour’s assistant). I have been looking forward to this film all year, and it did not disappoint – superbly crafted entertainment and one of the sharpest films about fashion ever, because it focuses so intently on the financial power of the industry, and understands the mechanics and the redundancy of consumer desire. Unlike Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter, for example, The Devil Wears Prada ignores designer eccentricities in favour of cold, hard brutal economics and its effects on the characters.

Meryl Streep’s performance as Miranda Priestly, the editor of Runway magazine, completely makes the film and I reckon will become legendary. On one level just a ‘character’ role – she’s the devil boss – Streep’s subtlety and laser sharp comic timing, allied with a brilliant script by Aline Brosh McKenna, transcends genre. Streep channels both the evil and the insidious seductiveness of the devil (say, Milton’s devil), conjuring up our admiration and even our sympathy. Priestly understands power inside-out: barely raising her voice above a whisper, she instils complete terror in her staff of glossy lovelies. And the film ruthlessly shows how they have to be lovely, just as a basic requirement of survival in this jungle.

Anne Hathaway plays Andy, the high-minded journalism graduate who lands the job millions would kill for and decides she wants to stick out a year for her CV’s sake. In this urban fairy tale, she’s a Cinderella who learns the fashion game: we watch her progress from goof to glamazon, but slowly and unwittingly become corrupted by her ambition. Her performance is a great foil for Streep's: a wide-eyed ingenue, and yet clever, committed, and emotionally true.

As with Sex and the City, part of the joy of this film is the level of intelligence and skill which have been invested in something so basically entertaining. Director David Frankel has worked excellently on both; costume designer Patricia Field has as well. Her work in this movie is very notable – gone are the endearing quirk and fashion-forwardness of Sex in the City; here all is high-taste, high-glamour, high-powered.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Drugs Hell

Hedgie is an exceptionally clean-living boy. No, really. I’m Saffie from Absolutely Fabulous (except for the gay part), which is not to say my parents were interesting 60’s bohemians, more like uptight 50’s soaks, single-handedly puffing their way through the output of a medium-sized cigarette factory every year. The end result is that my siblings and I avoid tobacco entirely and are very moderate drinkers.

My only real vices are sugar and caffeine.

I do enjoy the occasional drink. I am allergic to beer. Truth be told, I enjoy the mythology, ritual and snobbery of wine more than the actual stuff. I do like vodka and gin – especially in fruity cocktails. I once had a martini – in New York (I decided it was a good place to start). I was late at the bar, and my order came long after the others’. Seconds after I absorbed the shock of the goldfish bowl sized glass containing at least a pint of martini placed before me by the waiter my boss told me to ‘drink up’. A pint+ of martini chugged down on top of jetlag and an empty stomach and before a night out in New York with a party-animal boss is not a good idea.

But I digress. My mother unfortunately was a child of the 50s also in her battle with prescription drugs. This has left me wary of chemicals.

I occasionally (2-3 times a year) may take an aspirin or a paracetemol – that’s it. Ivan’s Catholic mother says that ‘pain is good for the soul’ and I generally go along with that.

But I have not been sleeping for months now: my first ever bout of sustained insomnia. I eventually went to the doctor last week and he prescribed sleeping pills.

I sliced the tablets in two and decided to take only one half each night. I’ve finished two pills so far: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Apart from Tuesday I’ve tried not to take them and have only done so after the church bell struck 2am.

They work like a charm. The trouble is my mood has been wildly affected during the day - I feel really strangely down. Today I was irrationally tearful and found myself contemplating a midnight stroll on Hungerford Bridge. This mood did clear up after I had a ham and tomato sandwich. But it doesn’t make sense as my career situation has improved – I’m starting next week on a freelance project which will net me a fist full of grands for 8 day’s work, so not bad. So why so depressed? I blame the pills. Looks like my choice is no sleep, exhaustion but a relatively clear head or sleep and feel like topping myself the next day.

Maybe I should chop the pills into quarters.

I won’t throw them away, but clearly they can’t be used every night. I’ll avoid them for the weekend, even if I don’t sleep, and see how things pan out.

[Update] – managed without last night; passed a restless night but at least chemical-free.

Friday, September 29, 2006

London Structures: High Victorian Taj Mahal

Hyde Park is crowded with deeply flawed Royal Monuments – the Diana Fountain is just the latest. This example is the High Victorian answer to the Taj Mahal; and certainly its grief-stricken genesis is as poignant. It is the future Empress of India’s memorial to her departed consort. The Victorians lavished the finest materials and most expensive talents of their day on its decoration. Unfortunately, they were less concerned about its engineering and we recently had to pay £17m for its renovation.

Ironically, this overgrown Gothic casket stands on the location of Great Britain’s supreme contribution to the history of modern architecture, the Crystal Palace, and commemorates the forward-thinking man who commissioned that vanished edifice.

Victoria’s grief was purest gold – she gilded Albert’s statue from head to foot. Her descendants, embarrassed by her faux pas, had it painted black to prevent German zeppelins navigating over London by the moonbeams glinting off Albert’s head (that’s what their press release said at the time). It remained black for the remainder of the 20th century.

The best thing English Heritage ever did was to regild the statue in direct defiance of the present Royal family’s objections. Tasteless but true to Victoria’s intentions: triumphantly making this what it needs so desperately to be – so bad it’s good.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Osanpo camera

Someone asked me if I was a fan of Osanpo technique. I hadn’t heard of it, but was inspired and rushed out to try it. After looking at the Osanpo Group on flickr however I realized firstly I had misunderstood, and secondly I had been doing classical Osanpo already:

"osanpo" mean is ...

osanpo = お散歩 (o-san-po)
お散歩 = 散歩 (san-po)
散 (san) = free
歩 (po) = walking
So.... osanpo = free walking.
and expanded "osanpo" meaning = "free walking, free riding, free driving"
So... osanpo camera = osanpo with your camera.”

Osanpo is taking your camera around wherever you go and shooting freely, whatever opportunity presents itself. Therefore, I suppose it’s true to say your work can be as ‘finished’ or as ‘rough’ as you like, as long as you are finding the opps on your travels.

Well, I liked it rough. After my chat, I went out and shot as randomly as it is possible to do – click, click, click – didn’t even check the viewfinder.

I learned a few things:

~ cameras can compose on their own
~ their compositions can be wildly original, shattering your ingrained preconceptions: your default settings. It can teach you to see freshly
~ nothing fails. It’s all good. If it’s not good, it’s funny
~ basically, it’s all fun
~ don’t sweat it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


"I always have secret enemies and more or less expect it. The reason my enemies are secret is because it's well known that my personal motto, tattooed to the inside of my heart, with the blood of the ones I've defeated, is

It's not revenge if they know."

Beautifully written, Alexnder Chee: words which resonate thrillingly with me tonight.

In unrelated news, I have been given an exciting freelance gig! whooo - yay me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Conversations with a Moron

ring-ring! ring-ring! ring-ring!

Hedgie: Hello, this is Hedgie speaking.

Moron: Can I please speak to your deputy head teacher?

Hedgie: I’m sorry. I imagine you are trying to call G*** M***** Primary School. I’m afraid their number has changed and BT has given me their old number. This is now a private phone number. I actually think G*** M***** Primary School has closed down, as I have been unable to find their new number. Directory enquiries does not have it, although the old number is all over the internet.

Moron: Thank you.


3 seconds later –

ring-ring! ring-ring! ring-ring!

Hedgie: Hello, Hedgie speaking.

Moron: Is this G*** M***** Primary School?

Hedgie: No. This is a private number.

Moron: ok.



Monday, September 25, 2006

Contemplating the universe and everything

Crunch time Zippy! The next few months are going to be very exciting.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Search Goes On

It looks as though my little blog is being picked up by the great God Google, according to my stat counter thingy. Analysis shows my blog is a food blog - just about every search was food related. Incredible - I don't think I write about food that much. The funniest/strangest request was:

"mango puree made by shamans"

Hmmm. Interesting.

And Macaron, it's definitely time to get your own website! Although I don't mind advertising as I think you're great.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Quote London

"We are city boys . . . we always believe that excessive love of nature leads to totalitarianism."

- Gilbert and George

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Baked goods. I really like the textures and colours in this: reminds me of an abstract painting.

The bread is not from Macaron this time - it's from Esca on
Clapham High Street, a deli/cafe/bakery which kick-started the posh
bread movement in these parts. Now we have Esca, Macaron, and a
restaurant on the High Street has a stall with artisanal breads which
spills out onto the pavement at weekends. The Lighthouse Bakery on
Northcote Rd is not too far away. So Claphamites are certainly going to be eating bread, as well as cake, for the foreseeable future.

I usually get Esca's organic white but they had sold out, so I tried
the farmhouse white. It's quite delicious toasted and smeared with my yoga teacher's blackcurrant jam. Yum!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Queen

Laudatory reviews in the weekend papers; Helen Mirren is a National Treasure; and she won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival: so therefore, a Must See.


The film has been wildly overpraised. It’s not bad; it’s just that it’s not very good. I think an interesting opportunity has been missed.

Mirren’s performance is a curate’s egg – I didn’t appreciate some of the more over-emphasised physical mannerisms (the walk), but she does deserve credit for imbuing the character with some interior life and complexity, despite the script. Her supporting cast of royals are a bunch of gurning gargoyles: hideous caricatures, the lot of them. Poor Charles fares especially badly.

The script rehearses the well-known events between Diana’s death and her funeral. Nothing new is revealed, it’s just imaginatively dressed up and dramatised.

The high point is the use of television footage intercut with the fictional recreation. In particular, the flashbacks of Diana are stunningly well integrated. Despite being almost a decade dead, her presence completely electrifies the screen whenever she appears. I think this angle could have been pursued more deeply: the mythological scale of her fame; the media hysteria; the New Labour spin machine attempting to engage with Royal presentational traditions. If the film attempted a more serious examination of these themes instead of focussing on the pedestrian televisual dramatisation of events, I think it could have done something quite interesting and profound.

Aspects of what could have been can be seen in Frears’ direction of the car crash sequence, intercut as it is with episodes from Diana’s career as a paparazzi target – totally brilliant – and also the funeral service, skilfully interwoven with the real Earl Spencer’s speech. I also very much enjoyed the sequence where the Queen takes Tony’s call in her Balmoral kitchens (crowds and crowds and crowds of startled flunkeys hastily try to accommodate her) as well as her return to Buckingham Palace to confront the hostile public and their venomous messages on the floral offerings. Totally bathetic is a sequence with the Queen confronting a stag on her Estate. Exactly what was not needed. But I suppose the decision had been taken that this was a Mirren vehicle.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I'm taking more and more photos. I get out of bed and shoot a few before breakfast, and then at odd moments in the day. I keep a notebook and I jot down ideas. I walk the city; that inspires ideas too. As does looking at other people's work and communicating with others.

If I'm out and I don't have my camera, I see things and kick myself.

Met two photographers recently: one in person and one via email; both conjured up out of the magic of cyberspace. This proved a powerful experience. Suddenly I realized: my camera is not a machine any more - it is beginning to be an instrument.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Confessions of a Famous Photographer

Ok - the headline is premature. And please forgive my boasting, but I am high on recognition as I type.

Less than 3 months on flickr, and one of my photos (above) has been picked up by Londonist. How absolutely cool is that? Huzaar!

Oh yes - it's a photo of a new mural in Southwark Street by Ian Davenport entitled Poured Lines. It had been hidden behind a teasing temporary cover until its official unveiling (due tomorrow 6th September). Turned out, too much of a tease as passing Londoners started ripping the cover off. The rips in the cover interested me, and I headed down to Southwark on Monday evening to photograph it before it finally disappeared forever.

I arrived to find the Council's officials busy removing the cover early, so I shot some snaps.

They told me the mural was being recovered today, so the 'temp' cover would look spiffy and fresh for the official unveiling. This is quite a task - apparently, this mural is longer than the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

More Chemistry

I am starting to regret my previous belief in our new security regimen.

Mixing up a bomb while on board a plane is not as easy as mixing a Sea Breeze (as we have been carefully led to believe) - it requires time (hours and hours), skill, temperature control (lots of ice), ventilation (noxious fumes): if someone was constructing a 7/7-type bomb in the airplane loos it is likely someone would notice something odd. More hair-raising details for the paranoid here.

Although my sister (a Science graduate) told me this evening it is theoretically possible to make an effective explosive out of a bag of flour and a cigarette lighter.

Anyway, apart from the security beaurocrats (let's face it - the government is never going to turn down an opportunity to grab greater power) - commerce also benefits, as Carol Sarler in today's Observer writes:

"The absurdity that is 'tightened security' at airports is making fortunes for some. Dutifully, we leave our perfume and mascara behind, slither naked through check-in, then gallop to Boots in departures to buy replacements, while Mr Boot and his landlord, BAA, laugh all the way to the bank. The French, mind, must be laughing louder. In their departures lounge at Nice last week, one woman flogged you 50ml of No 5 and then, only yards away at the boarding gate, another confiscated it. The plane home carried such a rich scent of fury and indignation, with an agreeable top-note of xenophobia, that you could have bottled that, instead."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dan Perjovschi in the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm

Perjovschi’s international reputation was made when he represented Romania at the 1999 Venice Biennale, chalking over the floor with drawings depicting post-Communist life which visitors erased with their feet as they explored them. As Perchovsky puts it, “We all live in a drawing, and sometimes this drawing is erased.”

In Stockholm, he had drawn all over the museum’s entrance foyer: witty, sharp comments on culture, International and Swedish politics and the museum world. His work raised interesting questions for me regards the status of graffiti art in modern culture. It appears from what I can see Perjovschi operates exclusively within the confines of the modern art establishment. Banksy does too, occasionally, of course, but usually on his own initiative and without requiring an invitation from the Tate, British Museum, or Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example. And while it is not impossible to contemplate, I don’t somehow see Banksy being invited to represent the UK at the Venice Biennale anytime soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zippy and the Big Foot

I first started taking Zippy around with me on my travels in the late 1990s – Paris, Athens, Rome, New York. However, my long-term companion violently disapproved of any Zippy action and Zippy led a half-life, hidden in closets and luggage, waiting for a few stolen moments in hotel rooms, never seeing the outside world.

Since we’ve gone our separate ways, however, Zippy has come out loud and proud. He is looking forward to seeing the world.

And he's off on his next adventure.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Quote London

"London is not romantic, no, London has the violence of a bolt of lightning . . . London is a city where only the fittest survive, the pulse rises fast and plummets as quickly, things get done and undone in a split second. London is a harsh place for many, where the idle rich can ignore the value of money, but where great ideas are born every day. London is a capital that dares."

Agnès Catherine Poirier, Touché: A French Woman’s Take on the English. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006

You know you spend too much time on the internet when . . .

. . . you find out about the latest terrorist outrage on someone else's blog rather than from the mainstream media. Hoo boy. Great catch, as they say on flickr, for the police. It's surprising how much cycnicism there is about this out in the blogosphere - my intuition is that this time it's real. (And this is a high vote of confidence from me: I doubted the Stockwell shooting from the moment I heard of it). Although it is notable our beloved Home Secretary came out of this smelling of roses for his 'firm' handling of the crisis: Tony away on holiday, Gordon up in Scotland on paternal leave, and Prescott deftly sidelined. Excellent timing indeed. Chaos unfolding in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc etc etc. Charming year we are having.

My other issue is that the security forces have been pushing this plastic bag idea at airport security all year, and now it's come into its own. I'm devastated, as I travel with bottles of water (to stave off thrombosis) and all my precious gizmos - powerbook, digital SLR and iPod. What will I do now? I'm definitely not putting the powerbook in the hold. I suppose the Nikon will have to be packed hyper-carefully, because I can't not take it. And if I can't listen to the iPod on the plane, that cuts out 50% of the point of taking it in the first place. Damn those pesky fundamentalists.

I am flying out to Sweden later this week (I think - must check!!) to meet up with my family for a weekend in Stockholm. My first visit to Sweden, so I'm quite excited. The relatives left today - or at least, I hope they did: I haven't yet heard otherwise from them.

I wanted to post this earlier, but lo and behold everytime I tried getting into Blogger it was taking a rest or checking its tubes or something. It has not escaped me that other people have been posting as normal, so I am revising my previous theory, and am coming over all paranoid - Blogger is out to get me! Arrgh!

Friday, August 04, 2006

August is here

Well, charming. My first post in weeks and Blogger decides to blow up and lose everything! Aaaaaaaargh!!!! Where was I? –

Starting again (this time on my laptop and then and copying and pasting into Blogger).

I have been neglectful. It appears to be a pattern that I fall off later in the month – I must improve! This month will be different, I promise.

What have I been up to? Flickr-ing mostly – it’s totally addictive. It seems to be motivating me to get back into photography and to try to improve my skills, which is great. Oh, and yoga. This week I collapsed in class (wimp) – my teacher blamed it on my ongoing and escalating family crisis. Could be – the headaches, the headaches! – Oh, and India is still the no. 1 choice on my iPod. Thank heavens for that.

Well, I haven’t even managed to keep up with reading all my favourite blogs, let alone writing anything myself. But two of my favourites have been really excellent just lately: Diva has been doing his annual survey and cross-comparison of chart hits through the decades; this is terrific fun and educational too. It ends today so hurry and vote. And if anyone hasn’t yet seen seen Joe’s videocast, then scoot over NOW.

Yesterday afternoon Jenny came round for tea and gossip. We tried out Macaron on The Pavement by the Common. It’s a trés chic patisserie which opened this summer. Mixed reviews – my Grand neighbour dissed it; Princess Satine raved (she’s back on carbs as her fitness regime just burns everything away the moment she swallows) – but the window displays alone justified a visit.

We had five cakes between us – oh, the shame. I can fully recommend the hazlenut cream choux ring and the fresh cherry tartlets. Going back for more, for sure.

Yes, I wonder. Back in the early 90s, the art director of the company I worked for banned me from entering the art department as he was convinced my aura crashed his macs. I wonder if my superpowers have grown and morphed and now I am crashing blogger? Ha ha! World domination is within my grasp!

22 The Pavement
London SW4 0HY
tel: 020 7498 2636

Thursday, July 13, 2006

iTunes Rules

Well, only one actually - Never buy a whole album, just singles - experiments, fillers, whims, etc. I prefer having CDs as a back-up should my poor powerbook have a meltdown. And although I love them I don't really trust Apple.

However, last week I broke the rules for India Arie, and it was worth it. Completely fabulous album which is chilling me out at all times of the day.

Monday, July 10, 2006

French and Saunders

The end of the TV contract? - or diversifying?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pride in the Navy

Originally uploaded by justinwstephens.

original caption:
"...handsome, shy sailor he met during World War II. Frank was a gentle soul and a loner. He was awkward around people but loved animals, especially birds.

Every time he got a shore leave in California, he stayed with my uncle. The two had a great relationship and when the war was over, Frank wanted to live with him, tend his huge garden and have lots of pets. Sadly, Frank never made it home from the Navy...

Until his last day on earth, my uncle always kept a birdbath in his garden with a statue of St. Francis on it, for Frank. As little kids in uncle's garden, we always called it St. Franks birdbath."

I'm having a bit of a naval moment. I found the above on Flickr and it choked me up. The pathos of that poor bereaved soul - not able in those days probably even to attend a military funeral for his partner to commemorate his life and sacrifice; having to be content with that private memorial in his garden (but what a beautiful one).

So we can be very proud of how far we have come, as the Royal Navy's contingent at EuroPride demonstrated. Of course, our military still has a way to go (as evidenced by the RAF and Army's behaviour over Pride) but still, the Americans are virtually back in WW2 days in terms of attitudes.

I posted my pic of our proud sailors below, but again on Flickr, Lewishamdreamer took this amazing portrait of a Naval officer at Pride. His photostream is well worth checking out.

Royal Naval Pride
Originally uploaded by lewishamdreamer.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Everywhere I've been (so far)

create your own visited countries map

Friday, July 07, 2006

Words from the Mayor

Ken Livingstone, on 7/7/05: “Nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.”

Worth repeating.

7th July anniversary

Weird day in London today. I slept badly - indeed, didn't sleep at all. At 4:30 am gave up and got out of bed and puttered about.

Amazing how many changes have happened in my life since last year. At least, I am so lucky to have had the opportunity of another year.

Thoughts and prayers today for everyone who lost a loved one, or who is living with injury.

Of course, all Londoners were affected on some level - it's quite staggering how even in a huge city with teeming multitudes, so many of one's friends and acquaintances (and indeed oneself) passed within a whisker of random terror.

I'm relieved and thankful no further outrage has happened in the last 12 months.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

News from Cambodia

It's cooller today - thank heavens for that; London was just getting nasty. Apparently, there were thunderstorms early in the morning the day before yesterday, but I missed them. I lay awake until past 4 am, and then when I'm asleep hurricanes and earthquakes can't wake me. However, the cooller weather is very welcome.

I got busy today writing another batch of job applications - hooray! So feel very virtuous now. Liz (She Who Must Be Obeyed) told me to go to the Brompton Oratory and light a candle to St Jude - patron saint of lost causes. Well, I might just do that!

One of Liz's endearing habits is to give all her nearest and dearest multiple (private) nicknames. Hedgie is one such example.

I heard from her today. Like me, she left her previous employers in controversial circumstances. Like me, she had to negotiate and sign a compromise agreement. However, in her case the payout was M-A-S-S-I-V-E. I suppose it helps if your ex-employer is a large multinational. Oh and did I say they are paying for her summer holiday this year?

Good old Liz - she's off backpacking in South East Asia: she can easily afford 7 star luxury all they way, but she prefers to save the money, and travel 'real' and get to know the culture and have experiences. When it all gets too much she books herself into the most appropriate luxury hotel for a chill out.

Her email informed me she had to send most of her clothes back, due to the difficulty of finding reliable porters on isolated Thai islands. Oh yes - and now she is regretting taking her powerbook. WiFi is difficult to find and expensive; much better to do what the backpackers do and book into an internet cafe.

Her last line puzzled me.

'Schmoozle is pregant'.

Who is Schmoozle? Do I know her? And why is she pregnant?

(P.S. The above gorgeous pic can be purchased as a fine art print here.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Whatever one's opinion about Damien Hirst's work, he is certainly adroit in his career choices and ability to leverage any context to his advantage.

Consider the above massive sculpture - entitled The Virgin Mother - currently residing in the forecourt of the Royal Academy as part of its Summer Exhibition. (I love my little mobile pic - it captures the threatening gleam wonderfully. Better, fantastic photos of this sculpture can be found here and here.)

The huge size of the piece means that this was the only possible location for it in the show. Outside, on its own, separated from the ghastly rubbish in the galleries. This piece will be the first and last thing people attending the show will see; also everyone passing down Piccadilly will see it too, without even having to pay money to get inside.

So, Hirst gets all the kudos of appearing in a RA show, without actually having to associate his work directly with the numbed-down crud within. And the RA gets a massive, name artist with a significant piece to raise their creative profile.

The bargain gets more and more strained every year. I walked the galleries desperately imagining ways to improve this show; of course, that's not the point at all - it's degenerated into an unholy mix of Academy ego massage and commercial exploitation: as a significant part of the London Season it rakes in huge amounts of dosh every year. Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner and Constable must be quietly screaming in their graves.

So, if you are an Ordinary Joe artist, here's how to play the game and make some money:

1) Forget painting - a numbered print edition (say up to 200) priced between £150 and £250 will do the trick

2) Relatively small size - needs to hang on a domestic English wall

3) Three subjects - Pedigree dogs (or cute puppies); cats and kittens; and whimsical views of suburban London (umbrellas on Primrose Hill, etc etc etc)


Monday, July 03, 2006

EuroPride, 1st July 2006

A N Wilson, in the Evening Standard last friday:

“The gay rights activists who began to campaign in America and carried their good work to Europe a quarter of a century ago and more were men and women of enormous and innovative courage. They have transformed the outlook of civilised humanity from one of ‘tolerance’, as though there was something to tolerate, to a celebration of homosexuality as one version of being human. People used to think it was virtuous to cane children. They used to think it was all right to keep wild songbirds in cages or to send the poor to workhouses.
Brave people challenged these assumptions. Those who march in EuroPride celebrate a comparable liberation from a hell, where gay people were sent to prison. It ill becomes a Minister for Equality, whatever her religious views, to stay away.”

He was talking about the Labour Government's Minister for Equality, Ruth Kelly, who is apparently a member of Opus Dei.

I don't know whether she changed her mind or not, but the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, marched at the head of the parade on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon:

Behind Ken came the disabled paraders and then the Royal Navy's contingent, the first time the defence force has officially attended a pride parade in dress uniform:

As usual, there were plenty of happy people on jolly floats:

This gentleman gets full marks for fit body, imaginative costume, and pose:

Props to all the fabulous drag queens who walked the whole way in killer footwear and huge wigs (in the heat):

More and more fabulous people everywhere:

And this being London there were a few fabulous buses too:

Friday, June 30, 2006

High Culture

I love the early-evening atmosphere of jolly anticipation in the West End at any time of year, but a sunny Summer’s evening is pretty special. The pic was taken in St Martin’s Lane yesterday. Avenue Q has just opened opposite the Coliseum, where I went to see Nixon In China.

I have to confess the last time I was at the ENO was to see Parsifal – this was pre-renovations, so must be more than five years ago. Goodness. (the renovations have improved front-of house tremendously)

Anyway, for Parsifal I was in the grand seats in the dress circle – how the mighty have fallen! (upwards and away) - for Nixon I was in the gods. This was my viewpoint:

Literally, second-last row in the house. I used to sit up here when I was a student, and I don’t remember the seats being quite so cramped. I would not call myself fat, and am 5’10”, but really had to sit very straight-up to squeeze my thighs into the space available. The poor guy next to me couldn’t manage to sit down at all and had to stand at the back for the performance.

This was super – the performance clearly was a hit with the capacity crowd. My very favourite bit is Madam Mao Tse-tung’s aria at the end of the second act: ‘I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung’. Opera at it’s highest pitch of music and drama – to me it’s almost like an modern-day version of an aria for the Queen of the Night. Madam Mao bangs on in a state of righteous dogmatism to a crescendo-ing orchestra while the stage around her explodes and everything falls apart. Terrific.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I eat London

Had lunch at the Taste of London event in Regent's Park today. It was a beautiful day for it - really sunny and hot. Every London park has its own personality, and Regent's Park is the grandest. It's my favourite. I thought lunch would be more fun and less crowded than dinner.

The idea of the event is to gather together chefs from a variety of London's restaurants in one location - under canvas tents - and they cook and serve sample-size portions of their signature dishes. The punters can walk about, using 'crown' tokens to buy the dishes they fancy. So its a real mix-and-match experience. As Fay Maschler the Evening Standard's restaurant critic put it more elegantly: "The wide range and scope of the restaurants confirm that London is definitively the most diverting city in the world in which to eat out."

I knew it would be fun, but I worried the food would suffer being cooked in quite challenging conditions away from professional kitchens. Among the chefs attending the event are some of London's most celebrated, so reputations were at stake!

I had printed out the menus from the internet previously, and chose items that I definitely wanted. This turned out to be advisable, because choosing on the hoof is difficult, and you could end up with quite random stuff, or miss out on something you'd want more.

I started with grilled scallops with pea puree, pea shoots and mint vinaigrette from Kensington Place

Pretty divine. The fun started with the chef cooking the scallops on the counter in full view, and final presentation happened before your eyes as well. Their scallops seemed very popular, and deservedly so. Perfectly cooked and fresh with peas, puree and mint. Flavours and textures worked brilliantly. Summery and so prettily served: I would rate this as my dish of the day.

Next up was braised pork belly with chick peas and salt cod brandade by Tom Aikens,. Mr Aikens is probably one of the hottest chefs working in London today, so I was delighted to spot him in his chef's outfit working the stand. I didn't snap him, as he has a combustible reputation and didn't dare upset him. His stand was the best presented at the show - really sophisticated and smart, almost completely triumphing over the 'tent' situation.

Again, all the ingredients meshed so well - this was silkily rich and subtle. Perhaps, for the roasting day, a little too rich and subtle - I would so much have preferred to enjoy this in an air-conditioned room!

My plan was to have crispy friend squid from Zuma, but they were experiencing a squid availability problem, so I went off piste and tried Bank's spice encrusted tuna, Israeli cous cous, and Chermoula dressing. This turned out to be a bright, summery dish with big flavours and lovely tuna, just seared and luscous.

Going back to Zuma, the squid was now available and they were handing it out quickly to a crowd of eager eaters. Tender squid, crispy peppery tempura nicely cut with lime rind and sliced green chili. Delicious, and Zuma wins my Most Generous Portion Award too.

Time for dessert: my first choice was vanilla mille feuille with roasted peaches, by Angela Hartnett at the Connaught. Crisp pastry and intensely flavoured roast peach; again beautifully presented. Yum.

Earlier, while I was at Tom Aikens, I saw a woman getting his mango rice with mango parfait and mango mousse - this looked so pretty I had to have one too. A really good desert; I love mango and this was so inventive with the mix of formats and textures.

I still had a few tokens left, so I decided on Roka's strawberry and jasmine flower ice cone. Unfortunately, they had a temporary fridge malfunction so I got a smoothy from Innocent instead.

All in all, I'd say this was a super afternoon out and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in food. By and large, the chefs coped wonderfully away from their kitchens and those I saw seemed to be enjoying the jolly fairground atmosphere. And one covers such wide culinary territory so easily. I'm quite keen on going to Tom Aikens and Angela Hartnett, and the Kensington Place scallops are definitely something worth doing again!

On the way out picked up a welcome bottle of ice-cold water from the flirty boys at M&S. Then staggered homewards.