Monday 17 July 2023

I was thrilled to bag a ticket at long last to visit the Cosmic House - you have to be quick off the mark when they're released - and it's now top of my list of 'Best Things To Do in London for a Fiver.' The house was the home of Charles Jencks, the post-modernist architect who lived there until he was 80 (and I am lost in admiration if he still managed that spiral staircase, 52 steps one for every week of the year - and very impressed with myself, too, because I gulped when I saw it!). I'm not a fan of post-modernism but this eccentric house was fascinating to see - and even Jencks admitted that he had gone Too Far. It's so busy ... throbbing with ideas about life, the universe and everything, you feel exhausted looking at it. It did strike me as a very masculine home - his big, important ideas squashing any sign of the wife and young family who lived there too. (Tellingly, his daughter says that she didn't like bringing her friends home.) And I'm guessing that the person who designed the witty frieze of spoons in the kitchen wasn't the person who had to do the fiddly cleaning - though I suppose that if you can afford a Holland Park mansion, you can afford the staff to go with it. Frankly, I could live without my husband exercising his schoolboy 'wit' in the cloakroom ... the symmetrical double flush to the loo - one side works, the other doesn't - well, hilarious if you're 14, but the women visitors in my tour group all agreed that it verged on bullying and we wouldn't want to embarrass our guests for a larf. (Symmetrical soaps, too ... one tablet is soap, the other is stone.) Much use is made of MDF ... in fact, Jencks was really like a more high-minded Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. You can wander round at your own pace - sit on the (very uncomfortable) furniture - and be very grateful indeed that you don't live with a clever clogs with an insatiable urge for DIY. What I really did love was the beautiful garden designed by Jencks'wife Maggie Keswick; I remember reading her book about Chinese gardens before what for us seemed a very adventurous trip to China back in the 1980s. And around the corner from the Cosmic House is the Best Horribly Unhealthy Lunch for a Fiver from here. Oh, those buns ... no seating, but if you're determined you can grapple with bun/coffee/monsoonal downpour whilst lurking in a doorway. Fuelled with 5000 calories (full disclosure: it was a cheesecake bun ... the whopping XXL Wimbledon bun filled with clotted cream seemed excessive even for me), I jumped on a bus to the National Portrait Gallery. Bad mistake - it was heaving. And it used to be such a calm, peaceful hideaway for discoursing with Brontes or Beatrix Potter. I hope it's just temporary enthusiasm and too much publicity for the revamp. Too hot - too crowded - too noisy ... I gave it just 10 minutes and went home.

Sunday 2 July 2023

I'm back ... a feel-good, exuberant exhibition of Andy Warhol's textiles has inspired me to come back to the poor old blog. Who wouldn't smile at dirndl skirts and summer holiday frocks printed with ice cream cones and toffee apples, flacons of 'Fanel No6' or even Argyle socks and baby bootees? A philodendron print dress in pink or gold - from Palm Fashions of Florida - was very Mad Men's wives - and only needed to be accessorised with a dry martini and a Virginia Slim. I rather doubted if the owner of the witty brushes and brooms frock ever needed to wield one in her own kitchen ... surely the help did the dirty work?
So many things I haven't written up (more for myself taking stock at the end of the year when it's all melded into one!) ... a brief holiday in Lisbon, a jolly visit to a new gallery with a teenage friend who is the best company, one mediocre memoir and a long, fascinating biography, an exhibition that most critics loved but I thought was mostly tosh ...
But I did love Piet Mondrian's amaryllis - I would never have guessed the artist - and was thrilled when mine from last Christmas belatedly pushed out a couple of flowers. (They seem to thrive on neglect but possibly not as much neglect as they get here!) Blogs, pot plants ... must try to do better!
PS I forgot to mention films in my round-up but this French film about a single mother struggling to commute into Paris during a transport strike is completely gripping and yes, absolutely as good as a thriller. Still in cinemas but only just.