Plus ça change on Mars and Venus

IMG_1023In the Nineties, dare I say so, we all read it.  In fact we read two of them: ‘Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus’, and ‘Mars and Venus on a Date.’

This was a hotly anticipated ‘sermon’ at The School of Life: An audience with John Gray – author of those books.

Back in the day we’d looked to him for guidance in a dating world where we were all a bit confused. As working women we’d been told we could have it all – however those paths to high flying careers had been littered with obstacles, one of which was a conundrum re our relationships with men – or more specifically male and female ‘roles.’

My cousin smiled: “I wonder how he’ll address it today – we’re twenty years on; we didn’t even have the internet back then, let alone smart phones and app dating.”

Conway Hall was busy, sun flitted momentarily past large paned windows on the ceiling.  Hundreds of women (and a few men) sat on the edge of their seats.

After the customary sing-a-long hymn, he came bounding onto the stage. The applause was heartfelt before he said a word – an indication of the bond created by so many conversations back then in a world where we lived in rented flats, had drinks after work, and attended multiple parties on a Saturday night.

Continue reading “Plus ça change on Mars and Venus”

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A Conversation Piece

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‘Witness’ by Peter Lanyon. *

January. Not the easiest month to make a break for it and get out there. However, a kind invitation to an evening at Home House with René Gimpel from the renowned West End Gallery debating all things art collecting roused my curiosity.

His talk was gently informative and afterwards his answers to the assembled audience on questions ranging from “What’s the difference between cinema and video art?” to “Should I buy Keith Haring now?” were compassionate and eloquent.  “Anyone can become an expert – that’s the great thing about art” he stated, “You just have to enter into the conversation.”

The mood in the elegant drawing room was relaxed and energised. The chat flowed amongst cushy sofas and soft lighting: The aftermath of a season of goodwill infused with some urgency of new year intent.

I approached René, curious to learn more:  “Did you see Bowie’s collection at Sotheby’s?” I asked – somewhat naively.
Rene looked at me, as a smile came to his lips. “Yes, he was a client of ours. I’ve got a lovely story about him if you’d like to hear it.”

My excited expression prompted the tale:

“Well, he came to me in the 80’s.  He was interested in starting to collect art. He wanted to learn everything about it. He told me of a particular Peter Lanyon painting he liked and asked if I could get it for him. So, I rang Sheila, Peter’s wife, and she sent it up.  Bowie came in and I took him down to the basement to fetch the picture.  It was dark and dusty so I offered to bring the painting up to the gallery.  ‘No, let’s just sit here and look at it’ he said, motioning to the stairs.

We sat on the steps and contemplated the piece in silence for some time.

After a while he pointed to the right side of the picture and said: ‘It’s got a tyre mark on it’.  I looked at it aghast and thought – gosh that’s my eyesight; I knew Peter kept his pictures in the garage at home and immediately thought he’d backed into it. I started to apologise, but he interrupted me and said: ‘No, no, this is the one I wanted: Peter ran over it deliberately – he thought it looked better that way.’

I introduced him to high art collectors and those in the middle – he was particularly interested in the latter and I remember a trip to Richmond with him to visit one. He was extremely knowledgeable about modern British art – hence his knowing of Peter’s ‘tyre’ painting” he concluded.

I basked in the warmth of the story, reluctant to leave my place on the stairs at Gimpel Fils with René and Bowie; such edifying company on a freezing cold winter’s night.

* ‘Witness’ by Peter Lanyon. Dated April 1961. From the BOWIE/COLLECTOR sale at Sotheby’s, London, November 2016. Image copywrited to Sotheby’s.

 

Village of Beauty

img_8950“It’s gives you a break, that’s the most important thing” Kamila told me as she explained the Jean d’Estrées Vitamin C Facial.  “And, that’s what we’re about too, we like people to come here – men, women, couples, groups of friends, basically everyone can be together and get everything done.  We’re like a one stop shop for relaxation through treatments.”

I can testify that to be the truth, as I have now had various beauty treatments at this local emporium – one more delicious than the next – from mani/pedis to a massage to various other more intimate ones.  However, this, the facial, was what I really longed for.  Anything, but anything that can give me a break from daily hecticness more than floats my boat. Plus, if it’s good enough for A-Listers such as Luke Evans, then it’s good enough for me.

The familiar strains of Stevie could be heard as we discussed the options: ‘’till you come back to me, that’s where I wanna be’.

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Norte and South

IMG_3249I’ve long been fascinated by graffiti and street art – from days of New York living where the subways trains rattled past spray-painted with a thousand colours.  By whom, I used to wonder, and when and how? The mystery of incognito people decorating vehicles and walls in the dead of night or when no one was looking intrigued me.

Fast forward to August 2016 and the opening of ‘Norte and South’ an urban art exhibition at Atzaró hotel in Ibiza, and it’s clear things have developed in that world.  Possibly the most beautifully situated luxury boutique hotel in Ibiza annually hosts a show of street artists whose work now fetches none too shabby prices, and adorn the walls of the most high spec villas and homes. In short – it’s moved from the outside in.

The artists’ names indicate anonymity: Sixe, Inkie, Vinz, Miss Van are some that together with the use of masks in many of the paintings perpetuate the theme of mystery and secrecy necessitated by illegal street painting.

I asked Inkie what the difference was between a graffiti artist and a street artist. “Grafitti is about making your mark by spray painting surfaces freehand – then you tag (sign) it – to show you’ve been there.  It’s a territorial thing.  If someone graffitis over an existing piece on a wall somewhere – there’s gonna be trouble..”

So far so understood.  But what about street art? “Well, that’s work produced using stencils and print.  It’s more iconic image based work.” I was getting the gist.
“And your name?” I asked, “Inkie?”
“You know, it’s like an ink fingerprint.”

It was all making perfect sense, until I spotted the magnificent ‘Dimensions’ by Sixe Paredes. Continue reading “Norte and South”

Wondrous Stevie

IMG_2906As with the best holidays, the blues follow: They’re inescapable. And so it was for Stevie Wonder at Hyde Park.  Such was the sublime soulfulness of Stevie and his band’s performance of ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ that the only way from such an up was an inevitable down today. But tonight when I listened to some of my recordings I felt the magic again.

The day had started inconspicuously enough.  Meeting my cousin, we were excited at the prospect, but exhausted from a hard working week; keen for a catch up and a sit down.

With a mid forties average age audience, we remained seated during Corinne Bailey Rae and read the papers. Pharrell stirred us at 5.30pm and at 6.30pm we stood to attention to salut one of my all time favourite singers.

‘Songs in the Key of Life’ was the first (double) album I ever bought on cassette, and the first song I christened my first hi-fi with was ‘Isn’t She Lovely’.  That’s a lot of firsts.

Through the humour and charm of his performance, frequently spouting ‘cockney’ and admonishing the crowd when they came in too soon to sing a long, Stevie had us all in the palm of his hand.  And what a comforting and gentle hand it was too.  He reminded us of the importance of love over hate and how we can all play a part in turning things around. His rendition of ‘Pastime Paradise’ gave me goosebumps – a gospel choir coming in strong with a heart-rending  chorus of ‘We Shall Overcome’.

After he performed ‘Joy Inside My Tears’ he wiped his from mirrored-shades protected eyes. He wasn’t the only one.

Before he sang ‘If it’s Magic’ he told us that his harpist had recently died from cancer, and that the last backing track she had recorded to accompany this tune would be played with him now.

Through it all – from his array of stupendously excellent singers’ and musicians’ solos contributing to the democratic perfection of a truly beautiful and uplifting whole, the occasion was tinged with a bittersweetness.  Bitter in that so many geniuses and legends of note have left us recently; a seeming rise in troubled times and uncertainty; sweet in that Stevie in all his magnificence continues to inspire – despite a debilitation that from birth must have challenged him in all aspects of his life.

His message was clear: If I can do it, you can:  ‘We can all make a difference when we choose love over hate’ he said.

Poignancy infused this three and a half hour set in the most soaring way: Despite feeling ill that day, he’d arrived to be here, and as darkness fell he called out to the crowd: ‘We’ve got 20 more minutes before they close the park: Let’s turn it out!’ He didn’t want to go home, and neither did we.

Highlights and a Chelsea Blow Dry

IMG_1997Pinter. Harold Pinter. The name says tension to me and a play fraught with awkwardness, strain, characters stretched to breaking point.  I wasn’t sure I could handle a second one in as many months, but theatre invitations are rather lovely and it would be a hard woman that could say ‘no’.

I gasped as I entered The Old Vic to take my seat – grand and imposing and absolutely packed to the rafters. V’s programme lay on my lap with no time to read as the final bell sounded and this evening’s performance of The Caretaker was off.

As the curtain raised, like a projected image, the set moved towards us and we were there; back in some dingy Pinteresque bedroom with peeling wallpaper, junk everywhere, joy buried under neglect, the purpose of survival laying comfort to rest.

So far, so expected.

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For Sir Terry Wogan

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Snorkers chomping; tennis balls popping; cones stopping; poisoned dwarf on windswept patio; Abba’s arrival, nurtured my thriving.

A chemist in Great Portland Street, a ‘Hello Terry’ from me,

a glance upwards from where you sought something on a shelf below,

‘Hello’ back with a warm smile.

To now.

Pips on time.

Missing is your grace, and a wit that celebrated our foibles in so many elegant and kindly ways.

All that glitters

IMG_0581Denise and I hugged goodbye.  “Keep in touch” she said.  “I want an update on Tolga.”

Indeed there could not have been a more appropriate private view in the world to attend other than Lincoln Townley’s ‘W1’ last night.  I wasn’t even sure why I was there – other than a very lovely invite from my celeb cuz who I’m occasionally honoured to accompany on such jaunts. But, at the end of the evening I knew exactly why.

I googled the artist en route to the Royal Academy, only to discover he is way up there with the portrait painters of today.  Hollywood hasn’t escaped him – and recognition is worldly and unanimous. I was particularly struck by his painting of Al Pacino.

Having found the gallery within this noble institution – ‘To the right of the courtyard at the far end’ Bex’s message said – I wandered in to friends and family of the artist and various other showbiz acquaintances.

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Austentatious

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Scudding soft blue skies and lots of them met me as I ambled into the elegant city centre of Edinburgh on day three of the Fringe.

Searching for the exact venue in this most packed and convoluted of festivals, I eventually found the Udderbelly – my number one entertainment destination for the day.

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On entering the upside down cow, we were given a slip of paper.  It looked like a Penguin novel cover, but the title was blank, and herein lay the magic of this particular theatrical experience.  The audience were invited to write down a title suggestion for the ‘long lost’ Jane Austen novel and submit it to one of the cast who wandered about with a black bowler hat collecting them.

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Ain’t no party like a Party party

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“I’m not sure why we’re looking at a film of sharks and bottom feeders, are you?” I said to my new friend Nelson as we sunk further into a comfy padded leather sofa at the National Liberal Club.  “I mean what’s this got to do with the General Election?”

Nelson nodded sagely.  “Well, don’t you see, that’s exactly the point?  Someone was told he had to work this evening and obviously went on YouTube, cobbled together three hours of this stuff for us to watch.  It’s some sort of divine retribution.  Let’s face it you don’t normally see just sharks and bottom feeders on a nature programme with no commentary whatsoever.”

I had to admit he was right, and it got me thinking. What was it all about?

Continue reading “Ain’t no party like a Party party”