When Marnie was there

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Overy Saturday 22nd Sept 07

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I simply HAVE to write a few lines about this wonderful childrens book!

`When Marnie was there`, was written in 1967 by Joan G Robinson ( who wrote the Teddy Robinson books that I remember from my childhood), and this magical book set in `Little Overton` on the North Norfolk coast, is very charming and beautifully written. It is in fact set in Burnham Overy Staithe, where  Joan holidayed each summer with her children, indeed she is buried in the churchyard at St Clements.

The book:

Anna lives with foster parents, a misfit with no friends, always on the outside of things. Then she is sent to Norfolk to stay with old Mr and Mrs Pegg, where she runs wild on the sand dunes and around the water. There is a house, the Marsh House, which she feels she recognises – and she soon meets a strange little girl called Marnie, who becomes Anna’s first ever friend. Then one day, Marnie vanishes. A new family, the Lindsays, move into the Marsh House. Having learnt so much from Marnie about friendship, Anna makes firm friends with the Lindsays – and learns some strange truths about Marnie, who was not all she seemed…

I am fortunate enough to live just down the road from Burnham Overy, so the author`s hauntingly beautiful descriptions of marsh, and creeks, sea lavender and samphire and running in the dunes are very familiar to me, but for those who don`t know this wondrous area, the book will be no less charming. I might be slightly older than a child myself, but I couldn`t put it down!

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Sonia Delaunay

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I hot-footed it to Tate Modern on Thursday to see the fabulous Sonia Delaunay exhibition. I loved it . I particularly loved her later work, but also the paintings that she did during the first World War; when her and her husband Robert lived in Spain and Portugal. But it was interesting to find out ( and see more ) of her textiles designs too.

It was lovely to visit the Members restaurant (great views across the Thames) ,for a drink afterwards with a friend who is a member (definitely worth doing if you are a regular visitor to the Tate), and do buy the exhibition catalogue. The only disappointment was that the exhibition shop didn`t have any cards of her work on sale, something to do with copyright apparently, a shame as I usually leave any exhibition I visit with a clutch of arty postcards.

The exhibition at Tate Modern is on until August 9th.

Sonia Delaunay (November 14, 1885 – December 5, 1979) was a JewishFrench artist who, with her husband Robert Delaunay (of whom she said , “In Robert Delauney I found a poet. A poet who wrote not with words but with colours.”) and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. Her work extends to painting, textile design and stage set design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor.

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Richard Diebenkorn

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I meant to post this a while back as it`s some weeks since I went to this wonderful exhibition at The Royal Academy. I was truly gobsmacked at Richard Diebenkorn`s painting. A great visual seducer.

I loved each and every one of them. A must-visit exhibition.

Revered as one of the great post-war masters in his native United States, Richard Diebenkorn is an artist whose staunchly independent career takes us from abstraction to figuration and back again, a man described by the Washington Post as one of America’s “finest abstract painters” to a UK audience for the first time in more than 20 years. Diebenkorn’s career is broadly divided into three phases and the exhibition shows some of the most outstanding works from each period.

Beginning in the early 1950s, when Abstract Expressionism was a dominant force on the East Coast. Diebenkorn initially embraced abstraction, before making what was a surprising change of direction to figuration in the mid-1950s, which would persist until the mid 1960s. Then, returning to abstraction in the late 1960s, we look at his famous Ocean Park series, which according to the Boston Globe includes “some of the most beautiful works of art created in America or anywhere else since the Second World War.”Diebenkorn’s seductive colour palettes and intricately balanced compositions draw from the light and a sense of the places in which he worked, and define a career that spanned more than four decades.
The exhibition is on until June 4th
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Big eyes

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Director Tim Burton

Director Tim Burton

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Margaret Keane and Amy Adams

Margaret Keane and Amy Adams

I had been waiting excitedly for this film to come out on DVD, and I was not disappointed. I love biographical films, and Tim Burton directs this drama starring Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams.

The film follows the true story of American artist Margaret Keane (Adams), who, in the 1960s, allowed her husband Walter (Waltz) to claim credit for her artwork, he believing that a female artist could not find success through painting.

The phenomenon of Keane`s `big eyed waif`( incredibly kitsch to us now) paintings, and the mass production of them led to the Keanes acquiring huge amounts of wealth, and the paintings were in high demand throughout their time living together as husband and wife. However, when they later became separated, Margaret announced to the world that she was in fact the true author of the paintings, sparking a long-drawn-out legal battle between her and her estranged husband… Adams won a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

I loved the `50s/60s interiors, clothes and cars and true to form of many Tim Burton`s films, the cinematography had a slighty unreal, over-coloured, kitschy feel to it-just my vision of San Francisco and California in that period.

Margaret Keane remarried , and is still painting for her gallery in San Francisco.

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Roman Holiday

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Our suite at Margutta 54
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Picasso`s Studio

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Supper at Pizzaria dal Pollarolo
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Atop the Spanish Steps

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Trattoria Enzo al 29, Trastevere

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With our heads filled with still shots from two iconic films set in bella Roma; La Dolce Vita and Roman Holiday, we set off on our four day trip to the eternal city.

We do a city break each year at this time; ostensibly to celebrate our wedding anniversary and my birthday, but also in the hope of discovering new places ,and a touch of early spring sunshine. We got it.

I always do tons of research each trip as I love doing so. I trawl through websites such as Chic Retreats, I-Escape and Mr and Mrs Smith searching or simply google `Boutique Hotels in …` to find the perfect place, in the perfect location, (I found our hotel in Mr and Mrs Smith) . I also spend ages choosing where we will eat. That doesn`t mean we don`t come across delightful little lunchy places when we get there, often recommended by someone you start chatting to in a bar or café…. but I like to be booked in for a couple of dinners, so we don`t miss out on the eateries of our choice; being the foodies that we are. This was especially pertinent in the case of the tiny Da Enzo al 29, in Trastevere, as we got stuck in a taxi driving along the banks for the Tiber as they were filming the new James Bond film( utter chaos on the already crazy road), and if we hadn`t booked I think we would still have been queuing to eat , such is the popularity of this family-run  busy ,buzzy trattoria. It was a memorable meal that`s for sure. Sublime, simple, freshly cooked local food.  I searched out the places the Romans eat, and we had some of the best food we have ever eaten. When in Rome …

Take a peek at www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com for real inspiration., this is where I found Al Enzo amongst others .We love busy bustling trattorias with carafes of wine, lots of banter, and all crammed in for the love of food. We ate the best garlicky spaghetti con vongole, (I am truly mad about clams) at Trattoria Brunetti, and the most divine carbonara ever at Al Enzo, no gelatinous cream laden sauces, just fresh parmesan and pecorino, bright yellow egg yolks and chunks of smokey, fatty melt in the mouth pigs cheek.

Artichokes were on every menu, ( fried Jewish style) as was creamy white Burrata, and delicious oily anti pasti.I really  loved the aubergines which had just been thinly sliced and drowned in olive oil, parlsey , lemon and chilli, delicious with grilled lamb.

I could rave about the food for hours.Other foodie delights were the light as a feather pastries ( almond jam stuffed crosissants)  for breakfast each day at our favourite caffe Navone, a few hundred yards from our hotel, on the corner of Piazza del Popolo, (where we sat each days for a few hours faces to the sun and watching the oh so chic Italians in their black Moncler jackets and fur trimmed parkas),  the best, thinnest crispest pizza ever topped with zucchini flowers and anchovies at the fun Trattoria Pizzaria dal Pollarolo, family-owned since 1936 when it just sold chickens.I love stuffed Zucchini flowers too, full of ricotta and anchovies and fried in tempura…

I also swooned over the tiny glass of mascapone mousse topped with wild strawberries at Al Enzo as my husband sampled (at the insistence of the waiter of course)glass after glass of the chocolatey Jannamico liquer.

We stayed in Margutta 54. It is in the most perfect position, very central, the smartest most interesting area, and 20 minutes walk from the Spanish Steps, Borghese gardens et al. Owned by Count Alberto Moncada, whose great grand father built this amazing building in the 1920s.It  housed studios for artists and musicians such as Picasso( whose studio was opposite our suite), Fellini and Puccini. Indeed Gregory Peck`s apartment in Roman Holiday was three doors down from us.

Alberto has written a charming illustrated `Roman notebook` which each guest receives, and it was just perfect for us, with tales of his childhood running in the  Borghese gardens, his love of the Bloody Mary Cocktails at the Hotel de Russie , and special places to dine , drink and shop in.( I also took his advice and bought a piar of red socks for my son from a shop behind the Pantheon in the Via del Cestari where they sell `ecclestico` clothing; fascinating…these socks are made especially for the Pope!

We took his book everywhere with us. The Via Margutta was most definitely our favourite spot, a cobbledy street full of antique shops, galleries and quirky studios.We loved walking across the gravel courtyard amidst the artist studios each morning, opening our private gate and out into the sunshine to the Piazza as the city woke up.

We did a few touristy things bemoaning the crowds and the queues, but managed to see the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Gothic church Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and the Trevi Fountain which disappointedy had no water in it, as it is being renovated..so no coins in the fountain for us sadly.

Another highlight was going to the oldest jazz club in Italy-pre-booked before we went-Alexander Platz Jazz Club is in a sort of cave down some steps and all the great have played there. We loved it. It was everything a jazz club should be with a very smart all Italian crowd. We saw the amazing Brazilian saxophonist Sergio Galvao, who played both a tenor and alto sax.

Rome is stylish, full of great sights both ancient and modern, fabulous designer shops, the best food ever if you avoid touristy and uber expensive stuffy restaurants, walkable ( my feet did kill each night though) and very sunshiney. There are taxi ranks on the corner of each square ( you can`t flag a taxi here), and the drivers are fun and not pricey. For example the trips to the airport are fixed price from the centre of Rome .

And don`t ever forget to look up. Such beautiful building, shutters, architecture and the bluest of  skies….

Sit a while like we did each afternoon in the Borghese gardens or the Piazza del Popolo ( the peoples` square) and take it all in, people watch, sketch ( as my artist husband did), and listen to the strains of the buskers, church bells, and the hooting of cars.

Vini, Vidi, Vici !
Arriverderci bella Roma.

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A touch of the East

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I haven`t been into East for years to be honest, but my sister who rings regularly with lists of books that I MUST buy, and` have you seen` this or that on various websites, rang me to say that I MUST look at East website; as there was a scarf on there that she thought I would love. She was right.My sister has a branch of East  in her town of Reigate, but I prefer to shop online, so quickly took a peek. I loved it . It is fine white cotton and hand embroidered in yellow-fab for summer. It would look great worn with white linen. They have several other colour ways and similar styles ,but with different embroidery -all lovely.
I also spied some simply styled jute bags in fawn, yellow or denim-y blue, which are great for summer shopping or the beach. I would use one for the beach here in North Norfolk (as we go rather a lot) not when abroad; as I prefer something brighter and a more zingy colour-wise, but these are rather good looking and nice and roomy at 32cm x 46cm.
Now I am just awaiting the post!

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Kenny Garrett at Ronnie Scott`s

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The billing at Ronnie Scott`s did say that there ought to be a `storm warning` for the Kenny Garrett Quintet. All I can say is wow, wow ,wow!

Although we have seen quite a lot of jazz over the last ten years, the last time that I went to a `proper` jazz club was in New York ,when I was fortunate to see the late great American jazz singer and pianist Shirley Horn at the Blue Note.

I hadn`t been to Ronnie Scott`s before and I loved it. We had a good supper of smoked salmon and steak frites with béarnaise sauce and settled down to the jazz with glass of wine in hand. The place has a great atmosphere, cosy and smart, and the show was a sell-out. The house band; The James Pearson Trio were excellent, and I could have listened to them all night , but when Kenney Garrett walked onto the stage, the room went quiet.

Kenny Garrett (born October 9, 1960) is a Grammy Award-winning American post bop jazz saxophonist and flautist who gained fame in his youth as a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and of Miles Davis‘s band. He has since pursued a successful solo career and has been described as “…The most important alto saxophonist of his generation” by Washington City Paper and “…One of the most admired alto saxophonists in jazz after Charlie Parker by The New York Times.

He is a stirring alto and soprano saxophonist with a  hard-biting sound and compelling, passionate  stage presence.( He also had beautiful hands, and we were sitting right at the front by the stage so I could have reached out and touched them. I didn’t though so don`t worry!)  But he is one cool guy in his dark suit and embroidered skull cap, his saxophone is amazing too; studded with rhinestones…

His playing was mind blowing, supported by Vernell Brown on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass , McClenty Hunter on drums and Rudy Bird on percussion ( a long way from my son playing the triangle at prep-school ha ha).

The music  very much in the post-Coltrane vein , with Asian and African influences, twists and turns-a stirring muscular alto. I was very aware that I was in the presence of one of the greats. When he started playing it was mesmerising and truly fabulous. I have several of his albums but hearing him live was just amazing.

 

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