Snowdon at the National Portrait Gallery

Snowdon: A Life in View.

photo 1

A free exhibition of over 30 black and white photographs taken by Lord Snowdon has opened at London’s National Portrait Gallery. The display includes portraits from his gift of 130 original prints to the gallery, and shows the many aspects of his work. Included are some of the early photographs he took of the Royal family as well as those of literary people, actors and fashion icons. His career spanned 30 years with the Sunday Times magazine, as well as working for British Vogue where he paved the way for change in fashion photography. Snowdon married Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1960 in the first globally televised royal wedding.

For me highlights of the exhibition are the early photographs of HRH the Queen and Prince Philip as well as a photograph of David Bowie taken for Vogue in 1978.

A book Snowdon: A Life in View, a personal and complete retrospective of his career, has been published in conjunction with the exhibition.
photo 2 T. 020 7306 0055

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Constable at the V&A

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows

Constable, The Making of a Master opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum on 20 September. The V&A is the leading centre for the study of Constable’s works having in its possession over 300 paintings, sketches, drawings and watercolours.

The aim of the exhibition is to make visitors look at his work in a different way, breaking new ground in showing Constable as an art collector, addressing his lifelong relationship with his artistic heroes, from his early introduction to Old Masters to the numerous etchings he collected.

A film shows some of the places Constable painted, as they appear today. Among them, Hampstead Heath, Dedham Mill and Lock, Brighton beach, and Salisbury Cathedral.

Seven sections include his beginnings, outdoor sketching, and the copying of other artists who he admired. Some of his paintings are displayed side by side with those artists that influenced his work. These include Thomas Gainsborough’s Landscape with a Pool; Peter Paul Rubens’ Landscape by Midnight; and JMW Turner’s Willows Beside a Stream. Constable’s study of natural effects enabled him to transfer the outdoor oil sketch into a working tool.

Various events, talks, lectures, and courses are being held throughout the period of the exhibition which runs until 11 January, 2015.
Tickets £14. T. 020 7942 2000

The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain

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Must see theatre, Great Britain

Aaron Neil (Sully Kassam) 2014 by Brinkoff-Mogenburg The National Theatre has another success on their hands with the transfer to the Theatre Royal in London’s Haymarket of Great Britain written by Richard Bean. A comedy of today, to my mind, this is the best play currently on in the West End.
I am not into slapstick comedy but Great Britain keeps you laughing. It is highly topical, think of the phone hacking scandal, and its not difficult to guess who everyone is despite the name changes. The story focuses on a sleaze tabloid, The Free Press, aka The News of the World. Outstanding performances from all the cast not least of all Lucy Punch, who plays Paige Britain, the newspaper’s ambitious News Editor. Jo Dockery with curly long hair plays the editor aka Rebecca Brooks who claims to know nothing about what is going on in her newspaper. The newspaper’s proprietor is Irish but there is no getting away from the fact that he is supposed to be Rupert Murdoch. No one is left unscathed in this fast moving comedy. Even HRH The Queen is given a ribbing. Not for anyone who hates strong language. However, in this production, it is acceptable.

Theatre Royal Haymarket
Mon – Sat 7.30pm matinees Wed & Sat 2.30 pm
Box office T. 020 7930 8800
Worth noting that there are £15.00 tickets available from 10am on the day of the performance – one ticket per person.
Lucy Punch as Paige Britain 2014 by Brinkoff-Mogenburg

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Sole Bay Fish Co’s Restaurant re-opens in Southwold

photo 1 Southwold borders on the North Atlantic Sea. The water inlet between the town and Walberswick in Suffolk is ‘the’ place to come for the best fish and chips in Southwold, but now also for platters of shellfish.

Although I missed the opening, I was fortunate enough to check out the Sole Bay Fish Co’s revamped decor a day later. An outside eating area has large tables overlooking fields with Southwold’s distinctive lighthouse in the distance. Poppy, my puppy, was allowed into the restaurant although we ate in their courtyard which has large sharing tables. We landed up eating with another couple who immediately introduced themselves, and my girlfriend and I chatted to them for most of the evening.

During the day at its entrance the restaurant has a fishmongers where an impressive array of fresh fish is sold. The restaurant section is open from midday to 3pm when, if you want to eat here, you need to bring your own bread and wine. In the evening when the menu is mainly seafood, their drinks’ licence kicks in. Platters of seafood, depending on how many there are of you, can be ordered for any amount of people although on the menu as a main course for two. There are various menus, mainly with either crab or lobster as the base and served with smoked salmon, shrimps, New Zealand mussels, cockles and winkles. If shellfish isn’t your thing, there is also a fish alternative such as, on the day we visited, locally sourced seabass fillet served on a bed of samphire.

Prices are realistic. The crab platter for 2 is £25.00 with 1/2 chargrilled lobster and chips £15.00. A definite plus for the area. Open seven days a week.
T. 01502 724 241

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Dordogne Valley

For anyone looking for a slow pace of life, somewhere where there is no choice but to relax then the Dordogne Valley is the perfect answer. In Martel, we stayed at the Relais Sainte-Anne which is one of those hotels, although only three star, which is a real find. The owners are a young couple. He is the chef and she looks after the hotel. We were greeted on arrival by three dogs which made my day. It is located in a former girl’s school, and all the rooms are different. There is a gorgous outdoor heated swimming pool. You need a car to get around but for a weekend away, it is ideal and very romantic.
Foodies will be in their element in the Dordogne, unless worried about calories, as fois gras and duck tends to dominate the menus. Rather than following a ‘wine’ route, the area promotes the ‘nut’ route, with field of walnuts which are grown here in quantity. I tasted the most delicious nut tart at Le Cantou restaurant in the pretty red village of Collonges La Rouge where the buildings are red because of the iron in the surrounding rocks. The restaurant kindly gave me their recipe.
Mix together 1/2 litre of liquid cream, two eggs, 200 grammes of powder sugar, and 200 grammes of crushed (into very small pieces) walnuts. Turn into a shallow baking tin and cook in the oven for 1/2 hour at 200º centigrade.
There is also an alcholic nut drink which is made locally and, as I understand it, only sold locally. Served very cold from the freezer, it is both an aperitif and after dinner drink. A drizzle also livens up vanilla ice-cream.
A more detailed feature that I wrote on the Dordogne can be found on the website.


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Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery

Virginia Woolf by Man Ray, 27 November 1934 © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Cologne © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014

Virginia Woolf by Man Ray, 27 November 1934 © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Cologne © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014

A major exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision opens at the National Portrait Gallery just off London’s Trafalgar Square. Exploring the life of Virginia Woolf, one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, portraiture, imagery, letters and documentation cover her early life, literary interests, awareness of modernity, as well as her feminist and political views that contributed to altering the shape and purpose of modern fiction.

In 1904 the Stephen (her surname until she married Leonard Woolf) siblings moved to Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, and began holding ‘at homes’. Led by a determination to rethink how one should live, they introduced experiments and reforms that challenged ideas and Victorian customs. They formed a core group of friends that became known as the ‘Bloomsbury’ set. Within this group were her sister Vanessa Ball and Duncan Grant as well as the writer Leonard Woolf whom she married. Due to her mental well-being, The Woolfs moved to Hogarth House in Richmond, and there founded the Hogarth Press. She eventually took her own life.

Highlights of the exhibition include portraits of Woolf by her Bloomsbury Group contemporaries.
The exhibition runs from 10 July to 26 October 2014-07-09
Adult £7 (with Gift Aid) Seniors £6.50 concessions £6.

A must for anyone interested in the Bloomsbury Set is a visit to the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Charleston in Sussex where the walls of their home, now a museum, are painted with their work.

Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell c.1912 © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett. Photo credit: © National Trust / Charles Thomas

Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell c.1912 © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett. Photo credit: © National Trust / Charles Thomas

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Hit Film Walking on Sunshine

Walking on Sunshine

Hannah and GiulioIt’s always great to watch a film that makes you happy. Walking on Sunshine that opens in cinemas on June 27th is just that. Think Mamma Mia except that the story is set in Puglia, Italy and the songs are hits from the ‘80s.
After a whirlwind romance, Maddie, fresh from a long-term relationship, is preparing to marry Raf, played by the drop dead gorgeous looking Giulio Berruti. She has invited her sister Taylor to the wedding in Puglia, Italy. Unbeknown to Maddie, Raf is Taylor’s ex-holiday flame, and the love of her life…and that is just one of the many setbacks on their road to happy ever after…
This is a film where, depending on your age, you will know the songs, and won’t be able to stop yourself singing along. Forget dialogue, most of it is set to song.
For sun worshipers, the setting by the sea in Puglia will make you want to visit. Not to be missed for that feel good factor!


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