Major Collection of Impressionist Art opens at London’s National Gallery


Edouard Manet ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergere’

I must confess that, as a lover of Impressionism, being invited to the opening of the Courtauld Impressionists ‘From Manet to Cezanne ‘ at London’s National Gallery which opens tomorrow 17 September was a definite must. 

The exhibition is made up of two collections of art donated by Samuel Courtauld – those from the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House which is closed for 2 years for renovation, and that of the National Collection which Samuel Courtauld contributed to. The exhibition of over forty works does not include all of the paintings from either collection.


Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas ‘Two Dancers on a Stage’

From ‘Manet to Cezanne’ traces the development of modern French painting from the 1860s to the turn of the 20th century. Arranged chronologically in 12 sections – each devoted to a different artist with a brief description about the artist includes the works of Renoir, Degas, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, and Gauguin.  The exhibition also focuses on the vision, taste, and motivation of Samuel Courtauld and his wife. Full length photographs of the paintings show how they were displayed in their home, Home House in Portman Square, which is now a private club. 

The exhibition in the Wohl Galleries runs until 20 January 2019. September after which the exhibition will go on tour so people around the country can enjoy it too.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir ‘La Loge’ (theatre box)

The National Gallery, which has free entry, has kept some of its own permanent collection including Van Gogh’s Chair and Sun Flowers so that visitors who don’t wish to see the exhibition can still see some Impressionist paintings.

Admission £7.50. Members and under 12s free. (Ticket required)   T. 0800 912 6958

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Going back in time – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre


Based on the South Bank a few paces from the Tate Modern I am ashamed to say I had never been to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Taking advantage of the wonderful weather I was fortunate enough to obtain tickets for Othello which is playing to packed audiences.

I researched  the story before going which is always an advantage with Shakespeare’s plays as it makes it much more enjoyable to not have to work out what is going on.

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André Holland as Othello and Jessica Warbeck as Desdemona. Photograph: Simon Annand

The theatre is in the round with its facade and interior reconstructed as it would have been during Shakespeare’s time. There are tiers of wooden seats and unless you are well-padded it is worth hiring a cushion.  I was fortunate to have a seat at the back which meant I had something to lean against. The poor man in front of me kept wriggling as he had nothing to lean on but my knees which he was too polite to do. Below us at ground level were lots of people who had bought standing tickets.

The Globe has an adjoining restaurant the Swan which although within the building is modern and airy, with views across and along the River Thames. The restaurant is on their second floor which is accessed via their first floor bar which also serves food. If going to the theatre, and you want to eat at the Globe, it is advisable to book in advance. Drinks can also be bought at kiosks incorporated into the exterior of the building. The theatre is well served for food with lots of restaurants virtually on its doorstep. Running until Saturday, 13 October.

21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT.

T. 020 7401 9919   


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V&A’s latest exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up


An exhibition of the life of Frida Kahlo has opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I love her vibrant, distinctive paintings. While this exhibition is more about the person, exploring her life as a child with her family up to her marriage rather than her art, there is still enough of her paintings, and an interesting life story to make it worth visiting.


This is the first exhibition outside Mexico to display her clothes and intimate possessions together video footage of her with her husband, one of Mexico’s leading artists and muralist Diego Rivera. The exhibition re-imagines Kahlo’s home, the Blue House on the outskirts of Mexico City where she was born, lived and died. In 1954, following her death,  her possessions were locked away, and only discovered half a century later.


Early paintings and photographs of Kahlo and Rivera also include those of their influential circle of friends among them the Communist leader Leon Trotsky.


A series of events, talks, performances, and activities take place throughout the exhibition, which runs until 4 November 2018.


Information and tickets:

T. 020 7942 2000


Victoria and Albert Museum

Old Brompton Road

London  SW7 2RL.

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Dog friendly B & B in the heart of the New Forest


Built in 1627 the Grade 2 listed Thatched Cottage Hotel in the heart of  Brockenhurst  is a pretty, thatched, dog friendly bed and breakfast with 10 bedrooms. Mine had an open fireplace and timber-beamed ceiling. Brockenhurst has a mainline station making the hotel a great base for exploring the New Forest .

Within the foyer area they also have a gin bar with an extensive range of gins, a tea room and garden for when the sun shines. Open to non-residents for cooked-to-order breakfasts, lunch, and afternoon tea.

Proprietors Matthew and David also own Escape Yachting, a yacht charter company in nearby Lymington, which offers ‘Sail with Lunch or Dinner’ trips on the Solent which  include anchoring off the Isle of Wight for a swim and meal, which is freshly prepared on board. Discounts are offered to guests.

Thatched Cottage, Brockenhurst, New Forest

T. 01590 622005




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Dog-friendly Holdsworth House Hotel


On the edge of Halifax, Holdsworth House is a pretty 17thcentury Jacobean manor set in three acres of grounds. Dating back to 1633, the family-owned 38 bedroom 4* hotel has open fires, beamed ceilings, oak paneled halls, and mullioned windows. The bedrooms are all individually decorated with some dog-friendly.


The hotel and gardens have been used in a variety of television programmes, notably for the wedding of Celia and Alan in Last Tango in Halifax, and still commemorates the Beatles stay in 1964.


The two AA Rosette restaurant is separated into two areas creating a cosy, intimate atmosphere with an open log fire in winter.


Moroccan spiced chicken tagine


The period gardens at the front of the house were restored some time ago, and within the grounds there are hidden courtyards, ancient trees and a gazebo. A local junior school has put together a time capsule, which is buried beneath the sundial.


Holdsworth House



West Yorkshire  HX2 9TG.

Tel. 01422 232358


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A play worth seeing – The Best Man

The Full Cast of The Best Man at The Playhouse (c) Pamela Raith Photography-074

Martin Shaw stars in the hit production The Best Man, a play that warrants discussion after you have seen it.

Written by Gore Vidal, the play is set in 1960, and examines the behind the scenes machinations of an American Presidential campaign. He has modelled  his principal characters on living political players of the day, and is thought provoking. Who was the right person for the job?  The play highlights the ethics, power, and corruption of American politics, and exams the seamy political manoeuvrings behind nominations.

What makes it so interesting is that it has so much to say about politics today.  The cast also includes Maureen Lipman, and Honeysuckle Weeks. According to Director Simon Evans, it is about what we want in terms of politics, as well as what the average citizen wants from a leader.

L-R Martin Shaw (William Russell) & Jeff Fahey (Joseph Cantwell) - The Best Man at The Playhouse (c) Pamela Raith Photography-083


Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue,  London WC2N 5DE.

part of the Ambassador Theatre Group



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Chic Dog-friendly Hotel in Cowes, Isle of Wight

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North House, a Grade 11 listed townhouse in the conservation area of Cowes Old Town, and a member of the Mr & Mrs Smith stable, has been converted into a fourteen bedroom stylish boutique hotel.

My room with the decor in shades of pale grey, on the first floor of what used to be a theatre (although I would never have known it) had views of the sea. Outside in the garden there is a heated swimming pool. Open fires warm the reception rooms, while the restaurant has an open plan kitchen on one side with the other looking out onto a terrace where diners can enjoy their meal, weather permitting.

Dogs are welcome, and get their own bed although there is a charge of £15.00 per dog, per day. The hotel is close to the high street where there are shops, restaurants, and a marina.

North House, Sun Hill, West Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7HY.
T. 01983209 453

You can read all about my visit to the Isle of Wight at:

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Romantic, dog-friendly La Poule au Pot Restaurant in Victoria


For anyone looking for a romantic restaurant, you couldn’t do better than La Poule au Pot in Ebury Street. The restaurant was a favourite of mine many years ago, and I was surprised to find it still there and thriving. Based in Ebury Street even at lunchtime, the restaurant was dark and lit by candlelight.

A bonus for me is that well-behaved dogs are welcome. We were seated at a table on a raised area where there was a small space for Poppy to sit comfortably, away from the people who served us.


There is a table d’hôte – two courses £23.75; three £27.50. However, I noticed bouillabaisse on their à la carte menu £26.95 and as it was described as a traditional Marseille fish stew which I absolutely adore, I opted for this. In fact we both did. In France it is served in a large pot filled with all kinds of shellfish swimming in a broth. Here it came as individual pieces of fish, not the abundance of shellfish I had hoped for, but with a rich, delicious seafood soup on the side. Perhaps traditional was the wrong description but certainly the soup was delicious. A bit overpriced for what it was although having said that, fish soup was separately on the menu at £13.50.


The menu has the sort of items you would expect from a French restaurant – onion soup, snails, rack of lamb, steak with a choice of sauces, tarte tatin and crème brûlée, as well as the inevitable cheese board.

Considering the time of day and where it is, hidden away in the back streets of Victoria the restaurant was full.
231 Ebury Street, Belgravia,
London SW1W 8UT.
T. 020 7730 7763

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Photograph courtesy of the Champagne Bureau UK

If at no other time, champagne is usually the drink of choice at Christmas, and certainly for the New Year. According to Francoise Peretti, Director of the UK Champagne Bureau, the UK is their number one client, with sales of vintage champagne on the up.

Any bottle bearing the name Champagne has to come from the region, which includes the growing of the grapes as well as its production. When looking to buy the tipple it’s worth considering exactly what you are using it for, perhaps to drink as an aperitif or to go with a dessert.

Champagne spends at least 15 months ageing in its producer’s cellars, although this increases to three years for a vintage. The di erence between vintage and non-vintage is that the former is a blend of wines from one particular year where-as a non-vintage comes from numerous harvests, and never all from the same year. Vintage wine is always more expensive as it is only produced when the cellar master believes that the grapes from that particular year have the necessary characteristics to meet his / her requirements.

There are also Special Cuvées where the champagne has been aged for ten, and often more years. This gives it time to bring out the richness and avour, resulting in a more complex wine. While vintage and non-vintage come in recognisable bottles, each house has its own specially shaped bottle for its Special Cuvées. These are more expensive, but usually come boxed, making it an ideal gift.

The di erence in taste comes from the grapes, and the percentage of each used. Some producers only use the chardonnay grape which gives a light avour, and will have the words blanc de blancs on its label. The strength varies when either or both meunier and / or pinot noir grapes are introduced.Beingblack,theyhaveaheavier, more robust avour. If the label says blanc

de noirs then it is totally made from black grapes. When neither is mentioned, it is a mixture. Each house has its own blend, which is duplicated year after year so that buyers can expect a similar taste from their favoured producer.

To add to the choice there is also Rosé, pink champagne. This can be a blend of the three grapes to which red wine, produced in the region, is added or where the skins of the meunier and / or pinot noir grapes have been left in the fermenting. Its depth of colour will depend on how many black grapes are in the champagne.

The majority of Champagne sold is brut which means it is dry. Variations, whereby more or less sugar have been added, are also available.

If you are not sure what to buy Francoise suggests asking advice from your local wine merchant. With an indication of what style of still wine you like, they will be able to suggest suitable brands.

May I raise my glass of champagne, and wish everybody a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


The Magazine Connection is a group of four high quality magazines delivered to 23500 homes on the North Hampshire/Surrey borders. Designed to help local businesses promote their products/services to residents the magazines (the first of which was published in 2005) have a truly local feel, with local photos on the covers and lots of Community Content. They also include interesting articles among which is a regular column “Food Trends” written by Natasha Blair.

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Impressionist view of London at Tate Britain

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Kew Gardens Rhododendron Dell   Camille Pissarro

Impressionist Art seems to be everywhere. Opening today at Tate Britain is an exhibition of French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904). With the theme Impressionists in London, the exhibition containing over 100 paintings and sculptures highlights what life was like for French refugee artists. Among them were Monet, Tissot and Pissarro who left France during the Franco-Prussian War. It also portrays how these artists felt about London with scenes of the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament, parks, street life, and the London fog.



Holyday    James Tissot

The Impressionists rejected established styles and traditional subject matter, preferring to depict fleeting, light-dappled impressions of the senses. Being a fan of their work, I expected the exhibition to be one of the highlights of the year. Sadly, for me, it wasn’t. While I loved some of the paintings, a lot of the works particularly the sculptures, didn’t come up to expectation.

The opening room has paintings showing the devastation from which the artists fled, followed by spaces dedicated to different artists, and the people they associated with. At its centre, a room is dedicated to Alphonse Legros who as Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School made an impact on British art education  helping to revolutionise the way in which modelling was taught. Legros was supportive of other artists, and particularly the sculptor Aime-Jules Dalou.



Houses of Parliament, Sunlight through the fog     Claude Monet

One room is dedicated to a series of Monet’s paintings of the River Thames showing the Houses of Parliament covered in the mist of the London fog, but also basking in the evening sun. I personally preferred the painting on the same subject by Giuseppe de Nittis. The last part of the show is dedicated to Andre Derain , highlighting his homage to Monet.

A series of events runs at various times throughout the exhibition. Themed meals include a three course lunch from an Impressionist inspired menu is available in their Rex Whistler Restaurant until 7 May, 2018. £55.00 includes access to the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until 7 May, 2018.

Tate Britain, Linbury Galleries, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG.

Open daily 10.00 – 18.00 Friday 1 December until 22.00.

Entry £19.70 (includes a donation). Concessions and family tickets available.

Tel. 0207 887 8888

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